Thursday, January 6, 2011

ψόγος or invective

ψόγος (psogos) or invective is the ninth of the ancient progymnasmata and is linked with its opposite, encomium.  If encomium is "an exposition of the good qualities of a person or thing." (Hermogenes, 14, Kennedy), then invective is an exposition of the negative qualities of a person or thing.  Theon says that "these are the sources of praise (encomium), and we shall derive blame (invective) from the opposites." (Theon, 112, Kennedy).

The sources that Theon was talking about were the list of "topics" used for encomium: external goods such as place of birth, occurrences at birth, nurture, upbringing, education. Goods of the body (health, strength, etc.).  Then there are internal goods such as goods of the mind (intellect, wisdom), virtues (justice, bravery).  Then there are actions and deeds (to which I would also add speech).  Finally, there is the manner of death and what happened after death.  Therefore, while in encomium one would look for "goods" according to these topics, with invective one would look for negative traits according to these topics.

A good example of invective comes from Revelation and the numerous charges against "Babylon."  It is largely agreed that "Babylon" in the context of Revelation is code for "Rome."  Thus, in Revelation we get a nice invective against Rome.  Here is an example from Revelation chapter 18.
Rev. 18:2 He called out with a mighty voice,
    “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
        It has become a dwelling place of demons,
    a haunt of every foul and hateful bird,
        a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
Rev. 18:3     For all the nations have drunk
        of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
    and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
        and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.”
Rev. 18:4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
    “Come out of her, my people,
        so that you do not take part in her sins,
    and so that you do not share
        in her plagues;
Rev. 18:5     for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
        and God has remembered her iniquities.
Rev. 18:6     Render to her as she herself has rendered,
        and repay her double for her deeds;
        mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed.
Rev. 18:7     As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously,
        so give her a like measure of torment and grief.
    Since in her heart she says,
        ‘I rule as a queen;
    I am no widow,
        and I will never see grief,’
Rev. 18:8     therefore her plagues will come in a single day—
        pestilence and mourning and famine—
    and she will be burned with fire;
        for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”
 Among the many things that the author of Revelation has to say about Rome in this invective are that Rome is a dwelling place of demons and foul beasts, that the city/empire has committed fornication, that it has lived pridefully and has engaged in luxurious (and dishonest) financial policy.  All of these would fall under the topics of "deeds" in the list of topics given by Theon and the other progymnasmatists. 

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