The Role of Roman Military Leader's Eloquence in the Ideology and Practice of Roman Military Leadership

Makhlayuk Alexander V.

The article is devoted to various aspects of Roman military rhetoric. The role of eloquence in military leader's activities is considered in a context of social and cultural traditions and values of the Roman civilization. This role is also analyzed in connection with the tasks and circum- stances of delivering a speech addressed to the army as well as with the complex of ideological characteristics of an ideal military leader. The author opposes the opinion that the speeches ad- dressed by the leaders to the warriors before battles (adhortationes, парак^оек;) are no more than a literary device used by ancient writers; he argues that these speeches, as well as the lead- er's speeches at military meetings (contiones, adlocutiones), were an important aspect of their office (activities). While realizing the literary tasks of the greatest part of military leaders' speeches in ancient writers' accounts, one has to acknowledge that both these author's attention to the verbal aspect of military leadership and numerous cases of a direct appraisal or specific details imply a great practical importance of the leaders' eloquence for the Roman army. The inevitably short exhortative speeches before the battle were expected not to demonstrate the leader's rhetoric skills, but to underline his personal presence at the battle, the emotional, personable and individualized character of his allocution to different military units. As for the speeches at military meetings, they demanded greater skill and variety of rhetorical means, be- cause they were aimed at a grater scale of tasks depending on the multiple important functions of contio militaris in the Roman army and political life. Unlike hortationes (monologues by their very nature) these speeches could acquire a character of a dialogue between military lead- ership and soldiers who would give an active response and set forth their own demands. For a Roman military leader it was important to be able not only to give orders, but also to persuade, to inspire and to admonish his subordinates, to know and to form their minds. Neither on the battlefield, nor at the moments of political crises and military revolts could legionaries be sim- ply ordered, for they never ceased to be citizens, and military meeting (whose central moment was the military leader's speech) would often become a sort of comitia or contiones and took immediate decisions considering the power in the state. The character of the audience consisting of soldiers, specific functions of military leader's speeches and the circumstances of their deliv- ering determined stylistic qualities of military leaders' speeches, often mentioned in the sources. The literary discourse and the genre specifics of ancient historiography, the ideologically relevant elements of the figure of Roman military leader and the real practice of military com- mandment in ancient Rome had one thing in common: a deeply rooted conviction of an an- cient man that orator's word is one the most important factors of the human conduct. Power and authority enjoyed by a military leader depended, therefore, not only on his military vir- tues and personal charisma, not only on his legal competence and on the military discipline, but also on the impact of his eloquence, which helped him to influence the soldiers and to es- tablish the specific mode of relations with the mass of soldiers.