Babbitt (1908: 26) draws our attention to the fact that ancient India was devoured by "a too overpowering sense of the One," while Greece's failure to gain a "restraining sense of unity" led eventually to the very insidious malleability of the "hungry Greekling
," whose image was rendered by Juvenal.
His account begins with Homer's archaic Greece and traces classical civilization through the death of Hadrian, the Spanish-descended Roman emperor who embodied, through his "Greekling
" tastes, the "common classicizing culture" that bound together the empire's far-flung elite.
"Graeculus," that is, "little Greek" or "Greekling," possesses a range of meanings for Cicero.
(8) If, for Cicero, the orator is the embodiment of the active life, a "doer of deeds," then his opposite is the idle (otiosus) Greekling. Contemporary Greeks, says Crassus, are "demoralized by sloth (otio)" (3.32.131), and that is why they make no progress in the arts they invented.
This contrast between the decorous, heroic Roman orator and the idle, chattering Greekling can be further amplified if one translates "Graeculus" not as "Greekling" or "little Greek," but as "Greek boy," for boys, except insofar as they are preparing to become men, are not well regarded in the De oratore.
Just as Cicero juxtaposes his heroic Roman orator to the idle, chattering, erudite, homosexual Greekling, the Renaissance writers on rhetoric Thomas Wilson, George Puttenham, and Antoine Furetiere also structure their thinking about decorum through a series of oppositions.
If Cicero uses the figure of the Greekling to stand for everything he means by indecorousness, Wilson, Puttenham, and Furetiere have a symbolic figure who serves much the same purpose for them: the learned clerk or pedant.
Potentially, Caerellia could undo the work that Cicero had done to redeem philosophical discourse in the eyes of the Roman elite and could reduce it once again to being the idle--and, perhaps more worrisomely, the lascivious--pursuit of Greeklings
. (67) Now, would this be a reasonable fear on Cicero's part?