The Origins of Rhetoric: From Mesopotamia to Ancient Greece

September 6th, 2011 by admin

The use and effects of rhetoric are commonly observed in speeches that seek to call an audience to action, reach deep into human emotion, or persuade an audience in their views on a matter. Although the art of rhetoric is most notably influenced by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, the history of rhetoric extends further into history, covering the Mesopotamian culture.

In part, the importance of eloquent and effective oration was due to the method in which history and traditions were shared. Language was primarily oral, with little or no writing in the culture, making training in speech extremely important. Even in more recent cultures, where writing became more commonplace, training in writing was often left to certain people in society. In some instances, writing education was inaccessible or even forbidden for the general public. The use of rhetoric continued to be an important method of reaching a variety of audiences.

Aristotle remains essential in the study of rhetoric, not only because of his extensive study and expansion of the craft, but his development of rhetorical appeals and canons are still in use today. Appeals to credibility, emotion, and logic have been essential for the impact and memorability of notable speeches throughout history. Furthermore, these same appeals are used to influence audiences through writing and graphic design elements.

Although rhetorical appeals have aided orators in the content of their speeches, Aristotle-s canons: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery, increased the understanding and use of other elements such as context and tone that increase the effectiveness of a speech.

The origins of rhetoric have deep roots in many cultures, and the importance cannot be underestimated. Rhetoric may seem archaic to many, but the impact of a well-constructed speech in the appropriate context continues to leave the most memorable effect for its audience.