Speech Criticism, the Development of Standards for Rhetorical Appraisal

By Lester Thonssen; A. Craig Baird | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
ELABORATIONS OF ARISTOTELIAN PRINCIPLES

Interrelation of Greek and Roman Thinking

The Greeks gave us the basic principles of rhetoric. But the Romans and Graeco-Romans were highly skilled students whose penchant for organization and refinement of traditional lore asserted itself in their treatment of speechcraft. They may not have added much that was new, but they elaborated upon the previously determined tenets and placed them in patterns of somewhat sharper outline. Furthermore, the practical turn of the Roman mind insured the likelihood of certain departures from the philosophical point of view regarding rhetoric, to a more purely pragmatic, pedagogical development. This is most clearly shown in the treatises of Cicero, the orator speaking on his art, and in the writings of Quintilian, the teacher discoursing on methods of instruction.

Despite certain differences in emphasis and point of view between early Greek and Graeco-Roman writings on rhetoric, the latter quite naturally and uninterruptedly grows out of and blends with the former, so that the tradition of the subject is sustained in unbroken continuity. The following sections show how the basic postulates of Greek inquiry served as the substructure of Roman thinking.


The ad Herennium

The Rhetorica ad Herennium, sometimes ascribed to Cicero (106- 43 B.C.), provides a pattern of the rhetorical system taught at Rome during the early days of Cicero. Perhaps published about 86 B.C., this treatise in four books is, according to Atkins, "the first work of real significance belonging to the first century B.C. . . ." 1

Book I deals with the kinds of oratory and the parts of rhetoric. 2 Demonstrative, deliberative, and judicial oratory represent the types of causes that a speaker may consider. In order to carry out his assignment, an orator must deal with five aspects or parts of rhetoric: inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria, and pronuntiatio. Each of

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