of so-called quaestiones perpetuae, standing courts for major crimes, from 149 BC (cf. introduction to 37), along with the expansion of political offices and correspondingly of (alleged) misbehavior or politically controversial activities, there was a regular sequence of trials inthe late second century and especially in the first century BC. Since the accused did not normally speak on their own behalf in Rome, but were defended by advocates, often by several, there were numerous opportunities for delivering speeches. Appearing in a prominent court case was seen as a good way for a young man to start a career before turning to politics. In addition, there are a few examples of the third type, the epideictic genre of speeches, in Rome, such as funeral orations.3
Cicero’s comments suggest that forensic oratory was seen as requiring a higher level of accomplishment than political oratory, and that in politics speaking before the People was regarded as more challenging than speaking among one’s peers in the Senate. Moreover, for the assessment of someone’s oratory, the five tasks of an orator (inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, actio—invention, arrangement, style, memory, delivery), are taken into account: only a few speakers are identified as outstanding in all areas.Sources and evidence
Out of the large number of political and judicial speeches that must have been made over the centuries of the Roman
Republic, only some of Cicero’s speeches survive in full. This reduction is due to two main reasons: first, Roman orators (including Cicero) did not write up all their speeches. Instead, they made decisions on whether they wished to edit delivered orations, and they merely published a selection of important and/or successful speeches (after producing written versions had become standard). Only in the case of published speeches can more than references to the occasions remain. Second, later generations were interested in specific historical incidents, in particular speakers, or in certain stylistic features; therefore, not all material that had reached written form was preserved in equal measure.
While the reduction over the course of transmission is similar to what can be observed for other Roman literary genres, there is hardly any other genre in Rome that is so dominated by a single figure as Republican oratory is by Cicero: his works not only furnish the only complete examples of texts of this genre but also provide much of the information about other speakers and oratorical occasions. So as not to succumb to a one-sided view of the subject determined by Cicero, it is vital to collect and consider whatever material exists about other speakers in Republican Rome from outside his corpus.
The orators and their oratorical appearances covered in these volumes, therefore, open up a wider perspective on Roman Republican oratory; they give an insight into potential forms and themes as well as into the wide variety of occasions and styles. The picture is still determined, however, by the available sources as well as by the assessments and preferences of the transmitting authors. Nevertheless,