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BOTH in verse and in prose there are three approved styles, which the Greeks call χαρακτῆρες and to which they have given the names of ἁδρός, ἰσχνός and μέσος. We also call the one which I put first “grand,” the second “plain,” and the third “middle.”

The grand style possesses dignity and richness, the plain, grace and elegance; the middle lies on the border line and partakes of the qualities of both.

To each of these excellent styles there are related an equal number of faulty ones, arising from unsuccessful attempts to imitate their manner and character. Thus very often pompous and bombastic speakers lay claim to the grand style, the mean and bald to the plain, and the unclear and ambiguous to the middle. But true and genuine Latin examples of these styles are said by Marcus Varro 1 to be: Pacuvius of the grand style, Lucilius of the plain, and Terence of the middle. But in early days these same three styles of speaking were exemplified in three men by Homer: the grand and rich in [p. 63] Ulysses, the elegant and restrained in Menelaus, the middle and moderate in Nestor.

This threefold variety is also to be observed in the three philosophers whom the Athenians sent as envoys to the senate at Rome, to persuade the senators to remit the fine which they had imposed upon the Athenians because of the sack of Oropos; 2 and the fine amounted to nearly five hundred talents. The philosophers in question were Carneades of the Academy, Diogenes the Stoic, and Critolaus the Peripatetic. When they were admitted to the House, they made use of Gaius Acilius, one of the senators, as interpreter; but beforehand each one of them separately, for the purpose of exhibiting his eloquence, lectured to a large company. Rutilius 3 and Polybius 4 declare that all three aroused admiration for their oratory, each in his own style. “Carneades,” they say, “spoke with a vehemence that carried you away, Critolaus with art and polish, Diogenes with restraint and sobriety.”

Each of these styles, as I have said, is more brilliant when it is chastely and moderately adorned; when it is rouged and be powdered, it becomes mere jugglery.

1 Fr. 80, Wilmanns.

2 The embassy was sent in 155 B.C. Plutarch, Cat. Mai. xxii. (L.C.L. ii., p. 369) says that the fine was five hundred talents.

3 Fr. 3, Peter2.

4 xxxiii. 2, p. 1287, H.

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