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Cicero - Ancient Classics for English Readers by Rev. W. Lucas Collins
page 3 of 165 (01%)
When we speak, in the language of our title-page, of the 'Ancient
Classics', we must remember that the word 'ancient' is to be taken with
a considerable difference, in one sense. Ancient all the Greek and Roman
authors are, as dated comparatively with our modern era. But as to the
antique character of their writings, there is often a difference which
is not merely one of date. The poetry of Homer and Hesiod is ancient, as
having been sung and written when the society in which the authors lived,
and to which they addressed themselves, was in its comparative infancy.
The chronicles of Herodotus are ancient, partly from their subject-matter
and partly from their primitive style. But in this sense there are ancient
authors belonging to every nation which has a literature of its own.
Viewed in this light, the history of Thucydides, the letters and orations
of Cicero, are not ancient at all. Bede, and Chaucer, and Matthew of
Paris, and Froissart, are far more redolent of antiquity. The several
books which make up what we call the Bible are all ancient, no doubt; but
even between the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and the Epistles of St.
Paul there is a far wider real interval than the mere lapse of centuries.

In one respect, the times of Cicero, in spite of their complicated
politics, should have more interest for a modern reader than most of what
is called Ancient History. Forget the date but for a moment, and there
is scarcely anything ancient about them. The scenes and actors are
modern--terribly modern; far more so than the middle ages of Christendom.
Between the times of our own Plantagenets and Georges, for instance, there
is a far wider gap, in all but years, than between the consulships of
Caesar and Napoleon. The habits of life, the ways of thinking, the family
affections, the tastes of the Romans of Cicero's day, were in many
respects wonderfully like our own; the political jealousies and rivalries
have repeated themselves again and again in the last two or three
centuries of Europe: their code of political honour and morality, debased
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