Wednesday, August 31, 2022


A Gasbag

Cicero, On the Orator 2.18.75 (tr. E.W. Sutton and H. Rackham):
Nor do I need any Greek professor to chant at me a series of hackneyed axioms, when he himself never had a glimpse of a law-court or judicial proceeding, as the tale goes of Phormio the well-known Peripatetic; for when Hannibal, banished from Carthage, had come in exile to Antiochus at Ephesus and, inasmuch as his name was highly honoured all the world over, had been invited by his hosts to hear the philosopher in question, if he so pleased, and he had intimated his willingness to do so, that wordy individual is said to have held forth for several hours upon the functions of a commander-in-chief and military matters in general. Then, when the other listeners, vastly delighted, asked Hannibal for his opinion of the eminent teacher, the Carthaginian is reported to have thereupon replied, in no very good Greek, but at any rate candidly, that time and again he had seen many old madmen but never one madder than Phormio.

nec mihi opus est Graeco aliquo doctore, qui mihi pervulgata praecepta decantet, cum ipse nunquam forum, nunquam ullum iudicium aspexerit: ut Peripateticus ille dicitur Phormio, cum Hannibal Carthagine expulsus Ephesum ad Antiochum venisset exsul, proque eo, quod eius nomen erat magna apud omnes gloria, invitatus esset ab hospitibus suis, ut eum, quem dixi, si vellet, audiret; cumque is se non nolle dixisset, locutus esse dicitur homo copiosus aliquot horas de imperatoris officio et de re militari. tum, cum ceteri, qui illum audierant, vehementer essent delectati, quaerebant ab Hannibale, quidnam ipse de illo philosopho iudicaret. his Poenus non optime Graece, sed tamen libere respondisse fertur, multos se deliros senes saepe vidisse, sed qui magis, quam Phormio deliraret, vidisse neminem.

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