Complete Story


Winter 2020, 51.1, pages: 42-54

From Sunlight to Shadow and Back Again: Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta and the Function of Analogical Reasoning in Mesopotamian Rhetoric


This essay will demonstrate how both the cultural and temporal antecedents of classical rhetoric are linked to Mesopotamian writing by their shared use of similes, such as fable, aenigma, and parable as pardeigmae. Mesopotamian myths employed allegory and aenigma to advance a cultural argument that intersects with common theoretical topics in ancient rhetoric through analogical reasoning. Finally, this essay will introduce this obscure but highly relevant source of rhetorical thinking from Mesopotamia and their culturally transmitted theories in a neglected primary source, Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta. This brief epic shares similar philosophical ground with ancient Greco-Roman rhetoric, and addresses rhetoric’s fundamental nature at a much earlier point in history than accounted for in existing histories of classical rhetoric.



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