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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
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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


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» Contents of this Chapter

Page 83

The great author is also a great man; and in the great orator more especially conviction or passion flows forth with a clearer and more impetuous stream from the depths of the breast than in the scantily-gifted many who merely count and are nothing. Cicero had no conviction and no passion; he was nothing but an advocate, and not a good one. He understood how to set forth his narrative of the case with piquancy of anecdote, to excite, if not the feeling, at any rate the sentimentality of his hearers, and to enliven the dry business of legal pleading by cleverness or witticisms mostly of a personal sort; his better orations, though they are far from coming up to the free gracefulness and the sure point of the most excellent compositions of this sort, for instance the Memoirs of Beaumarchais, yet form easy and agreeable reading.

But while the very advantages just indicated will appear to the serious judge as advantages of very dubious value, the absolute want of political discernment in the orations on constitutional questions and of juristic deduction in the forensic addresses, the egotism forgetful of its duty and constantly losing sight of the cause while thinking of the advocate, the dreadful barrenness of thought in the Ciceronian orations must revolt every reader of feeling and judgment.

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