« PreviousContinue »
CONCERNING THE ORATORY OF BRUTUS
BY EDWARD J. FILBEY
Did Cicero in his Brutus sive de claris oratoribus attribute to Marcus Junius Brutus the views which the latter actually held regarding oratory? The testimony to be obtained from various sourcesincluding other works of Cicero-relative to the general opinion held by Roman critics in regard to Brutus' oratorical style would seem to be somewhat at variance with Cicero's representation of Brutus in this treatise.
Evidence external to the Brutus is first offered:
§ 1. Cicero and Brutus differed in their respective views of what constituted the best oratorical style. Each felt free to criticize the oratory of the other. Quintilian says that Brutus thought Cicero's composition somewhat unfinished: 12. 1. 22: "Quamquam neque ipsi Ciceroni Demosthenes videatur satis esse perfectus. ... nec Cicero Bruto Calvoque, qui certe compositionem illius etiam apud ipsum reprehendunt." Tacitus represents Aper as saying, Dial. 18: "Legistis utique et Calvi et Bruti ad Ciceronem missas epistulas, ex quibus facile est deprehendere Ciceroni visum Brutum otiosum atque diiunctum; rursusque Ciceronem . . . . male audisse a Bruto . . . . ut ipsius verbis utar, tamquam fractum atque elumbem." Although Aper is here openly assailing these orators, his statement is apparently confirmed by an allusion to these letters in Quint. 9. 4. 1: " nisi et eiusdem aetatis homines scriptis ad ipsum [Ciceronem] etiam litteris reprehendere id collocandi genus aussi fuissent." Quintilian makes mention also (3. 6. 93) of a difference between Cicero's and Brutus' manner of defending a But the difference seems to have consisted not in the style of oratory so much as in the principle to be followed in the pleading. In the concluding sections of the Orator Cicero gives unmistakable evidence of the fact that Brutus' views and his own are not in harmony: Or. 237, 238: "Habes meum de oratore, Brute, iudicium; quod aut sequere si probaveris, aut tuo stabis si aliud quoddam est
[CLASSICAL PHILOLOGY VI, July, 1911] 325
tuum. In quo neque pugnabo tecum neque hoc meum de quo tantopere hoc libro asseveravi umquam affirmabo esse verius quam tuum." In the year 44 B.C., Cicero, in a letter to Atticus, shows not only that a general difference existed between his own style and that of Brutus, but also that his anticipation of Brutus' disapproval of his views as expressed in the Orator was realized: Att. 14. 20. 3: "Quid tu Bruto putas et ingenioso et erudito? De quo etiam experti sumus nuper in edicto. Scripseram rogatu tuo. Meum mihi placebat, illi suum. Quin etiam, cum ipsius precibus paene adductus scripsissem ad eum 'de optimo genere dicendi,' non modo mihi sed etiam tibi scripsit sibi illud quod mihi placeret non probari."
§ 2. This difference of view was fundamental. Brutus' style was dull, serious, and blunt, and was lacking in ornament, variety, and spirit. In Tac. Dial. 21, Aper says: "Brutum philosophiae relinquamus; nam in orationibus minorem esse fama sua etiam admiratores eius fatentur." In the sentence following he speaks of Brutus' speech for Deiotarus as characterized by "lentitudinis ac teporis." He had already said (§ 18, supra) that to Cicero, Brutus seemed "otiosum atque diiunctum." In 25 Tacitus has Messalla say in the course of his defense of Cicero and the other orators of his period, Brutus included: "iure et prioribus et sequentibus anteponuntur. Nec refert quod inter se specie different cum genere consentiant. . . . gravior Brutus, vehementior et plenior et valentior Cicero; omnes tamen eandem sanitatem eloquentiae prae se ferunt. . . . . Solum inter hos arbitror Brutum non malignitate nec invidia, sed simpliciter et ingenue iudicium animi sui detexisse." Quintilian intimates that Brutus' style was suited to philosophy, but was not eminently oratorical: 10. 1. 123: "Supersunt qui de philosophia scripserint. Egregius vero multoque quam in orationibus praestantior Brutus suffecit pondere rerum; scias eum sentire quae dicit." Again Quintilian says, 12. 10. 11: "efflorescat oratorum ingens proventus. Hic . . . . sanctitatem Calvi, gravitatem Bruti . . . reperiemus." In the Silvae of Statius, the recipient of a present complains of the poor taste exhibited in sending him the "dull speeches" of Brutus: 4. 9. 20: "Bruti senis oscitationes." Plutarch, Brutus 2, speaks of the sententious and laconic brevity noticeable in the Greek letters of Brutus: ὁ Βροῦτος Ελληνιστί . . . . τὴν ἀποφθεγ ó
ματικὴν καὶ Λακωνικὴν ἐπιτηδεύων βραχυλογίαν ἐν ταῖς ἐπιστολαῖς ἐνιαχοῦ παράσημός ἐστιν. Cicero complains of the brevity of Brutus' letters: Ad Brut. 1. 14. 1: "Breves litterae tuae, breves dico? Immo nullae: tribusne versiculis his temporibus Brutus ad me? Nihil scripsissem potius." Brutus seems also to have incurred the charge of petulance and want of tact in his manner of writing to Cicero: Att. 6. 1. 7: "Ad me autem etiam cum rogat aliquid, contumaciter, adroganter, ȧkovovońτws solet scribere." Seneca hints at something of the same sort: Suas. 6. 14: "Ferendam esse . . . . aut Bruti superbiam." When Cicero praises the elaborate Isocrates, Brutus demurs: Or. 40: "Horum aetati successit Isocrates, qui praeter ceteros eiusdem generis laudatus semper a nobis, non nunquam, Brute, leniter et erudite repugnante te." In the same treatise there is an implied criticism by Cicero of the constant sameness of Brutus' style: Or. 110: "Tu autem eodem modo omnis causas ages? Aut aliquod causarum genus repudiabis? Aut in isdem causis perpetuum et eundem spiritum sine ulla commutatione obtinebis?" In his letters, also, Cicero shows that Brutus' style was less ornate and less impassioned than his own: Att. 13. 46. 2: "Legi epistolam: multa de meo Catone, quem saepissime legendo se dicit copiosiorem factum, Bruti Catone lecto se sibi visum disertum." And again: Att. 15. 1b. 2: "Brutus noster misit ad me orationem suam habitam in contione Capitolina, petivitque a me ut eam ne ambitiose corrigerem ante quam ederet. Est autem oratio scripta elegantissime sententiis, verbis ut nihil possit ultra. Ego tamen, si illam causam habuissem, scripsissem ardentius . . . . corrigere non potui. Quo enim in genere Brutus noster vult et quod iudicium habet de optimo genere dicendi, id ita consecutus est in ea oratione, ut elegantius esse nihil possit. Sed ego secutus aliud sum, sive hoc recte sive non recte."
§ 3. There is some testimony tending to show that Brutus' style was not wholly without vigor, and that he at least recognized the value of ornament, as also of a careful selection of one's language. In Tac. Ann. 4. 34, Cremutius Cordus, the historian, is represented as saying: "Bruti contiones falsa quidem in Augustum proba, sed multa cum acerbitate habent." The natural intensity of character which Cicero seems to have attributed to Brutus is indicated in two letters to Atticus: Att. 14. 1. 2: "De Bruto . . . . Caesarem solitum
dicere: 'magni refert hic quid velit, sed quidquid vult valde vult': idque eum animadvertisse, cum pro Deiotaro Nicaeae diceret: valde vehementer eum visum et libere dicere." Att. 14. 20. 3: "Quod errare me putas, qui rem publicam putem pendere e Bruto, sic se res habet; aut nulla erit aut ab isto istisve servabitur." In the Orator, after emphasizing Demosthenes' "figures of thought," and declaring that the essence of oratory is found in the ornamenting of one's sentiments with a kind of brilliancy, Cicero says that of this Brutus is as thoroughly aware as anyone: Or. 136: "Nec quicquam est aliud dicere nisi omnis aut certe plerasque aliqua specie illuminare sententias: quas cum tu optime, Brute, teneas. ." A little later, Cicero adds, Or. 227: "Nihil enim est aliud, Brute, quod quidem tu minime ignoras, pulchre et oratorie dicere nisi optimis sententiis verbisque lectissimis dicere." In Att. 15. 1b. 2 (quoted in § 2, supra) Cicero testifies that Brutus employed appropriate sentiments and carefully selected words in his address to the people immediately after the death of Caesar. So few fragments of Brutus' oratory remain that no reliable conclusions can be based upon the evidence they offer as to Brutus' usual style. It may be noted, however, that the letter of Brutus and Cassius to Antony, preserved in the correspondence of Cicero as Fam. 11. 3, exhibits plainly the qualities of severity, dignity, boldness, and great care in the selection of words. That Brutus strove to avoid a rhythmical style seems certain. Quintilian testifies however that his efforts were frequently unsuccessful: 9. 4. 76: "Itaque et versus hi fere excidunt, quos Brutus ipso componendi durius studio saepissime facit."
§ 4. A summary of the main facts presented by external evidence shows that (a) Brutus and Cicero favored different styles of oratory;1 (b) Brutus blamed Cicero's composition;2 (c) Brutus ranked higher as a philosopher than as an orator; in oratory he fell below his reputation; (d) Brutus was grave, dull and spiritless, brief and blunt," plain, and monotonous.8
1 Cic. Or. 237, 238; Att. 14. 20. 3; Att. 15. 16. 2; Quint. 3. 6. 93.
2 Quint. 12. 1. 22; 9. 4. 1; Tac. Dial. 18.
3 Tac. Dial. 21; Quint. 10. 1. 123.
5 Tac. Dial. 18; 21; Stat. Silv. 4. 9. 20;
6 Plut. Brut. 2; Cic. ad Brut. 1. 14. 1; 7 Cic. Or. 40; Att. 13. 46. 2.
4 Quint. 12. 10. 11; Tac. Dial. 25. Cic. Att. 15. 1b. 2.
Att. 6. 1. 7; Tac. Dial. 25.
8 Cic. Or. 110.
The evidence introduced in § 3 offers no serious contradiction to this characterization. The severity attributed to Brutus in Tac. Ann. 4. 34 is what might properly be expected when a cold and unexcitable nature was impelled to act with firmness. Brutus seems to have been a man who felt strongly when important interests were at stake. Hence Caesar's opinion of Brutus need occasion no surprise when he says' that Brutus insists upon his wishes being carried out. Brutus' speech for Deiotarus, mentioned in the same passage, may have seemed to Caesar, as he says, earnest and bold. But it has been seen that Aper considered the speech dull and languid.2
When Cicero writes to Brutus in the Orators that Brutus is well aware how necessary an element of oratory ornament is to be judged, it can hardly be considered that Cicero intended to say more than that Brutus knew what emphasis Cicero himself felt should be laid upon ornament. That Brutus scarcely shared this view, Cicero suggests in the same treatise, when he asks Brutus whether he intends to persist in using one style of oratory in causes of every sort.
A careful selection of the sentiments to be expressed, as also of the words to be employed, seems to have been a characteristic feature of Brutus' style. In brief, it becomes apparent that Brutus was one of that numerous class of Roman orators who strove laboriously to acquire a true Attic style, but who took as their model for this style not Demosthenes, but the plainest and most austere of his predecessors. Simplicity of thought, of composition, and of diction; the employment of only such expressions as were in strict accord with propriety; and an air of passionless dignity-these seem to have been striven for by Brutus as conscientiously as by any other of the wouldbe Atticists of his day.
§ 5. In certain passages from the Brutus, Cicero represents Brutus as holding views not greatly at variance with his own. Before the discussion proper, Cicero says that he has heard that Brutus' speech for Deiotarus was characterized by especial ornament and richness: 21: "causam Deiotari . . . . ornatissume et copiosissume a Bruto . . . defensam"; also that on Brutus' account he lamented the loss of opportunities for public oratory, for which Brutus seemed so
1 Cic. Att. 14. 1. 2. Cic. Att. 15. 1b. 2;
2 Tac. Dial. 21. 3 Cic. Or. 136. 4 Cic. Or. 110. Fam. 11. 3; Or. 227; Tac. Dial. 25; Quint. 9. 4. 76.