“On the Ideal Orator” by Cicero

On the Ideal Orator

[Original Latin Title: De Oratore]

Eloquence Forms a Unity

For since all discourse is made up of content and words, the words cannot have any basis if you withdraw the content, and the content will remain in the dark if you remove the words.

All the universe above and below us is a unity and is bound together by a single, natural force and harmony. For there is nothing in the world, of whatever sort, that can either exist on its own if it is severed from all other things, or that can be dispensed with by the other things if they are to preserve their own force and eternal existence.

There is also this true saying of Plato’s [in Epinomis], that all the teachings of our noble and humane arts are held together by one common bond. Since, once it is perceived how forceful the method is on which the knowledge of causes and outcomes is based, their emerges, so to speak, an agreement and harmony between all disciplines that is quite extraordinary.

Eloquence forms a unity, into whatever realms or areas of discourse it travels: whether it is speaking about the nature of the heavens or of the earth, or about divine or human nature, whether from a lower, equal or higher place [whether in trials, in the Senate, or from the rostra], whether its purpose is to urge people on or to teach them or to deter them, or to stir them or to curb them, or to kindle their emotions or to calm them, whether its audience be few or many, or strangers or one’s friends or oneself: speech is like a river, branching out into little streams, yet issuing from the same source; and in whatever direction it goes, it is attended by the same equipment and adornment.


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