Community and Communication: Oratory and Politics in Republican Rome brings together nineteen international contributions which rethink the role of public speech in the Roman Republic. Speech was an integral part of decision-making in Republican Rome, and oratory was part of the education of every member of the elite. Yet no complete speech from the period by anyone other than Cicero survives, and as a result the debate on oratory, and political practice more widely, is liable to be distorted by the distinctive features of Cicero’s oratorical practice. Several contributions in the volume look at careers and lives of individual Roman orators (chs. 16-19).
With careful attention to a wide range of ancient evidence, this volume shines a light on orators other than Cicero, and considers the oratory of diplomatic exchanges and impromptu heckling and repartee alongside the more familiar genres of forensic and political speech. In doing so, it challenges the idea that Cicero was a normative figure, and highlights the variety of career choices and speech strategies open to Roman politicians. The essays in the volume also demonstrate how unpredictable the outcomes of oratory were: politicians could try to control events by cherry-picking their audience and using tried methods of persuasion, but incompetence, bad luck, or hostile listeners were constant threats.
is edited by Henriette van der Blom, a member of the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing. Henriette is Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford University and has previously published Cicero’s Role Models (Oxford University Press, 2010) as well as articles on Cicero and Roman political life.