Cicero, Orator

LCL 342: 296-297

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The Orator was written in the latter part of the year 46 b.c. It is thus the latest of Cicero’s rhetorical works, and rounds out the discussion of questions raised in the earlier works with a brilliant defence of his own career as an orator. In the form of a letter addressed to Marcus Junius Brutus, it ostensibly, and perhaps actually, answers a request of Brutus for a picture of the perfect orator. It was traditional to discuss the training of an orator under five heads: invention (inventio), arrangement (collocatio), diction and style (elocutio), delivery (actio), memory (memoria). These five points are all touched on in the Orator, but with varying emphasis. There is a bare allusion to memoria; inventio, collocatio and actio are dismissed with a few paragraphs, and three-quarters of the treatise is devoted to elocutio.

The reason for the lack of proportion in the treatment of the different topics lies in the controversial nature of the book. It is not a complete and impartial account of the perfect orator, but a defence of his own oratorical practice against the criticism of the “Attici.” This was a name adopted by a group of orators of whom Calvus and Brutus were the most prominent. They had a definite and precise programme which called for a plain and lucid style with a minimum of rhetorical ornament, a studied

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-orator.1939