Orators: They’re Not a Dime a Dozen

Pattie Crider


Response 7

September 20, 2013

Classical Rhetoric

De Oratore (Of Oratory; Cicero 55 B.C.E.)


One uses a prompter

One uses a prompter

Orators: They’re Not a Dime a Dozen


            Good orators are a rare find in the present day. Most people have difficulty speaking in public, often causing the audience great distress. Cicero believed that students who strive to learn the mechanics of public speaking may still never achieve the ability to captivate and move an audience with their words. It takes a special person to excel in the art of public speaking.

Cicero had the ideal person in mind that could become a great orator.  This person must be able to portray their power, the “mastery of speaking” in front of an audience. To have this ability, they must have a personality that the audience can connect with on a personal level.  To do this, the orator had to be knowledgeable on a vast number of topics, or the dedication to perform research on a topic prior to speaking. Law was the most important topic and an orator was always expected to know Roman law. Using wit and humor, and possessing whip-like reflexes in delivering responses in combination with their body gestures and changes in the tone of their voice, made their speeches most engaging.

The specific level of language used to address an audience was mentioned several times by Cicero. An orator must speak on a level they will understand and if more scholarly words are used, examples should be given to make the argument clear. To lose the audience attention and understanding by “speaking over their heads” would be have been a tragedy. The audience, in this time period, only had the words of orators to become informed citizens. This was the news and the people depended on the orators to update them on all topics.

Cicero’s requirements of a person in the art of rhetoric are realistic presently, just as they were in the first century B.C.E. In that time, Cicero was driven to destroy the Roman senate. He was serious in his dedication to use rhetoric to inform the citizens of the actions of the empire. He is an example of a great orator of the past.  Presently, no one person comes to mind because rhetoric has changed to press conferences where the speeches are seamlessly places before the orator. There is no memorization involved in public speaking, but as Cicero pointed out, body language, facial expressions and tone are also important. Cicero was spot-on in his requirements of an orator and those requirements still hold true today.

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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