previous next

Deliberative Oratory as an art

WHILE a literary prose was being shaped, and while, on the other hand, a series of forensic writers were perfecting a series of types in their own branch, no artistic development that can be traced with the like clearness had been going forward in deliberative oratory. When, with Demosthenes and his contemporaries, deliberative oratory first comes clearly into view, its masters are found to owe their several excellences as artists to models taken from the other
moulded on the Forensic and Epideictic.
two departments, to a Thucydides or an Isokrates, to a Lysias or an Isaeos. Not only have we no evidence of their obligation, in point of art, to previous speakers in the same kind, but we are able to see for ourselves that the limits of such obligation would necessarily have been narrow. Now this is the reverse of what might have been anticipated. The ekklesia, considering its place in the democracy, might have been expected to be the great school, no less than the great field, of oratory. Further, the popular Dialectic, which, more than anything else, prepared the Athenian taste for artistic speaking, was far more favourable to the deliberative than to the forensic branch. The general profession of the Sophists was to teach men τὰ τῆς πόλεως καὶ λέγειν καὶ πράττειν, to speak and to act in the affairs of the city. Protagoras would have regarded the Sicilian rhetors, such as Korax or Tisias, whose concern was chiefly with the law-courts, much as Isokrates regarded the merely forensic writers of his own day. Nor did the earliest artists cultivate one practical branch to the exclusion of the other. Antiphon was able to help those who were fighting a cause in a law-court or in the assembly1. The thirty-fourth oration of Lysias was composed for delivery in the ekklesia2. Nevertheless it was not in the assembly, but in the law-courts or the schools, that oratorical prose was developed; and, when we are able to observe the political eloquence of Athens at its height, we see that what it has owed to the assembly is only the inspiring opportunity, not the discipline which has chastened it nor the secret of its strength.

1 Thuc. VIII. 68.

2 Vol. I. p. 211.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: