ABSTRACT

Alcuin’s Rhetoric possesses a singular relationship to the history of rhetoric and to its own unique historical period. The puzzlingly diverse evaluations of the Rhetoric’s purpose and “importance” are often clouded by the question of its subsequent historical influence. The purpose of the present argument is to present contextualizing information based on newly emerging historical data surrounding the mid-790s, the date of the Rhetoric’s composition, and its Augustinian influence. Alcuin’s Rhetoric is an early example of consular rhetoric to “advise the prince” that forms, in itself, a deliberative argument regarding a very specific set of historical exigencies that relate to legal policies toward unconverted subjects in the Carolingian empire. Alcuin’s motivation for the composition of the Rhetoric can be understood in the historically imminent adoption of the Saxon Code and its contradiction of the rhetorical counsel found in Augustine’s De Catechizandis Rudibus.

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