Thursday, July 3, 2014

How the great orators became great

We can learn a lot about writing and speaking from the ancients, which I suppose is just more evidence that there is nothing new.

Imagine that your words and deeds will be remembered for centuries!

Two of those old guys believed that excelling as a speaker or writer requires real work. How often do we who engage in writing and speaking in a business environment take time to learn and practice the crafts?

Cicero, who lived from 106 BC to 43 BC was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist (whew!). He is considered to be one of Rome's finest writers and orators.

“I never suffered even a single day to escape me, without some exercise of the oratorial kind,” he wrote. Of Caesar he said:
"He has the purest and the most elegant command of the Roman language of all the Orators that have yet appeared. He chiefly acquired and brought it to its present perfection, by a studious application to the most intricate and refined branches of literature, and by a careful and constant attention to the purity of his style. 
Then there is Demosthenes. who lived from 384 BC to 322 BC.

An Athenian statesman, he is recognized as the greatest of the ancient Greek orators. You know his story. He was self-taught:
He built an underground study where he exercised his voice, shaving one half of his head so that he could not go out in public. Plutarch adds that Demosthenes had a speech defect, "an inarticulate and stammering pronunciation" that he overcame by speaking with pebbles in his mouth and by reciting verses when running or out of breath. He also practiced speaking before a large mirror.
These great orators weren't born great. They had to work at it.

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