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[15arg] On the kind of debate which the Greeks call ἄπορος.

WITH the rhetorician Antonius Julianus I had withdrawn to Naples during the season of the summer holidays, wishing to escape the heat of Rome. And there was there at the time a young man of the richer class studying with tutors in both languages, and trying to gain a command of Latin eloquence in order to plead at the bar in Rome; and he begged Julianus to hear one of his declamations. Julianus went to hear him and I went along with him. The young fellow entered the room, made some preliminary remarks in a more arrogant and presumptuous style than became his years, and then asked that subjects for debate be given him.

[p. 207] There was present there with us a pupil of Julianus, a man of ready speech and good ability, who was already offended that in the hearing of a man like Julianus the fellow should show such rashness and should dare to test himself in extempore speaking. Therefore, to try him, he proposed a topic for debate that was not logically constructed, of the kind which the Greeks call ἄπορος, and in Latin might with some propriety be termed inexplicabile, that is, “unsolvable.” The subject was of this kind: “Seven judges are to hear the case of a defendant, and judgment is to be passed in accordance with the decision of a majority of their number. When the seven judges had heard the case, two decided that the defendant ought to be punished with exile; two, that he ought to be fined; the remaining three, that he should be put to death. The execution of the accused is demanded according to the decision of the three judges, but he appeals.”

As soon as the young man had heard this, without any reflection and without waiting for other subjects to be proposed, he began at once with incredible speed to reel off all sorts of principles and apply then to that same question, pouring out floods of confused and meaningless words and a torrent of verbiage. All the other members of his company, who were in the habit of listening to him, showed their delight by loud applause, but Julianus blushed and sweat from shame and embarrassment. But when after many thousand lines of drivel the fellow at last came to an end and we went out, his friends and comrades followed Julianus and asked him for his opinion. Whereupon Julianus very wittily replied “Don't ask me what I think; without controversy 1 this young man is eloquent.”

[p. 209]

1 Sine controversia is of course used in a double sense: “without question,” and “without an opponent” (i.e., when there is no one to argue against him).

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