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Rhetorica ad Herennium

The Rhetorica ad Herennium (Rhetoric: For Heren- The Rhetorica ad Herennium suggests that in a standard
nius), formerly attributed to Cicero but of unknown au- format for argument (widely followed today in any ve
thorship, is the oldest surviving Latin book on rhetoric, part essay) there were six steps.
dating from the late 80s BCE,[1] and is still used today
as a textbook on the structure and uses of rhetoric and
Exordium, in which the writer uses relevant generpersuasion.
alities, anecdotes, quotes, or analogies to capture attention and then connects them to the specic topic.

Narratio, in which the author succinctly states what

will be the argument, thesis or point that is to be


The Rhetorica ad Herennium was addressed to Gaius

Herennius (otherwise unknown). The Rhetorica remained the most popular book on rhetoric during the
Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It was commonly
used, along with Ciceros De Inventione, to teach rhetoric,
and over one hundred manuscripts are extant. It was
also translated extensively into European vernacular languages and continued to serve as the standard schoolbook text on rhetoric during the Renaissance. The work
focuses on the practical applications and examples of
rhetoric. It is also the rst book to teach rhetoric in a
very highly structured and disciplined form.

Divisio, in which the author outlines the main

points, or reviews the debate to clarify what needs
to be discussed further
Conrmatio,which sets out the arguments (often
three) for the thesis that the author supports as well
as evidence supporting them
Refutatio, which sets out and refutes the opposing
Conclusio, which is a summary of the argument,
describing the urgency of the viewpoint and actions
that could be taken

Its discussion of elocutio (style) is the oldest surviving systematic treatment of Latin style, and many of the examThe Rhetorica ad Herennium divides oral rhetoric into
ples are of contemporary Roman events. This new style,
three styles. Each style has traits that make it most efwhich owered in the century following this works writfective for specic purposes in oration.
ing, promoted revolutionary advances in Roman literature and oratory. However, according to some analysts,
Grand, this style uses intricate arrangement of
teaching oratory in Latin was inherently controversial becomplex language. The diction used is formal and
cause oratory was seen as a political tool, which had to
impressive. The purpose of this style is to move an
be kept in the hands of the Greek-speaking upper class.[2]
audience, either emotionally or to perform some acThe Rhetorica ad Herennium can be seen as part of a libtion.
eral populist movement, carried forward by those, like
L. Plotius Gallus, who was the rst to open a school of
Middle, this style uses more relaxed language than
rhetoric at Rome conducted entirely in Latin. He opened
the Grand style but not quite at the level of casual
the school in 93 BCE.[3] The work contains the rst
conversation. It avoids using colloquialisms but is
known description of the method of loci, a mnemonic
not overly formal. The Middle styles purpose is to
technique. Ad Herennium also provides the rst complete
please or entertain an audience.
treatment of memoria (memorization of speeches).[4]
Simple, this style uses ordinary speech common to
According to the work, there are three types of causes
everyday conversation. It uses colloquialisms and
that a speaker would address:
informal language. This style is best suited for instruction and explanation.
Demonstrativum, where there is praise or condemnation of a particular person

2 Rhetorical Figures from Book IV

Deliberativum, where policy is discussed

Book IV of the Rhetorica ad Herenniums systematic
treatment of Latin oratory style identies two categories

Iudiciale, where legal controversies are addressed



of rhetorical devices, or Figures. These are Figures of

Diction, which are identiable in the language itself, and
Figures of Thought, which are derived from the ideas
presented. Although these gures have been in use in
rhetoric throughout history, the Rhetorica ad Herennium
was the rst text to compile them and discuss the eects
they have on an audience. Many of the following gures
described in Book IV are still used in modern rhetoric,
though they were originally intended specically for use
in oral debate.

brought him excellence, his excellence glory, his glory rivals). Denition is the concise statement of a person or
objects characteristic traits, transition restates a previous statement to set up the presentation of a new one,
and correction is the deliberate retraction of a statement
in order to replace it with a more tting one. Paralipsis
is best used as an indirect reference in a debate, it occurs when a speaker pretends to be passing or ignorant of
points that are not relevant, when he is actually addressing
them as points relevant to the discussion.

The Figures of Diction include: Epanaphora, when

the same word starts successive sentences, antistrophe,
when the same word ends successive sentences, interlacement, when the previous two occur simultaneously,
transplacement, when the same word is reused frequently. The repetition of the same word in these four
gures produces an elegant and pleasant sound for the listener, rather than simply being repetitive.

Disjunction happens when two or more clauses end

in verbs with similar meanings, conjunction when the
clauses are connected by one verb between them, and adjunction when the verb connecting the clauses is located
at the beginning or end. The author groups these three
gures together, stating that disjunction is best suited for
limited use to convey elegance while one should use conjunction more frequently for its brevity.

Antithesis is when the structure of the sentence is built

upon contraries. Apostrophe expresses grief or resentment by addressing a specic person or object. Interrogation reinforces an argument by asking the opposition a series of rhetorical questions after they have presented their case, while reasoning by question and answer involves asking and answering oneself the reasoning
behind every statement made. These gures use conversational style to hold the audiences attention. A maxim
is a saying that concisely shows what happens in life and
therefore ought to happen as it applies to the situation the
speaker is talking about. Reasoning by contraries uses
one statement to prove an opposite statement.

Reduplication is the repetition of words for emphasis or

an appeal to pity. Synonymy or Interpretation is similar to reduplication, only instead of repeating the same
word it replaces it with a synonym. Reciprocal change is
when two diering thoughts are arranged so that one follows the other despite the discrepancy (example: I do not
write poems, because I cannot write the sort I wish, and
I do not wish to write the sort I can). Surrender evokes
pity by submitting to anothers opinion on the topic. A
speaker uses indecision by asking rhetorically which of
two or more words he should use. Elimination lists multiple options or possibilities, and then systematically removes all except one of them, the point the speaker is arguing. Asyndeton is the presentation of concise clauses
connected without conjunctions, which the Rhetorica ad
Herennium claims creates animation and power in the
speech. Aposiopesis occurs when a speaker deliberately
does not nish a statement about his opponent, allowing
suspicion of his opponent to settle in the audience. Conclusion identies the necessary consequences or results
of a previous statement.

Colon or clause is when a series of up to three brief

but complete clauses are strung together to communicate an entire thought. It is called isocolon when the
clauses have an equal number of syllables. Similar to this
is the comma or phrase, where single words are split up
in a sentence to give it a halting, staccato sound. Both
these gures create emphasis on the independent words
or clauses within the entire thought. Period is the opposite, in which words in a sentence are close-packed and The author distinguishes the last ten gures of diction
uninterrupted to form a complete thought.
from the rest. The common characteristic of these ten
Homoeoptoton occurs when two or more words in the gures is the application of language beyond the strict
same sentence are in the same case with the same ending, meaning of the words. The rst he identies as Onowhile homoeoteleuton features words without inection matopoeia, the term given for words assigned to sounds
we cannot properly imitate with language, such as hiss
that have the same ending. Paronomasia changes a
sound or a letter in a word to make it sound similar to or roar. Antonomasia or pronomination is the use of
an epithet when addressing a person or object in place of
another word with a dierent meaning. These three gures are most relevant in highly inected languages with their proper name. Metonymy occurs when an object is
referred to as something closely associated with it rather
cases like Latin, and the Rhetorica ad Herennium states
than its proper name. Periphrasis is the use of more
they are best used in speeches of entertainment.
words than are necessary to express a simple idea (exHypophora occurs in debate when the speaker asks him- ample: The steadiness of the tortoise defeated the imself or his opponent what points can be made against his patience of the hare, rather than The tortoise defeated
case or in favor of the opponents, then using his own an- the hare,). Hyperbaton upsets the order of the words
swer to attack the position of the opponent. Climax is used. Hyperbole exaggerates the truth. Synecdoche octhe repetition of a preceding word in the process of mov- curs when a whole point is understood when only a small
ing on to a new one (example: The industry of Africanus part is addressed. Catachresis is the use of an inexact

but similar word in place of the proper one (example: The
power of man is short). The author denes metaphor as
the application of one object to another due to some indirect similarity, and allegory as the implication of multiple meanings to a phrase beyond the actual letter of the
words used.
The Figures of Thought include: Distribution, which
assigns specic roles to a number of objects or people in
order to identify their place in the structure of the argument, and frankness of speech, in which the speaker exercises his right to speak freely despite the presence of superiors. Understatement occurs when a speaker downplays a particular advantage he might have over someone
in order to avoid appearing arrogant. Vivid description
describes the consequences of something with impressive
and elaborate detail. Division separates all the possible
causes of something, and then resolves them with reasoning that is connected. Accumulation is the connection of
all the points made throughout an argument at the end of a
speech, adding emphasis to the conclusion. Dwelling on
the point is the continuous repetition of the same point,
while rening disguises dwelling on the same topic by
continuously saying the same thing in new ways. Dialogue is used as a gure of thought when the speaker
puts words in the mouth of his opponent for the sake of
rhetorical conversation to illustrate his point. Comparisons point out similar traits in dierent people or objects, while exemplication is the citing of something
done in the past along with the name of the person or thing
that did it. Portrayal identies a person with a physical
description rather than their name, while character delineation identies a person with noticeable elements of
their character or personality. Both of these gures allow
the speaker to draw particular attentions to specic traits
of that person. Personication assigns an inanimate object or an absent person traits to help the audience understand its character. Emphasis leaves more to be suspected about a topic than what is actually said, while conciseness is the precise expression of a thought using the
least amount of language possible. Ocular demonstration is similar to vivid description, though the emphasis
is on the visual elements of the scene described.[5]

See also
Rhetorical operations
Five paragraph essay
Cicero, De Inventione
Rhetorica ad Alexandrum


[1] Reference to Sulpicius tribunate of 88, and Gaius Marius

nal consulship (86)

Missing or empty |title= (help);
[2] J. Carcopino. Daily Life in Ancient Rome.
[3] Roman rhetoric : an overview.
Retrieved 28 July 2015.
[4] Douglas Boin/Karl Galinsky. Rhetorica ad Herennium
Passages on Memory. Retrieved 28 July
[5] Ad C. Herennium de ratione dicendi (Rhetorica ad
Herennium)". Internet Archive. Retrieved 28 July 2015.

5 References
Rhetorica ad Herennium (Friedrich Marx, ed. Prolegomena in editio maior .), Tuebner, Leipzig, 1923.
Golla, Georg. Sprachliche Beobachtungen zum auctor ad Herennium, Breslau, 1935.
Kroll, Wilhelm. Die Entwicklung der lateinischen
Sprache, Glotta 22 (1934). 24-27.
Kroll, Wilhelm. Der Text des Cornicius, Philologus
89 (1934). 63-84
Tolkiehn, Johannes. Jahresbuch des philologischen
Vereins zu Berlin 45 (1919)

6 External links
Rhetorica ad Herennium on Internet Archive. Latin
text with English translation by Harry Caplan. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 1954.


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