Rhetoric by Aristotle (Chapter 14, Book 3)

(The inscription from the book is by Electronic Home Library (TM), World Library, Inc., 1991. Translated by W. Rhys Roberts. This translation is already not copyrighted.)

Aristotle included the introductions to forensic speeches among the introductions to speeches of display. He did it, pleading the sentence denoted in extra bold type:[note 1]

"The Introduction is the beginning of a speech, corresponding to the prologue in poetry and the prelude in flute-music; they are all beginnings, paving the way, as it were, for what is to follow. The musical prelude resembles the introduction to speeches of display; as flute players play first some brilliant passage they know well and then fit it on to the opening notes of the piece itself, so in speeches of display the writer should proceed in the same way; he should begin with what best takes his fancy, and then strike up his theme and lead into it; which is indeed what is always done. (Take as an example the introduction to the Helen of Isocrates-there is nothing in common between the 'eristics' and Helen.) And here, even if you travel far from your subject, it is fitting, rather than that there should be sameness in the entire speech.

The usual subject for the introductions to speeches of display is some piece of praise or censure. Thus Gorgias writes in his Olympic Speech, 'You deserve widespread admiration, men of Greece', praising thus those who start,ed the festival gatherings.' Isocrates, on the other hand, censures them for awarding distinctions to fine athletes but giving no prize for intellectual ability. Or one may begin with a piece of advice, thus: 'We ought to honour good men and so I myself am praising Aristeides' or 'We ought to honour those who are unpopular but not bad men, men whose good qualities have never been noticed, like Alexander son of Priam.' Here the orator gives advice. Or we may begin as speakers do in the law-courts; that is to say, with appeals to the audience to excuse us if our speech is about something paradoxical, difficult, or hackneyed; like Choerilus in the lines-

       But now when allotment of all has been made...

Introductions to speeches of display, then, may be composed of some piece of praise or censure, of advice to do or not to do something, or of appeals to the audience; and you must choose between making these preliminary passages connected or disconnected with the speech itself.

Introductions to forensic speeches, it must be observed, have the same value as the prologues of dramas and the introductions to epic poems; the dithyrambic prelude resembling the introduction to a speech of display, as

       For thee, and thy gilts, and thy battle-spoils....

In prologues, and in epic poetry, a foretaste of the theme is given, intended to inform the hearers of it in advance instead of keeping their minds in suspense. Anything vague puzzles them: so give them a grasp of the beginning, and they can hold fast to it and follow the argument."


  1. Edward Meredith Cope discovered this problem. See the note 4 to Chapter 14, Book 3 of his edition of Rhetoric (1877).