It’s Definitely Not All Greek to Me

Cicero, Brutus 284-285:

Then Brutus said, “Our dear Calvus wished to be called an Attic orator. From that came that sparseness of style which he followed from industry.”

I responded, “Sure, he used to say that. But he himself went astray and compelled others to go astray as well. For if anyone thinks that speaking Attic is to avoid saying anything inept, obnoxious, or rotten, then they may rightly disapprove of everyone who is not Attic. For he hates witlessness and strangeness as a kind of malady in oratory, but approves of its health and integrity as the religion and observation of the orator. This should be the opinion of all orators.

But if he places in the Attic style a leanness, dryness, or emptiness, provided that it is polished, urbane, and elegant, he does rightly so far. But since there are among the Attic expressions some better than others, he should take care not to ignore the grades, the differences, the force, and the variety of Attic speakers. He can say, ‘I want to imitate speakers of Attic.’ Which ones? For they are not one class. What is so different as Demosthenes and Lysias, or Demosthenes and Hyperides, or all of these and Aeschines? Whom will you imitate then? If you choose one, do you say that the others were not speaking Attic? If you choose them all, how can you get away with it, since they are themselves most different from each other? I would ask in this case whether Demetrius Phalereus spoke Attic? To me, at least, the very smell of Athens itself wafts out from his speeches. But he is more florid, so to speak, than Hyperides or Lysias: such was either the nature or his conscious mode of speaking.”

Tum Brutus: Atticum se, inquit, Calvus noster dici oratorem volebat: inde erat ista exilitas quam ille de industria consequebatur.

Dicebat, inquam, ita; sed et ipse errabat et alios etiam errare cogebat. nam si quis eos, qui nec inepte dicunt nec odiose nec putide, Attice putat dicere, is recte nisi Atticum probat neminem. insulsitatem enim et insolentiam tamquam insaniam quandam orationis odit, sanitatem autem et integritatem quasi religionem et verecundiam oratoris probat. haec omnium debet oratorum eadem esse sententia.

Sin autem ieiunitatem et siccitatem et inopiam, dummodo sit polita, dum urbana, dum elegans, in Attico genere ponit, hoc recte dumtaxat; sed quia sunt in Atticis <aliis> alia meliora, videat ne ignoret et gradus et dissimilitudines et vim et varietatem Atticorum. ‘Atticos’, inquit, ‘volo imitari.’ quos? nec enim est unum genus. nam quid est tam dissimile quam Demosthenes et Lysias, quam idem et Hyperides, quam horum omnium Aeschines? quem igitur imitaris? si aliquem: ceteri ergo Attice non dicebant? si omnis: qui potes, cum sint ipsi dissimillumi inter se? in quo illud etiam quaero, Phalereus ille Demetrius Atticene dixerit. mihi quidem ex illius orationibus redolere ipsae Athenae videntur. at est floridior, ut ita dicam, quam Hyperides, quam Lysias: natura quaedam aut voluntas ita dicendi fuit.


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