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Orosius and the Rhetoric of History$
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Peter Van Nuffelen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199655274

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199655274.001.0001

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The Past as Literature: exempla and the Culture of Rhetoric

The Past as Literature: exempla and the Culture of Rhetoric

(p.63) 3 The Past as Literature: exempla and the Culture of Rhetoric
Orosius and the Rhetoric of History

Peter Van Nuffelen

Oxford University Press

An ubiquitous feature of the Historiae is the comparison between past and present. Its aim is not just to demonstrate the superiority of the Christian present, but also to undermine the positive view of the Roman past created by rhetorical training. To that end, Orosius questions the traditional perception of the past as a series of exempla, either by omitting good ones or by expanding bad ones, and profiles himself as a true historian who states the facts, in contrast with his supposedly biased predecessors. Orosius' attitude is peculiar: in contrast with Ammianus he rejects the authority of the pagan past, but in comparison with Christian authors he does not propose alternative, Christian exempla, because his main aim is to question the traditional perception.

Keywords:   exempla, rhetorical education, polemic in historiography, Christian views of exempla, Ammianus

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