Oratory, or the art of public speaking, played a major role in political and public life in the ancient world, especially true in Athens in the fourth and fifth centuries BC. Political leaders used oratory to convince their fellow citizens of the wisdom and appeal of their policies. Oratory became the principal reason for the study of rhetoric, which remained central to the educational system of the Greeks and Romans for centuries.
Aristotle's The Art of Rhetoric presents a series of concepts about persuasion, such as ethos (character), pathos (emotion) and logos (logical reasoning). Rhetoric was an important part of a young man's education since there was an expectation that they would participate in the assembly.
The Alexandrian Canon of Ten were considered to be the greatest orators and logographers of the fifth and fourth centuries. This list consists of Antiphon, Andocides, Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus, Demosthenes, Aeschines, Hyperides, Lycurgus, and Dinarchus. While an orator is a skilled public speaker, a logographer would translate today to "speech-writer". Participants in legal disputes represented themselves in court, and many people hired these professional speech-writers to prepare their speeches.
My favourite judicial speech is by Lysias, entitled On the Murder of Eratosthenes. I like it because it provides such an insight into the lives which noble-women led in ancient Greece. The speech was written for Euphiletus, an Athenian, who had killed a man named Eratosthenes after surprising him in the act of adultery with his wife. We hear the story of Euphiletus' marriage, and how his wife remained indoors like a good Athenian wife should do. She provided him with a child and he thought they were οἰκειότητα μεγίστην, in the greatest intimacy. Women were allowed to participate in religious ceremonies and Euphiletus wife first met her lover when she was attending the funeral of her mother-in-law. And it all goes downhill from there.
Our own Dr Kerry Phelan is an expert on rhetoric, oratory and orators and there are still some places on her eight-week course this term, starting on Thursday 6th October.