Brutus, Caesar, Cicero: Orators, Politicians, and… Abominable Poets

Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus 21

“We may grant to Caesar that he achieved less in the way of eloquence than his divine genius would have demanded, largely due to the greatness of his thoughts and occupations. Similarly, we may leave Brutus to his philosophical inquiries. For, in the realm of rhetoric, even his admirers would admit that he was not equal to his own reputation. That is, perhaps, unless there is someone who would read Caesar’s On Behalf of Decius the Samnite or Brutus’ On Behalf of King Deiotarus and other works of the same dull mildness; this reader must also admire the poems of these same men. For indeed, they wrote poems and even deposited them in libraries; though they were no better poets than Cicero, they were more fortunate, because fewer people know about their poetic endeavors.”

“Ouch!”

concedamus sane C. Caesari, ut propter magnitudinem cogitationum et occupationes rerum minus in eloquentia effecerit, quam divinum eius ingenium postulabat, tam hercule quam Brutum philosophiae suae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse [6] fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur: nisi forte quisquam aut Caesaris pro Decio Samnite aut Bruti pro Deiotaro rege ceterosque eiusdem lentitudinis ac teporis libros legit, nisi qui et carmina eorundem miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed [7] felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt.

What Ails Awake Plagues in Sleep as Well: Accius on Dreams

Accius, Brutus 29-38

“King, it is not at all a surprise that the things men do in life, what they think
Worry over, see, what they do and pursue while awake, should plague each man
While sleeping too. But in this one, the gods present you something quite unexpected.
Be on guard that the many you consider an imbecile just like a sheep
Might actually possess a heart especially safeguarded with wisdom.
He may supplant you in this kingdom: for the sign which comes to you from the sun
Foretells of a great change in the near future for your people.
May these things actually be a good change for the people.
For, since the most powerful sign moved from left to right in the sky,
It has prophesied that the Roman Republic would reign on high.”

Rex, quae in vita usurpant homines, cogitant curant vident
Quaeque agunt vigilantes agitantque ea si cui in somno accidunt
Minus mirum est, sed di in re tanta haut temere inprovisa offerunt.
Proin vide ne quem tu esse hebetem deputes aeque ac pecus
Is sapientia munitum pectus egregie gerat,
Teque regno expellat; nam id quod de sole ostentum est tibi
Populo conmutationem rerum portendit fore
Perpropinquam. Haec bene verruncent populo! Nam quod ad dexteram
Cepit cursum ab laeva signum praepotens, pulcherrume
Auguratum est rem Romanam publicam summam fore

Tacitus, Dialogus de Oratoribus 21 (On the Poetry of Brutus, Caesar, and Cicero)

“We may grant to Caesar that he achieved less in the way of eloquence than his divine genius would have demanded, largely due to the greatness of his thoughts and occupations. Similarly, we may leave Brutus to his philosophical inquiries. For, in the realm of rhetoric, even his admirers would admit that he was not equal to his own reputation. That is, perhaps, unless there is someone who would read Caesar’s On Behalf of Decius the Samnite or Brutus’ On Behalf of King Deiotarus and other works of the same dull mildness; this reader must also admire the poems of these same men. For indeed, they wrote poems and even deposited them in libraries; though they were no better poets than Cicero, they were more fortunate, because fewer people know about their poetic endeavors.”

concedamus sane C. Caesari, ut propter magnitudinem cogitationum et occupationes rerum minus in eloquentia effecerit, quam divinum eius ingenium postulabat, tam hercule quam Brutum philosophiae suae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse [6] fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur: nisi forte quisquam aut Caesaris pro Decio Samnite aut Bruti pro Deiotaro rege ceterosque eiusdem lentitudinis ac teporis libros legit, nisi qui et carmina eorundem miratur. fecerunt enim et carmina et in bibliothecas rettulerunt, non melius quam Cicero, sed [7] felicius, quia illos fecisse pauciores sciunt.