Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature

By William J. Dominik | Go to book overview

1

Introduction: the Roman

Suada

Gualtiero Calboli and William J. Dominik

Suada appears as early as Ennius in a reference to Marcus Cornelius Cethegus as 'the marrow of Persuasion' (Ann. 308). l The passage is explained by Cicero (Brut. 59):

Πειθώ, the Greek expression, which it is the duty of the orator to effect, Ennius termed 'Suada', the marrow of which he claimed Cethegus was; so that he said our orator was the marrow of that goddess which, Eupolis wrote, forever sat on the lips of Pericles.

This passage demonstrates that Suada (connected with suavis, 'sweet', 'pleasant') is the Roman counterpart of the Greek Peithô (connected with peithein, 'persuade', and pithanos, 'persuasive'). The oldest form of persuasion was the goddess Peitho, who was linked with Aphrodite. There is no mention in Cicero of the sexual element to be found in the original form of Peitho, but it is uncertain whether this is due to the actual absence of such an element, which is more probably the case, or upon Cicero's prudish attitude towards this subject. The story of Phryne, however, is enough to confirm that a sexual element was always present in Peitho's action and could emerge at the first opportunity. 2 When it was apparent that Phryne, a ministrant of Aphrodite, was about to be condemned on a capital charge of impiety, she (or her advocate Hyperides) revealed her breasts so as to invoke the pity of the judges, whereupon they refrained from putting her to death (Ath. 590d-e; Alciphr. 4.4; Quint. Inst. 2.15.9).

Ludwig Voigt draws attention not only to Peitho's connection with Aphrodite but also to the presence of this goddess in poetry and rhetoric. 3 In Aeschylus' Agamemnon Peitho is identified as the daughter of Ate and 'overpowers a man by persuading him that he

-3-

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