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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Oratory played a central role in the politics of the Roman Republic, in Cicero’s political thought, and in the memories of republican liberty preserved by Tacitus, which influenced early modern European and American thinkers seeking alternatives to monarchical rule. This chapter considers the republican orator both as an embodiment of traditional senatorial authority and as a participant in a public contest that establishes common ground between elite and mass. Cicero is a prime example of that traditional authority. But by identifying persuasive communication as the core practice of the political community, Cicero’s rhetorical treatises approach politics not primarily or exclusively in terms of laws and institutions but as dynamic relations among citizens energized in the rendering of judgments that draw on common sense, moral values, and taste. In its probing of the contestatory and the aesthetic dimensions of politics, Roman rhetoric retains relevance for contemporary political thought.

Keywords: oratory, communication, Republic, Cicero, Quintilian, Tacitus, taste, common sense, political thought

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