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The ''Dialogus de oratoribus'' is a short work attributed to
Tacitus Publius Cornelius Tacitus ( , ; – ) was a Roman historian and politician. Tacitus is widely regarded as one of the greatest Roman historians by modern scholars. He lived in what has been called the Silver Age of Latin literature Classi ...

Tacitus
, in
dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of variety (linguistics), varieties of the English language native ...
form, on the art of
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
. Its date of composition is unknown, though its dedication to
Lucius Fabius Justus Lucius Fabius Justus was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolita ...
places its publication around 102 AD.


Summary

The dialogue itself, set in the 70s AD, follows the tradition of
Cicero Marcus Tullius Cicero ( ; ; 3 January 106 BC – 7 December 43 BC) was a Ancient Rome, Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar, philosopher and Academic skepticism, Academic Skeptic, who tried to uphold optimate principles during crisis of ...

Cicero
's speeches on philosophical and rhetorical arguments. It is set in the home of Curiatius Maternus, one of the speakers, to whom two leading lawyers of the day,
Marcus Aper Marcus Aper was a Roman orator and a native of Gaul, who rose by his eloquence to the rank of quaestor, tribune, and praetor, successively. He is introduced as one of the speakers in the ''Dialogus de oratoribus'', attributed to Tacitus, defending t ...
and
Julius Secundus Julius Secundus was a Roman orator and a friend of Quintilian. He is one of the speakers in Tacitus's short dialogue, ''Dialogus de Oratoribus''. In his ''Institutio Oratoria'', Quintilian praises Secundus for the elegance of his oratory as well as ...
, have come to discuss a recent event; the fourth speaker, Lucius Vipstanus Messalla, arrives later. All four men are attested historical personages. The beginning of the work is a speech in defence of eloquence and poetry. It then deals with the decadence of oratory, for which the cause is said to be the decline of the education, both in the family and in the school, of the future orator. The education is not as accurate as it once was; the teachers are not prepared and a useless rhetoric often takes the place of the general culture. After a
lacuna Lacuna (plural lacunas or lacunae) may refer to: Related to the meaning "gap" * Lacuna (manuscripts), a gap in a manuscript, inscription, text, painting, or musical work **Great Lacuna, a lacuna of eight leaves where there was heroic Old Norse po ...
, the ''Dialogus'' ends with a speech delivered by Maternus reporting what some believe is Tacitus's opinion. Maternus thinks that great oratory was possible with the freedom from any power, more precisely in the
anarchy Anarchy is the state of a society being freely constituted without authorities or a governing body A governing body is a group of people that has the authority to exercise governance Governance is all the processes of interactions be they ...
, that characterized the
Roman Republic The Roman Republic ( la, Rēs pūblica Rōmāna ) was a state of the classical Roman civilization, run through public In public relations Public relations (PR) is the practice of managing and disseminating information from an indiv ...
during the civil wars. It became anachronistic and impracticable in the quiet and ordered society that resulted from the institution of the
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of governme ...

Roman Empire
. The peace, warranted by the Empire, should be accepted without regret for a previous age that was more favorable to the wide spread of literacy and the growth of great personality.


Critical evaluation

Some believe that at the base of all of Tacitus's work is the acceptance of the Empire as the only power able to save the state from the chaos of the civil wars. The Empire reduced the space of the orators and of the political men, but there is no viable alternative to it. Nevertheless, Tacitus does not accept the imperial government apathetically, and he shows, as in the ''
Agricola AGRICOLA (AGRICultural OnLine Access) is an online databaseAn online database is a database In computing Computing is any goal-oriented activity requiring, benefiting from, or creating computing machinery. It includes the study and experiment ...
'' the remaining possibility of making choices that are dignified and useful to the state. The date of publication of the ''Dialogus'' is uncertain, but it was probably written after the ''Agricola'' and the ''Germania''. Many characteristics set it apart from the other works of Tacitus, so much so that its authenticity may be questioned, even if it is always grouped with the ''Agricola'' and the ''
Germania Germania ( , ), also called Magna Germania (English: ''Great Germania''), Germania Libera (English: ''Free Germania'') or Germanic Barbaricum Barbaricum (from the gr, Βαρβαρικόν, "foreign", "barbarian") is a geographical name used by ...
'' in the manuscript tradition. The way of speaking in the ''Dialogus'' seems closer to the model of Cicero, refined but not prolix, which inspired the teaching of
Quintilian Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (; 35 – 100 AD) was a Roman Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = M ...

Quintilian
; it lacks the incongruities that are typical of Tacitus's major historical works. It may have been written when Tacitus was young; its dedication to Fabius Iustus would thus give the date of publication, but not the date of writing. More probably, the unusually classical style may be explained by the fact that the ''Dialogus'' is a work of rhetoric. For this genre the structure, the language, and the style of Cicero were the usual models.


References


External links

* * {{Authority control Latin prose texts 2nd-century Latin books Rhetoric Dialogues Works by Tacitus