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Seneca the Elder compiled a study of the classic themes in his ten volumes of Controversiæ.

A controversia is an exercise in rhetoric; a form of declamation in which the student speaks for one side in a notional legal case such as treason or poisoning. The facts of the matter and relevant law are presented in a persuasive manner, in the style of a legal counsel.[1]


The exercise was used in ancient Rome, where it was, with the suasoria, the final stage of a course in rhetoric at an academy.[2] Seneca the Elder was an expert rhetorician and, from memory, compiled a set of classical themes for this exercise: the Controversiæ.[3]


  1. ^ Heinrich Lausberg, translated by David E. Orton (1998), Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, BRILL, pp. 500–501, ISBN 9789004107052 
  2. ^ Susanna Morton Braund (1997). "Declamation and contestation in satire". Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature. Routledge. p. 148. ISBN 9780415125444. 
  3. ^ The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome 1, Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 276, ISBN 9780195170726