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date: 27 November 2022



  • Simon Goldhill


An anecdote in English means a short and pointed narrative, often of a biographical nature, which is not usually attributed to an author. The ancient Greek word anekdotos means no more than “unpublished,” and is a very rare term. But there are three main words—chreia, paradoxon, and paradeigma (exemplum in Latin)—which were used in Greek to categorize such stories. These terms together give an important insight into the literary culture of antiquity, especially in the Greek-speaking world of the Roman Empire, revealing how knowledge circulates and how elites performed their relationship to the past.A chreia is a very brief story culminating in or consisting of a single sentence put-down or witty rejoinder. It is often associated with Cynic philosophy: “Diogenes is to be praised for rubbing away on his genital organ in public and saying to the bystanders, ‘If only it were as easy to rub away hunger’” (Plutarch .


  • Greek Literature

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