The Art of Safe Criticism in Greece and Rome


I thought that I’d make a quick post after reading an interesting article on ancient rhetoric that dealt with the art of criticism and “figured speech.” For the ancients (from Quintilian, a first century CE professor), speaking directly (palam) and speaking openly (aperte) were shaded differently: the former was unsafe, unwise; the latter, necessary and safe. One could criticize a tyrant so long as a favorable, flattering meaning was imparted at one level. This technique is one that Ovid uses – quite extensively – in the letter that I am studying. Here are two quotes from the article (author Frederick Ahl of Cornell) that I found interesting:

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