Greek Rhetoric

You might be surprised to learn that public speaking has been considered a critical skill for thousands of years. Much of our current theory on oral communication derives from early Greek and Roman scholars, such as Aristotle and Cicero, who felt effective public speaking, or rhetoric, was one of the most valuable skills they could demonstrate within their society. Rhetoric topped the list of required areas of study for young Greek students.

A famous quote attributed to Isocrates, the founder of the first school of rhetoric in Athens, says,

“But I do hold that people can become better and worthier if they conceive an ambition to speak well…. “

To the Greeks, the ability to communicate effectively orally was the mark of a well-educated citizen (Isocrates); it was one of the requirements for participation within the democracy. Citizens often gathered in the marketplace simply to participate in the process of argument and debate. In fact, the word forum, used today to indicate an online place for discussion, was originally known as an open area within Greek and Roman cities often utilized for public speaking.