Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action

Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action

Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action

Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action


Greek rhetoric, in its diverse forms and impact on its contemporary context, is central to an understanding of ancient culture. The influence and exploitation of rhetoric in ancient times and modern reactions to it are the focus of this book. In recent years there has been a renaissance in the study of Greek rhetoric and oratory, informed by modern political sociology and discourse analysis. This book, bringing together the work of leading scholars in the field, examines the relation of ancient oratory and rhetoric to a variety of historical contexts and literary genres at both the theoritical and practical levels, at the same time reflecting new trends and ideas now at work


Though distinct genres, Greek rhetoric and Greek oratory are intimately connected with each other: rhetoric is the intellectual art or study of persuasion; oratory is the actual verbal communication with the intent to persuade, the application of the art of rhetoric. One cannot live without the other, so to speak, and that is why this book is so titled since oratory is rhetoric in action. Rhetoric permeated and influenced (and, to an extent, was influenced by) other genres, concepts and features of ancient Greek life far more comprehensively than any other intellectual art or pursuit. This is reflected in Protarchus’ words in Plato’s Philebus (58a):

I have often heard Gorgias constantly maintain that the art of persuasion surpasses all others; for this, he said, makes all things subject to itself, not by force, but by their free will, and is by far the best of all arts.

(Trans. H.N. Fowler)

It is important, though, not to restrict the influence of Greek rhetoric just to the ancient world but to trace its continuity into our modern world, in the last instance perhaps most evident in the realm of communication.

Greek rhetoric and its effects on both its contemporary context and modern times are the scope of, and the justification for, the present book. In recent years there has been something of a renaissance of Greek rhetoric and oratory. Individual orators are receiving more attention in the form of editions and commentaries; Greek rhetoricians and rhetorical theories are undergoing new scrutinies and applications; critics of rhetoric, ancient and modern, are having their merits and views evaluated and re-evaluated; and oratory and rhetoric are rightly being linked

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