Origins of Public Speaking: Review Questions and Activities


  1. What historical events gave rise to Athens establishing democracy for its citizens?
  2. Who was Draco, and what did he do in Athens?
  3. Under whose reign did Athens enjoy its greatest glory, and why?
  4. Who was Plato, and what form of inquiry did he advocate?
  5. Who was Aristotle, and what is he most noted for?
  6. What did the Romans borrow from the Greeks and how did they improve upon it?
  7. Why was Cicero considered to be the greatest Roman orator?
  8. What did Quintilian contribute to the art of persuasion?
  9. What role did rhetoric play in education in the Middle Ages?
  10. The Renaissance gave birth to the Humanists and Rationalists. Can you describe the differences between the two and name two representatives from each and their contributions to persuasion?
  11. What is the "epistemological tradition" and who best represent this movement?


  1. Create two teams of at least three students per team. One team will represent the dialectical approach to problem solving and the other team will represent the Aristotelian rhetorical tradition. One team will attempt to explain how a problem is solved and conclusions arrived at through the dialectical approach, the other through the rhetorical approach. The problem to be solved will be created by student consensus.
  2. The Humanists and Rationalists viewed persuasion from differing perspectives. Students should form teams that represent each perspective, choose an issue, then argue or advocate for their side using each perspective, and then compare the process of problem-solving to see how they arrived at their conclusions.
  3. Review the approaches that Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian held toward rhetoric, then identify and compare and contrast the similarities and differences between them and how these differences advanced the art of public speaking.

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