Studies on Commenting Texts in Antiquity and Middle Ages
Angelika Modlińska-Piekarz: Byzantine Theory of Paraphrase in Rhetorical Treatises and Commentaries and the Original Version of Theon’s Progymnasmata
Byzantine Theory of Paraphrase in Rhetorical Treatises and Commentaries and the Original Version of Theon’s Progymnasmata1
Library of The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Intentional and deliberate imitation of an existing text which retains its general sense while changing the form – later called paraphrasing or paraphrase – was practiced as a rhetorical exercise by Greek speakers already in the fifth century BC. One of the oldest and most significant references to paraphrasing comes from Isocrates, who in his Πανηγυρικός justified the value of repeating the same thing in various ways (Panegyricus 7−9). Also Plutarch provides testimony of the practice of paraphrase when he relates that Demosthenes was famous on account of his ability to talk about the same topic in many different ways, and that he had a habit of paraphrasing his own orations as well as speeches of others (Demosthenes 8.2).2 As a rhetorical exercise, paraphrase was also used by Roman orators, which is confirmed by Cicero (De oratore 1.154).
However, none of Greek or Roman rhetors discussed paraphrase as fully and comprehensively as Theon did. Theon treats paraphrase in the introductory chapter to his Προγυμνάσματα (Progymnasmata), preserved in the Greek original (Prog. 62.10−24 Spengel)3, where he defines it as an expression of the ← 101 | 102 → same thought in different words and in a different way. He justifies this practice arguing that the same thing can be presented well not once but many times and...
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