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The Rhetoric Of Religion

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores the intersections between rhetoric and religion in Graeco-Roman antiquity, both pagan and Christian. Rhetorical forms of religious expression include discourse about the gods (narrative, eulogy, preaching, naming) and discourse addressed to the gods, especially prayers and hymns. The chapter demonstrates the rhetoric of hymns (not unlike the rhetoric of prayer), and to use this as a point of departure for considering the relationship between paganism and Christianity. Rhetoric itself possesses a religious dimension in the power of words, the effectiveness of speech, and the magic of persuasion. Discourse can have supernatural effectiveness, and the orator can be invested with religious powers. Aelius Aristides (2nd c. CE) displays these different aspects; his Sacred Tales illustrate the cross-fertilization of rhetoric and religion.

Keywords: Aelius Aristides; christianity; Graeco-Roman antiquity; hymns; paganism; persuasion; prayers; religious expression; Sacred Tales



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