“Not so vile is the deed and saying of Caius Fimbria, but on their own they are both extremely bold. He planned that Scaevola would be slaughtered at the funeral of Gaius Marius. Once he learned that [Scaevola] had healed from his wound, he turned to accuse him in court.
There, when he was asked what he had to say against someone whose character couldn’t possibly be sufficiently praised, he said that he would claim the man had let the weapon wound him too easily. What an excess of insanity that accompanied the groan of a sick country!”
Non tam atrox C. Fimbriae est factum et dictum, sed si per se aestimetur, utrumque audacissimum. id egerat ut Scaevola in funere C. Marii iugularetur. quem postquam ex vulnere recreatum comperit, accusare apud populum instituit. interrogatus deinde quid de eo secus dicturus esset cui pro sanctitate morum satis digna laudatio reddi non posset, respondit obiecturum se illi quod parcius corpore telum recepisset. licentiam furoris aegrae rei publicae gemitu prosequendam!
“The persuasion intrinsic to speech also shapes the mind as it pleases. We must first consider the narratives of astronomers who, by undermining one idea and developing another one, alter beliefs and make the incredible and invisible manifest to the eyes of belief. In turn, consider the necessary struggles in which one argument delights and persuades a great crowd when it has been written skillfully, even if it is spoken falsely. Finally, consider the rivalrous claims of philosophers which feature as well the speed of opinion that engenders volatility in the fidelity of a belief.”
“The power of speech has the same logic regarding the disposition of the soul as that of the application of drugs to the natural function of bodies. For, just as certain drugs dispel certain afflictions from the body, and some end disease while others end life, so too are there stories that create grief and others that cause pleasure; some send us running, others make their audiences bold. Others still intoxicate and deceive the soul though some evil persuasion.”
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.”
Plutarch De Garrulitate (On Talkitiveness), 505f-506e
“No word uttered has helped as much as many held in silence. For it is possible to say later what has been kept silent, but certainly not to render silent what has been said—that has been poured out and has wandered far afield. This is why I think that we have men as teachers of speech, but gods as teachers of silence, since we maintain quiet in their sacrifices and rites.
And the poet has made the most capable speaker Odysseus the most silent, along with his son, wife and nurse. For the nurse says “I will keep it as a strong tree or iron would.” (19.494). And Odysseus is described when he sits next to Penelope as “mourning in his heart as he pities his wife, though his eyes stood strong untrembling beneath his brows like horn or iron” (19.210-212). He was so full of self-control throughout his body and reason kept him completely obedient and ready and ordered his eyes not to weep, his tongue not to speak, and his heart neither to tremble nor yelp since his power of reason extended even to the subconscious movements, mastering and softening even his breath and blood.
Many of Odysseus’ companions were similar in character—for they did not turn against Odysseus or reveal the fire-made too prepared for his eye even as the Cyclops was dragging them and smashing them on the ground. Instead, they were willing to be eaten raw rather than disclose any part of the secret, and a better example of self-control and trust does not exist. This is why, when the king of Egypt sent a sacrificial victim to him and ordered him to cut out the best and worst meat, Pittakos did not do badly when he cut out the tongue because it was the organ of the greatest good and evil.
Just so, Euripides’ Ino, when offering a speech about herself, says she knows “how to be silent when it is right and to speak when it is safe.” (fr. 413.2). For those who obtain a noble and royal education learn first to be silent and then to speak.”
“Those light-weight, annoying and pointless talkers who, though they cannot rely on any strong foundation, pour out lolling, liquid words, are correctly believed to draw only as deep as the lips and not the heart. Indeed, most people say that the tongue should not be free but should be guided by lines tied to the deepest part of the chest and the heart, as if by a ship’s captain. But still you may see certain men who toss around words without any semblance of judgment, but instead with a certainty so great and profound that even while they are speaking they do not seem to understand that they speak.
Homer has his Ulysses, however,–a man suffused with wise eloquence–move his voice not from his mouth but from his chest. This depiction is not so much about the sound and style of his voice as it is indicative of the considerable weight of the thoughts conceived within. And Homer also said quite appropriately that teeth are a wall built to contain immature and dangerous words—not just so that the watchful guardian of the heart could restrain them, but that they may be stopped by a guardhouse of sorts positioned at the mouth. The Homeric lines which I mentioned above are: “But when he released the great voice from his chest” (Il.3.221) and “What kind of word has escaped the bulwark of your teeth”? (Il. 4.350)
1 Qui sunt leves et futtiles et inportuni locutores quique nullo rerum pondere innixi verbis uvidis et lapsantibus diffluunt, eorum orationem bene existimatum est in ore nasci, non in pectore; linguam autem debere aiunt non esse liberam nec vagam, sed vinclis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. 2 Sed enim videas quosdam scatere verbis sine ullo iudicii negotio cum securitate multa et profunda, ut loquentes plerumque videantur loqui sese nescire.
3 Ulixen contra Homerus, virum sapienti facundia praeditum, vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore, quod scilicet non ad sonum magis habitumque vocis quam ad sententiarum penitus conceptarum altitudinem pertineret, petulantiaeque verborum coercendae vallum esse oppositum dentium luculente dixit, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia atque vigilia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. 4 Homerica, de quibus supra dixi, haec sunt:
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ὄπα τε μεγάλην ἐκ στήθεος εἵη (Il.3.221)
Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XIII:
“They should be deterred from this vain mendacity as much as possible. First, because men who became accustomed to lying in youth tend to maintain the habit, and nothing could be more shameful. Second, because almost nothing offends elders more, than the mendacity of youths who try, though just born yesterday, to ensnare old men with deceit. It would be well if our youth were advised to speak little and rarely, unless bid to do so. For, in excessive speech there is always something which can be criticized, and if one is to make a mistake in either direction, it is much safer to be silent than to speak. Indeed, he who is silent at the wrong time, makes only this one mistake, that he is silent: but in speaking, one may make many mistakes. Therefore, we ought to see to it that youths do not become accustomed to base and dishonest talk. For, as was said by a Greek poet and repeated by the Apostle Paul,
“Bad conversations will corrupt good characters.”
Ab hac autem mentiendi vanitate deterrendi sunt maxime. Primum, quod assueti in iuventute mentiri morem hunc viri servant, quo nihil est turpius; deinde, quod prope nihil aeque maiores offendit quam mendacia adulescentium, qui studeant, pridie nati, senes fallaciis circumvenire. Proderit autem si admoneantur parum loqui et raro, nisi iussos, dicere. In multo namque sermone est aliquid semper quod reprehendi possit. Quod si alterutro est peccandum, multo sane tutius est tacere quam loqui. Nam qui intempestive tacet, hoc in unum peccat, quod tacet; loquendo autem, in multis errare contingit. Providendum etiam ne foedis atque inhonestis sermonibus assuescant. Nam, ut est a graeco poeta dictum et ab apostolo Paolo repetitum,
corrumpunt bonos mores colloquia mala.
Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, de Educatione Liberorum XXXV
“What then should we say, considering that there is great utility in both silence and in speaking? We would have you hold to the middle course, and find yourself neither always speaking nor always quit. I do not demand a five-years silence in the Pythagorean fashion, nor would I recommend the loquacity of a Thersites. The ancients used to say that the tongue should not always be free and wandering, but moved and perhaps even governed by chains rooted deep in the heart and soul. The words of those who speak freely, lightly, aimlessly, and with no sense of timing ought to be considered as springing not from the heart, but from the mouth itself. Homer, however, says that Ulysses – a man endowed with wisdom and eloquence – would speak not from his mouth, but from his heart. Certainly, the ‘bulwark of the teeth’ is placed as a restraint on inconsiderate speech, so that temerity in speaking would not be checked only by the heart’s guardianship, but also be hedged in by guards placed in the mouth. One should take care not to deserve that charge of Epicharmus, of being a man ‘who, although he was unable to speak, yet could not be silent,’ or even that of Sallust, who speaks of one who ‘when he spoke was talkative rather than eloquent.’”
Quid ergo dicemus, cum et silentii et orationis magna utilitas sit? Tenere te medium volumus, neque tacere semper neque loqui semper. Non exigimus Pythagoreum illud quinquennale silentium neque Thersitis loquacitatem. Linguam dicebant veteres debere non esse liberam nec vagam sed vinculis de pectore imo ac de corde aptis moveri et quasi gubernari. Nam qui sunt faciles, leves, futiles et importuni locutores, horum orationem bene aestimatum in ore nasci, non in pectore. Ulixem contra Homerus sapienti facundia praeditum vocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore. Nempe verborum coercendae petulantiae vallum positum est dentium, ut loquendi temeritas non cordis tantum custodia cohibeatur, sed et quibusdam quasi excubiis in ore positis saepiatur. Cavendum est, ne obiici possit illud Epicharmi, ‘<qui> cum loqui non posset, tacere non potuit,’ aut Sallustianum: ‘loquax inquit magis quam facundus.’
“Although it is possible to use the whole planet to offer examples of Roman cruelty, it is not useless to learn of foreign instances in summary. The Spartans ordered that the books of Archilochus were to be expelled from their state because they believed that they were insufficiently modest and were also shameful reading.
They did not want their children’s minds to be filled with these ideas in case they might harm their characters more than it sharpened their wits. For this reason they exiled the greatest or nearly greatest poet because he wounded a household he hated with vulgar curses.”
Ceterum etsi Romanae severitatis exemplis totus terrarum orbis instrui potest, tamen externa summatim cognosse fastidio non sit. Lacedaemonii libros Archilochi e civitate sua exportari iusserunt, quod eorum parum verecundam ac pudicam lectionem arbitrabantur: noluerunt enim ea liberorum suorum animos imbui, ne plus moribus noceret quam ingeniis prodesset. itaque maximum poetam aut certe summo proximum, quia domum sibi invisam obscenis maledictis laceraverat, carminum exsilio multarunt.
Valerius Maximus’ account is somewhat different from the story most people know. Where he seems to take issue with Archilochus’ invective and his salacious content, others claim the issue was his cowardice. Plutarch claims that Archilochus was expelled from Sparta for this poem:
“Some Saian takes joy the the shield, that blameless weapon
I left next to a bush unwillingly.
But I rescued myself. What does that shield matter to me?
Fuck it. I’ll buy no worse a shield next time.”
“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.
 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.  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.  Ea res tamen, priusquam emeret, prodita est et in uulgus exiuit, obiectumque ei est, quod pecuniam domus emendae causa a reo accepisset.  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.
“These men have committed so much horror beyond their own criminal behavior that even while running a so-called democracy they turned each person’s house into a prison and put the police in our homes.”
“For such dealing with criminals, white or black, the South had no machinery, no adequate jails or reformatories; its police system was arranged to deal with blacks alone, and tacitly assumed that every white man was ipso facto a member of that police. Thus grew up a double system of justice, which erred on the white side by undue leniency and the practical immunity of red-handed criminals, and erred on the black side by undue severity, injustice, and lack of discrimination.”
“Then fine-cheeked Melanthô reproached him shamefully.
Dolios fathered her and Penelope raised her. She treated her like her own child and used to give her delights* [athurmata] for her heart.
But she did not have grief in her thoughts for Penelope,
But she was having sex with and feeling affection for Eurumakhos.
She was reproaching Odysseus with abusive words.
“Wretched stranger, you are completely insane—
You don’t want to go sleep in the smith’s house
Or into a lodge but instead you say so much boldly
Here among the many men. And you are not at all afraid
In your heart. Really, wine has overtaken your thoughts or else
Your mind is always the kind to babble meaningless things.
Are you so confident because you defeated the beggar Iros?
May no other better than Iros quickly arise
Who might bash your head between his two strong hands
And drive you out of the house once he drenches you with so much blood.”
Then very-clever Odysseus answered as he glared at her:
“I will quickly tell Telemachus what you are saying, bitch,
After he comes here so that he can tear you apart by the limbs.”
[athurmata] Melanthô used to get ornaments and toys, and Penelope did not deprive her of delights, but instead was doing these things to please her—it is clear, this means material for children. For athurmata are the games of children.
“Athurma: a children’s toy. Josephus writes: “[the man who] was a toy of the king and was put on display for jokes and laughter while drinking.” And elsewhere: “it is not the place of men to waste time with children’s toys” In the Epigrams: “They stripped it clean and dedicated it near the road as a fine toy.” Instead of dedication: in Cratinus’ Odysseuses: “a new-fangled delight was made.”
“Sallust is assailed by an epigram of no less repute: “Crispus, pickpocket of the words of Ancient Cato / and architect of Jugurtha’s history”. This is a pitifully minor concern—for it is easy for anyone and really poor because the composer will not fit words to facts but will introduce unrelated facts when the words are easier to use.
Neologism, as I said in the first book, is more a custom of the Greeks who are not reluctant to change words for certain sounds and feelings with a liberty little different from when early human beings first gave names to things. Our rare attempts in compounding or deriving new words have rarely been welcomed as sufficient.”
Nec minus noto Sallustius epigrammate incessitur et verba antiqui multum furate Catonis,: Crispe, Iugurthinae conditor historiae.
Odiosa cura: nam et cuilibet facilis et hoc pessima, quod eius studiosus non verba rebus aptabit, sed res extrinsecus arcesset quibus haec verba conveniant. Fingere, ut primo libro dixi, Graecis magis concessum est, qui sonis etiam quibusdam et adfectibus non dubitaverunt nomina aptare, non alia libertate quam qua illi primi homines rebus appellationes dederunt. Nostri aut in iungendo aut in derivando paulum aliquid ausi vix in hoc satis recipiuntur.