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date: 26 November 2022



  • Philip Hardie


The modern use of ‘classicism’ to refer either to the art and literature of a period held to represent a peak of quality or perfection, or to the conscious imitation of works of such a period, derives from M. *Cornelius Fronto's use of classicus (lit. ‘belonging to the highest class of citizens’) to denote those ancient writers whose linguistic practice is authoritative for imitators (quoted in Gell. NA 19. 8. 5). The possibility of designating a period as ‘classical’, and of the consequent appearance of ‘classicizing’ movements, arises with the Hellenistic consciousness of the present as set off from, but heir to, a great past tradition, and with the self-conscious development of a theory of imitation (see imitatio). A full-blown classicizing movement emerges in 1st-cent. bce Rome, fostered by Greek writers like *Dionysius (7) of Halicarnassus who champion *Thucydides (2) as a model for historians and argue for the superiority of ‘Attic’ over ‘Asianic’ rhetorical models (see asianism and atticism); in the visual arts there is a parallel movement to imitate Greek models of the 5th and 4th cents.


  • Reception

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