Cicero and the art of public speaking

Cicero and the art of public speaking

As a lawyer and senator, Cicero was recognized as one of the most influential statesmen in all of ancient Rome. His influence was not based on his family’s legacy; born in equality The social class below the patricians, who are direct descendants of the Eternal City’s founding families. Nor was it his charisma that brought him here; A Hellenistic bureaucrat in a world ruled by generals and dictators, Cicero’s character alone was not enough to capture the popular imagination.

No, that allowed Cicero to rise to the top of the Roman Republic. it was his talent as a speaker . Speeches can be as remarkable today as they were in ancient Rome. animated comments Mark Anthony At the funeral of Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare often mentioned at the same time as . Gettysburg Address or talk » I have a Dream » By Martin Luther King.

But while speeches continue to play an important role in public life, the practice of public speaking is itself no longer seen as an art form. Today, public speaking skills are often taught tangentially through courses in grammar, writing, and reading. In Cicero’s time, on the other hand, public speaking was central to the education of any Roman citizen.

Drawing on a natural talent for both wordplay and acting, Cicero lifted the ladder of Roman society. Rome, which he and everyone once knew, was on the verge of tremendous change. After centuries of unquestioning devotion to the Constitution of the Republic, an increasing number of powerful figures began to break away from constitutional politics. The last of these personalities, the veteran general Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix He purged the republic of supporters of his rival, another veteran general named . gaius mario . Cicero began his political career in the midst of this purge, in which even those with the slightest ties to Marius were executed. Despite losing friends and family, Cicero emerged from the massacre more or less unscathed.

Young Cicero is reading. Frescoes by Vincenzo Foppa. 1464. Brescia.

These turbulent years made Cicero a lifelong supporter of republicanism. The ambitious orator first revealed the depth of his devotion when, shortly after the purges ended, he agreed to bring one of Sulla’s closest friends to court, a former slave named. chrysogonus . When another Roman citizen was accused of murder, Cicero argued that Chrysogonus was behind it all. Not only did Cicero clear his client’s name, but perhaps distracted by his own government reforms, or perhaps influenced by Cicero’s supposedly riveting rhetoric, Sulla did not retaliate.

While public speaking is no longer considered important enough to be a central focus in our education system, Cicero’s speeches and unique oratory can still serve us well in our daily lives. Cicero proves that with the power of words alone, you can turn the odds of any situation in your favor and take your career to the next level.

Cicero’s oratory education

Cicero’s talent as a public speaker flourished in his youth. Marcus Tullius Cicero was born in 106 BC. C., in the city of Arpinum on the outskirts of the capital. Cicero was what others said back then new homo A wealthy and politically active member of the equestrian class who achieved the same prestige as an upper-class citizen by marrying into a poor aristocratic family – a big deal given that non-patricians were rarely allowed at the time. hold political office.

As was common for a member of his class, Cicero’s father went to great lengths to provide a quality education for his children. It is likely that Cicero was taught at home by a teacher before he was sent to school. His primary school was to be a school. literary work , a primary school where children learn to read, write and primitive arithmetic. Classes were taught on verandas, protected from street noise and distractions by a tarpaulin stretched between two pillars. Students sat on wooden benches and wrote on wax tablets placed on their laps. They learned by signing the letters of the alphabet back and forth. In Rome, education was associated with the game (the word the game meant “game” and the same word was used to describe gladiator schools).

In high school, Cicero and his classmates studied grammar and literature. His readings include Greek tragedies, Homer and archaic Latin poems that have not survived. Also worked Twelve Tables : a piece of legislation formerly exhibited at the Forum and forming the basis of Roman law.

In his 2001 book Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome’s Greatest Politician Professor Anthony Everitt describes in great detail the rhetoric training a young Cicero will receive from instructors. The Romans, like the Greeks before them, believed that there were several qualities that distinguished good speech from bad speech.

Thus, the practice of public speaking was divided into several components: meet (seeking ideas and arguments), collocation (structuring and organization of discourses), diction (diction and style), action (physical exposure) and memory (memorize conversations).

Marcus Tullius Cicero
Portrait of Marco Tulio Cicero by Pedro Berruguete.

Speakers can vary considerably in their individual styles, although there is little room for improvisation and experimentation. Some raised their voices and waved their arms. The others spoke quietly, their bodies froze. Cicero’s delivery was somewhere between fierce enthusiasm and alienating self-control. “A keynote speaker,” wrote Cicero, “will alter and modulate his voice, raise and lower it, and show the whole pitch scale.” The passage continues:

He will avoid exaggerated movements and stand impressively upright. It won’t walk back and forth and when it isn’t for any distance. It should not be thrown forward carefully with tight control. It shouldn’t be a feminine neck stretch or finger-playing or hitting the rhythm of your cadences on your knuckles. You have to control yourself with the way you hold and move your whole body. You should extend your arm in moments of greatest argument and lower it in quieter moments… After making sure that you don’t have a stupid expression and/or a grimace on your face, you should check your eyes very carefully, because the eyes are its interpreter, just as the face is the image of the soul. Depending on the subject at hand, they can express pain or joy.

How to work with the crowd

Unlike his contemporaries, Cicero wrote extensively about his own writing process and published speeches he never had a chance to give. The vast knowledge he conveys makes it indispensable as a historical and educational resource.

One of Cicero’s defining characteristics was his industriousness. As he once wrote:

The time others spend promoting their personal affairs, taking vacations… gambling and playing ball, in my case, shows that I occupy that time by repeatedly returning to literary pursuits.

He admitted to working late at night, something few Romans did, and is said to have written up to 500 lines in a single sitting. The work ethic has always paid off; 70 a. C., Cicero was commissioned persecuting Gaius Verres , former Governor of Sicily, for malfeasance and usurpation. Besides his passionate rhetoric, Cicero’s investigation into Verres’ crimes was so thorough that even the governor’s closest allies had no choice but to turn their backs on him during his conviction.

Given Cicero’s success and stubbornness, it may come as a little surprise that this speaker suffers from intense stage fright. Confessed:

Personally, I’m always very nervous when I start a conversation. Whenever I give a speech, I feel like I’m testing not only my talent but also my character and dignity. I’m afraid to give the impression of promising more than I can deliver, which is complete irresponsibility, or promising less than I can deliver, which is bad faith and indifference.

However, Cicero’s fear of failure forced him to repeatedly correct and practice his speeches until the real possibility of failure was minimized.

Inside Roman Forum Cicero was aware not only of his own feelings, but also of his listeners. Like many other leaders, he knew how to play the crowd like a violin. Cicero displayed this ability during a confrontation. Lucius Sergius Catilina . Catilina has ran against Cicero For the consulate, the highest administrative position in the Roman Republic.

When Catilina lost and Cicero won, Catilina planned to overthrow her victorious opponent. With the help of the Allies, Cicero learned of the plan and brought Catilina to the Senate. The consul, who had expected the other senators to accompany him, was surprised to learn that no one had responded to his proposal to exile Catilina. Less talented politicians could have been dismissed immediately, but Cicero responded by asking if most of the senators wanted Catilina gone, but feeling too uncomfortable to admit in her presence, they unanimously asked them to exile another senator who was loved and respected. The Senate gave a resounding “no!” to this request. replied with.

Cicero condemns Catilina
Cicero condemns Cesare Maccari’s work Catilina

Through ingenious manipulation, Cicero turned a defeat into a victory: the Senate expressed its support for the other senator, betraying its ambivalence against Catilina, who soon left Rome.

end of the Roman Republic

Cicero’s prolific speeches failed to change the course of history, and some have accelerated instead of delayed Birth of the Roman Empire. After Caesar’s assassination, Brutus, a prominent conspirator, swore allegiance to Cicero and asked him to ‘restore the Republic’. Representing the Senate and republicanism in this new order, Cicero faced off against Marco Antonio, the interpreter and consul of Caesar’s will.

Cicero, who wanted to divide the cesarean section, gave a series of speeches. Philippine In condemning Antony, he praised the late dictator’s adopted son and heir, Octavian, the future Augustus. By elevating Octavian, Cicero mistakenly led the two men to form a partnership known by historians as the Second Triumvirate, which, once established, branded Cicero and his allies as enemies of the state.

Cicero tried to flee to Macedonia, but was captured by assassins before leaving Rome. It is believed that the former lawyer and senator, who accepted his fate, offered his head for the freedom of his people. His mutilated head and hands were displayed in the Forum in the tradition of Sulla and Marius.

Cicero's severed head
Fulvia and Marco Antonio with the severed head of Cicero by Francisco Maura y Montaner.

roman historian Lucius Cassius Dion’s photo. When the assassins turned his head, Mark Antony said that his wife, Fulvia, stuck out her tongue to symbolically invalidate Cicero’s greatest strength, his ability to speak.

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