Ethopoeia as a progymnasma

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper, not in proceeding


An ethopoeia is an imagined speech assigned to a certain character. As a rhetorical exercise it is known from the progymnasmata of Theon, Hermogenes, Aphthonius and Nicolaus as well as contemporary rhetorical theorists. The purpose of the exercise was to teach the student the appropriate use of ethos and pathos for the assigned character.
The paper will present the function of the ethopoeia as a progymnasma, number eleven in the series of Aphthonius. The exercise is based on rhetorical theory concerned with ethos and pathos and combines it with practice in the adaptation of speech to certain characters. The exercise thus gives the students practice in the use of topoi like person, place, time and manner as they compose the speech. Parts of ethopoeiai can be found in the previous exercises in the series, but as a separate exercise it is increasing in dramatic intensity as it puts the imagined words in the mouth of the character to create emotions. One of the problems with the exercise concerns the relation to the suasoriae.
Discourse can be invented for real living characters, ethopoeia, to real dead characters, eidolopoeia, or to ficticious characters, prosopopoeia. It was also common to divide the exercise in pathetical, ethical and mixed ethopoeiai, emphasizing the emotions or the character of the person. The pathetical ethopoeiai often portrayed people in extreme stress or unusual situations, thus stretching the concept of the fitting, to prepon.
Examples of the exercise can be found in Ovid’s Heroides and in Libanius. The exercise had great influence on a wide variety of literary works from antiquity until recent times, including letter writing and ars dictaminis.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Communication Studies


  • Rhetoric, ethopoeia, Aphthonius, ethos, pathos
Original languageEnglish
StateUnpublished - 2013
Event19th Biennial Conference of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric, 2013 - Chicago, United States
Duration: 2013 Jul 242013 Jul 27


Conference19th Biennial Conference of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric, 2013
Abbreviated titleISHR
CountryUnited States