arcus tullius cicero (106-43 b.c.) was both a roman orator and statesman. his extensive philosophical interest led him to author several classic philosophical works like "de oratore" (hiz 113). although he was often criticized for lack of originality, few could deny his superiority in rhetoric.

cicero's philosophical writings demonstrate a "fairly coherent and modestly original system of thought" (hiz 113). at the least, cicero acquired a foundation for his views from the academy. the academy stood for free inquiry and the search for truth or at least what would be considered the most predictable opinion (clarke 55).

rhetoric and philosophy

cicero felt that the greeks had already exhausted the possible methods for the pursuit of truth. the originality of his ideas lies in their combination and not their components. although historians have creditted socrates with the union of philosophy and rhetoric, cicero credits the alliance of these arts to the previous followers of rhetorical sophism. in contrast to socrates, cicero believed more emphasis should be put on the rhetorical aspect and not the philosophical aspect of sophism(siegal 12). cicero believed that the productive application of knowledge for the guidance of human affairs was the greatest of human accomplishments. philosophy generated knowledge but rhetorical persuasion made it effective. each was dependent upon the other. they could not stand alone. a great man would be the master of both.

not all of cicero's contemporaries agreed with this combination of rhetoric and philosophy. in cicero's "de oratore", he criticizes socrates for trying to keep the ideals independent of each other. this would seem to ally cicero with the views of isocrates instead of with those of plato. ironically, cicero did not see his union of rhetoric and philosophy in complete opposition to the ideas behind platonism. he felt that they actually had some parallels (hiz 113).

his devotion to the most notable of his concepts, the joint ideal of philosophy and rhetoric or eloquence,the term cicero preferred to use, influenced cicero to the belief that if the statesman-philosopher was to speak on all topics persuasively, he must be knowledgeable on all topics. he recognized that this was virtually impossible, so he proceeded to advocate liberal education as the best way to broaden one's intellectual scope. philosophical study was a significant element of liberal education. cicero's works supplied the materials for study. therefore, in his writings as well as his speeches, he united rhetoric and philosophy for the benefit of the roman people.

de oratore

cicero's literary form stressed a didactic intent and "de oratore," one of his most influential works was no exception. in it, the historical figures antonius and crassus debate on one of the most fundamental concepts of rhetoric. antonius argued that eloquence could be learned while crassus felt that eloquence came from an innate talent and knowledge of eloquence.

our comprehension of classical rhetoric since the renaissance until the present was heavily influenced by several of cicero's works including "de oratore." isocrates, plato, and aristotle all had significant impacts on cicero's compositions. cicero's views were typical of the classical age. he believed that changing times trigger and influence eloquence as our knowledge of the world broadens.

the real power of eloquence is such that it embraces all things in the world, all virtues, duties, and all nature, so far as it affects the manners, minds, and lives of mankind. ("de oratore" 3.20)

cicero on delivery

cicero, along with fellow roman rhetorician quintilian, stressed the necessity for proper gesture and voice in meeting the situational demands of rhetoric (covino 43).

nature has assigned to each emotion a particular look and tone of voice and bearing of its own; and the whole of a person's frame and every look on his face and utterance of his voice are like strings of a harp, and sound according as they are struck by each successive emotion. ("de oratore")

by studying the famous actors roscius and aesopus, cicero learned to improve his delivery. a detailed understanding of public speaking technique along with long hours of practice aided cicero (rolfe 67).

cicero's seven parts of oratory

in order for speech to reach its full potential, cicero felt that the arrangement of oratory should be of top priority. here is a brief list of terms and definitions which are essential for oral rhetoric.

  1. entrance-the opening at which time the subject is introduced and good intentions are assured
  2. narration-statement of situations vital to comprehending the topic at hand
  3. proposition-orator's dominant idea or thesis
  4. division-speaker's outline of concepts to illustrate
  5. confirmation-bodies of evidence supporting speaker's beliefs
  6. rebuttal-an antagonist's potential disagreement with evidence
  7. conclusion-synopsis of evidence and last appeal to audience's emotions

works cited

this page was authored by maria rinaldi of the georgia institute of technology. this page was last updated on november 29, 1995.