The Chreia and Ancient Rhetoric and Education Project

This project investigates the chreia, or anecdote, which is one of the most widespread literary forms in Greek and Latin literature. It was used primarily to express and preserve the wit, wisdom, and memorable actions of philosophers, kings, generals, Spartans, even prostitutes. For example, Diogenes the Cynic philosopher, on seeing a young boy misbehaving, struck the boy’s pedagogue and said, “Why are you teaching such things?”

The popularity of the chreia is explained in part by its brevity and fixed form that made it easy to remember, but also by its use in all levels of the educational curriculum, from the first sentences students read to rather advanced exercises in argumentation by students of rhetoric. The Chreia Project is publishing, in three volumes, introductions, texts, translations, and commentary on every school text that makes use of the chreia. School chreiai helped to inculcate the ethos of the educated elite as to teach important habits of style and argumentation that informed the intellectual culture from the time of Alexander the Great to the end of the Byzantine empire.

Dr. Ronald F. Hock is Professor of Religion at the University of Southern California

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