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The Roman World of Cicero's De Oratore$
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Elaine Fantham

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199263158

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199263158.001.0001

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Wit and Humour as the Orator’s Combat Weapons

Wit and Humour as the Orator’s Combat Weapons

(p.186) 8 Wit and Humour as the Orator’s Combat Weapons
The Roman World of Cicero's De Oratore

Elaine Fantham

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the role played by humour in Cicero's own success, which confirms its continuing importance in the courts and politics of Rome beyond the generation of Antonius and Caesar Strabo. It first analyzes and interprets Strabo's formal presentation: the discussion will deal only briefly with the vexed problem of possible Greek and Roman sources, which has recently been dealt with at length by Rabbie. Then (building on Rabbie 6.E 200–4), the chapter turns to Strabo's Roman examples to single out their different social and political circumstances. It then assesses the importance of wit and humour in Cicero's own performance as a speaker, and in its written record. For more than any other verbal category, humour was the weapon of choice in personal antagonism, and in the duelling of elite political life.

Keywords:   orators, Cicero, De Oratore, Rabbie, speaker

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