Authority as ‘Resultant Voice’: Towards a Stylistic and Musical Anthropology of Effective Speech in Archaic Rome

In: Greek and Roman Musical Studies
Maurizio Bettini Centro Antropologia e Mondo Antico, Università di Siena Via Roma 56, 53100 Siena Italy

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Analysis of a large number of texts from the archaic period of Roman culture shows that the authoritative character of a solemn utterance (a prophecy, the formula uttered by a praetor, a religious praefatio) was based principally on specific sound patterns. From these utterances’ use of parallelisms, phonic echoes and syllabic repetitions there emerged a sort of ‘resultant voice’, which made their exceptional character immediately apparent. From the perspective of their intended hearers, the sound-construction of these pronouncements had the capacity to arouse what the Romans called delectatio: that is, the disposition to believe in the truth and validity of what they were hearing. That the Romans included all these acoustic phenomena within a single perceptual domain is demonstrated by the fact that music, too, had the power to produce delectatio—and by the fact that the verb cano and its derivatives refer as much to musical as to poetic expression.

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