Rhetorica ad Herennium

Pseudo-Ciceronian Rhetorica ad Herenium (paginations are from the Harry Caplan/Harvard UP edition 1964).

  • The text dates from sometime in the 90s BCE.  The piece is one of the first to explain a Latin system of style; further, it was also responsible for the codification of argument into a standard format consisting of exordium (like the ‘hook’ – this section of the argument grabs the writers attention and connects them to a specific topic), narration (author succinctly states what will be the argument/thesis), divisio (the author outlines the main points that will be clarified or discussed further), confirmatio (sets the arguments – usually three – for the thesis that the author supports and also outlines the evidence that supports those arguments), confutatio (sets out and refutes the opposing arguments), and conclusio (summary of the argument and a description of the urgency of the action that needs to be taken to address the situation.  The treatise also is the first to explain in detail a system for memorization (memory the canon) of speeches as well as the method of loci or “memory place.”  This was a mnemonic device that utilized spatial relationships to facilitate memory and delivery of speeches.

Here’s a great outline from the rhetoric resource at BYU:

Book One
1.1 Introduction; Need for Practical Application of Rules
1.2 The Orator’s Task; Kinds of Causes

  1. Epideictic
  2. Deliberative
  3. Judicial
1.3 An Orator Must be Capable in

  1. Invention
  2. Arrangement
  3. Style
  4. Memory
  5. Delivery

Rhetorical Ability is Via

  1. Theory
  2. Imitation
  3. Practice
1.4 Introduction to Parts of an Oration:

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of Facts
  3. Division
  4. Proof
  5. Refutation
  6. Conclusion
1.5 Judicial Oratory: Introduction (Sections 5-11)
1.6 Direct or Subtle Approach
1.7 Rendering the Audience Attentive, Receptive, Well-Disposed
1.8 Rendering the Audience Well-Disposed (detail)
1.9-10 The Sublte Approach (detail)
1.11 Subtle vs. Direct Approach; Faulty Introductions
1.12-13 Judicial Oratory: Statement of Facts (Sections 12-16); Kinds of Statements of Facts
1.14-16 Qualities of Statement of Facts
1.17 Judicial Oratory: The Division
1.18-27 Types of Causes:

  1. Conjectural
  2. Legal
  3. Juridical
Book Two
2.1 Invention within Judicial Oratory
2.2 Judicial Oratory: Proof and Refutation
2.3-12 Proofs for a Conjectural Cause (Questions of Fact)

  1. Probabilty of Guilt
  2. Comparison to Others
  3. Signs of Guilt
  4. Presumptive Proof
  5. Subsequent Behavior
  6. Confirmatory Proof
2.13-18 Proofs for a Legal Cause (Question Concerns Textual Interpretation)

  1. Letter and Spirit
  2. Conflicting Statutes
  3. Ambiguity
  4. Definition
  5. Transference
  6. Reasoning From Analogy
2.19-20 Proofs for a Juridical Cause (Question Concerns Justice of the Act Committed) – an Absolute Cause

The Act Accords with

  1. The Law of Nature
  2. Statute Law
  3. Legal Custom
  4. Previous Judgements
  5. Equity
  6. Agreement
2.21-26 Proofs for a Juridical Cause (Question Concerns Justice of the Act Committed) – an Assumptive Cause

  1. Comparison with the Alternative
  2. Shifting of the Question of Guilt
  3. Acknowledgement of the Charge
  4. Rejection of Responsibility
2.27 Artistic Development of an Argument
2.28-30 Five Parts of a Complete Argument

  1. Proposition
  2. Reason
  3. Proof of the Reason
  4. Embellishment
  5. Resume
2.31-46 Defective Arguments
2.10 Judicial Oratory: Conclusion:

  1. Summing Up
  2. Amplification
  3. Appeal to Pity
Book Three
3.1 Deliberative and Epideictic Causes; Arrangement, Delivery, Memory
3.2 Deliberative Oratory: Choosing Courses of Action
3.3-7 The Aim of Deliberative Oratory: Advantage (topics)
3.7 Deliberative Oratory: The Introduction, Statement of Facts, Division
3.8-9 Deliberative Oratory: Proof, Refutation, The Conclusion
3.10 Epideictic Oratory (Praise and Blame):

  1. External Circumstances
    1. Descent
    2. Education
    3. Wealth
    4. Kinds of Power
    5. Titles to Fame
    6. Citizenship
    7. Friendships
  2. Physical Attributes
    1. Agility
    2. Strength
    3. Beauty
    4. Health
  3. Qualities of Character
    1. Wisdom
    2. Justice
    3. Courage
    4. Temperance
3.11-13 Epideictic Oratory: The Introduction
3.13 Epideictic Oratory: Statement of Facts, Division
3.13-15 Epideictic Oratory: Proof and Refutation
3.15 Epideictic Oratory: The Conclusion
3.16-18 Arrangement
3.19-23 Delivery
3.24-25 Delivery: Voice
3.26-27 Delivery: Gesture
3.28-29 Memory (Natural and Artificial)
3.30-40 Artificial Memory
Book Four
What follows is a broad outline of this important section. See also the detailed outline that lists all of the figures included.
4.1-10 Preface: Digression on Use of Examples in the Rhetoric
4.11-14 Levels of Style:

  1. Grand
  2. Middle
  3. Simple
4.15-16 Defective Styles:

  1. Swollen
  2. Slack or Drifting
  3. Meagre
4.17-18 Qualities of Style

  1. Taste (Latinity and Clarity)
  2. Artisitic Composition (Avoiding Hiatus, or Excessive Alliteration, Ttransplacement, Homoeoptoton, or Hyperbaton)
  3. Distinction (from Figures of Speech, following)
4.19-46 Style: Figures of Diction (See Detailed Outline)
4.47-69 Style: Figures of Thought (See Detailed Outline)

Book I : Analysis

  • Section II of book one also establishes the use of rhetoric as a civic matter.  This is much the same tact taken by Aristotle in his Rhetoric.
  • In sections 12-13 of Book I we get a nice treatment of the different kinds of “Statements of Facts”; these include: a) narrative directed toward victory in causes in which a decision is to be rendered; b) incidental narrative that is introduced to gain credit, incriminate the opponent or the like; and c) narrative used in practice exercises (progymnasmata).
  • In every cause/argument there are three different types of issue (which their attendant makeups).  Here’s a nice graph that the author provides us to understand these types of issue:

Book II: This book is dedicated to discussing the most difficult kind of cause to prove: the judicial; further, it is also concerned with discussing invention in the

context of judicial causes.

There are six different divisions for the “conjectural clause” that is at issue in judicial debate.  Here’s another lovely graph that visualizes the work that the author is doing in this book:

In these subdivisions – especially that of “confimatory proof” we see a lot of Aristotle’s descriptions of the topoi.  In sections 28-30 we also get the Roman/Latin designation/formalization of the parts of any argument: Proposition (exordium), Reason (narration), Proof of Reason (divisio), Embellishment (confirmatio), and Resume (confutatio?).  The conclusion is also discussed: it needs to 1) sum up; 2) amplify; and 3) appeal to pity.

Book III: This book deals primarily with deliberative and epideictic oratory.  It also considers the rhetorical canons of arrangement, delivery, and memory.  In deliberative speech, the author aims at securing “Advantage” which is, of course, composed of a bunch of subdivisions:

In chapters 7-9 we find the formal arrangement reiterated for the deliberative cause.  Turning next to the epideictic, the author illustrates that it too is composed of three subections (with attendant subject matter contained therein):

Interestingly arrangment is conceived of in both dynamic and static terms in this section.  Dynamically, arrangement is discussed in section 17 as something that is contextual and arises as the situation dictates.  Statically, arrangement is considered at the level of the entire argument and also at the level of individual arguments.  Turning next to delivery, the author divides it up thusly:

Book IV : On Style – I think it is really interesting that the author of this treatise recourses to using examples as testimony for the stylistic devices of oratory and writing.  What I mean is that s/he doesn’t necessarily need to invent new examples, but relies on expert testimony from other ancients to create his classificatory scheme for style.  I guess this is something of a pedagogical conversation wherein the author is discussing what constitutes the appropriate content for the teaching of stylistic devices.

Next the author outlines the three kinds of style: Grand, Middle, and Low (or Simple).  The conversation on style then turns incredibly classificatory.  Here’s a visual representation of what’s going on in Book IV:


1.  Is it odd that we find arrangement living inside a description of the canon of invention in Book I, Chapter iii, Section 4?  Earlier in the book arrangement is taken on it’s own terms (Book I, Chapter ii, Section 3).  What should we make of this?

Start the Discussion!Leave a Reply