Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson
But even those four men rose little above the average calibre of the Optimates of this age. Catulus was like his father a man of refined culture and an honest aristocrat, but of moderate talents and, in particular, no soldier. Metellus was not merely estimable in his personal character, but an able and experienced officer; and it was not so much on account of his close relations as a kinsman and colleague with the regent as because of his recognized ability that he was sent in 675, after resigning the consulship, to Spain, where the Lusitanians and the Roman emigrants under Quintus Sertorius were bestirring themselves afresh. The two Luculli were also capable officers--particularly the elder, who combined very respectable military talents with thorough literary culture and leanings to authorship, and appeared honourable also as a man.
But, as statesmen, even these better aristocrats were not much less remiss and shortsighted than the average senators of the time. In presence of an outward foe the more eminent among them, doubtless, proved themselves useful and brave; but no one of them evinced the desire or the skill to solve the problems of politics proper, and to guide the vessel of the state through the stormy sea of intrigues and factions as a true pilot. Their political wisdom was limited to a sincere belief in the oligarchy as the sole means of salvation, and to a cordial hatred and courageous execration of demagogism as well as of every individual authority which sought to emancipate itself. Their petty ambition was contented with little.
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