Forget About Cicero and Pliny

Angelo Poliziano, Letter to Piero de’ Medici:

Perhaps someone will come about who will deny that these letters are Ciceronian. To him I would say (and not without authority) that in epistolary style, one should be utterly silent about Cicero. Someone else on the other hand will find fault with the fact that I emulate Cicero, but I will respond to this that nothing would be more in my hopes than that I could follow the shadow of Cicero. Someone else may wish that I had more of the flavor of Pliny, because both his maturity and learning are praised. But I, on the other hand, would say that I despise all of Pliny’s generation. But even if I may seem to some to have the flavor of Pliny, I will defend myself thus: Sidonius Apollinaris, not by any means a terrible author, gave Pliny the prize for his letters. If I seem to anyone to recall Symmachus, I will not be ashamed, since his brevity and roundness and celebrated. If I seem, on the other hand, to be entirely separate from Symmachus, I will say that his style is too dry for me.


Occurret aliquis forsan qui Ciceronianas esse neget: huic ego dicam (nec sine auctore tamen) in epistolari stilo silendum prorsus esse de Cicerone. Rursus alius hoc ipsum culpabit, quod aemuler Ciceronem: sed respondebo nihil mihi esse magis in votis quam ut vel umbram Ciceronis assequar. Optaret alius ut oratorem Plinium saperem, quod huius et maturitas et disciplina laudatur: ego contra totum illud aspernari me dicam Plinii saeculum. Sed etsi Plinium cuique redolebo, tuebor ita me, quod Sidonius Apollinaris, non omnino pessimus auctor, palmam Plinio tribuit in epistolis. Symmachum si cui referre videbor, non pudebit, ut cuius et brevitas celebretur et rotunditas. Abesse rursus a Symmacho si cui credar, negabo mihi siccitatem placere.

Leave a Reply