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publish more pieces of the fame nature. On the other fide (continued he, with an air of irony) it is obferved with equal fatisfaction, that Aper has not yet bidden adieu to the questions of the schools, but employs his leisure rather after the example of the modern rhetoricians, than of the antient
I PERCEIVE, returned Aper, that you continue to treat the moderns with your ufual derifion and contempt; while the antients alone are in full poffeffion of your esteem. It is a maxim, indeed, I have fre
quently heard you advance (and, allow me to fay, with much injustice to yourself and to your brother) that there is no such thing in the present age as an orator. This This you are the less fcrupulous to maintain, as you imagine it cannot be imputed to a spirit of envy; fince you are willing at the fame time to exclude yourself from a character which every body else is inclined to give
I HAVE hitherto, replied Meffalla, found no reason to change my opinion: and I am perfuaded, that even you yourself, Aper, (whatever you may fometimes affect to the contrary)
contrary) as well as my other two friends here, join with me in the same sentimentes I should, indeed, be glad, if any of you
would difcufs this matter, and account for so remarkable a disparity; which I have of ten endeavored in my own thoughts. And what to fome appears a fatisfactory folution, to me, I confefs, heightens the difficulty; for I find the very fame difference prevails among the Grecian orators; and that the priest Nicetes, together with others of the Ephefian and Mytelenean schools, who humbly content themselves with raifing the acclamations of their tasteless auditors, deviate much farther from Æfchines or Demosthenes, than you, my friends, from Tully or Afinius.
THE queftion you have ftarted, faid Secundus, is a very important one, and well worthy of confideration. But who fo capable of doing juftice to it as yourself? who, befides the advantages of a fine genius and great literature, have given, it seems, particular attention to this enquiry. I am very willing, anfwered Meffalla, to lay before you my thoughts upon the fubject, provided you will affift me with yours as I go
along. I will engage for two of us, replied Maternus: Secundus and myself will speak to fuch points as you shall, I do not say omit, but, think proper to leave to us. As for Aper, you just now informed us, it is usual with him to diffent from you in this article: and, indeed, I'fee he is already preparing to oppofe us, and will not look with indifference upon this our affociation in support of the antients.
UNDOUBTEDLY, returned Aper, I shall not tamely fuffer the moderns to be condemned, unheard and undefended. But first let me ask, whom is it you call antients? What age of orators do you diftinguish by that defignation? The word always fuggests to me a Neftor, or an Ulyfses; men who lived above a thousand years fince: whereas you seem to apply it to Demofthenes and Hyperides, who, it is agreed, florished so late as the times of Philip and Alexander, and, indeed, furvived them. It appears from hence, that there is not much above four hundred years distance between our age and that of Demofthenes: a portion of time, which, confidered with respect to human duration, appears, I acknowlege,
knowledge, extremely long; but, if compa red with that immense ærea which the philofophers talk of, is exceedingly contracted, and feems almost but of yesterday. For if it be true, what Cicero obferves in his treatife inscribed to Hortenfius, that the great and genuine year is that period in which the heavenly bodies return to the fame pofition, wherein they were placed when they first began their respective orbits; and this revolution contains 12,954 of our folar years; then Demofthenes, this antient Demofthenes of yours, lived in the fame year, or rather I might say, in the same month with ourselves. But to mention the Roman orators: I prefume, you will fcarcely prefer Menenius Agrippa (who may with some propriety, indeed, be called an antient) to the men of eloquence among the moderns. It is Cicero then, I suppose, together with Cœlius, Cæfar, and Calvus, Brutus, Afinius, and Meffalla, to whom you give this honorable precedency: yet I am at a loss to affign a reafon, why thefe fhould be deemed antients rather than moderns. To inftance in Cicero: he was killed, as his freed-man Tiro informs us, on the 26th of December,
December, in the confulfhip of Hirtius and
From this paffage Fabricius afferts, that this dialogue was written in the 6th year of Vefpafian's reign; but he evidently mistakes the time in which the scene of it is laid, for that in which it was compofed. It is upon arguments not better founded, that the critics have given Tacitus and Quintilian the honor of this elegant performance. Vide Fabric. Bib. Lat.
V. I. 559.