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But in these days we have our youths taken to the professors' theatre, the rhetoricians, as we call them. The class made its appearance a little before Cicero's time, and was not liked by our ancestors, as is evident from the fact that, when Crassus and Domitius were censors, they were ordered, as Cicero says, to close "the school of impudence." However, as I was just saying, the boys are taken to schools in which it is hard to tell whether the place itself, or their fellow-scholars, or the character of their studies, do their minds most harm. As for the place, there is no such thing as reverence, for no one enters it who is not as ignorant as the rest. As for the scholars, there can be no improvement, when boys and striplings with equal assurance address, and are addressed by, other boys and striplings. As for the mental exercises themselves, they are the reverse of beneficial. Two kinds of subject-matter are dealt with before the rhetoricians, the persuasive and the controversial. The persuasive, as being comparatively easy and requiring less skill, is given to boys. The controversial is assigned to riper scholars, and, good heavens! what strange and astonishing productions are the result! It comes to pass that subjects remote from all reality are actually used for declamation. Thus the reward of a tyrannicide, or the choice of an outraged maiden, or a remedy for a pestilence, or a mother's incest, anything, in short, daily discussed in our schools, never, or but very rarely in the courts, is dwelt on in grand language.


1 [The rest of Messala's speech is lost. Maternus is now again the speaker.]

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