25. Who of us would call himself equal to Manius Curius, or to Caius Fabricius or to Caius Duilius? Who reckons himself a match for Atilius Calatinius or for Cnaeus and Publius Scipio or for Africanus, Marcellus or Maximus? And yet we have arrived at the same degree of rank that they did. In truth, in virtue there are many steps; so that he is the most eminent in renown, who is the superior in virtue. The summit of the honours conferred by the people is the consulship. And by this time nearly eight hundred men have obtained that. And of this eight hundred, if you examine carefully, you will find hardly one tenth of the number worthy of such a preeminence. But yet no one ever went on as you do. “Why is that man made consul? What could he have got more if he had been Lucius Brutus, who delivered the city from the tyranny of the kings?” He could have got no higher rank certainly, but he would have much more glory. And in the same manner, therefore, Plancius has been made quaestor, and tribune of the people, and aedile, just as much as if he had been a man of the highest rank by birth; but a countless number of other men, born in the same rank as he, have also attained these honours.  You speak of the triumphs of Titus Didius, and Caius Marius; and ask what there is like these exploits in Plancius. As if those men whom you are speaking of obtained their magistracies because they had triumphed, and did not on the contrary triumph after having performed great achievements, because those magistracies were entrusted to them. You ask what campaigns he has served; when he was a soldier in Crete, while Metellus, who is here in court, was commander-in-chief, and military tribune in Macedonia; and when he was quaestor he only abstracted just so much time from his attention to his military duties as he thought it better to devote to protecting me.  You ask whether he is an eloquent man. At all events, what is the next best thing to being so, he does not think himself one. “Is he a lawyer?” As if there were any one who complains that he has given him a false answer in a point of law. For all such acts as that are open to criticism in the case of men who, after they have professed an acquaintance with them, are unable to satisfy people's expectations; not in the case of men who confess that they have never paid any attention to those pursuits. What is usually required in a candidate is virtue, and honesty, and integrity, not volubility of tongue, or an acquaintance with any particular art or science. As we, when we are procuring slaves, are annoyed if we have bought a man as a smith or a plasterer, and find, however good a man he may be, that he knows nothing of those trades which we had in view in buying him; but if we have bought a man to give him charge of our property as steward, or to employ him to look after our stock, then we do not care for any other qualities in him except frugality, industry, and vigilance; so the Roman people elects magistrates to be as it were stewards of the republic, and if they are masters of some accomplishment besides, the people have no objection, but if not, they are content with their virtue and innocence. For how few men are eloquent; how few are skillful lawyers, even if you include all those in your calculation who wish to be so! But if no one else is worthy of honour, what on earth is to become of so many most virtuous and most accomplished citizens?
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO IN DEFENCE OF CNAEUS PLANCIUS.
THE SPEECH OF M. T. CICERO AGAINST PUBLIUS VATINIUS; CALLED ALSO, THE EXAMINATION OF PUBLIUS VATINIUS.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.