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diatribe


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Term (derived from Gk. word meaning ‘spending’ (of time) ) given by modern scholars to works of Greek or Roman popular philosophy and generally implying the following: that they are direct transcriptions or literary developments of addresses given by Cynic or Stoic philosophers on the streets, before large audiences or (in the case of philosophers concerned with moral exhortation rather than systematic argument) to pupils; that they focus on a single theme; that their main aim is to attack vices (hence the modern usage); that they employ a vigorous, hectoring, colloquial (sometimes vulgar) style, with colourful, everyday imagery; that they sometimes have an anonymous interlocutor, thereby providing a dramatic illusion, a degree of argument and (usually) a butt. Such works are regarded as the pagan equivalent of the Christian sermon, which they are supposed to have influenced (from Paul onwards).

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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