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Seneca’s De Beneficiis and non-verbal politeness in ancient Rome

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This paper examines the philosophical treatise De Beneficiis written by Seneca the Younger (c. 4 bce to 65 ce) and discusses some of the insights that it offers regarding the pragmatics of interpersonal encounters in ancient Rome. In particular, it identifies types of appropriate and inappropriate non-verbal behaviour sometimes employed when making requests. Seneca’s close observation of these social nuances alerts us to the importance of non-verbal elements for a complete understanding of (im)politeness in everyday life.

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Keywords: De Beneficiis; Seneca (the Younger); facial expression; non-verbal politeness; refusals; requests

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 10, 2019

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