CA Panel: Ancient rhetoric in contemporary political discourse

The Network for Oratory and Politics will be hosting a panel at this year’s Classical Association Annual Conference, Edinburgh 6-9 April, 2016.

Organiser: Dr Henriette van der Blom (University of Glasgow) and sponsored by the Network for Oratory and Politics (

Chair: Prof. Gesine Manuwald (University College London)

Political oratory is highly sensitive to historical, cultural and political contexts – especially if it is to be successful. Nevertheless, there are some forms of oratory which we might expect to share traits across historical periods, cultural milieus and political circumstances because of similarities in the relationship between orator and addressee and the resulting negotiations of authority and power within such a relationship.

This panel will explore oratory aimed at powerful individuals and groups in four different historical and political contexts: the oratory of Demosthenes in the Athenian city-state of the fourth century BC, the oratory of Cicero in the first-century Roman Republic, Latin political oratory in late antiquity, and the communication from members of the public to politicians in modern British politics. Themes going through the papers are the attempts to build up authority and credibility when addressing the powerful, the extent to which orators could criticise the powerful, the flexibility in the power dynamics of this kind of rhetoric, and the varieties in communicative modes between the powerful and the not so powerful.

The panel is sponsored by the Network for Oratory and Politics, which aims to facilitate research into and discussion of political oratory across historical periods and regions. Designed especially for the CA 2016, this panel offers the chance to compare and contrast political oratory in Greco-Roman settings with that of a modern democratic society.

There will be four papers on this panel:

Dr Guy Westwood, University of Oxford: ‘Power and Danger in Demosthenes’ earlier speeches.’

Dr Henriette van der Blom, University of Glasgow: ‘Cicero and the rhetoric of asymmetrical relationship.’

Dr Roger Rees, University of St Andrews: ‘The Voices of Political Praise in Late Antiquity.’

Dr David S. Moon, University of Bath: ‘Modern Political Oratory within Heteronomous Politics: Lessons from the 2015 British General Election Leaders Debates and beyond.’

Bookings for this event can be made through the Classical Association's website.

For more information, on panels and how to book places please click here