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Faculty of Classics


Doctoral research, Memory in Roman Oratory: Theory and Practice

My doctoral thesis is a study of the role of memory in Roman rhetorical theory, pedagogic practice, and oratorical performance, with a particular focus on the forensic oratory of the late Republic. The first half of the thesis draws on evidence from a range of rhetorical and philosophical texts to present a new chronology for the development of the ars memoriae and a reassessment of its utilisation, which shows how the technique was designed to facilitate memorisation of a limited quantity of information, which ensured the orator covered every talking point in what remained a largely improvised performance. The second half of the thesis reappraises memoria as a performative discipline, offering novel insights into how orators utilised their mnemonic skills (natural and artificial) as they tackled the stages of a typical late-republican trial, from preparing to delivering a speech. The study concludes with an investigation of Ciceronian portrayals of superlative mnemonic ability. It explains why Cicero saw fit to attribute superior memoria to a surprisingly large group of individuals, from orators and intellectuals to high-profile statesmen and generals. Cicero’s ‘memory men’ exerted lasting influence on the portrayal of exemplary mnemonic ability, such that memoria became a rare topos of imperial praise.

Other research interests

  • Oratory and rhetoric: theory and practice of oratory and rhetoric in the Roman Republic; changes in oratory under the principate; Roman declamation; the influence of rhetorical ludi on Latin poetry and historiography.
  • Memory in the ancient world: philosophical theories of memory; rhetorical theories of memory; conceptualisations of memoria in Cicero.
  • Modern reception of ancient theories of memory: contemporary mnemonic techniques in education, games, and competition; cognitive science of memory; the use (and abuse) of multidisciplinary Memory Studies in the humanities.
  • The roles of enslaved ‘specialists’ in Rome: in particular, the roles of librarii, notarii, lectores, and nomenclatores.



Before commencing my PhD, I completed my MPhil at Cambridge and Bachelor’s at Warwick.

Department: Classics
Supervisor: Dr Ingo Gildenhard
College: Trinity Hall
Title of Thesis: 'Memory in Roman Oratory: Theory and Practice'
 Joe  Grimwade
Not available for consultancy



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