Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN 0302-5160
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9781
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The interest in ancient rhetoric has increased noticeably over the past few decades and manifests itself in an ever growing number of publications. Three works published in the U.S.A. in 2005 approach the topic in quite different ways. Habinek’s relatively slim book is neither meant to be a comprehensive account of nor a condensed introduction to ancient rhetoric. Rather, it is made up of five chapters (“Rhetoric and the State”; “The Figure of the Orator”; “The Craft of Rhetoric”; “Rhetoric as Acculturation”; “The Afterlife of Rhetoric”) that shed light on selected aspects of ancient rhetoric from a sociological perspective; Habinek focuses on the function and role of rhetoric in the societies and states of the Greek and Roman world. On the whole, this is a useful and profitable book, despite of some weaknesses. It will, however, not replace con­ventional handbooks on ancient rhetoric, and it was not meant to, as is stressed by the author himself in the introduction: “Instead, the inspiration for this book is the ancient genre of protreptic […], which aimed to give the reader just enough information about a subject to whet the appetite for more” (p. vii). Without a doubt, Habinek has achieved this aim. In contrast to this, the book by Laurent Pernot, translated into English “with a certain number of changes to the French text” (p. xii), offers a comprehensive, historically organized introduction to the theory and practice of ancient rhetoric. Its development is outlined in six chapters, ranging from archaic times to the third century A.D. Throughout his work, Pernot has managed not to concern himself with too many minor details in order to treat the main aspects with exemplary clarity, keeping the text brief or detailed in accordance with the exigencies of the respective topics, always making transparent to his readers why ancient rhetoric came into being, developed and transformed in both theory and practice. For this reason, Pernot’s book is an excellent introduction for beginners, yet it has also much to offer to more advanced readers. One would wish that the author had chosen to include the fourth century A.D., a prolific period in the development of ancient rhetoric. It is impossible, however, to welcome the third book under review with similar enthusiasm. Under the title of “Classical Rhetorics and Rhetoricians”, Michelle Ballif and Michael G. Moran present the public with a bulky volume containing in alphabetical order 61 articles, written by 45 collaborators and Moran himself. Most often these articles deal with persons, sometimes with works (e.g., ‘Dissoi Logoi’, ‘Rhetorica ad Herennium’) or groups of authors (e.g., ‘Attic Orators’). Considering the title of the book, one finds a number of unexpected lemmata in the table of contents, like Aspasia, Augustine, Boethius, Cornelia, Diogenes of Sinope, Diotima, Pythagorean Women, Sappho, etc. The supposed relevance of these personalities for the topic of ‘rhetoric’ is, however, not substantiated anywhere in the book. Moreover, the length of various articles appears disproportionate when one considers such factors as the state of our sources, thematic relevance, or later influence (e.g., 3.5 pages for Aspasia, 4.5 pages for the Attic Orators, 10 pages for Cicero, 12 for Augustine). This creates a totally distorted picture of what we know from the sources about the representatives of ancient rhetoric and their respective importance. Numerous mistakes, sometimes even of an elementary nature, seriously impair the overall reliability of this volume. For sound information, potential users should rather turn elsewhere.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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