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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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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 ated by a speechwriter, Aristotle’s account, presented in his book on style as a matter of propriety, makes no direct mention of persuasive proof through character. Elaine Fantham, in fact, has argued convincingly against the claim that Aristotle’s remarks apply to the work of speechwriters, citing as evidence his examples of Spartans, Thessalians and women, none of whom could have appeared as litigants in an Athenian court. More plausibly, says Fantham, Aristotle is addressing dramatic characterization, as in the narrative of a court case.26 The emphasis on dramatic characterization continues in later accounts of ethopoeia. Quintilian, for example, defines ethopoeia in book 9 of the Institutes of Oratory as “the representation of the characters of others” (Inst. 9.2.58).27 He associates the figure with the “gentler emotions” (consistent with his description of ethos in book 6 in the Institutes) and notes that ethopoeia can be used for humorous effect or, when representing one’s own words and deeds, to make a point. His two examples, neither more than a few lines long, illustrate ethopoeia as a rhetorical technique suitable for briefly characterizing others or oneself within a narrative. A bit earlier in book 9, Quintilian presents prosopopoeia, a closely related figure of characterization, in similar fashion. According to Quintilian, prosopopoeia, or impersonation of others, adds variety and animation to a speech (Inst. 9.2.29).

Prosopopoeia can be used, he says, to represent the inner thoughts of opponents, recreate conversations, create characters who voice words of pity or reproach, or give voice to the dead, gods, cities, and nations. 28 The focus here, as with ethopoeia, is on brief characSee “Ciceronian Conciliare and Aristotelian Ethos,” Phoenix, 27 (1973): 262–275 (pp. 271–272). Fantham’s argument rebuts George Kennedy’s assertion that Rhetoric 3.7.1–7 includes the persuasive portrayal of character by speechwriters. See Kennedy, Art of Persuasion, 90–91.

Quintilian notes that ethopoeia is called mimesis by some. Quintilian addresses ethos-based imitation in book 6 of the Institutes, arguing that “it is quite right also to use the word ethos of the sort of school exercises in which we often represent countrymen, superstitious men, misers, and cowards according to our theme. For if ethos means mores, then when we imitate mores we base our speech on ethos” (Inst.

6.2.17). See The Orator’s Education, trans. and ed. Donald Russell (Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 2001).

See Institutes 9.2.29–37; 9.2.58–59; 4.2.107, and 3.8.49–54. See also 11.1.31–44, which addresses propriety of characterization. Quintilian concludes, “In short, it is not only that there are just as many varieties of Prosopopoeia as there are of Causes: there are more, because in Prosopopoeia we simulate the emotions of children, women, nations, and even things which cannot speak, and they are all entitled to their appropriate character.”

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ter portrayals in a narrative, not the full-length ghosting of speaker character practiced by Lysias.

Ethopoeia and prosopopoeia appear, as well, in the ancient Greek progymnasmata of authors including Aelius Theon, pseudo-Hermogenes, and Aphthonius. Although these writers differ somewhat in their descriptions of characterization, all of them emphasize plausible imitation rather than persuasive proof through character. Effective characterization, according to Theon, requires that “one should have in mind what the personality of the speaker is like, and to whom the speech is addressed” (115; Kennedy 47). Echoing Aristotle, Theon addresses various factors to take into account when choosing appropriate words for a given speaker: “Different ways of speaking would also be fitting by nature for a woman and for a man, and by status for a slave and a free man, and by activities for a soldier and a farmer, and by state of mind for a lover and a temperate man, and by their origin the words of a Laconian, sparse and clear, differ from those of a man of Attica, which are voluble” (116; Kennedy 48, ital. in original).

Pseudo-Hermogenes and Aphthonius likewise underscore propriety of portrayal in their descriptions of ethopoeia, but they add that ethopoeia can be ethical or pathetical or mixed. As explained by pseudo-Hermogenes, ethical portrayals “are those in which characterization of the speaker is dominant throughout; for example, what a farmer would say when first seeing a ship” (21; Kennedy 85). Although character dominates such portrayals, it is not likely the same as the persuasive ethopoeia created by Lysias. As Hermogenes points out, students must base their characterizations on what is distinctive about the character being imitated; he says nothing about portraying elements of persuasive ethos. His example of an exercise—“what a farmer would say when first seeing a ship”—further suggests that characterization in the progymnasmata is oriented toward personality rather than persuasive proof.29 If persuasive proof were the aim, a more fitting exercise might be: “what words a man would say when accused of murder.” When the account of Dionysius is compared to other accounts of ancient ethopoeia, his explicit emphasis on the portrayal of persuasive moral character emerges as a distinctive feature. This is not to say that Lysias excelled only with persuasive characterization, however.

As noted earlier, Dionysius praises Lysias for his propriety, noting that in this area, “Lysias’s style yields to that of none of the other Aphthonius provides a similar example of an ethical ethopoeia: “what words a man from inland might say on first seeing the sea” (Aph. 45; Kennedy 116).

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ancient orators” (Lys. 9). Dionysius’s description of Lysias’s propriety may seem like an elaboration of the speechwriter’s ethopoetic art, particularly in light of its consistency with other ancient accounts of ethopoeia, but Dionysius discusses ethopoeia and propriety as distinct virtues, suggesting that he has something different in mind with both. Notably, the word ethopoiea does not appear in the discussion of propriety at Lysias 9, and when Dionysius offers a summary of Lysias’s virtues at Lysias 13, he includes both “the investment of every person with life and character” (τ µηδ ν ποτ θεσθαι πρ σωπον µηδ νηθοπο ητον) and “the choice of arguments to suit the persons and the circumstances” in his list, reinforcing the separation of the two stylistic virtues. Both propriety and persuasive ethos are relevant to character portrayal, but the two concepts should not be conflated in Dionysius’s Lysias.

The Second Element: Natural Style

Dionysius’s discussion of persuasive character, the first element of persuasive ethopoeia, clearly reflects the influence of Aristotle’s theory of ethos in the Rhetoric. With his discussion of style, the second element of his scheme, Dionysius moves beyond Aristotle’s theory, identifying the specific types of words that contribute to the creation of persuasive character.30 At Lysias 8, after identifying the qualities of character that are critical in Lysias’s portrayals, Dionysius observes that the orator “makes [his clients] speak in a style which is appropriate to these qualities [uprightness, reasonableness, and moderation], and which by its nature displays them in their best light.” Note here the criterion by which Dionysius judges appropriateness of ethopoetic style. Such style is fitting not because it suits various characteristics that distinguish individuals, as is the case with propriety-oriented characterization, but because of the contribution it makes to persuasive proof through character. In describing this style, Dionysius identifies the types of words that create persuasive character, asserting that “clear, standard, ordinary speech which is thoroughly familiar to everyone (τ ν σαφ κα κυρ αν κα κοιν ν κα Although Aristotle addresses style and character in various passages in the Rhetoric, he makes few explicit connections between style and the creation of ethos as a means of persuasion. See Kristine Bruss and Richard Graff, “Style, Character,

and Persuasion in Aristotle’s Rhetoric,” Advances in the History of Rhetoric 8 (2006):


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π σιν νθρ ποις συνηθεστ την)” is best suited to this task.31 In contrast, “All forms of pompous, outlandish and contrived language are foreign to characterization ( γ ρ γκος κα τ νον κα τ πιτηδε σεως παν νηθοπο ητον).” Characterization, in other words, requires conversational language—everyday, familiar talk through which the speaker’s humanity is conveyed. The contrast between ethopoetic words (clear, standard, and ordinary) and unethoepoetic (pompous, outlandish, and contrived) points to a need for speakers to identify themselves with listeners and to seem as unpracticed and “real” as possible. This sort of character would have been particularly useful in the ancient Greek courtroom, where, due to a strong anti-professional bias in the culture, litigants spoke for themselves.

In such circumstances, maintaining the image of a “legal virgin” worthy of a fair hearing was of paramount importance.32 If a speaker’s performance suggested art instead of amateurism, it might cast suspicion on his character, thereby giving listeners reason to doubt his trustworthiness.

Dionysius’s discussion of style at Lysias 8 is limited to the lines mentioned above. To provide a fuller account of his ideas about style, I will draw on passages elsewhere in Lysias and in several of Dionysius’s other essays that help to elucidate the terms of interest.33 I begin with the language that Dionysius considers ethopoetic: clear, standard, and ordinary. At Lysias 4, Dionysius praises Lysias’s style for being clear (saphe), identifying clarity as a quality worth imitating.

To illustrate this point, Dionysius compares Lysias to the historian Thucydides and the orator Demosthenes, remarking that the latter two “were brilliant narrators, but much of what they say is enigmatic and obscure, and requires an interpreter. Lysias’s style, however, is uniformly clear and lucid, even to a reader who is supposed to be totally removed from the sphere of political debate.”34 This observaDionysius’s language here reflects the influence of earlier critics, such as Demetrius of Magnesia. In Dinarchus, Dionysius quotes Demetrius’s observation that the orator’s word choice “portrays moral character in standard language” (Din. 1).

Christopher Carey discusses the ideology of the legal virgin in his overview

of forensic oratory in the Greek courts. See Trials from Classical Athens (London:

Routledge, 1997), 12.

As noted by Casper de Jonge, Dionysius’s critical commentary in his early works, including Lysias, is not as precise or well-elaborated as in his later works, which feature a more technical critical vocabulary and stronger analytical framework. See

Casper C. de Jonge, Between Grammar and Rhetoric: Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Language, Linguistics, and Literature, Mnemosyne Supplements, vol. 301 (Leiden/Boston:

Brill, 2008), pp. 251–252, 262–263.

Dionysius makes liberal use of comparisons like this one in his work as a critic.

He defends this method in his Letter to Gnaeus Pompeius, wherein he observes that 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 tion is consistent with remarks in Dionysius’s Thucydides, wherein he faults the historian for his “metaphorical, obscure, archaic, and outlandish” word choices (Thuc. 24), and in his Demosthenes, wherein he observes that the orator at times shares with Thucydides a tendency to express thoughts indirectly, “not simply and plainly, as is the normal practice of other writers, but in language removed and divorced from what is customary and natural and containing instead expressions which are unfamiliar to most people and not what nature demands” (Demos. 9).

Dionysius attributes Lysias’s clarity to “the wealth and superabundance of standard words which he uses” (Lys. 4). He extols the virtues of standard (kyrios, in this context “strict” or “literal”) language at Lysias 3, contrasting it with metaphorical, figured (tropikos) speech. According to Dionysius, Lysias excels at making subjects “seem dignified, extraordinary and grand while describing them in the commonest words without recourse to artificial devices.” Dionysius provides a number of examples of speakers who used artificial language to ornament their speech, to ill effect. Writing about Lysias’s predecessors, including Gorgias, Dionysius notes, “They used a plethora of metaphors, exaggerations and other forms of figurative language, and further confused the ordinary members of their audiences by using recondite and exotic words, and by resorting to unfamiliar figures of speech and other novel modes of expression.”35 Artificial language not only obfuscates, but, more directly relevant to ethos, may compromise favorable regard for the speaker.

Dionysius provides a fitting example in his essay on Isocrates, wherein he sharply criticizes the orator for his “juvenile use of figures of speech,” through which “realism is sacrificed to elegance” (Isoc.

12). Addressing persuasive effects, Dionysius remarks: “I certainly doubt whether these affected, histrionic and juvenile devices could be of any assistance either to a politician advising on matters of war and peace or to a defendant whose life is at stake in a law-court; on the contrary, I am sure that they could cause considerable damage.

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