Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Nick Wilding

Second Advisor

Shane Butler

Third Advisor

Jared Poley

Fourth Advisor

Jacob Selwood


Why did the first printers in Italy choose Cicero’s de Oratorein 1465? How did itcome to epitomize Renaissance theories of education by the text’s rediscovery in 1421? Studies of Ciceronian oratory have traditionally fallen into two camps: philological scholarship focused on Cicero’s rhetorical works as they were produced during the ancient Roman Republic, and, historical studies of the reception of Cicero’s speeches among later humanists. This bifurcation of scholarship has often overlooked, however, the titular role played by Cicero’s theory of education and its articulation in his philosophical treatise on rhetoric, the de Oratore.A philosophical dialogue that described Cicero’s ideal orator, de Oratoreoffered a unique vision of what it meant to be “educated.” This interdependent vision of rhetoric and philosophy embodied in the de Oratore, as well as the text's legacy of transmission through Roman imperial and Late Antique writers, inspired the literatiof the Renaissance to adopt the Ciceronian corpus into the humanistic curriculum and, more importantly, to base a western concept of education on Ciceronian principles of oratory.

This project analyzes Ciceronian oratory within its ancient context and demonstrates the fragility of de Oratore’s transmission from antiquity to the early modern period. The argument hinges strongly on understanding the reception of the de Oratore during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries as a printed object. Using the introductions, front matters, and marginalia of early printed texts, I show that humanist scholars engaged with Cicero and his vision of "philosophical oratory.”

This research makes several important contributions to the fields of both classical and Renaissance scholarship. Close study of the de Oratoreas both a text and object demonstrates that Cicero’s rhetorical importance in the western tradition is not limited to the transmission and adoption of his (more well-known) speeches. Joint consideration of the philosophical content and ancient historical setting of the text and its later receptive contexts bridges the persistent divide that has separated classical and early modern scholarship. Finally, studying the receptions of Cicero’s de Oratorefrom antiquity through its rediscovery and distribution during the Renaissance, furthers scholarly understanding of western conceptualizations of education.

Available for download on Friday, June 05, 2020