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Cicero on oratory and orators Paperback – 25 May 2011


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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Quite a mouthful!!!! 4 Dec. 2000
By D. Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is considered by many to be Cicero's magnum-opus of his career. Whether it is or not is a topic of debate. What is outside the jurisdiction of debate is that it is a landmark work in the history of oratory.
In it Cicero details the various oratorical techniques which should be employed by the master of elocution. Such topics as eloquence, delivery, word choice and accessability of diction are discussed. Each view and counterview is presented by a different interlocutor, in the Platonic tradition. We even have none other than Julius Caesar lecturing on what Nietzsche would call the "uses and disadvantages" of invoking humor during serious orations. One of the primary issues which comes under consideration is the level of erudition of the orator. Should the individual be well versed in sundry fields of intellectual endeavor (such as the philosopher, perhaps?)? Does the ability to invoke virtually any academic pursuit aid in getting one's point across? Or, does this only lead to a person with an overly and unnecessary pedantic approach to oratory - one which stocklists various irrelevant points to the topic at hand? If so, is it better for the speechmaker to be less well rounded in his studies, and instead focused solely on the subject matter of his parlance? Cicero takes the question up at great lengths.
Within the dialogue myriad allusions are made to such household names as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Pericles, Isocrates, Democritus, Hesiod, Demosthenes, Cato the elder, Anaxagoras, Valerius and Scipio Africanus, as well as a multitude of less well known names which would be recognized only by the most learned classical scholars. A general knowledge of Greaco-Roman history up until the time of Cicero is highly recommended before engaging this text.
The second part of the book is entitled "Brutus; or Remarks on Eminent Orators." This is supposedly taken from a conversation which Cicero actually had with Brutus and a few other mutual friends, in Cicero's own words "in a private lawn, near a statue of Plato" (p. 268). In it Cicero extols the great Roman orators of the past and (as in "Orators") extends his criticism against the sophists. He also pays homage to his own teacher: Molo of Rhodes. One comes away with nothing less than an awe of Cicero's vast knowledge of the history of elocution.
This book is a must read for philosophers, scholars of antiquity, lawyers, politicians and all others who own the task of swaying the opinion(s) of the masses. Oh, and by the way, it's a pretty good read for those who aren't interested in any of that stuff, too. 8-)
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
learning from the wisdom of the ancient thinkers 22 Aug. 2005
By Pamela D. Schulz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Cicero provides us all with an opportunity to discover what matters when stepping up to the podium in academic or public debate. Throughout this carefully translated book lies the wisdom of the ancients which all of us in public and private life ought to consider... "the means by which the minds of men excited or calmed" (On the character of the Orator:47) or how to use the power of metaphor so that..."but bring some accession of splendour" (on the character of the Orator:237). For anyone studying law politics or discourse this is the book for you.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Latin or English? 21 Jun. 2013
By W. Jamison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What a load of waffle. The most interesting aspect of this is how it demonstrates that the famous Romans were in no better shape understanding themselves or what makes oration good than anyone. Know your audience, and know what you are talking about. Speak eloquently but not so much so that you are overly fine, nor be guttural and plain. Be funny though to the point. Practice, practice, practice. And talk about clichés! This book is loaded with more clichés about oration than Shakespeare's stuff. (This is supposed to be a joke for those that don't get it.) But take Antonius for example, he iterates exactly this point himself in this book while describing what he gets out of reading Greek. I like the metaphor of walking in the sun and reading the books, while doing both for pleasure, none the less they improve his tan and his diction. Which brings up an interesting point. Why am I not reading this in Latin? "Cogitanti mihi saepe numero et memoria vetera repetentiperbeati fuisse, Quinte frater, illi videri solent, qui in optima republica, cum et honoribus et rerum gestarum gloria florerent,eum vitae cursum tenere potuerunt, ut vel in negotio sinepericulo vel in otio cum dignitate esse possent; ac fuit cummihi quoque initium requiescendi atque animum ad utriusquenostrum praeclara studia referendi fore iustum et prope abomnibus concessum arbitrarer, si infinitus forensium rerumlabor et ambitionis occupatio decursu honorum, etiam aetatisflexu constitisset." If I want to improve my diction, do I want to do that in Latin or English?
Reading the complete prose works of Milton we can see that The Orator was very influential on him regarding the nature of history.
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