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11. [24]

The highest dignity is in those men who excel in military glory. For all things which are in the empire and in the constitution of the state, are supposed to be defended and strengthened by them. There is also the greatest usefulness in them, since it is by their wisdom and their danger that we can enjoy both the republic and also our own private possessions. The power of eloquence also is no doubt valuable and full of dignity, and it has often been of influence in the election of a consul to be able by wisdom and oratory to sway the minds of the senate and the people, and those who decide on affair. A consul is required who may be able sometimes to repress the madness of the tribunes, who may be able to bend the excited populace, who may resist corruption. It is not strange, if, on account of this faculty, even men who were not nobly born have often obtained the consulship; especially when this same quality procures a man great gratitude, and the firmest friendship, and the greatest zeal in his behalf; but! of all this there is nothing, O Sulpicius, in your profession. [25]

First of all, what dignity can there be in so limited a science? For they are but small matters, conversant chiefly about single letters and punctuation between words. Secondly, if in the time of our ancestors there was any inclination to marvel at that study of yours, now that all your mysteries are revealed, it is wholly despised and disregarded. At one time few men knew whether a thing might be lawfully done or not; for men ordinarily had no records; those were possessed of great power who were consulted, so that even days for consultation were begged of them beforehand, as from the Chaldean astrologers. A certain notary was found, by name Cnaeus Flavius, who could deceive 1 the most wary, and who set the people records to be learnt by heart each day, and who pilfered their own learning from the profoundest lawyers. So they, being angry because they were afraid, lest, when their daily course of action was divulged and understood, people would be able to proceed by law without their assistance, adopted a sort of cipher, in order to make their presence necessary in every cause.

1 The Latin strictly is, “pierce the eyes of ravens.” It was a proverbial expression.

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