Thursday, October 28, 2010

Figures of Speech according to the Rhetorica ad Herennium

The following is my summary of the list of Figures of Speech and Figures of Thought in Ps-Cicero's Rhetorica ad Herennium.

Figures of Speech:

Epanaphora (Repetitio): Same words begin successive phrases:
    i.e., “Scipio razed Numantia, Scipio destroyed Carthage, Scipio brought peace, Scipio saved the state.” More examples (ad Her. IV.xiii.19).

Antistrophe (Conversio): repetition of the same word as the last word in successive phrases: Similar to epanaphora (repetitio).
    i.e., “Since that time when from our state concord disappeared, liberty disappeared, good faith disappeared, friendship disappeared, the common weal disappeared.” And more examples (IV.xiii.19).

Interlacement (Conplexio): The combined use of Antistrophe and Epanaphora: repeating both the first and the last words in a clause or phrase.
    i.e., “One whom the Senate has condemned, one whom the Roman people has condemned, one whom universal public opinion has condemned.” (IV.xiv.20).

Transplacement (Traductio): The repetition of certain words without offense to style. Also, the same type of figure is used when using a word with the same spelling in different ways.
    i.e., “One who has nothing in life more desirable than life cannot cultivate a virtuous life.” (IV.xiv.20).
    i.e., “I would leave this place, should the senate grant me leave.” (IV.xiv.21).

Antithesis (Contentio): Style is built upon contraries, using contrary thoughts in successive clauses.
    i.e., “When all is calm, you are confused; when all is in confusion, you are calm.” (IV.xv.21).

Apostrophe (Exclamatio): A figure claiming indignation or grief by means of an address to an individual.
    i.e., “Perfidious Fregellae, how quickly, because of your crime, you have wasted away.” (IV.xv.22).

Interrogation (Interrogatio, Rhetorical Question, ἐρωτῆμα): Asking questions to reinforce an argument.
    i.e., “So when you were doing and saying and managing all this, were you, or were you not, alienating and estranging from the republic the sentiments of our allies.” (IV.xv.22).

Reasoning by question and answer (Ratiocinatio): Asking the reason for every statement made and giving the answer.
    i.e., “It is a good principle which our ancestors established, of not putting to death any king captured by force of arms. Why is this so? Because it were unfair to use the advantage vouchsafed to us by fortune to punish those whom the same fortune had but recently placed in the highest station…” and more examples (IV.xvi.23).

Maxim (Sententia): a saying drawn from life which shows concisely either what happens or ought to happen in life.
    i.e., “Every beginning is difficult.” And “A free man is that man to be judged who is a slave to no base habit.” (IV.xvii.24). You can also have double maxims, and maxims with reasons given for the course of action suggested.

Reasoning by Contraries (Contrarium): the figure where two opposing statements, one if which is used to directly prove the other.
    i.e., “Now how should you expect one who has ever been hostile to his own interests to be friendly to another’s.” And, “Now why should you think that one who is, as you have learned, a faithless friend, can be an honorable enemy.” (IV.xviii.25).

Colon or Clause (Membrum): The name given to the sentence member, brief and complete, which does not express an entire thought, but is in turn supplemented by another colon as follows.
    i.e., “On the one hand you were helping the enemy,” which should be supplemented by another colon: “And on the other you were hurting your friend.” (IV.xix.26).

Comma or Phrase (Articulus): When single words are set apart by pauses in staccato speech.
    i.e., By your vigor, voice, looks, you have terrified your adversaries.” And again, “you have destroyed your enemies by jealousy, injuries, influence, perfidy.” (IV.xix.26).

Period (Continuatio): a close packed and uninterrupted group of words expressing a complete thought. Best used in three places:
    Maxim: i.e., “Fortune cannot much harm him who has built his support more firmly upon virtue than upon chance.”
    Contrast: i.e., “For if a person has not placed much hope in chance, what great harm can chance do him.”
    Conclusion: i.e., “But if fortune has her greatest power over those who have committed all their plans to chance, we should not entrust our all with her, lest she gain too great a domination over us.” (IV.xix.27).

Isocolon (Conpar): figure comprised of cola (see colon above) which consist of virtually equal number of syllables.
    i.e., “the father was meeting death in battle; the son was planning a marriage at home. These omens wrought grievous disasters.” “In proelio mortem parens oppetebat, domi filius nuptias conparabat; haec omina gravis casus administrabant.” (IV.xx.27).

Homoeoptoton (Similiter Cadens): this figure occurs when in the same period two or more words appear in the same case with like terminations.
    i.e., “Hominem laudem egentem virtutis, abundantem felicitatis.” And again, “huic omnis in pecunia speas est, a sapientia est animus remotus; diligentia conparat divitas, neglegentia corrumpit animum. Et tamen, cum ita vivit, neminem prae se ducit hominem.” (IV.xx.28).

Homoteleuton (Similiter Desinens): This figure occurs when the endings of the words are similar, although the words are indeclinable.
    i.e., “You dare to act dishonorably, you strive to talk despicably, you live hatefully, you sin zealously, you speak offensively.” “Turpiter audes facere, nequiter studes dicere, vivis invidiose, delinquis studiose, loqueris odiose.” (IV.xx.28).

Paronomasia (Adnominatio): The figure where by modification of sound or a change in letters, there is a close resemblance between verb or noun, so that similar words mean dissimilar things.
    i.e., “Hic qui se magnifice iactat atque ostentat, venīt (veneo: to be sold (as a slave)) antequem Romam venĭt (venio: to come).”
    The author calls these word plays. It can also occur when the words are not quite so close: i.e., “qui sim, quem insimulem, cui prosim.”
    A third type consists of inflecting the same word in different cases, i.e.,  “Alexander [nominative] Macedo summo labore animum ad virtutem a pueritia confirmavit. Alexandri [genitive] virtutes per orbem terrae cum laude et Gloria vulgate sunt. Alexandrum [accusative] omnes maxime metuerunt, idem plurumum dilexerunt. Alexandro [dative] si vita data longior esset, trans Oceanum macedonum transvolassent sarisae.” (IV.xxi.29-xxiii.32).

Hypophora (Subiectio): asking questions of adversaries, or of oneself, and answering with what ought or ought not to be said, making yourself look good, and the adversary look bad. Reasoning by question and answer (IV.xxiv.33-34)

Climax (Gradatio): the figure in which a speaker passes to the next word only after advancing by steps to the preceding one.
    i.e., “Now what remnant of liberty survives if those men may do what they please, if they can do what they may, if they dare do what they can, if they do what they dare, and if you approve of what they do.” And again, “The industry of Africanus brought him excellence, his excellence glory, his glory rivals.” (IV.xxv.34).

Definition (Definitio): a brief, clear cut designation of the characteristic qualities of a thing.
    i.e., “The sovereign majesty of the republic is that which comprises the dignity and grandeur of the state.” (IV.xxv.35).

Transition (Transitio): the name given to the figure which briefly recalls what has been said, and likewise sets forth what is to follow.
    i.e., “My benefactions to the defendant you know; now learn how he has requited me.” (IV.xxvi.35).

Correction (Correctio): retracts what has been said and replaces it with what seems more suitable.
    i.e., “After the men in question had conquered, or rather had been conquered—for how shall I call that a conquest which has brought more disaster than benefit to the conquerors.” (IV.xxvi.36).

Paralipsis (Occultatio): when we say that we are passing by, or do not know, or refuse to say that which precisely now we are saying.
    i.e., “I do not mention that you have taken monies from our allies; I do not concern myself with your having despoiled the cities, kingdoms, and homes of them all. I pass by your thieveries and robberies, all of them.” (IV.xxvii.37).

Disjunction (Disiunctum)
: is used when each of two or more clauses ends with a special verb.
    i.e., “With disease physical beauty fades (deflorescit), with age it dies (extinguitur).” (IV.xxvii.37).

Conjunction (Coniunctio): occurs when both of the previous and succeeding phrases are held together by placing the verb between them.
    i.e., “Either with disease physical beauty fades, or with age. (Formae dignitas aut morbo deflorescit aut vetustate.”  (IV.xxvii.38).

Adjunction (Adiunctio): when the verb holding the sentence together is placed not in the middle, but at the beginning or end.
    i.e., (beginning): Fades physical beauty with disease or age.” (end) “Either with disease or age physical beauty fades.” (IV.xxvii.38).

Reduplication (Conduplicatio): the repetition of one or more words for the purpose of amplification or appeal to pity.
    i.e., “You are promoting riots, Gaius Gracchus, yes, civil and internal riots.” (IV.xviii.38).

Synonymy (Interpretatio): not duplicating the same word, but substituting another with the same meaning.
    i.e., “You have overturned (evertisti) the republic from its roots (radicitus); you have demolished (deiecisti) the state from its foundations (funditus).” (IV.xviii.38-39).

Reciprocal Change (Commutatio)
: when two discrepant thoughts are so expressed by transposition that the latter follows from the former although contradictory to it.
    i.e., “you must eat to live, not live to eat.” And “I do not write poems, because I cannot write the sort I wish, and I do not wish to write the sort I can.” (IV.xviii.39).

Surrender (Permissio): when we indicate in speaking that we yield and submit the whole matter to another’s will. This figure helps in producing pity.
    i.e., “Since only soul and body remain to me, now that I am deprived of everything else, even these, which alone of many goods are left to me, I deliver up to your power. You may use and even abuse me in your own way as you think best; with impunity make your decision upon me, whatever it may be.” (IV.xxix.39).

Indecision (Dubitatio): occurs when the speaker seems to ask with of two or more words he had better use.
    i.e., “At that time the republic suffered exceedingly from—ought I to say—the folly of the consuls, or their wickedness, or both.” (IV.xxix.40).

Elimination (Expeditio): occurs when we have enumerated the several ways by with something could have been brought about, and all are discarded except the one on which we are insisting.
    i.e., “Since it is established that the estate you claim as yours was mine, you must show that you took possession of it as vacant land, or made it your property by right of prescription, or bought it, or that it came to you by inheritance. Since I was on the premises, you could not have taken possession of it as vacant land. Even by now you cannot have made it you property by right of prescription. No sale is disclosed. Since I am alive, my property could not have come to you by inheritance. It remains then, that you have expelled my be force of estate.” (IV.xxix.40-41).

Asyndeton (Dissolutum): presentation in separate parts, conjunctions being suppressed.
    i.e., Indulge your father, obey your relatives, gratify your friends, submit to the laws (Gere morem parenti, pare cognates, obsequere amicis, obtempera legibus).” (

Aposiopesis (Preacisio): occurs when something is said and then the rest of what the speaker had begun to say is left unfinished. The suspicion expressed is more telling than the narration of the information itself.
    i.e., “You dare to say that, who recently at another’s home—I shouldn’t dare tell, lest in saying things becoming to you, I should seem to say something unbecoming to me.” (

Conclusion (Conclusio): by means of a brief argument, deduces the necessary consequences of what has been said or done before.
    i.e., “But if the oracle had predicted to the Danaans that Troy could not be taken without the arrows of Philoctetes, and these arrows moreover served only to smite Alexander, then certainly killing Alexander was the same as taking Troy.” (

Ten figures of diction (called Tropes in Quintilian):

    These are kept together because they have this in common, that the language departs from the ordinary meaning of words, and is, with a certain grace, applied in another sense. (IV.xxxi.42).

Onomatopoeia (Nominatio): suggests to us that we should ourselves designate with a suitable word, whether for the sake of imitation or of expressiveness, a thing which either lacks a name or has an inappropriate name.
    i.e., (imitation) “Our ancestors, for example, said ‘roar (rudere),’ ‘bellow (mugire),’ ‘murmur (murmurari),’ ‘hiss (sibilare).’” (expressiveness) “After this creature attacked the republic, there was a hullabaloo (fragor) among the first men of the state.” (IV.xxxi.42).

Autonomasia (Pronominatio): designates by an accidental epithet a thing that cannot be called by its proper name.
    i.e., “if some one speaking of the Gracchi should say, ‘Surely the grandsons of Africanus did not behave like this.’” (IV.xxxi.42).

Metonymy (Denominatio): draws from an object closely akin or associated, an expression suggesting the object meant, but not called by its own name. This is accomplished in several ways.
    i.e., 1) using the greater for the lesser, “speaking of the Tarpeian Rock and calling it ‘the Capitoline’.” 2) Using the name of the thing invented for that of the inventor, “wine” for “Liber” or “wheat” for “Ceres.” 3) using the name of the instrument for the possessor, i.e., “as if one should refer to the Macedonians as follows: ‘Not so quickly did the Lances (Macedonians) get possession of Greece.” 4) Using the cause for the effect, as in referring to someone doing something in war might say, “Mars forced you to do that.” And several other examples: effect for cause, container for content, content for container. (IV.xxxii.43).

Periphrasis (Circumitio): a manner of speech used to express a simple idea by means of circumlocution.
    i.e., “The foresight of Scipio crushed the power of Carthage,” instead of just saying, “Scipio crushed Carthage.” (IV.xxxii.43).

Hyperbaton (Transgressio): upsets the normal word order by means of Anastrophe or Transposition.
    i.e., (Anastrophe) “hoc vobis deos immortales arbitror dedisse virtute pro vestra (I think the immortal gods have given this to you on account of your virtue.” (Transposition) “Instabilis in istum plurimum fortuna valuit. Omnes invidiose eripuit bene vivendi casus facultates (Unstable fortune has exercised her greatest power on this creature. All the means of living well chance has jealously taken from him. (IV.xxxii.44).

Hyperbole (Superlatio): exaggerating the truth, whether for the sake of magnifying or minimizing something. This is used independently or with comparison.
    i.e., (Independently) “But if we maintain concord in the state, we shall measure the empire’s vastness by the rising and the setting of the sun.” (with comparison from equivalence) “his body was as white as snow, his face burned like fire.” (with comparison from superiority) “From his mouth flowed speech sweeter than honey.” (IV.xxxiii.44).

Synechdoche (Intellectio): occurs when the whole is known from the part, or the part from the whole.
    i.e., “Were not those nuptial flutes reminding you of his wedding (i.e., the flutes for the whole marriage).” Look also for the singular from the plural and vice versa. (IV.xxxiii.44).

Catachresis (Abusio): the inexact use of a like and kindred word in place of the precise and proper one.
    i.e., “the power of the man is short,” “small height,” “The long wisdom in the man,” “a mighty speech.” (IV.xxxii.45).

Metaphor (Translatio): when a word applying to one thing is transferred to another, because the similarity seems to justify the transference.
    i.e., “The recent arrival of an army suddenly blotted out the state.” (IV.xxiv.45).

Allegory (Permutatio): is the figure of speech denoting one thing by the letter of the words, but another by their meaning.
    i.e., (comparison) “For when dogs act the part of wolves, to what guardian, pray, are we going to entrust our cattle.” (Argument) referring to Drusus as a “faded reflection of the Gracchi.” (Contrast) “if, for example, one should mockingly call a spendthrift and voluptuary frugal and thrifty.” (IV.xxxiv.46).

Figures of Thought:

Distribution (Distributio): occurs when certain specified roles are assigned among a number of things or persons.
    i.e., “The Senate’s function is to assist the state with counsel; the magistracy’s is to execute, by diligent activity, the Senate’s will; the people’s to chose and support it by its votes the best measures and the most suitable men.” (IV.xxxv.47).

Frankness of Speech (Licentia, παρῆσσια)
: when talking before those to whom we owe reverence or fear, we yet exercise our right to speak out because we seem justified in reprehending them, or persons dear to them, for some fault. One my follow Licentia up with praise to mollify the hearers, or use feigned Licentia, using pretence of Frank Speech to gain the support of the audience.
    i.e., “You wonder, fellow citizens, that every one abandons your interests? That no one undertakes your cause? Blame this on yourselves; cease to wonder…&c.” (IV.xxxvi.48).

Understatement (Deminutio) (Often called Litotes): occurs when we say that by nature, fortune, or diligence, we or our clients possess some exceptional advantage, and, in order to avoid the impression of arrogant display, we moderate and soften the statement of it.
    i.e., “This, men of the jury, I have the right to say—that by our labor and diligence I have contrived to be no laggard in the mastery of military science.” (use of “no laggard” instead of saying that he was “the best.”) (IV.xxxviii.50).

Vivid Description (Descriptio): contains a clear, lucid, and impressive exposition of the consequences of an act.
    i.e., “But, men of the jury, if by your votes you free this defendant, immediately, like a lion released from his cage, or some foul beast loosed from his chains, he will slink and prowl about in the forum, sharpening his teeth to attack everyone’s property … &c.” (IV.xxxix.51).

Division (Divisio): separates the alternatives of a question and resolves each by means of a reason adjoined.
    i.e., “Why should I now reproach you in any way? If you are an upright man, you have not deserved reproach; if a wicked man, you will be unmoved.” (IV.xl.52).

Accumulation (Frequentatio): occurs when the points scattered throughout the whole case are collected in one place so as to make the speech more impressive or sharp, or accusatory.
    i.e., “He is the betrayer of his own self respect, and they waylayer of the self respect of others; covetous, intemperate, irascible, arrogant; disloyal to his parents, ungrateful to his friends, troublesome to his kin; insulting to his betters, disdainful of his equals and mates, cruel to his inferiors; in short he is intolerable to everyone.” (IV.xl.52).

Refining (Expolitio): consists in dwelling on the same topic and yet seeming to say something ever new.
    i.e., “No peril is so great that a wise man would think it ought to be avoided when the safety of the fatherland is at stake. When the lasting security of the state is in question, the man endowed with good principles will undoubtedly believe that in defense of the fortunes of the republic he ought to shun no crisis of life, and he will ever persist in the determination eagerly to enter, for the fatherland, any combat, however great the peril to life.” (IV.xlii.54).

Dialogue (Sermocinatio): putting in the mouth of some person language in keeping with his character (c.f., Prosopopoeia Theon Progymnasmata).
    i.e., “The wise man will think that for the common weal he ought to undergo every peril. Often he will say to himself ‘Not for self alone was I born, but also, and much more, for the fatherland. Above all, let me spend my life, which I owe to fate, for the salvation of my country.’” (IV.xlii.55).

Dwelling on the Point (Commoratio): occurs when one remains rather long upon, and often returns to, the strongest topic in which the whole cause rests.
    i.e., no example is given because this figure consists of arguments throughout the whole of any larger work. (IV.xlv.58).

Antithesis (Contentio): is when contraries meet. This is either a figure of speech as shown above, or as here, a figure of thought.
    i.e., “While you deplore the troubles besetting him, this knave rejoices in the ruin of the state.” (IV.xlv.58).

Comparison (Similitudo): is a manner of speech that caries over an element of likeness from one thing to a different thing. This is used to embellish or prove or clarify or vivify. It also has four forms: contrast, negation, detailed parallel, and abridged comparison. The author lists several examples from each of the four forms, and for each of the four purposes.
    i.e., in negation: “Neither can an untrained horse, however well built by nature, be fit for the services desired of a horse, nor can an uncultivated man, however well endowed by nature, attain to virtue.” (IV.xlv.59-xlviii.61).

Exemplification (Exemplum): is the citing of something done or said in the past, along with the definite naming of the doer or author.
    i.e., likewise, no example is given for this. He states that he has given the nature of this form in his discussion of refining, and the motives for this figure under comparison. (IV.xlix.62).

Simile (Imago): is the comparison of one figure with another, implying a certain resemblance between them. This is used either for praise or censure.
    i.e., for praise, “He entered the combat in body like the strongest bull, in impetuosity like the fiercest lion.” (IV.xlix.62).

Portrayal (Effictio): representing and depicting in words clearly enough for recognition the bodily form of some person.
    i.e., “I mean him, men of the jury, the ruddy, short, bent man, with white and rather curly hair, blue-grey eyes, and a huge scar on his chin, if perhaps you can recall him to memory” (IV.xlix. 63).

Character Delineation (Notatio): describing a persons character by the definite signs which, like distinctive marks, are attributes of that character.
    The author then gives a rather lengthy story of a man who parades around as if he were rich, but is actually poor. Throughout, by telling a story of this mans words and deeds, he describes his character with remarkable clarity. Further, the author writes, “Character delineations of this kind which describe the qualities proper to each man’s nature carry very great charm, for they set before our eyes a person’s whole character, of the boastful man, as I undertook to illustrate, for the envious or pompous man, or the miser, the climber, the lover, the voluptuary, the thief, the public informer—in short, by such delineation any one’s ruling passion can be brought into the open (IV.l.63-li.65).

Dialogue (Sermocinatio): consists in assigning to some person language which as set forth conforms with his character (c.f., prosopopoeia, Theon Progymnasmata).
    The author then gives a lengthy story of a soldier who appears at a wealthy home and demands to see the master. He threatens the master, but the master of the house will not submit himself and is thus killed. There are several characters in this story, each playing a different role, and showing by their words, their character (IV.lii.65).This seems similar to Aristotle’s view that characters in fiction speak in “universals,” that is, speaking as one would in a given situation according to what is necessary and probable.

Personification (Conformatio)
: consists in representing an absent person as present, or in making a mute thing, or one lacking form articulate, and attributing to it a definite form and a language or certain behavior appropriate to its character.
    i.e., “But if that great Lucius Brutus should now come to life again and appear here before you, would he not use this language?  ‘I banished kings; you bring in tyrants. I created liberty, which did not exist; which I created you do not wish to preserve…” (IV.liii.66).

Emphasis (Significatio): leaves more to be suspected than has actually been asserted. It is produced through hyperbole, ambiguity, logical consequence, aposiopesis, and analogy. This figure sometimes possesses liveliness and distinction in the highest degree; indeed it permits the hearer himself to guess what the speaker has not mentioned.
    i.e., through hyperbole, “Out of so great a patrimony, in so short a time, this man has not laid by even an earthen pitcher wherewith to seek a fire for himself.”
    i.e., through aposiopesis, “he who so handsome and so young, recently at a stranger’s house—I am unwilling to say more.” (IV.liii.67-liv.67).

Conciseness (Brevitas): expressing an idea in the very minimum of essential words.
    i.e., “on his way he took Lemnus, then left a garrison at Thasus, after that he destroyed the Bithynian city, Cius; next, returning to the Hellespont, he forthwith occupies Abydus.”  (IV.liv.68).

Ocular Demonstration (Demonstratio): when an event is so described in words that the business seems to be enacted and the subject to pass vividly before our eyes.
    i.e., “In a sweat, with his eyes blazing, hair bristling, toga awry, he begins to quicken his pace…but this fellow, frothing crime from his mouth, breathing forth cruelty from the depth of his lungs.” (

1 comment:

  1. A fun exercise that is also helpful when organizing a paper - apply each figure of thought to a topic. I have done 10 minute free-writes and discovered great ideas that came out of focusing my thoughts in each figure. thank you for putting the terms in easy to understand translation.