Les sentences (γνῶμαι) dans la littérature grecque archaïque et classique (d'Homère à Thucydide)

Abstract : This work is a study of the maxims (γνῶμαι) upon which the Greek literature, from the first poets to philosophers and historians, invites its audience to meditate. The role of those maxims in the elaboration of the moral, political, juridical and philosophical tradition is very important. If, for the Ancients, Homer was the master of the γνώμη, if the “mythical” explanations of the world were also “gnomic”, so are the first philosophers, often poets themselves, only known through sententious fragments. The maxims are also central in the Histories of Herodotus, who builds, side by side, an historical argument and a web of poetical explanations. They are one of the keys to the sophists’ art of persuasion. Thucydides reinvents them according to different criteria et rejects their poetic origin. As for Aristotle, he imagines a science devoted to them, the “gnomology”. The enduring quality of those maxims is remarkable, as well as the role they play in the history of ideas in ancient Greece. Once put into words, the γνῶμαι seem to become set as so many unchanging formulas. But their meaning and significance change as time goes by, ensuring their relevance, even when the beliefs and values which had given birth to them became, if not suppressed, at least discussed, or even disputed. One must consider how those maxims, even though neither the words nor the formulas have changed, may have been used to explain very different realities, so distant sometimes that the latest could appear to make a clean sweep of the past.
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David-Artur Daix. Les sentences (γνῶμαι) dans la littérature grecque archaïque et classique (d'Homère à Thucydide). Etudes classiques. École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), 2000. Français. ⟨tel-01889295⟩

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