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On the Genres of Rhetoric

This is a translation by John F. Tinkler (c) 1995 of selected Ciceronian texts dealing with the deliberative and demonstrative genres. It is freely available for use by others, but you should acknowledge the translator, if only for your own protection: the translation was made for classroom use, and I make no particular claims for either its adequacy or its elegance.


There are three traditional genres of rhetoric, tied to three formal oratorical occasions (or to three types of audience): the judicial genre is the oratory of the law court, "the art of accusing and defending"; the deliberative genre is the oratory of parliamentary and popular politics; and the demonstrative genre is the oratory of ceremonial occasions.

The texts excerpted here are:

Inv.: Cicero, On Invention [De inventione];
Part. or.: Cicero, The Parts of Oratory Partitiones oratoriae
Rh. Her.: [Cicero], The Rhetoric for Herennium [Rhetorica ad Herennium] [n: This text used to be attributed to Cicero, but now his authorship has definitely been rejected. Because the true identity of the author is unknown, the anonymous author is sometimes referred to as [Cicero], or as Pseudo-Cicero, or as Auctor ad Herennium (meaning "the author to Herennium").]

* The asterisk indicates a hypertext link to an endnote.
** Double asterisk indicates a cross-reference.


[Also called "panegyric," and "epideictic" (in Greek), and known as the "art of praise and blame," this is a ceremonial genre of oratory, especially used for such occasions as funerals. (Note that funeral orations are probably the origin of biography, and are closely related to history, epic, and ultimately also the modern novel). Modern examples of demonstrative orations include inaugural and keynote addresses. Such speeches may be said to (define and) celebrate the values of the community. The genre was often stigmatized in Antiquity as a mere oratory of display--the "set piece." In the Middle Ages, it was the acknowledged genre of poetry.]


Praises and vituperations will be taken from the topics of attributes of persons which we have spoken of elsewhere.* Anyone who wants to treat this in a more orderly fashion, can divide them into spirit [animus] and body [corpus] and external things [externae res]. The topic of spirit is virtue, the parts of which we discussed elsewhere**; the topics of body are health, beauty, strength, speed. External things are public honor, money, relations by marriage, ancestry, friends, fatherland, power, and other similar things that are understood to be in this class. And what holds good in all things is also necessary here: the natures and qualities of the contraries will be understood.

It is necessary in praise and vituperation, however, to see not so much what the person being discussed possessed in body and in external things, but how he has engaged to use them. For it is stupid to praise fortune and arrogant to blame it, but praise of the individual's spirit is honorable and blame of it is powerful.


We shall use the following division: we shall set out those things that we will praise or blame; then we shall say what things were done, and at what time, in due order, so that it is understood what the subject did and how safely and cautiously. But it will be necessary to set out the virtues or vices of his spirit; and then to demonstrate how his advantages or disadvantages of body or of external circumstances have been handled by his spirit.

[Psuedo-Cicero goes on to give examples of the kinds of questions the demonstrative orator needs to ask and answer when creating a speech: in regard to the external thing of money, for instance, the orator would ask how has the subject used his money? if rich, has he been generous or miserly, modest or arrogant? if poor, has he borne adversity with courage? in regard to friends, how has he treated them? what friends has he chosen? has he been a leader or a follower? etc etc.]


[The "art of persuading and dissuading," this is the genre of political debate, but it is also the major genre concerned with the giving of advice in general--including private advice (should someone marry? how should one live? etc.)]

Inv. 2.51.156:

It is accepted that the end of the judicial genre is equity, that is, a part of honor [honestas]. In the deliberative, however, Aristotle accepts utility [utilitas], while we accept utility and honor; in the demonstrative, honor. . . . [2.52.157] Now let us pass on to the rules of deliberation. There are three kinds of things to be sought out; and an equal number to be avoided on the contrary side. There is something that attracts us to itself by its own force, not capturing us by its benefit, but drawing us by its dignity, such as virtue, knowledge, truth. There is something else, however, which is to be sought not because of its own force and nature, but because of its return and utility, such as money. There is furthermore something joined from parts of both these, which attracts and leads us by its own force and dignity, and also carries with it a certain utility, for which we seek it even more, such as friendship and a good reputation [also glory, rank, influence]. And the contraries of these will easily be understood without our saying more.

[158] But in order to convey the reasoning more freely, names can be given briefly to what we have posited. The things in the first category are called honesta (honorable); those in the second are called utilia (utility, useful). As for the third, though they are understood to be joined to both and to be of a mixed kind, yet because they border on a part of honor and the force of honor is greater, they are brought together with their better part in language, and are called honesta. From this it is deduced that the parts of things to be sought are honestas and utilitas, and the parts of those to be avoided are turpitude and inutility. To these two things there are annexed two important things: necessity [necessitudo] and affection [affectio]; of which one is considered in relation to force, and the other is considered in relation to things and persons. . . .

[2.53.159] Anything that is sought either entirely or partly for itself we shall call honestum (honorable). Because there are two parts to it, of which one is simple, and the other is mixed, we shall consider the simple part first. All the things in this genus are embraced in the single force, and under the single name, of virtue. Virtue is a disposition [habitus] of spirit [animus] in harmony with the measure of nature and of reason. So when we know all its parts, we will have considered all the force of simple honor. It has four parts: prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance.

[160] Prudence is the knowledge of what is good, what is bad, and what is neutral. Its parts are memoriaintelligentia, and providentia [memory, intelligence, and providence--or perhaps, hindsight, insight, and foresight]. Memory is that by which the spirit returns to what has been; intelligence is that by which it sees through what is; "providence" is that by which something that will be is seen before it has been done.

Justice is a disposition of spirit which, having preserved the common utility [communis utilitas--perhaps the "common good"], gives to each his due [dignitas*]. Its origin derives from nature; then some rules become custom because of the calculation of utility; and after that both the things that derive from nature and those that have been proved by custom are sanctified by religion and by the fear of law. [161] The right [jus] of nature is what is not born of opinion, but is a force implanted in nature, such as religion [religio], duty [pietas], gratitude [gratia], vindication [vindicatio*, respect [observantia], truth [veritas]. Religion is that which brings a care and reverence to something superior in nature, which they call divine; pietas is that by which benevolent service and diligent care are given to those who are joined by blood and to the fatherland; gratitude includes the remembering of friendships and of services rendered by others, and the desire to requite them; vindication is that by which force or injury [in-iur-ia] or anything whatsoever that is likely to be harmful is repelled, either by defending or by avenging; respect is that by which men who have precedence by some dignity are dignified by care and honor; truth is that by which things that are, or were before, or will be, are spoken without mutation [i.e. without alteration].

[2.54.162] Customary right is what has either been lightly drawn from nature and fed and made greater by usage, such as religion; or if it is one of those things that we said before was derived from nature, we see that it was made greater because of custom; or it is what antiquity has brought into currency by the approval of the people; of this kind are contract, equality, and precedent [judgement]. Contract is what is agreed among different people; equality is what is equitable [fair? level?] to all; precedent is what has been established by the opinions of another or others. Statutory right [lit: legal jus] is what is contained in the writing that is set forth for [by?] the people so that they may observe it.

[163] Fortitudo [courage] is considered the undertaking of dangers and the enduring of labors. Its parts are magnificence [magnificentia], confidence [fidentia], patience [patientia], and perseverance [perseverantia]. Magnificence [sometimes magnitudo animi: "greatness of spirit"] is the thinking about and executing of great and lofty things with a certain large and splendid determination of spirit; confidence is that by which, in great and honorable things, the spirit places great confidence in itself with fixed hope; [164] perseverance is a stable and permanent persistence in a well-considered calculation.

Temperance is a firm and moderate control exercised by calculation over lust and other impulses of the spirit that are not right [not straight]. Its parts are continence [continentia], clemency [clementia] and modesty [modestia]. Continence is that by which desire is ruled by the guidance of judgement; clemency is that by which spirits that are rashly and swiftly brought to hatred of an inferior are restrained by gentleness; modesty is that by which shame provides the care and stable authority of honor. And all of these things are to be sought for themselves alone when there is nothing of profit attached to them. To demonstrate this is not pertinent to our purpose, and it is far from the brevity of a set of rules.

[165] On the other side the things to be avoided are not only the contraries to these, as cowardice is to courage, and injustice to justice, but also those things that seem to be close and nearly related, but are actually very far removed; of which kind, diffidence is the contrary of confidence, and is a vice; but audacity is not the contrary, but is placed beside it and is near to it, yet it is a vice. In this way, at the border of every virtue will be found a vice, either one that is already called by a definite name, such as audacity, which borders on confidence, or stubbornness, which borders on perseverance, or superstitition which is neighbor to religion; or one without any definite name. All these and likewise the contraries of good things will be restored among things to be avoided.

Enough has been said about the kind of honor that is sought completely for itself. . . .

[2.56.168] Utility is placed either in the body or in external things, much the largest part of which things return to the advantage of the body. Thus in the commonwealth there are things which, so to speak, relate to the body politic, such as fields, ports, money, a navy, sailors, soldiers, allies, things by which cities maintain their security and liberty, and other things which confer something more spacious and less necessary, such as the spaciousness and uncommon ornamentation of a city, an extraordinary quantity of money, and a multitude of friendships and alliances. [169] These things ensure not only that commonwealths are safe and secure, but that they are also large and powerful. For which reason, there seem to be two parts of advantage--security and power. Security is a calculated and continuous preservation of safety. Power is an abundance of things appropriate for preserving one's self and weakening another. And in all these things that I have talked about, what can be done, and what can easily be done, needs to be considered. . . .

[170] Since we have talked about honor and utility, it now remains for us to deal with those things that I said are related to them, that is, necessity and affection. [2.57.170] I think that necessity is something to which no force can offer resistance, so that it makes it impossible to complete something which could otherwise be done, and it can be neither changed nor mitigated. . . . [171] But I seem to see that some necessities have qualifications, while some are simple and absolute. . . . When the necessity is simple, there will be no cause for us to say much , because we cannot mitigate it by any means. . . . [173] As for qualifications, we should always consider what kind they are. For at all times it will be relevant, whether the necessity is explained in relation to honesty, in this way: "It is necessary if we wish to live honorably"; or in relation to security in this way: "It is necessary if we wish to be secure"; or in relation to convenience in this way: "it is necessary if we wish to live without inconvenience."

[2.58] The greatest necessity appears to be that of honor; next is that of security; and third and least weighty is that of convenience, which can never contend with the other two. [174] But it is often necessary to compare these with each other so that, though honor is more excellent than security, nevertheless we may deliberate which is the more advisable. In this regard, it seems possible to give a definite rule that will always hold. We should be concerned about security in a case where it is possible that, while we counsel security because honor is taken away for the present, it can nevertheless be restored by virtue and industry at another time; though when this is not possible, we honor. So in this kind of case, when we seem to counsel security, we shall truly be able to say that we are paying attention to honor, because we can never acquire honor without security. . . .

[176] "Affection" is a complete change in things arising from time, or the consequences of activity, or the management of affairs, or the efforts of men, so that it seems they should not be considered to have the same qualities as was previously thought, or as is usually thought. Thus it seems disgraceful to go over to the enemy, but not in that spirit with which Ulysses did it [i.e. as a spy]; and it seems useless to throw money into the sea, but not with the intention with which Aristippus did it [i.e. to prevent his being murdered by pirates]. There are thus some things that should considered in relation to time and intention, and not in relation to their nature. In all these things what needs to be considered is what the times demanded, and what was worthy of the persons; what needs to be attended to is not what was done, but in what spirit, with whom, at what time, and for how long it was done. It is from these divisions that we think the topics should be taken for the developing of an opinion.

Part.or. 24.83:

The end in deliberating is utility, to which everything is referred in giving advice and expressing an opinion, so that the primary things to be observed in persuading or dissuading are what it is possible to do or what is not possible, and what is necessary or not necessary. For if something cannot be achieved, deliberation about it is removed, however useful it may be, and if something is necessary (and a necessity is something without which we cannot be safe and free) it must be placed before the remaining topics both of honor and of utility in political calculation. . . .

[25.89] Since, because of time which has great power, it very often turns out that utility is at war with honor, and since this competition between them usually results in deliberations, so that we do not let go of opportunities for the sake of our dignity, nor of honor for the sake of utility, we should recall some rules for settling this difficulty.[90] And because our speech should be accommodated not only to the truth, but also to the opinions of our those who listen, we must first of all understand this, that there are two kinds of people, one uneducated and coarse, which always places utility before honor, and the other humane and civilized, which places honor before everything. Before the latter kind are set forth merit, honor, glory, trustworthiness, justice, and all the virtues, while before the former are set the gain and enjoyment of profit. And even pleasure, which is the greatest enemy of virtue and which adulterates the nature of the good by fallaciously imitating it, and which is followed most passionately by those who are most gross, who place it not only before honorable things but also before necessities--even this will quite often need to be praised in persuasive speeches when you are giving advice to that kind of person.

Rh. Her. 3.3:

For every speech that is given by those who express an opinion, the end that it is appropriate to set forth is utility, to which all the planning of the entire speech should contribute. Utility in political consultation is divided into two parts: security and honor.

Security is the preparation of some plan for the avoidance of an immediate or anticipated danger. This is divided into force and fraud [vis and dolus], which we shall take up either one at a time or both joined together. Force is decided by armies, navies, arms, war machines, conscription of men, and other things of the kind. Fraud is divided into money, promising, dissimulation, increased haste, lying, et cetera, about which we shall speak at a more appropriate time, if and when we write on military affairs or on the administration of the commonwealth. . . .

[4] We shall use the parts of prudence in our speech if we compare advantages with disadvantages, and advise that one should be followed and the other avoided. . . . We shall use the parts of justice if we say that we ought to pity either the innocent or the suppliant; if we show that it is proper to repay those who deserve well with gratitude; if we demonstrate that it is necessary that those who deserve ill be punished; if we declare that good faith ought particularly to be preserved; if we say that it is singularly necessary to protect the laws and customs of the state; if we say that it is proper carefully to tend alliances and friendships; if we demonstrate that the obligation implanted by nature toward parents, gods, and fatherland is to be tended religiously; if we say that obligations of hospitality, clientage, relationship by birth and by marriage are to be tended faultlessly; if we show that neither money nor reward nor danger nor enmity ought to lead us away from the straight path; if we say that in all things a principle of equality should be established. With these and the like parts of justice, if we are proposing something in an assembly or a committee, we shall show that it is just, and with their contraries we shall show that it is unjust. Thus we shall be prepared with the same topics both for persuasion and for dissuasion. . . .

[6] These are the kinds of virtues that should be amplified if we are arguing in their favor, but they should be diminished if we are arguing against them, so that the points I have demonstrated above will be diminished. Now there is no one who will propose that we ought to depart from virtue; but it should be said that the matter is not of such a kind that we can make trial of any uncommon virtue, or it should be shown that virtue lies in contrary things rather than in these. Similarly, if by any means we can manage it, we shall demonstrate that what he who speaks against us calls justice is laziness and ignorance and depraved liberality; what he calls wisdom we shall say are pedantic, verbose, and annoying technicalities; what he says is modesty we shall say is ignorant and lazy neglect; what he has named courage we shall call the unthinking recklessness of a gladiator.


Note: In this translation, I have tried to translate some words with complete consistency, even though it sometimes produces some strain. For example:

animus is translated as "spirit," though occasionally it seems to have the sense of "mind";
honestas, translated here as "honor," means almost the same as "virtue," and does not refer simply to an "honorable fame";
ratio is translated by "calculation," though in context it may appear to mean "reason," or sometimes "plan" etc.
res is usually translated as "thing," though it has a wealth of different meanings in context--event, circumstance etc.
utilitas, translated here as "utility," is sometimes translated by others as "expediency," or (better) as "advantage";
vis is translated as "force," though it often has the sense of nature, essence, or power.]


elsewhere: a rather complex discussion of the parts of persons pursued especially in relation to judicial rhetoric. These are summarized at Inv.1.24.34 as "name, nature, way of life, fortune, acquired disposition [habitus], frame of mind [affectio], inclinations, deliberations, deeds, accidents, speeches. [N: Habitus and affectio have the senses of permanent and of temporary dispositions respectively.]

Dignitas: meaning "worth," "dignity," even "office," "responsibility," appears related to "fame," but also frequently to the idea of what is fitting or appropriate--hence perhaps that justice gives or grants to each what befits the person.

vindicatio: from vim-dicere, "to speak force," is perhaps closest to the idea of "to speak up for," though it is sometimes translated as "revenge."

Source: Trans John F. Tinker.

This was on his now defunct site at Towson. The translator gave permission for reuse

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Paul Halsall, March 2023

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