The Fall of Rome and the Rise of Christianity

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February 21,2012
 The period of the Dictators/Caesars:
Augustus, Tiberius, leading to civil
wars and internal strife
 The period of the Dictators/Caesars:
Augustus, Tiberius, leading to civil
wars and internal strife
 The gradual abolition of democratic
bodies or stripping them of power—
“once democratic procedures were
eliminated, rhetoric decayed” (137)
 The period of the Dictators/Caesars:
Augustus, Tiberius, leading to civil
wars and internal strife
 The gradual abolition of democratic
bodies or stripping them of power—
“once democratic procedures were
eliminated, rhetoric decayed” (137)
 The growing influence of Christianity
 The influence of knowledge
gained from Greek orators
continues during this period
(via esp. Cicero and
Quintilian)
 These orators were “often
granted immunities and given
honorary chairs” by emperors
such as Vespasian (125); and
Caligula (138)
 The most famous speakers
were “cultural conservatives
and pagans” (125)
 Limited to epideictic and
forensic rhetoric, but little
need for deliberative rhetoric
 Emphasis on preaching,
especially aiming at
conversion
 Attempts at fusing
Christian theology with
Platonic philosophy
 Despite this, the
ascension of Christianity
caused a decline in the
teaching of rhetoric;
rhetoric is viewed with
skepticism
 Called for joining the use
of hermeneutics
(interpretation of
Scripture) and rhetoric
 Altering the classical
tradition, argued that the
message was more
important than the speaker
 Argued for a correlation
between eloquence and
position, education and
authority—in other words,
ethos transcends rhetorical
skill
 “Augustine’s love for
Cicero and for language
motivated [Augustine’s]
brilliant rescue of
rhetoric from its
condemnation as a
product of paganism [ie.
The Greeks]”
 “Augustine’s
reconstruction of Cicero
involved designing
rhetoric for Christian,
rather than civil, uses”
 Substituted deliberative,
epideictic, forensic forms
for a single genre:
preaching (148)
Cicero’s three styles used
for particular audiences:
1) The grand style to
fascinate and please
(and convince) nonbelievers;
2) The middle style to
appeal to the will to
condemn or praise
3) The plain style was
used to instruct or
prove
 Via the neoplatonists,
Augustine learned to
“seek for a truth that was
incorporeal”—in other
words, to look, like Plato
did, to the noumenal
world as the source for
Truth
 However, Augustine
ultimately dismissed the
neoplatonists as mere
“rhetoricians who lived
for applause”( 149)
 Augustine’s reading of
Plato lead him to seek
rhetoric “to dispel the
illusions of this world
and clarify the meaning
of God” (149) –Plato
probably wouldn’t have
been happy to hear that
 But to dispel illusions, we
would need to read and
interpret Scripture
carefully and accurately!
 Hence, his desire to
cultivate hermeneutics:
the art of Biblical
interpretation
 This also leads to his
emphasis on semiotics
(the study of signs) and
grammar
 All of these skills are
aiming to “dispel
illusion” and uncover
Truth: GOD.
 Due, in part, to
Augustine’s belief in a
noumenal world, he sees
that such a universal
Truth “establishes
universal standards that
are not altered on the
basis of such attributes
as taste, race, or belief…”
(151)
Think of what the author
of Dissoi Logoi would say
to that!
 Augustine used Biblical
writings as his examples
for rhetorical theory,
with Jesus as his ideal
orator:
 Extemporaneous
preaching
 Aimed to make the
unclear clear
 An implied division of
audiences:
 Those with faith
 Those who don’t share
Jesus’ vision; dialectical
discourse used
 The multitudes, who are
taught through the use
of parables
 Children, who need no
preaching
The Fall of Rome and the Rise of Christianity





The Scholastics
Forward-looking
Emphasized logic (esp.
the syllogism)
Generally, neoplatonic
Generally, placed
rhetoric beneath logic,
thus reducing its
importance
Aimed for clear,
unambiguous language
The Humanists
 Focus on the past—
retrieved ancient
scholars to inform the
present, including the
ancient rhetoricians
 Saw value in rhetoric
 Boethius
 Cassiodorus Senator
 Averroes
 Alcuin
 Notker Labeo
 Roger Bacon
 Boethius
 Sulpitius Victor
 John Scotus
 Isidore, the Archbishop




of Seville
Averroes
Hugh of St. Victor
Thomas Aquinas
Roger Bacon
 The art of letter writing,
originating with Roman
rhetoric is taken up by
Christian church
 A systematized way of
composing a letter that
emphasized ethos to
establish goodwill and
credibility in a reader
 This also emphasized and
spread the teaching of the
art of written, rather than
spoken, rhetoric
February 21,2012
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