M. Tulli Ciceronis de Optimo Genere Oratorum
I. Oratorum genera esse dicuntur tamquam poetarum; id secus est, nam alterum est multiplex. Poematis enim tragici, comici, epici, melici, etiam ac dithyrambici, quod magis est tractatum a Graecis quam a Latinis, suum cuiusque est,1 diversum a reliquis. Itaque et in tragoedia comicum vitiosum est et in comoedia turpe tragicum; et in ceteris suus est cuique2 certus sonus et quaedam intellegentibus 2nota vox. Oratorum autem si quis ita numerat plura genera, ut alios grandis aut gravis aut copiosos, alios tenuis aut subtilis aut brevis, alios eis interiectos et tamquam medios putet, de hominibus dicit3 aliquid, de re parum. In re enim quid optimum sit quaeritur, in homine dicitur quod est. Itaque licet dicere et Ennium summum epicum poetam, si cui ita videtur, et Pacuvium tragicum et Caecilium fortasse comicum.
- 1quod . . . cuiusque est Pluygers, Mnemosyne N.F. viii, p. 367: quod c: quo GOP: magis C: rarius Hedicke: a Latinis bracketed by Friedrich: suum cuiusque Manutius: suum quo ius GO: suum cuius P: suumque ius r: suum quodvis o: suum quod ius T.
- 2cuique G: cuiusque P.
- 3de hominibus dicit Orelli: hominibus deicit GP.
De Optimo Genere Oratorum
Marcus Tullius Cicero the Best Kind of Orator
I. It is said that there are various kinds of orators as there are of poets. But the fact is otherwise, for poetry takes many forms. That is to say, every composition in verse, tragedy, comedy, epic, and also melic and dithyrambic (a form more extensively cultivated by Greeks than by Romans) has its own individuality, distinct from the others. So in tragedy a comic style is a blemish, and in comedy the tragic style is unseemly; and so with the other genres, each has its own tone and a way of speaking 2which the scholars recognize. But in the case of orators if one in the same way enumerates several kinds, regarding some as grand, stately or opulent, others as plain, restrained or concise, and others in an intermediate position, forming as it were a mean between the other two, he gives some information about the men but does not tell us enough about the art of oratory. For in an art we ask what is ideal perfection; in a man we describe what actually is. Therefore, one may call Enniusa supreme in epic, if he thinks that is true, and Pacuviusb in tragedy and 3Caecilius,c perhaps, in comedy. The orator I do not
- aQuintus Ennius, 239–169 b.c.; Roman poet who wrote in many genres, but was best known for his epic of Roman History, the Annales.
- bMarcus Pacuvius, 220–circa 132 b.c., nephew of Ennius; his writing was confined almost entirely to tragedy.
- cStatius Caecilius, circa 168 b.c., a contemporary of Ennius, and the immediate predecessor of Terence. Cicero elsewhere (cf. ad Atticum vii, 3, 10; Brutus 258) speaks slightingly of his Latinity.