Elizabeth Jeffreys

in The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies

Published in print October 2008 | ISBN: 9780199252466
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History


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Rhetoric was initially developed as a practical tool to analyse verbal discourse and to teach effective oratory or public speaking. In the Byzantine context, a definition of rhetoric was offered by Maximos Planoudes (c.1255-c.1305): the art that deals with the power of the word in political matters, the objective of which is to persuade against the prevailing view. Aristotle (384-322 BCE), in his Art of Rhetoric, provided the early, and enduringly authoritative, analyses of the processes of rhetoric. There are three kinds of rhetoric, all derived from Aristotle's analyses: political rhetoric (for use in citizen assemblies), judicial rhetoric (for use in lawcourts), and epideictic rhetoric (for oratorical display). Epideictic remained the only independent form of rhetorical practice that had a role in Byzantine culture, primarily in formal speeches in the ceremonial of the imperial court. Drawing on secular writings, this article presents a brief survey of rhetorical practice and rhetorical techniques in Byzantium. It focuses on theoreticians of rhetoric in Late Antiquity, Byzantine commentaries on rhetoric, and why scholars and teachers are interested in textbooks on rhetoric.

Keywords: rhetoric; Byzantium; Aristotle; Art of Rhetoric; political rhetoric; judicial rhetoric; epideictic rhetoric; Maximos Planoudes; oratory; Late Antiquity

Article.  4431 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Middle Eastern Languages

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