Dio's ex Machina: Dramatic Irony in the Trojan Oration

There is no question that the Trojan Oration is superbly written. In researching and reviewing its reception, the phrase “tour de force” describes the work in no less than five different books by five different authors. Though despite the uniform clarity by which scholars ascribe the genius of this work (or perhaps, I might argue, because of it), there is less clarity on exactly what the author’s intentions were and who were the targets of his genius. In other words, at whom was Dio directing his undoubtably scathing wit? The Loeb Classical Library’s edition of this text edited by J.W. Cohoon,  sets the argument perfectly:

"The eleventh Discourse is interesting to us because it contains a great deal of the criticism of Homer from Plato’s time down; and because it seems to be so ev -idently just a “stunt” to show what could be done to disprove what everyone be lieved to be a fact, some would assign it to the period before Dio’s exile when he was a sophist. If this view is accepted, then the hostility Dio shows to the sophists is simply a pretence to make his auditors forget that he is a sophist him self, though he is at that very time performing one of the sophists’ most charac teristic acts."

In short, Dio is either a aged, sincere Stoic or a young, mischievous Sophist. It is a question asked and answered differently throughout Dio’s reception. 

This paper sets out to demonstrate how Dio, with lavish sophistic style, sets the stage to provide dramatic irony for his audience. He does this by acknowledging them, or winking to them, directly within the text in line 6, προλέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι τοὺς λόγους τούτους ἀνάγκη καὶ παρ᾽ ἑτέροις ῥηθῆναι καὶ πολλοὺς πυθέσθαι. This explicit reference to his true audience provides the necessary backdrop for the irony, and highlights the intended target of his impressive wit, the hapless Trojans.  To strengthen the paper’s argument, the work will primarily focus on modern literary critical analysis of the uses and “tells” of irony, elucidating clues as to why this is a strong potential interpretation of the oration.







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