Ceremonial and religious functions of Roman epideictic genres
Maceio, Lauer Ilon
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This dissertation describes and analyzes the cultural, historical, and religious context surrounding three Roman epideictic texts in an effort to make broader theoretical arguments about Roman rhetoric. Each of the three case studies concentrate upon a distinctly Roman form of discourse and this dissertation argues that the ceremonial and ritual traditions attendant to these genres reflect the unique cultural salience of these texts and reveal the ways in which Roman epideictic developed independently of the Greek tradition. An initial overview of classical rhetorical theory reveals that scholarly treatments of epideictic rhetoric tend to emphasize the role played by Greek epideictic texts and typically dismiss or ignore the Roman epideictic tradition. More importantly, when studies of Roman epideictic forms are undertaken, they most often assume that the Roman forms derived the bulk of their topical, structural, and stylistic elements from earlier Greek antecedents. In fact, a full appreciation for the Roman texts requires a consideration of their own political and cultural context. The first case study investigates an early Contio of Cicero and argues that the Contio’s religious principles enabled the primarily deliberative speech form to assume an epideictic form. The second case study analyzes Augustus’ monumental Res Gestae and argues that this text marked a shift in the discursive conduct of Rome following the institution of the Principate. This shift was accompanied by a stronger emphasis on the spaces and rituals that amplified the message of the rhetor. The final study considers a Post-Augustan epideictic speech, Pliny’s Actio Gratiarum, and argues that this text reveals both the attendant ceremonial conduct of discourse during the second Century (C.E.), revealing the new relationship between rhetoric and the sociopolitical planning as well as the general themes of guiding the design of public space. A concluding chapter argues that scholarship should place greater emphasis upon Roman epideictic texts and makes some preliminary arguments concerning the applicability of such an emphasis on the contemporary study of public discourse.