1Si quis forte in hoc pulcherrimo coetu ex illis inuisoribus meis malignus sedet, 2quoniam ut in magna ciuitate hoc quoque genus inuenitur, qui meliores obtrectare malint quam imitari et, quorum similitudinem desperent, eorundem adfectent simultatem, scilicet uti, qui suo nomine obscuri sunt, meo innotescant, – 3si qui igitur ex illis liuidis splendidissimo huic auditorio uelut quaedam macula se immiscuit, 4uelim paulisper suos oculos per hunc incredibilem consessum circumferat contemplatusque frequentiam tantam, quanta ante me in auditorio philosophi nunquam uisitata est, 5reputet cum animo suo, quantum periculum conseruandae existimationis hic adeat, qui contemni non consueuit, cum sit arduum et oppido difficile uel modicae paucorum expectationi satisfacere, 6praesertim mihi, cui et ante parta existimatio et uestra de me benigna praesumptio nihil quicquam sinit neglegenter ac de summo pectore hiscere.
7quis enim uestrum mihi unum soloecismum ignouerit? quis uel unam syllabam barbare pronuntiatam donauerit? quis incondita et uitiosa uerba temere quasi delirantibus oborientia permiserit blaterare? quae tamen aliis facile et sane meritissimo ignoscitis. 8meum uero unumquodque dictum acriter examinatis, sedulo pensiculatis, ad limam et lineam certam redigitis, cum torno et coturno uero comparatis. tantum habet uilitas excusationis, dignitas difficultatis.
1If it should so chance that in this magnificent gathering there should sit any of those that envy or hate me, 2since in a great city persons may always be found who prefer to abuse rather than imitate persons better than themselves, and, since they cannot be like them, affect to hate them. 3They do this of course in order to illuminate the obscurity that shrouds their own names by the splendour that falls from mine; 4if then, I say, any one of these envious persons sullies this distinguished audience with the stain of his presence, I would ask him for a moment to cast his eyes round this incredibly vast concourse. When he has contemplated a throng such as before my day never yet gathered to listen to a philosopher, 5let him consider in his heart how great a risk to his reputation is undertaken by a man who is not used to contempt in appearing here to-day; for it is an arduous task, and far from easy of accomplishment, to satisfy even the moderate expectations of a few. 6Above all it is difficult for me, for the fame I have already won and your own kindly anticipation of my skill will not permit me to deliver any ill-considered or superficial utterance.
7For what man among you would pardon me one solecism or condone the barbarous pronunciation of so much as one syllable? Who of you will suffer me to stammer in disorderly and faulty phrases such as might rise to the lips of madmen? In others of course you would pardon such lapses, and very rightly so. 8But you subject every word that I utter to the closest examination, you weigh it carefully, you try it by the plumb-line and the file, you test it by the polish of the lathe and the sublimity of the tragic buskin. Such is the indulgence accorded to mediocrity, such the severity meted out to distinction.
(trans. H.E. Butler 1909)