Flowers and thorns

If in many areas the moderns built on the foundations laid by the ancients, extending their legacy, in rhetoric, tropes and stylistic devices there was not much else to add to what the classical word had established.

All the rules, types and classifications of rhetorical composition and practice were discussed at length by classical theorists. The modern world inherited a large body of knowledge developed by the Greeks and the Romans, to which there was not much else to add. All the flowers of rhetoric had been plucked and classified. All the thorns of bad expression and style were identified and warned against. Our languages have changed, but the theory, the groundwork, the fundamentals are the same. And they are still with us because they make sense. From metaphor to ad hominem, the ancient theory of rhetoric and style covered all the bases.

Of all the ancient arts, rhetoric proved to be the most enduring. It survived even when Europe ceased to wear a toga and when things seemed to fall silent. Rhetoric, along with the linguistic heritage, carried the ancient world into modernity, not without transforming it and being transformed by it. And during this time, the flowers didn’t wither, and the thorns didn’t lose their sting.

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