Is it fair to judge early Greek rhetoric by the standards of Plato and Aristotle? This text argues that it is not, and yet this is the path taken by current scholarship on the subject. Arguing against this view, this work sees early Greek rhetoric as largely unsystematic efforts to explore, more by means than by precept, all aspects of discourse. Replacing these early text by such treatises as the "Rhetoric" of Aristotle, Cole explains, can only be understood as part of a gradual process, as artistic prose came to be disseminated in written texts and so available in a form that, for the first time, be analyzed, evaluated and closely imitated.
Thomas Cole is professor of Greek and Latin at Yale University.