Aphthonius of Antioch

4th C AD

Aphthonius of Antioch was a Greek philosopher, teacher of rhetoric and an orator, who worked and wrote during the second half of the 4th century AD. He was known for his skill as an orator, performing in a simple style, like the Attic style of the ancient Greeks.

He also became well known for his instructional textbook, called Progymnasmata. The book contained exercises to use with students in schools specializing in rhetoric. The exercises, drawn from those developed in ancient times allowed students to understand, analyze, and produce both oral and written rhetoric.

Aphthonius' teaching program, as presented in his book, included fourteen progymnasmata, beginning with the fable. Students learned to define the fable, to classify it into types, to situate the moral either at the beginning or the end. They were asked to analyze a particular fable.

The second progymnasma is the narrative, which, like the fable, is defined and classified into subtypes. The students are instructed on the elements of a narrative (who, what, when, where, how, and why) and its qualities (clarity, brevity, and plausibility). As with a fable, students are provided with a model narrative for analysis.