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The Oxford Classical Dictionary

Jeffrey Stuart Rusten


an extended and detailed literary description of any object, real or imaginary. ‘There are ekphraseis of faces and objects and places and ages and many other things’ (Hermogenes Προγυμνάσματα 10; cf. Dionysius Halicarnassensis Ars rhetorica 10. 17, Lucian, Quomodo historia conscribenda sit 20, Apthonius, Progymnasmata 12). The rhetoricians thus systematized into a rhetorical exercise (progymnasma) a poetic technique stretching from the description of the shield of Achilles in the Iliad to that of Hagia Sophia by Paulus Silentiarius. Most were of works of art. Ekphraseis was a work by Callistratus (5), and Eikones was the title of works by Philostratus (see Philostrati), Lucian, and others.


P. Friedländer, Johannes von Gaza und Paulus Silentiarius (1912);Find this resource:

    D. Fowler, Journal of Roman Studies 1991, 25ff.;Find this resource:

      J. A. W. Heffernan, The Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery (1993).Find this resource:

        Jeffrey Stuart Rusten