You often ask me, Justus Fabius, how it is that while the genius and the fame of so many distinguished orators have shed a lustreon the past, our age is so forlorn and so destitute of the glory of eloquence that it scarce retains the very name of orator. That title indeed we apply only to the ancients, and the clever speakers of this day we call pleaders, advocates, counsellors, anything rather than orators. To answer this question of yours, to undertake the burden of so serious an inquiry, involving, as it must, a mean opinion either of our capacities, if we cannot reach the same standard, or of our tastes, if we have not the wish, is a task on which I should scarcely venture had I to give my own views instead of being able to reproduce a conversation among men, for our time, singularly eloquent, whom, when quite a youth, I heard discussing this very question. And so it is not ability, it is only memory and recollection which I require. I have to repeat now, with the same divisions and arguments, following closely the course of that discussion, those subtle reflections which I heard, powerfully expressed, from men of the highest eminence, each of whom assigned a different but plausible reason, thereby displaying the peculiarities of his individual temper and genius. Nor indeed did the opposite side lack an advocate, who, after much criticism and ridicule of old times, maintained the superiority of the eloquence of our own days to the great orators of the past.

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