Roman oratory was a living art. Orators knew that the
persuasive power of a speech did not come from the force and
clarity of its argument alone. A speaker needed not simply
to be heard distinctly, but to project the kind of
confident, engaging personality that could win an audience's
good will and command its belief. Rhetorical training
therefore included practice in those aspects of voice and
gesture that made orators into effective performers.
This site records a
series of experiments in the performance of a Ciceronian
speech. The goal was less to recreate an 'authentic'
performance than to identify some parameters of Roman
oratory by considering the demands on voice, gesture, dress,
and bearing that delivery under ancient conditions imposed.
The sample text is a famous moment in the speech Cicero
delivered in the Roman forum on behalf of Marcus Caelius in
the spring of 56 B.C.E. Click on Speech
for annotated performances. Click on
Sources for the decisions that
inform them. Click on
Costume for information on the
toga worn in these experiments. Click on
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