XI[11arg] A passage from a speech of Quintus Metellus Numidicus, which it was my pleasure to recall, since it draws attention to the obligation of self-respect and dignity in the conduct of life.
ONE should not vie in abusive language with the basest of men or wrangle with foul words with the shameless and wicked, since you become like them and their exact mate so long as you say things which match and are exactly like what you hear. This truth may be learned no less from an address of Quintus Metellus Numidicus, a man of wisdom, than from the books and the teachings of the philosophers. These are the words of Metellus from his speech Against Gaius Manlius, Tribune of the Commons, 1 by whom he had been assailed and taunted in spiteful terms in a speech delivered before the people: “Now, fellow citizens, so far as Manlius is concerned, since he thinks that he will appear a greater man, if he keeps calling me his enemy, who neither count him as my friend nor take account of him as an enemy, I do not propose to say another word. For I consider him not only wholly unworthy to be well spoken of by good men, but unfit even to be reproached by the upright. For if you name an insignificant fellow of his kind at a time when you cannot punish him, you confer honour upon him rather than ignominy.” [p. 123]