A Sense of the Past: The Truth of Rhetoric

Peter Van Nuffelen

in Orosius and the Rhetoric of History

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199655274
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745232 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

A Sense of the Past: The Truth of Rhetoric

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In setting out the events, Orosius frequently has recourse to pathetic modes of writing and closely follows the Rhetorica ad Herrenium and Quintilian, especially regarding the use of enargeia. An analysis of Book 5 shows that he consciously seeks to conjure up the emotions of his readers with the aim of making them feel the misery of past events. Following rhetorical advice, not all episodes are described in a pathetic way: the Historiae present themselves as a synecdoche of reality. In line with Quintilian and earlier, classical historiography, Orosius suggests that his recourse to vivid description is a way of displaying the truth of the past, although this may seem counterintuitive to our modern understanding of the relationship between language and reality.

Keywords: Rhetorica ad Herrenium; Quintilian; emotions; pathos; enargeia; truth in historiography

Chapter.  12504 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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