Search: Writing (Spring 2019)

Guidelines and Objectives for the Writing Assignments


Developing the ability to articulate ideas persuasively and clearly in written form is one of the main objectives of this course. Humanities 102 incorporates an intensive writing component, which fulfills one of the three F2 requirements. In compliance with the guidelines for writing intensive courses, you will complete three writing assignments this semester. Each will take the form of a suāsōria, one of the basic elements of Roman rhetorical training (dēclāmātio), which the Romans modeled on the Greek system. Students of rhetoric composed speeches on topics generally pertaining to historical figures or events and proposed courses of action. Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the father of the Lucius Annaeus Seneca, whose work we will read during the semester, authored a collection of suāsōriae. One of the books has survived and contains some of the topics students of his day considered along with sample responses illustrating contrasting perspectives, his commentary on the examples, and notes about the authors. Topics represented in his compilation include, “Deliberat Agamemnon an Iphigenia immolate negate Calchante alter navigare fas esse” (“Agamemnon deliberates whether he should sacrifice Iphigenia as a consequence of Chalchas’ asserting that to sail otherwise would be contrary to divine sanction”) and “Trecenti Lacones contra Xerxen missi, cum treceni ex omni Graecia missi fugissent, deliberant an et ipsi fugiant” (“Three hundred Spartans sent against Xerxes deliberate whether they, too, should retreat when groups of three hundred sent from all over Greece had retreated”). We will develop the topics for the first two suasoriae as a group, and you will individually come up with a topic for the final suasoria.

Each suasoria will be at least 1,500 words in length and must conform to the principles outlined below. In compliance with the requirement of an F2i course, members of the class will revise one of their two suasoriae. As noted in “Information (Spring 2017), each of the assignments will account for twelve percent (12%) of the final grade, and the revision, for another six percent (6%). For the first two suasoriae, you will serve as an editor for another member of the class. Your work in this role will account for eight percent (8%) of your final grade. In short, your work on these three suasoriae will account for half of your grade for the semester.


We will develop the topics for the first two suasoriae as a group, and you will individually come up with a topic for the final suasoria. Each suasoria consists of five elements:

1. A statement outlining the course of action. As noted above, one of the topics Roman students of rhetoric considered was “Agamemnon deliberates whether he should sacrifice Iphigenia as a consequence of Chalchas’ asserting that to sail otherwise would be contrary to divine sanction.” If this were the topic of your assignment, you would begin your suasoria with the simple statement: “Agamemnon should sacrifice Iphigenia” or “Agamemnon should not sacrifice Iphigenia” and then outline the reasons for your decision. For the sake of this description, imagine that you are arguing that Agamemnon should sacrifice his daughter and have chosen to cite three reasons: (1) it is impossible for human beings to avoid the dictates of the gods; (2) it is impossible for one person regardless of his strength to oppose the will of an entire army; (3) it is unjust for the leader of an army to expect and demand of other families that they sacrifice their children and be unwilling to sacrifice his own.
2. First supporting example. You will need to support your first reason, “it is impossible for human beings to avoid the dictates of the gods,” by citing an example that illustrates that principle. Any example of the futility of a human being’s refusing to comply with the dictates of a god will support your assertion, but the closer the example is to the situation of the topic the more persuasive your example will be. You might cite the experience of Helen, who balks at Aphrodite’s demand that she attend to Alexandros after his duel with Menelaus. Helen speaks out:

Mad one; why do you so desire to seduce me in this way?
Will you drive me to some further place among well-settled cities,
to Phrygia or lovely Maeonia?
Perhaps there too is some mortal man beloved by you—
since now Menelaos has vanquished godlike Alexandros
and desires that I, loathsome as I am, be taken home.
Is it for this reason you stand here now conniving?
Go, sit yourself beside him, renounce the haunts of the gods,
never turn your feet to Olympus,
but suffer for him and tend him forever,
until he makes you either his wife, or his girl slave.
As for me, I will not go there— it would be shameful—
to share the bed of that man. The Trojan women
will all blame me afterward; the sufferings I have in my heart are without end (Iliad 3.399-412)

Helen then faces Aphrodite’s ultimatum: “Do not provoke me, wicked girl, lest I drop you in anger, / and hate you as much as I now terribly love you, / and devise painful hostilities, and you are caught in the middle of both, / Trojans and Danaans, and are destroyed by an evil fate” (414-417). You might also cite the appearance of the Castor and Polydeuces to Theoclymenus at the end of Euripides’ Helen, where they admit that they, too, are subject to the demands of other gods of greater stature:

Lord of this land, Theoclymenus, restrain the rage
that carries you off your true course. We are the twins
called Dioscuri, sons of Zeus, whom Leda once
gave birth to, with that Helen who has fled your house.
That marriage over which you rage was not to be,
nor has the daughter of the divine Nereid done
you wrong, Theonoë your sister, but she kept
the righteous orders of her father and the gods.
It had always been ordained that for the present time
Helen was to be a dweller in your house. But when
Troy was uptorn from its foundations, and she lent
the gods her name for it, this was no more to be,
for now she must be once more married with her own,
and go home, and live with her husband. Therefore, hold
your hand, nor darken your sword with a sister’s blood.
Believe it was in thoughtful care that she did this.
We would have saved our sister long ago, since Zeus
had made us into gods and we had power, except
that we were weaker still than destiny, and less
than the other gods, whose will was that these things should be (1642-1661).

3. Second supporting example. You will need to support your second assertion, “it is impossible for one person regardless of his strength to oppose the will of an entire army” with an appropriate example, which need not necessarily come from another unrelated set of narratives. The story of Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia appears in several ancient sources including Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis. In the latter, Achilles attempts to defend Iphigenia but fails. Here he reports to Clytemnestra:

Woman of misery and misfortune,
Leda’s daughter. . .

Yes, you have said what is true.
I am she.

. . . the Argives are shouting
a thing of terror . . .

What are they shouting?
Tell me!

. . . about your daughter. . .

Oh, these words
Of ill omen!

. . . that she must be slaughtered
in sacrifice.

And was there no one
on the other side to argue against them?

Yes, I spoke to the yelling crowd and so
was in danger. . .

In danger of what?

. . . of death by stoning.

Oh—because you
tried to save my child?

Yes, for that.

But who would have dared to lay a hand on you?

Every Greek soldier.

But your own legion
of Myrmidons, they were there at your side?

And the first to threaten my death (1345-1353, translation by Walker).

Rather than quoting the lines of the play at length, you should briefly describe the context of dialogue between Achilles and Clytemnestra and note that not even Achilles could oppose his own forces, who were the first to threaten Achilles with death if he were to try protecting Iphigenia, incorporating, perhaps, a short quote from the play into your argument.
4. Third supporting example. In support of your third assertion, “it is unjust for the leader of an army to expect and demand of other families that they sacrifice their children and be unwilling to sacrifice his own” you will have to cite another example. The first first two examples came from ancient sources, but you can range more widely for support. You could, to cite just one modern situation, refer to the sons of Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, all of whom served in the military during World War II. In The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, Ward and Burns quote Eleanor Roosevelt, who relates her impressions on the night of her husband’s election in 1940: “This is the first time a President has been [elected] for a third term. I looked at my children, at the President’s mother, and then at the President himself, and wondered what each one was feeling down in [their] heart of hearts. I feel that any citizen should be willing to give all that he has to give to his country in work or sacrifice in times of crisis” (5275-5278, Kindle edition). Writing about events immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the FRD’s signing the declaration of war, Ward and Burns write: “All four of FDR’s sons had volunteered. So did all three of Theodore Roosevelt’s surviving sons. Six of TR’s grandsons, who were old enough to serve, signed on, as well. ‘It seems to me,’ Archie Roosevelt wrote FDR, ‘that regardless of the bitterness that many people feel toward the “Hyde Park” Roosevelts or the “Oyster Bay” Roosevelts, they have to admit that the whole clan has turned out to a man.… It is [something] in which I think we can take a certain amount of pride’” (5548-5552, Kindle edition). None of FDR’s sons died in the war, but FDR’s fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., TR’s oldest son personally led the 8th Infantry Regiment and 70th Tank Battalion of the U. S. Army’s 4th Infantry as brigadier general on D-Day at Utah Beach, and then died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944, in Méautis, France, receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions on D-Day (6103 Kindle edition).
5. Counterargument. In the final section of your suasoria you must provide one substantial counterargument. This should take the form of a cautionary observation and acknowledge that proposed courses of action do not always turn out as anticipated. A model for this type of counterargument appears in Herodotus’ Histories 7.10 where Artabanus cautions Xerxes about launching an expedition against the Athenians. With regard to the current topic of discussion, you might argue that Chalchas may have been acting in collaboration with other Greek chieftains, who doubted Agamemnon’s commitment to the expedition, not at the behest of Artemis. It that were the case, the sacrifice of a human being to a god would represent the type of sacrilege that may, in fact, compromise the success of the Greeks’ expedition. You might also cite as a counterargument that Agamemnon had sufficient stature and support within the Greek forces to reject Chalchas’ claims and still lead the forces to Troy once the winds shifted.

Each response will be at least 1,500 words in length, and you will submit your suasoriae electronically, using a form available on this website. You should, however, keep electronic copies of your work for their own reference and in case problems arise in the process of posting the assignments to the website. At the end of the semester, you should also download copies of your suasoriae and archive them at least for the duration of your undergraduate experience. These documents will constitute part of a writing portfolio, which will allow you to see the growth of your writing skills during your first year at Rhodes and beyond and will make it possible for you to reflect upon avenues for further developing your abilities. From one semester to the next in the Search sequence, the portfolio may also play a role in assignments that call for students to revise or expand upon previous work, help other faculty members become familiar with the students’ academic background and training, and provide important documentation for academic competitions and recognitions.

Due Dates, Forms, and Late Penalties:

First suasoria: due Sunday, February 10 by 11:59 pm
Second suasoria: due Sunday, March 17 at 11:59 pm
Revised first or second suasoria: due Sunday, April 7 at 11:59 pm
Third suasoria: due Sunday, April 28 at 11:59 pm

For every twenty-four-hour period the suasoria is late, I will subtract five points from a possible 100.


Although the suasoriae may differ from the writing assignments in other sections of Humanities 102 or other courses, the principles of successful academic writing still apply. Over the course of the semester, we will discuss and examine how the characteristics of academic writing differ from those of other genres. Above all, your suasoriae should demonstrate that you have carefully and meaningfully engaged with the texts and thought clearly about the main points, drawn careful and relevant parallels and distinctions among the readings, foreseen plausible consequences of the ideas both within the historical contexts of the readings and for your own life and circumstances, and given proper credit to the ideas and perspectives of others where it is due.

I will evaluate the writing assignments with specific attention to the mechanics of writing (for example, grammar, spelling, and conformity with stylistic guidelines as outlined below), the accuracy and quality of the insights, and the strength of argumentation (that is, the selection and presentation of the examples you marshal in support of your perspectives). For additional guidance, you should consult A Guide to Effective Paper Writing. All writing assignments fall under the provisions of the Rhodes College Honor Code.


Planning ahead. DO NOT put off work on a writing assignments until the night before it is due. Allow time for revising your initial drafts more than once.
Revisions. Revising is not simply a matter of correcting spelling. It is the process of improving the writing, making it more clear and concise.
Editorial support. ALWAYS proofread and edit your essay carefully before posting it and DO NOT rely solely on applications that check your grammar and spelling. You should routinely read your suasoriae aloud to one or more of your fellow students and ask them for specific suggestions on how to make them better. You should also volunteer to do the same for others.
Archiving one’s work. As noted above, you should keep a copy of your writing assignments as originally submitted. I suggest that you keep both a hard copy and more than one digital copy on more than one storage devise.
Help. You should avail yourselves of the support offered by the Writing Center. They should read and following the advice in A Guide to Effective Paper Writing and regularly consult following reference works:

The Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style
The New Oxford American Dictionary
Chicago Manual of Style

Mechanics and Style

All essay should conform to the standards of effective academic prose, which

1. Uses proper grammar and sentence structure
2. Avoids summaries of content and long quotations
3. NEVER indulges in sweeping generalizations (e.g. “throughout history,” “since the dawn of time,” “as humans have always wondered,” “As I have always believed”) and vague abstractions (e.g. “ancient peoples,” “religious people,” “the Church,” “in ancient times”)
4. Almost NEVER uses the passive voice (“it is thought,” “it was decided,” “the people were struck by”). Active verbs express meaning more emphatically and more precisely: “Aeneas deliberated,” “Seneca wrote,” “Augustine decided,”
5. Avoids jargon, wordiness, and unnecessary repetition
6. Seldom if ever uses adjectives and adverbs that introduce one’s unsupported subjective judgments (“this excellent passage,” “a good example of this idea,” “Turnus vehemently argued for his claim to beautiful Lavinia’s hand in marriage.”)
7. Does not use the second person (“You can see an example of this concept in Aeneas’s trip to the underworld.”)
8. Uses inclusive language. In conformity with the policy of official Rhodes publications and accepted professional practice authors should avoid variants of the term “man” (including “men,” “mankind,” “family of man,” “brotherhood,” and compounds such as “chairman,” “clergyman,” etc.) as generic identifiers, using instead inclusive terms (e.g. “human beings,” “humanity,” “humankind,” “people,” “minister,” etc.) to designate both individuals and groups. Note: Direct quotations should reproduce the quoted text, inclusive or not, exactly as in the original.


Citing one’s sources is an absolute necessity for good writing and a matter of intellectual honesty. Proper citation involves two considerations: when and how to cite.

Writers must always acknowledge their debts to the authors of the words or ideas they have used. Thorough and precise acknowledgement of any such debt is required by the Honor Code, and failure to do so is a form of plagiarism. For further guidance, see A Guide to Effective Paper Writing, Section II, Intellectual Honesty.

Citations should allow the reader to trace the sources of your thoughts and the connections between your evidence and observations. Proper citation, therefore, directs the reader as precisely as possible to the sources. The specific information in the citation may vary from work to work. For most cases, the citation will be to the author, work, and a number that identifies the location in that work, such as a line number, the number of a book and chapter, or the number of a chapter and a verse. The different structures and divisions of these works typically reflect the means of transmission and publication. For example, the citations to the works of Plato (e.g., Phaedrus 231c) use a numbering system based on the three-volume 1578 edition of Plato’s works by Henricius Stephanus (Henri Estienne). The Stephanus editions of Plato featured two columns of text. Estienne set the Greek text in the inner column, i.e., the column next to the gutter of the book, and the Latin translation by Jean de Serres in the outer column. He also divided the Greek text into sections, which he labeled with the Roman letters A through E in the alley, i.e., the space between the columns. Here is an image of the first page of Euthypho (click on the image to see it in higher resolution):


Using the Stephanus numeration ensures that readers can refer to the appropriate passage in the primary text regardless of the edition or translation of Plato they happen to use including more recent electronic versions. The same principle applies to the works of Aristotle. Irwin’s translation of the Nicomachaean Ethics includes numbers that refer to the edition of Aristotle’s work published by the Prussian Academy of Sciences from 1831 to 1870. The editor of that edition was August Immanuel Bekker. His edition displayed the Greek text in two columns, a and b. So Nicomachean Ethics 1105b1 refers to the first line of the second column on page 1105 of the Bekker edition. Here is a page from that edition (click on the image to see it in higher resolution):


In all cases, however, the citation must relate to the information in the bibliography for the course. For example, the abbreviated reference in the citation (Herodotus, Histories 1.127) requires that the entry for this work in the list of references begin with “Herodotus.” Most entries will consist of the following items:

The name of the author, last name first (if known)
The name of the work
The name of the translator or editor
The city where the work was published (followed by a colon), the publisher (followed by a comma), and the year of publication

Below are examples of parenthetical documentation, the type of citation we will use in the writing assignments for this course. Examples include different manners of referring to a text (short quotation, offset quotations, paraphrase) and the proper way to format and punctuate each. The suasoria should not include a list of sources but rather link the citations to the bibliography, where readers can get further information about the specific editions and translations.

Here is an example of citing the Aeneid. This form also applies to the other poetic works we will read this semester, such as Dante’s Divine Comedy.

In the body of a suasoria, where the author or source of the information or quotation is not obvious, the citation should take the form below.

The poet’s audience, familiar with the way he alluded to the Homeric poems, would have drawn a parallel between the lines: “Wild as a top, spinning under a twisted whip / when boys, obsessed with their play, drive it round / an empty court, the whip spinning it round in bigger rings / and the boys hovering over it, spellbound, wonderstruck— / the boxwood whirling, whip-strokes lashing it into life— / swift as a top Amata whirls through the midst of cities, / people fierce in arms” (Virgil, Aeneid 7.442-448) with an episode in the Iliad, where the poem refers to a “top”: “Then as Hector was retreating, great Telamonian Ajax / lifted a boulder— one of many propping the swift ships, / which rolled among fighters’ feet—with one of these / he struck Hector in the chest above his shield rim, near the throat; / and with the blow sent him spinning like a top, and Hector whirled entirely around” (Homer, Iliad 14.409-414, translated by Richmond Lattimore, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011).

You will note in the example above, that the reference to the Aeneid take the form of a link to the bibliography. When the source of the citation is clear, a shorter reference is appropriate.

In the Aeneid, Virgil describes the death of Turnus when Aeneas momentarily hesitates, which echoes a moment in the Iliad when a helpless Adrestos “moved the spirit inside Menelaos” with his pleas to be ransomed and Agamemnon intervenes, killing Adrestos after telling Menelaos “Dear brother, O Menelaos, are you concerned so tenderly / with these people? Did you in your house get the best of treatment / from the Trojans? No, let not one of them go free of sudden / death and our hands; not the young man child that the mother carries / still in her body, not even he, but let all of Ilion’s / people perish, utterly blotted out and unmourned for” (Homer, Iliad 6.51, 55-60, translated by Richmond Lattimore, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011):

Aeneas, ferocious in armor, stood there, still,
shifting his gaze, and held his sword-arm back,
holding himself back too as Turnus’ words began
to sway him more and more… when all at once
he caught sight of the fateful sword-belt of Pallas,
swept over Turnus’ shoulder, gleaming with shining studs
Aeneas knew by heart. Young Pallas, whom Turnus had overpowered,
taken down with a wound, and now his shoulder flaunted
his enemy’s battle-emblem like a trophy. Aeneas,
soon as his eyes drank in that plunder— keepsake
of his own savage grief—flaring up in fury,
terrible in his rage, he cries: “Decked in the spoils
you stripped from one I loved— escape my clutches?
Pallas strikes this blow, Pallas sacrifices you now,
makes you pay the price with your own guilty blood!”

If you cite a work that is not in the bibliography, as in the case of the quotation from Lattimore’s translation above, you will need to provide a reference that contains all four basic elements: author, work, translator, edition. Note, too, that the shortened reference to the Aeneid serves as a link to the bibliography. Here is an example of how to cite non-poetic works, i.e., works that do not incorporate a specific metrical system that segments the text into lines. Nearly all of the prose sources come from the ancient world and reflect systems of citation that have become standard, as described above in the cases of Plato and Aristotle. Such was the case for all the prose texts we will read this semester.

A citation in the body of the essay should take the following form.

The Stoics believed that one should view all elements of one’s surroundings with detachment: “He guards and rescues from harm the good man himself: surely no one makes the extra demand that God should keep the good man’s baggage safe as well? The good man himself spares God any concern for this: he has contempt for external things. Democritus rejected wealth, regarding it as a burden to the virtuous mind.” This concept applies to people as much as to inanimate objects, such as money. He goes on to say:

Why, then, are you surprised that God allows the good man to experience something that the man sometimes chooses for himself? Good men lose sons: why not, as sometimes they even kill them themselves? They are sent into exile: why not, as sometimes they freely quit their homeland, never to return? They are killed: why not, as sometimes they choose to take their own lives? Why do they suffer certain hardships? The reason is so that they may teach others to endure them; they were born to set an example (Seneca, “On Providence” 6).

Here are the forms of citations for the works we will study this semester. The citations in your suasoriae MUST conform to these models. There are three forms for each. The first models the form if you have not provided your audience with any indication of (1) the author, (2) the work, and (3) the specific location of the material you are citing within your source. The second illustrates the form of a citation when you have indicated the author of your source but not the specific work or the location within the work. The third is the form of your citation when your audience is aware of the author and the work you are citing. You will note that they are all links to the bibliography, for which the URL is . Without the link, the citations are incomplete and will result in a deduction in your grade.


(Epicurus, “Letter to Herodotus” 36) [Note: the number refers to the section in the biography of Epicurus in the Lives of Philosophers by Diogenes Laertius.]

(“Letter to Herodotus” 36)



(Lucretius, On the Nature of Things 1.117-132) [Note: the first number refers to the book within On the Nature of Things and the second number after the period indicates the lines.]

(On the Nature of Things 1.117-132)



(Cicero, “The Dream of Scipio” p. 347) [Note: the edition of “The Dream of Scipio” we are using does not indicate the divisions of the text as they appeared in the first printed editions, so we will refer to the pagination in Michael Grant’s translation.]

(“The Dream of Scipio” p. 347)

(p. 347)


(Seneca, Letters 15.3) [Note: the first number refers to the letter in Elaine Fantham’s edition. You will see in her text that she indicates the location of the letter in the corpus of Seneca’s Epistulae, which in this case corresponds to the third letter in book three. The second number refers to the section within the letter.]

(Letters 15.3)



(Vergil, Aeneid 2.323-340)

(Aeneid 2.323-340)


Books of the New Testament

(Paul, Romans 12:23) (Matthew 13:25) (Acts 15:37) [Note: you can attribute 1 Thessalonians, Galations, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans to Paul. The attribution of authors to the other books we will read is contested, but there is no need to use “Anonymous.” You will note, too, that the titles of the New Testament, Bible, and individual books of the Hebrew Bible or New Testament do not appear in italics. The first number in your citations should refer to the chapter, and the second, to the verse. Please observe that a colon separates the two numbers, not a period.]

(Romans 12:23)


“The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas” and “The Acts of Thecla”

(Anonymous, “The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas” 5) [Note: the number refers to the section of the text.]

(“The Martyrdom of Sts. Perpetua and Felicitas” 5)



(Augustine, Confessions 3.2) [Note: the first number refers to the book, and the second to the section with the book. Book one, for example, has twenty sections.]

(Confessions 3.2)



Prose sections

(Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy 2.1.2) [Note: the first number refers to the book, the second to the chapter, and the third to the section within the chapter.]

(The Consolation of Philosophy 2.1.2)


Poetic passages

(Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy 1.2.m.9-16) [Note: the first number refers to the book, the second to the chapter, the “m” (for “metrum”) for the poetic passage, and the last two numbers, lines nine through sixteen of the poetic passage.]

(The Consolation of Philosophy 1.2.m.9-16)


Muhammad Ibn Isḥāq

(Muhammad Ibn Isḥāq, The Life of Muhammad 205) [Note: use the numbers in the margins of the text, which refer to the textus receptus by Wüstenfeld, which was published in 1858-1860.

(Life of Muhammad 205)



(Qur’an 2:197) [Note: like citations for many of the books in the Bible, you do not need to provide a reference to an author. The title does not appear in italics not in quotation marks. The first number refers to the sura, and the second to the verse. Separating the two numbers is a colon, not a period.]



(Dante, Inferno 1.40-51) [Note: when referring to the entire poem, the title Divine Comedy appears in italics. In referring to specific passages, however, you should use the divisions of the poem: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, which also appear in italics. The first number refers to the canto, and the second to the lines of verse.]

(Inferno 1.40-51)


Christine de Pizan

(Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies 10) [Note: the number refers to the section of the work. “10” corresponds to the section titled in our edition as “More questions and answers on the subject.” Although some of the sections extend beyond a page, this level of accuracy is sufficient.]

(The Book of the City of Ladies 10)