CHAPTER XIV
SPEECHES, LETTERS AND CANTICLES

A prevailing convention among ancient historians was the custom of inserting speeches of the leading characters into the narrative. This convention was quite in accord with the current demands of style, as the speeches offered the writer an opportunity for variety and for the display of his rhetorical powers. Like the chorus in a Greek play they served to review the situation for the reader, and they brought out the inner thoughts and feelings of important persons. They often occupied large sections of the historical work, approximately one-third of Dionysius of Halicarnassus and one-fifth of Thucydides. They were the objects of special care and pride on the part of historians interested in style, and were the parts of history most appreciated by literary connoisseurs. The speeches of Thucydides were said to have been studied by Demosthenes. Later critics accounted them the supreme achievement of that historian.1 They are still the most renowned part of his work. Livy's speeches numbering, it is supposed, originally over two thousand (some four hundred of them are still extant!) were highly praised by Quintilian.2 It is noteworthy that the only parts of Sallust's Histories which have survived consist of speeches and letters. On the other hand, unfinished works or parts of works are lacking in speeches,3 and historians like Polybius who deprecate the rhetorical tendency in history avoid

____________________
1
Dion. Hal. De Thucyd.34.
2
X. 1, 101.
3
Dion Hal. De Thucyd. 16. See above pp. 157 f.

-184-

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