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Great eloquence, like fire, grows with its material; it becomes fiercer with movement, and brighter as it burns. On this same principle was developed in our state too the eloquence of antiquity. Although even the modern orator has attained all that the circumstances of a settled, quiet, and prosperous community allow, still in the disorder and licence of the past more seemed to be within the reach of the speaker, when, amid a universal confusion that needed one guiding hand, he exactly adapted his wisdom to the bewildered people's capacity of conviction. Hence, laws without end and consequent popularity; hence, speeches of magistrates who, I may say, passed nights on the Rostra; hence, prosecutions of influential citizens brought to trial, and feuds transmitted to whole families; hence, factions among the nobles, and incessant strife between the senate and the people. In each case the state was torn asunder, but the eloquence of the age was exercised, and, as it seemed, was loaded with great rewards. For the more powerful a man was as a speaker, the more easily did he obtain office, the more decisively superior was he to his colleagues in office, the more influence did he acquire with the leaders of the state, the more weight in the senate, the more notoriety and fame with the people. Such men had a host of clients, even among foreign nations; the magistrates, when leaving Rome for the provinces, showed them respect, and courted their favour as soon as they returned. The prætorship and the consulship seemed to offer themselves to them,
and even when they were out of office, they were not out of power, for they swayed both people and senate with their counsels and influence. Indeed, they had quite convinced themselves that without eloquence no one could win or retain a distinguished and eminent position in the state. And no wonder. Even against their own wish they had to show themselves before the people. It was little good for them to give a brief vote in the senate without supporting their opinion with ability and eloquence. If brought into popular odium, or under some charge, they had to reply in their own words. Again, they were under the necessity of giving evidence in the public courts, not in their absence by affidavit, but of being present and of speaking it openly. There was thus a strong stimulus to win the great prizes of eloquence, and as the reputation of a good speaker was considered an honour and a glory, so it was thought a disgrace to seem mute and speechless. Shame therefore quite as much as hope of reward prompted men not to take the place of a pitiful client rather than that of a patron, or to see hereditary connections transferred to others, or to seem spiritless and incapable of office from either failing to obtain it or from holding it weakly when obtained.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CLIENS
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