No Standards for Taste

Cicero, Orator (36):

But in everything, the most difficult matter is to set out the form (which is called character in Greek) of the best, since the best seems different to different people. One might say, ‘I take delight in Ennius,’ because he does not deviate from the common use of words. Another might say, ‘I like Pacuvius: all of his verses are ornate and smell of the lamp, while Ennius’ are wrought more negligently.’ Another might like Accius, for judgments are various, as is the case for the Greek authors, and it is not easy to explain which form excels the most. In paintings, some people like horrible, messy, obscure, and opaque pieces, while others like shining, happy, illuminated works. How can you set out some prescription or rule, when each one excels in his own genre, and when there are so many genres?


Sed in omni re difficillimum est formam, qui charakter Graece dicitur, exponere optimi, quod aliud aliis videtur optimum. Ennio delector, ait quispiam, quod non discedit a communi more verborum; Pacuvio, inquit alius: omnes apud hunc ornati elaboratique sunt versus, multo apud alterum neglegentius; fac alium Accio; varia enim sunt iudicia, ut in Graecis, nec facilis explicatio quae forma maxime excellat. In picturis alios horrida inculta, abdita et opaca, contra alios nitida laeta conlustrata delectant. Quid est quo praescriptum aliquod aut formulam exprimas, cum in suo quidque genere praestet et genera plura sint?

Leave a Reply