The question you
have raised, said Secundus, is a great one and quite worthy of discussion.
But who has a better claim to unravel it than yourself, you who to profound
learning and transcendent ability have added reflection and study?
will open my mind to you, replied Messala, if first I can
prevail on you to give me your
assistance in our discussion. I can answer for two of us, said Maternus;
Secundus and myself will take the part which we understand you have not so
much omitted as left to us. Aper usually dissents, as you have just said,
and he has clearly for some time been girding himself for the attack, and
cannot bear with patience our union on behalf of the merits of the ancients.
Assuredly, said Aper, I will not allow our age to be condemned, unheard
and undefended, by this conspiracy of yours. First, however, I will ask you
whom you call ancients, or what period of orators you limit by your
definition? When I hear of ancients, I understand men of the past, born ages
ago; I have in my eye Ulysses and Nestor, whose time is about thirteen
hundred years before our day. But you bring forward Demosthenes and
Hyperides who flourished, as we know, in the period of Philip and Alexander,
a period, however, which they both outlived. Hence we see that not much more
than four hundred years has intervened between our own era and that of
Demosthenes. If you measure this space of time by the frailty of human life,
it perhaps seems long; if by the course of ages and by the thought of this
boundless universe, it is extremely short and is very near us. For indeed,
if, as Cicero says in his Hortensius, the great and the true year is that in
which the position of the heavens and of the stars at any particular moment
recurs, and if that year embraces twelve thousand nine hundred and ninety
four of what we call years, then your Demosthenes, whom you represent as so
old and ancient, began his existence not only in the same year, but almost
in the same month as ourselves.