This essay examines Montaigne's admiration for ancient Sparta from a rhetorical and an ideological standpoint. The praise of Sparta in the Essais takes the form of a paradoxical encomium which allows Montaigne to challenge the received opinions of his time and to define his own values against the prevailing discourse of humanism. In the process the Essais also confront the problem of comparing the past to the present and of reconciling ancient and modern institutions. In this way the praise of Sparta emerges not only as a rhetorical exercise but also as an essay of self-definition and an inquiry into historical relativism.
- © International Society for History of Rhetoric