Presenter: John Hajek (Mid-candidature review)

Declamation was a form of practice rhetoric in which a speaker argued on either side of a set theme about a historical dilemma or quasi-legal conflict. In addition to its central role in the higher tiers of rhetorical education, declamation was widely enjoyed by gatherings of educated adults as a form of entertainment and social gathering. Recent trends in scholarship have established that declamation served a further purpose, as a medium through which elite participants could express consensus, access and define a shared culture and identity, and engage in active negotiation, and constant re-negotiation, of anxieties and challenges that ordinary social discourses were ill-equipped to handle. In this seminar, I will examine some of the discourses on power and authority in Roman declamation, particularly those surrounding the topos of the tyrant. Themes involving the praemium – an open-ended reward, or ‘wish’, granted to tyrannicides and war heroes in declamatory law – allow for a more nuanced analysis of these discourses, as they involve the juxtaposition of conventionally idealised character archetypes with an individual’s acquisition of unfettered power, although only for a single act. This discussion contributes to a greater understanding of how the Roman elite related to the concept of tyranny and, more broadly, how they justified the use of power, and what moral limits they placed on its use.

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( for the link.
  • Upcoming seminars can be found here.
  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones ( by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at