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Strategies for Encomium in Dio of Prusa, Oration 53.

Acta Classica, 2008, Annual, 51

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Among the surviving works of Dio of Prusa is a short prose piece, numbered 53 in von Arnim's edition of the corpus, entitled On Homer. That Dio should have devoted a laudatory speech to Homer is not surprising. Homer features in several other speeches by Dio, (1) as he does in the work of most authors of the Second Sophistic. Encomia of the poet whom all Greeks regarded as the progenitor of their entire literary tradition were a common practice. Yet Dio's is a strange piece because it displays a somewhat provisional aspect, resembling a sketch or plan of a speech more than a fully developed and polished oration. But I would prefer to see it as a preliminary outline for a potentially fuller oratorical treatment of its subject--an encomium of Homer. Of course, there may be no serious objection to classifying it as a completed speech: the 5th and 4th centuries BC provide several examples of short epideictic exercises of this kind, particularly paradoxical encomia (such as Gorgias's Helen), (2) and as the self-conscious inheritors of the oratorical legacy of the Classical period the sophists of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD would have sought to emulate all discursive forms from the earlier period. Yet Dio's piece is uncharacteristically restrained in its use of ornamentation, the transitions from one topic to the next are strikingly abrupt, and the speech itself concludes rather suddenly. Taken together, all of these features lead one to take 'oration' 53 as an exploration of possible approaches to a subject that could be worked up into a fuller oratorical treatment. (3) The present paper will seek to argue that Oration 53 is an exercise in invention, as opposed to an extended specimen of epideictic oratory, and that it presents an innovative strategy for an encomium of Homer in that it deliberately creates, and subsequently confronts and resolves, a dilemma which challenges the cultural and literary loyalties of Dio's own age: Homer vs. Plato. This interpretation of Dio's technique goes some way, I believe, to explaining why the text appears to consist of two rather mismatched halves. I hope that my examination will show that the second half of the 'oration' is an elaboration of an encomiastic strategy constructed in the first half.

Strategies for Encomium in Dio of Prusa, Oration 53.
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  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: 01 January 2008
  • Publisher: Classical Association of South Africa
  • Print Length: 17 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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