The dialogue itself, set in the 70s AD, follows the tradition of Cicero's speeches on philosophical and rhetorical arguments. The beginning of the work is a speech in defense of eloquence and poetry. It then deals with the decadence of oratory, for which the cause is said to be the decline of the education, both in the family and in the school, of the future orator. The education is not as accurate as it once was; the teachers are not prepared and a useless rhetoric often takes the place of the general culture. After an incomplete section, the Dialogus ends with a speech delivered by Maternus reporting what some believe is Tacitus's opinion. Maternus thinks that great oratory was possible with the freedom from any power, more precisely in the anarchy, that characterized the Roman Republic during the civil wars. It became anachronistic and impracticable in the quiet and ordered society that resulted from the institution of the Roman Empire. The peace, warranted by the Empire, should be accepted without regret for a previous age that was more favorable to the wide spread of literacy and the growth of great personality.