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13. [28]

Therefore, as I said before, the dignity of a consul has never been consistent with that science; being one consisting wholly of fictitious and imaginary formulas. And its right to public gratitude was even much smaller. For that which is open to every one, and which is equally accessible to me and to my adversary, cannot be considered as entitled to any gratitude. And therefore you have now, not only lost the hope of conferring a favour, but even the compliment that used to be paid to you by men asking your permission to consult you. No one can be considered wise on account of his proficiency in that knowledge which is neither of any use at all out of Rome, nor at Rome either during the vacations. Nor has any one any right to be considered skillful in law, because there cannot be any difference between men in a branch of knowledge with which they are all acquainted. And a matter is not thought the more difficult for being contained in a very small number of very intelligible documents. Therefore, if you excite my anger, though I am excessively busy, in three days I will profess myself a lawyer. In truth, all that need be said about the written law is contained in written books; nor is there anything written with such precise accuracy, that I cannot add to the formula, “which is the matter at present in dispute.” If you answer what you ought, you will seem to have made the same answer as Servius; if you make any other reply, you will seem to be acquainted with and to know how to handle disputed points. [29]

Wherefore, not only is the military glory which you slight to be preferred to your formulas and legal pleas; but even the habit of speaking is far superior, as regards the attainment of honours, to the profession to the practice of which you devote yourself. And therefore many men appear to me to have preferred this at first; but afterwards, being unable to attain eminence in this profession, they have descended to the other. Just as men say, when talking of Greek practitioners, that those men are flute-players who cannot become harp-players, so we see some men, who have not been able to make orators, turn to the study of the law. There is great labour in the practice of oratory. It is an important business, one of great dignity, and of most exceeding influence. In truth, from you lawyers men seek some degree or advantage; but from those who are orators they seek actual safety. In the next place, your replies and your decisions are constantly overturned by eloquence, and cannot be made firm except by the advocacy of the orator; in which if I had made any great proficiency myself; I should be more sparing while speaking in its praise; but at present I am saying nothing about myself; but only about those men who either are or have been great in oratory.

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