Panegyric (Rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

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In rhetoric, panegyric is a speech or written composition that offers praise for an individual or an institution: an encomium or eulogy. Adjective: panegyrical. Contrast with invective.

In classical rhetoric, the panegyric was recognized as a form of ceremonial discourse (epideictic rhetoric) and was commonly practiced as a rhetorical exercise.


From the Greek, "public assembly"

Examples and Observations

  • Isocrates' Panegyric at the Panhellenic Festival
    "Now the founders of our great festivals are justly praised for handing down to us a custom by which, having proclaimed a truce and resolved our pending quarrels, we come together in one place, where, as we make our prayers and sacrifices in common, we are reminded of the kinship which exists among us and are made to feel more kindly towards each other for the future, reviving our old friendships and establishing new ties. And neither to common men nor to those of superior gifts is the time so spent idle and profitless, but in the concourse of the Greeks the latter have the opportunity to display their prowess, the former to behold these contending against each other in the games; and no one lacks zest for the festival, but all find in it that which flatters their pride, the spectators when they see the athletes exert themselves for their benefit, the athletes when they reflect that all the world is come to gaze upon them."
    (Isocrates, Panegyricus, 380 B.C.)
  • Shakespearean Panegyric
    "This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
    This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
    This other Eden, demi-paradise,
    This fortress built by Nature for herself
    Against infection and the hand of war,
    This happy breed of men, this little world,
    This precious stone set in the silver sea,
    Which serves it in the office of a wall,
    Or as a moat defensive to a house,
    Against the envy of less happier lands,
    This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England . . .."
    (John of Gaunt in William Shakespeare's King Richard II, Act 2, Scene 1)
  • Elements of Classical Panegyrics
    "Isocrates may have been the first to give a specific name to speeches given at such gatherings by naming his famous appeal for Hellenic unity Panegyrikos in 380 B.C.E. This was Isocrates' most famous composition and may well have popularized the use of the term generically to refer to festival speeches . . ..
    "[George A.] Kennedy lists what became the traditional elements in such speeches: 'A panegyric, the technical name for a festival speech, consists normally of praise for the god associated with the festival, praise of the city in which the festival is held, praise of the contest itself and of the crown awarded, and finally, praise of the king or officials in charge' (1963, 167). However, an examination of panegyric speeches prior to Aristotle's Rhetoric reveals an additional characteristic: early panegyrics contained an unmistakeable deliberative dimension. That is, they were openly political in orientation and aimed at encouraging the audience to follow a course of action."
    (Edward Schiappa, The Beginnings of Rhetorical Theory in Classical Greece. Yale Univ. Press, 1999)
  • Amplification in Classical Panegyrics
    "Over time, moral virtues came to be seen in Greco-Roman political philosophies as canonical, and panegyrics in both languages were regularly founded on a canon of four virtues, usually justice, courage, temperance and wisdom (Seager 1984; S. Braund 1998: 56-7). Aristotle's main rhetorical recommendation is that the virtues be amplified, that is, expanded, by narrative (of actions and achievements) and comparisons (Rh. 1.9.38). The Rhetorica as Alexandrum is less philosophical and more practical in its advice; amplification remains the key ambition for the panegyrist, in an attempt to maximize the positive and minimize the negative content of the speech; and invention is urged, if need be (Rh. Al. 3). Thus from democratic and monarchic contexts, Greece left a substantial and varied endowment of panegyrical material, in prose and verse, serious and light-hearted, theoretical and applied."
    (Roger Rees, "Panegyric." A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, ed. by William J. Dominik and Jon Hall. Blackwell, 2007)
  • Cicero on Panegyrics
    "Causes are subdivided into two categories, one that aims at giving pleasure and a second that has as its goal the demonstration of a case. An example of the first type of cause is the panegyric, which is concerned with praise and blame. A panegyric does not establish doubtful propositions; rather it amplifies what is already known. Words should be chosen for their brilliance in a panegyric."
    (Cicero, De Partitione Oratoria, 46 B.C.)
  • Fulsome Praise
    "Thomas Blount defined panegyric in his Glossographia of 1656 as 'A licentious kind of speaking or oration, in the praise and commendation of Kings, or other great persons, wherein some falsities are joyned with many flatteries.' And in fact panegyrists strove for a double goal, working to popularize imperial policy while hoping to restrain the abuses of power."
    (Shadi Bartsch, "Panegyric." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. by Thomas O. Sloane. Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)

Pronunciation: pan-eh-JIR-ek

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Nordquist, Richard. "Panegyric (Rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). Panegyric (Rhetoric). Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Panegyric (Rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).