The Ten Commandments, Moses
As religious history goes, this one’s a biggie. Moses delivered this speech regarding God’s Ten Commandments, which define ethics and worship in Judaism and most forms of Christianity. For those unfamiliar with the story, God inscribed the commandments on two tablets, which he gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, where Moses read them out.
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
Socrates was a famous Greek philosopher who shaped the history of the Western world. Like most philosophers, he spent the majority of his time engaging in conversations and examining life and taught his students to do the same. However, Athenians saw his teachings and outlook a threat to the stability of the nation and arrested, eventually sentencing him to death for corrupting the youth, not believing in gods and creating new gods to worship. Socrates delivered his apology speech during his trial and is an oration masterpiece as he spends most of it pointing out the ignorance of his jurors and heightening his own martyrdom.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Golden Speech, Queen Elizabeth 1
Queen Elizabeth 1 delivered the Golden Speech on November 30, 1601 as her retirement speech. The 141-member parliament to whom she delivered it assumed the speech would address some of the economic issues facing the country, however the outcome was slightly different. Many consider Queen Elizabeth’s reign to be the Golden Age of England where culture, art, architecture and literature flourished, and she led successful war campaigns. Some regard the Golden Speech as a symbolic end of that glorious reign.
“For it is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving.”
Funeral oration, Pericles
Much like Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, this speech by the Athenian leader, Pericles, redefined oration and inspired the Athenian people. Pericles delivered the speech in 431 BC at an epoch when there were Sparta and Athens engaged in great wars. The speech cleverly honored the fallen soldiers while simultaneously galvanizing the living citizens into more action to ensure their death was not in vain.
“When all her greatness shall break upon you, you must reflect that it was by courage, sense of duty, and a keen feeling of honor in action that men were enabled to win all this, and that no personal failure in an enterprise could make them consent to deprive their country of their valor, but they laid it at her feet as the most glorious contribution that they could offer.”