Oratory is the art of (public) speaking. In ancient Greece and Rome, oratory was studied as a component of rhetoric (that is, composition and delivery of speeches), and was an important skill in public and private life. Aristotle and Quintilian discussed oratory, and the subject, with definitive rules and models, was emphasised as a part of a liberal arts education during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

The development of parliaments in the 18th century saw the rise of great political orators; the ability to wield words effectively became one of the chief tools of politicians, and often made the greatest difference in their positions. By the mid 20th century, oratory became less grandiloquent and more conversational; for instance, the "fireside chats" of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The term "oratory" has generally fallen into disuse and is used mostly as a historical or subject term. See public speaking and orator.


Latin "orare" ("speak before a court or assembly; plead"), derived from a Proto-Indo-European base *"or-" ("to pronounce a ritual formula").

The derived word oration, originally used for prayer since c.1375, now means (recorded since 1502) any formal speech, as on a ceremonial occasion or delivered in a similarly high-flown or pompous manner. Its etymological doublet orison is recorded since c.1175, from Anglo-French "oreison", Old French "oraison" ("oration", 12th century), Latin "oratio" ("speech, oration"), notably in Church Latin ("prayer, appeal to God") from "orare" (as above), but retained its devotional specialisation. "Oratio" is actually two words combined "oris" and "ratio", meaning "spoken reason".

The modern meaning of the word, "public speaking", is attested from c.1430.

One meaning of the word oratory is abstract: the art of public speaking. There is also the equivalent Greek word "rhētōr", hence the abstract noun "rhetoric".

Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece oration is known from works of the then Attic orators of the classical era (5th century BC4th century BC).

Development of oration since ancient Greece

The history of oratory can be confused with the history of rhetoric in a certain sense. In fact, the art of public speaking was first developed by the ancient Greeks and, after the ascension of Rome, copied and modified by the Latins. An example would be Cicero.

In the opinion of Dr. Iran P. Moreira Necho, "...oratory suffered severely after the Latin power ascension, for the public speech can only be developed in ambients where the debate is allowed. Hence, inside a Roman regime, where the very essence of man was to live as a State appendices (and not debate it), the oratory fastly became a mere compendium on "how to speak fluently" (focus on the beauty of the exposition), even though without any content (preferably without content, since it requires critical thinking)..." [http://www.mnecho.com]

That is why the Latin style (formalist, with little to no focus on content) was the primary form of oration in the world until the beginning of the 20th century, since the majority of the states during this period were ruled by some kind of monarchy or dictatorship.Fact|date=September 2008

In spite of this, after World War II, a historical moment when democratic ideals began to take body in the world, there began a gradual deprecation of the old Latin style of communication which focused on formalism.

Nowadays, there is a tendency to return to the "Greek School of Oratory" (Aristotelian), since the modern world does not accept—as it did in the past—"fluent speeches" without any content. On the other hand, there are counterpoints to a revival of Greek oratory:

#The Latin Oratory, because it is merely formal, is easy to teach.
#The Greek Oratory, because it demands much more in terms of content, requires (from the masters) an extraordinarily superior formation (philosophy, logic, ethics, stylistics, grammar, etc...), since it is unacceptable that a master could be defeated by his/her disciples. Therefore, while any person who delivers speeches with fluency could teach Latin oratory, to train a teacher of Greek oratory could take years of study and meditation.

#Latin Oratory can be taught through relatively fast courses.
#Greek Oratory demands much more time and effort.

Distinctions between the Latin Oratory School and the Greek Oratory in terms of speech

*Latin: Strong emphasis on form. Remarkable use of stylistics. Constant appeal to the listener's emotions. Communication as a way to demonstrate "intellectual superiority" or eloquence.

*Greek: Strong emphasis on message content. Utilization of argumentation strategies. Appeal to the common sense. Communication as a skill to persuade and obtain influence.


This drastic separation between the two rhetorics seems too simplistic. Especially during the Roman Republic, oratory was more than simply a formalism. The discussions in the Senate and during the official funerals present both content and form. The Roman Republic and early empire enjoyed a simple style of oratory without too many decorations ("flowers"), such as the style of Cicero and Caesar. In the late empire oratory became more formal and less "important" in real political and social life.In a similar fashion Greek oratory was more formal, complex and weaker in content during the Hellenistic period than during the 5th century.

External links

* [http://www.americanrhetoric.com American Rhetoric]
* [http://www.figarospeech.com Figures of Speech]
* [http://home.att.net/~rjnorton/Lincoln63.html Abraham Lincoln's Lost Speech]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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