Breaking Down the Encomion
Encomion (enkômion, the 9th exercise in the series of the Progymnasmata exercisesOpens in new window) is a language speaking well of some specified person or thing in a discursive way on the basis of acknowledged merits. Or as defined by TheonOpens in new window: “language revealing the greatness or virtuous actions and other good qualities belonging to a particular person.” In the first definition we had used the word “discursive” (diexodoikos) because encomiums are extended in length and explore all excellences of the subject.
In encomion, it is appropriate that we celebrate persons and things, both occasions and places, dumb animals and plants as well: persons, like Thucydides or Demosthenes; things, like justice or self-control; occasions, like spring or summer; and places, like harbors and gardens; dumb animals, like a horse or ox; plants, like olive or vine. Collective as well as individual encomia may be given; collectively, like an encomion of all Athenians, individually, like an encomion of one Athenian.
The end of encomion is the honorable, as justice is the end of judicial and the advantageous of deliberative speech. It is particularly called encomium (enkômion) from the fact that people long ago used to make hymns to gods and speeches of praise of each other at a sort of village festival (kômos).
Template for Composition
Praise the person or thing for which the encomion is intended, for being merited in good deeds. After composing an exordium (introduction), follow these steps:A. Describe the stock the person comes from:
- what people
- what country
- what ancestors
- what parents
- counsels in art
- counsels in laws
- his/her excellencies of mind (such as fortitude or prudence)
- his/her excellencies of body (such as beauty, health, speed, or vigor)
- his/her excellencies of fortune (as high position, power, wealth, friends)
D. Make a favorable comparison to someone else to escalate your praise.
E. Conclude with an epilogue including either an exhortation to your hearers to emulate this person, or a prayer.