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How to Win an Argument: An Ancient Guide to the Art of Persuasion

by Marcus Tullius Cicero Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 288 pages
AU$32.99 NZ$34.77
Product Status: In Stock Now
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All of us are faced countless times with the challenge of persuading others, whether we’re trying to win a trivial argument with a friend or convince our coworkers about an important decision. Instead of relying on untrained instinct—and often floundering or failing as a result—we’d win more arguments if we learned the timeless art of verbal persuasion, rhetoric.


How to Win an Argument gathers the rhetorical wisdom of Cicero, ancient Rome’s greatest orator, from across his works and combines it with passages from his legal and political speeches to show his powerful techniques in action. The result is an enlightening and entertaining practical introduction to the secrets of persuasive speaking and writing—including strategies that are just as effective in today’s offices, schools, courts, and political debates as they were in the Roman forum.


How to Win an Argument addresses proof based on rational argumentation, character, and emotion; the parts of a speech; the plain, middle, and grand styles; how to persuade no matter what audience or circumstances you face; and more. Cicero’s words are presented in lively translations, with illuminating introductions; the book also features a brief biography of Cicero, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and an appendix of the original Latin texts.


Astonishingly relevant, this unique anthology of Cicero’s rhetorical and oratorical wisdom will be enjoyed by anyone who ever needs to win arguments and influence people—in other words, all of us.

Preface vii
Cicero’s Life: A Brief Sketch xiii
How to Win an Argument 1
The Origins of Eloquent and Persuasive Speech 1
Nature, Art, Practice 1
Rhetoric and Truth 8
The Parts of Rhetoric, or Activities of the Orator 12
Invention: Identifying and Classifying the Question at Issue According to the Stance of Argument, and Discovering the Sources of Proof 13
Arrangement 40
Style 69
Memory 103
Delivery 110
The Value of Imitating Good Models of Speaking 118
The Value of Writing to Prepare for Effective Speaking 122
The Requirements and Education of the Ideal Speaker 126
A Ciceronian Cheat Sheet for Effective Speaking 135
Latin Texts 141
Glossary 223
Further Reading 243
Text Credits 247

“How to Win an Argument provides a very good, user-friendly overview of ancient rhetoric - clearly and thoughtfully arranged, well translated, and with excellent brief introductory essays. It also admirably links ancient and modern practice. James May’s extensive expertise is reflected throughout.” - Ann Vasaly, Boston University
James M. May is professor of classics, the Kenneth O. Bjork Distinguished Professor, and former provost and dean at St. Olaf College. An award-winning teacher, he is a widely recognized expert on Cicero and classical rhetoric and has written and edited many books on these topics. He lives in Northfield, Minnesota.