An extract from the journal of Susanah WELLINGTON (1819-1838) of Yeovil, Somerset. Susanah attended Mrs Eason’s School and she was 13 years old when she copied the following lesson into her notebook.
The invention of Oratory was by the Egyptians and the fables of the Poets ascribed it to Mercury. The tongue was consecrated to him. The gods assigned him the office of interpreter of the Gods.
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The first handbook detailing the how-to’s of public speaking was written in Egypt more than 4500 years ago. The Egyptians held eloquent speaking in high esteem, and the skilled orator was of great value to their society.
The Egyptian god Thoth is known as, among other things, the inventor of writing, who announced and wrote down the judgments about the dead. Thoth was worshiped throughout Egypt, but particularly at Hermopolis Magna (near modern El‐Ashmunein). The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, civilised government, the alphabet, reading and oratory.
Many of the rules and techniques of public speaking today, particularly the art of persuasion, come from guidelines written by the Greek philosopher Aristotle in the 3rd century BC. Hellenistic Greeks associated the great god Thoth with Hermes, especially as Hermes Trismegistus (meaning 3-times great Hermes).
Hermes was the Greek god of transitions and boundaries, and moved freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine, as emissary and messenger of the gods. He was protector and patron of travellers, orators and wit, literature and poets, athletics and sports, invention and trade.
Mercury was the Roman god of messages and communication, eloquence in speech and poetry, as well as the patron god of commerce and trade. Mercury was also considered a god of abundance and commercial success, and like both Thoth and Hermes he was also the guide of souls to the afterlife.
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Sources: Susanah Wellington’s Journal, Buck family collection. You can read more about it here: susanah’s journal – somerset to sydney. Journal transcription by Terry HASTINGS. http://www.alchemylab.com/AJ3-4.htm; David Hutto (Summer 2002), Ancient Egyptian Rhetoric in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Rhetorica (University of California Press); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermes