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Joe Grimwade

Joe Grimwade

Department: Classics

Supervisor: Dr Ingo Gildenhard

College: Trinity Hall

Title of Thesis: Memory in Roman Oratory: Theory and Practice


My PhD 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 enabled speakers to improvise fluently on the topics of a given speech. 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 moved through 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.

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

Other research interests

  • Oratory and rhetoric: changes in oratory under the principate; Roman declamation; the influence of rhetorical ludi on Latin poetry and historiography.
  • Modern receptions 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.

RSS Feed Latest news

Publication of the Cambridge Greek Lexicon

Mar 31, 2021

The much-anticipated Cambridge Greek Lexicon will be published by Cambridge University Press (CUP) on 8th April 2021.

Professor Paul Cartledge receives one of Greece’s highest honours

Mar 30, 2021

Professor Paul Cartledge, Emeritus A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, received the Commander of the Order of Honour (Ταξιάρχης τῆς Τιμῆς), for his 'contribution to enhancing Greece's stature abroad'.

Teaching Classics in the time of Covid-19

Mar 02, 2021

Dr Renaud Gagné, Director of Undergraduate Studies, discusses the on-going challenges and adaptations made by the Faculty as the Covid-19 crisis continues and Lent term began under a renewed lockdown.

Research in Lockdown: fieldwork postponed

Mar 01, 2021

Rachel Phillips describes some of the challenges faced during the pandemic by doctoral students engaged in full time research.

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