1 minute read

Rhetoric

Ancient and MedievalGraeco-roman Origins

This Graeco-Roman tradition had its origins in certain specific situations that required extraordinary and popularized skills in public address. One such tradition of origin is associated with the names of Tisias and Corax (who may be one or two persons, or a figment of later theorizers and historiographers of rhetoric), who are supposed to have "invented" and "published" in now lost manuals, an art of legal pleading upon the fall of the "tyrants" who ruled in Sicily (until 467 B.C.E.) apparently enabling ordinary, propertied people to make court claims for the restitution of lands confiscated under the preceding tyrannies. True or not, this judicial emphasis became progressively crucial and the earliest extant Latin manuals (Cicero's De inventione and the pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium, both written in the Roman Republic during the first quarter of the last century B.C.E., have a courtroom context and background, and the training they offered, though apparently popular, was seen by some to be subversive of Roman ways. Although a perceived dependence upon Greek technical manuals stimulated this opposition, it was nevertheless such a dependence that produced the classic shape of Roman rhetoric.

Invention (inventio) is the devising of matter, true or plausible, that would make the (legal) case convincing. Arrangement (dispositio) is the ordering and distribution of the matter, making clear the place to which everything is to be assigned. Style (elocutio) is the adaptation of suitable words and sentences to the matter devised. Memory (memoria) is the firm retention in the mind of the matter, words, and arrangement. Delivery (pronuntiatio) is the graceful regulation of voice, countenance, and gesture.

The pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herennium—from which the above quotation comes, provides instruction in all these divisions of the art, though in a slightly different order to the enumeration here. This training, although it was later to be further adapted to Roman political and court contexts in the last century of the Roman Republic (principally by Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106–43 B.C.E., though others were similarly skilled, went back to the Greek preceptive texts of Aristotle (c. 330 B.C.E., his On Rhetoric being the earliest complete rhetorical "manual" to have survived the pseudo-Aristotelian Rhetoric [dedicated] to Alexander, the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum), Isocrates (436–338 B.C.E.), and above all Hermagoras of Temnos (middle of the second century B.C.E.), whose lost texts much influenced later developments.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Revaluation of values: to Sarin Gas - History And Global Production Of SarinRhetoric - Ancient and Medieval - Graeco-roman Origins, Aristotle And His Successors, Roman Imperial Rhetoric, Medieval Transitions, Late Medieval Transformation