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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?

I 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.

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