Roman view of Oratory
Before Roman oratory could be even indirectly influenced by Greek, there was an obstacle to be removed. The Roman mind, unlike the Greek, did not instinctively conceive the public speaker as an artist. It conceived him strictly as a citizen, weighty by piety, years, or office, who has something to say for the good of the other citizens, and whose dignity, hardly less than the value of his hearer's time, enjoins a pregnant and severe conciseness. Cato
Progress of the Greek view at Rome.
detested Greek rhetoric. The Gracchi, on the other hand, were more Hellenic in their tastes; and before
100 B.C. the florid Asianism had admirers and perhaps imitators at Rome. Declamations in Greek on
abstract questions (θέσεις
) were first introduced: then, about Cicero's time, came exercises on definite cases founded in fact (ὑποθέσεις
), either forensic or deliberative—the latter being suasoriae.
In Cicero's time, or a little later, there were also controversiae
—dealing with special situations, but not with special persons; e.g., what a
brave man is to do in such or such circumstances; and these at once recall the nature of the exercises which Aeschines is said to have founded at Rhodes. Lastly, under the Empire, we have declamations on poetical or fancy themes. Now, all these
declamatory exercises were in the interest of Asianism. What was necessary to give Atticism a future at Rome was that the theory of Rhetoric should have a place there. It was a great step gained when, about 92 B.C., L. Plotius and others opened schools
Roman schools of Rhetoric.
for the teaching of Rhetoric in Latin. The censors, as might have been expected, opposed this: in the last days of the Republic, Rome was rather scandalised by the first instance of a Knight teaching Rhetoric; but learners were numerous from the first.