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In classical rhetoric, a brief, witty, sometimes epigrammatic style--as opposed to the ornate Asiatic style.

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From the Greek, "the style of Attica"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Some books are to be tasted. Others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested. That is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention."
    (Francis Bacon, "Of Studies")

  • Cicero on the Essence of the Attic Orator
    - "We must warn those people whose unskilled speech is so frequently heard, who either want to be called Attic or themselves speak in the Attic manner, that their greatest admiration should be for Demosthenes . . . and that they should measure eloquence by his power rather than by their own weakness. . . .

    "We must, therefore, explicate the essence of the true Attic orator. He is characterized by restraint and simplicity, uses ordinary language, avoids rhythmical cadences and hiatus, excludes obvious figures of speech, speaks pure Latin, chooses pleasing words and phrases. Metaphors are used in the plain style to make the meaning clear, not for entertainment. He will avoid elaborate, contrived symmetry and repetition as well as the more powerful figures of speech. Moderate vocal variety and slight gesticulation are typical of an orator speaking in the plain style. He will use humor and wit to charm and ridicule his opponents."
    (Cicero, Orator, 46 BC, translated by H.M. Hubbell)

    - "The Attic writer or orator, writes Cicero, resembles the man who gives a tasteful and impressively organized banquet. 'He will avoid extravagant display, and desire to appear thrifty, but also in good taste, and will choose what he is going to use.'"
    (David Mikics, A New Handbook of Literary Terms. Yale University Press, 2007)

  • Attic vs. Asiatic
    - "In setting up an opposition between Attic and Asiatic oratory, while rhetoricians acknowledge the historical facts of the development of oratory in Attica and Asia Minor, they also derive the oratorical styles from their conceptions of the contrasting landscapes of Attica and Asia. Attica is small; Asia is big. The less luxuriant landscape and people of Athens 'naturally' produced a more rugged oratory, according to this way of thinking, while the luxuriance of Asia's lands and people produced correspondingly lush language and style. Quintilian thus derives the differences in Asiatic and Attic styles from the naturae of speakers and audiences."
    (Catherine Connors, "Field and Forum: Culture and Agriculture in Roman Rhetoric." Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature, ed. by William J. Dominik. Routledge, 1997)

    - "In the second half of the first century BCE, we find at Rome a bad-tempered argument among writers and orators over how the appellation Attic was to be employed. . . . Insofar as Attic had any meaning, it denoted a plain and unadorned style of composition; but its more important function was evaluative. It was used by the self-proclaimed Atticists as a term of approbation for the Roman heirs of the great figures of the classical Greek tradition . . . The antonym of Attic, on this view, was Asianist, a term best defined negatively; it denoted all the bad qualities that a dedicated Atticist should avoid. The principal object of this needling was Cicero (106-43 BCE), the most famous orator of his day. Roman Atticism was thus in part a normal literary reaction to a familiar and prestigious style, described by Quintilian as 'full' (Cicero's sentences are often long and complex, characterized by attention to balance, rhythm, and rhetorical effect)."
    (Stephen C. Colvin, "Atticist-Asianist Controversy." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)
Pronunciation: AT-tik
Also Known As: Atticist

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