Stock Characters Speaking

Eight Libanian Declamations Introduced and Translated
Robert J. Penella
A translation of eight declamations written by or ascribed to Libanius, fourth-century CE sophist of Antioch


Declamations were composed and orally delivered in the Roman Empire by sophists, or teachers of rhetoric, of whom the Greek-speaking Libanius was one of the most distinguished. Stock Characters Speaking may be thought of as emerging from three developments of recent decades: an explosive interest in late antiquity, a newly sympathetic interest in rhetoric (including ancient declamation), and a desire to bring Libanius’s massive corpus into English and other modern languages.

In this book, author Robert J. Penella translates eight of Libanius’s declamations: 29, 30, 34, 35, 37, 45, 46, 47, and, in an appendix, the thirteenth-century Gregory of Cyprus’s response to Declamation 34. Each translation is accompanied by an introduction, in which Penella examines the themes, structure, and the stasis, or key issue, of the declamations. Figures who appear in the translated declamations include a parasite who has lost his patron, a man envious of his rich neighbor, a miser’s son, a poor man willing to die for his city, a rich war-hero accused of aiming at tyranny, and a convict asking for exile. Three of these declamations have appeared in German; otherwise, these translations are the first into a modern language.
Robert J. Penella is Emeritus Professor of Classics, Fordham University.

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  • 168 pages.
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  • 2023
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  • 978-0-472-22094-6

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  • Libanius; declamation; stock characters; parasite; envy; miser; Asclepius; disowning of a son; self-denunciation; tyranny; exile; pirates; brotherly love; parts of the oration; antitheseis; stasis theory; issue theory; protheoria; Gregory of Cyprus