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The Greek rhetorician and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus was active in Rome at the end of the first century BC.2 His extant works include a history of early Rome, critical letters, and rhetorical treatises with a focus on style: On Composition, On Imitation, On Thucydides, and On the Ancient Orators, including separate essays on Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus, and Demosthenes. Engaged as he was in the oratory, history, and poetry of the classical Greek past, Dionysius himself lived in the Golden Age of Latin Literature. Born before 55 BC, he was a contemporary of Virgil and Horace. When Dionysius arrived in Rome in 30 BC, Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC) had been dead for more than a decade, but Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BC) was still alive.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus was a rhetorician, critic and historiographer in Augustan Rome. This volume seeks to understand Dionysius as a writer positioned between Greece and Rome and between rhetoric and historiography. The introduction discusses the complex relationship between Dionysius’ history of early Rome and his rhetorical and critical works, and it presents Dionysius as both thoroughly Greek and very Roman. Dionysius’ works are interpreted as part of the Greek literature of the Augustan Age and as responding to the political, cultural and intellectual climate of Rome under Augustus. The following chapters are presented in three parts: (1) Dionysius and Augustan Rhetoric and Literary Criticism, (2) Dionysius and Augustan Historiography, and (3) Dionysius and Augustan Rome. The introduction concludes with a consideration of Dionysius’ intended audience.
This chapter explores the relationship between Horace’s Ars Poetica and Dionysius’ On Composition. The first part presents a general comparison of Dionysius and Horace, their place within Augustan Rome, and their literary theories. The second part concentrates on what may be called the central theme of composition theory in both Dionysius and Horace: the idea that the most beautiful style is achieved by a skilful arrangement of common words. While some of the parallels between the Greek critic and the Roman poet can be explained by their use of common sources and (Peripatetic and Hellenistic) traditions, other parallels suggest that the two authors were familiar with notions and ideas that were circulating in Rome. The ideal of a skilful arrangement of common or normal words, which is characteristic of the Augustan Age, can be related to the self-presentation of Augustus and to the ancient perception of Virgil’s poetic style.
The Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus came to Rome in 30/29 BC. He learnt Latin, developed a network of students, patrons and colleagues, and started to teach rhetoric. He published a history of early Rome (Roman Antiquities), and essays on rhetoric and literary criticism, including On the Ancient Orators, On Composition, and several letters. This volume examines how Dionysius' critical and rhetorical works are connected with his history of Rome, and the complex ways in which both components of this dual project - rhetorical criticism and historiography - fit into the social, intellectual, literary, cultural and political world of Rome under Augustus. How does Dionysius' interpretation of the earliest Romans resonate with the political reality of the Principate? And how do his views relate to those of Cicero, Livy and Horace? This volume casts new light on ancient rhetoric, literary criticism, historiography and the literary culture of Augustan Rome.