Greek and Roman Rhetoric’s in 18th Century French Memoires and Factums: Plus ratio quam vis?

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference contribution (without a publication)Academic


French lawyers’ Memoires and Factums, as published in the 17th and 18th century, have a remarkable introductory paragraph, which deviates in language from the formal legal content of the rest of these documents. For a moment, a Roman orator seems to speak to the reader, albeit only in this first paragraph, then the facts and legal arguments are summoned up in the Factum, court documents written by a lawyer that are later called Memoires.

Plus ratio quam vis? It can be argued that in a pleading the legal arguments belong to the field of 'ratio'. A discourse in which terms of power, equations from outside the legal framework, and irrelevant emotions play a role, could be considered to belong to the field of the orator, possibly the field of 'vis'. What can be said about the language used in this first paragraph and its purpose? The use of overstatement and other rhetorical devices can be traced back to Greek and Roman orators.

First, let us give a brief overview of some of these introductory paragraphs of the Memoires and Factums, in order to find out how they are used by French lawyers in the 18th century. Finally, an answer will be given if these emotional introductory paragraphs were approved or rejected by fellow legal practitioners.
Period14 Sept 2018
Event title72nd Session of the Société Internationale Fernand de Visscher pour l’Histoire des Droits de l’Antiquité (SIHDA) Plus ratio quam vis
Event typeConference
LocationKrakow, PolandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational