Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature

By William J. Dominik | Go to book overview

14

Substructural elements of architectonic rhetoric and philosophical thought in Fronto's Epistles

Michele Valerie Ronnick


GREEK BACKGROUND

Much ink has been spent discussing the so-called 'battle' between philosophy and rhetoric, as articulated in the Graeco-Roman period and as interpreted later on in the western Middle Ages, in the Renaissance and in modern times. Underlying the particular questions argued in each of these time periods has been a fundamental struggle to gain power and dominance. In the words of Stephen Halliwell, 'at stake in the emergence and elaboration of these concepts' is 'the status of intellectual authority and cultural influence-an authority that would give the practitioners and teachers of certain activities a pre-eminent claim to wisdom and expertise (sophia), and a corresponding right to present themselves as possessors of politically, socially and educationally valuable knowledge'. 1

The most influential debates about rhetoric have been based upon the thought of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero, each of whom established particular parameters and special terminology on which later discussion has depended. Despite their differences in thought, their conceptual constructs concerning rhetoric fall into two broad types. When rhetoric is concerned with an 'fact of enumeration on a specific occasion', used primarily 'in civic life', and is 'primarily oral', it is classed as 'primary'. 2 Once those words leave the mouth and are inscribed with a pen in a text, painted with a brush on to a surface, or chiselled out of a stone, the focus of that process is called 'secondary rhetoric'. This type of rhetoric concerns 'the apparatus of rhetorical techniques clustering around discourse or art forms when those techniques are not being used for their primary oral purpose'. 3

As a young culture grows into its maturity, 'it has been a persistent

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