Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.61-65
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[1.61] Thus, because we have fully assigned the topics of consolation, it follows that we now pursue those things which should be observed in petitions. Five things should be observed in each petition.1 First, the person whom we beseech should possess a capacity to act. Second, the petition's cause should be just or at least seem just. Third, the petition should be moderate. Fourth, the merits of the petitioner must precede. Fifth, some sort of repayment must follow, according to the office of the person from whom the petition is sought and according to the ability of he who seeks.

[1.62] It is also sometimes necessary that an oblique accusation be levied. For there are some whose hearts are more swayed by accusation than by humble entreaty. And this should be carefully considered. Iloneus well observes these aforesaid things speaking to Dido, in Aeneid I.2 A petition has efficacy from five topics: both in a petition in which we desire that something be obtained by us and a petition in which we act concerning punishment or reward of another person. In the case of punishment, it should be carefully considered, that we should demonstrate that the person whose punishment we seek is stained by every sort of turpitude and that we remove any suspicion of hatred from ourselves and eliminate any hope of correction from our listeners. Just as Cato, in his oration against Lentulus3 and the others apprehended in a conspiracy, exaggerated their wickedness and banished hope of their correction far from the minds of all his listeners and he demonstrated that he did so not from hatred of those apprehended in wickedness, but rather from love of the republic.

[1.63] It remains that we speak concerning correction, in which it should be observed that whenever we direct letters of correction to our friends, that correction should lack sharpness. And as Cicero said: "Let courtesy be at hand and let flattery, the handmaiden of vice, be far removed."4 There are those whose chastisement should not be called a correction, but rather an accusation. When these castigate a friend, they exacerbate him more and they exasperate when they should mitigate.

[1.64] Thus the mind of a friend laboring under some vice should at first be mitigated, then one should gradually offer chastisement, which however, as it has been said, should lack sharpness and the barb of offense. For what is more foul than to litigate with a friend? What is more detestable than to pursue like an enemy that person with whom you have lived familiarly?

[1.65] Therefore, employ philosophical precepts in the correction of a friend. One of these says as follows: "He who has a friend has another self."5 Thus he considers the other as himself and whatever he would not want done to himself, he would not do to his friend. He thus proposes to the sight of his friend the life and morals of some wise and honest man and shows to how much glory he advances by means of wisdom and how he has illuminated the obscurity of a humble lineage by the light of wisdom, for example Marcus Tullius Cicero and others, who were the origin of nobility for their descendants. He also proposes men of noble birth who stained the nobility received from their parents by their own vice and wickedness. Thus you will frighten the mind of a friend away from vices and you will be able to lead him to the fruit of virtue. For he who instructs a friend, kindles a light from his own light and nevertheless illumines himself as he lights the other.


1 Another list of five things to be observed in a petition is given above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.8.

2 Virgil Aeneid 1.522-558 or 1.595-610.

3 Sallust De coniuratione Catalinae 52. According to Plutarch Cato minor, "This only of all Cato's speeches, it is said, was preserved; for Cicero, the consul, had disposed in various parts of the senate-house, several of the most expert and rapid writers, whom he had taught to make figures comprising numerous words in a few short strokes; as up to that time they had not used those we call shorthand writers, who then, as it is said, established the first example of the art." See above, Aurea Gemma <Gallica> 1.12.

4 Cicero Laelius de amicitia 89.

5 cf. Laelius de amicitia 80: est enim is qui est tamquam alter idem.

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© Steven M. Wight, Los Angeles 1998
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