Wednesday, June 15, 2005



The Maverick Philosopher explains what sorites is. The name of the rhetorical device I was trying to recall yesterday is klimax (ladder, cf. English climax) in Greek, scala (ladder) or gradatio (series) in Latin.

Here is an example from Demosthenes, On the Crown 179 (tr. C.A. and J.H. Vince):
I did not speak without moving, nor move without serving as ambassador, nor serve without convincing the Thebans.
Quintilian 9.54-57 (tr. H.E. Butler) cites the example from Demosthenes, along with some others:
[54] Gradation, which the Greeks call climax, necessitates a more obvious and less natural application of art and should therefore be more sparingly employed. [55] Moreover, it involves addition, since it repeats what has already been said and, before passing to a new point, dwells on those which precede. I will translate a very famous instance from the Greek. "I did not say this, without making a formal proposal to that effect, I did not make that proposal without undertaking the embassy, nor undertake the embassy without persuading the Thebans." [56] There are, however, examples of the same thing in Latin authors. "It was the energy of Africanus that gave him his peculiar excellence, his excellence that gave him glory, his glory that gave him rivals." Calvus again writes, "Consequently this means the abolition of trials for treason no less than for extortion, for offences covered by the Plautian law no less than for treason, for bribery no less than for those offences, and for all breaches of every allow no less than for bribery," etc. [57] It is also to be found in poets, as in the passage in Homer describing the sceptre which he traces from the hands of Jupiter down to those of Agamemnon, in the following from one of our own tragedians:

"From Jove, so runs the tale, was Tantalus sprung,
From Tantalus Pelops, and of Pelops' seed
Sprang Atreus, who is sire of all our line."

[54] Gradatio, quae dicitur climax, apertiorem habet artem et magis adfectatam, ideoque esse rarior debet. [55] Est autem ipsa quoque adiectionis: repetit enim quae dicta sunt, et priusquam ad aliud descendat in prioribus resistit. cuius exemplum ex Graeco notissimo transferatur: "non enim dixi quidem haec, sed non scripsi, nec scripsi quidem, sed non obii legationem, nec obii quidem legationem, sed non persuasi Thebanis". [56] Sunt tamen tradita et Latina: "Africano virtutem industria, virtus gloriam, gloria aemulos comparavit". Et Calvi: "non ergo magis pecuniarum repetundarum quam maiestatis, neque maiestatis magis quam Plautiae legis, neque Plautiae legis magis quam ambitus, neque ambitus magis quam omnium legum". [57] +Est+ invenitur apud poetas quoque, ut apud Homerum de sceptro, quod a Iove ad Agamemnonem usque deducit, et apud nostrum etiam tragicum: "Iove propagatus est, ut perhibent, Tantalus, ex Tantalo ortus Pelops, ex Pelope autem satus Atreus, qui nostrum porro propagat genus".
[Cicero], Rhetorica ad Herrenium 4.25.34, also defines gradatio. I can't find a translation on the Web, so here's my own tentative translation:
Gradatio is the figure of speech whereby you don't go down to the next word before climbing back up to the previous one, in this manner:

"As for the other things that a hope of freedom entails, if something pleases these men, it is lawful for them; what is lawful, is possible; what is possible, they dare; what they dare, they do; and what they do, is it not troublesome to you?"

Likewise: "I did not share this sentiment, and I did not make this recommendation; I did not make this recommendation, and I myself did not start to do it; I did not start to do it, and I did not finish it; I did not finish it, and I did not approve of it."

Likewise: "It was the energy of Africanus that gave him his peculiar excellence, his excellence that gave him glory, his glory that gave him rivals."

Likewise: "Rule over Greece belonged to the Athenians; the Athenians were overpowered by the Spartans; the Spartans were surpassed by the Thebans; the Thebans were conquered by the Macedonians, who in a short time subdued Asia in war and added it to the Greek empire."

Gradatio est, in qua non ante ad consequens verbum descenditur, quam ad superius ascensum est, hoc modo:

"Nam quae reliqua spes manet libertatis, si illis et quod libet, licet; et quod licet, possunt; et quod possunt, audent; et quod audent, faciunt; et quod faciunt, vobis molestum non est?"

Item: "Non sensi hoc, et non suasi; neque suasi, et non ipse facere coepi; neque facere coepi, et non perfeci; neque perfeci, et non probavi."

Item: "Africano virtutem industria, virtus gloriam, gloria aemulos conparavit."

Item: "Imperium Graeciae fuit penes Athenienses, Atheniensium potiti sunt Spartiatae, Spartiatas superavere Thebani, Thebanos Macedones vicerunt, qui ad imperium Graeciae brevi tempore adiuncxerunt Asiam bello subactam."
There are many Biblical examples of this figure of speech, including:St. Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 4.7.11 (tr. J.F. Shaw), explicitly attaches the names klimax, scala, and gradatio to Romans 5.3-5:
For who would not see what the apostle meant to say, and how wisely he has said it, in the following passage: "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us"? Now were any man unlearnedly learned (if I may use the expression) to contend that the apostle had here followed the rules of rhetoric, would not every Christian, learned or unlearned, laugh at him? And yet here we find the figure which is called in Greek klimax and by some in Latin gradatio, for they do not care to call it scala (a ladder), when the words and ideas have a connection of dependency the one upon the other, as we see here that patience arises out of tribulation, experience out of patience, and hope out of experience.

Quis enim non videat quid voluerit dicere et quam sapienter dixerit Apostolus: Gloriamur in tribulationibus, scientes quia tribulatio patientiam operatur, patientia autem probationem, probatio vero spem, spes autem non confundit; quia caritas Dei diffusa est in cordibus nostris per Spiritum Sanctum qui datus est nobis? Hic si quis, ut ita dixerim, imperite peritus artis eloquentiae praecepta Apostolum secutum fuisse contendat, nonne a Christianis doctis indoctisque ridebitur? Et tamen agnoscitur hic figura, quae klimax graece, latine vero a quibusdam est appellata gradatio, quoniam scalam dicere noluerunt, cum verba vel sensa connectuntur alterum ex altero; sicut hic ex tribulatione patientiam, ex patientia probationem, ex probatione spem connexam videmus.
I have not seen the article by Henry Albert Fischel on "The Uses of Sorites (Climax, Gradatio) in the Tannaitic Period," in Hebrew University College Annual 44 (1973) 119-151.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?