“I have just noticed certain people here barely containing their laughter, probably because that last speaker was viciously attacking oral health and using the word “dentifrice” with as much anger as no one has ever used for “poison”. Why not? A Philosopher must dismiss no crime, allow nothing corrupt associated with himself, suffer no part of his body to ever be messy or smelly, especially his mouth, something people use openly and obviously all the time whether they try to kiss someone, or attempt to have a conversation, address a large group, or offer prayers in a temple.
Speech leads nearly every human deed and, as the foremost poet says, it begins “at the barrier of the teeth”. Consider someone of fairly elevated speech: he would likely say in his own way that someone who cares about speaking must attend to his mouth beyond the rest of his body because it is the entryway of the mind, the door of speech, the assembly-hall of thoughts.
For my part, I can say that nothing is less fitting to a free person who is educated well than a filthy mouth. The mouth is in that elevated part of the human body, easy to see, needed for speech. In animals, whether wild or domesticated, the mouth is lower and pointed toward feet, near food and footprints. An animal’s mouth is rarely seen except when they are dead or annoyed into biting. For a human, there is nothing you see consider more clearly either when silent or speaking.”
Vidi ego dudum vix risum quosdam tenentis, cum munditias oris videlicet orator ille aspere accusaret et dentifricium tanta indignatione pronuntiaret, quanta nemo quisquam venenum. Quidni? Crimen haud contemnendum philosopho, nihil in se sordidum sinere, nihil uspiam corporis apertum immundum pati ac foetulentum, praesertim os, cuius in propatulo et conspicuo usus homini creberrimus, sive ille cuipiam osculum ferat, seu cum quiquam sermocinetur, sive in auditorio dissertet, sive in templo preces alleget. Omnem quippe hominis actum sermo praeit, qui, ut ait poeta praecipuus, dentium muro proficiscitur. Dares nunc aliquem similiter grandiloquum: diceret suo more cum primis cui ulla fandi cura sit impensius cetero corpore os colendum, quod esset animi vestibulum et orationis ianua et cogitationum comitium. Ego certe pro meo captu dixerim nihil minus quam oris illuviem libero et liberali viro competere, est enim ea pars hominis loco celsa, visu prompta, usu facunda. Nam quidem feris et pecudibus os humile est et deorsum ad pedes deiectum, uestigio et pabulo proximum; nunquam ferme nisi mortuis aut ad morsum exasperatis conspicitur: hominis vero nihil prius tacentis, nihil saepius loquentis contemplere.
“[Solon] believed that someone who managed their own personal affairs badly would manage matters of state similarly. It did not seem likely to the lawgiver that that the same person who was a scoundrel in private would be a useful citizen in public. He also did not think right that a person should come to speak in public before being prepared for it, not just for words but in life.
And he also thought that advice from a good and noble person, however poorly and simply it was framed, is beneficial to those who hear it, while the words of a person who has no shame, who has made a mockery of his own body and who has shamefully managed his inheritance—well, these words he believed would never help the people who heard them, not even if they were delivered well.
This is why he keeps these kinds of people from the platform, why he forbids them from addressing the public. If someone speaks, then, not merely against these precepts but also for the sack of bribery and criminality, and if the state can no longer endure such a person, he adds “Let any citizens who desires it, and who is able, sue him…”
“There are some people who get puffed up if they manage to talk about something tolerably after they have themselves selected a strange and impossible subject. Men have also grown old claiming that it is impossible to say or disprove a lie or to speak two ways about the same matters. Others claim that courage, wisdom, and justice are the same thing, that we have none of these by nature, and that there is a single knowledge about them all. Others waste their time in conflicts which bring no benefit, which can only create more trouble for those who approach them.
I, if I saw that this superfluity had only just emerged in speeches and that these men were eager for honor in the novelty of what they discover, I would not be a surprised at them. But, now, who is such a late-learner that he does not know Protagoras and the sophists who were active at his time and that they left to us these types of things and speeches even more excessively composed than these? How could anyone overcome Gorgias who dared to say that nothing exists at all or Zeno who tried to demonstrate that the same things are possible and impossible or even Melissos who—although some things are countless in number—tried to provide a proof that everything is one!”
“Kosmos for a city is a good-population; for a body it is beauty; for a soul, wisdom. For a deed, excellence; and for a word, truth. The opposition of these things would be akosmia. It is right, on the one hand, to honor a man and a woman and a deed and a city and a deed worthy of praise with praise and to lay reproach on the unworthy. For it is equally mistaken and ignorant to rebuke the praiseworthy and praise things worthy of rebuke.
It is thus necessary for the same man to speak truly and refute those who reproach Helen, a woman about whom the belief from what the poets say and the fame of her name are univocal and single-minded, that memory of sufferings. I want, by giving some reckoning in speech, to relieve her of being badly spoken, and, once I demonstrate and show that those who reproach her are liars, to protect the truth from ignorance”
“Still,” he said, “Cluvius told Lucius and Manilius he was not on sworn oath.” If he told them while sworn in, would you believe? What is the difference between a perjurer and a liar? A man who is accustomed to lying, can get used to committing perjury.
I can easily get a man to perjure himself once I am able to persuade him to lie. For once someone has departed from the truth, he is not in the habit of being constrained by greater belief from perjury than from lying. For what man who is not moved by the force of his own conscience is moved by invocation of the gods?
The reason for this is that the gods dispense the same penalty for the perjurer and the liar. The gods become enraged and punish a man not for the institution which frames the swearing of the words but because of the evil and the malice that these traps are set for another person.”
XVI. “Dicit enim,” inquit, “iniuratus Luscio et Manilio.” Si diceret iuratus, crederes? At quid interest inter periurum et mendacem? Qui mentiri solet, peierare consuevit. Quem ego, ut mentiatur, inducere possum, ut peieret, exorare facile potero. Nam qui semel a veritate deflexit, hic non maiore religione ad periurium quam ad mendacium perduci consuevit. Quis enim deprecatione deorum, non conscientiae fide commovetur? Propterea, quae poena ab dis immortalibus periuro, haec eadem mendaci constituta est; non enim ex pactione verborum, quibus ius iurandum comprehenditur, sed ex perfidia et malitia, per quam insidiae tenduntur alicui, di immortales hominibus irasci et suscensere consuerunt.
“I know with some certainly that it is hard to teach all people, but easy to deceive them. And if they learn anything, they scarcely learn it from the few who do really know, while they are easily deceived by many who know nothing, and not only by others, but by themselves too. For the truth is bitter and unpleasant to the ignorant; a lie, however, is sweet and appealing. In the same way, I suppose, light is unpleasant for those with diseased eyes to see, while the darkness is harmless and dear, even if they cannot see. Or, how else would lies often be stronger than the truth, unless they prevailed because of pleasure? Although it is hard to teach, as I was saying, it is harder in every way to re-teach when people have heard lies for a long time and, even worse, when they have not been alone in their delusion, but their fathers, grandfathers and nearly every forebear has been deceived with them.
For it is not easy to take a false belief from them, not even if someone should refute it completely. Similarly, I imagine that, when children have been raised with superstitious beliefs, it is hard for someone to speak the truth later regarding the very things they would not have accepted if someone had just told them in the beginning. This impulse is so strong that many prefer wicked things and agree that they belong to them properly, if they have previously believed so, instead of good things they hear later on.”
“I would not even be surprised, Trojan men, that you believed Homer was more trustworthy when he told the harshest lies about you than me when I told that truth—since you believe him to be a divine man and wise and you have taught your children epic right from the beginning, even though he has only curses for your city, and untrue ones at that. But you wouldn’t accept that I describe things as they are and have been, because I am many years younger than Homer. Certainly, most people say that time is also the best judge of affairs, and, whenever they hear something after a long time, they disbelieve it for this very reason.
If I were dare to speak against Homer among the Argives and to show in addition that his poetry was false concerning the greatest matters, chances are they would be rightfully angry with me and expel me from the city if I appeared to be erasing and cleansing their fame. But it is right that you have some gratitude towards me and listen eagerly. I have stood in defense of your ancestors. I say at the outset to you that these stories have by necessity already been recited by others and that many have learned them. Some of those men will not understand them; others will pretend to discount them, even though they do not, and still others will try to refute them, especially, I think, those ill-fated sophists. But I know clearly that they will not be pleasing to you. For most men have their minds corrupted by fame to the extent that they would prefer to be infamous for the greatest failures rather than be unknown and suffer no evil.”
“For I think that the Argives themselves would not wish for the matters concerning Thyestes, Atreus and the descendants of Pelops to have been any different, but would be severely angry if someone were to undermine the myths of tragedy, claiming that Thyestes never committed adultery with Atreus wife, nor did the other kill his brother’s children, cut them up, and set them out as feast for Thyestes, and that Orestes never killed his mother with his own hand. If someone said all of these things, they would take it harshly as if they were slandered.
I imagine that things would go the same among the Thebans, if someone were to declare that their misfortunes were lies, that Oedipus never killed his father nor had sex with his mother, nor then blinded himself, and that his children didn’t die in front of the wall at each other’s hands, and the Sphinx never came and ate their children. No! instead, they take pleasure in hearing that the Sphinx came and ate their children, sent to them because of Hera’s anger, that Laios was killed by his own son, and Oedipus did these things and wandered blind after suffering, or how the children of previous king of theirs and founder of the city, Amphion, by Artemis and Apollo because they were the most beautiful men. They endure musicians and poets singing these things in their presence at the theater and they make contests for them, whoever can sing or play the most stinging tales about them. Yet they would expel a man who claimed these things did not happen. The majority has gone so far into madness that their obsession governs them completely.For they desire that there be the most stories about them—and it does not matter to them what kind of story it is. Generally, men are not willing to suffer terrible things because of cowardice, because they fear death and pain. But they really value being mentioned as if they suffered.”
“The people were certain that their freedom was at risk. Their leaders did not agree. As far as a matter concerned the safety of the aristocrats, they were afraid of the rashness of the masses and the liberty in the vote. Tiberius Gracchus was introducing his agrarian law. It was welcomed by the people since it appeared to firm up the fortunes of the lower classes. The aristocrats were against it because they believed it created unrest and imagined that the State would be disarmed of its greatest protectors once the rich were evicted from their long-term holdings. Gaius Gracchus was introducing a grain law. It was also welcome to the people for it provided plentiful food without labor. The Nobles were aghast because they believed that such a law disincentivized work in favor of laziness and that it would drain the treasury.”
Populus libertatem agi putabat suam. Dissentiebant principes et in salute optimatium temeritatem multitudinis et tabellae licentiam pertimescebant. Agrariam Ti. Gracchus legem ferebat. Grata erat populo; fortunae constitui tenuiorum videbantur. Nitebantur contra optimates, quod et discordiam excitari videbant et, cum locupletes possessionibus diuturnis moverentur, spoliari rem publicam propugnatoribus arbitrabantur. Frumentariam legem C. Gracchus ferebat. Iucunda res plebei; victus enim suppeditabatur large sine labore. Repugnabant boni, quod et ab industria plebem ad desidiam avocari putabant et aerarium exhauriri videbant.
Agrarian Law: Tiberius Gracchus introduced a law in 133 BCE that no holder of public land (ager publicus populi Romani) should have more than 500 iugera and that land should be re-distributed to the poor.
The most famous that remains is Thucydides’ version of Perikles’ funeral oration (2.35-46).
“Many of those who have spoken here already praised the one who made this speech law, that it is a noble thing to speak over the burials of those who died in war. But honors paid in deeds for deeds performed by good men would seem to be sufficient to me—the acts which you see performed now by the public at this burial. The virtues of many should not be risked by entrusting them to the good or poor speaking of one man alone. “
Plato’s Menexenus (236dff), Socrates recites an epitaphios given by Aspasia:
“In deed, these men have what is required for them materially—now that they have obtained it, they proceed along the fated path: they have been carried out in common by the city and in private by their families. But in speech it is necessary to pay out the remaining rite which custom assigns us.
“Since it seems right to the state to bury those lying in this grave publicly because they proved themselves noble in war and it has been assigned to me to deliver the customary speech on their behalf, I immediately began to examine how others have crafted the appropriate praise. But while I was considering and examining this, I realized that speaking worthily of the dead is one of those things that is impossible for men.”
“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.
“In addition, the harsher something is by nature, the more it must be peppered with pleasures. A speech’s content is less suspicious thanks to disguise; and the audience’s pleasure aids much the speech’s credibility. Unless, of course, we believe that Cicero put it badly in his suggestion that ‘laws keep quiet among arms’ or ‘sometimes a sword is handed to us by the laws themselves.’ In these cases, the devices must be consideration as an ornament, not an impediment.”
quoque quid est natura magis asperum, hoc pluribus condiendum est voluptatibus, et minus suspecta argumentatio dissimulatione, et multum ad fidem adiuvat audientis voluptas: nisi forte existimamus Ciceronem haec ipsa male in argumentatione dixisse, ‘silere leges inter arma’, et ‘gladium nobis interim ab ipsis porrigi legibus’. In his tamen habendus is est modus ut sint ornamento, non impedimento.