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might be bold to affirm, that he hath written the profitablest story of all authors. For all other were fain to take their matter, as the fortune of the countries whereof they wrote fell out: But this man being excellent in wit, learning, and experience, hath chosen the special acts of the best persons, of the famousest nations of the world. But I will leave the judgment to yourselves. My only purpose is to desire you to excuse the faults of my translation, with your own gentleness, and with the opinion of my diligence and good extent. And so I wish you all the profit of the book. Fare ye well. The four and twentieth day of January, 1579.
THE LIFE OF DEMOSTHENES
He that made the little book of the praise of Alcibiades, touching the victory he wan at the horse-race of the Olympian Games, (were it the Poet Euripides as some think, or any other) my friend Sossius: said, That to make a man happy, he must of necessity be born in some famous city. But to tell you what I think hereof, doubtless, true happiness chiefly consisteth in the vertue and qualities of the mind, being a matter of no moment, whether a man be born in a pelting village, or in a famous city: no more than it is for one to be born of a fair or foul mother. For it were a madness to think that the little village of Iulid, being the least part of the Isle of Ceos (the whole island of itself being but a small thing) and that the Isle of Ægina (which is of so small a length, that a certain Athenian on a time made a motion it might be taken away, because it was but as a straw in the sight of the haven of Piræus) could bring forth famous poets, and excellent comedians: and not breed an honest, just, and wise man, and of noble courage. For, as we have reason to think that arts and sciences which were first devised and invented to make some things necessary for men's use, or otherwise to win fame and credit, are drowned, and cast away in little poor villages: So are we to judge also, that vertue, like a strong and fruitful plant, can take root, and bring forth in every place, where it is graffed in a good nature, and gentle person, that can patiently away with pains. And therefore if we chance to offend, and live not as we should: we cannot accuse the meanness of our country where we were born, but we must justly accuse ourselves. Surely he that hath taken upon him to put forth any work, or to write any history, into the which he is to thrust many strange things unknown to his country, and which are not ready at his hand to be had, and dispersed abroad in divers places, and are to be gathered out of divers books and authorities: first of all, he must needs
remain in some great and famous city throughly inhabited, where men do delight in good and vertuous things, because there are commonly plenty of all sorts of books: and that perusing them, and hearing talk also of many things besides, which other historiographers peradventure have not written of, and which will carry so much more credit, because men that are alive may presently speak of them as of their own knowledge, whereby he may make his work perfect in every point, having many and divers necessary things contained in it. But I myself that dwell in a poor little town, and yet do remain there willingly lest it should become less: whilst I was in Italy, and at Rome, I had no leisure to study and exercise the Latin tongue, as well for the great business I had then to do, as also to satisfy them that came to learn philosophy of me: so that even somewhat too late and now in my latter time, I began to take my Latin books in my hand. And thereby a strange thing to tell you, but yet true: I learned
, not nor understood matters so much by the words, as I came to understand the words by common experience and knowledge I had in things. But furthermore, to know how to pronounce the Latin tongue well, or to speak it readily, or to understand the signification, translations, and fine joining of the simple words one with another, which to beautify and set forth the tongue: surely I judge it to be a marvellous pleasant and sweet thing, but withal, it requireth a long and laboursome study, meet for those that have better leisure than I have, and that have young years on their backs to follow such pleasure. Therefore, in this present book, which is the fifth of this work, where I have taken upon me to compare the lives of noble men one with another: undertaking to write the lives of Demosthenes and Cicero, we will consider and examine their nature, manners and conditions, by their acts and deeds in the government of the commonwealth, not meaning otherwise to confer their works and writings of eloquence, neither to define which of them two were sharper or sweeter in his oration. For as the poet Ion sayeth,
In this behalf a man may rightly say,
The which Cæcilius little understanding, being a man very rash in all his doings, hath unadvisedly written and set forth in print, a comparison of Demosthenes' eloquence with Cicero's. But if it were an easy matter for every man to know himself, then the gods needed have given us no commandment, neither could men have said that it came from Heaven. But for my opinion, me thinks fortune even from the beginning hath framed in manner one self mould of Demosthenes and Cicero, and hath in their natures fashioned many of their qualities one like to the other: as, both of them to be ambitious, both of them to love the liberty of their country, and both of them very fearful in any danger of wars. And likewise their fortunes seem to me, to be both much alike. For it is hard to find two orators again, that being so meanly born as they, have come to be of so great power and authority as they two, nor that have deserved the ill-will of kings and noblemen so much as they have done, nor that have lost their daughters, nor that have been banished their countries, and that have been restored again with honour, and that again have fled, and have been taken again, nor that have ended their lives with the liberty of their country. So that it is hard to be judged, whether nature have made them liker in manners, or fortune in their doings, as if they had both like cunning work-maisters strived one with the other, to whom they should make them best resemble. But first of all we must write of the elder of them two.
Demosthenes the father of this Orator Demosthenes, was as Theopompus writeth, one of the chief men of the city, and they called him Machæropoeus, to wit, a maker of swordblades, because he had a great shop where he kept a number of slaves to forge them. But touching Æschines, the orators report of his mother, who said that she was the daughter of one Gelon (that fled from Athens being accused of treason) and of a barbarous woman that was her mother: I am not able to say whether it be true, or devised of malice to do him despite. Howsoever it was, it is true that his father died, leaving him but seven years old, and left him reasonable well: for his goods came to little less than the value of fifteen talents. Howbeit his guardians did him great wrong: for they stale a great part of his goods themselves, and did let the rest run to naught, as having little care of it, for they would not pay his schoolmaisters their wages. And this was the cause that he did not learn the liberal sciences which are usually tauglit unto honest men's sons: and to further that want also, he was but a weakling, and very tender, and therefore his mother would not much let him go to school, neither his maisters also durst keep him too hard to it, because he was but a sickly child at the first, and very weak. And it is reported also, that the surname of Battalus was given him in mockery by other schoolboys his companions, because of his weakness of body. This Battalus (as divers men do report) was an effeminate player on the flute, against whom the poet Antiphanes to mock him, devised a little play. Others also do write of one Battalus, a dissolute orator, and that wrote lascivious verses: and it seemeth that the Athenians at that time did call a certain part of man's body uncomely to be named, Battalus. Now for Argas (which surname men say was also given him) he was so called, either for his rude and beastly manners (because some poets do call a snake Argas) or else for his manner of speech: which was very unpleasant to the ear, for Argas is the name of a poet that made always bawdy and illfavoured songs. But hereof enough, as Plato said. Furthermore, the occasion (as it is reported) that moved him to give himself to eloquence, was this. Callistratus the Orator was to defend the cause of one Oropus before the judges, and every man longed greatly for this day of pleading, both for the excellency of the orator, that then bare the bell for eloquence: as for the matter, and his accusation, which was manifestly known to all. Demosthenes hearing his schoolmaisters agree together to go to the hearing of this matter, he prayed his schoolmaster to be so good, as to let him go with him. His maister granted him, and being acquainted with the keepers of the hall door where this matter was to be pleaded, he so intreated them, that they placed their scholar in a very good place, where being set at his ease, he might both hear and see all that was done, and no man could see him. Thereupon when Demosthenes had heard the case pleaded, he was greatly in love with the honour which the orator had