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Subproject 9: The Twisted Transfer in Ancient Trial Speeches - Prof. Dr. Filippo Carlà-Uhink

The subproject “The Twisted Transfer in Ancient Trial Speeches” investigates how discourses about “twisted transfers” and their ambiguous connections have been developed and deployed in a very specific context: that of ancient courts and trials. As trial speeches, both by the prosecution and by the defence, have the aim of convincing their public, they generally deploy a series of rhetorical arguments which interplay with shared norms and values and with normative identities, to show that the person represented by the speech conforms to these, while their opponents do not. The transactions of the opponents are, accordingly, presented as “twisted”, in contrast to those of the represented person, who appears rather as a victim of such twisted transfers: this is a typical strategy to attract sympathy. This means that references to “twisted transfers”, that extend from bribes to theft, from the abuses of tutors to selling what should be inalienable (as one’s own body) are not only to be found in speeches composed for trials directly related to crimes as bribery or embezzlement, but are scattered much more broadly throughout the corpus of judicial oratory known to us.

Accordingly to the general theme and methodology of the project, object of the investigation will be all forms of transfers and their twisting, as well as the construction of a normative idea of how a “correct transfer” would look like, to investigate their structural affinity – case studies and examples range for instance from Lysias’ speech Against the Grain Dealers to Hyperides’ In Defence of Euxenippus, from Cicero’s Verrine Orations to his Defence of Caelius. The project will indeed analyse trial speeches from Classical Athens to Imperial Rome, working on all extant trial speeches (including fragments), and on manuals of rhetorics. The comparison between Greece and Rome will also allow to identify better the rhetorical elements and topoi which might have been implemented in Roman rhetorics following the model of Greek texts, particularly from Attic oratory, but also to highlight the differences between the Athenian and the Roman political, cultural and social systems.