Demetrius Third Century B.
Demetrius Third century B.C.
Demetrius is the author of On Style, a treatise on literary style and elocution very uncertainly dated to the third century B.C. If this date is correct, On Style is the sole surviving critical text from the time of Alexander the Great up into the first century B.C. Demetrius examines four kinds of style—plain, grand, elegant, and forceful; he is also the first known writer to thoroughly discuss epistolary style. Demetrius's work not only served as a foundation for other theories on letter writing and style, but continues to be valid today.
Nothing is known about Demetrius except that he was not the same person as Demetrius of Phalerum. Demetrius of Phalerum was traditionally credited with writing On Style, but studies of content and style have conclusively suggested a later date for the work than would have been possible for the man from Phalerum. Demetrius was not an uncommon name and to differentiate him from others with the same name, some critics refer to him as Demetrius the Stylist.
Critics also refer to On Style by its Latin title, De Elocutione. On Style is generally favored because the work concerns itself with more than public speaking. It consists of 303 numbered paragraphs, divided into five sections. First is the introduction, in which Demetrius outlines his general premises, defines terms, and discusses the colon, comma, and period. This is followed by sections on four different styles or manners of writing: plain, grand, elegant, and forceful. In turn, each of these styles is further examined in terms of choice of words, arrangement of words, and subject matter. Common faults are, also briefly considered. Among the subjects covered by Demetrius are the use of such stylistic devices as the hiatus, metaphor and simile, witticism, affectation, and quoted material. Demetrius uses illustrative examples throughout. Critics have noted that he was clearly influenced by Aristotle, particularly the third book of the Rhetoric, but that he is not overly respectful; instead, Demetrius uses Aristotle to meet his own ends and does not hesitate to correct or make changes to Aristotle's words when he feels it beneficial to do so. Scholars have also pointed out that Demetrius was influenced by the Greek philosopher and scientist Theophrastus.
On Style has generally been praised by critics. Scholar G. M. A. Grube has credited Demetrius with the gift of the striking phrase, a discerning eye, dry humor, and independence of mind. He is sometimes criticized for not being systematic enough and for digressing too much, although these charges have been easily refuted. Much scholarly focus has been aimed at trying to determine the composition date of On Style, particularly through studies of diction and internal references. Grube has argued for a date of approximately 270 B.C. The acceptance of an origin in the second century B.C. has also been advocated, and other critics have speculated that the date could be as much as three hundred years later. Datable references in the text are frustratingly ambiguous and there will be no complete agreement among scholars concerning the time of composition unless conclusive new evidence presents itself.
Principal English Translations
A Greek Critic: Demetrius on Style [edited and translated by G. M. A. Grube] 1961
Demetrius on Style [edited by W. R. Connor] 1979
Demetrius on Style [edited and translated by Doreen C. Innes, based on translation by W. Rhys Roberts] 1995
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SOURCE: An introduction to A Greek Critic: Demetrius On Style, University of Toronto Press, 1961, pp. 3-56.
[In the following essay, Grube offers background on the philosophical and rhetorical traditions of Greek literary criticism, examines the content, nature, and structure of On Style, and considers the problems of determining the authorship and date of composition of the work.]
Greek criticism of literature was derived from two distinct and independent sources, the philosophical and the rhetorical. The philosophers were first in the field. As early as 500 B.C. we find Xenophanes and Heraclitus vigorously censuring Homer for his immoral and untrue stories about the gods.1 Thus started what Plato was to call the ancient quarrel between poetry and philosophy, in which the philosophers stressed the social responsibility of the poet, and the importance they attached to this reflects the vital place of poetry in the life of Classical Greece. Formal education consisted, as is well known, mainly of physical training, music, and poetry, especially Homer. The Olympian gods cared little for the conduct of their worshippers; except for a very few traditional requirements such as the sanctity of an oath, respect for parents, and the laws of hospitality, they insisted only on the performance of due ritual. There was no preaching in the...
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SOURCE: "A Greek Professorial Circle at Rome," Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. XCII, 1961, pp. 168-92.
[In the following essay, Goold explores what can be determined about the author of On Style and its date of composition, arguing against some of G. M. A. Grube's positions (see previous excerpt).]
To establish beyond a shadow of doubt the date and authorship of the tractates On the Sublime and On Style is a task which has long defied—and in all probability will continue to defy—the best endeavors of scholarship. But the seeker after truth is a detective, not a magistrate; and like a detective, he will often feel satisfied that he has solved a case, though fully aware that the evidence is highly circumstantial and will not convince all of the jury. Of such a nature is the present inquiry. Nevertheless, the matter has been recently brought into court and argued at length by two eminent advocates;1 and rightly so, since keeping an open mind is a poor excuse for remaining in the dark. Yet in the dark I fear they will have us stay, for neither has mentioned the solution which falls least short of certainty and throws most light on what was before obscure. The following plea is therefore tendered on behalf of a Greek professorial circle at Rome—indocti discant, et ament meminisse periti—before the tribunal of the...
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SOURCE: "Demetrius the Stylist and Artemon the Compiler," The Phoenix, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, Spring, 1964, pp. 2-8.
[In the following essay, Rist attempts to determine the date of composition of On Style by investigating Artemon, an editor of Aristotle's Letters mentioned by Demetrius.]
The appearance of G.M.A. Grube's book1 on Demetrius the Stylist has revived interest in the date of his work. Grube dates it at about 270 B.C. whereas G. P. Goold holds2 that it was written in the Augustan Age. Such a discrepancy is disturbing; two hundred and fifty to three hundred years is a wide margin of error. This note therefore is intended to reduce the gap by an investigation of the Artemon who is described by Demetrius (223) as the editor of Aristotle's Letters. It seems that some progress may be possible here, although the matter has been quickly passed over by both Grube3 and Goold.4 More in fact can be discovered about the date of Artemon than either of these scholars has indicated. To attain such knowledge, it is necessary to examine the traditional accounts of the contents of the Aristotelian corpus.
There are three basic lists surviving of the Aristotelian writings. The first is that of Diogenes Laertius (3.22-27); the second is by an unknown hand and is often associated with Hesychius;5 the third, not preserved in...
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SOURCE: "The Date of Demetrius on Style," The Phoenix, Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Winter, 1964, pp. 294-302.
[In the following essay, Grube reasserts his position regarding the date of On Style, responding to opposing arguments made by Goold and Rist (see two previous excerpts).]
Since the publication of my A Greek Critic, Demetrius on Style,1 two of my Toronto colleagues have published articles challenging my dating of the treatise in 270 B.C. or not much later; both G. P. Goold's "A Greek Professorial Circle at Rome," TAP A 92 (1961) 168-192 and J. M. Rist's "Demetrius the Stylist and Artemon the Compiler" in Phoenix 18 (1964) 2-8, argue for a much later date.
Goold has a double aim: he seeks to reinforce the view that Demetrius was a contemporary of Dionysius of Halicamassus in the first century B.C. in Rome, and then to identify him with the Peripatetic philosopher whose contention (that Demosthenes learned his rhetorical art from Aristotle) Dionysius disproves in the first letter to Ammaeus, and also with the Demetrius to whom Dionysius had sent an essay on Imitation, as he tells us in the letter to Pompey (chapter 3 ad init.). Pompeius himself is then further identified with the author of On the Sublime, but that does not concern us at present.
Goold writes well, but I fear that...
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Denniston, J. D. "Notes on Demetrius, De Elocutione." The Classical Quarterly XXIII, No. I (January 1929): 7-10.
Provides emendations and interpretations of particular lines from On Style.
——. "Demetrius, De Elocutione." The Classical Quarterly XXIV, No. I (January 1930): 42-3.
Answers criticisms by J. F. Lockwood regarding earlier emendations and interpretations.
Grube, G. M. A. "Demetrius on Style." In his The Greek and Roman Critics, pp. 110-21. London: Methuen & Co Ltd, 1965.
Overview of On Style that includes examination of what Demetrius meant by "style" and his various approaches to conveying his subject matter.
Lockwood, J. F. "Demetrius, De Elocutione." The Classical Quarterly XXIII, No. 2 (April 1929): 105-08.
Criticizes J. D. Denniston's conclusions about the meaning of assorted passages in On Style.
——. "Notes on Demetrius, De Elocutione." The Classical Quarterly XXXIII, No. 1 (January 1939): 41-7.
Attempts to clarify difficult lines from On Style and examines how various translators have dealt with particular lines in their editions.
Roberts, W. Rhys. "Milton and Demetrius, De Elocutione." The Classical Review 15 (1901): 453-54.
Contends that Milton was acquainted...
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