1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Panegyric

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PANEGYRIC, strictly a formal public speech delivered in high praise of a person or thing, and generally high studied or undiscriminating eulogy. It is derived from πανηγυρικός (a speech) “fit for a general assembly” πανήγυρις, panegyris). In Athens such speeches were delivered at national festivals or games, with the object of rousing the citizens to emulate the glorious deeds of their ancestors. The most famous are the Olympiacus of Gorgias, the Olympiacus of Lysias, and the Panegyricus and Panathenaicus (neither of them, however, actually delivered) of Isocrates. Funeral orations, such as the famous speech put into the mouth of Pericles by Thucydides, also partook of the nature of panegyrics. The Romans confined the panegyric to the living, and reserved the funeral oration exclusively for the dead. The most celebrated example of a Latin panegyric (panegyricus) is that delivered by the younger Pliny (a.d. 100) in the senate on the occasion of his assumption of the consulship, containing a somewhat fulsome eulogy of Trajan. Towards the end of the 3rd and during the 4th century, as a result of the orientalizing of the Imperial court by Diocletian, it became customary to celebrate as a matter of course the superhuman virtues and achievements of the reigning emperor. Twelve speeches of the kind (Pliny’s included), eight of them by famous Gallic rhetoricians (Claudius Mamertinus, Eumenius, Nazarius, Drepanius Pacatus) and three of anonymous authorship, have been collected under the title of Panegyrici veteres latini (ed. E. Bährens, 1874). Speaking generally, they are characterized by a stilted, affected style and a tone of gross adulation. There are extant similar orations by Ausonius, Symmachus and Ennodius, and panegyrics in verse by Claudian, Merobaudes, Priscian, Corippus and others.

See C. G. Heyne, “Censura xii. panegyricorum veterum,” in his Opuscula academica (1812), vi. 80–118; H. Rühl, De xii panegyricis latinis (progr. Greifswald, 1868); R. Pichin, Les Derniers écrivains profanes (Paris, 1906).