Opinion: A Product of Habit and Pleasure

Dio Chrysostom, the 68th Discourse On Opinion

“Most people practice however many things they do or desire even though they don’t understand about any of them what kind of thing they are or what type of benefit they provide—they are compelled by opinion or pleasure or habit to these things. It is the same too in however many things they avoid and are careful not to do: they do not abstain because they know it is harmful or what kind of harm certain matters threaten, but because they see others taking care concerning these things or just because they have been in the habit of caution regarding affairs or because they imagine that these matters must be unpleasant for them and present what seems to be toilsome, they are really suspicious of them.

And, in addition, the matter of pleasure and toil is common to all people even though some people are slaves to them more than others. But opinion is ungoverned and is not the same for all. This is why some people praise these things and carp at those and others often do the complete opposite.”

Οἱ πολλοὶ ἄνθρωποι ὁπόσα ἐπιτηδεύουσιν ἢ ζηλοῦσιν, οὐδὲν αὐτῶν εἰδότες ὁποῖόν ἐστιν οὐδὲ ἥντινα ἔχει ὠφέλειαν ἐπιτηδεύουσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ὑπὸ δόξης ἢ ἡδονῆς ἢ συνηθείας ἀγόμενοι πρὸς αὐτά· οὐδ᾿ αὖ ὅσων ἀπέχονται καὶ εὐλαβοῦνται μὴ πράττειν, εἰδότες ἃ βλάπτει ἀπέχονται οὐδὲ ὁποίαν τινὰ φέρει τὴν βλάβην, ἀλλὰ καὶ τούτων ὅσα ὁρῶσι τοὺς ἄλλους εὐλαβουμένους ἢ περὶ ὧν ἂν εἰς ἔθος καταστῶσιν ὥστε εὐλαβεῖσθαι, ἢ ἃ νομίζουσιν ἀηδῆ ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖς καὶ πόνον τινὰ δοκεῖ ἔχειν, ὡς τὸ πολὺ ταῦτα ὑποπτεύουσιν.

Καὶ τὸ μὲν τῆς ἡδονῆς καὶ τὸ τοῦ πόνου πᾶσι κοινόν· ἀλλ᾿ οἱ μὲν ἧττον, οἱ δὲ1 μᾶλλον ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν δουλοῦνται· τὸ δὲ τῆς δόξης ἀνόμοιον καὶ οὐ ταὐτὸ πᾶσιν. ὅθεν οἱ μὲν ταῦτα, οἱ δὲ ταῦτα ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ ψέγουσι, πολλάκις τἀναντία.

Detail from "The Rutland Psalter", medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v
Detail from “The Rutland Psalter”, medieval (c1260), British Library Add MS 62925. f 70v

 

Don’t Try to Make that Speech Too Perfect

Quintilian, 9.4 (112)

“This whole topic is handled here not merely to make oratory, which should move and flow, grow ancient because it must measure out each foot and weigh out each syllable. No, that is what miserable minds who are obsessed with minor things think about.

No one who throws himself into this concern completely will have any time for more important matters if, once the weight of the material is forgotten and polish itself is rejected, he constructs “mosaic work”, as Lucilius says, and works his words together in “vermiculate construction”. Won’t his fire cool down and his force diminish, the same way show-riders break the pace of their horses with a dancing gait?”

Totus vero hic locus non ideo tractatur a nobis ut oratio, quae ferri debet ac fluere, dimetiendis pedibus ac perpendendis syllabis consenescat: nam id cum miseri, tum in minimis occupati est: neque enim qui se totum in hac cura consumpserit potioribus vacabit, si quidem relicto rerum pondere ac nitore contempto ‘tesserulas’, ut ait Lucilius, struet et vermiculate inter se lexis committet. Nonne ergo refrigeretur sic calor et impetus pereat, ut equorum cursum delicati minutis passibus frangunt?

Demosthenes, Practicing

Potions and Spells: Crimes and their Legal Names

Quintilian, 7.3.10

“A different kind of question arises when the argument depends on a word which comes from a written text. This does not happen in courtrooms unless the words shape the legal outcome: is killing oneself a homicide? Is the one who compels a tyrant to kill himself a tyrannicide? Are magical spells like poisoning?

The matter is clear. Suicide is not understood as being the same as killing another person; it is not the same thing to kill a tyrant and compel him to die. Spells are not the same thing as mortal poison. The issue is whether they should be referred to with the same legal name.”

Diversum est genus cum controversia consistit in nomine quod pendet ex scripto, nec versatur in iudiciis nisi propter verba quae litem faciunt: an qui se interficit homicida sit, an qui tyrannum in mortem compulit tyrannicida, an carmina magorum veneficium. Res enim manifesta est sciturque non idem esse occidere se quod alium, non idem occidere tyrannum quod compellere ad mortem, non idem carmina ac mortiferam potionem, quaeritur tamen an eodem nomine appellanda sint.

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Spell book?

On Using Humor in Public Speaking

Cicero, De inventione

“If the matter allows, it is not useless to begin from some different angle or with a joke or something which you think up on the spot, the sort of thing which gets applause and shouts. You might also use something which is prepared for you, an anecdote, fable, or something else which has something funny in it.

If the gravity of the affair prohibits a sense of humor, it is not inappropriate to include something sad, unknown, or pretty dreadful right from the beginning. For, just as weariness for good can be treated with some small bite or lightened by something sweet, a mind tired of listening is reinvigorated by amazement or a laugh.”

Sin res dabit, non inutile est ab aliqua re nova aut ridicula incipere aut ex tempore quae nata sit, quod genus strepitu acclamatione; aut iam parata, quae vel apologum vel fabulam vel aliquam contineat irrisionem; aut si rei dignitas adimet iocandi facultatem, aliquid triste, novum, horribile statim non incommodum est inicere. Nam, ut cibi satietas et fastidium aut subamara aliqua re relevatur aut dulci mitigatur, sic animus defessus audiendo aut admiratione integratur aut risu novatur.

Some Examples of Ciceronian jokes:

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.1:

“Who is there, that has taken care to read those those books of his jokes which his freedman composed, who does not know how much Cicero excelled in humor?   (Though, some suspect that the freedman was the author.) Who is there, who doesn’t know that he was often called the ‘consular clown’ by his enemies? Vatinius mentioned this in his own speech. I would, if it wouldn’t take too long, recall those cases in which he represented guilty clients, which he won by joking.”

Cicero autem quantum in ea re valuerit quis ignorat qui vel liberti eius libros quos is de iocis patroni conposuit, quos quidam ipsius putant esse, legere curavit? Quis item nescit consularem eum scurram ab inimicis appellari solitum? quod in oratione etiam sua Vatinius posuit. Atque ego, ni longum esset, referrem, in quibus causis, cum nocentissimos reos tueretur, victoriam iocis adeptus sit.

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 12.12

12 The clever response of Marcus Cicero as he defends himself against a claim of obvious lying

“This is a part of rhetorical training too—to admit criminal matters not subject to danger cleverly and with charm so that, if something foul is alleged which cannot be denied, you may defuse it with a humorous response and make the whole matter more dignified with a joke rather than an allegation, just as it is recorded that Cicero did when he tempered what could not be denied with a clever and amusing comment.

For when Cicero wanted to purchase a house on the Palatine hill and he did not have the money at hand, he accepted in private as much as two million sesterces [$100,000?] from Publius Sulla* who was then a defendant in a case. But the whole matter was made public before he bought the house and he was charged with receiving money for buying a house from an accused defendant. So then, troubled by the unanticipated criticism, Cicero denied that he had received the money and denied that he would have bought the house, saying “Indeed, If I buy the house, it is true that I took the money”.

But later, when he had bought the house and was charged with being a liar in the senate by his enemies, he laughed plenty and said while chuckling: “You are senseless men if you don’t know that it is a mark of a wise and cautious head of a family, when he wants to buy something, to deny that he wants to buy it to scare off competitors!”

*He was charged for participating in the conspiracy with Cataline.

XII Faceta responsio M. Ciceronis amolientis a se crimen manifesti mendacii.

[1] Haec quoque disciplina rhetorica est callide et cum astu res criminosas citra periculum confiteri, ut, si obiectum sit turpe aliquid, quod negari non queat, responsione ioculari eludas et rem facias risu magis dignam quam crimine, sicut fecisse Ciceronem scriptum est, cum id, quod infitiari non poterat, urbano facetoque dicto diluit. [2] Nam cum emere uellet in Palatio domum et pecuniam in praesens non haberet, a P. Sulla, qui tum reus erat, mutua sestertium uiciens tacita accepit. [3] Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset. [4] Tum Cicero inopinata obprobratione permotus accepisse se negauit ac domum quoque se empturum negauit atque ‘adeo’ inquit ‘uerum sit accepisse me pecuniam, si domum emero’. Sed cum postea emisset et hoc mendacium in senatu ei ab inimicis obiceretur, risit satis atque inter ridendum: ‘ἀκοινονόητοι’ inquit ‘homines estis, cum ignoratis prudentis et cauti patrisfamilias esse, quod emere uelit, empturum sese negare propter competitores emptionis.’

Macrobius, Saturnalia (II.2.3.1-4) 

“I am surprised that you all have been quiet about Cicero’s jokes which prove him as eloquent as in everything else he said. If it seems right, I am prepared—like the guardian of a temple about to announce the oracles of a god—to repeat the Ciceronian jests I remember.

When everyone appeared ready to listen to him, he began: “When Marcus Cicero dined with Damasippus and his host offered him a rather middling wine and said “Drink this forty-year old Falernian,” Cicero replied “It carries its age well.” At another time when he saw his own son-in-law Lentulus, a man of short stature, girded up with a long sword, he asked “Who has attached my son-in-law to a sword?” Nor did he keep a similar bite from his brother Quintus Cicero. For, when visiting the province Quintus that was administering, he saw his brother’s portrait armed with a circular shield sculpted with much greater size near the chest in the manner of pictures (his brother was also a bit on the shorter side), he said “Half of my brother is bigger than the whole!”

Sed miror omnes vos ioca tacuisse Ciceronis, in quibus facundissimus, ut in omnibus, fuit: et, si videtur, ut aedituus responsa numinis sui praedicat ita ego quae memoria suggesserit refero dicta Ciceronis. Tum omnibus ad audiendum erectis ille sic incipit: 2 M. Cicero, cum apud Damasippum coenaret et ille mediocri vino posito diceret: Bibite Falernum hoc, annorum quadraginta est: Bene, inquit, aetatem fert. 3 Idem cum Lentulum generum suum, exiguae naturae hominem, longo gladio adcinctum vidisset: Quis, inquit, generum meum ad gladium alligavit? 4 Nec Q. Ciceroni fratri circa similem mordacitatem pepercit. Nam cum in ea provincia quam ille rexerat vidisset clypeatam imaginem eius ingentibus lineamentis usque ad pectus ex more pictam (erat autem Quintus ipse staturae parvae), ait: Frater meus dimidius maior est quam totus.

Image result for Cicero

A Fact at the Center of a Case

Cicero, Pro Milone 53

“Let us now examine the thing at the center of this, that very place of the ambush where they came together and for which party had an advantage. Is it still possible to have any doubt about this or to think about it any longer?  Was it in front of Clodius’ home—a home where a thousand people could easily be housed because of those insanely large basements—was it there where Milo decided that he would choose this enemy on his higher ground when he was in a weaker position and for this very reason selected it as the best place for a fight?

The fact itself, sirs, is always pretty strong. If you were not listening to these matters but instead were viewing a picture it should still be clear which one of them was the aggressor…”

Videamus nunc id, quod caput est, locus ad insidias ille ipse, ubi congressi sunt, utri tandem fuerit aptior. Id vero, iudices, etiam dubitandum et diutius cogitandum est? Ante fundum Clodii, quo in fundo propter insanas illas substructiones facile hominum mille versabantur valentium, edito adversarii atque excelso loco superiorem se fore putarat Milo, et ob eam rem eum locum ad pugnam potissimum elegerat? An in eo loco est potius exspectatus ab eo, qui ipsius loci spe facere impetum cogitarat? Res loquitur ipsa, iudices, quae semper valet plurimum. Si haec non gesta audiretis, sed picta videretis, tamen appareret uter esset insidiator,

Image result for roman house lego
A Lego Roman Villa on Pinterest

No One Uses Thucydides As A Model

Cicero, Orat. 9.30-32

“Thucydides, however, tells of history, wars and battles, in a noble and strong way, but nothing he writes can be transferred to forensic or political use. Those well-known speeches have so many unclear and odd phrases that they barely make sense, something which is probably the worst offense in public address.

Do humans possess so much perversity that we will eat acorns after grains have been discovered? Is it possible that the human diet could be changed thanks to Athenian invention but not oratory? Who of the Greek orators, moreover, ever used Thucydides’ work as a model? Surely, he’s praised by everyone. I concede this. But he is praised as a wise explainer of events, a no-nonsense, serious man of the kind who did not pursue cases in court but described battles in history. For this reason, he has never been counted as an orator and would not, indeed, have gained any fame if he had not written history, even though he was noble and elected to office.

Still, no one can really imitate the weight of his words and ideas—but when some people articulate a few broken and unrelated statements, which they could have done even without a teacher, they imagine themselves to be a new-born Thucydides.”

Thucydides autem res gestas et bella narrat et proelia, graviter sane et probe, sed nihil ab eo transferri potest ad forensem usum et publicum. Ipsae illae contiones ita multas habent obscuras abditasque sententias vix ut intellegantur; quod est in oratione civili vitium vel maximum. Quae est autem in hominibus tanta perversitas, ut inventis frugibus glande vescantur? An victus hominum Atheniensium beneficio excoli potuit, oratio non potuit? Quis porro unquam Graecorum rhetorum a Thucydide quicquam duxit? At laudatus est ab omnibus. Fateor; sed ita ut rerum explicator prudens, severus, gravis, non ut in iudiciis versaret causas, sed ut in historiis bella narraret. Itaque nunquam est numeratus orator, nec vero, si historiam non scripsisset, nomen eius exstaret, cum praesertim fuisset honoratus et nobilis. Huius tamen nemo neque verborum neque sententiarum gravitatem imitatur, sed cum mutila quaedam et hiantia locuti sunt, quae vel sine magistro facere potuerunt, germanos se putant esse Thucydidas.

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Don’t Try to Make that Speech Too Perfect

Quintilian, 9.4 (112)

“This whole topic is handled here not merely to make oratory, which should move and flow, grow ancient because it must measure out each foot and weigh out each syllable. No, that is what miserable minds who are obsessed with minor things think about.

No one who throws himself into this concern completely will have any time for more important matters if, once the weight of the material is forgotten and polish itself is rejected, he constructs “mosaic work”, as Lucilius says, and works his words together in “vermiculate construction”. Won’t his fire cool down and his force diminish, the same way show-riders break the pace of their horses with a dancing gait?”

Totus vero hic locus non ideo tractatur a nobis ut oratio, quae ferri debet ac fluere, dimetiendis pedibus ac perpendendis syllabis consenescat: nam id cum miseri, tum in minimis occupati est: neque enim qui se totum in hac cura consumpserit potioribus vacabit, si quidem relicto rerum pondere ac nitore contempto ‘tesserulas’, ut ait Lucilius, struet et vermiculate inter se lexis committet. Nonne ergo refrigeretur sic calor et impetus pereat, ut equorum cursum delicati minutis passibus frangunt?

Image result for demosthenes
Demosthenes tried to be pretty perfect…