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Mass Oratory and Political Power in the Late Roman Republic


  • Date Published: June 2008
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521066785

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About the Authors
  • This book highlights the role played by public, political discourse in shaping the distribution of power between Senate and People in the Late Roman Republic. Against the background of the debate between 'oligarchical' and 'democratic' interpretations of Republican politics, Robert Morstein-Marx emphasizes the perpetual negotiation and reproduction of political power through mass communication. The book analyses the ideology of Republican mass oratory and situates its rhetoric fully within the institutional and historical context of the public meetings (contiones) in which these speeches were heard. Examples of contional orations, drawn chiefly from Cicero and Sallust, are subjected to an analysis that is influenced by contemporary political theory and empirical studies of public opinion and the media, rooted in a detailed examination of key events and institutional structures, and illuminated by a vivid sense of the urban space in which the contio was set.

    • A comprehensive study of mass oratory in the Roman Republic and of the public assemblies in which it was heard
    • Mediates between 'oligarchic' and 'democratic' models of Late Republican politics by emphasizing the role of public oratory in the negotiation of power between mass and elite
    • Provides a theoretically informed analysis of published orations, balanced by close attention to the historical sources and a vivid sense of the urban space in which the phenomenon was located
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'This study makes a serious contribution to the continuing debate on the nature of Roman politics … This is a book for scholars and teachers … there is much valuable information and insight in the book … CUP exhibits its customary impeccable standard of production.' The Journal of Classics Teaching

    Review of the hardback: '… the Companion has its real high points: the best chapters are individual master-classes in working with evidence and concepts.' The Times Literary Supplement

    Review of the hardback: 'Morstein-Marx has written an excellent book, notable for the depth both of its scholarship and of its thought. It should be read not only by all students of the late Republic or of Roman oratory, but also of ancient politics and political theory more generally.' BMCR

    Review of the hardback: '… an excellent study on late Republican politics as well as a work that offers plenty of new and stimulating insights into Roman rhetoric. Not only should specialists of ancient history and classicists in general refer to this book, but it will surely also appeal to anyone interested in the history of rhetoric.' Rhetorical Review

    Review of the hardback: 'After decades of relative neglect the Roman contio has now become the focus of an intense debate about the people's role in Republican politics. This new study by Morstein-Marx represents the fullest and most ambitious treatment of the institution so far. It is a provocative and stimulating work which offers important new insights into the nature of Roman politics. The scholarship is impressive and the analysis often profound.' Journal of Roman Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2008
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521066785
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.48kg
    • contains: 5 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures and maps
    Note on translations
    List of abbreviations
    1. Introduction
    2. Setting the stage
    3. Civic knowledge
    4. The voice of the people
    5. Debate
    6. Contional ideology: the invisible 'optimate'
    7. Contional ideology: the political drama
    8. Conclusion

  • Author

    Robert Morstein-Marx, University of California, Santa Barbara
    Robert Morstein-Marx is Professor of Classics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Hegemony to Empire: The Development of the Roman Imperium in the Greek East, 149-62 B.C. (1995).

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