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Controlling Reason: Declamation in Rhetorical Education at Rome

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Chapter Summary

This chapter considers three strange, sad, and lurid tales of crime and punishment. The stories are versions of three themes used in the schools of Roman rhetoric throughout the imperial period. They are the raw materials of school declamation, the exercise in formal argumentation and verbal agility that every well-bred male of the empire came to know intimately. It is especially the role of such stories in the formation of sensibilities the perception of equity and outrage, of the admirable and the loathsome that are considered in the chapter. The practice of declamation at Rome dates at least from the early first century BC, when formal rhetorical instruction in Latin was institutionalized in the city. Declamations were of two main kinds, the mock-deliberative suasoria and the mock-forensic controversia: the latter exercise, which is far better documented, was to Roman rhetorical education what moot court competition is to the modern American law school.

Keywords: imperial period; mock-deliberative suasoria; mock-forensic controversia; modern American law school; Roman rhetorical education

10.1163/9789047400134_012
/content/books/b9789047400134s012
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