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The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric: Classroom Exercises
Ronald F. Hock, Edward N. O'Neil

ISBN 9781589830189
Status Available
Price: $52.00
Binding Paperback
Publication Date October 2002

Reading, writing an inflected language, and composing an argument were among the skills taught in Greco-Roman schools. At all three curricular levels students developed these skills by learning how to use a literary form known as the chreia, or anecdote. Beginners at the primary level learned to read and write by copying different examples of the chreia. Students at the secondary level used it to learn how to decline nouns and conjugate verbs and form them into grammatically correct sentences. Advanced students learned how to elaborate a simple chreia into an eight-paragraph essay that argued for the truth of whatever saying or action was celebrated in the chreia. This volume incorporates thirty-six texts, most translated for the first time, that illustrate the use of the chreia at all three levels, a use that can be documented from the first century on through late antiquity and the Byzantine world. It demonstrates that people with all levels of education were intimately familiar with this important literary form, which not only preserves the wit and wisdom of famous philosophers, orators, kings, and poets but also explains its pervasive and enduring use in ancient literature.

This is the second volume of a planned three-volume set designed to make available all the educational texts known as the chreia. The first volume, also edited by Hock and O’Neil, is The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric, Volume 1: The Progymnasmata.

Ronald F. Hock is Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The late Edward N. O’Neil was Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of Southern California.

“In this learned and readable volume, the second in a series on the chreia or anecdote in rhetorical education, Professors Hock and O’Neil provide introductions, translations, and commentaries that give a clear picture of how exercises in copying, composing, inflecting, and elaborating anecdotes functioned in Greek education from the time of the Roman Empire into the Byzantine age. In the process, they make many valuable contributions to scholarship, including restorations of difficult Greek texts, description of how techniques of elaborating chreias may have developed out of argument forms as taught in Hellenistic rhetorical schools, and preliminary study of Doxapatres’ little-known commentary on Aphthonius, to be translated in a third volume. This book will be of special interest and use to students of rhetoric, the history of composition, and the culture of early Christian times.”
—George A. Kennedy, Paddison Professor of Classics, Emeritus, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“A chreia, ‘a concise reminiscence associated with some character,’ was popularly used to express the most characteristic features of the behavior and teaching of well-known philosophers. The authors provide a critical text and excellent translation of thirty-six specimens of this minor literary form to demonstrate how chreiai were used in the three stages of Greek and Roman education to develop pupils’ language skills. Chreiai also reflected the social and moral values inculcated by the educational process, and the extensive introduction and commentary on the selected chreiai thus make the material of interest to a wide readership.”
—Abraham J. Malherbe, Buckingham Professor Emeritus of New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, Yale Divinity School

“Every page of this book exhibits a caution, precision, balance, and reliability that is exemplary of the best in modern historical scholarship. [It is] strongly recommended to advanced students and researchers interested in ancient and medieval education, the history of rhetoric, rhetorical criticism, and any field in which this ancient literary form may hold some interest.”
Review of Biblical Literature

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