Wit and Persuasion in Philosophic Courtiership
Cover of Volume 44 (1)
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Roman Political Thought

How to Cite

Wit and Persuasion in Philosophic Courtiership: Satirical Rhetoric in Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis. (2020). The Political Science Reviewer, 44(1), 71-94. https://politicalsciencereviewer.wisc.edu/index.php/psr/article/view/629


Despite voluminous ethical writings, the Senecean corpus consists of only two explicit works of political theory, the Apocolocyntosis and De Clementia, which both take both the form of public addresses and relate directly to Seneca’s role as amicus principis. Thus, both the content and the context of these writings represent unique examples of the different rhetorical strategies applied by the philosophic courtier to fulfil their political intention. This essay explores the satirical rhetoric of Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis, with the intention of examining how the farce and obscenity of the satire demonstrates a distinct form of political persuasion. In presenting the deceased Claudius as a bestial, ignoble figure, the satire seeks to impress upon Nero that a similar abuse of power would deny him the adulation he craved and instead earn him hatred and ridicule. Seneca’s Apocolocyntosis therefore offers an inlet for exploring how political satire can serve as a persuasive hortatory speech in reverse and allows us to judge the effectiveness of  witty rhetoric for inducing political change.

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