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Topics Of Vituperation: Some Commonplaces Of 4th-Century Oratory

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Chapter Summary

Hermann Wankel shows that charges of political corruption (vote stealing, bribery, and the rest) are so ubiquitous as to qualify as commonplaces, with the consequence that scholars should be careful about taking such charges seriously. This chapter takes a broad look at the pattern of abuse in Greek oratory or thought very deeply about what a study of topics of vituperation can teach us about rhetoric in general. It sketches some directions in which rethinking the matter might proceed. In many speeches, charges of kakourgia or ponêria seem to boil down to classic instances of what came to be known in rhetorical handbooks as paradiastolê, "rhetorical redefinition", whereby one and the same quality or action can be subject to opposite interpretations. The chapter talks the wellknown "bullet theory" of persuasion, which has orators conveying or transferring their feelings and/or beliefs to passive audiences.

Keywords: bullet theory of persuasion; Greek oratory; passive audiences; political corruption; rhetorical handbooks; vituperation



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