Abstract: A major focus of the school themes in the collections of Roman declamations knowrn as controversiae (practice court cases) is the period of a young man's adolescence, and especially his relationship with his father during this period. In part this can be explained because teachers in the private schools of rhetoric selected themes that naturally appealed to their students——male adolescents in their mid and late teens. This focus is especially notable in the Major Declamations, and since they are the only full examples of controversiae, the phenomenon can most easily be explored in reference to this werk. In its nineteen declamations youths are generally portrayed sympathetically, in contrast to their fathers who are often cruel and harsh. Relations between the two are generally very strained. The themes were popular because they reflected the reality of growing up in a paternally dominated society where fathers had absolute power (even of life and death) over their sons. These declamations therefore had a cathartic effect and escapist value fer Roman teenaged boys, who could vent or explore in legitimate and acceptable ways their repressed, pent-up, and often hostile feelings toward their fathers. The declamations therefore provide an important resource, when used judiciously, for associating social history with the history of rhetoric.
- Copyright 1995, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric