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Socratic Dialogue or Courtroom Debate? Judicial Rhetoric and Stasis Theory in the Dialogue on the Life of St. John Chrysostom

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The Dialogue on the Life of St. John Chrysostom (written c. 407/8) has long puzzled modern readers on account of its choice of the dialogue form and its bewildering organization. Its attribution to Palladius of Helenopolis (c. 363-430) has often been contested, too. This article proposes that the dialogue form was chosen to convey the spirit of advocacy that lies at the heart of this composition, and then demonstrates that various compositional decisions can be explained by principles of judicial rhetoric and late antique stasis (issue) theory, particularly those of Hermogenes of Tarsus (c. 160-230) whose rhetorical handbook had become important by the fourth and fifth centuries in rhetorical training. These elements suggest that the author of the Dialogue was well trained in judicial rhetoric and that he composed this work primarily to make a case for John's restoration to the diptychs as bishop, rather than as a biographical or historical record as previously assumed. The influence of stasis theory in this composition also confirms the continued importance of judicial rhetoric in the late empire and bolsters the case for the authorship of Palladius, who had been commissioned by John to investigate charges raised against Antoninus of Ephesus and by Innocent of Rome to petition Arcadius for John's restoration.

Affiliations: 1: Hellenic College, 50 Goddard Avenue, Brookline, MA 02445, USA


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