Richard Enos – Roman Rhetoric: Revolution and the Greek Influence

Chapter One: Forces Shaping the Transition from Greek to Roman Rhetoric

  • Chapter One is concerned with offering an explanation of the political and social forces that motivated Athens to promote rhetoric not only at home but in colonies and among allies in Sicily and Southern Italy.  The movement of rhetoric to Rome itself wasn’t so much a direct relationship between Athens and Rome than a slow progression of rhetoric across the Aegean and into the Roman heartland (1).
  • Specifically this chapter traces 1) the political motivation of the Athenian polis; 2) the role rhetoric played in that political process; 3) the efforts of sophists to act as agents for democratic imperialism; and 4) the impact of this politics on later Greek and Roman rhetoric.
  • The sophists were complicit in the spread of democracy around the Greek region because of the dynamic power of rhetoric as action or the ability of rhetoric to arouse people, creating democratic exigence to address problems/situations.  In Athens itself democracy was a political system that encouraged rhetoric as a source of power for ambitious middle-class politicians (4).
  • Because Athens began a transition phase that located wealth outside of a narrow aristocracy into a larger middle-class grouping, they had to find money, resources, and subjects to lord over somewhere . . . hence the colonies!
  • The Athenians used treaties (formal agreements on paper) and alliances (often solidified through sophists in the region) to spread their influence throughout the region.
  • “Almost every prominent sophist and logographer known to us in this period exhibits some active political role in promoting Athenian-based democracy or in establishing strong ties with Athens” (9).
  • The spread of Roman military action and eventually empire also facilitated a crossing with Greek cultural systems. . . these systems obviously contained educational programs.  (12-4).
  • Why did sophists flood into Italy?  1) As Rome became more powerful, teachers looking for work in higher ed would migrate to the region because of an increased demand; and 2) transplanted Greeks provided an expanding and ever-renewing body of rhetorical theory from Greece during the period of Roman conquest before Empire.

Chapter Two: Kairos in the Roman Reception of Greek Rhetoric

  • This chapter considers the kairotic moment or situation that led to the importance of rhetoric for Republican Rome.  The development of the Forum as a space for public policy arguments and legal disputes made the adept practice of rhetoric essential.   Yet, social problems/contexts made the courts and the legislature somewhat unstable. . . this occurs when rhetoric and justice are eschewed in the pursuit of unbridled power.  So, the institutionalized kairos of rhetoric and the social kairos of social rhetoric were always pushing and pulling against one another during this time period.
  • Though early nationalisms sought to kill Greek rhetoric in the Roman republic, by Cicero’s time it had been institutionalized and formalized.  Yet, this formalization looked a lot different from the Greek formalized rhetorical education.  This was because rhetoric is an elastic art, able to conform to the social and cultural needs of a particular period (recall the role of the 18th century rhetoricians of the empirical and Common Sense philosophical traditions for example).
  • The Roman conquests provided influx of material wealth so that in the Roman republic economic prosperity justified an expanding military, which justified more conquest.  The study of rhetoric became valued because party politics and increased affluence meant that families with means to do so would secure a rhetorical education for their children so that they could move through the plutocratic and oligarchic circles of the courts and politics (24).
  • In addition to wealth, aristocratic heritage and military acumen, rhetoric also served those interested in the pursuit of power.  If you were born outside the circles of power, rhetoric could be used as a way to gain a voice in the areans of power (like the Forum – this is seen most notably in the career of Cicero).  Despite all of Cicero’s efforts, the courts remained fairly corrupt throughout his lifetime.  His death signals the end of Roman republican rhetoric( 32).
  • Enos claims that when Rome transitioned from Republic to Empire rhetoric lost its political power (this is debatable because the true “power” of rhetoric might actually be operative in those spaces where democracy/republicanism is repressed; hence, the ‘traditional’ power of rhetoric might have been lost, but its ability to resist hopefully remained).
  • Rhetoric in the age of Empire became about eloquence rather than instruction/dynamism/pragmatism.  (31).  This is because the interests of the state were entrusted to fewer and fewer patricians and military leaders.  Under the Republic rhetoric served to preserve and regulate the Republican form of government; when the active participation of the community was removed, the shared goals of rhetorical discourse toward justice became far more endangered.
  • Rhetoric went from being a participatory act to a system of education for enculturation into a culture in the transition from Republic to Empire (36).
  • The effects of this transition meant a couple of things: 1) audience becomes far less important if they have no real say in the thing being argued; 2) there may not be a context for resolution, only absolute decision; hence, rhetoric as persuasion might be useless; and 3) the possibility for consensus becomes impossible at times and only allows for revolution. . . which isn’t dialectical per se? (37)

Chapter III: When Rhetoric was Outlawed in Rome: The Censure of Greek Rhetoric and the Emergence of Roman Declamation

  • Enos demonstrates  how rhetoric was banned from being taught in Republican Roman education because of the need/desire to ground their culture (the Romans culture) in a distinctly Roman rhetorical tradition. . . not a Greek one.  He uses Suetonious’s De Rhetoribus to make this point.
  • In addition to the nationalist side of things, the teaching of rhetoric was discouraged in the period because of its ability to empower the equestrian class (upper middle class) through rhetorical production.  This was obviously not in the interests of the powerful, so they discouraged the teaching of rhetorical skill and theory.  (47).
  • The Romans called their art of rhetoric ‘declamation’ (oratorical performance) – thought pedantic and solispsistic by some, this rhetorical training actually detailed the procedures that constituted “a pragmatic training in the sort of jurisprudential and political modes of expression” that were central to Roman civilization and education (50).
  • Study in declamation was extremely popular because education – in a municipally supported environment – didn’t exist for the Romans of the era.  School was reserved for those that could afford it.  It was also “fashionable” to attend Greek schools of rhetoric.

Chapter IV: The ‘Latinization’ of Greek Rhetoric: A Revolution of Attitude

  • In this chapter Enos considers how the Romans – if they really believed Cato’s maxim that education was a parental obligation and shouldn’t be subject to foreign influences – were able to internalize and assimilate Greek rhetoric into their own Latin rhetorical system (53).
  • Major points of Roman criticism of Greek rhetoric: 1) too many technicalities; 2) non-Roman; and 3) it could lead to inappropriate excesses and adornments/effusive style.  This led to an appreciation for Greek rhetoric that was simple and favored perspeicuity and eloquence through “simplicity and directness” (55).  This style/pedagogy was referred to as “Roman Atticism” because of the fondness for the Attic Greek orators.  Cicero dismissed this strict position, but in so doing recognized the legitimacy of Greek rhetoric.
  • From the Greeks Cicero borrowed the logographic tradition and also the precepts of Greek declamation: written exercises and stasis theory (61).
  • The Rhetorica ad Herennium and Cicero’s early work in De Invetione are tacit Roman acceptances of Greek rhetorical techne (63).
  • While Cicero was the rhetorical educator of the Republic, Quintillian was the rhetorical pedagogue of the age of Roman Empire.  Quintillian used Greek rhetoric not merely as a place to translate the terms over into Latin, but as a space where in to make comparisons between the two rhetorical systems.
  • The Romans in the age of Empire were quite welcoming of the Greeks.  This is because Greek rhetoric under Empire turned away from the civic function of rhetoric toward rhetoric as a way to demonstrate/cultivate grace and refinement of written and oral prose – in other words, it was used as a source for artistic inspiration and cultural refinement rather than eristic or civic ).  discourse (67).

Chapter V: The Effects of the Roman Revolution on the Rhetorical Tradition of Athens and the Second Sophistic

  • This chapter looks to sketch out the relationship between the second sophistic in Athens and the Roman patrons that likely funded such a venture (because the claimed dominion over the region at the time).  This would explain why a lot of the work of the second sophistic tends to be markedly aesthetic/style driven and not very civic.  This work will remedy mistreatments of the subject that saw the second sophistic as distinctly Greek or only limit  a discussion of this revival of rhetoric in Athens on individual/conceptual (as opposed to historical-cultural-social) levels.
  • In addition to remarkable Greek orators and pedagogues, the cultural programs initiated by the Romans in Athens were instrumental in understanding the Second Sophistic.  Instead of many of the spaces on the Acropolis functioning as sites for civic discussion and argumentation, the Roman influence changed these same sites into spaces for education in the arts, humanities, and sophistic rhetoric.  In this chapter Enos highlights how many Roman constructions were actually sites of rhetorical education and fundamentally changed the rhetorical landscape in Ancient Greece.
  • Like most endings, when the Empire weakened and eventually fell so too did the success/prosperity of the second sophistic.

Chapter VI: A Study of the Roman Patronage of Greek Oratorical and Literary Contests – The Amphiareion of Oropos

  • This chapter demonstrates – through an analysis of the archaeological and epigraphical evidence collected at the sanctuary of the Apheiareion of Oropos – how the Romans not only supported the building of structures for rhetorical education and cross-pollination between Greece and Rome but also held large literary festivals and rhetorical contests that encouraged intermingling and highlighted the value of Greek rhetoric for Ancient Rome.
  • It is in this chapter that Enos makes his strongest push toward the “get a shovel, we’re going to Greece to find evidence” methodology of creating scholarship on ancient texts and peoples (especially pages 88-92).
  • The import – for cultural historians – of these contexts was the fact that they draw attention to a transformation in Roman games: from athletic/military emphases to artistic/cultural.  This shift in games is congruent with the broader shift in rhetoric from political to educational/cultural . . . and possibly ensured its survival (95-6).


1.        What happens when we push Enos’ method/ology up against that of Glenn and Jarratt/Ong?  How are they similar?  How are they different?  I find a lot of convergences and divergences between the two.  It is especially evident that Enos is keen on sketching contextual and “factual” histories in this account (how about the methodological discussion on 75-6?!?).

2.       Was the move that rhetoric made between the Republic and the Empire a similar change that it made between the classical Greek conception of rhetoric present in the Renaissance/Republican Rome/Ancient Greece and the 18th century “inward turn” of rhetoric toward the individual/genius?

3.       Despite a lot of claims by authorship experts (Woodmansee) and postmodern theorists on authorship (Foucault, Barthes), we discover that the idea of “owning” and “publishing” texts as a solitary/single author probably existed long before the 16th century.  Specifically, Enos highlights in Chapter 4 how Cicero himself “sought notoriety through publication” (58).  Attendant to these authors were the pirates ready to pounce and redistribute published texts for profit.

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