previous next


I have heard a man say about certain orators, to whom he had offered his case, "that he had been better pleased with the words of the one who declined, than of the one who accepted." So true it is that men are more taken by look and words than by actual services. [This latter course, however, you will readily approve : the former it is somewhat difficult to recommend to a Platonist like you, but yet I will have regard for your present circumstances.] For even those to whom you are forced by any other tie to refuse your advocacy may yet quit you mollified and with friendly feelings. But those to whom you only excuse a refusal by saying that you are hindered by the affairs of closer friends, or by cases more important or previously undertaken, quit you with hostile feelings, and are one and all disposed to prefer an insincere promise to a direct negative from you. C. Cotta, a master in the art of electioneering, used to say that, "so long as the request was not directly contrary to moral duty, he used to promise his assistance to all to bestow it on those with whom he thought it would be most advantageously invested: he did not refuse anyone, because something often turned up to prevent the person whom he promised from availing himself of it, and it often also occurred that he himself was less engaged than he had thought at the time nor could anyone's house be full of suitors who only undertook what he saw his way to perform: by some accident or other the unexpected often happens, while business, which you have believed to be actually in hand, from some cause or other does not come off: moreover, the worst that can happen is that the man to whom you have made a false promise is angry." This last risk, supposing you to make the promise, is uncertain, is prospective, and only affects a few; but, if you refuse, the offence given is certain, immediate, and more widely diffused. For many more ask to be allowed to avail themselves of the help of another than actually do so. Wherefore it is better that some of them should at times be angry with you in the forum than all of them perpetually at your own house : especially as they are more inclined to be angry with those who refuse, than with a man whom they perceive to be prevented by so grave a cause as to be Compatible with the desire to fulfil his promise if he possibly could. But that I may not appear to have abandoned my own classification, since the department of a candidate's work on which I am now dilating is that which refers to the populace, I insist on this, that all these observations have reference not so much to the feelings of friends as to popular rumour. Though there is something in what I say which comes under the former head—such as answering with kindness, and giving zealous assistance in the business and the dangers of friends—yet in this part of my argument I am speaking of the things which enable you to win over the populace: for instance, the having your house full of visitors before daybreak, the securing the affection of many by giving them hope of your support the contriving that men should leave you with more friendly feelings than they came, the filling the ears of as many as possible with the most telling words.

Creative Commons License
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.

load focus Latin (L. C. Purser)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: