The Rhetoric of Western Thought

21 Apr

Training Exercises for Students


Advanced rhetorical education involved a rich variety of skills, perhaps the most distinctive of which was declamation.  The instructor would present a case similar to those debated in the Roman Forum and the students would argue its merits as closely as possible to reality.  If we were to walk into a Roman classroom where rhetoric was being taught we might hear a debate on the following typical themes:

1. A certain commander being surrounded by the enemy and unable to escape, came to an agreement with them, by which he was to withdraw his men, leaving behind their arms and equipment.  This was done, and so his men were saved from a hopeless situation with the loss of arms and equipment.  The commander was accused of high treason . . .  .

2. The law forbids the sacrifice of a bull calf to Diana.  Some sailors caught by a storm on the high seas vowed if they reached a harbour which was in sight they would sacrifice a bull calf to the diety of the place.  It so happened that at the harbour there was a temple of Diana, the very goddess to whom a bull calf might not be sacrificed.  Ignorant of the law, they made their sacrifice on reaching shore and were brought to trial . . . .*

Cited in Clarke,  Rhetoric on Rome p. 18

Eds: J.L. Golden, G.F. Berquist, W.E. Coleman J. M. Sproule;  The Rhetoric of Western Thought   From  the Mediterranean World to the Global Setting Eighth Ed. (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company Dubuque Iowa  ©1976- 2004) p. 84

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