Scholia Reviews ns 8 (1999) 3.

William J. Dominik (ed.), Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature London and New York: Routledge, 1997. Pp. xii + 268. ISBN 0-415- 12545-6. US$24.99.

Nicholas P. Gross
Department of Language and Literature, University of Delaware

Shortly after I began reading Roman Eloquence, it occurred to me that I had been waiting for this book for about twenty-eight years. Literary critics and anyone interested in rhetoric should have a copy on his or her desk.

Like the Gaul of Julius Caesar (himself a master of persuasion), this collection of essays is divided into three parts of succeedingly broader applications of rhetoric. Essays in the first section consider Ciceronian oratorical practice, Caecilius' relationship to the so-called 'Attic' style and the debate concerning the value of different rhetorical styles in Imperial Rome in the first century. The second section contains essays on oratory's context in Roman society. Finally, the last section deals with the influence of rhetoric in literature. Perhaps rhetoric's invasion of Roman literature might be the more apt description -- what George Kennedy refers to as letteraturizzazione.[[1]]

In an introductory overview of the collected essays (pp. 3-12), Gualtiero Calboli and William Dominik point out that Suada is connected by Cicero (Brut. 59) to the Greek goddess of persuasion, Peitho. The essay then turns to a brief outline of the history of rhetoric at Rome and the external and internal antipathy to this new skill. On the one hand, Romans were suspicious of things Greek (cf., e.g., timeo Danaos et dona ferentis, Aen. 2.49) while on the other senators feared novi homines would use rhetoric for social advancement. Given that the works of Cicero, the Roman exemplar of social advancement through persuasiveness, comprise roughly one third of the Latin texts from Roman antiquity, it is unsurprising that rhetoric gave the senatorial class reason to fear or that his influence shows its breadth in this collection of essays. Indeed the first essay is entitled 'Ciceronian rhetoric: theory and practice' (pp. 13-31). Herein John Kirby adduces the terms 'structural' (or 'syntactic') parallelism, the close juxtaposition of compared or contrasted verbal forms or syntactic structures, and 'thematic' (or 'conceptual') parallelism, the close juxtaposition of compared or contrasted ideas, categories that he further divides into 'conjunctive' and 'disjunctive' for analysis of the Pro Milone. Within this oration, he finds the basic antitheses, fear vs confidence, and legal process (ius) vs force of arms (vis), 'disjunctive'.

Similarly style and rhetoric are inextricable in 'Caecilius, the "canons" of writers, and the origins of Atticism' (pp. 32-49), wherein Neil O'Sullivan attempts the difficult task of explaining Caecilius' relationship to 'Atticism,' the so-called simple or spare style. Indeed the obscurity of the term 'canon' compounds the problem: 'In an age when there is much talk of "canons" in the sense of "authoritative lists of approved (rather than 'genuine') texts", it is curious that even the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1989) does not recognize that meaning in English' (p. 32). It appears that the usage derives from 'canonical' books of the Bible -- a term then appropriated by eighteenth century classicists to texts from antiquity. O'Sullivan demonstrates, moreover, that 'approved' lists were 'polemically motivated by rhetorical theories' then current. Based on changes in Ciceronian reading lists (between 55 BC and 45 BC) related to the development of history and oratory and on a list of Dionysus of Halicarnassus, O'Sullivan concludes that the 'canon's' texts functioned as 'models for rhetorical imitation' (p. 40). Who is the originator of such a list? O'Sullivan tentatively identifies Caecilius. While it is unlikely that O'Sullivan's essay will find universal acceptance, nonetheless it certainly is food for thought. Turning to disputes in rhetorical theory of the Imperial Age, in the 'The style is the man: Seneca, Tacitus and Quintilian's canon' (pp. 50-70), Dominik (p. 50) divides style into dictio (individual words) and compositio verborum (syntactic patterns) to analyse Quintilian's criticism of Seneca's style. In his attacks on Senecan postclassicism (Instituto Oratoria 10.1), Quintilian supports his own neo- Ciceronianism in an effort to modify the prevailing Imperial style.

Section II, with its focus on rhetoric in Roman society, begins with a very stimulating essay by Catherine Connors, 'Field and forum: culture and agriculture in Roman rhetoric' (pp. 71-89), on the ambiguity and function of rustic imagery and its calculated disguise of rhetoric. On the one hand, rustics would be excluded from rhetoric by their social class and limited educational opportunities; however, imagery such as Cicero's cultura animi ('cultivation of the mind', Tusc. 2. 13) romanises and to a degree conceals 'the artificial acculturation of the elite through imported rhetorical education' (p. 77). Amy Richlin, in 'Gender and rhetoric: producing manhood in the schools' (pp. 90-110), explores gender construction in the rhetorical schools and in the practice of Roman oratory. She notes that Roman speeches contain a 'consistent strain of invective in which rival orators impugn each other's masculinity' (p. 93). In short, Roman women function as 'the other' both to define what is appropriate rhetoric (i.e., masculine) and to condemn bad style (i.e., feminine). In 'The context and occasions of Roman public rhetoric' (pp. 111-130), Elaine Fantham first outlines the differences between a Greek rhetor and a Roman orator and then turns to Cicero to furnish the scope of her essay. In particular, she demonstrates that identical political purposes often blurred the lines between political and judicial speeches for Cato and other Roman Republican politicians. So too she shows that Cicero's Pro Rege Diotario, heretofore unprecendented in occasion, parallels the cognitiones extra ordinem(private legal hearings) of the Empire -- more evidence, I suppose, that Julius Caesar was indeed the first Emperor.

The third and final section of this collection focuses on rhetoric in literature. Joseph Farrell, in 'Towards a rhetoric of (Roman?) epic' (pp. 131-46) first outlines problems inherent in the common definitions of oral and written, Greek and Latin, epic. He then adduces a new mode for interpreting ancient epic. His interest is not to define 'rhetoric in epic' but the 'rhetoric of epic' -- how rhetoric influences and defines the 'communications protocols' that operate both in epic and other genres (p. 131). Farrell's essay establishes a new theoretical approach for interpreting the epics of classical antiquity, and, as such, fills a long-standing need for a fresh perspective on this genre.

In 'Declamation and contestation in satire' (pp. 147- 65), Susan M. Braund analyses Juvenal's parodies of the standard set exercise found in the rhetorical schools. His parody, for example, of a standard exercise (progymnasma) about the desirability of a man's marrying is embedded in the sixth satire's virulent attack on woman and derives from the rhetorical topic 'dissuasion from marriage (logos apotreptikos gamou)' (p. 154). In 'Melpomene's declamation (rhetoric and tragedy)' (pp. 166-81) Sander Goldberg finds the removal of plays from large public theatres produces profound alteration with Roman tragedy: 'literary drama moved to more intimate (and more aristocratic) confines, whether in smaller roofed halls or private homes, with recitation rather than fully staged performance becoming increasingly common' (p. 169). Thus emerges the value of Senecan tragedy and its lasting influence as a result of the playwright's elevation of language over spectacle. Comedy, likewise, becomes tacitly part of rhetorical theory in Roman antiquity. In 'Inter tribunal et scaenam: comedy and rhetoric in Rome' (pp. 182- 97), Hughes elucidates the Ciceronian term: festivitas. Indeed comedy is part of Cicero's practice: 'The key to Cicero's strategy in this portion of Pro Cluentio is his depiction of Staeius as a character from Roman comedy' (p. 191). Clearly understanding Roman rhetoric is inextricable from the analysis and appreciation of Roman literature.

The final three essays reveal how fully rhetoric pervades all Roman writing. In 'Eros and eloquence: modes of amatory persuasion in Ovid's Ars Amatoria' (pp. 198-211), Peter Toohey outlines three levels of amatory persuasion; the first and third are forms of ethopoeia. The reader or addressee of A.A. becomes attractive through the persuasive skills that he has learned. The poet (however insouciant) likewise becomes persuasive through his expertise evident in the poem. Finally the A.A. as text is persuasive (effective/affective) because of its elegant virtuosity. In 'Persuasive history: Roman rhetoric and historiography' (pp. 212-28), Robert Cape concentrates specifically on Cicero's De Oratore. Therein Cicero's Antonius 'assumes a similarity between the functions of history and epideictic oratory' (p. 219). Similarly Antonius rules out judicial oratory as a model for history and with Cicero's Catulus defines what are appropriate elements of style (those typical of epideictic oratory) for writing history.

In the final essay, 'Substructural elements of architectonic rhetoric and philosophical thought in Fronto's Epistles' (pp. 229-45), Michele Ronnick applies Cicero's compromise between, and use of, rhetoric and philosophy to Fronto's Epistles. She employs McKeon's definition of Ciceronian, architectonic rhetoric as 'the structure of a program of education and culture designed to reunite eloquence and wisdom in action' (p. 234).[[2]] Throughout the Epistles, Fronto constantly reminds Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus about the interconnection between skilled communication and good government. In order to forge a cultural continuity with Republican Rome, Fronto endeavours to create a model soldier-statesman through renewing the integration of rhetoric and philosophy that found its origins in early Rome with the elder Cato. Since the volume's scope is Roman, Ronnick looks for a continuity only within that sphere. Yet when one recalls Peleus's advice (reported by Phoenix) to his son, Achilles, (Iliad 9.443) to be 'a doer of deeds and a speaker of words,' one wonders whether the real continuity Fronto wishes to impart begins with Homer. Since there is already a book in this series on Greek rhetoric perhaps the next one should cover the boundaries and connections between Greek and Roman rhetoric. For now, however, for students of the history of rhetoric or for those scholars exploring theoretical and applied models of rhetorical criticism Roman Eloquence is a 'must' read.


[[1]] G. A. Kennedy, Classical Rhetoric and its Christian and Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times (Chapel Hill 1987) 5.

[[2]] R. McKeon, 'The Uses of Rhetoric in a Technological Age', in M . Backman (ed.), Rhetoric: Essays in Invention and Discovery (Woodbridge 1987) 7.