Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.11.59

Pierre-Louis Malosse, Marie-Pierre Noël, Bernard Schouler (ed.), Clio sous le regard d'Hermès: l'utilisation de l'histoire dans la rhétorique ancienne de l'époque hellénistique à l'Antiquité Tardive. Actes du colloque international de Montpellier (18-20 octobre 2007) Cardo, 8.   Alessandria:  Edizioni dell’Orso, 2010.  Pp. xii, 248.  ISBN 9788862742474.  €25.00 (pb).  

Reviewed by Raffaella Cribiore, NYU (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

This book gathers the papers delivered at an international symposium that was held at Montpellier in October 2007. The vast majority of scholars who contributed are French. Seventeen papers, in fact, are in French and only three in other languages: Spanish, Italian, and German. The authors are either well-recognized scholars or excellent younger researchers. The various papers investigate the way in which rhetoric (Hermes) treated and used history (Clio); in other words the book is concerned with the ways in which writers who used rhetoric or were professional sophists appropriated the works of historians either to learn lessons for the present or (more often) to employ historical episodes as exempla in their narratives. The theme, therefore, is rather novel since studies tend to focus more often on the relationship between history and rhetoric from the perspective of historians. The individual papers are very well researched and raise interesting points, and sometimes real surprises (see below on the declamations of the sophist Lesbonax). Overall, the quality of the book is high.

Most of the papers show that education appropriated history particularly in the Roman period. The use of historical exempla started in the schools of rhetoric, where the focus was on prose. Preliminary rhetorical exercises and declamations discussed and developed historical episodes from different points of view, and this practice continued beyond school. This is evident in some of the production of Aristides, Favorinus, Dio Chrysostom, and later in the orations of Gregory of Nazianzus and of many others. In general this collection shows that rhetoric did not make a more profitable use of history by employing it to interpret the present but fragmented it into particular examples. There were a few exceptions. Plutarch departed from the past but looked for similarities with the present trying to understand it and illuminate it. In this case, as P. Payen says, Écrire c’est agir, that is, Plutarch becomes a man of action who can use the lessons of the past.

The collection encompasses a very long period from the Hellenistic age to late antiquity. Most of the papers, however, concentrate on the Roman empire early or late and only three (on Theopompus, Cicero, and Sallust) concern earlier periods. Greater chronological focus would have given more unity to the whole. One result is that the use historical episodes as separate exempla emerges as typical of the Second Sophistic and of a type of rhetoric that is close to the practice of the schools. The book as a whole feels a bit disjointed (more so than other edited collections) because the papers are in no recognizable order; at least this reviewer was not able to find one, though of course this does not diminish the value of the individual papers. Such is the variety of issues and periods and the strength of the individual communications that I will comment briefly on each one in order.

The first paper of Antonio López Eire gives a very general overview of classical and Hellenistic rhetoric, of paideia and what he calls “the rhetoric of Hermes,” and of the influence of rhetoric on historiography, biography, the novel and epistolography.

In a very interesting paper, Pascal Payen considers the numerous references to Thucydides and Polybius in Plutarch, investigating the relationship between action and writing and the role of the writer in embracing the past. Plutarch in his biographies (“lives not history”) still has to confront historiography.

Pierre Chiron examines the reception of Theopompus. The historian was not treated well and was criticized from every point of view, including denunciations of his character, his style, and even his conception of history, which did not embrace political or moral aims.

Anne-Marie Favreau-Linder also considers an unpopular historical personality and looks at the ways imperial authors dealt with the figure of Cleon, the Athenian demagogue. In spite of the balanced treatment of Thucydides, later writers and handbooks of rhetoric assessed him very negatively.

Eugenio Amato and Nadine Sauterel focus on three declamations of Lesbonax, a representative of the Second Sophistic who is not well-known and who pretends to address a fifth-century BC audience. His declamations, which have a strong scholastic character, are precious evidence in light of the paucity of examples of rhetoric from the first three centuries of the Common Era.

Ouardia Touahri inquires about the topic of civil war that appeared very frequently in the suasoriae and controversiae of Seneca the Elder. It was an ideal topic that allowed psychological, moral, and emotional treatment. Seneca admired Cicero and his declamations deal extensively with the latter’s death. In appropriating historical topics from history, declamations had an interest in their moral values.

The exhaustive and learned paper of Sylvie Franchet d’Esperey examines historical exempla in Quintilian from the point of view of rhetorical theory. She concludes that they were based on past events that are true (that is, are not invented) and particular (they happened under certain circumstances). The value of the example is connected to the authority of the person or event mentioned and can be used in a persuasive argument.

Paul M. Martin argues that the Philippics of Cicero find historical exempla in the Roman (not in the Greek) past according to a republican ideology. Cicero’s aim at the conclusion of the Philippics was to have the senate recognize the merits of M. Brutus, leading Martin to remark that on that day rhetoric and history were truly united.

Cécile Bost-Pouderon writes a very exhaustive paper (provided with appendices and tables) on the use of history by Dio. This article is part of a forthcoming book on this subject and shows the extensive use of historical exempla made by Dio, a rhetor, a philosopher, and a man engaged in politics.

Michel Nouhaud shows that Favorinus employed historical exempla very frequently and much more than classical orators. The author examines some of these exempla and also argues from citations that the sophist knew Hesiod, Aeschines, and Demosthenes perfectly.

By contrast, Aristides was much more moderate in his use of historical passages. Studying his orations 30-34, which show a strong link to teaching, Jean-Luc Vix points to the connection between these passages and the education the rhetor himself had received. It should be noticed that Vix has just published a good book on Aristides, L’enseignement de la rhétorique au IIe siècle ap. J.-C. à travers les discours 30-34 d’Aelius Aristide (Turnhout 2010).

In a very interesting paper, Estelle Oudot focuses on the theme of the Persian wars as exploited by the Second Sophistic. She finds that it was always treated with caution in all texts and was never seen in the context of a resistance against Rome.

In the following paper, Jean Bouffartigue maintains that Gregory used historical paradeigmata in the same way as the writers of the second sophistic but drew from both Biblical and classical texts.

The strong paper of Jacques Schamp reconstructs some Hellenistic history from its use by the philosopher Themistius in the difficult climate of the succession to the emperor Jovian. Fabrice Galtier explores how Seneca employs rhetorically an anecdote concerning the young Nero’s mercy. He places what can be considered a chria into its historical context.

Antony Hostein examines an oration that is part of the corpus of the Latin panegyrics put together at the end of the fourth century. This interesting text concerns the reconstruction of the schools in Autun and the money that Eumenes, the director of the schools, offered for that purpose. The few historical references that Eumenes employs (and one in particular) are an integral part of the argument, in that they demonstrate to the current governor the behavior that was expected of him.

Maria Silvana Celentano investigates the attention dedicated to Sallust by rhetors who analyzed his texts with great care, drawing attention to his syntax, to his lexicon, and especially to his famous brevity.

Olivier Devillers writes about the Dialogue of Tacitus that follows the formation of the orators of the past and of Tacitus’ own time. This paper, however, by concentrating on a single historian, fails to develop fully the theme of the collection.

Bruno Bleckmann focuses on a text of Eusebius which partakes of panegyric, history, and biography and examines especially the passages that criticize the emperor’s attitude to courtiers. Bleckmann argues that Eusebius’s remarks should be viewed in light of the subsequent reforms of the emperor Constantius.

Ugo Criscuolo considers the figure of the Arian emperor Valens as seen by Basil of Caesarea, who wrote when he was alive, and by Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus, who criticized him after his death. The influence of invective on contemporary Christian rhetoric and historiography makes an impartial view of this emperor a remote goal.

In conclusion, this is a good book that deserves attention and I recommend it highly. It will appeal to a variety of scholars of Greek and Latin rhetoric, history, and education.

Table of Contents

Bernard Schouler, Avant-propos v
A. López Eire, Retórica, historiografia y el etnocentrismo de Hermes 1
P. Payen, ‘Si l’on supprime les hommes d’action, on n’aura plus d’hommes de lettres.’ Thucydide et Polybe dans le corpus des oevres de Plutarque 13
P.Chiron, Un historien-rhéteur, bête noire des rhéteurs: Théopompe 27
A.-M. Favreau-Linder, La figure de Cléon à l’époque impériale 35
E. Amato and N. Sauterel, L’utilisation de l’histoire dans les déclamations de Lesbonax le Sophiste 47
O. Touahri, Le phénomène de la guerre civile d’après Sénèque le Rhéteur 55
S. Franchet d’Esperey, Le statut de l’ exemplum historique chez Quintilien 65
P.M. Martin, Chute de la royauté et adfectationes regni dans les Philippiques de Cicéron 81
C. Bost-Pouderon, Quelques considérations sur le traitement de l’example historique chez Dion Chrysostome 93
M. Nouhaud, Le devenir de l’exemplum chez Favorinos d’Arles 119
J.-L. Vix, L’histoire au service de l’éloge et du blâme: L’exemple d’Aelius
Aristides (or. 30-34) 129
E. Oudot, ‘Marathon, l’Eurymédon, Platées, laissons-les aux écoles des sophistes’. Les guerres médiques au second siècle de notre ère 143
J. Bouffartigue, L’utilization de l’histoire dans les discours Contre Julien de Grégoire de Nazianze 159
J. Schamp, Les aléas de la fraternité 175
F. Galtier, Vellem litteras nescirem. Un example pour l’histoire dans le De Clementia de Sénèque 193
A. Hostein, Un exemplum historique dans le discours d’Eumène. À propos de Panegyrique latin V(9), 7, 3 201
M.S. Celentano, La tecnica retorica e il racconto storico: Il caso di Sallustio 211
O. Devillers, L’histoire de Rome et le Dialogue des Orateurs de Tacite 221
B. Blackmann, Zwischen Geschichtsschreibung und Panegyric? Das Problem der kritische Passagen zu Konstantin in der Vita Constantini des Eusebius 231
U. Criscuolo, L’empereur Valens dans la rhétorique chrétienne du IVe siècle 237
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