That Tyrant, Persuasion
How Rhetoric Shaped the Roman World
J. E. Lendon
How rhetorical training influenced deeds as well as words in the Roman Empire
The assassins of Julius Caesar cried out that they had killed a tyrant, and days later their colleagues in the Senate proposed rewards for this act of tyrannicide. The killers and their supporters spoke as if they were following a well-known script. They were. Their education was chiefly in rhetoric and as boys they would all have heard and given speeches on a ubiquitous set of themes—including one asserting that “he who kills a tyrant shall receive a reward from the city.” In That Tyrant, Persuasion, J. E. Lendon explores how rhetorical education in the Roman world influenced not only the words of literature but also momentous deeds: the killing of Julius Caesar, what civic buildings and monuments were built, what laws were made, and, ultimately, how the empire itself should be run.
Presenting a new account of Roman rhetorical education and its surprising practical consequences, That Tyrant, Persuasion shows how rhetoric created a grandiose imaginary world for the Roman ruling elite—and how they struggled to force the real world to conform to it. Without rhetorical education, the Roman world would have been unimaginably different.