The song to Hermias now takes center stage again, this time using its literary background to highlight the multiple generic stances adopted by the speaker. The song’s opening verses are examined in light of the rhetorical categories of ethos—the speaker’s character as projected by the poem—and pathos—the effects on the audience. A poem by Sappho and an Attic skolion are studied to show that Aristotle blended hymnic form with an old poetic game in which singers discoursed on what is “the finest thing” in life. This heritage suggests that the song’s ethos and pathos have much in common with contemporary protreptic literature. The traditional quality of such a poetic posture and the possibilities it offered for creative expansion and variation are brought out by comparing a very similar discourse on virtue in Sophocles’ Philoctetes.
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