Comparison of Demosthenes and Cicero, 3

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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3It is true that in haranguing and guiding the people both had equal power, so that even those who controlled armies and camps had need of their services; Chares, Diopeithes and Leosthenes needed Demosthenes, and Pompey and the young Caesar needed Cicero, as Caesar himself says in his Memoirs addressed to Agrippa and Maecenas. 2But what is thought and said most of all to reveal and rest the character of a man, namely power and authority, which rouses every passion and uncovers every baseness, this Demosthenes did not have, nor did he give any such proof of himself, since he held no conspicuous office, nor did he even command the force which was raised by him against Philip; 3whereas Cicero was sent out as quaestor to Sicily, and as pro-consul to Cilicia and Cappadocia, at a time when the love of wealth was at its greatest height, and when those who were sent out as praetors and governors, feeling that theft was an ignoble thing, resorted to open plundering, so that the taking of property was not thought heinous, but he who did this in moderation was held in high esteem; and yet Cicero gave many proofs of his contempt for wealth, and many of his humanity and goodness. 4And when in Rome itself he was appointed consul in name, but really received the power of a dictator and sole ruler against Catiline and his conspirators, he bore witness to the truth of Plato’s prophecy[9] that states would then have respite from evil, when in one and the same person, by some happy fortune, great power and wisdom should be conjoined with justice.

5Moreover, it is said to the reproach of Demosthenes that he made money by his eloquence, since he secretly wrote speeches for Phormio and Apollodorus, who were adversaries in the same case, and since he was accused in the matter of the Great King’s money, and condemned for taking that of Harpalus. And if we should say that those who write these things (and these writers are not few) tell what is untrue, 6still, at least, that Demosthenes could not bring himself to look with indifference upon gifts which kings offered as marks of honour and favour, and that this was not to be expected of a man who lent money on bottomry, it is impossible to deny; whereas, in the case of Cicero, that the Sicilians when he was quaestor, and the king of Cappadocia when he was pro-consul, and his friends in Rome when he was going into exile, offered him large sums and begged him to take them, only to meet with his refusal, has been said.

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  • [9] Republic, p. 473 d.