Rhetoric from Cicero to Augustine



If you successfully complete this course you will be able to write about rhetoric as a social practice in Rome from the Republic through the Empire and into the time of Augustine of Hippo. You will also have some basic understanding of the Greek rhetorical legacy. And the origins of what are now called the "Liberal Arts".


Many of the books in this seminar are intrinsically tedious because they are textbooks for the most part, but they were once considered the most fascinating texts one might find because they showed the way to life's greatest achievement: eloquence, what it means to be eloquent, how one might become eloquent, and how one might teach eloquence to others. Rhetoric was the way to eloquence and eloquence was the way to power.

We will be looking at roughly 600 years of history, from Hellenistic rhetoric, through rhetoric during the Roman Republic, through what is known as the second sophistic, and into the rhetoric of Christianity. Given the amount of material, this will be the intellectual equivalent of a bus tour of Europe, but we will be able to get a basic sense of the geography and make plans to return to those places that most intrigue you.


We will read them in this order:

  1. Anonymous: Rhetorica ad Herennium (pdf).
  2. D. A. Russell, Greek Declamation.
  3. Cicero, On the Ideal Orator.
  4. Lucian, The Rhetorician's Vade Mecum.
  5. Quintilian: Institutes of Oratory: Or, Education of an Orator .
  6. Augustine: On Christian Doctrine
  7. George Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World

In the interest of saving you some money, I'm provided links to several of the texts. You might prefer to read these in paper form, in which case you will want to get to a library quickly or order them from Amazon or elsewhere.