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An aretology (from ancient Greek aretê, "excellence, virtue") in the strictest sense is a narrative about a divine figure's miraculous deeds. In the Greco-Roman world, aretologies represent a religious branch of rhetoric and are a prose development of the hymn as praise poetry. Asclepius, Isis, and Serapis are among the deities with surviving aretologies in the form of inscriptions and papyri.[1] The Greek aretologos (ἀρετολόγος, "virtue-speaker") was a temple official who recounted aretologies and may have also interpreted dreams.[2]

By extension, an aretology is also a "catalogue of virtues" belonging to a person; for example, Cicero's list and description of the virtues of Pompeius Magnus ("Pompey the Great") in the speech Pro Lege Manilia.[3] Aretology became part of the Christian rhetorical tradition of hagiography.[4]

In an even more expanded sense, aretology is moral philosophy which deals with virtue, its nature, and the means of arriving at it.[citation needed] It is the title of an ethical tract by Robert Boyle published in the 1640s.[5]

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  1. ^ Laurent Pernot, Rhetoric in Antiquity, translated by W.E. Higgins (Catholic University of America Press, 2005), p. 80
  2. ^ Christopher Walter, The Warrior Saints in Byzantine Art and Tradition (Ashgate, 2003), p. 17.
  3. ^ Roger Rees, "Panegyric," in "A Companion to Roman Rhetoric (Blackwell, 2007), p. 140.
  4. ^ Walter, The Warrior Saints, p. 17; Alistair Stewart-Sykes, From Prophecy to Preaching: A Search for the Origins of the Christian Homily (Brill, 2001), p. 75.
  5. ^ John T. Harwood, The Early Essays and Ethics of Robert Boyle (Southern Illinois University Press, 1991), p. xvii.

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