Perhaps unbeknownst to him, Lincoln engaged in the two thousand-year-old tradition of epitaphios logos, or a particular form of Greek eulogizing. Lincoln’s eulogy appears to consider aspects of Gorgias’, another example of epitaphios logos. Both eulogies use similar themes and diction. Furthermore, these two eulogies are alike in purpose; both Lincoln and Gorgias seek to honor the dead as heroes and assuage the living. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the connections of the two eulogies that allow a cogent comparison.
Theme is integral when comparing these works. Epitaphios logos has a standard structure, progressing from epainesis, praise for the dead, to parainesis, advice for the living. Gorgias and Lincoln follow this structure to different degrees, both omitting certain parts of the epainesis. However, there are enough similarities between what the eulogies contain for a cogent comparison.
Starting with the epainesis, the first theme Gorgias mentions is logos/ergon, or a speech of heroic deeds. Lincoln’s Address also contains this, writing, “The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” By mentioning the actions of the soldiers at Gettysburg, Lincoln gives a speech of heroic deed. Similarly, Gorgias says, “O for the power to speak what I desire to say.” By feigning speechlessness, Gorgias frames the gravity of the soldiers’ heroism. Like Gorgias, Lincoln expresses how arbitrary his words are, since the world will soon forget them. According to ...
... middle of paper ...
... Gorgias ends his address with, “We have a deathless yearning for these dead, a yearning immortal in our mortal bodies for these mortals.” Gorgias uses life and death in a similar way as Lincoln. In order to provide comfort for the living, both Gorgias and Lincoln use the contrast between life and death. Surrounded by death, the living can take solace in knowing that out of this loss comes rebirth.
In conclusion, there are many similarities that enable a cogent comparison between Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Gorgias’ eulogy. Both addresses contain key facets of epitaphios logos, although both omit some standard portions and follow different orders. They are also similar in certain word choices. Both orators delivered their speeches in front of a mourning crowd, memorializing the dead’s heroic sacrifice. Altogether, these similarities enable a cogent comparison.
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