This is as much as we could gather by our knowledge touching the notable acts and deeds worthy of memory, written of Cicero and Demosthenes. Furthermore, leaving the comparison aside of the difference of their eloquence in their orations: methinks I may say thus much of them. That Demosthenes did wholly employ all his wit and learning (natural or artificial) unto the art of rhetoric, and that in force, and virtue of eloquence, he did excel all the orators in his time: and for gravity and magnificent style, all those also that only write for shew or ostentation: and for sharpness and art, all the sophisters and masters of rhetoric. And that Cicero was a man generally learned in all sciences, and that had studied divers books, as appeareth plainly by the sundry books of philosophy of his own making, written after the manner of the Academic philosophers.
Furthermore, they may see in his orations he wrote in certain causes to serve him when he pleaded: that he sought occasions in his by-talk to shew men that he was excellently well learned. Furthermore, by their phrases a man may discern some spark of their manners and conditions. For Demosthenes' phrase hath no manner of fineness, jests, nor grace in it, but is altogether grave and harsh, and smelleth not of the lamp, as Pytheas said when he mocked him: but sheweth a great drinker of water, extreme pains, and therewith also a sharp and sour nature. But Cicero oftentimes fell from pleasant taunts, unto plain scurrility: and turning all his pleadings of matters of importance, to sport and laughter, having a grace in it, many times he did forget the comeliness that became a man of his calling. As in his oration for Caelius, where he sayeth, "It is no marvel if in so great abundance of wealth and fineness he give himself a little to take his pleasure: and that it was a folly not to use pleasures lawful, and tolerable, sith the famousest philosophers that ever were, did place the chief felicity of man, to be in pleasure." And it is reported also, that Marcus Cato having accused Muraena, Cicero being consul, defended his cause, and in his oration pleasantly girded all the sect of the Stoic philosophers for Cato's sake, for the strange opinions they hold, which they call paradoxes: insomuch as he made all the people and judges also fall a-laughing a-good. And Cato himself also smiling a little, said unto them that sat by him: "What a laughing and mocking consul have we, my lords?" But letting that pass, it seemeth that Cicero was of a pleasant and merry nature; for his face shewed ever great life and mirth in it. Whereas in Demosthenes' countenance on the other side, they might discern a marvelous diligence and care, and a pensive man, never weary with pain: insomuch that his enemies (as he reporteth himself) called him a perverse and froward man.
Furthermore, in their writings is discerned, that the one speaketh modestly in his own praise, so as no man can justly be offended with him: and yet not always, but when necessity enforceth him for some matter of great importance, but otherwise very discreet and modest to speak of himself. Cicero in contrary manner, using too often repetition of one self thing in all his orations, shewed an extreme ambition of glory, when incessantly he cried out: "Let spear and shield give place to gown / And give the tongue the laurel crown."
Yea furthermore, he did not only praise his own acts and deeds, but the orations also which he had written or pleaded: as if he should have contended against Isocrates, or Anaximenes, a master that taught rhetoric, and not to go about to reform the people of Rome: "Which were both fierce and stout in arms / And fit to work their enemies harms." For, as it is requisite for a governor of a commonwealth to seek authority by his eloquence: so, to covet the praise of his own glorious tongue, or as it were to beg it, that sheweth a base mind. And therefore in this point we must confess that Demosthenes is far graver, and of a nobler mind: who declared himself, that all his eloquence came only but by practise, the which also required the favour of his auditory: and further, he thought them fools and mad men (as indeed they be no less) that therefore would make any boast of themselves. In this they were both alike, that both of them had great credit and authority in their orations to the people, and for their orations obtaining that they would propound: insomuch as captains, and they that had armies in their hands, stood in need of their eloquence. As Chares, Diopithes, and Leosthenes, they all were holpen of Demosthenes: and Pompey, and Octavius Caesar the young man, of Cicero: as Caesar himself confesseth in his Commentaries he wrote unto Agrippa, and Maecenas. But nothing sheweth a man's nature and condition more, (as it is reported, and so is it true) than when one is in authority: for that bewrayeth his humor, and the affections of his mind, and layeth open also all his secret vices in him. Demosthenes could never deliver any such proof of himself, because he never bare any office, nor was called forward. For he was not general of the army, which he himself had prepared against King Philip. Cicero on the other side being sent Treasurer into Sicily, and proconsul into Cilicia and Cappadocia, in such time as covetousness reigned most (insomuch that the captains and governors whom they sent to govern their provinces, thinking it villainy and dastardliness to rob, did violently take things by force, at what time also to take bribes was reckoned no shame, but to handle it discreetly, he was the better thought of, and beloved for it) he shewed plainly that he regarded not money, and gave forth many proofs of his courtesy and goodness.
Furthermore, Cicero being created consul by name, but dictator indeed, having absolute power and authority over all things to suppress the rebellion and conspirators of Catiline: he proved Plato's prophecy true, which was: that the cities are safe from danger, when the chief magistrates and governors (by some good divine fortune) do govern with wisdom and justice. Demosthenes was reproved for his corruption, and selling of his eloquence: because secretly he wrote one oration for Phormio, and another in the selfsame matter for Apollodorus, they being both adversaries. Further, he was defamed also for receiving money of the king of Persia, and therewithal condemned for the money which he had taken of Harpalus. And though some peradventure would object, that the reporters thereof (which are many) do lie: yet they can not possibly deny this, that Demosthenes had no power to refrain from looking of the presents which divers kings did offer him, praying him to accept them in good part for their sakes: neither was that the part of a man that did take usury by traffic on the sea, the extremest yet of all other. In contrary manner (as we have said before) it is certain that Cicero being treasurer, refused the gifts which the Sicilians offered him, there: and the presents also which the king of the Cappadocians offered him whilst he was proconsul in Cilicia, and those especially which his friends pressed upon him to take of them, being a great sum of money, when he went as a banished man out of Rome.
Furthermore, the banishment of the one was infamous to him, because by judgement he was banished as a thief. The banishment of the other was for as honourable an act as ever he did, being banished for ridding his country of wicked men. And therefore of Demosthenes, there was no speech after he was gone: but for Cicero, all the Senate changed their apparel into black, and determined that they would pass no decree by their authority, before Cicero's banishment was revoked by the people. Indeed Cicero idly passed his time of banishment, and did nothing all the while he was in Macedon: and one of the chiefest acts that Demosthenes did, in all the time that he dealt in the affairs of the commonwealth, was in his banishment. For he went unto every city, and did assist the ambassadors of the Grecians, and refused the ambassadors of the Macedonians. In the which he shewed himself a better citizen, than either Themistocles, or Alcibiades, in their like fortune and exile. So when he was called home, and returned, he fell again to his old trade which he practised before, and was ever against Antipater, and the Macedonians. Where Laelius in open Senate sharply took up Cicero, for that he sat still and said nothing, when that Octavius Caesar the young man made petition against the law, that he might sue for the consulship, and being so young, that he had never a hair on his face. And Brutus self also doth greatly reprove Cicero in his letters, for that he had maintained and nourished a more grievous and greater tyranny, than that which they had put down.
And last of all, me thinketh the death of Cicero most pitiful, to see an old man carried up and down, (with tender love of his servants) seeking all the ways that might be to flee death, which did not long prevent his natural course : and in the end, old as he was, to see his head so pitifully cut off. Whereas Demosthenes, though he yielded a little, entreating him that came to take him: yet for that he had prepared the poison long before, that he had kept it long, and also used it as he did, he cannot but be marvellously commended for it. For [if] the god Neptune denied him the benefit of his sanctuary, he betook him to a greater, and that was death: whereby he saved himself out of the soldiers' hands of the tyrant [Dryden: freeing himself from arms and soldiers], and also scorned the bloody cruelty of Antipater.
Copyright © 2002-2017 AmblesideOnline. All rights reserved. Use of this curriculum subject to the terms of our License Agreement.