Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Critical Essays 3. Letter 1 to Ammaeus

LCL 466: 304-305

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First Letter To Ammaeus

His refutation is not without its own rhetorical resource. After some essential biographical details he introduces his weakest evidence, cross-references in the Rhetoric to other works of Aristotle, which prove only that the Rhetoric is not one of Aristotle’s earliest works. Then, using as his sources of chronology Philochorus and, according to Diels,2 Apollodorus’ Life of Aristotle, Dionysius refers to historical events mentioned in the Rhetoric, the Olynthian War (349 b.c.), before which Demosthenes had written four of his most famous political orations, and events of the year 339 b.c. This evidence is decisive, and Dionysius might have rested his case at this point. But he ends by trying to prove that the Rhetoric was written after the delivery of the De Corona (330 b.c.), alleging that ἡ περὶ Δημοσθένους δίκη καὶ τῶν ἀποκτεινάντων Νικάνορα refers to that speech. But no Nicanor is mentioned in the speech as we have it, and no case of homicide is connected with the lawsuit concerned.

Modern critics have generally agreed in assigning the Rhetoric to the second period of Aristotle’s residence at Athens (335–2 b.c.). We need not thereby dismiss the possibility that Aristotle conducted researches into rhetorical theory during his first stay at Athens, and even that his general conclusions might have been known by interested persons in the city and elsewhere. But there is really little in the Rhetoric that can be related in any specific way to the style and rhetorical methods of

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First Letter To Ammaeus

Demosthenes; and even if there were, it cannot be proved that Aristotle, and not one of the early rhetorical writers, was the ultimate source. Thus Dionysius is not to be denied.

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.dionysius_halicarnassus-first_letter_ammaeus.1985