This page is part of the project LABedia: Еncyclopedia of Late Antique Balkans, 4th-5th c.,
financed by the National Science Fund, contract КП-06-Н30/6, 13.12.2018
Assist. Prof., Dr.
St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia, Department of Classics
Continuity and change as attested in the rhetorical progymnasmata of Late Antiquity
The essential part of advanced education in the Greco-Roman world after Alexander the Great was rhetoric, and the core of rhetorical education, especially in the later Roman Empire, were the exercises known as progymnasmata. This was a range of remarkably elaborated technical forms on a select set of topics and motifs accompanied by rather rigorist instructions how to approach them. Almost every intellectual and public figure in Late Antiquity had acquired their status and influence after mastering speech composition according to the patterns of the progymnasmata. Usually, these compositional patterns have been treated, by contemporaries and later researchers alike, as some of the strongest pillars of classicizing traditionalism so characteristic of late antique education. But the application of the rhetorical skills mastered thanks to the progymnasmata proved so effective in reality perhaps precisely because of their seeming blindness to contemporary issues. Thus, even the most rigorist rhetorical patterns could successfully be applied to the Realpolitik of the day. It is this interplay between the continuity of tradition and the contemporary changes that the present paper wants to address.