Comparison of Demosthenes and Cicero, 2

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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2Still further, then, in their writings it is possible to see that the one touches upon his own praises cautiously and so as not to give offence, when there was need of this for some weightier end, while on other occasions he is careful and moderate; whereas Cicero’s immoderate boasting of himself in his speeches proves that he had an intemperate desire for fame, his cry being that arms must give place to the toga and the laurel of triumph to the tongue.[6] 2And at last he praises not only his deeds and actions, but also his speeches, both those which he delivered himself and those which he committed to writing, as if he were impetuously vying with Isocrates and Anaximenes the sophists, instead of claiming the right to lead and instruct the Roman people,

“Steadfast, in heavy armour clad, destructive to foes.”[7]

3It is necessary, indeed, that a political leader should prevail by reason of his eloquence, but ignobly for him to admire and crave the fame that springs from his eloquence. Wherefore in this regard Demosthenes is more stately and magnificent, since he declares that his ability in speaking was a mere matter of experience, depending greatly upon the goodwill of his hearers,[8] and considers illiberal and vulgar, as they are, those who are puffed up at such success.

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  • [6] Cedant arma togae, concedat laurea laudi (in Pisonem, 29, 72 ff.).

  • [7] The second verse of an elegiac distich attributed to Aeschylus in Morals, p. 334 d. Cf. Bergk, Poet. Lyr. Graeci, ii.4 p. 242.

  • [8] Cf. On the Crown, 277.