"Chreia" (from the Greek chreiodes, "useful") is "a brief reminiscence
referring to some person in a pithy form for the purpose of edification."
It takes the form of an anecdote that reports either a saying, an edifying
action, or both.
Directions for Composition
Amplify a brief account of what someone has said or done, using these
This example, taken from Plato's Republic, does not follow the above
steps strictly, but you can get a sense of how the chreia was used in literature
to support a point. For a more exact following of the steps, see the example
of the proverb. In the following passage Cephalus addresses Socrates
and Glaucon regarding the apparent pains of old age:
- Praise the sayer or doer, or praise the chreia itself
- Give a paraphrase of the theme
- Say why this was said or done
- Introduce a contrast
- Introduce a comparison
- Give an example of the meaning
- Support the saying/action with testimony of others
- Conclude with a brief epilog or conclusion
"How well I remember the aged poet Sophocles, when in answer
to the question, How does lovemaking suit with old age, Sophocles, are
you still the man you were? Peace, he replied; most gladly have I escaped
the thing of which you speak; I feel as if I had escaped from a mad
and furious master. His words have often occurred to my mind since,
and they seem as good to me now as at the time when he uttered them.
For certainly old age has a great sense of calm and freedom; when the
passions relax their hold, then, as Sophocles says, we are freed from
the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many."
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