), of Antioch, a Greek rhetorician who lived about A. D. 315, but of whose life nothing is known.
Aphthonius is the author of an elementary introduction to the study of rhetoric, and of a number of fables in the style of those of Aesop.
The introduction to the study of rhetoric, which bears the title Progymnasmata (προγυμνάσματα
), if considered from a right point of view, is of great interest, inasmuch as it shews us the method followed by the ancients in the instruction of boys, before they were sent to the regular schools of the rhetoricians.
The book consists of rules and exercises. Previous to the time of Aphthonius the progymnasmata of Hermogenes were commonly used in schools; Aphthonius found it insufficient, and upon its basis he constructed his new work, which contained fourteen progymnasmata, while that of his predecessor contained only twelve. Soon after its appearance the work of Aphthonius superseded that of Hermogenes, and became the common school-book in this branch of education for several centuries.
On the revival of letters the progymnasmata of Aphthonius recovered their ancient popularity, and during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries they were used everywhere, but more especially in Germany, in schools and universities, as the text-book for rhetoric.
But by a singular mistake the work was during that period regarded as the canon of everything that was required to form a perfect orator, whereas the author and the ancients had intended and used it as a collection of elementary and preparatory exercises for children.
The number of editions and translations which were published during that period is greater than that of any other ancient writer. (Fabr. Bibl. Graec.
vi. p. 96, &c.; Hoffmann, Lex. Bibliogr.
i. p. 199, &c.)
The editio princeps is that in Aldus' collection of the Rhetores Graeci, Venice, 1508, fol. The most important among the subsequent editions are that of Giunta, Florence, 1515, 8vo.
, which contains also the progymnasmata of Hermogenes; that of Camerarius, with a Latin translation, Lips. 1567, 8vo.
; of B. Harbart, 1591, 8vo.
, with a Latin translation and notes; of F. Scobarius, 1597, 8vo.
, and that of J. Scheffer, Upsala, 1670, 8vo. The last and best edition is that in Walz's collection of the " Rhetores Graeci," i. p. 54, &c.
It contains the notes of Scheffer, and an ancient abridgement of the work by one Matthaeus (ἐπιτομὴ εἰς τὰ τῆς ῥητορικῆς προγυμνάσματα
), and a sort of commentary upon them by an anonymous writer (Ἀνωνύμου περὶ τῶν τοῦ Ἀφθονίου προγυμνασμάτων
), p. 121, &c., 126 , &c.
The Aesopic fables of Aphthonius are inferior in merit to those of Aesop.
Aphthonius' Aesopic Fables are printed in Scobarius' edition of the progymnasmata
, and also in the Paris edition of 1623
. Furia's edition of the fables of Aesop contains twenty-three of those of Aphthonius
. (Westermann, Geschichte der Griech. Beredtsamkeit,
§ 98, nn. 16-20.)