Sunday, August 26, 2007


Two Passages from Plutarch

Plutarch, On Tranquillity of Mind 10 (Moralia 470 b, tr. W.C. Helmbold), has a good example of the rhetorical device known as the ladder:
As, for example, those in prison account fortunate those who have been set free; and they, men born free; and free men, citizens; and citizens, in their turn, the rich; and the rich, satraps; and satraps, kings; and kings, the gods, scarcely stopping short of desiring the power to produce thunder and lightning.
I can't find the Greek on the Web, and I'm too lazy to transcribe it. For other ancient examples of this rhetorical device, see:Plutarch, On Tranquillity of Mind 10 (Moralia 470 f, tr. W.C. Helmbold), also has an example of the Attic idiom "in which the names of the various commodities were used for the places in which they were sold":
When Socrates heard one of his friends remark how expensive the city was, saying "Chian wine costs a mina, a purple robe three minae, a half-pint of honey five drachmas," he took him by the hand and led him to the meal-market [τοῖς ἀλφίτοις = literally "the barley-groats"], "Half a peck for an obol! the city is cheap"; then to the olive markets [ταῖς ἐλαίαις = "the olives"], "A quart for two coppers!"; then to the clothes-market [ταῖς ἐξωμίσι = "the sleeveless tunics"], "A sleeveless vest for ten drachmas! the city is cheap."
Helmbold ad loc. cites Teles, pp. 12-13 ed. Hense (unavailable to me), and Diogenes Laertius 6.35 (which doesn't have the Attic idiom). Plutarch was not an Athenian, but Socrates was, and so the anecdote has an Attic Sitz im Leben in which the idiom is appropriate.

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