The classical theory of rhetoric

A pedantic distinction between rhetoric and oratory is that the former is concerned with the theory of writing speeches, while the latter focuses on speeches as performative acts. The division is artificial and misleading. The distinction is one of etymology (the Greek rhetor vs the Latin orator), and is not one that the classics, whoContinue reading “The classical theory of rhetoric”

Of heroes and heroism

In 1898, the German pharmaceutical company Bayer developed a morphine substitute which they called ‘Heroin’. The name was inspired by the Greek word heros meaning hero. Instead of bravery and heroism, this Circean potion led many to doom and ruin. The ironic hero was born. I remember my first contact with heroes and heroism. It wasContinue reading “Of heroes and heroism”

One state, many tongues

According to the 1st-century CE biographer Plutarch, the last few seconds of Julius Caesar’s life were a snapshot of bilingualism. When Publius Casca, one of the conspirators, raised the first dagger in the Senate, Caesar stopped him, shouting in Latin: ‘What are you doing?’ Terrified, Casca is said to have exclaimed in Greek: ‘Brothers, help!’.Continue reading “One state, many tongues”

Two metres apart

Social distancing measures are in place pretty much everywhere. They have been instituted to reduce the possibility of infection. No contact, no contagion. If we don’t share the same space, we won’t get infected. We won’t get assassinated either. It may be argued that the 2-metre rule could have saved Julius Caesar’s life. Since MarchContinue reading “Two metres apart”

The political acrobatics of acrostic poems

Reading is a visual act because writing is a practice meant to be seen. Words appeal to the eyes, even though their final destination is the mind, where they are processed into meaning. I like to think that once humans invented script, they just wanted to play with it. Homo ludens, right? Otherwise, how canContinue reading “The political acrobatics of acrostic poems”

Twitter and the ancient epigram

Whether we know it or not, we love epigrams. Whether we like it or not, the ancient epigram has never left us, although we may have left the term ‘epigram’ behind, except when scholars talk about it. The epigrammatic style has always been one of the most popular: concise, funny, incisive. Not anyone can doContinue reading “Twitter and the ancient epigram”

Writer’s unblock

We tend to forget that most writers today are actually typers. They no longer write, but type their work on machines, mechanic or electronic. Don’t worry, I’m not being either pedantic or facetious, and I’m certainly not suggesting that only someone with a pen or quill in hand should be called a writer. I’m merelyContinue reading “Writer’s unblock”

To put your quill where your mouth is

Each one of us is an archeologist, a witness, active or passive, of the history of the material and immaterial culture around us. We don’t have to be academically-minded grave-diggers or shovel-wielding students of antiquity to exercise our archeological sense. An archeologist is someone who understands that he or she is surrounded by ghosts, andContinue reading “To put your quill where your mouth is”