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Epideictic Rhetoric

Epideictic Rhetoric: Questioning the Stakes of Ancient Praise

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    Epideictic Rhetoric
    Book Description:

    Speeches of praise and blame constituted a form of oratory put to brilliant and creative use in the classical Greek period (fifth to fourth century BC) and the Roman imperial period (first to fourth century AD), and they have influenced public speakers through all the succeeding ages. Yet unlike the other classical genres of rhetoric, epideictic rhetoric remains something of a mystery. It was the least important genre at the start of Greek oratory, but its role grew exponentially in subsequent periods, even though epideictic orations were not meant to elicit any action on the part of the listener, as judicial and deliberative speeches attempted to do. So why did the ancients value the oratory of praise so highly?In Epideictic Rhetoric, Laurent Pernot offers an authoritative overview of the genre that surveys its history in ancient Greece and Rome, its technical aspects, and its social function. He begins by defining epideictic rhetoric and tracing its evolution from its first realizations in classical Greece to its eloquent triumph in the Greco-Roman world. No longer were speeches limited to tribunals, assemblies, and courts—they now involved ceremonies as well, which changed the political and social implications of public speaking. Pernot analyzes the techniques of praise, both as stipulated by theoreticians and as practiced by orators. He describes how epideictic rhetoric functioned to give shape to the representations and common beliefs of a group, render explicit and justify accepted values, and offer lessons on new values. Finally, Pernot incorporates current research about rhetoric into the analysis of praise.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-76821-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-28)

    The birth of rhetorical praise took place in Athens, after the Greco-Persian wars. Poetical praise had long existed (for example in Pindar’s victory odes). Concerning prose, we first hear talk of eulogy speeches with the genre of the funeral oration (epitaphios logos), in the decade 470–461 BC.¹ Preserved specimens include Gorgias’ fragment, Thucydides 2.35–46, Lysias’Oration2, Demosthenes’Oration60, and Hyperides’Oration6.

    From a rhetorical point of view,epitaphioi logoiare already a complex form of speech, as they combine the funeral eulogy, the essential element, with exhortation and with consolation, and even with lamentation; the...

    (pp. 29-65)

    The intense activity, practical and theoretical, that took place during the evolution of epideictic rhetoric led to a number of technical advances. These advances focused especially on the structure and style of speeches. The ancient system of epideictic offered lists of commonplaces to be used for each sort of praised object as well as lists of different types of speeches for different occasions, aesthetic-style categories, and figures. This system, as prescribed by the theoreticians and put into practice by the orators, was in some ways a kind of “grammar” of praise, a body of rules and usage through which the...

    (pp. 66-100)

    The Greco-Roman world of the Roman Empire built for itself a rhetoric suited to its new condition, and that was to a great extent epideictic rhetoric. We today may not look upon this development so sympathetically; by “we” I mean Americans, Frenchmen, and citizens of modern parliamentary democracies in general.

    Accustomed as we often are to think of rhetoric on the model of Demosthenes and to require of every oration a freedom of speech worthy of the Athenian democracy (or our idea of it), we can be tempted to see in epideictic’s triumph the triumph of adulation, of hollow or...

    (pp. 101-120)

    In the following pages, we would like to point out some avenues of research that are opening up today as a means to better interpret epideictic and that deserve investigation. We shall limit ourselves merely to touching upon some ideas and presenting some examples and quotations, fully aware that they demand in-depth study and hoping that they will provide material for future discussion.

    Epideictic, one could say, appears empty and stiff : let us take this impression as a starting point as we seek to better understand the form. It is correct that epideictic orations are rife with conventions and...

    (pp. 121-122)

    Epideictic gradually earned its place within the field of rhetoric, and following its irresistible rise it triumphed in the Greco-Roman world of the Imperial age. At this high point, epideictic technique was much more than a repertory of procedures. It set forth structures, an aesthetic, and a system of representations. It was an abstract tool that permitted recognition and expression of society’s values.

    For us today, the Greco-Roman evidence is valued as our intellectual heritage, at least in the North American and European world, where the ancient tradition has exerted a direct and major influence. It has paradigmatic value because,...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 123-132)
    (pp. 133-154)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 155-166)