Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature

By William J. Dominik | Go to book overview

9

Declamation and contestation in satire

Susanna Morton Braund

Have I got to stay on the receiving end forever? Won't I ever get my revenge?…

Juvenal, Satire 1.1

What makes the speaker of Juvenal's opening satire so angry and so intent on revenge is the continual outpouring of poetry that is (he claims) inflicted on him everywhere he goes. The situation is so bad that he has decided to join in. His qualifications (15-18):

I too have felt the master's cane on my hand. I too
have given Sulla advice, to retire into a deep
siesta. No point in sparing paper (it's already doomed to
destruction) when you run into all those 'bards' everywhere.

According to Juvenal's speaker, a training in rhetoric is the sole qualification for be(com)ing a poet. The reference to rhetoric is specifically a reference to the education received by Roman school-boys, an education in which corporal punishment (the 'cane' here) clearly played a part. The final stage of this education was devoted to public speaking, which followed the Greek system on which it was modelled in dividing public speaking into three types of oratory: judicial, deliberative and epideictic. Judicial oratory, also called forensic oratory (because the Roman law-courts met in the forum), consisted of speeches of prosecution and defence in cases being heard in the courts. Deliberative oratory involved making speeches advising or urging or rejecting a proposed course of action in the Senate, for example, or any other body making such decisions. And epideictic (Greek: 'display') oratory consisted chiefly of speeches of praise (also called panegyrical and encomiastic speeches) about a god or an individual or a city or about a public building such as a temple.

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