This paper studies examples of how exponents of Roman declamation could insert into arguments on the trivial, even fantastic, cases known as controuersiae statements of striking relevance to the political culture of the triumviral and early imperial period. This is particularly apparent in the Controuersiae of Seneca the Elder but some traces remain in the Minor Declamations attributed to Quintilian. The boundaries separating Rome itself from the declamatory city referred to by modern scholars as Sophistopolis are significantly blurred even in those instances where the exercise does not turn on a specific event from Roman history, and there is much to be gained from how the declaimers deploy Roman historical examples. Some of the most sophisticated instances of mediated political comment exploit the employment of universalizing sententiae, which have considerable bite when they are related to contemporary Roman discourse and experience. The declamation schools are a forum for thinking through the implications of the transformation of the Roman state and deserve a place within any history of Roman political thought.

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