Rhetorica ad Herennium  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Rhetorica ad Herennium, formerly attributed to Cicero but of unknown authorship, is the oldest surviving Latin book on rhetoric, dating from the 90s BC, and is still used today as a textbook on the structure and uses of rhetoric and persuasion.

It was the most popular book on rhetoric during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It was commonly used, along with Cicero's '"De Inventione", to teach rhetoric, and its popularity is evidenced by the large number of surviving manuscripts — over one hundred are extant. It was also copied extensively into European vernacular languages, and served 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 first book to teach rhetoric in a very highly structured and disciplined form.

Its discussion of elocutio (style) is the oldest surviving systematic treatment of Latin style, and many of the examples are of contemporary Roman events. This new style, which flowered in the century following this work's writing, promoted revolutionary advances in Roman literature and oratory. However, according to some analysts, teaching oratory in Latin was controversial because oratory was seen as a political tool which had to be kept in the hands of the Greek-speaking upper class. The Rhetorica ad Herennium can be seen as part of a liberal populist movement, along with those like Plotius Gallus who began teaching in Latin.

The work contains the first known description of the method of loci, a mnemonic technique.

The Ad Herennium also provides the first complete treatment of memoria (memorization of speeches).




  • Rhetorica ad Herennium (with an online English translation by Harry Caplan). Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 1954.
  • 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 Cornificius, Philologus 89 (1934). 63-84
  • Tolkiehn, Johannes. Jahresbuch des philologischen Vereins zu Berlin 45 (1919)

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rhetorica ad Herennium" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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