Is it fair to judge early Green rhetoric by the standards of Plato and Aristotle? In The Origins of Rhetoric in Anceint Greece, Thomas Cole argues that it is not; yet this is precisely the path taken by current scholarship on the subject.
Arguing against this view, Cole sees early Greek rhetoric as largely unsystematic efforts to explore, more by example then by precept, all aspects of discouse. (One might as well term these efforts philosophy as rhetoric, since neither term was current at the time.) Replacing these early texts by such treatises as the Rhetoric of Aristotle, Cole explains, can only be understood as part of a gradual process, as artistic prose came to be disseminated in written texts and so available in a form that, for the first time, could be analyzed, evaluated, and closely imitated.
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