Western Rhetorical History Crucial Period: 500-300 BCE Place: Greece: Athens and Syracuse –Greece was leaving orality and embracing literacy. –After 510 BCE, Athens became a (limited) democracy. –After 467 BCE, Syracuse overthrew tyrant Hieron and became democratic. Corax and Tisias began formally studying rhetoric
For a Fee Foreign scholars called “Sophists” arrived in Athens and began teaching –Public Speaking –Power of Language –Social Origin of all Knowledge –Cultural Relativism
Kairos Sophists focus on immediate circumstances and expediency –Timing and contingency, or Kairos, is everything –Communities must embrace, tolerate, and benefit from cultural diversity
Gorgias (483-375 BCE) Born in Leontini in Sicily, birthplace of rhetoric. Famously said: –Nothing exists; –Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and –Even if something could be known about it, knowledge about it can't be communicated to others.
Context The story of Helen: –Paris (Alexander) is asked to choose among three goddesses: Hera (power), Athena (glory), and Aphrodite (love). Paris chooses Athena, who “gives” him Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Helen leaves with Paris for Troy, abandoning her husband (Menelaus, king of Sparta). As revenge, Menelaus teams up with his brother, Agamemnon (king of Mycenae) to storm the walls of Troy.
Helen Christopher Marlowe: –Was this the face that launch'd a thousand ships And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Encomium of Helen “Speech is a powerful lord, which by means of the finest and most invisible body effects the divinest works: it can stop fear and banish grief and create joy and nurture pity.” –Rhetoric produces effects and creates emotions.
Word Magic “The power of the incantation is wont to beguile [the soul] and persuade it and alter it by witchcraft.” “The effect of speech upon the condition of the soul is comparable to the power of drugs over the nature of bodies.” –Rhetoric has a coercive power over us.
Oh, Gorgias! “I wished to write a speech which would be a praise of Helen and a diversion to myself.” –Rhetoric is not only a powerful tool, but also a lot of fun!