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A Dialogue Concerning Oratory, Or The Causes Of Corrupt Eloquence

Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Book Overview: 

The scene of the Dialogus de Oratoribus, as this work is commonly known, is laid in the sixth year of Vespasian, 75 a.D. The commentators are much divided in their opinions about the real author; his work they all agree is a masterpiece in the kind; written with taste and judgement; entertaining, profound, and elegant. It is normally considered to have been written by Tacitus, even though some ascribe it to Quintilian. The main subject is the decadence of oratory, for which the cause is said to be the decline of the education, both in the family and in the school, of the future orator. In a certain way, it can be considered a miniature art of rhetoric.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .DXXXIc" href="#NXXXIc" id="DXXXIc">[c] will inspire him with warmth and energy; Plato will give the sublime, and Xenophon that equal flow which charms us in that amiable writer. The rhetorical figure, which is called exclamation, so frequent with Epicurus [d] and Metrodorus, will add to a discourse those sudden breaks of passion, which give motion, strength, and vehemence.

It is not for the stoic school, nor for their imaginary wise man, that I am laying down rules. I am forming an orator, whose business it is, not to adhere to one sect, but to go the round of all the arts and sciences. Accordingly we find, that the great master of ancient eloquence laid their foundation in a thorough study of the civil law, and to that fund they added grammar, music, and geometry. The fact is, in most of the causes that occur, perhaps in every cause, a due knowledge of the whole system of jurisprudence is an indispensable requisite. There are likewise many subjects of litigat. . . Read More

Community Reviews

The Dialogus is a short work on rhetoric by the historian Tacitus, one of three of his minor works that have survived (the other two being the Agricola and Germania). It takes the form of a debate between three friends. They begin by arguing the relative merits of poetry vs. oratory (i.e., fiction writing vs. composing sp...more

Tacite est un auteur romain de la fin du premier siècle de notre ère, j’ai appris dans la préface qu’il aurait été élève de Quintilien, auteur très fameux pour son « Institution Oratoire ». Tacite est principalement connu pour ses ouvrages historiques critiques et grinçants, relatant les débuts de l’empire et l...more

I had no idea Tacitus wrote about stuff like this. Yeah, its not actually my favorite thing I've read by the guy because I thought the ethnographic stuff in Germania was most interesting. But this is an interesting tract on its own. It is ostensibly a work expounding the virtues of oratory skill...more