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[6] But in speeches1 and epic poems the exordia provide a sample of the subject, in order that the hearers may know beforehand what it is about, and that the mind may not be kept in suspense, for that which is undefined leads astray; so then he who puts the beginning, so to say, into the hearer's hand enables him, if he holds fast to it, to follow the story. Hence the following exordia: “ Sing the wrath, O Muse.2

” “ Tell me of the man, O Muse.3

” “ Inspire me with another theme, how from the land of Asia a great war crossed into Europe.4

” Similarly, tragic poets make clear the subject of their drama, if not at the outset,
like Euripides, at least somewhere in the prologue, like Sophocles, “ My father was Polybus.5

” It is the same in comedy. So then the most essential and special function of the exordium is to make clear what is the end or purpose of the speech; wherefore it should not be employed, if the subject is quite clear or unimportant.

1 That is, forensic speeches. δράμασι has been suggested for λόγοις.

2 Hom. Il 1.1.

3 Hom. Od. 1.1.

4 From Choerilus (sect. 4).

5 Soph. OT 774. But this can hardly be called the prologue.

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