VI[6arg] An extract from the speech delivered to the people by Metellus Numidicus when he was censor, urging them to marry; why that speech has been criticized and how on the contrary it has been defended.
A number of learned men were listening to the reading of the speech which Metellus Numidicus, 1 an earnest and eloquent man, delivered to the people when he was censor, On Marriage, urging them to be ready to undertake its obligations. In that speech these words were written: “If we could get on without a wife, Romans, we would all avoid that annoyance; but since nature has ordained that we can neither live very comfortably with them nor at all without them, we must take thought for our lasting well-being rather than for the pleasure of the moment.” It seemed to some of the company that Quintus Metellus, whose purpose as censor was to encourage the people to take wives, ought not to have admitted the annoyance and constant inconveniences of the married state; that to do this was not so much to encourage, as to dissuade and deter them. But they said that his speech ought rather to have taken just the opposite tone, insisting that as a rule there were no annoyances in matrimony, and if after all they seemed sometimes to arise, they were slight, insignificant and easily endured, and were completely forgotten in its greater pleasures and [p. 33] advantages; furthermore, that even these annoyances did not fall to the lot of all or from any fault natural to matrimony, but as the result of the misconduct and injustice of some husbands and wives. Titus Castricius, however, thought that Metellus had spoken properly and as was altogether worthy of his position. “A censor,” said he, “ought to speak in one way, an advocate in another. It is the orator's privilege to make statements that are untrue, daring, crafty, deceptive and sophistical, provided they have some semblance of truth and can by any artifice be made to insinuate themselves into the minds of the persons who are to be influenced. Furthermore,” he said, “it is disgraceful for an advocate, even though his case be a bad one, to leave anything unnoticed or undefended. But for a Metellus, a blameless man, with a reputation for dignity and sense of honour, addressing the Roman people with the prestige of such a life and course of honours, it was not becoming to say anything which was not accepted as true by himself and by all men, especially when speaking on a subject which was a matter of everyday knowledge and formed a part of the common and habitual experience of life. Accordingly, having admitted the existence of annoyances notorious with all men, and having thus established confidence in his sincerity and truthfulness, he then found it no difficult or uphill work to convince them of what was the soundest and truest of principles, that the State cannot survive without numerous marriages.” This other passage also from the same address of Metellus in my opinion deserves constant reading, not less by Heaven! than the writings of the [p. 35] greatest philosophers. His words are these: “The immortal gods have mighty power, but they are not expected to be more indulgent to us than our parents. But parents, if their children persist in wrong-doing, disinherit them. What different application of justice then are we to look for from the immortal gods, unless we put an end to our evil ways? Those alone may fairly claim the favour of the gods who are not their own worst enemies. 2 The immortal gods ought to support, not supply, virtue.”