Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period : 330 B.C.-A.D. 400

By Stanley E. Porter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
ORATORY AND DECLAMATION

D. H. Berry and Malcolm Heath

University of Leeds, England

From the beginning rhetoric and oratory have enjoyed a special relationship, being respectively the theoretical and the practical branches of the art of persuasion. Throughout the period covered by this book, their relationship was symbiotic: practice influenced theory, which in turn fed back into practice. The importance of oratory in civic life elevated rhetoric to a position of dominance in education, and, as the other chapters in this section illustrate, this led to the infusion of rhetoric into all other literary genres. But however widely its influence spread, rhetoric was developed in the first place to serve the purposes of oratory, and oratory always remained its primary raison d'etre. Rhetoric is thus of far greater importance for oratory than for any other genre. A comprehensive account of the use of rhetoric in oratory would require a study of oratory in its entirety from at least the time of Aristotle onwards, and would not be feasible within the scope of the present work. In this chapter, therefore, we have simply attempted to illustrate some aspects of the practical outworking of Hellenistic and later Graeco-Roman rhetoric in oratory through a selection of varied examples.

We begin at the point at which Hellenistic rhetorical theory first made an impact on the oratory of Rome. Rome's exposure to Greek cultural influences began in earnest after her defeat of Macedon in 197 BC. Greek embassies were continually visiting Rome, and “after hearing the Greek orators … our people burned with an incredible desire to speak” (Cic. De or. 1:14). However, the first orator of note, the elder M. Porcius Cato1 (234–149 BC), was an avowed opponent

1 On Cato see G. A. Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World, 300 BC-AD
300
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972), pp. 38–60; M. von Albrecht, Masters
of Roman Prose from Cato to Apuleius: Interpretative Studies
(trans. N. Adkin; Leeds: Francis
Cairns, 1989), pp. 1–32.

-393-

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