On Cicero / Turnbull?

This text is a direct “copy and paste” from Theodor Mommsen’s : “History of Rome”..Book 5 chapt’ 12 on Cicero ; the man and his works.

I cannot help but see a sharp reflection of our Prime Minister of the moment… An uncanny resemblance that must give pause to consider the philosophy of Buddhism and re-incarnation..

I will leave it for you to judge the veracity of both men.

On Cicero:

“ Thus oratorical authorship emancipated from politics
was naturalized in the Roman literary world by Cicero.
We have already had occasion several times to mention
this many-sided man. As a statesman without insight, idea,
or purpose, he figured successively as democrat, as aristocrat,
and as a tool of the monarchs, and was never more than
a short-sighted egotist. Where he exhibited the semblance of action,
the questions to which his action applied had, as a rule,
just reached their solution; thus he came forward in the trial
of Verres against the senatorial courts when they were already
set aside; thus he was silent at the discussion on the Gabinian,
and acted as a champion of the Manilian, law; thus he thundered
against Catilina when his departure was already settled,
and so forth. He was valiant in opposition to sham attacks,
and he knocked down many walls of pasteboard with a loud din;
no serious matter was ever, either in good or evil, decided by him,
and the execution of the Catilinarians in particular was far more
due to his acquiescence than to his instigation. In a literary
point of view we have already noticed that he was the creator
of the modern Latin prose;(34) his importance rests on his mastery
of style, and it is only as a stylist that he shows confidence
in himself. In the character of an author, on the other hand,
he stands quite as low as in that of a statesman. He essayed
the most varied tasks, sang the great deeds of Marius
and his own petty achievements in endless hexameters,
beat Demosthenes off the field with his speeches, and Plato
with his philosophic dialogues; and time alone was wanting for him
to vanquish also Thucydides. He was in fact so thoroughly a dabbler,
that it was pretty much a matter of indifference to what work
he applied his hand. By nature a journalist in the worst
sense of that term–abounding, as he himself says, in words,
poor beyond all conception in ideas–there was no department
in which he could not with the help of a few books have rapidly got up
by translation or compilation a readable essay. His correspondence
mirrors most faithfully his character. People are in the habit
of calling it interesting and clever; and it is so, as long as
it reflects the urban or villa life of the world of quality;
but where the writer is thrown on his own resources, as in exile,
in Cilicia, and after the battle of Pharsalus, it is stale
and emptyas was ever the soul of a feuilletonist banished from his
familiar circles. It is scarcely needful to add that such a statesman
and such a -litterateur- could not, as a man, exhibit aught else
than a thinly varnished superficiality and heart-lessness.
Must we still describe the orator? 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.


If there is anything wonderful in the case, it is in truth
not the orations, but the admiration which they excited. As to Cicero
every unbiassed person will soon make up his mind: Ciceronianism
is a problem, which in fact cannot be properly solved, but can only
be resolved into that greater mystery of human nature–language
and the effect of language on the mind. Inasmuch as the noble Latin
language, just before it perished as a national idiom, was once more
as it were comprehensively grasped by that dexterous stylist
and deposited in his copious writings, something of the power
which language exercises, and of the piety which it awakens,
was transferred to the unworthy vessel. The Romans possessed
no great Latin prose-writer; for Caesar was, like Napoleon,
only incidentally an author. Was it to be wondered at that,
in the absence of such an one, they should at least honour the genius
of the language in the great stylist? And that, like Cicero himself,
Cicero’s readers also should accustom themselves to ask not what,
but how he had written? Custom and the schoolmaster then completed
what the power of language had begun.”

One thought on “On Cicero / Turnbull?

  1. Uncanny resemblance, Jaycee. Well picked up. Might explain some of MSM fascination and hope with Fizza, especially Mark Kenny and Kath Murohy, but I think most is due to being lackeys for their owners.

    Liked by 1 person

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