Reference to an expedition to Sicily by Timoleon (8.8) puts the earliest date for this text after 344/343. The discovery of the Hibeh papyrus, which Grenfell and Hunt date to the early part of the third century BC and which contains a lengthy section of the text from 1.13 through 4.3 (with gaps), limits its latest dating to ca. 300 BC. The likelihood that other events, after Timoleon’s expedition,1 would have been mentioned if the text had been composed much later than 344/343 seems to limit the composition of the text to quite a narrow range, perhaps as narrow as 340–338 BC.
Although its broad similarity to Aristotle’s Rhetoric and its prefatory letter—which purports to be from Aristotle to Alexander but was composed considerably later than the text itself—led the text to be included among those of Aristotle as his entire corpus appeared in western Europe (first in Latin and then in Greek) in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, its more common modern attribution to Anaximenes of Lampsacus began already in the sixteenth century with the Florentine humanist Pier Vettori. He relied on Quintilian’s citation (Inst. 3.4.9) of Anaximenes as the author of a treatise that identified seven species of rhetoric.
The seven species coincide with those in this text. The problem has been that Quintilian knew of only two genres in Anaximenes’ system, whereas our text mentions three.2 However, except for two exceptional (and easily discreditable) passages (1.1 1421b7 and 36.1 1441b31), the text largely avoids references to “genres” (γένη), referring instead to seven “species” (εἴδη) of oratory, which are like Aristotle’s six species (which are based on three genres) but include a seventh, investigative (ἐξεταστικόν) species. At any rate, a general consensus has now formed around Anaximenes, even if caution prevents embracing the attribution conclusively.
Anaximenes (ca. 380–320) was a historian (FGrH 72) as well as a rhetorician. The Suda (s.v.) says that he was a student of Diogenes the Cynic (ca. 412/403–ca. 324/321) and Zoilus the Grammarian, the latter a critic of Plato and Isocrates. There is evidence for his having written a Hellenica, a Philippica, and a work on Alexander the Great. The hypothesis of Isocrates’ Encomium of Helen identifies him as the author of the work on Helen to which Isocrates says that his own reacts and which he describes more as a defense (apologia) than an encomium (cf. Isoc., Hel. 14). But no one now takes seriously Jebb’s speculation that Anaximenes is the author of the Encomium of Helen now ascribed to Gorgias.
Aristotle and Anaximenes were both tutors to Alexander,
- 1Chaeroneia (338) and Alexander’s accession (336) and campaign into Asia (334– ) could hardly be omitted.
- 2 Syrianus in the fifth century likewise cites “Aristotle” when discussing the beginning of the text itself. Like Quintilian, however, Syrianus refers to only two genres, so it seems likely that our text was made to conform more closely with the known Aristotelian doctrine of three genres after that time.