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43342.  Thu Jan 05, 2006 3:54 pm Reply with quote

Too obscure, I guess, but:

The Declamations are an interesting collection of Roman material, not very well known. They are oratorical exercises, used both in training and, apparently, as after-dinner entertainment. A typical exercise describes a spoof law suit set within an entirely fictional community; so, for example: suppose there is a law that a raped woman had the right either to ask for marriage with her rapist, or to have him put to death; the case is: on one night, a man rapes two women, one asks for his death, and the other asks for his hand in marriage. Adjudicate this case… take the part of the woman who wants to marry him. Then you get speeches which are given around that spoof case. It’s to practise your oratorical skill. Or: you are captured by pirates, and they agree to let you off provided you will swear an oath to marry the pirate chief’s daughter, who has actually negotiated this. You do that, but then you go home and your father insists that you marry the person he has got for you. You refuse because you say you are bound by your oath; your father then disinherits you. Now defend the father or the son.

s: Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at Cambridge, a panellist on In Our Time this morning.

189310.  Mon Jul 09, 2007 5:53 am Reply with quote

The illustrations you use are controversia; declamations could also be suasoria, or advisory addresses to well-known persons on issues of importance.

189495.  Mon Jul 09, 2007 10:37 am Reply with quote

Quite right:
Under the late Republic and the Empire, the main instrument was an import from Greece: declamation, the making of practice speeches on imaginary subjects. There were two types of such speeches: controversiae on law-court themes, suasoriae on deliberative topics. On both types a prime source of our knowledge is the work of Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Spaniard from Cordoba, father of the distinguished philosopher. Towards the end of his long life (?55 BCE–?40 CE) he collected together ten books devoted to controversiae (some only preserved in excerpt) and at least one (surviving) of suasoriae.


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