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[8] that it is possible to discourse on the same subject matter in many different ways—to represent the great as lowly or invest the little with grandeur, to recount the things of old in a new manner or set forth events of recent date in an old fashion1—it follows that one must not shun the subjects upon which others have spoken before, but must try to speak better than they.

1 The author of the treatise On the Sublime, 38, quotes this passage and condemns Isocrates' “puerility” in thus dwelling on the power of rhetoric when leading up to his praise of Athens, and so arousing distrust of his sincerity. But the objection loses its force if Isocrates is here using what had become a conventionalized statement of the power of oratory. This it probably was. Plut. Orat. 838f, attributes to Isocrates the definition of rhetoric as the means of making “small things great and great things small.” A similar view is attributed to the rhetoricians Tisias and Gorgias in Plat. Phaedrus 267a, who are credited with “making small things appear great and great things small, and with presenting new things in an old way and old themes in a modern fashion through the power of speech.” Cf. Isoc.11.4 and Isoc. 12.36; also Julian, Oration, i. 2 C.

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hide References (5 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Isocrates, Busiris, 4
    • Isocrates, Panathenaicus, 36
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 267a
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (2):
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