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MenanderA Rhetor in Context$
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Malcolm Heath

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199259205

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199259205.001.0001

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The Relevance of Rhetoric

The Relevance of Rhetoric

(p.277) 9 The Relevance of Rhetoric

Malcolm Heath (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the social functions of rhetoric in late antiquity. Although it is widely believed that oratory in this period was primarily epideictic, the dominant focus of rhetorical theory and teaching was on forensic and deliberative oratory. Evidence from many sources, including Plutarch and Libanius, shows that the careers of students emerging from the schools of rhetoric would often have involved advocacy or local politics. The use of declamation in rhetorical training does not imply a retreat from reality; declamation was practised primarily (though not exclusively) as a preparation for real oratory. This continuing practical relevance is reflected in the persistence of rhetoric: the subject was still flourishing in 5th-century Alexandria. Adaptability also helped: changes in curriculum structure provided a flexibility which could meet the needs of those who became advocates in low-level courts as well as the social elite for whom cultural prestige was paramount.

Keywords:   epideictic, Plutarch, Libanius, political oratory, advocacy, declamation

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