This conception is originally Greek.
It has already been observed that this feeling about speaking is originally Greek; and it is worth
while to consider how it arose. That artistic sense
Its basis— the idealisation of man.
which distinguished the Greeks above all races that the world has known was concentrated, in the happy pause of development to which we owe their supreme works, on the idealisation of man. Now, λόγος
, speech, was recognised by the Greeks as the distinctive attribute of man1
. It was necessary, therefore, that, at this stage, they should require in speech a clear-cut and typical beauty analogous to that of the idealised human form. This was the central and primary motive, relatively to which all others were subsidiary or accidental.
But, of these secondary motives, two at least
(1) the oral tradition of poetry:
demand a passing notice. First, the oral tradition of poetry and the habit of listening to poetical recitation furnished an analogy which was present to people's minds when they saw a man get up to make a set speech; they expected his words to have something like the coherence, something like the plastic outline, something even like the music of the verses which they were wont to hear flow from the lips of
(2) The civil importance of speech
his counterpart, the rhapsode. Secondly, in the Greek cities, and especially at Athens, public speaking had, by 450 B. C., become so enormously important, opened so much to ambition, constituted a safeguard so essential for security of property and person, that not only was there the most various
inducement to cultivate it, but it was positively dangerous to neglect it. Further, since in a law-court
it was unavailing for the citizen that he could speak well unless the judges thought that he spoke better than his opponent, the art of persuasion was studied with a competitive zeal which wrought together with the whole bent of the Greek genius in securing attention to detail.