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Greek Drama and the Invention of Rhetoric

ISBN: 978-1-118-35837-5
272 pages
July 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Greek Drama and the Invention of Rhetoric (1118358376) cover image


  • Asserts a novel and controversial theory on the origins of rhetoric that differs radically from the standard view
  • Argues that it was the theatre of Ancient Greece, first appearing around 500 BC, that prompted
  • the development of formalized rhetoric, which evolved soon thereafter
  • Provides a cogent reworking of existing evidence
  • Reveals the bias and inconsistency of Aristotle

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Table of Contents


Part One: What Drama Does and How It Does It

1. Setting the Stage
2. Seeing is Believing
3. The Muse Takes a Holiday
4. “It’s counterpoint,” he countered, and pointed.
5. Illusion and Collusion
6. Reaction Time

Part Two: The Second Stage: The Invention of Rhetoric

7. Paradigm Shift Happens
8. Perhaps You Will Object
9. Putting the Accuser on Trial

Works Cited

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Author Information

David Sansone is Professor Emeritus of Classics at the University of Illinois. A former editor of the journal Illinois Classical Studies, he has also served on the editorial boards of Classical Philology and Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and been a member of the Board of Directors of the American Philological Association. He is the author of Greek Athletics and the Genesis of Sport (1988), Plutarch: Lives of Aristeides and Cato (1989) and Ancient Greek Civilization (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
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“Every reader, both novice and expert, will learn a great deal from this insightful and refreshing study.”  (Vorlagen und Nachrichten, 1 November 2014)

"The book is lively and readable, and should be read by everyone interested either in tragedy or in the origins of rhetoric."  (Bryn Mawr Classical Review, 16 June 2013)  

Sansone considers a wide range of text and offers a valuable discussion of how many features of formal rhetoric may be traced back to drama and earlier literary genres.”  (Anglo-Hellenic Review, 1 March 2013)

“The book is elegantly and often wittily written, with a wide range of cultural reference, and can strongly be recommended to anyone interested in the drama of any period.”  (Rogueclassicism, 26 February 2013)



“An impressively erudite, elegantly crafted argument for reversing what ‘everybody knows’ about the relation of two literary genres that played before mass audiences in the Athenian city state.”
Victor Bers, Yale University

“Sansone’s book is first-rate and should be read by any scholar interested in the origins of Greek rhetorical theory or, for that matter, interested in Greek tragedy. That Greek tragedy contains elements properly described as rhetorical is familiar, but Sansone goes far beyond this understanding by putting Greek tragedy at the heart of a counter-narrative of those origins.”
Edward Schiappa, The University of Minnesota

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