Attic orators  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The ten Attic orators were considered the greatest orators and logographers of the classical era (5th–4th century BCE). They are included in the "Alexandrian Canon" (sometimes called the "Canon of Ten") compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace.

The Alexandrian "Canon of Ten"

Going back at least as far as Homer (8th or 9th century BCE), the art of effective speaking was of considerable value in Greece. In Homer's epic, the Iliad, the warrior, Achilles, was described as "a speaker of words" and "a doer of deeds."

Until the 5th century BCE, however, oratory was not formally taught. In fact, it is not until the middle of that century that the Sicilian orator, Corax, along with his pupil, Tisias, began a formal study of rhetoric. In 427 BCE, another Sicilian named Gorgias of Leontini visited Athens and gave a speech which apparently dazzled the citizens. Gorgias’s "intellectual" approach to oratory—which included new ideas, forms of expression, and methods of argument—was continued by Isocrates, a 4th century BCE educator and rhetorician. Oratory eventually became a central subject of study in the formalized Greek education system.

The work of the Attic orators inspired the later rhetorical movement of Atticism, an approach to speech composition emphasizing a simple rather than ornate style.


  • Smith, R.M. “A New Look at the Canon of the Ten Attic Orators.” Mnemosyne 48.1 (1995): 66-79.
  • Todd, S.C. The Oratory of Classical Greece: Volume 2. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

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