Key Features of the 6th Progymnasmata Exercise

Confirmation (kataskeuê, the 6th exercise in the series of the Progymnasmata exercisesOpens in new window) is a statement offering confirmation of some matter at hand. This exercise is an opposite of refutationOpens in new window.

It is appropriate that we confirm things that are neither very clear nor wholly impossible but that hold a middle ground.

And one who is confirming should use arguments opposed to those of refutation and first mention the good repute of the claimant, then, in turn, provide an exposition, and use the opposite headings: clear instead of unclear, credible instead of incredible, and possible instead of impossible and logical instead of illogical and appropriate instead of inappropriate and expedient instead of inexpedient.

Here the subject must be neither self–evident nor impossible, but the treatment is exactly the opposite of refutationOpens in new window. Aphthonius’Opens in new window example is “the story of Daphne is probable.” Observe the confirmation below “What Is Said About Daphne Is Probable”.

What Is Said About Daphne Is Probable

One who speaks against poets seems to me to be speaking against the muses themselves; for if poets utter what is transmitted to them by the intent of the muses, how would one seeking to rebuke the saying of poets not be speaking against the muses? For my part, I respect the judgment of all the poets, and most of all that of the wise man who said that Daphne was beloved of the Pythian, the kind of statement that some disbelieve.

“Daphne,” he says, “came forth from Earth and Ladon.” Why, by the gods, is this incredible? Were not water and earth the source of all things? Do not the elements precede the seed of life? But if all that exists comes forth from earth and water, Daphne corroborates the common origin of all by coming forth from Earth and Ladon. Born whence all things are born, in appearance she excelled the others, and reasonably so; for the first things given up from earth come forth with natural beauty; for many changes of bodies in which beauty is seen have come to pass, but what appeared first of all is the most blooming. Probably then Daphne did excel in appearance, since she was the first of those born from earth.

Since Daphne excelled in beauty, the Pythian conceived a love for the girl, and very logically; for everything beautiful that lives in the cities of men came forth from gods; and if beauty is one of the more blessed of the good things on earth, because beauty is a gift of the gods, beauty had a god as a lover; for what gods give, all gladly accept.

The god in love chose to heal his suffering. Such virtues lead their possessors to violence, and without labors it is not possible to get virtue; thus he was laboring in love and though laboring he failed. For it is not possible to perceive how far virtue can go; thus they say the Pythian loved, not thereby raising questions about the nature of the gods but making clear that the nature of virtue is the cause; and what is pursued leaves a mark on what is pursuing.

When the girl flees, her mother receives her. All mortal things are born with such a nature: from what they came forth to that they hasten. Thus Daphne goes back to Earth, having come forth from Earth.

And after receiving the maiden, Earth yielded up a plant. Both deeds are proper for Earth: humans fall to her and trees grow from her. And the plant that appeared became a source of honor to Apollo; for gods do not leave even growing things outside their concern but crown themselves with what comes into existence; for first-fruits of earth are dedicated to gods. And it has become a symbol of prophetic power, something I think also fitting; for they (i.e., the poets) name the maiden Sophrone, and prophecy comes from sôphosynê. Well then, because the girl did not experience physical pleasure, she is dedicated to virtues; for it is not possible for anyone to see the future who has suffered the sickness of lack of self control.

These are my reasons for admiring the poets, and because I honor measure.

—An excerpt from: Progymnasmata: Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric edited by George Alexander Kennedy

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  • References
    • Aphthonius 10—16; Nicolaus 29—35; Schouler, La tradition hellénique, 1:86—97.

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