Robert W. Cape, Jr
Historia vero testis temporum, lux veritatis, vita memoriae, magistra vitae, nuntia vetustatis, qua voce alia nisi oratoris immortalitati commendatur?
Cic. De Or. 2.36
As for history-the witness of the ages, the light of truth, the life of memory, the teacher of life, the messenger of the past-with what voice other than the orator's can it be entrusted to immortality?
This question, put in the mouth of the great orator Marcus Antonius, has come to represent the Roman-and, to some extent, ancient-attitude toward the relationship between historiography and rhetoric. 1 Until recently, the assumption that history writing requires the rhetorical skills of the orator has been problematic for historians, as it was already to Antonius' interlocutor, Quintus Lutatius Catulus (De Or. 2.51). The recent, largely postmodern interest in the rhetorical nature of history shares some of Cicero's assumptions about the relationship between narrative, or narrative style, and historical representation, but ultimately goes beyond Cicero's purpose and scope. 2 On the other hand, Cicero's comments about rhetoric are concerned with the practical function of persuasion through oral speech, which is not the concern of modern historians. Since the topic has become enormously popular among academic historians and literary critics 3 and since they still employ many of the same terms, it is important to recognize Cicero's particular contribution to the history of this relationship and to specify what he meant by subordinating historiography to a practice-based rhetoric.
We have tantalizingly few statements by ancient theorists about the relationship between historiography and rhetoric, so it is easy to