History The more you know

The rhetoric

The birth of rhetoric (the art of the word) is closely linked to Athens: the democratic regime demands that citizens be experts in the art of discourse, because only through speeches can they take part in political life and take the floor in the courts. Among the most significant texts dedicated to the techniques of the oratory discourse, we recall the Rhetoric of Aristotle, the De oratore of Cicero and the Institutio oratoria of Quintilian.


The noun “rhetoric” derives from the Greek rhetorike, an adjective which, together with the noun techne (art), indicates the doctrines relating to the art of discourse; the Greek word is in fact related to the verb eirein, which means “to speak”. The most widespread Latin translation is ars oratoria, which for the Romans corresponds perfectly to the Greek original (among the many meanings of the verb orare there was in fact also that of “speaking”). “Oratory” and “rhetoric” therefore mean the same thing for Greeks and Romans, because the ability to hold a speech in front of an audience is strictly connected to the techniques that regulate the way of constructing that speech; we moderns distinguish these two aspects, using the term “oratory” to define the first and “rhetoric” for the second. For this reason the following pages will outline a brief history of both the oratory and ancient rhetoric.

That the ancients do not feel a split between these two aspects of the same discipline is demonstrated by the five parts which, for the Greeks first and then for the Romans, constitute the foundations of rhetoric: the “invention” (euresis, inventio), the capacity of find real or likely arguments that can make the speech convincing; the “disposition” (taxis, dispositio), the correct distribution of the arguments within the discourse; the “style” (lexis, elocutio), the ability to adapt words and sentences to the topics found; the “memory” (mneme, memory), the arrangement of arguments and words in the mind of the speaker; the “acting” (hypokrisis, actio or gestio), the elegant regulation of voice, face and gestures. The five parts of the rhetoric were identified and studied for the first time by Aristotle, in the fourth century BC: if the first three relate to what we today call the “rhetorical” dimension (the construction of the content and form of a discourse) , the last two – but above all the last one – concern the “oratory” dimension (the presentation of a speech).

In summary, rhetorike techne / ars oratoria are two synonyms that indicate the complex discipline that allows one to be a rhetor and an orator, that is to say (to quote the definition given by Cicero in De oratore I, 11, 48) “a man who he is able to speak with wealth of arguments before the magistrate or before the judges, before the people or before the senate “. These words contain an explicit reference to the other fundamental breakdown for ancient rhetoric (theorized for the first time always by the usual Aristotle): the distinction of the three genders of the oratory, deliberative, judicial and epidictic discourse. The “deliberative” gender is the oration pronounced within a political assembly to determine whether a particular decision is useful or harmful; it is aimed at the future, because it concerns the choices that the assembly must take in particular circumstances. The “judicial” genre is the harangue pronounced by the prosecution and the defense within a courtroom to establish whether a particular action is fair or unjust; is addressed to the past, because it concerns a fact that has already happened. The “epidictic” (or “demonstrative”) genre does not require that listeners give a judgment (as it happens instead for deliberative and judicial speeches, which require a response from the assembly and the jury); is addressed to the present, concerns the praise or blame of a person or an action, is centered on what is beautiful or, on the contrary, ugly.

Rhetoric in Greece: the first evidence in archaic epic

Although the rhetoric, understood as the set of rules relating to the art of discourse, was born at the beginning of the fifth century BC, the first examples of rhetorical discourse can already be read in the most ancient work of Greek literature: the Iliad . The value of the Homeric hero is not only expressed in battles, but also in assemblies: the Achaean and Trojan heroes are as skilled in handling weapons as in using the tongue. In this regard, the dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles, which initiated the poem, is exemplary: the harsh verbal confrontation between the leader of the Achaean expedition and the bravest of his generals takes place during an assembly in which all the army leaders participate ; if the victory goes to Agamemnon, this is not due to the greater validity of his arguments, but only to his authority as chief. Still in the first book, when he presents Elder Nestor, Homer does not remember the brave deeds but focuses his attention on his rhetorical skills (vv. 247-9): “Among them the Nestor rose from the sweet word, the sound orator of the Pili; / from his tongue flowed a sweeter voice than honey “.

Even more evident are the two examples presented in the ninth book, when, on the advice of Agamemnon, Odysseus and Fenice try to convince Achilles to return to the fight (vv. 225-306 and 434-605). Although the two heroes do not succeed in the undertaking, their speeches are very skilfully structured, to testify that, although they have not yet been the object of study and theoretical elaboration, the ability to deliver a speech was an essential component of the age archaic.

How much the art of well-speaking is superior to the external beauty is also clearly said in the Odyssey. In the eighth book Odysseus thus responds to the insults of the noble Euryalus (vv. 166-74): “Guest, your words are not beautiful: you look just like an arrogant man. / Not to all men the gods grant their gifts, / beauty, intelligence, the word. A man is modest in appearance, but the god crowns his figure with words, people look at him fascinated. He speaks safely / with sweet reserve, shines in assemblies, / is seen as a god when he walks the streets of the city. / Another man is like his godlike beauty, / but grace does not crown his words “.

The importance of rhetoric is fundamental during the processes. This is confirmed by the personal events of Hesiod, who in the didactic poem The works and days tells in detail the controversy that sees him opposed to his brother Perse: after the death of his father, the poet enters into a dispute with Perse for his paternal inheritance; his brother corrupts the judges, defrauding Hesiod of his legacy. In this episode, Perse’s rhetorical ability, combined with the lack of moral principles and the lack of judges’ respect for justice, allow the poet’s brother to win the case.

Also in the other Hesiodic poem, Theogony, a praise of the word appears, defined a gift of the Muses: to vv. 83-90, Hesiod says that these deities “pour sweet dew on the king’s mouth, / and from his mouth sweet words flow; the peoples all look at him while he administers justice / with just sentences; the king, speaking with confidence, / immediately calms down even the greatest disputes wisely. / And this is why kings are wise, because in the assembly / they give reparation to the people who have suffered offenses / easily placating them with sweet words “.

The origin of rhetorical art: the role of the sophists

As a real discipline, rhetoric was born at the beginning of the 5th century BC in Sicily, in Syracuse: the tyrannical regimes of Gelone and Gerone, which have expropriated many lands to distribute them to their soldiers, have fallen; one wants to return to the previous situation; to re-establish the ancient property rights, many processes are held in which the parties involved, in order to convince the popular juries, are forced to show their “eloquence”, attacking and defending themselves persuasively. The ancients remember the names of those who first taught the techniques of persuasive speech: the fathers of rhetoric would have been Corace (pupil of the philosopher Empedocles) and Tisia.

Their teachings are then transplanted to Athens, the city that after the laws of Solon and the reforms of Clistene has become the first true example of democracy in the Greek world. The democratic regime demands that all citizens be experts in the art of speaking, because it is only and exclusively through the word that they can intervene both in the sessions of the assembly and in the courts. It is Solon, in the years between the 7th and 6th centuries BC, who established the obligation for all defendants to plead their case directly before the judges. Unlike in Italy, there are no professional figures in Athens who speak of the accusation or the defense: both the one who accuses and the one who defends must accuse or defend themselves without intermediaries. Although there is the possibility of circumventing the obstacle by having an expert write to him (called “logographer”, that is to say “speech writer”), if you do not want to take risks, it is better to learn the basic principles of art. rhetoric.

This knowledge is absolutely necessary if we want to have a role in the political life of the city: to take the floor in the assembly – which is a right guaranteed to all Athenian citizens – the techniques of persuasive speech cannot be ignored: to have the best in political disputes, to win favor in assemblies, to be elected to public office, to defend one’s theses (and demolish those of others) in debates on questions of common interest, one must be experts in the art of speaking.

The masters of this art, in the Athens of the fifth century BC, are the sophists: most of the techniques that we moderns continue to consider fundamental in the art of debate (including TV talk shows and political forums) are been analyzed and studied by these characters: the technique of the contradictory (that is the ability to replicate in an exhaustive and punctual way to the criticisms of the adversary) is developed with great success by Protagora di Abdera; the technique of the “motion of affects”, which consists in convincing the juries by relying mainly on feelings, is an innovation of Trasimaco di Calcedonio; the psychagogic power of persuasion (ie the ability to drag the listener to his side thanks to the seductive aspects of language) is at the center of Leontini’s Gorgia teachings. Just Gorgia (with the name of which Plato names one of his most famous dialogues) is the first to use deliberately and continuously some showy stylistic quirks that are called by the ancient “Gorgian figures”: metaphors (his definition of vultures is famous as “living tombs”), the antitheses, the assonances, the alliterations, the rhymes, the parallels.

The practice of rhetoric: the democratic Athens

At the school of the sophists, the most important Athenian politicians of this period are formed, all of whom are great experts in the art of speaking. Even the historian Thucydides, according to tradition, is a student of the Sophists. A clear demonstration of his perfect knowledge of their rhetorical doctrines is given by the speeches he puts into the mouths of historical figures – almost always in an antithetic form, to show the pros and cons of two opposing arguments. They are dense pages of political analysis, in which the motivations of the two parts in comparison (two politicians, two ambassadors, two peoples) are illuminated from within; with this expedient, the historian manages to plausibly convey the terms of the political or military debate according to the traditional technique of the agon of words.

This technique is perfectly visible also in other literary genres: in the tragedies of Euripides we often find two or more characters who face each other in a real “rhetorical duel”, in which they take turns exposing their different positions; one of the canonical parts of the ancient comedy is the agon, the verbal clash between the protagonist and the choir which usually ends with the victory of the first.

But the sector where the rhetorical doctrines of the Sophists find the maximum application is the judicial oratory. According to the Alexandrian philologists, ten were the greatest Athenian orators who lived between the 5th and the 4th century BC: Antiphon, Andocide, Lysias, Isocrates, Iseus, Demosthenes, Aeschines, Lycurgus, Hyperide and Dinarch. Of these, the most important are Lysias, Isocrates and Demosthenes.

Born in Athens around 445 BCE, Lysias became logographer out of necessity: after the fall of the democratic regime he was victim of the purges wanted by the new oligarchic regime of the Thirty tyrants. Back in Athens at the fall of the Thirties, to earn a living he uses his rhetorical education by writing speeches for others. His orations are much appreciated because Lysias is able to immerse herself in the person who will deliver her speech, managing to match the style of the arguments with the personality of her client. It is an expedient (the Greeks call it ēthopoiía, “construction of characters”) useful also in our days: one of the fundamental requisites of every defense lawyer consists in knowing how to penetrate deeply into the psychology of his client.

Among the students of the sophist Gorgia there is Isocrate, one of the most important figures in the span of time that goes from the end of the age of Pericles to the definitive affirmation of Philip II, king of Macedonia and future father of Alexander the Great. Born in 436 BCE, Isocrates also began a career as a logographer to deal with financial difficulties, but abandoned it around 390 BC. to open a school of rhetoric that is very successful. Isocrates is the maximum representative of the oratory genre defined as epidictic or demonstrative: his speeches do not want to influence an assembly or convince a jury, but deal with abstract subjects concerning the Athenian community as a whole.

The back of a generation is Demosthenes, born in Athens in 384 BC He writes all kinds of prayers: there are 17 political speeches (the so-called “demegories”); there are nine judicial speeches of significant political interest; there are 33 judicial speeches concerning private causes. His most famous oration is the prayer for the crown, his political testament, in which he justifies and defends all his choices, including that of having always wanted to oppose the hegemonic claims of Philip II. As for the stylistic aspect of his orations, he always enjoys the highest esteem from all ancient critics: if Lysias is the champion of the so-called “humble” style, Demosthenes is the greatest example of the so-called “sublime” style. In the Institutio oratoria (10.1.76), Quintilian defines him “by far the first of the orators, almost the very law of eloquence: his strength was very great, his sentences were so dense that they seemed to be stretched by strong nerves, the his speeches were without delay, his measure was such that one could not find in his prayers nor something less nor something more “.

The theory of rhetoric: Aristotle and Theophrastus

With the end of Athenian independence, the golden period of Greek oratory also ceased. In the Hellenistic age, the art of eloquence becomes – with Aristotle and Theophrastus – the object of study; the deliberative genre gives way to the judiciary and, above all, to the epidictical one; rhetorical manuals proliferate, literary criticism is born, oratory comes out of assemblies and enters schools, to stay there.

Poetics and, in particular, Aristotle’s Rhetoric are two fundamental texts for our knowledge of ancient rhetoric. The first two books of Rhetoric are devoted to the theory of argumentation – or rather, to use Latin terminology which later became canonical, to inventio, the first of the five parts of rhetoric (the research of topics); the Aristotelian theory is mainly based on the entymeme (enthymema), the rhetorical syllogism, a reasoning that is not based (like the philosophical syllogism) on true premises, but on probable premises. In the first book, after discussing the evidence (pisteis) that the rhetorician must use to convince the audience, Aristotle analyzes the characteristics that distinguish the three genders: his examination of the deliberative genre is a synthetic treatment of the arguments that must be decided by the assemblies (taxes, war and peace, defense of the territory, economic policy, laws); his examination of the judicial genre consists of a careful psychological review of the motives that drive men to act and of the particular character of criminals and victims; his examination of the epidittic genus is a summary of morality which analyzes the characteristics and properties of virtue. After having reviewed, in the second book, the various ways of arousing emotions in the public and of adapting to the character of the listeners, Aristotle dedicates the third book to two other parts of the rhetoric: the elocutio and the dispositio. In the first part, dedicated to style, Aristotle devotes ample space to the most beautiful of the rhetorical figures, the metaphor, which makes the speech clear and pleasant with the addition of something unusual. In the second one the structure of the single speech is examined under the microscope: each prayer must be divided into four parts (the beginning, the narration of the facts, the exposition of the evidence and the epilogue); the first and the last act through psychological paths and promise to touch the soul of the listener, while the two central parts rely on logic and try to show the truth of what is said. Along with these four parts it was sometimes possible to see a fifth, the digression, which usually consisted of a piece of bravery unrelated to the context, whose sole function was to highlight the speaker’s ability.

The tendency to divide, to dissect, to catalog is a characteristic of this period. The main student of Aristotle, Theophrastus, is attributed the tripartite division between the different styles which has a great success and which constitutes a development of the Aristotelian precept according to which each topic must be expressed in the most appropriate way: the “humble” style must be used to teach and demonstrate; the “medium” style serves to provide pleasure; the “sublime” style instead has the task of moving through the use of passions.

Rhetoric in Rome: before, during and after Cicero

In his excursus dedicated to the two literatures, the Greek and the Latin, Quintilian begins the treatment of the Roman oratory with the figure of Cicero: “The orators are above all the figures that can render the Latin eloquence equal to the Greek: no one could in fact reproach me if I put Cicero in front of each of the Greek orators “(Institutio oratoria 10.1.105). If Quintilian certainly is not wrong in underlining the value of the Ciceronian oratory, it is also true that some figures lived before Cicero deserve to be remembered. Cato the Censor, born in Tusculum in 234 BC, is the first to speak of rhetorical techniques: in the twelfth book of the Institutio oratorio, Quintilian confesses that the model of orator that he always had before his eyes during the writing of his manual was the speaker that Cato had called “a decent man expert in the art of speaking” (vir bonus dicendi peritus). Another famous Catonian quote would suggest that he had not given too much importance to style: according to Giulio Vittore, Cato would have given his son Marco the following advice: “Keep the subject in mind, the words will follow by themselves” (rem tene, verba sequentur).

As for the history of Roman eloquence, Cicero argues in Brutus that it would begin with the figure of Lucius Junius Brutus, the founder of the republic, who with the help of Collatino had driven the seventh king, Tarquinius, from Rome the Superb. A similar primogeniture is very significant: placing the beginning of rhetoric together with the birth of a new more democratic political regime, Cicero underlines the close link between eloquence and the republic; only the climate of freedom characteristic of a non-absolute regime can allow the flowering of rhetorical art, which is severely limited by the lack of political freedoms.

After Cato, noteworthy are Marco Antonio and Lucio Licinio Crasso, chosen by Cicero as the protagonists of his dialogue De oratore. Antonio was the first to write a Latin rhetoric manual based on Greek doctrines; most likely it was never published, but it circulated within its circle of friends and disciples. The first school of rhetoric in Rome (the Latin Rhetores) was opened around 93 by Plozio Gallo. But the Roman aristocracy did not like this kind of study: just as in the previous century some Greek rhetoricians and philosophers had been expelled from Rome, so the school of Gallo was closed in 92. The fruits of a similar teaching are reflected however in some works rhetoric of this period; the most famous is the Rhetorica ad Herennium, written between 88 and 70. Another work composed in those years is the De inventione, which, according to the author’s intentions (the young Cicero) should have been followed by others four treatises dedicated to the other parts of the oratory.

When Cicero wrote De inventione he was just over twenty years old, because he was born in 106 in Arpino from a wealthy family of the equestrian class. His rhetorical works represent an original arrangement of the material that was formed over the centuries starting from the first speculations of the Sophists. His most original work is the De oratore, a treatise in three books in dialogical form. The choice to use the instrument of dialogue is not only a tribute to Plato, but also a way of distancing oneself from the arid Greek and Latin manuals on which the young Romans studied; the result of this effort of originality is a living work which, although based on the perfect knowledge of Greek texts, is closely linked to the Roman world. The “perfect orator” subject of the work is no longer just a word specialist, but a man who has devoted himself above all to the study of philosophy, the only discipline capable of teaching how to master all the theoretical problems that underlie the work of the speaker, both in the field of law and in the field of politics. If the first book is dedicated above all to these general considerations, in the other two the protagonists of the dialogue, Antonio and Crasso, review the five parts of the rhetoric: the second book deals with the invention, the dispositio and the memory, while the third elocutio and actio. Particular attention is devoted to the section on style, where Crassus lists a long series of figures of word and thought.

With the end of the republic the great deliberative oratory also ends: the advent of the empire confines the oratory genre in a much narrower area. Not for this reason the masters of rhetoric were forced to unemployment, on the contrary: if the first attempt to open a school that taught the young Romans the techniques of Greek oratory had failed in 92, with the edict of Caesar (who, in 49, had granted Roman citizenship to experts in the liberal arts – and therefore also to the rhetoricians – numerous schools of rhetoric were inaugurated. In the classrooms above all two forms of rhetorical exercise were taught, suasoria and controversy, which became the foundation of the education of those who wanted to follow the career of lawyers (the only profession that, with the loss of freedom, allowed to put to the rhetorical techniques).

Despite the success of these schools, the debate on the causes of the decay of the oratory genre was very much alive in Rome in the first century BC For Seneca, the stoic philosopher tutor of Nero, it depended on the decay of customs and the search for easy money; a character of Petronius’s Satyricon, the professor of rhetoric Agamemnon, maintained that the fault lay with his parents, who, to see their aspirations realized as quickly as possible, demanded that their children learn everything immediately; in the Dialogus de oratoribus attributed to Tacitus, alongside those who claimed that the cause should be attributed to the progressive deterioration of the education of the future speaker (due to the general decadence of morality and the inadequacy of schools and teachers), there were those who were convinced that a great oratory was impossible without the freedom guaranteed by the republican institutions.

The answer given by Quintiliano is different. Born in Spain around 35 AD, the son of a master of rhetoric, he soon moved to Rome, where he attended the lessons of the grammarian Remmio Palemone and the speaker Domizio Afro. Around 60 he began to practice the two professions of lawyer and teacher of rhetoric; in this second activity he was so successful that he urged the emperor Vespasian to grant him the first state eloquence chair in 78, with a salary that reached the sum of one hundred thousand sesterces a year. His response to the causes of the decline of eloquence consists in the work that made his name eternal: the Institutio oratorio, the largest Latin treatise on rhetoric, which in twelve books deals with everything concerning the formation of the perfect speaker, starting from the basics (the alphabet and spelling) and ending with the discussion of its moral characteristics. If to revive eloquence it was necessary to act on the schools, it was necessary to propose to the teachers new educational models: treasuring their twenty years of experience, Quintilian takes up the heritage of Cicero and modifies it by adapting it to the renewed political and cultural climate, devoting particular attention to the learning psychology. New to the times is indeed the subject of the first book, which deals with elementary education.

The triumph of rhetoric: the 2nd century AD

The eloquence understood as a concrete practice of the art of discourse received a renewed importance in the Greece of the II d.C., a region that for a long time belonged to the Roman empire, during the period known as “Second sophistry”. Unlike their predecessors, these new ‘sophists’ did not deal with philosophy: their performances were no longer held before the citizens gathered in the assembly or before the jury of a court, but they were directed to an audience of every kind and degree , often gathered in a large square or sitting on the steps of a theater. The rhetoric had turned into a show, a show, an exhibition. Capable not only of reciting a previously written and finely chiselled speech, but also of improvising drawing on repertoires of more or less original themes and motifs, lecturers such as Dione di Prusa (also known as’ Dione Crisostomo ‘, the’ golden mouth) ‘, to underline his exceptional oratory ability, born in 40 in Bithynia) and Elio Aristide (born in Misia around 130) were able to breathe new life into the myths and history of the Hellenic past, spreading Greek culture and civilization at all the strata of society formed by the Roman empire, which at that time reached its maximum extent.

The new Latin culture of the second century is closely related to the Greek “second sophistry”. Of its most famous author, Marco Cornelio Frontone (born in Cirta, in Numidia, at the beginning of the century) there is very little left; we only know that he excelled in the “epidittic” genus and that, to be original, he recovered the archaic lexicon, drawing heavily on republican literature. We are best known by another Latin author, also a native of Africa: born in Madaura around 125, Apuleio held a lecturer in all regions of the empire and successfully practiced law in Rome. Famous above all for the novel Le metamorfosi (or L’asino d’oro), of his rhetorical works are the Florida (a small anthology that contains some fragments of speeches) and the Apologia (or Pro se de magia liber), l the prayer he had to pronounce to defend himself against a charge of magic.

But the most famous of the second-century rhetoricians is Luciano, born in Syria around 120, who exercised his career as a brilliant lecturer in Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, Gaul. The broader section of the writings attributed to him consists of rhetorical exercises and sophistical declamations; the most important works are instead some dialogues that target the irrationalistic tendencies that characterized his times, from the teachings of philosophy to the precepts of religion. Luciano knew very well the mysterious charm of the word, spoken and written. In the Heracles, the introduction to a speech held in the last years of his life, he tells of having seen, during a trip in the country of the Celts, a painting that depicted a very singular Heracles: the hero wore the characteristic lion skin , brandishing the club in his right hand and the bow in his left, but he was old and bald; he dragged a long series of chained prisoners, but the end of the chain was attached to the tip of his tongue. Thus a local man had explained to him the meaning of the picture (4-6): “Unlike you Greeks, we Celts do not think that the god Hermes is the word; instead we see the image in Heracles, because he is much stronger than Hermes. You should not be surprised if it was portrayed old: only the word likes to show in its old age the fulfillment of its maturation […] And then, all things considered, we believe that the same Heracles was wise, that he made his exploits by using word and conquered most of his victories with the power of persuasion. And in my opinion his arrows represent the words sharp, infallible, fast and capable of hurting souls – you too say that words are winged “.

In this brief apologue – probably invented by Luciano himself – we read with great clarity what was the great power that the ancients attributed to rhetoric.


The history of ancient rhetoric does not end with the decline of classical literatures. On the threshold of the Middle Ages culture is transformed into the so-called “arts”, which are called “liberal” because, unlike the artes mechanicae (the “manual” arts), they do not serve to earn money. Starting from Marziano Capella, a pagan writer of African origin who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries, the artes liberales are seven, divided into the two groups that correspond to the two ways of wisdom, the Trivio and the Quadrivio. On the one hand we have the secrets of the word, on the other those of nature: the Trivium is formed by dialectics, grammar and rhetoric; of the Quadrivium are music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. What are the consequences of this new classification? The true philosophy, the dialectic, which Plato considered the only, authentic expression of culture, loses its dominance becoming an art like the others; grammar and rhetoric have equal dignity and are in no way inferior to it. But the destiny that rhetoric awaits is not shining: if at the time of Marziano Capella its power clearly results from the allegorical description that traces the African writer (the rhetoric is depicted as a beautiful woman wearing clothes adorned with all figures and door with it the weapons destined to hurt the adversaries), starting from the VIII century it was supplanted by the grammar and, in the centuries preceding the advent of Humanism, by logic.

With the sixteenth century, the field of rhetoric suffers a radical restriction: with the work of Pietro Ramo, the logical artes are divided into dialectics and rhetoric; the first section deals with the inventio and the dispositio, while the second is entrusted, together with the pronunciation, above all the elocutio. Rhetoric thus becomes synonymous with style; with the teaching of rhetoric we mean from now on exclusively the ornamentation (ornatus), the list of tropes and figures, which culminates in the first half of the nineteenth century with the monumental classification work of Pierre Fontanier.

To pay attention to this fracture it will be necessary to wait until the second half of the twentieth century: in 1958 Chaim Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca published the Treaty of Argumentation in Paris, which marks the return to classical theories and, above all, to their ancient Aristotelian matrix; the rhetoric returns to be the theory of persuasive discourse, which has in its arguments, in the search for “proofs” its fulcrum and its raison d’être. Alongside this fundamental work it is worth mentioning also the General Rhetoric, a work written by a group of Belgian scholars known as the group name μ (the initial letter of the Greek word metaphorá) and published in 1970; it is a theory of the elocutio that is based on the linguistic theory elaborated by Roman Jakobson around the sixties on the model of information theory and that studies the techniques of discourse transformation, the changes suffered by the language in the act of communication.

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