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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: April 2013

14 - Periodic Style, rhythm

from Introduction

Summary

While Aristotle describes a period (περίοδος) as a sentence involving an antithesis, later rhetoric treats it as a rhetorically shaped sentence with several grammatically connected clauses. A hallmark of C.’s style is his preference for certain rhythmical shapes, especially at the close of sentences, but also marking smaller units (cola). This mannerism was so firmly rooted in C. that it appears even in hastily written letters. The basic unit is the cretic (– ˘ –), varied with trochee (– ˘) and iamb (˘ –); the last syllable is anceps (x), i.e. it may be either short or long; and a long may be resolved into two shorts. The following are C.’s favorite shapes in order of preference:

– ˘ – – x (cretic + trochee)

– – – – ˘ x (molossus + cretic)

– ˘ – – ˘ x (double cretic)

– – – – ˘ – x (molossus + double trochee)

– ˘ – – ˘ – x (cretic + double trochee)

– ˘ – ˘ x (cretic + iamb)

– ˘ ˘ ˘ – x (first paeon + trochee).

Pro Caelio provides many examples of such rhythms before a pause. C. also has certain aversions, in particular the hexameter ending, though the avoidance is not absolute.