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 Contact to send questions or comments.