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Henri III Rhéteur, Nouvel Hercule Gaulois

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Chapter Summary

This chapter proposes to study how, beginning with Lucian of Samosata, the humanists resurrected the myth of the Gallic Hercules to make it at once a variation of Mercury, god of eloquence, an incarnation of the cedant arma togae, and, in a specifically French context, a nationalist myth serving the French monarchy under Francis I. The reiteration of this myth reached its high point in the Latin translation of Henri III's oration to the Estates General in 1576. This translation is preceded by a letter of dedication that is of particular interest insofar as the translator reveals the rhetorical content of the Gallic Hercules, a recapitulative figure of all ancient eloquence, both sacred and profane. Henri III is depicted as a new Gallic Hercules owing to his willingness to enhance, at the height of civil wars, the enduring ideal of the omnipotence of eloquence.

Keywords: Francis I; French monarchy; Gallic Hercules; Henri III; rhetorical content



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