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The Latin poet Ovid enjoyed his suasoria.

Suasoria is an exercise in rhetoric; a form of declamation in which the student makes a speech which is the soliloquy of an historical figure debating how to proceed at a critical junction in their life.[1] As an academic exercise, the speech is delivered as if in court against an adversary and was based on the Roman rhetorical doctrine and practice.[2] The ancient Roman orator Quintilian said that suasoria may call upon a student to address an individual or groups such as the Senate, the citizens of Rome, Greeks or barbarians.[3] The role-playing exercise developed the student's imagination as well as their logical and rhetorical skills.[3]


The formal introduction of suasoria as a school form is unknown.[4] One of the earliest forms of this exercise, however, involved Cicero's practice of philosophical theses, which were addressed to the self.[4] The exercise became prevalent in ancient Rome, where it was, with the controversia, the final stage of a course in rhetoric at an academy. One famous instance was recalled by Juvenal in the first of his Satires:[5]

Here Juvenal recalls his speech advising the dictator Sulla to retire. Another Roman poet who recalled enjoying his suasoria was Ovid.[6]

Surviving examples[edit]

A book of suasoriae survive from antiquity, recorded in Suasoria by Seneca the Elder.[7] He writes responses and analysis of responses on seven suasoriae:

  1. Alexander debates whether to sail the ocean,[8]
  2. The three hundred Spartans sent against Xerxes deliberate whether they too should retreat following the flight of the contingents of three hundred sent from all over Greece,[9]
  3. Agamemnon deliberates whether to sacrifice Iphigenia for Calcas says otherwise sailing is impermissible,[10]
  4. Alexander the Great warned of danger by an augur deliberates whether to enter Babylon,[11]
  5. Xerxes has threatened to return unless the trophies of the Persian War are removed: the Athenians deliberate whether to do so,[12]
  6. Cicero deliberates whether to beg Antony’s pardon,[13] and
  7. Antony promises to spare Cicero's life if he burns his writings: Cicero deliberates whether to do so.[14]


  1. ^ Bloomer, W. Martin (2010), "Roman Declamation: The Elder Seneca and Quintilian", A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, John Wiley & Sons, pp. 301–302, ISBN 9781444334159
  2. ^ Evans, Ernest (2016). Tertullian's Treatise on the Incarnation: The Text Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers. p. x. ISBN 9781498297677.
  3. ^ a b Mendelson, M. (2013-06-29). Many Sides: A Protagorean Approach to the Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Argument. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 258. ISBN 9789401598903.
  4. ^ a b Dominik, William; Hall, Jon (2010). A Companion to Roman Rhetoric. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell. p. 302. ISBN 9781405120913.
  5. ^ Susanna Morton Braund (1997), "Declamation and contestation in satire", Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature, Routledge, p. 147, ISBN 9780415125444
  6. ^ "Education (Roman)", Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, 9, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1912, p. 212
  7. ^ Gowing, Alain M. (2005-08-11). Empire and Memory. Cambridge University Press. pp. 44–45. doi:10.1017/cbo9780511610592. ISBN 978-0-521-83622-7.
  8. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 485. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  9. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 507. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  10. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 535. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  11. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 545. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  12. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 551. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  13. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 561. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.
  14. ^ Seneca the Elder (1974). Suasoriae. 464. Harvard University Press. p. 595. doi:10.4159/DLCL.seneca_elder-suasoriae.1974.