And after reflecting on it for a long time (Cicero)

And after reflecting on it for a long time (Cicero)

Often and much have I pondered the question of whether fluency of speech and a consuming devotion to eloquence have brought more good or evil to people and their communities. For when I consider the injuries done to our Republic, and review in my mind the ancient calamities of prominent communities, I see that no little part of their misfortunes was brought about through the agency of men who were highly skilled in speaking. On the other hand, when I set out on a search in the annals of literature for events that, because of their antiquity, are removed from our generation’s memory, I find that many cities have been founded, the flames Of very many wars have been extinguished, the firmest alliances and the most hallowed friendships have been formed not only by the mind’s power of reason but also more easily by eloquence.

 

And after reflecting on it for a long time, that same power of reason leads me to form this opinion first and foremost: wisdom without eloquence does too little for the good of communities, but eloquence without wisdom is, in most instances, extremely harmful and newer beneficial. If, then, anyone exerts all of his energies in the practice of oratory to the neglect of the highest and most honorable pursuits of reason and moral conduct, he is reared as a citizen useless to himself and harmful to his country; but the person who arms himself with eloquence in such a way that enables him not to assail the interests of his country, but rather assist them, this man, in my opinion, will be a citizen most helpful and most devoted both to his own interests and those of the public.

 

 

 

 

How to Win an Argument
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Selected, edited, and translated by James M. May



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