Chapter 32 Defining Rhetoric While Playing with Pre-texts: Some Aspects of Intertextuality in Plutarch’s Praecepta gerendae reipublicae 801C–D

In: The Dynamics of Intertextuality in Plutarch

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The present chapter addresses a passage from Plutarch’s Praecepta gerendae reipublicae that can be found where the section referring to the need for the statesman’s ethical development intersects with the section concerning rhetoric. In this passage, Plutarch remarks that even though he had earlier ascribed everything to virtue, he shall now consent that rhetoric, too, has a role to play in politics. Though not defined as the “craftsman” of persuasion but just as a “factor helping for persuasion,” rhetoric is still regarded as necessary for the good statesman to exercise his power on the irrational and aggressive impulses of the mass. Despite the fact that the passage has strongly attracted the attention of scholars, there is still room for analysis of this ‘secondary place’ that Plutarch has reserved for rhetoric. My intention here is to explore the extent to which taking a closer look both at the literary/rhetorical aspect of this passage and in the way and the conditions under which pre-textual presence occurs in it could yield a deeper understanding of the attitude expressed by Plutarch towards a subject as loaded as rhetoric during that period.