Lecture Notes on Greco-Roman Rhetoric

Athenian Culture

1. Civic Responsibility – education of Athenian boys by private tutors
2. Appearance of perfection – Form
3. Oral society dedicated to self-actualization, therefore theory and practice of speechmaking
4. Dialectic (rational discourse), rhetoric (oral persuasion), poetic (drama)

Sophistic Rhetorical Theory

Sophists – Itinerant professors (from sophos/knowledge); supplemented elementary education

Sophists taught:

1) worse case appear the better; worse appear the better cause
2) Man not god is measure of all things (relativism)
3) Instruction on any topic for a fee (promised more than they could deliver)

First written rhetoric, 465 BCE, Syracuse, Sicily, Corax

Logographers, legal ghost-writers for well-to-do

Ex: Gorgias of Leontini (Sicily)

Sophists were threatening because

1) featured practical knowledge that counters traditional philosophy of seeking truth (philosophy seeks truth vs. rhetoric about style and appearance);
2) they taught anyone who could pay, so money more important than birth


Deme – Precinct
Agora – market place
Stoa – porch
Arete – Greek ideal of knowledge and attitude for effective participation in domestic, social, and political life.

Forensic – Legal speaking in law courts
Deliberative – Political speaking in Athenian Assembly
Epideictic – Occasional/ceremonial speeches

Ethos – Character or essence
Perfect Speaker – honesty, intelligence, good will
Projection from audience
Appearance more important than reality

Roman Culture

1. Empire; centralized and standardized
2. Admired, borrowed, refined Greek systems (government, rhetoric, etc.)

Ex: Cicero and Quintilian

Roman Rhetorical Theory

Forensic Stock Issues:
1) an alleged crime was committed
2) crime caused harm
3) harm was less than prosecution charged
4) alleged act was justified

Rhetorica ad Herenium: 1st century BCE, earliest Latin rhetoric

Five canons of rhetoric = one great art comprised of five lesser arts

Inventio (invention) — Initial process of discovery; identify whole range of relevant ideas and supporting evidence available
Dispositio (disposition) – select from spectrum of ideas those which best meet needs of purpose, audience, occasion; arrange them in a clear and memorable sequence; organization
Elocutio (elocution) – Style, words and rhetorical devices
Memoria (memory) – mental process of recall
Pronuntiatio (delivery)




Notes for CMST 3167 Rhetoric and Civilization
From Rhetoric of Western Thought (Golden, Berquist, and Coleman)