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«Persuasive Ethopoeia in Dionysius's Lysias Author(s): Kristine S. Bruss Source: Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 31, No. 1 ...»

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Persuasive Ethopoeia in Dionysius's Lysias

Author(s): Kristine S. Bruss

Source: Rhetorica: A Journal of the History of Rhetoric, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Winter 2013), pp. 34Published by: University of California Press on behalf of the International Society for the History

of Rhetoric

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/rh.2013.31.1.34.

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http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Tue, 4 Mar 2014 17:03:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Kristine S. Bruss Persuasive Ethopoeia in Dionysius’s Lysias Abstract: Dionysius of Halicarnassus’s account of ethopoeia at Lysias 8 is often cited as evidence of Lysias’s mastery of character portrayal, but the passage itself has received little in-depth analysis. As a consequence, Dionysius’s meaning has at times been misinterpreted, and some of his insights on characterization have been neglected.

When the account is examined closely, three unique points of emphasis emerge which, taken together, constitute a particular type of characterization: persuasive, as opposed to propriety-oriented, ethopoeia. Making this distinction promotes conceptual clarity with regard to ethopoeia while calling attention to Dionysius’s insights on the role of style and composition in the creation of persuasive ethos.

Keywords: ethopoeia,ethos, style, character ne of the first extant works in which the term ethopoeia apO pears is Lysias, written by the Greek literary critic and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century bc.1 In the essay, Dionysius, an avowed Atticist, praises the renowned Greek speechwriter for a number of stylistic virtues, including lucidity, simplicity, and vividness.2 He then remarks, “I The term ethopoeia is attested in one earlier work, Problemata, attributed to Aristotle. In that text, the author (generally thought not to be Aristotle) addresses variationsin temperament and attributes them to the temperature of one’s “black bile,” observing that “hot and cold are the greatest agents in our lives for the making of character (ethopoion)” Arist. Pr. 30.1. Beyond this early reference to ethopoeia, the word does not appear with any regularity until the later Greek period.

Dionysius makes clear his commitment to Attic, or ancient Greek, standards of rhetorical taste in his introduction to On the Attic Orators. There, he describes socalled “Asian” oratory as “vulgar, frigid, and banal” (2). For more on the “Asian-Attic” Rhetorica, Vol. XXXI, Issue 1, pp. 34–57, ISSN 0734-8584, electronic ISSN 1533©2013 by The International Society for the History of Rhetoric. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Rights and Permissions website,

at http:/

/www.ucpressjournals.com/reprintInfo.asp. DOI: 10.1525/RH.2013.31.1.34.

This content downloaded from on Tue, 4 Mar 2014 17:03:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Persuasive Ethopoeia in Dionysius’s Lysias also ascribe to Lysias that most pleasing quality, which is generally called characterisation ( θοποι α). I am quite unable to find a single person in this orator’s speeches who is devoid of character or vitality (ο τε νηθοπο ητον ο τε ψυχον, ‘neither unethopoeticized nor lifeless’)” (Lys. 8).3 Today, thanks to the account of Dionysius, descriptions of Lysias invariably mention his masterful ethopoeia.4 As William Wait observes, the characters of Lysias “stand out as clearly and distinctly as if sketched by some skillful writer of fiction.”5 Lysias might be uniformly recognized as a master of ethopoeia, but what that term means, particularly as employed by Dionysius, is another question. As Michael Edwards and Stephen Usher note, “There is room for argument as to what ancient critics meant when they used the word ethopoiia and whether it accurately describes what Lysias actually did.”6 Ethopoeia, literally, “character making” (ethos, “character” + poiein, “to make”), is commonly described as dramatic characterization, which involves the fitting or plausible representation of a speaker’s (or other character’s) distinctive traits.7 The connection between ethopoeia and faithful representation is well illustrated by Edward Cope, who, in his influential discussion of varieties of Aristotelian ethos, regards Aristotle’s discussion of character in book 3 of the Rhetoric as ethopoeia.8 For Cope, such characterdrawing is akin to dramatic portraiture, “which belongs equally to controversy, see Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory 12.16–26; Cicero, Brutus 51, and Cicero, Orator 27. Dionysius’s critical essays on the Attic orators are aimed at providing orators with appropriate models of Attic style.

Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Critical Essays I, trans. Stephen Usher (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974). Subsequent references to Lysias and other essays by Dionysius (all found in the 2-volume Loeb edition) will be included in the text.

See, e.g., R. C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos. Vol. 1 (London:

Macmillan, 1876); K. J. Dover, Lysias and the Corpus Lysiacum (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968); M. Edwards and S. Usher, trans., Greek Orators I: Antiphon

and Lysias. (Chicago: Bolchazy-Carducci, 1984); Christopher Carey, ed., Lysias: Selected Speeches (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989); S. C. Todd, trans., Lysias (Austin:

University of Texas Press, 2000).

William Wait, Lysias: Ten Selected Orations (New York: American Book Company, 1898), 18.

Greek Orators, 129.

Jakob Wisse calls this the “modern sense” of ethopoeia. See Ethos and Pathos from Aristotle to Cicero (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1989), 58, n. 233.

Edward M. Cope, An Introduction to Aristotle’s Rhetoric (London: Macmillan, 1867), 108–113. The other two varieties of Aristotelian ethos, according to Cope, are persuasive proof through character and the character of audiences.

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poetry and painting.”9 Descriptions of ethopoeia in ancient Greek progymnasmata likewise emphasize faithful portrayal; in such exercises, students are encouraged to imitate the character of assigned speakers, reflecting “what is distinctive and appropriate to the person imagined,” be it Achilles or an anonymous farmer (Herm. 9.21).10 Modern analyses of Lysias’s speeches reinforce this view, presenting convincing textual evidence of Lysias’s masterful ability to dramatize his characters.11 Lysias clearly excels at suitable, distinctive characterization, and for this reason, it might be tempting to conclude, as some scholars have, that this is what Dionysius had in mind with his discussion of ethopoeia; however, this would be a mistake.12 Although Dionysius does, in fact, praise Lysias for his ability to put “words in [the speakers’] mouths which suit their several conditions,” including “age, family background, education, occupation, way of life,” he makes this observation not in his discussion of ethopoeia, but of propriety.

Ethopoeia, for Dionysius, is concerned with a wholly different sense of characterization, namely, the creation of persuasive ethos.13 Although a number of scholars have accurately noted this difference, they have tended not to elaborate on Dionysius’s account, likely because he is only a passing figure of interest in their studies.14 Yet, as I argue Ibid, 113. Cope asserts that this third type of ethos, which involves representation of “the special characteristics of the individual” as well as generic markers of class, “belongs to style, and accordingly only appears in Bk. III” (pp. 112–113). Cope thus draws a clean line between ethopoeia and the creation of persuasive proof through character, the first variety of ethos in the Rhetoric.

For texts of the progymnasmata, see George A. Kennedy, trans., Progymnasmata:

Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003).

See, e.g., Stephen Usher, “Individual Characterisation in Lysias,” Eranos 63 (1965): 99–119; L. L. Forman, “Ethopoiia in Lysias,” Classical Review 10 (1896): 105– 106; Christopher Carey, “Rhetorical Means of Persuasion,” in A. O. Rorty, ed., Essays on Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 399–415. See also note 51 in this essay.

See William Levering Devries, Ethopoiia: A Rhetorical Study of the Types of Character in the Orations of Lysias (Baltimore: diss. Johns Hopkins University, 1892) for an apt example of this sort of misinterpretation. Devries uses evidence from Lysias’s practice to define Dionysius’s meaning rather than relying on a careful interpretation of Dionysius’s own words.

In other words, Dionysius associates ethopoeia with the first variety of Aristotelian ethos—persuasive proof through character—not with the third, as Cope does.

See, e.g., Usher, “Individual Characterisation,” 99, n. 2; Wisse, Ethos and Pathos, 58, n. 233; Carey, Lysias, 10; Todd, Lysias, 7; Dover, Lysias, 76–77. Dionysian ethopoeia receives a bit more attention in Hans-Martin Hagen, Ηθοποι α: Zur Geschichte This content downloaded from on Tue, 4 Mar 2014 17:03:51 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Persuasive Ethopoeia in Dionysius’s Lysias in this essay, Dionysius’s account is important in its own right, not only for its unique role in discussions of ethopoeia, but for the novel perspective it offers, more generally, on the creation of persuasive ethos.

In what follows, I examine Dionysius’s account of ethopoeia in Lysias, noting the features that make it distinctive. To promote a clear distinction between senses of ethopoeia, I propose that the characterization Dionysius describes can be understood most precisely as persuasive ethopoeia, the function of which is to create trustworthy speaker-centered ethos through reasonable thoughts, standard style, and artless composition.15 The classificatory label “persuasive” is inspired, in part, by Lysias’s status as an orator, but more significantly, by the direct parallels between Dionysius’s account of ethopoeia and Aristotle’s explanation of persuasive ethos in the Rhetoric. Although all forms of ethopoeia, including those composed for literature, histories, and classroom exercises, can be considered persuasive in some sense, the label is particularly fitting for describing the ethopoeia of speechwriters, whose work is designed to accomplish persuasive ends through actual performance by the very person being characterized.16 When the account of Dionysius is examined closely, three unique points of emphasis emerge. The first of these features, as suggested by prior comments, is the focus on persuasive proof through character, not propriety. Although Dionysius acknowledges the importance of propriety in Lysias’s prose, he addresses ethopoeia in a separate section of his essay, suggesting a clear distinction between the two stylistic virtues. The second distinctive feature of Dionysius’s account is his ¨ eines rhetorischen Begriffs (Erlangen-Nurnberg: diss. Friedrich-Alexander-Univer¨ sitat, 1996).

The move I am making here is not unlike efforts to identify types, or senses, of ethos; see, e.g., Cope, Introduction; William M. Sattler, “Conceptions of Ethos in Ancient Rhetoric,” Speech Monographs 14 (1947): 55–65. The labels in such schemes may be imperfect, but they do help to distinguish different senses of a concept.

For studies of ethopoeia in non-oratorical contexts, see, e.g., Lorna Hutson, “Ethopoeia, Source-Study and Legal History: A Post-Theoretical Approach to the Question of ‘Character’ in Shakespearean Drama,” in Martin McQuillan, Graeme Macdonald, Robin Purves, and Stephen Thomson, eds., Post-Theory: New Directions in Criticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999), 139–160; Charles Forster Smith, “Character Drawing in Thucydides, American Journal of Philology 24 (1903), 369– 387; Graham Zanker, “Characterization in Hellenistic Epigram” in Peter Bing and Jon Steffen Bruss, eds., Brill’s Companion to Hellenistic Epigram (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 233– ´ ` 249; E. Amato and J. Schamp, eds., Ethopoiia. La representation de caracteres entre fiction ´´ `´ ´ scolaire et realite vivante a l’epoque imperiale et tardive (Salerno: Helios Editrice, 2005).

–  –  –

emphasis on style, or word choice, as a means of creating persuasive proof through character. As described by Dionysius, the style of persuasive ethopoeia focuses not on the fitting representation of a character’s manner of speaking (as is the case with propriety-oriented ethopoeia) but rather on unaffected, plain-spoken naturalness. The third unique feature of the account, arguably the most noteworthy, is Dionysius’s attention to the critical role of artless composition, or word arrangement, in the portrayal of favorable ethos. Effective ethopoeia, according to Dionysius, is not only persuasive but also aesthetically pleasing, as indicated by his emphasis on lifelike, charming composition. The term apsychos (unanimated, lifeless), in fact, appears to be unique to Dionysius’s account, which underscores the aesthetic dimension of persuasive ethopoeia.

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