M. Tulli Ciceronis
i. Utrum difficilius aut maius esset negare tibi saepius idem roganti an efficere id quod rogares diu multumque, Brute, dubitavi. Nam et negare ei quem unice diligerem cuique me carissimum esse sentirem, praesertim et iusta petenti et praeclara cupienti, durum admodum mihi videbatur; et suscipere tantam rem, quantam non modo facultate consequi difficile esset sed etiam cogitatione complecti, vix arbitrabar esse eius qui vereretur reprehensionem 2 doctorum atque prudentium. Quid enim est maius quam, cum tanta sit inter oratores bonos dissimilitudo, iudicare quae sit optima species et quasi figura dicendi? Quod quoniam me saepius rogas, aggrediar non tam perficiendi spe quam experiendi voluntate. Malo enim, cum studio tuo sim obsecutus, desiderari a te prudentiam meam quam, si id non fecerim, benevolentiam.3
Quaeris igitur idque iam saepius, quod eloquentiae genus probem maxime et quale mihi videatur illud, quo nihil addi possit, quod ego summum et perfectissimum
Marcus Tullius Cicero
For a long time I debated earnestly with myself, 1 Brutus, as to which course would be more difficult or more serious—to deny your oft repeated request, or to do what you ask. For it seemed hard indeed to refuse one whom I whole-heartedly love, and who I know returns my affection, especially since his request is reasonable and his curiosity honourable; and to undertake a task so great as to be difficult to attain in practice or even to grasp with the imagination seemed hardly the act of a man who respects the opinions of the learned and judicious. For what 2 greater task can there be than to decide what is the finest ideal and type of oratory, when good orators exhibit such variety? But in view of your repeated requests, I shall approach the task, not so much in hope of success as from a willingness to try. I prefer, in fact, that you should find me deficient in judgement in yielding to your desire, rather than lacking in kindness should I refuse.
You ask me, then, and have done so repeatedly, 3 what style of oratory I most approve, and what seems to be the nature of that style, deficient in no respect, which I think consummate and perfect. On