The Role of Brevitas in Ancient Roman Rhetoric

By Daniel Fredrick.

Published by The International Journal of Arts Theory and History

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Ancient Romans saw language as a practical instrument, in the same sense that farming tools were merely practical instruments. In Roman society, what was efficient was valued. Thus, “brevitas” in Roman oratory was a rival stylistic objective to Greek “copia.” By Cicero’s time, it is clear that even though the Greek influence of copia had filtered into the forum and changed Roman practices in oratory, brevitas was still seen as a virtue, stemming from the natural practices of the Roman people’s use of language before Greek rhetorical influences. But in the end, in the hands of Rome’s ultimate orator and greatest theorist on the art of Roman oratory, brevitas, like copia, was a highly valued stylistic tool that could create different effects. The Romans never abandoned their preference for brevitas, but as the Republic expanded and as they absorbed external cultural influences, their art of oratory was forced to change.

Keywords: Rhetoric, Cato, Cicero

The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, Volume 10, Issue 3, September, 2015, pp.53-58. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 394.675KB).

Dr. Daniel Fredrick

Assistant Professor of Writing, Department of Writing Studies, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates