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Psellos, Michael  

Stratis Papaioannou

Psellos, Michael (baptismal name Constantine) (1018–1078 CE) was born into a middle-class family in Constantinople, at a time when the capital of the Byzantine Empire was again at the peak of its power, after the crisis of the 7th and 8th centuriesce. Psellos’s life was punctuated by the reigns of the emperors and the careers of other members of the Constantinopolitan ruling elite, whose patronage and friendship he successfully or (occasionally) less successfully sought. Because of his education and learnedness in all fields of the Byzantine curriculum, which must have appeared spectacular in the eyes of his contemporaries, Psellos gained and sustained various posts in the imperial court and related networks of elite society as secretary, professional public speaker, and teacher during the thirty-five years (until 1078) when we can follow his career. His impressive erudition, but also his brilliant talent (by Byzantine standards) in literary discourse were also the reason for his inclusion, almost immediately after his death, in the reading canon of Byzantine advanced literacy and, therefore, the continued copying and preservation of his vast discursive production.


Annaeus Seneca (2), Lucius, Seneca “the Younger,” 4 BCE–65 CE  

Christopher Trinacty

Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Seneca the Younger) was an important political, philosophical, and literary figure of the 1st century ce. Close to the court of Caligula, he was exiled by Claudius but later attained a position of high power during the first years of Nero’s principate. In his old age, however, Seneca was ordered to commit suicide for his alleged part in a possible plot against Nero’s life. The prose works give a vivid sense of the difficulties of living a Stoic life at this time period and, additionally, reflect many aspects of Roman society such as clientela (De beneficiis, “On Benefits”), the role of the princeps (De clementia, “On Clemency”), and the problems of luxury and wealth (De vita beata, “On the Blessed Life”). His Epistulae morales (“Letters on Ethics”) aims to teach how to live an ethical life, while the Quaestiones naturales (“Investigations of Nature”) illuminates Stoic ideas about the physics of the natural world. The tragedies stage the problems of emotional excess, difficult decision-making, and power dynamics, and provide a glimpse into his reception of the theatrical and literary traditions in Rome, especially Augustan poets such as Vergil, Horace, and Ovid. These tragedies were meant to be performed, and the hyperbolic histrionics of Medea, Hercules, and Atreus would have resonated in the Age of Nero. The rhetorical fireworks present in his dramatic poetry are also displayed in his Stoic prose works, which abound in sententiae, his novel use of metaphor, paradox, creative imagery, and verbal ingenuity.



J. D. Mikalson

Isocrates (436–338 bce) of Athens is generally classified as an orator, although because of a weak voice and a lack of confidence, he never delivered an oration to a legislative or legal assembly. He wanted and practised a quiet life, free from political and legal wranglings. Early in his career he wrote legal speeches for others, but soon turned to moral and sophistic essays and pseudo-orations epideictic in style but serious in purpose. He earned a fortune as a teacher of rhetoric for elite local and foreign youth. His teachings included a philosophy directed to practical, conventional morality intended to produce good citizens and future leaders. From the Panegyricus of 380 bce to the end of his long life, he promoted in various writings the idea of a Panhellenic expedition, always with some form of Athenian leadership, to Asia Minor to free the Greeks living there from Persian domination. For military leadership of the expedition he appealed over the years, successively and unsuccessfully, to Dionysius I of Sicily, Archidamus of Sparta, and finally Philip of Macedon. In the 350s bce he unfavourably compared the current Athenian democracy with that established by Solon and Cleisthenes and decried Athenian mistreatment of their allies in the Second Athenian Confederacy.


Apuleius writer and orator, b. c. 125 CE  

Stephen J. Harrison

Apuleius was born of prosperous parents (Apol. 23) at *Madaurus in Africa Proconsularis, and educated in Carthage, Athens, and Rome ( Flor. 18, 20, 16); at Athens he gained enough philosophy to be called philosophus Platonicus by himself and others. He claims to have travelled extensively as a young man ( Apol. 23), and was on his way to *Alexandria (1) when he arrived at *Oea, probably in the winter of 156ce. The story from that point is told by Apuleius himself in his Apologia , no doubt in the most favourable version possible; at Oea he met a former pupil from Athens, Pontianus, who persuaded him to stay there for a year and eventually to marry his mother, Pudentilla, in order to protect her fortune for the family. Subsequently, Apuleius was accused by various other relations of Pudentilla of having induced her to marry him through magic means; the case was heard at *Sabratha, near Oea, in late 158 or early 159.


Quintilian, Roman advocate and rhetorician, 1st century CE  

Curtis Dozier

Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus) was a prominent orator and teacher of rhetoric in Rome during the Flavian period. His best-known work is the Institutio Oratoria, “The Orator’s Education,” which presents an idealized curriculum for the training of orators, beginning with their birth and extending through their retirement in old age. It has been treated primarily as a storehouse of information about ancient rhetorical theory and Roman educational practices but is increasingly recognized as a literary work in its own right, marked in particular by Quintilian’s own deployment of the same rhetorical techniques that the Institutio teaches.The details of Quintilian’s biography are uncertain, being based only on a few testimonia and his own references to his career, many of which present difficulties of interpretation.1Jerome (Chron. 186 Helm) says he was born in Calagurris (Calahorra) in Spain and that he came to Rome with Galba in 68 ce.


Lucian, of Samosata  

Manuel Baumbach

The 86 writings from the 2nd century ce that have come down to us under Lucian’s name are characterized by their creative appropriation of literary traditions. The thematic and formal range of Lucian’s oeuvre is enormous: there are rhetorical works such as declamations, paradoxical encomia, prolaliai and ekphraseis, literary-critical treatises, novel-like narratives, epistles critical of society, pamphlets, letters, and a multitude of dialogical writings. With the comedic dialogue, Lucian creates a new hybrid form of comedy and Platonic dialogue. He establishes the tradition of the genre of “dialogues among the dead” and his True Stories (Verae historiae) are taken as a model for fantastic travel novels. Against the background of the educational culture of the Second Sophistic, his writings address appearance and reality, lies and truth in cultural, philosophical, religious, and social discourses. An important key to understanding his works is their intertextual richness of allusion, not only to the canon of classical literature but also to Hellenistic and imperial writings. By using various author figures and different settings, Lucian’s texts constantly change perspectives and lead their recipients to the most diverse places of the Roman Empire, to its margins or to utopian spaces. The unfamiliar views of the real world break with customary ways of looking at things, open up new insights, require new aesthetic approaches, and encourage the listeners and readers of Lucian’s writings to reflect on the relationship between historical life and literary representation. Despite criticism of some works (e.g. De mort.


Gorgias (1) of Leontini, orator, c. 485–c. 380 BCE  

Josh Wilburn

Gorgias of Leontini, orator, c. 485–c. 380 bce, was one of the most well-known and influential of the early Greek rhetoricians. He spent much of his life as an itinerant speaker and reputed educator throughout Greece and contributed to the early development of the art of speech. His extant works include two complete speeches, Encomium of Helen and Defense of Palamedes, and ancient authors also summarize, provide fragments from, or report several additional works: On What-Is-Not, a Funeral Speech, a Pythian Speech, an Olympian Speech, a Speech for the People of Elis, a treatise on the “opportune moment” or kairos, and some manuals of rhetoric.Gorgias of Leontini, orator, c.485–c. 380bce, became one of the most well-known and influential figures of the early, 5th-century generation of thinkers credited with developing and marketing skills, principles, and ideas related to the burgeoning art of speech. Nothing secure is recorded about the events of his early life, although he must have achieved some degree of eminence and respect in .


analogia, De  

Alessandro Garcea

Julius Caesar’s composition of two books entitled De Analogia in the spring of 55 or 54bce must be seen as a contribution to the contemporary debate about the role of language at the end of the Republic. When normalisation measures became a priority in the growing Roman world, and after the publication of Cicero’s De Oratore, Caesar restored the use of sermo facilis et cotidianus (“easy and everyday speech”) (fr. 1b Garcea: Cic. Brut. 253) to the heart of eloquence. This standard linguistic model was based on the twin elements of Latinitas (“correct Latin”) and explanatio (“clarity”), which join in elegantia (“refined diction”) (see Auct. ad Her. 4.12.17), the chief quality of Caesar’s eloquence according to all ancient sources. To achieve the first goal, Caesar resorted to ratio (“analogy”), the rules which form a linguistic system and which, within consuetudo (“usage”), allow a distinction to be drawn between forms that are correct and those that are incorrect or useless. In order that speech may attain clarity, he called for an extremely selective dilectus uerborum (“choice of words”) (fr.


Victorinus, Marius, c. 285–c. 365 CE  

Stephen A. Cooper

Marius Victorinus is one of the few direct links between the Platonist schools of late antiquity and Latin theology. A professor of rhetoric in mid-4th century Rome, Victorinus is perhaps the only Latin author whose writings, composed before and after his conversion to Christianity, survive. His school works of grammar and rhetoric were used for over a millennium, and he anticipated Boethius in integrating logic and dialectic into the rhetorical curriculum. He also translated the Neoplatonic works that deeply impacted Augustine. After conversion, Victorinus composed theological works of various genres: treatises and hymns in defense of the Nicene Creed and commentaries on the Pauline epistles, the first in Latin. The treatises reveal his chief contribution to the history of Christian thought: a philosophical interpretation of the trinity that drew deeply on late antique Platonist language and conceptuality to formulate a pro-Nicene theology. His commentaries on Paul employ the grammarian’s literal treatment of the text to identify the situational context of the epistles and the apostle’s rhetorical strategy. Victorinus was a pioneer of the synthesis of Christianity and Platonism in the Latin church, which reached its heights in late antiquity with Augustine and Boethius and flowered variously in the medieval Latin church.


Triphiodorus, of Panopolis  

Laura Miguélez-Cavero

Triphiodorus, who originated from Egypt and lived in the 3rd century ce, was an epic poet and teacher of grammar whose only extant work is The Sack of Troy (691 lines, narrating the final events of the Trojan War).Triphiodorus means “gift of Triphis,” a local deity of Panopolis (modern Akhmim) in Upper Egypt, and was a common name in Panopolis itself and all over Upper Egypt. This and the entry of the Suda (T 1111), calling him an Egyptian, have led to the conclusion that he originated from the area of Panopolis. The Suda actually includes two entries under the same name, the first (T 1111) calling him a poet and grammarian (γραμματικὸς καὶ ποιητὴς ἐπῶν) and attributing to him Marathoniaca (Μαραθωνιακά, on the battle of Marathon, or more likely on Theseus and the Marathonian bull, as in Callimachus’ Hecale), The Sack of Troy.


Stertinius, Stoic writer  

Edward Courtney

A Stoic writer (See stoicism), alleged source in Hor.Sat. 2. 3 (see l. 296) said by [Helenius Acro] (on Hor.Epist. 1. 12. 20) to have written 220 books; the implication that these were in verse is not credible.



Sebastian Matzner

The term metonymy denotes a literary trope, that is, a specific form of defamiliarized expression, which indirectly refers to what is at issue. Metonymy achieves this by way of exploiting an already existing association between the term (or terms) used metonymically—the metonym—and the term (or terms) implicitly at issue. Metonymy thus differs from metaphor, among other things, in that it does not invoke an underlying analogy or similarity between what is said and what is at issue. In both ancient and modern criticism, metaphor received significantly more attention than metonymy (partly owed to the fact that the poetic effects of metaphor tend to eclipse those of metonymy, partly because of the stronger appeal of the logical dimension at the heart of metaphor). As a result, metonymy—though widely used—is often ill-defined as a critical concept. Today, it features in literary-aesthetic, diachronic-etymological, (post-)structuralist, and cognitive criticism. Ancient literature, both Greek and Latin, is rich in metonymic usages, albeit with varying degrees of poetic intensity; the pattern is one of relatively few intense outcomes, and relatively many less intense ones. Prominent among the general literary-aesthetic effects of metonymy’s semantic shifts are the creation of a poignantly condensed impression of what is at issue; a change in focalization by zooming out onto a higher plane or zooming in on newly foregrounded micro-level aspects; and movement between the concrete-material and the abstract-conceptual dimensions of what is at issue.


Grammar, Grammarians, Latin  

Thomas J. Keeline

For the Romans, “grammar” (grammatica) encompassed the study of both language and literature. Although its precise origins are unclear, Latin grammar in its developed form—and in the only form that survives in the early 21st century—is a Romanized version of a Greek discipline, with the Greek influence pervasive and everywhere visible.

The word grammarian (grammaticus) was applied especially to professional teachers of Latin to children—native speakers at first but, in late antiquity, increasing numbers of non-native speakers too. According to Quintilian, the grammaticus had two tasks: to instruct his charges in correct Latinity and to elucidate the texts of the poets. In fact, these two tasks were bound up in each other: proper usage was shown by citations from approved authors, and approved authors were explicated particularly to illustrate proper usage. In teaching students about Latin with reference to the canonical authority of the past, the grammarian was also teaching students how to be good Romans in the traditional mold.


Philodemus, c. 110–c. 35 BCE  

David Blank

Philodemus (c. 110 Gadara, Syria–c. 35 bce Naples?) was an Epicurean philosopher. Philodemus eventually settled in Italy, where he was mentioned by Cicero as a companion of the Roman politician L. Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus, a composer of elegant verse and a good explainer of Epicurean doctrine, along with Siro, with whom he had a school of Epicureans in Naples that included a number of Roman poets in the circle of Vergil and Horace. Some of Philodemus’ epigrams were anthologized in the Garland of Philipp and became known to early modern scholars in the Palatine Anthology. His philosophical writings were unknown until they were found, in the 18th century, to be the vast majority of the book-rolls discovered in excavations of the “Villa of the Papyri” in Herculaneum.

The philosophical books of Philodemus so far known cover a wide variety of topics and show a particular interest in theology and religious observance; arts such as rhetoric, poetics, music; vices such as flattery, anger, greed, arrogance, and the character types of those who suffer from them; the history of other philosophical schools, such as the Platonic Academy and the Stoa, as seen in short biographies of their leading figures; longer, almost hagiographical accounts of the lives of the early Epicureans, and letters indicating their relations with one another. In these books Philodemus is frequently seen defending the interpretations of Epicurean doctrine by his own revered teacher Zeno of Sidon. He also stresses the manner in which an Epicurean school should be conducted, with a culture of “frank criticism” among junior and senior members and an understanding that, when one initially feels that a wise teacher is being unfair, overly critical, or even angry, it is the result of pedagogical strategy.


Laus Pisonis  

Tom Geue

The Laus Pisonis is a 261-line hexameter poem of praise for a certain aristocratic Piso and an application on the part of an unknown poet for Piso’s patronage. Previous scholarship has concentrated on the thorny issues of the poem’s author, addressee, and date, with current opinion putting the date around 65 ce and identifying the poem’s addressee with the anti-Neronian conspirator Gaius Calpurnius Piso. Beyond these contextual questions, the poem has been usefully seen, in Peirano’s formulation, as an epideictic “historical fiction” and a quasi-satire on poetic patronage. The poem is designedly playful and trivial, and contains a detailed excursus on the Roman board game of the ludus latrunculorum. It also contains a host of intertextual and intratextual features which grant it a versatility to match its subject.The Laus Pisonis is a poem of hexameter panegyric addressed to one Piso, an aristocratic patron in (probably) 1st-century ce imperial Rome. The poem is pitched as a bid for patronage from an up-and-coming-poet who never names himself. The poem’s 261 verses are wishfully framed as his breakthrough Horace-Maecenas moment, the point just before he makes the transition to the inner sanctum of Piso’s patronage. The poem is occupied entirely by an effort to say absolutely everything possible in the way of praise for Piso, even though this effort risks appearing as barrel-scraping rather than as a bountiful harvest of rich pickings. It begins with conventional enthusiasm for Piso’s family pedigree (.


Cornelius Celsus, Aulus  

Rebecca Flemming

Celsus was a Latin encyclopaedist of the early Roman Empire. Only the eight medical books of his Artes survive, but agriculture, rhetoric, and military matters were also encompassed in his work. The overall enterprise was aimed at synthesising and ordering bodies of useful technical knowledge for a Roman elite audience, knowledge often with Greek origins. Celsus selected, adapted, and reorganised this learning, rendering it into Latin. The extant books follow the tradition division of the medical art into regimen, drugs, and surgery, and are prefaced by an important critical history of ancient medicine.

Aulus Cornelius Celsus was author, probably in the reign of the emperor Tiberius (14–37ce), of a Latin encyclopaedic work entitled Artes, comprising five books on agriculture, eight on medicine, seven on rhetoric, and an unknown number on military matters. He also wrote on philosophy, though whether this was within or beyond the borders of his encyclopaedic enterprise is uncertain. The sources are unclear and the fit of such texts into an overall project aimed at summarising useful bodies of knowledge for Roman gentlemen is debatable.



Michael Squire

Ekphrasis refers to the literary and rhetorical trope of summoning up—through words—an impression of a visual stimulus, object, or scene. As critical trope, the word ekphrasis (ἔκφρασις) is attested from the first century ce onwards: it is discussed in the Imperial Greek Progymnasmata, where it is defined as a “descriptive speech which brings the subject shown before the eyes with visual vividness.”


Elegiae in Maecenatem  

Tom Geue

The Elegiae in Maecenatem are two (originally conjoined) poems on the death of Maecenas. Previous scholarship has focused on the questions of author and date, reaching a minimal consensus that the poems postdate Seneca. Traditionally earning a lukewarm literary reception, the poems have been mined (and questioned) as historical sources for Maecenas. Ever since Irene Peirano’s identification of them as chronological “fakes” (i.e., rhetorical fictions cut to fit a given historical moment), the door has been open to more appreciative literary and structural analysis.

The Elegiae in Maecenatem started life in the bundle of the Appendix Vergiliana as a single poem, built of elegiac couplets, about the life, death, and memory of Maecenas. Scaliger was the first to spot that “it” was probably not one poem, but that they were two. The first poem is a wide-ranging defence of Maecenas’s dissolute ways, a wish that he had lived longer, and a prayer for minimally burdensome earth to be piled over him in death, packaged as a sort of funeral poem. The second poem is a dramatic monologue, the dying words of Maecenas as he reminds the great Caesar of their intimate friendship, which diverts the poet’s frustrated wish for Maecenas’s long life in the first poem onto Caesar himself. Most recent scholarship takes the two-poem structure for granted but some have argued for the unity of the poem and posited a lacuna in transmission as a possible explanation for the discontinuity.


the self in Latin literature  

Thomas Habinek

Although the Latin language has no single term equivalent to the English expression “the self,” Latin literature has been understood by scholars to rely upon and engage with various concepts of selfhood or personal identity. Inquiry into the Roman self or selves is a relatively recent phenomenon, with antecedents in social scientists’ longstanding concern with culturally specific models of identity.1 Despite such precedents, classical scholars have generally focused more on the possible resemblance of the Roman self to modern Euro-American concepts than on analyzing Roman notions of individual identity on their own terms.

Perhaps the best-represented type of self in Latin literature is a rhetorical self, that is, an identity projected to the public by means of speaking, writing, and other types of social performance. Elite Romans would have received training in personal image construction as part of their literary and rhetorical education, which was explicitly concerned with the practice of and selection among various possible projections of character.


Proclus Constantinopolitanus, c. 385–446 CE; bishop, 434–446 CE  

Maximos Constas

An early archbishop of Constantinople and a popular preacher in the rhetorical style of Gregory Nazianzus (d. 390), Proclus was the principal architect of the Byzantine cult of the Virgin Mary. Nothing is known of his family, social class, or early life, although he seems to have studied under Alexandrian teachers of rhetoric recently established in the new capital. Later Byzantine sources make Proclus the student of John Chrysostom (sed. 397–404), who died in exile (d. 407) and whose relics Proclus had with great pomp returned to Constantinople (438). However, contemporary sources place Proclus in the service of Atticus of Constantinople (sed. 406–425), who ordained him to the diaconate and priesthood, and whom Proclus served as secretary and ghostwriter. After the death of Atticus, Proclus was a candidate for the archiepiscopal throne, but lost the election to Sisinnius (sed. 426–427), who subsequently ordained Proclus to the see of Cyzicus. The people of Cyzicus, however, resisting interference in the affairs of their church, rejected Proclus, who remained in the capital where he flourished as a popular preacher. After the death of Sisinnius, Proclus was again put forward as a candidate but was blocked by the emperor, Theodosius II (r.