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Please note that Mommsen uses the AUC chronology (Ab Urbe Condita), i.e. from the founding of the City of Rome. You can use this reference table to have the B.C. dates


V. The Establishment of the Military Monarchy

From: The History of Rome, by Theodor Mommsen
Translated with the sanction of the author by William Purdie Dickson

The History of Old Rome

Chapter XII - Religion, Culture, Literature, and Art


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

» Contents of this Chapter

Page 78

Speeches - Decline of Political Oratory

To subsidiary historical literature belongs of right also the composition of orations. The speech, whether written down or not, is in its nature ephemeral and does not belong to literature; but it may, like the report and the letter, and indeed still more readily than these, come to be included, through the significance of the moment and the power of the mind from which it springs, among the permanent treasures of the national literature. Thus in Rome the records of orations of a political tenor delivered before the burgesses or the jurymen had for long played a great part in public life; and not only so, but the speeches of Gaius Gracchus in particular were justly reckoned among the classical Roman writings. But in this epoch a singular change occurred on all hands.

The composition of political speeches was on the decline like political speaking itself. The political speech in Rome, as generally in the ancient polities, reached its culminating point in the discussions before the burgesses; here the orator was not fettered, as in the senate, by collegiate considerations and burdensome forms, nor, as in the judicial addresses, by the interests--in themselves foreign to politics--of the accusation and defence; here alone his heart swelled proudly before the whole great and mighty Roman people hanging on his lips. But all this was now gone.

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