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Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome

Gregory S. Aldrete

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Life in Rome was relentlessly public, and oratory was at its heart. Orations were dramatic spectacles in which the speaker deployed an arsenal of rhetorical tricks and strategies aimed at arousing the emotions of the audience, and spectators responded vigorously and vocally with massed chants of praise or condemnation. Unfortunately, many aspects of these performances have been lost. In the first in-depth study of oratorical gestures and crowd acclamations as methods of communication at public spectacles, Gregory Aldrete sets out to recreate these vital missing components and to recapture the\u2026

Life in Rome was relentlessly public, and oratory was at its heart. Orations were dramatic spectacles in which the speaker deployed an arsenal of rhetorical tricks and strategies aimed at arousing the emotions of the audience, and spectators responded vigorously and vocally with massed chants of praise or condemnation. Unfortunately, many aspects of these performances have been lost. In the first in-depth study of oratorical gestures and crowd acclamations as methods of communication at public spectacles, Gregory Aldrete sets out to recreate these vital missing components and to recapture the original context of ancient spectacles as interactive, dramatic, and contentious public performances.

At the most basic level, this work is a study of communication—how Roman speakers communicated with their audiences, and how audiences in turn were able to reply and convey their reactions to the speakers. Aldrete begins by investigating how orators employed an extraordinarily sophisticated system of hand and body gestures in order to enhance the persuasive power of their speeches. He then turns to the target of these orations—the audience—and examines how they responded through the mechanism of acclamations, that is, rhythmically shouted comments.

Aldrete finds much in these ancient spectacles that is relevant to modern questions of political propaganda, manipulation of public image, crowd behavior, and speechmaking. Readers with an interest in rhetoric, urban culture, or communications in any period will find the book informative, as will those working in art history, archaeology, history, and philology.

Reviews

Reviews

Aldrete has mastered his material well, and writes winningly in a straightforward manner... Every student of ancient oratory and mass communication will profit from this book.

This [is a] well-written study of the theory and practice of rhetorical gesture and acclamation in late republican and early imperial Rome... a well-organized presentation.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
5.5
x
8.5
Pages
256
ISBN
9780801877315
Illustration Description
33 b&w illus.
Author Bio
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Gregory S. Aldrete

Gregory S. Aldrete is a professor of humanistic studies and history at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. He is the author of Gestures and Acclamations in Ancient Rome, and Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery also published by Johns Hopkins.
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