1902 Encyclopedia > Rhetoric


RHETORIC. A lost work of Aristotle is quoted by Diogenes Laertius (viii. 57) as saying that Empedocles "invented " (heurein) rhetoric ; Zeno, dialectic. This is certainly not to be understood as meaning that Empedocles composed the first "art" of rhetoric. It is rather to be explained by Aristotle's own remark, cited by Laertius from another lost treatise, that Empedocles was "a master of expression and skilled in the use of metaphor " — qualities which may have found scope in his political oratory, when, after the fall of Thrasyclseus in 472 B.C., he opposed the restoration of a tyranny at Agrigentum.

Early Greek rhetoric - Corax

The founder of rhetoric as an art was Corax of Syracuse (c. 466 B.C.). In 466 Thrasybulus the despot of Syracuse was early overthrown, and a democracy was established. One of Greek the immediate consequences was a mass of litigation on Corax claims to property, urged by democratic exiles who had ' been dispossessed by Thrasybulus, Hiero, or Gelo. If, twenty years after the Cromwellian settlement of Ireland, an opportunity had been afforded to aggrieved persons for contesting every possession taken under that settlement in the ten counties, such persons being required to plead by their own mouths, the demand for an " art" of forensic rhetoric in Ireland would have been similar to that which existed in Sicily at the moment when Corax appeared. If we would understand the history of Greek rhetoric before Aristotle, we must always remember these circumstances of its origin. The new " art" was primarily intended to help the plain citizen who had to speak before a court of law. "Ten years ago," a Syracusan might urge, " Hieron banished me from Syracuse because I was suspected of popular sympathies, and gave my house on the Epipolae to his favourite Agathocles, who still enjoys it. I now ask the people to restore it." Claims of this type would be frequent. Such a claim, going many years back, would often require that a complicated series of details should be stated and arranged. It would also, in many instances, lack documentary support, and rely chiefly on inferential reasoning. The facts known as to the "art" of Corax perfectly agree with these conditions. He gave rules for arrangement, dividing the speech into five parts,—proem, narrative, arguments (agones), sub-sidiary remarks (parekbasis), and peroration.

The topic of eikos

Next he illustrated the topic of general probability (eikos), showing its two-edged use : e.g., if a puny man is accused of assaulting a stronger, he can say; "Is it likely that I should have attacked him?" If vice versa, the strong man can argue, "Is it likely that I should have committed an assault where the presumption was sure to be against me?" This topic of eikos, in its manifold forms, was in fact the great weapon of the earliest Greek rhetoric.


It was further developed by Tisias, the pupil of Corax, as we see from Plato's Phaedrus, in an "art" of rhetoric which antiquity possessed, but of which we know little else. Aristotle gives the eikos a place among the topics of the fallacious enthymeme which he enumerates in Rhet. ii. 24, remarking that it was the very essence of the treatise of Corax, and points out the fallacy of omitting to distinguish between abstract and particular probability, quoting the verses of Agatho,— " Perhaps one might call this very thing a probability, that many improbable things will happen to men."


Gorgias of Leontini, who visited Athens as an envoy from his fellow-citizens in 427 B.C., captivated the Athenians by his oratory, which, so far as the only considerable fragment warrants a judgment, was characterized by florid antithesis. But he has no definite place in the development of rhetoric as a system. It is doubtful whether he left a written "art"; and his mode of teaching was based on learning prepared passages by heart, — diction (lexis), not invention or arrangement, being his great object.


The first extant Greek author who combined the theory with the practice of rhetoric is the Athenian Antiphon, the first on the list of the Attic orators. His works belong to the period from 421 to 411 B.C. Among them are the three "tetralogies." Each tetralogy is a group of four speeches, supposed to be spoken in a trial for homicide. Antiphon was the earliest representative at Athens of a new profession created by the new art of rhetoric — that of the logographos or writer of forensic speeches for other men to speak in court. The plain man who had not mastered the newly invented weapons of speech was glad to have the aid of an expert. The tetralogies show us the art of rhetoric in its transition from the technical to the practical stage, from the school to the law-court and the assembly. The four skeleton speeches of each tetralogy are ordered as follows: —A, the accuser states his charge; B, the accused makes his defence ; C, the accuser replies; D, the accused rejoins to the reply. The imaginary case is in each instance sketched as slightly as possible; all details are omitted; only the framework for discussion is supplied. The organic lines of the rhetorical pleader's thought stand out in bold relief, and we are enabled to form a clear notion of the logographer's method. We find a striking illustration of the fact noticed above, that the topic of "probability," so largely used by Corax and Tisias, is the staple of this early forensic rhetoric. Viewed generally, the works of Antiphon are of great interest for the history of Attic prose, as marking how far it had then been influenced by a theory of style. The movement of Antiphon's prose has a certain grave dignity, "impressing by its weight and grandeur," as a Greek critic in the Augustan age says, " not charming by its life and flow." Verbal antithesis is used, not in a diffuse or florid way, but with a certain sledge-hammer force, as sometimes in the speeches of Thucydides. The imagery, too, though bold, is not florid. The structure of the periods is still crude; and the general effect of the whole, though often powerful and impressive, is somewhat rigid.

As Antiphon represents what was afterwards named the "austere" or "rugged" style (austera harmonia), so Lysias was the model of an artistic and versatile simplicity. But the tetralogies give Antiphon a place in the history of rhetoric as an art, while Lysias, with all his more attractive gifts, belongs only to the history of oratory. Ancient writers quote an " art" of rhetoric by Isocrates, but its authenticity was questioned.


It is certain, however, that Isocrates taught the art as such.He is said to have defined rhetoric "as the science of persuasion" (epistemen peithous, Sextus Empir., Adv. Mathem., ii. § 62, p. 301 sq.). Many of his particular precepts, both on arrangement and on diction, are cited, but do not suffice to give us a complete view of his method. The (philosphia, or "theory of culture," which Isocrates expounds in his discourses "Against the Sophists" and on the "Antidosis," was in fact rhetoric applied to politics. First came technical expositions : the pupil was introduced to all the artificial resources which prose composition employs (tas ideas hapasas hais ho logos tugchanei chromenos, Antid., § 183). The same term (ideai) is also used by Isocrates in a narrower sense, with reference to the "figures" of rhetoric, properly called schemata (Panath., § 2); sometimes, again, in a sense still more general, to the several branches or styles of literary composition {Antid., § 11). When the technical elements of the subject had been learned, the pupil was required to apply abstract rules in actual composition, and his essay was revised by the master. Isocrates was unquestionably successful in forming speakers and writers. This is proved by the renown of his school daring a period of some fifty years, from about 390 to 340 B.C. Among the statesmen whom it could claim were Timotheus, Leodamas of Acharnae, Lycurgus, and Hyperides. Among the philosophers or rhetoricians were Speusippus, Plato's successor in the Academy, and Isaeus; among the historians, Ephorus and Theopompus.

In the person of Isocrates the art of rhetoric is thus thoroughly established, not merely as a technical method, but also as a practical discipline of life. If Plato's mildly ironical reference in the Euthydemus to a critic "on the borderland between philosophy and statesmanship" was meant, as is probable, for Isocrates, at least there was a wide difference between the measure of acceptance accorded to the earlier Sophists, such as Protagoras, and the influence which the school of Isocrates exerted through the men whom it had trained. Rhetoric had won its place in education. It kept that place, through varying fortunes, to the fall of the Roman empire, and resumed it, for a while, at the revival of learning.

Aristotle's Rhetoric.

Aristotle's Rhetoric belongs to the generation after Isocrates, having been composed between 330 and 322 BC. As controversial allusions sometimes hint, it holds Isocrates for one of the foremost exponents of the subject. From a merely literary point of view, Aristotle's Rhetoric (with the partial exception of book iii.) is one of the driest works in the world. From the historical or scientific point of view, it is one of the most curious and the most interesting. If we would seize the true significance of the treatise, it is better to compare rhetoric with grammar than with its obvious analogue, logic. A method of grammar was the conception of the Alexandrian age, which had lying before it the standard masterpieces of Greek literature, and deduced the "rules" of grammar from the actual practice of the best writers. Aristotle, in the latter years of the 4th century B.C., held the same position relatively to the monuments of Greek oratory which the Alexandrian methodizers of grammar held rela-tively to Greek literature at large. Abundant materials lay before him, illustrating, in the greatest variety of forms, how speakers had been able to persuade the reason or to move the feelings. From this mass of material, said Aristotle, let us try to generalize. Let us deduce rules, by applying which a speaker shall always be able to persuade the reason or to move the feelings. And, when we have got our rules, let us digest them into an intelligent method, and so construct a true art. Aristotle's practical purpose was undoubtedly real. If we are to make persuasive speakers, he believed, this is the only sound way to set about it. But, for us moderns, the enduring interest of his Rhetoric is mainly retrospective. It attracts us as a feat in analysis by an acute mind — a feat highly characteristic of that mind itself, and at the same time strikingly illustrative of the field over which the materials have been gathered.

Analysis. Book I.

Rhetoric is properly an art. This is the proposition from which Aristotle sets out. It is so because, when a speaker persuades, it is possible to find out why he succeeds in doing so. Rhetoric is, in fact, the popular branch of logic. Now hitherto, Aristotle says, the essence of rhetoric has been neglected for the accidents. Writers on rhetoric have hitherto concerned themselves mainly with "the exciting of prejudice, of pity, of anger, and such-like emotions of the soul." All this is very well, but "it has nothing to do with the matter in hand; it has regard to the judge." The true aim should be to prove your point, or seem to prove it.

Here we may venture to interpolate a comment which lias a general bearing on Aristotle's Rhetoric. It is quite true that, if we start from the conception of rhetoric as a branch of logic, the phantom of logic in rhetoric claims precedence over appeals to passion. But Aristotle docs not sufficiently regard the question— What, as a matter of experience, is most persuasive ? The phantom of logic may be more persuasive with the more select hearers of rhetoric ; but rhetoric is not for the more select; it is for the many, and with the many appeals to passion will sometimes, perhaps usually, be more effective than the semblance of the syllogism. And here we seem to touch the basis of the whole practical vice—it was not strictly a theoretical vice—in the old world's view of rhetoric, which, after Aristotle's day, was ultimately Aristotelian. No formulation of rhetoric can corre-spond with fact which does not leave it absolutely to the genius of the speaker whether reasoning (or its phantom) is to be what Aristotle calls it, the "body of proof" (soma pisteos), or whether the stress of persuading effort should not be rather addressed to the emotions of the hearers. This is a matter of tact, of instinct, of oratorical genius.

But we can entirely agree with Aristotle in his next remark, which is historical in its nature. The deliberative branch of rhe-toric had hitherto been postponed, he observes, to the forensic. We have already seen the primary cause of this, namely, that the very origin of rhetoric in Hellas was forensic. The most urgent need which the citizen felt for this art was not when he had to discuss the interests of the city, but when he had tc defend (perhaps) his own property or his own life. The relative subordination of deliberative rhetoric, however unscientific, had thus been human. Aristotle's next statement, that the master of logic will be the master of rhetoric, is a truism if we concede the essential primacy of the logical element in rhetoric. Otherwise it is a paradox; and it is not in accord with experience, which teaches that speakers incapable of showing even the ghost of an argument have sometimes been the most completely successful in carrying great audiences along with them. Aristotle never assumes that the hearers of his rhetorician are as oi chairentes, the cultivated few; on the other hand, he is apt to assume tacitly—and here his individual bent comes out—that these hearers are not the great surging crowd, the ochlos, but a body of persons with a decided, though imperfectly developed, preference for sound logic.

Uses of rhetoric.

What is the use of an art of rhetoric ? It is fourfold, Aristotle replies. Rhetoric is useful, first of all, because truth and justice are naturally stronger than their opposites. When awards are not duly given, truth and justice must have been worsted by their own fault. This is worth correcting. Rhetoric is then (1) corrective. Next, it is (2) instructive, as a popular vehicle of persuasion for persons who could not be reached by the severer methods of strict logic. Then it is (3) suggestive. Logic and rhetoric are the two impartial arts ; that is to say, it is a matter of indifference to them, as arts, whether the conclusion which they draw in any given case is affirmative or negative. Suppose that I am going to plead a cause, and have a sincere conviction that I am on the right side. The art of rhetoric will suggest to me what might be urged on the other side; and this will give me a stronger grasp of the whole situation. Lastly, rhetoric is (4) defensive. Mental effort is more distinctive of man than bodily effort; and "it would be absurd that, while incapacity for physical self-defence is a reproach, incapacity for mental defence should be no reproach." Rhetoric, then, is corrective, instructive, suggestive, defensive. But what if it be urged that this art may be abused ? The objection, Aristotle answers, applies to all good things, except virtue, and especially to the most useful things. Men may abuse strength, health, wealth, generalship.

The function of the medical art is not necessarily to cure, but to make such progress towards a cure as each case may admit. Similarly it would be inaccurate to say that the function of rhetoric was to persuade.

Rhetoric defined.

Rather must rhetoric be defined as "the faculty of discerning in every case the available means of persuasion." Suppose that among these means of persuasion is some process of reasoning which the rhetorician himself knows to be unsound. That belongs to the province of rhetoric all the same. In relation to logic, a man is called a " sophist" with regard to his moral purpose (proairesis), i.e., if he knowingly uses a fallacious syllogism. But rhetoric takes no account of the moral purpose. It takes account simply of the faculty (dynamis) — the faculty of discovering any means of persuasion.

The pisteis classified.

The "available means of persuasion," universally considered, may be brought under two classes. (1) First, there are the proofs external to the art,—not furnished by rhetoric,—the "inartificial proofs" (atechnoi pisteis). Such are the depositions made by witnesses, documents, and the like. (2) Secondly, there are the proofs, i.e., the agents of persuasion, which the art of rhetoric itself provides, the "artificial proofs" (ivrexvoi moreis). These are of three kinds :—(a) logical (logike pistis)—demonstration, or seeming demonstration, by argument; (b) ethical (ethice pistis), when the speaker succeeds in conveying such an impression of his own character as may lead the hearers to put trust in him ; (c) emotional (pathetike pistis), when the speaker works persuasively on the feelings of the hearers. It follows that, besides logical skill, the rhetorician should possess the power of analysing character, in order to present himself in the ethical light which will be most effective with his audience. He must also under-stand the sources of the emotions, and the means of producing them. Hence rhetoric has a double relationship. While in one aspect—the most important to it as an art—it may be regarded as popular logic, in another aspect it is related to ethics. And hence, says Aristotle, political science (politike) being a branch of ethical, as the citizen is one aspect of the man, "rhetoric and its professors slip into the garb of political science (hupoduetai to schema to tes politikes), either through want of education, or from pretentiousness, or from other human causes."

The logical proof.

Aristotle now proceeds to analyse the first of the " artificial proofs," the logical (logike pistis). Answering to the strict syllogism of logic, rhetoric has its popular syllogism, to which Aristotle gives the name of "enthymeme" (enthymema). This term (from the verb enthymeisthai, " to revolve in the mind "), means properly " a consideration" or "reflection." It occurs first in Isocrates, who uses it simply of the "thoughts" or "sentiments" with which a rhetorician embellishes his wrork (tois enymemasi prepontos holon ton logon catapoikilai, Or., xiii. § 16). Whether the technical sense was or was not known before Aristotle, it is to him at least that the first extant definition is due.

The enthymeme.

He defines the The enthymeme as a species of syllogism, namely, as "a syllogism enthy- from probabilities and signs" (ex eikoton kai semeion). The meme. "probability" (eikos) is a general proposition, expressing that which usually happens, as, "wise men are usually just." The '' sign " (semeion) is a particular proposition, as, "Socrates is just." The "sign" may be fallible or infallible. If we say, "wise men are just; for Socrates was wise and just," this is an enthymeme from a fallible "sign," the implied syllogism being "Socrates was wise; Socrates was just (semeion) ; ∴ [therefore] all wise men are just"; and here the "sign" is, in Aristotle's phrase, "as a particular to a universal," because from the one case of Socrates we draw an inference about all men. If, again, we say,—"Here is a sign that he is ill —he is feverish "; our enthymeme is using an infallible sign, the syllogism being, "All who are feverish are ill; he is feverish (semeion); ∴ [therefore] he is ill." Here, again, the "sign" is "as a particular to a universal." When the "sign" is thus infallible, it is properly called tekmerion (tekmerion), the matter having been demonstrated and concluded (peperasmenon)—"for tekmar and peras mean the same thing ('limit') in the old language." Sometimes, again, the fallible sign is "as universal to particular," e.g., " Here is a sign that he has a fever —he breathes quick," the syllogism being, "Feverish men breathe quick ; he breathes quick (semeion) ; ∴ [therefore] he has a fever," where a particular cause is unsoundly inferred from an effect (the "universal") which might have other causes.

When Aristotle thus describes the enthymeme, or rhetorical syllogism, as dealing with "probabilities" and "signs," he is describing its ordinary or characteristic materials, qua rhetorical syllogism. He does not mean to say that rhetoric cannot use syllogisms formed with other material. It would be hardly needful to point this out, were it not that, in spite of his own clear words, his meaning has sometimes been misunderstood. "The premises of rhetorical syllogisms," he says, "seldom belong to the class of necessary facts. The subject matter of judgments and deliberations is usually contingent; for it is about their actions that men debate and take .thought; but actions are all contingent, no one of them, so to say, being necessary. And results which are merely usual and contingent must be deduced from premises of the same kind, as necessary results from necessary premises. It follows that the propositions from which enthymemes are taken will be sometimes necessarily true, but more often, only contin-gently true." Among the materials of the enthymeme, the " sign " which is infallible (the semeion which is also a tekmerion) is so because it is to some necessary truth as part to whole.

Suppression of one premiss not essential.

Aristotle did not regard the suppression of one premiss in the statement as essential to the enthymeme. The syllogism, of which the enthymeme is merely a kind, was regarded by him " not in relation to the expression " (ou pros ton exo logon), but to the process in the mind (alla pros ton ev te psyche logon, Anal. Post., i. 10). As Sir W. Hamilton has justly said, he could not then have intended to distinguish a class of syllogisms by a verbal accident. The distinction of the rhetorical syllogism, in Aristotle's view, was in its matter, not in its form. This is, indeed, made sufficiently clear by his own remark that the enthymeme may "often" be more concisely stated than the full, or normal, syllogism (Rhet., i. 2). There is obviously no reason why the rhetorical reasoner should not state both his premisses, if he finds it convenient or effective to do so. Since, however, one of the premisses is often left to be mentally supplied, some of the later writers on rhetoric came to treat this as part of the essence of the enthymeme. It was then that the word ateles was interpolated after syllogismos in Aristotle, Analyt. Prior., ii. 27, where the enthymeme is defined as syllogismos ex eikoton kai semeion. [511-1] Hence Quintilian says of the enthymeme (v. 10), "alii rhetoricum syllogismum, alii imperfectum syllogismum vocant"; hence, too, Juvenal's '' curtum enthymema."

The example.

The other branch of the '' logical proof " in rhetoric corresponds to the induction of strict logic, and consists in giving the semblance of inductive reasoning by the use of one or two well-known examples. As Aristotle calls the enthymeme a rhetorical syllogism, so he calls the example (paradeigma) '' a rhetorical induction." Thus if a man has asked for a body-guard, and the speaker wishes to show that the aim is a tyranny, he may quote the "examples " of Dionysius and Pisistratus.

The topoi,

Aristotle next distinguishes the '' universal " from the '' special" topics, or commonplaces of rhetoric. The word topos, "place," means in this context " that place in which a proposition of a given kind is to be sought." The topoi, then, are classifications of propositions and arguments which rhetoric makes beforehand, with a view to readiness in debate. Cicero well illustrates the phrase—"As it is easy to find hidden things when the place has been pointed out and marked, so, when we want to track out an argument, we ought to know the places, as Aristotle has called these seats, abodes, as it were, from which arguments are drawn. So a commonplace, or topic, may be defined as the abode of an argument (licet definire locum esse argumenti sedem; Cic., Topica, ii. 7). So elsewhere he describes the topoi of rhetoric as "regiones intra quas venere et pervestiges quod quaeras"— "haunts in which one may hunt and track out the object of quest" (De Orat., ii. 34).

universal and special

The "universal commonplaces" (koinoi topoi) are general heads of argument applicable to all subjects whatsoever—as, e.g., on the "possibility" or "impossibility" of anything. The special commonplaces (topoi ton eidon, Rhet., ii. 22, more briefly called eide) are those which are drawn from special branches of knowledge, as from politics, ethics, &c. Here Aristotle observes that the more a rhetorician enters on the subject-matter of any particular science the more will he tend to pass out of the domain which properly belongs to the art of rhetoric.

The three kinds of rhetoric.

In that domain three provinces are distinguished. Deliberative rhetoric (symbouleutike) is concerned with exhortation or dissuasion, and with future time; its "end" (telos)—that which it keeps in view, or its standard—is advantage (or detriment) to the persons addressed. Forensic rhetoric (dikanike) is concerned with accusation or defence, and with time past ; its standard is justice or injustice. Epideictic rhetoric—the ornamental rhetoric of "display" (epideiktike)—is concerned with praise or blame, and usually with time present ; its standard is honour or shame.


1. Let us begin with deliberative rhetoric, says Aristotle, and see what things a deliberative speaker ought to know. The subjects with which, in a public assembly, he will have to deal are mainly these five :—(1) finance, (2) foreign war, (3) home defence, (4) commerce, (5) legislation. Under all these heads, he ought to be provided with some eide, or special commonplaces. Further, all his suasion or dissuasion has reference to the happiness of those whom he addresses. Hence he must be acquainted with the popular notions of happiness which are actually prevalent. Here Aristotle gives a series of popular definitions of happiness, and a list of the elements which are generally regarded as constituting it. A similar analysis of "good" (agathon) follows.

The scientific spirit of the rhetoric is strongly accentuated by the unscientific character of these and subsequent analyses. Aristotle never forgets that his rhetorician wants to know, not what a thing is, but what it is generally thought to be. There is nothing of cynicism or sarcasm in all this. He is simply going through his prescribed task. He is making rhetoric, as such, into a method. But suppose the question arises—"Of two good things which is the better?" Our deliberative speaker must be able to treat the "universal commonplace" of degree (mallon kai hetton). Then, he must also know something about the chief forms of government,— democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, monarchy,—not as they are or should be, but as they are popularly conceived.


2. The ornamental rhetoric (epideiktike), which is taken next, is somewhat briefly dismissed. It might be conjectured, in explanation of its place in the treatment—we should have expected it to come third—that Aristotle was the first writer who recognized it as an independent kind, and that he viewed it as an off-shoot from the deliberative branch. The epideictic speaker must know what most men think "honour" or "shame," "virtue" or "vice." At this point a verbal distinction of some interest occurs:—praise (eiraivos) implies moral approbation ; but an "encomium" (egkomion) is given to " achievements " (erga) as such. The most generally useful "topic" for the ornamental speaker is auxesis (magnifying),—as the rhetorical induction (paradeigma) most helps the deliberative speaker, and the rhetorical syllogism (enthymema) is most useful to the forensic.


3. In forensic rhetoric, we must begin by analysing injustice. And first, "What are the motives and aims of wrong-doing?" Actions are either voluntary from habit, reason, anger, lust, or involuntary from chance, nature, force. In reference to the voluntary actions, it is needful to know the popular conception of pleasure. Secondly, "What is the character which disposes a man to do wrong, or which exposes him to suffering it?" These topics must be familiar, in a popular way, to the forensic speaker. He must also know the general grounds on which actions are classed as just or unjust. Actions must be considered, first, in reference to law, which is either special (idios), whether written or unwritten, the law of particular places and communities, or else universal (koinos), the law of nature. The second question about an "unjust" action is whether it hurts an individual or the community. The definition of "being wronged" (adikeisthai) is, "to be unjustly treated by a voluntary agent." Further, the definition of a particular offence (epigramma) sometimes raises a legal issue. A man may admit an act, and deny that it corresponds to the description given of it by the accuser. It is needful, then, to know the definitions of the principal crimes. It may be noticed that Aristotle hero anticipates a topic which played a large part in the later rhetoric. The contested issues which he calls amphisbeteseis (Rhet., iii. 16) were the staseis (constitutiones or status) of later "issues." days. Thus the issue as to the proper definition of an offence, to which he refers here (Rhet., i. 13), coincides with the later stasis orike. The distinction between justice and equity (to dikaion and to epieikes) is noticed. Equity is "a kind of justice, but goes beyond the written law," as in the Ethics (v. 10) equity is said to be a corrective of the law, where the latter fails through generality,—i.e., through the lawmaker's inability to frame a general rule which should precisely fit the circumstances of every particular case. True to his conception of a method, Aristotle next applies "the topic of degree" to injustice,—as, in an earlier chapter (Rhet., i. 7) he had applied it to the idea of "good."

The atechnoi pisteis

The analysis of the three branches of rhetoric—deliberative, epideictic, forensic—is now finished. In the closing chapter of his first book, Aristotle briefly considers and dismisses the " inartificial proofs,"—the means of persuasion, that is, which arise from matters external to the art itself, though the art uses them. These, having regard to the actual circumstances of his time and country, he declares to be five : (1) laws ; (2) witnesses ; (3) evidence given under torture—basanos; (4) documents; (5) oaths, meaning chiefly treaties between states. With regard to (3) it may be remarked that the rhetorical theory of torture in the ancient world was, that a person under torture will tell the truth because it is his interest to do so. This is stated, e.g., in the Rhetorica ad Alexandrum, xv. § 1. Among the Attic orators, Isseus gives his emphatic adhesion to this view (Or., viii. § 12). On the other hand, the common-sense view of the matter is very well put by another Attic orator, Antiphon, in his speech De Caede Herodis (§§31-33), when he remarks that "in the torturers is the hope of the tortured." "So long, then," Antiphon proceeds, "as the slave felt that his prospects in slandering were hopeful, he was obstinate in the calumny; but, when he saw that he was to die, then at last he told the truth, and said that he had been persuaded by the persecutors to slander me." It would have been interesting if Aristotle had given some indication of his view on this, his third, atechnos pistis; but he simply accepts it as a fact of his day, and, taking it along with the rest, gives a number of general arguments which may be used on either side, according as the particular atechnos pistis is for us or against us. Here the first book ends.

Book II.

At the beginning of the second book, Aristotle returns to the "artificial proofs" (atechnoi pisteis)—those which rhetoric itself provides. Of these, the logical proof has already been in part discussed (i. 2).

The ethike pistis.

He therefore turns to the "ethical" proof. The speaker's character may be so indicated by his speech as to prepossess the hearers ; and this result depends chiefly on three things. He should make them feel that he possesses (1) phronesis —intelligence ; (2) arete—virtue ; and (3) eunoia—good-will to them. Aristotle then proceeds to furnish the speaker with the materials for seeming intelligent and good, referring for these to his previous analysis of the virtues (i. 9). As to the means of seeming friendly, these will be furnished by an analysis of the affections (pathe). Here we are already on the boundary line between the " ethical proof " and the third of the entechnoi techneis, the "emotional proof."

The pathetike pistis.

In regard to each affection (pathos), we have to see (1) what it is ; (2) what things predispose men to it; (3) the objects and conditions of its manifestation. The next ten chapters of the second book (2-11) are accordingly devoted to an analysis of those emotions which it is most important for the rhetorician to understand :—viz. (1) anger, and its opposite, mild-ness ; (2) love and hatred ; (3) fear and boldness ; (4) compassion, envy, emulation; (5) shame and shamelessness; (6) gratitude (charis); (7) righteous indignation (nemesis). But, in appealing to these various emotions, the speaker must have regard to the general character of his audience, according, e.g., as they are young or old, rich or poor, &c. Hence it is necessary to know the characteristics of the various periods and conditions of life. Aristotle therefore delineates the chief traits of the young, of the old, and of men in their prime ; of the well-born, the rich, and the powerful. With regard to the well-born, he makes a remark which seems equally true of the rich: " the possessor of good birth is the more ambitious; for all men, when they have got anything, are wont to add to the heap" (ch. 12-17). The analysis of the "ethical" and the '' emotional" proof is now finished.

After a concise retrospect, Aristotle passes to the treatment of a subject barely indicated in the first book (ch. 2).

The koinoi topoi.

The koinoi topoi ( or "universal commonplaces," applicable to all materials, are mainly four:—(1) to dunaton and to adunaton—possibility and impossibility ; (2) to gegonos and to mellon—past and future; (3) to auxein kai meioun (or megethos and microtes)—great and small ; (4) to mallon kai hetton—greater and less. Aristotle means that all subjects whatsoever admit of arguments into which these ideas enter. The first comes into play when we argue, "since this is possible, that must be so also ; the second, when we say, " if this has been, that has been also, "or " if this is to happen, that will happen also." For the third and fourth of the koinoi topoi, magnitude and degree, we are referred back to bk. i. ch. 7 and 8, where they have already been handled. The second book is completed by a sort of appendix, intended to supplement the sketch of the "logical proof" given in bk. i. ch. 2.

"The example" continued.

The "example," or "rhetorical induction, had been rather cursorily treated there, and is now illustrated more fully (ii. 20). There are two kinds of "example"—the historical (to pragmata legein) and the artificial (to auton poiein). The artificial example, again, has two species— —(1) comparison, parabole,—as when Socrates said that magistrates ought not to be chosen by lot, for this is like choosing athletes by lot, rather than for athletic power; (2) fiction, or fable in the special sense—logoi; as when Stesichorus warned the people of Himera against establishing a despot by telling them the fable of the horse who asked the man to help him against a deer. If you have no arguments of a logical kind (enthymemes), says Aristotle, the "example" must do duty as proof; if you have enthymemes, it can serve as illustration.

The use of gnomai.

The use of gnomai, or general moral sentiments, next claims attention (ch. 21). These are of two classes—those which are self-evident, and those which, not being so obviously true, require some confirmatory comment (epilogos), as when Medea says that no sensible man should allow his children to be exquisitely educated, because it makes them fastidious and unpopular. Such maxims with an "epilogue" are, in fact, virtually enthymemes. Apropos of gnomai, Aristotle remarks that spurious generalization is particularly useful in the utterance of bitter complaint (e.g., " frailty, thy name is woman"). Then it is often effective to controvert received maxims, e.g., "It is not well to 'know oneself' ; for if this man had known himself, he would never have become a general" (ch. 21).

On the use of enthymeme.

Some precepts on the enthymeme follow. The rhetorical reasoner must not have too many links in the chain of his argument; and must omit those propositions which his hearers can easily supply. Also, it is highly important to know the special topics (eide) from which enthymemes can be drawn in each subject. The enthymeme is either (1) deiktikon, demonstrative, establishing a point, or (2) elegktikon, refutative, destroying a position by a comparison of conflicting statements (to ta anomologoumena sunagein). Aristotle now gives (ii. 23) an enumeration of classes or heads of argument (enthymematikoi topoi) from which enthymemes can be constructed. These apply nominally to all three branches of rhetoric, but in fact chiefly to the deliberative and the forensic. The demonstrative enthymeme is almost exclusively treated, since the refutative form can, of course, be inferred from the other. A chapter (24), answering to the treatise on fallacies in logic (peri sophistikon elegchon), is devoted to the fallacious (phainomenon) enthymeme, of which ten "topics " are explained and illustrated. Another chapter is given to the two general types of lusis, or refutation (ch. 25), viz., (1) direct counter-argument (to antisullogizdesthai), opposing one enthymeme to another ; (2) objection to a particular point in the adversary's case (to enitasthai). The second book then concludes with some supplementary remarks, meant, seemingly, to correct errors made by previous writers on rhetoric (ch. 26).

Book III.

In his first two books Aristotle has thus dealt with invention (euresis)—the discovery of means of persuasion. In the third book he deals with expression and arrangement (lexis and taxis).


The subject is prepared by some remarks on the art of delivery (hypocrisis), Delivery, which Aristotle defines as the management of the voice. " It is the art of knowing how to use the voice for the expression of each feeling, of knowing when it should be loud, low, or moderate, of managing its pitch—shrill, deep, or middle—and of adapting the cadences to the theme." Aristotle says nothing on gesture or play of feature, which Cicero and Quintilian recognize as important. He includes them by implication, however, in saying that the art of delivery, whenever it is reduced to method, "will perform the function of the actor's art," adding that " the dramatic faculty is less a matter of art than of nature."


But verbal expression, at least, is clearly in the province of art, and to that he now turns. He deals first with diction (lexis) in the proper sense, as concerned with the choice of words and phrases. The first excellence of diction is clearness (sapheneia), which is attained by using words in their proper sense (kuria). Next, the diction must be "neither too low nor too grand, but suitable to the subject." In prose (en tois psilois logois) there is less scope for ornament than in poetry, though in the latter, too, much depends on the speaker or the theme. And here Aristotle remarks that Euripides was the first poet who produced a happy illusion by taking his words from the language of daily life (ek tes eiothyias dialektou). With a view to adorning prose, and giving it "distinction" (the term which best represents Aristotle's phrase xenon or xenikon poiein), nothing is more important than the judicious use of metaphor. Aristotle admits that "the art of metaphor cannot be taught""; but he gives some sensible hints on the subject, and on the use of epithets. The poet Simonides, he tells us, when the winner of a mule race offered him a small fee, declined to write an ode on ''half-asses," but, when the price was raised, sang ''Hail, daughters of windswift steeds." The perceptions which made the best Greek prose so good are illustrated by Aristotle's next chapter (iii. 3) on psychra, "frigidities," "faults of style." He traces these to four chief sources,—the use of tawdry or ungainly compounds (dipla onomata), the use of rare or obsolete words (glottai), and infelicity of epithet or metaphor.

A simile (eikon) is a metaphor with an explanation (logos): e.g., in speaking of Achilles, "he sprang on them like a lion" is simile; "the lion sprang on them" is metaphor. Simile is less available than metaphor for prose, being more poetical. The "proportional" metaphor mentioned here requires a passing comment.


Aristotle used the term " metaphor " (metaphora) in a larger sense than ours. He meant by it "any transference of a word to a sense different from its proper sense." Thus he can distinguish (Poet., c. 21) four classes of metaphor:—(1) "from genus to species," as when "vessel" means "ship"; (2) from species to genus, as when "the lilies of the field" stand for flowers" generally. These two kinds are not what wo call "metaphors," but are examples of the figure which was afterwards named " synecdoche." Aristotle's third class of metaphor is (3) "from species to species," under which head come almost all familiar metaphors, as to "scent a plot,"—the generic notion, "find out," being common to the special terms, "scent" and "detect" ; (4) then lastly there is the "proportional" metaphor (he analogon), when A is not simply compared with B (on the strength of something obviously common to both), but A's relation to C is compared with B's relation to D. To call old age "the evening of life" implies that old age is to life as the evening to the day. Obviously a "proportion" of this kind is implicit in the metaphors of Aristotle's third class; but in the fourth class proportion is expressly indicated by the mention of the second term ("life" in our example).

The first four chapters having thus dealt with expression in the narrower sense of diction (lexis proper), Aristotle devotes the next eight (iii. 5-12) to composition, which would be properly called synthesis.


After remarks on the first requisites—grammatical correctness, and purity of idiom (to hellenizein)—we have some hints on "dignity" of style (ogkos). "Propriety" (to prepon) is defined as depending chiefly on three qualities :—(1) expression of the feelings which it is desired to move in the hearer; (2) fitness to the character and position of the speaker ; and (3) congruity with the level of the subject. A certain "rhythm" (rythmos), or harmonious movement, should be sought in prose ; but this must not be so precise as to give the effect of metre.

Prose rhythm.

The elements of rhythm are rhythm. " times," i.e., in writing, long or short syllables, the short syllable being the unit. Here, following the early writers on music (comp. Plato, Rep., 400 B), Aristotle recognizes three "rhythms": (1) the " heroic " or dactylic, [IMAGE], which is in the ratio of equality, since — = [IMAGE] or 1:1; (2) the iambic or trochaic ([IMAGE] or [IMAGE]), which has the ratio of 2 to 1 ; (3) the paeonic, [IMAGE], which has the ratio of 3 : 2. Of these, the heroic is too grand for prose ; the iambic is too commonplace, being the very cadence of ordinary talk (aute estin he lexis yoen pollon) ; the trochee is too comic. The paeon remains. It is the best rhythm for prose, since it will not, by itself, produce a metrical effect (mallon lanthanei). The "first" paeon ([IMAGE]) is most suitable to the beginning of sentences, the "fourth" pseon ([IMAGE]) to the close. Rhythm having been attained, a framework is supplied by the period (periodos).

The periodic style.

A "compact" or periodic style (katastrammene lexis) is so called in contrast with that "running" style style (eiromene lexis) which simply strings clause to clause, "having no necessary end until the thought is finished," and is unpleasing because it is unlimited ; "for all men wish to descry the end." The periodic style pleases for the opposite reason, because the nearer always fancies that he has grasped something and has got something defined. The period may consist of several parts or members (kola), or it may be "simple," forming a unit (apheles, monokolos). The rhetorical use of antithesis is then noticed in its application to the period. Two kindred figures are also mentioned,—parisosis, a parallelism of structure between clauses of equal length,—and paromoiosis, a resemblance in sound, when the last (or first) word of one clause has an echo, as it were, in the same place of the next clause.


Two chapters (10, 11) are now given to the sources of vivacity in speaking. Those "smart sayings" (ta asteia) which win applause "must be invented by the clever or practised man ; the business of this treatise is to point out their use." They come chiefly from (1) metaphor, (2) antithesis, and (3) vividness—i.e., placing the thing described "before the eyes of the hearer" (to ton ommaton poiein). This is called by Aristotle energeia, "actuality" (which must be carefully distinguished from enargeia, another term for "vividness"), since things are represented not merely in their potentiality (dynamis), but as living and moving. One of the most effective kinds of point (says Aristotle) is "a metaphor with a surprise," i.e., with the disclosure of a likeness not perceived before, the source of the pleasure being the same as in riddles.

The general types of style.

The whole subject of expression is concluded by a chapter on the general types of style, in their relation to the three branches of rhetoric (ch. 12). There is a literary style (graphike lexis) and a style suited to oral contest or debate (agonistike). The literary style is that which admits of the highest finish (akribestate), and is best suited to the epideictic branch of rhetoric, since the latter is properly addressed to readers. The other, or "agonistic," style is best adapted to delivery (hypokritikotate). It is so mainly through two things—adaptation to the character of speaker and hearer, and skilful appeals to feeling. Forensic and deliberative rhetoric both use It; but the forensic branch admits of higher finish, and so far approximates to the literary style. Deliberative rhetoric, on the other hand, is like drawing in light and shade (without colours), skiagraphia — like scene-painting, we should rather say, i.e., it is meant to produce its effects at a distance, and will not bear looking at too closely.


From expression we now pass to the other subject announced at the opening of the third book, arrangement (taxis), which occupies the last seven chapters (13-19). The received system, which had been popularized, if not originated, by Isocrates, recognised four divisions of a speech : (1) exordium (or proem), prooimion; (2) narrative, diegesis; (3) proof, pisteis; (4) peroration, epilogos. Aristotle adopts this fourfold partition as his basis,—with the preliminary remark, however, that only two elements are necessarily present in every case, viz., "statement" of one's subject, prothesis, and "argument" in its support, pisteis. He then takes the four divisions in order.

1. Proem.

The contents of the proem usually come under one of two heads—(1) exciting or allaying prejudice ; (2) amplifying or detracting. In epideictic rhetoric the connexion of proem with sequel may be comparatively loose ; it is like a flute-player's prelude (proaulion), which he deftly links on to the key-note (endosimon) of his principal theme. The forensic proem, on the other hand, may be likened to the prologue of an epic or a tragedy (ch. 14, 15).

2. Narrative.

Narrative is least needed in deliberative speaking, since this deals chiefly with the future. In forensic narrative, the object must be to bring out clearly the issues on which accuser or accused relies, with an effective colouring of ethos and pathos. In the epideictic branch, the narrative should not form a continuous whole, but should be divided and varied by comments (ch. 16).

3. Proof.

The rhetorician's proofs (pisteis) will, in the forensic branch, be relevant to one of four issues :—(1) fact: was the alleged act done, or not? (2) damage: if done, was it hurtful? (3) criminality: if hurtful, was the hurt justifiable? (4) quantity or degree. Aristotle's four "issues " (amphisbeteseis) here correspond with the staseis, "positions" or questions," usually three, of later legists and rhetoricians: (1) stasis stochastike, status conjecturalis, the question of fact; (2) stasis orike, status definitivus, nomen, or finitio, the question of legal definition; (3) stasis poiotetos, status qualitatis or juridicialis, the question of justice or injustice. Thus Cicero says, "res (controversiam facit) aut de vero (1), aut de recto (3), aut de nomine" (2), Orat., xxxiv. 121. In deliber-tive rhetoric, the four "issues " can be applied to the future, since, if a speaker anticipates certain results from a course of a policy, his adversary can deny their (1) probability, (2) expediency, (3) justice, or (4) importance. The enthymeme is most useful in the deliberative branch, as the "example," or rhetorical induction, is most useful in the forensic. The "ethical" proof from the speaker's indicated character is always a most important adjunct to the logical proof (ch. 17). A chapter is now given to one special resource by which a proof can often be enforced, viz., interrogation of the adversary (erotesis), which has usually one of two objects— (1) reductio ad absurdum, or (2) to entrap him into a fatal admission (ch. 18).

4. Epilogue.

The last chapter of the book, and of the treatise, deals with the peroration or "epilogue" (epilogos). This aims usually at one of four things :—(1) to conciliate the hearers; (2) to magnify or lower the importance of topics already treated; (3) to excite emotion in the hearers ; (4) to refresh their memories by a short recapitulation. Remarking that asyndeton gives force to the close of an epilogue, Aristotle ends his rhetoric with the last words (not quite accurately quoted) of the great speech in which Lysias denounced Eratosthenes— pausomai kategoron. akekoate, eorakate, petonthate, echete, disazete.

Aristotle's Rhetoric is incomparably the most scientific work which exists on the subject. It may also be regarded as having determined the main lines on which the subject was treated by nearly all subsequent writers.

The Rhetoric of Anaximenes compared with Aristotle's.

The extant treatise on rhetoric entitled Rhetorike pros Alexandron was undoubtedly by Anaximenes of Lampsacus, and was probably composed about 340-330 B.C., a few years before Aristotle's work. The introductory letter prefixed to it is a late forgery. If the treatise of Anaximenes is compared with that of Aristotle the distinctive place of the latter in this field becomes clearer. Anaximenes, who knew the treatise of Isocrates, and could profit by all the preceding Greek "arts," is, for us, the sole representative of technical rhetoric before Aristotle, and probably represents it at its best. We miss the intellectual power, the grasp of principles, and the subtle discrimination which belong to the work of Aristotle. On the other hand, the practical character is more strongly marked. It might, indeed, be said of Aristotle's treatise that it is rather a Philosophy of Rhetoric than a Rhetoric proper. It is a body of abstract principles and general rules. These will enable the student to dissect a good speech ; but, by themselves, they will not go far towards enabling him to make one. Aristotle's purpose was to annex rhetoric to the realm of science. He succeeded, as far as success was possible. But the new province was somewhat of a Poland. The rigid system which was found necessary for holding the unruly dependency did not leave much scope for spontaneous vigour or native exuberance.

The period from Alexander to Augustus.

During the three centuries from the age of Alexander to that of Augustus the fortunes of rhetoric were governed by the new conditions of Hellenism. Aristotle's scientific method lived on in the Peripatetic school. Meanwhile, however, the fashion of florid declamation or strained conceits prevailed in the rhetorical schools of Asia, where, amid mixed populations, the pure traditions of the best Greek taste had been dissociated from the use of the Greek language. The "Asianism" of style which thus came to be contrasted with "Atticism" found imitators at Rome, among whom must be reckoned the orator Hortensius (c. 95 B.C.).


Hermagoras of Temnos in Aeolis (c. 110 B.C.) claims mention as having done much to revive a higher conception. Using both the practical rhetoric of the time before Aristotle and Aristotle's philosophical rhetoric, he worked up the results of both in a new system, —following the philosophers so far as to give the chief prominence to "invention." He thus became the founder of a rhetoric which, as distinguished from the practical and the philosophical, may be called the scholastic. Through the influence of his school, Hermagoras did for Roman eloquence very much what the school of Isocrates had done for Athens. Above all, he counteracted the view of "Asianism," that oratory is a mere knack founded on practice, and recalled attention to the study of it as an art. [514-1]


Cicero's rhetorical works are to some extent based on the technical system to which he had been introduced by Molon at Rhodes, and by other contemporary teachers. But Cicero further made an independent use of the best among the earlier Greek writers, as Isocrates, Aristotle, and Theophrastus. Lastly, he could draw, at least in the later of his treatises, on a vast fund of reflection and experience. Indeed, the distinctive interest of his contributions to the theory of rhetoric consists in the fact that his theory can be compared with his practice. The result of such a comparison is certainly to suggest how much less he owed to his art than to his genius. Some consciousness of this is perhaps implied in the idea which pervades much of his writing on oratory, that the perfect orator is the perfect man.


The same thought is present to Quintilian, in whose great work, De Institutione Oratoria, the scholastic rhetoric receives its most complete expression (c. 90 A.D.). Quintilian treats oratory as the end to which the entire mental and moral development of the student is to be directed. Thus he devotes his first book to an early discipline which should precede the orator's first studies, and his last book to a discipline of the whole man which lies beyond them. Some notion of his comprehensive method may be derived from the circumstance that, in connexion with precepts for storing the speaker's mind, he introduces a succinct estimate of the chief Greek and Roman authors, of every kind, from Homer to Seneca (bk. x. §§ 46-131).


After Quintilian, the next name which deserves to be signalized in the history of the art is that of Hermogenes, who about 170 A.D. made a complete digest of the scholastic rhetoric from the time of Hermagoras of Temnos (110 B.C.). It is contained in five extant treatises, which are remarkable for clearness and acuteness, and still more remarkable as having been completed before the age of twenty-five. Hermogenes continued for nearly a century and a half to be one of the chief authorities in the schools.

Other writers.

Longinus (c. 260 A.D.) published an Art of Rhetoric which is still extant; and the more celebrated treatise On Sublimity (peri hypsous), if not his work, is at least of the same period. About 315 A.D. Aphthonius composed the "exercises" (progymnasmata) which superseded the work of Hermogenes. At the revival of letters the treatise of Aphthonius once more became a standard text-book. Much popularity was enjoyed also by the exercises of AeIius Theon (380 A.D.). Space would fail if we attempted to enumerate the writers on rhetoric who, during these centuries, attained to more or less repute. In the editions of the Rhetores Graeci by Spengel and by Walz the fecundity of the literature can be seen.

The theory of rhetoric engaged this industry, because the practice of the art was in greater vogue than ever before or since.

Practice of rhetoric under the empire.

During the first four centuries of the empire several causes contributed to this result. First, there was a general dearth of the higher intellectual interests ; politics gave no scope to energy; philosophy was stagnant, and literature, as a rule, either arid or frivolous. Then the Greek schools had poured their rhetoricians into Rome, where the same tastes which revelled in coarse luxury welcomed tawdry declamation. The law-courts of the Roman provinces further created a continual demand for forensic speaking. Asia, Gaul, and Africa are now the regions which supply the largest proportion of successful orators. The passion for rhetoric was everywhere. "Thule talks of engaging an orator," says Juvenal. "You call a man a thief," says Persius; "he answers you with finished tropes." Athens, Smyrna, Rhodes, Tarsus, Antioch, Alexandria, Massilia, and many other cities had seats of learning at which rhetoric was taught by professors who enjoyed the highest consideration.

The "sophists".

The public teacher of rhetoric was called "sophist," which was now an academic title, similar to "professor" or " doctor." In the 4th century B.C. Isocrates had taken pride in the name of sophistes, which, indeed, had at no time wholly lost the good, or neutral, sense which originally belonged to it. The academic meaning which it acquired under the early empire lasted into the Middle Ages (see Ducange, s.v., who quotes from Baldricus, "Egregius Doctor magnusque Sophista Geraldus"). While the word rhetor still denoted the faculty, the word sophistes denoted the office or rank to which the rhetor might hope to rise. So in Lucian's piece (160 A.D.), the " Teacher of Rhetoricians" says (§ 1),—"You ask, young man, how you are to become a rhetor, and attain in your turn to the repute of that most impressive and illustrious title, sophist."

Vespasian (70-79 A.D.), according to Suetonius, was the first emperor who gave a public endowment to the teach-ing of rhetoric.

Chairs of rhetoric.

But it was under Hadrian and the Antonines (117-180 A.D.) that the public chairs of rhetoric were raised to an importance which made them objects of the highest ambition. The complete constitution of the schools at Athens was due to Marcus Aurelius. The Philosophical School had four chairs (thronoi), — Platonic, Stoic, Peripatetic, Epicurean. The Rhetorical School had two chairs, one for "sophistic," the other for "political" rhetoric. By "sophistic" was meant the academic teaching of rhetoric as an art, in distinction from its "political" application to the law-courts. The "sophistical " chair was superior to the "political" in dignity as in emolument, and its occupant was invested with a jurisdiction over the youth of Athens similar to that of the vice-chancellor in a modern university. Thus it is said of Theodotus, the first holder of the chair of sophistic as constituted by Marcus Aurelius, proeste de kai tes ton Athenaion neotetos protos (Philostr., Vit. Soph., II. ii. p. 566). The Antonines further encouraged rhetoric by granting immunities to its teachers. Three "sophists" in each of the smaller towns, and five in the larger, were exempted from taxation (Dig., xxvii. 1, 6, § 2). The wealthier sophists affected much personal splendour. One of them, Polemon (c. 130 A.D.), was attended on his journeys by an enormous retinue — slaves, beasts of burden, horses, and hounds — while he himself drove in a costly equipage. Another, Adrian of Tyre (c. 170 A.D.), was drawn to his lectures by horses "with silver bits," wore the richest attire and the rarest jewels, and endeared himself to the Athenian students by the entertainments which he provided for them. In all this foppery there was calculation. The aim of the sophist was to impress the multitude. Popular applause was the breath of life to him. His whole stock in trade was style, and this was directed to astonishing by tours de force.


The scholastic declamations were chiefly of two classes. (1) The suasoriae were usually on historical or legendary subjects, in which some course of action was commended or censured ; thus Juvenal, alluding to his school-days, cries—

" I, too, have counselled Sulla to resign,
And taste those joys for which dictators pine."

These suasoriae belonged to deliberative rhetoric (the bouleutikon genos, deliberativum genus). (2) The controversiae turned especially on legal issues, and represented the forensic rhetoric (dikanikon genos, judiciale genus). But it was the general characteristic of this period that all subjects, though formally "deliberative" or "forensic," were treated in the style and spirit of that third branch which Aristotle distinguished, the rhetoric of epideixis or "display." The oratory produced by the age of the academic sophists can be estimated from a large extant literature. It is shown under various aspects, and presumably at its best, by such writers as Dion Chrysostom at the end of the 1st century, Aelius Aristides in the 2d, Themistius, Himerius, and Libanius in the 4th. It would be unjust to deny that, amid much which is tawdry or vapid, these writings occasionally present passages of true literary beauty, while they constantly offer matter of the highest interest to the student of the past.

Mediaeval study of logic.

In the mediaeval system of academic studies, grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the subjects of the trivium, course followed during the four years of undergraduateship. Music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy constituted the quadrivium, or course for the three years from the B.A. to theM.A. degree. These were the seven liberalarts. According to Hallam (Lit. Eur., vol. i.), the idea of a trivium and quadrivium dates from the 6th century. The well-known memorial couplet can be traced to c. 1420 A.D. :<—

Gram. loquitur, Dia. vera docet, Rhet. verba colorat:
Mus. canit, Ar. numerat. Geo. ponderat, As. colit astra.

A shorter formula was— "lingua, tropus, ratio; numerus, tonus, angulus, astra." In the Middle Ages the chief authorities on rhetoric were the latest Latin epitomists, such as Martianus Capella (5th century), Cassiodorus (5th century), or Isidorus (7th century).

After the revival of learning, the better Roman and Greek writers gradually returned into use. Some new treatises were also produced. Leonard Cox (died 1549) wrote The Art or Craft of Rhetoryke, partly compiled, partly original, which was reprinted in Latin at Cracow. The Art of Rhetorique by Thomas Wilson (1553), afterwards secretary of state, embodied rules chiefly from Aristotle, with help from Cicero and Quintilian. About the same time, treatises on rhetoric were published in France by Tonquelin (1555) and Courcelles (1557). The general aim at this period was to revive and popularize the best teaching of the ancients on rhetoric.

Rhetoric at the universities.

The subject was regularly taught at the universities, and was, indeed, important. At Cambridge in 1570 the study of rhetoric was based on Quintilian, Hermogenes, and the speeches of Cicero viewed as works of art. An Oxford statute of 1588 shows that the same books were used there. In 1620 George Herbert was delivering lectures on rhetoric at Cambridge, where he held the office of public orator. The decay of rhetoric as a formal study at the universities set in during the 18th century. In 1712 Steele regrets that Oxford and Cambridge have "grown dumb in the study of eloquence." The function of the rhetoric lecturer passed over into that of correcting written themes; but his title remained long after his office had lost its primary meaning If the theory of rhetoric fell into neglect, the practice however, was encouraged by the public exercises ("acts" and "opponencies") in the schools. The college prizes fo "declamations" served the same purpose.

Modern writers on rhetoric.

The fortunes of rhetoric in the modern world, as briefly sketched above, may suffice to suggest why few modern writers of ability have given their attention to the subject. Perhaps one of the most notable modern contributions to the art is the collection of commonplaces framed (in Latin) by Bacon, "to be so many spools from which the threads can be drawn out as occasion serves," a truly curious work of that acute and fertile mind. He called them "Antitheta." A specimen is subjoined :—


"Attachment to the state begins from the family."
"He who manies, and has children, has given hostages to fortune. "

"Wife and children are a discipline in humanity. Bachelors are morose and austere."

"The immortality of brutes is in their progeny ; of men, in their fame, services, and institu-tions. "

"The only advantage of celibacy and childlessness is in case of exile."

"Regard for the family too often overrides regard for the state."

This is quite in the spirit of Aristotle's treatise. The popularity enjoyed by Blair's Rhetoric in the latter part of the 18th and the earlier part of the present century was merited rather by the form than by the matter. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, which found less wide acceptance than its predecessor, was superior to it in depth, though often marred by an imperfect comprehension of logic. But undoubtedly the best modern book on the subject is Whately's Elements of Rhetoric.


Starting from Aristotle's view, that rhetoric is "an offshoot from logic," Whately treats it as the art of " argumentative composi-tion." He considers it under four heads :—(1) the address to the understanding (= Aristotle's logike pistis); (2) the address to the will, or persuasion (= Aristotle's ethike and pathetike pistis); (3) style; (4) elocution, or delivery. At the outset he makes some judicious remarks on the popular objections to the art. "It has been truly observed that 'genius begins where rules end.' But to infer from this, as some seem disposed to do, that, in any department wherein genius can be displayed, rules must be useless, or useless to those who possess genius, is a very rash conclusion. What I have observed elsewhere concerning logic, that 'a knowledge of it serves to save a waste of ingenuity,' holds good in many other departments also." "A drayman, we are told, will taunt a comrade by saying, 'you're a pretty fellow,' without having learnt that he is employing the figure called irony." But when it is thus urged that—

"All a rhetorician's rules
But teach him how to name his tools,"

the assumption is tacitly made that an accurate nomen- clature and classification of these tools must be devoid of practical use. The conditions of modern life, and especially the invention of printing, have diminished the importance which belonged in antiquity to the art of speaking. But few would deny that a large measure of value may still be claimed for rhetoric in the more comprehensive sense which Whately gives to it, as the art of argumentative composition. His treatise, the work of an able and also witty man, will be found instructive and entertaining even by those who do not go to it for a discipline. Nor can it fail to suggest a further remark. While abounding in fresh thought and modern illustration, it constantly reminds us that, in almost all essentials, the art of rhetoric must be regarded as the creation of Aristotle. (E. C. J.)


511-1 On this interpolation, see Sir W. Hamilton's Discussions, p. 154

514-1 See Professor Jebb's Attic Orators, vol. ii. p. 445,

The above article was written by: Prof. R. C. Jebb. LL.B., Professor of Greek, University of Glasgow,

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