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Hobbes and Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Thucydides, Rhetoric and Political Life

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image of Polis: The Journal for Ancient Greek Political Thought

Thomas Hobbes’ dispute with Dionysius of Halicarnassus over the study of Thucydides’ history allows us to understand both the ancient case for an ennobled public rhetoric and Hobbes’ case against it. Dionysius, concerned with cultivating healthy civic oratory, faced a situation in which Roman rhetoricians were emulating shocking attacks on divine justice such as that found in Thucydides’ Melian dialogue; he attempted to steer orators away from such arguments even as he acknowledged their truth. Hobbes, however, recommends the study of Thucydides’ work for a new kind of political education, one that will benefit from Thucydides’ private, even ‘secret’, instruction, which permits the reader to admit to himself what vanity would otherwise hide from him.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Baylor University1 Bear Place, 97276, Waco, TX


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