Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature
Constantinople Home Page  

Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XII - Religion, Culture, Literature, and Art


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 80

Rise of A Literature of Pleadings - Cicero

While the composition of orations thus declined from its former literary and political value in the same way as all branches of literature which were the natural growth of the national life, there began at the same time a singular, non-political, literature of pleadings. Hitherto the Romans had known nothing of the idea that the address of an advocate as such was destined not only for the judges and the parties, but also for the literary edification of contemporaries and posterity; no advocate had written down and published his pleadings, unless they were possibly at the same time political orations and in so far were fitted to be circulated as party writings, and this had not occurred very frequently.

Even Quintus Hortensius (640-704), the most celebrated Roman advocate in the first years of this period, published but few speeches and these apparently only such as were wholly or half political. It was his successor in the leadership of the Roman bar, Marcus Tullius Cicero (648-711) who was from the outset quite as much author as forensic orator; he published his pleadings regularly, even when they were not at all or but remotely connected with politics. This was a token, not of progress, but of an unnatural and degenerate state of things. Even in Athens the appearance of non-political pleadings among the forms of literature was a sign of debility; and it was doubly so in Rome, which did not, like Athens, by a sort of necessity produce this malformation from the exaggerated pursuit of rhetoric, but borrowed it from abroad arbitrarily and in antagonism to the better traditions of the nation.

Yet this new species of literature came rapidly into vogue, partly because it had various points of contact and coincidence with the earlier authorship of political orations, partly because the unpoetic, dogmatical, rhetorizing temperament of the Romans offered a favourable soil for the new seed, as indeed at the present day the speeches of advocates and even a sort of literature of law-proceedings are of some importance in Italy.

Previous / First / Next Page of this Chapter

Do you see any typos or other mistakes? Please let us know and correct them

The History of Old Rome: Contents ||| The Medieval West | The Making of Europe | Constantinople Home Page

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Receive updates :

Learned Freeware

Reference address :