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Asiatic

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Definition:

In classical rhetoric, a wordy and highly ornamented style. Contrast with Attic.

See also:

Etymology:

The term arose in the mid-first century BC to describe the rhetoric of Greek colonists from Asia Minor who had preserved Sophism.

Observations:

  • "The Asiatic style, that is, the style in which little else is required than high-sounding words and sonorous periods, made its appearance among the Greeks in the first century before Christ. It is represented by the declamations of Dion Chrysostomus, Aristides, Themistius, and Libanius; productions which conclusively show that it is possible to use language skillfully without conveying any important ideas."
    (Evangelinus Apostolides Sophocles and Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods. Harvard Univ. Press, 1914)


  • "The use of the term 'Attic' to describe a sparer, less elaborate style seems to have arisen in Rome as a response to the perceived Asiatic tendencies of Cicero and others . . .. Asiatic style is characterized as overly showy, theatrical, and effeminate. Cicero describes two kinds of Asiatic style, one marked by striking turns of phrase (sententiae), the other very rushing and abundant, and says that Hortensius used them both . . ..

    "[T]he perceived differences between Attic and Asiatic rhetorical style correspond exactly to perceived differences between the landscapes of Attica and Asia and the resulting physiognomic and psychological contrasts attributed to their inhabitants. Attic oratory is implicitly associated with the hard-boiled work of farming in Attica, while Asiatic oratory is associated with the soft, sluggish body that the easy climate of Asia was thought to produce."
    (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)


  • "I can only tell you that the florid and Asiatic style is not the taste of the age. The strong, and even the rugged and abrupt, are far more successful. . . . The florid and Asiatic was never a good style either for an European or an American taste. We require that a man speak to the purpose and come to the point;--that he should instruct and convince."
    (William Wirt, in Memoirs of the Life of William Wirt, Attorney-General of the United States, by John Pendleton Kennedy. Lippincott, 1860)


  • "Cicero presents the Asianist style of speaking as a mode that is more sanctioned in youth than in old age, since for senior speakers it lacks 'seriousness' (gravitas). Cicero divides the Asianist style into two major varieties--one that is epigrammatic and clever (argutum) and the other characterized by speed and incisiveness."
    (John Dugan, Making a New Man: Ciceronian Self-Fashioning in the Rhetorical Works. Oxford Univ. Press, 2005)
Pronunciation: A-zhee-AT-ik
Also Known As: Asianist style
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