Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 9 - Chapter 2

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Quintilian makes figures less numerous than Cicero and some other writers, § 1-5. Of interrogation, 6-15. Of prolepsis or anticipation, 16-18. Doubt, 19. Communication or pretense of consultation with the audience, 20-24. Permission, 25. Modes of simulation, 26-29. Of personification, 30-33. Pretended writings, and parodies, 34, 35. Other fictions of persons, 36, 37. Apostrophe, 38, 39. Vivid or representative narration and description, 40-43. Irony, 44-53. Aposiopesis, 54-57. Of imitation of other persons' manner, and some other figures, 58-63. Emphasis, 64. Of figuratae controversiae, causes in which figurative language is adopted, 65, 66. Such language is used when it is unsafe to speak plainly, 67-75. When respect for some person puts a restraint on the speaker, 76-95. Or where a fairer opportunity for speaking is sought, 96-99. Comparison, 100, 101. Other figures mentioned by different writers, 102-107.

1. HE, therefore, who shall think proper to consider the figures of words and thought in a more extensive sense than I myself contemplate them, will have something to follow. Nor would I venture to say that anything can be offered on the subject better than what Cicero has stated, but I would wish him to read Cicero's remarks with a reference to my views, for I purpose to treat only of those figures of thought which deviate from common modes of expression, a method which has been adopted, I observe, by many extremely learned men. 2. All those embellishments of language, however, even those of a different kind, are such necessary qualities of oratory that one could scarcely imagine a speech produced without them, for how can a judge be instructed if there is a lack of lucid explanation, statement, offer of proofs, definition of the point in question, distinction, exposition of the speaker's own opinion, just conclusion from arguments, anticipation of objections, comparisons, examples, digestion and distribution of matter, occasional interruption of our opponent, or restraint on him when he interrupts ourselves, assertion, justification, destructive attacks? 3. What could eloquence do at all if the privileges of amplification and extenuation were withheld from it?—amplification, which gives an intimation of more than has been expressed, that is, ἔμϕασις (emphasis), and which allows us to go beyond and exceed reality; and extenuation, which includes diminution and palliation. What strong impressions on the feelings would be made without boldness of speech, without giving the rein to passion, without invectives, wishes, and imprecations? Or what gentler impressions, unless they be promoted by recommendation of ourselves to our hearers, by conciliating their goodwill and exciting them to cheerfulness? 4. What pleasure could be afforded, or what indication even of moderate learning, by a speaker if he knew not how to enforce some points by repetition, and others by dwelling upon them; how to make a digression, and return to his subject; how to remove a charge from himself and transfer it to another; and how to judge what particulars should be omitted or represented as important? In such arts consists the life and energy of oratory; and, if they be taken from it, it is spiritless and wants, as it were, a soul to animate its body. 5. But these qualities ought not be found only in eloquence, but also to be variously dispersed throughout it, that they may charm the auditor with every kind of melody, such as we perceive produced from musical instruments. These excellences, however, generally present themselves obviously; they do not disguise, but manifest themselves. Yet they admit, as I said, of figures, as may be sufficiently proved from the figure of which I shall immediately proceed to speak.

6. What is more common than interrogare, "to ask," or percontari, "to question?" for we use both terms indifferently, though one seems to apply properly to mere desire of information and the other to that of establishing proof. But the thing itself, by whatever name it be distinguished, is susceptible of many varieties of figure. Let us begin with those by which proof, to which I have given the first place, is rendered more strong and efficacious. 7. It is a simple interrogation to say,

Sed vos qui tandem? quibus aut venistis ab oris?

But who are you, or from what coasts arriv'd?

But it is an interrogation with a figure, when it is adopted, not for the sake of seeking information, but in order to attack the person interrogated. Consider these examples, "What was your drawn sword doing, Tubero, in the field of Pharsalia?" and, "How long, I pray, Catiline, will you abuse our patience? Do you not see that your machinations are discovered?" and so on, through the whole of the passage. 8. How much more animated is such a mode of expression than to say, "You abuse our patience a long time; your machinations are discovered." We also sometimes ask about that which cannot be denied, as, "Has Caius Fidiculanius Falcula, I pray, been brought to judgment?" Or when to find an answer is difficult, as we say in common conversation, "How? How is it possible?" Or to throw odium on the person to whom we address ourselves, as Medea says in Seneca, Quas peti terras jubes? "What land do you command me to seek?" 9. Or to excite pity, as Sinon in Virgil,

Heu quae me tellus, inquit, quae me aequora possunt

Alas! what land, he cries, what seas, can now
Receive me?

Or to press our opponent and deprive him of all ground for pretending not to understand us, as Asinius Pollio said, "Do you hear? We are attacking the will of a madman, I say, not of a person who merely failed in his duty." 10. Interrogation is indeed subservient to various purposes. It assists in expressing indignation:

Et quisquam numen Junonis adoret?

And will any one adore
The deity of Juno?

And wonder:

Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
Auri sacra fames?

To what dost thou not mortal breasts impel,
O direful thirst of gold?

11. Sometimes it is a more spirited form of command, as,

Non arma expedient, totâque ex urbe sequentur?

Will they not arms prepare, and forth pursue
From all the city?

Sometimes we ask ourselves, as in Terence,

Quid igitur faciam?

What shall I do, then?

12. A figure is also sometimes adopted in a reply, as when a person asks a question about one thing, and a reply is made to him about another more to the respondent's purpose. This may be done, for example, with the view of aggravating a charge, as when a witness against an accused person, being asked whether he had been beaten with a stick by the accused, replied, "Although I was innocent," or with the view of eluding a charge, which is a more frequent case, as when the question is, "I ask whether you have killed a man," and the reply given is, "A robber." Or, "Have you seized upon an estate?" "My own." 13. Or an answer may be given in such a way that defense may precede confession, as in Virgil's Bucolics, where one shepherd says to another,

Non ego te vidi Damonis, pessime, caprum
Excipere insidiis?

Did I not see you, rascal, catch a goat
Of Damon's in a snare?

the reply is,

An mihi cantando victus non redderet ille?

Did he not, overcome in song, refuse
To give it me?

14. Similar to this kind of answer is dissimulation, which is used only to excite laughter and has consequently been noticed in its proper place, for if it be used seriously, it has the effect of a confession.

The practice also of questioning and replying to one's self is generally not unpleasing, as Cicero does in his speech for Ligarius, "Before whom, then, do I say this? Before him, assuredly, who, at a time when he had a full knowledge of what I have just said, nevertheless brought me back, even before he had seen me, to my country?" 15. In his speech for Caelius, he adopts another mode, that of supposing a question: "Someone will say, 'Is this your moral discipline? Do you thus instruct youth?'" etc, and he then replies, "I, judges, if any man was ever of such strength of mind, and so naturally disposed to virtue and chastity," etc. Another method is when you have asked a person a question, not to wait for an answer, but immediately to add one yourself; as, "Was a house wanting to you? But you had one" and "Was ready money superabundant with you? But you were in want." This figure some call per suggestionem, "by way of hypobole, or intimation."

16. Interrogation is also made by comparison, as, "which of the two, then, will more easily give a reason for his opinion?" And in other ways, sometimes concisely, sometimes at greater length, sometimes on one point, sometimes on several.

But what has a wonderful effect in pleadings is anticipation, which is called by the Greeks πσόληψις (prolēpsis), and by which we prevent objections that may be brought against us. It is used, not sparingly, in other parts of a speech, but is of the greatest effect in the exordium. 17. Though there is in reality but one kind of it, it includes several species, for there is praemunitio, "precaution," as in the speech of Cicero against Quintus Caecilius, when he premises that "having always before defended, he is now proceeding to accuse"; there is a sort of confession, as that of Cicero, in his pleading for Rabirius Posthumus, whom he acknowledges to be blamable in his opinion, "for having entrusted money to king Ptolemy"; there is a sort of prefatory statement, as, "I will say, not for the purpose of aggravating the charge," etc. There is a kind of self-correction, as, "I entreat you to pardon me if I have gone too far"; and there is also, what is very frequent, a species of preparation, when we state at some length either why we are going to do something or why we have done it. 18. The force or propriety of a word, too, is sometimes established by prolepsis, as, "Though that was not the punishment, but the prohibition, of crime," or by correction, as, "Citizens, citizens, I say, if I may call them by that name."

19. Doubt also may give an air of truth to our statements, as when we feign, for example, to be at a loss where to begin, or where to end, or what to say in preference to something else, or whether we ought to speak at all. All speeches are full of examples of such hesitation, but one will suffice: "Indeed, as far as concerns myself, I know not whither to turn. Can I deny that there was an ill report of the judges having been bribed?" 20. This figure may likewise refer to the past, for we may pretend that we have been in doubt.

There is no great difference between doubt and that sort of figure called communication, which we use either when we consult, as it were, our opponents, as Domitius Afer in pleading for Cloantilla, "In her agitation, she knows not what is permitted to her as a woman, nor what becomes her as a wife. Perhaps chance has thrown you in the way of the unhappy woman in her anxiety; what advice do you, her brother, and you, the friends of her father, offer?" 21. Or when we pretend to deliberate with the judges, which is a very common artifice, saying, "what do you advise?" or, "I ask you yourselves what ought to have been done." Thus Cato exclaims, "I pray you, if you had been in that situation, what else would you have done?" and in another place, "Suppose that it were a matter of concern to you all, and that you had been appointed to manage the affair." 22. But sometimes, in such communications, we subjoin something unexpected, which is in itself a figure, as Cicero, in speaking against Verres, said, "What then? What do you think that he has committed? Some theft, perhaps, or some robbery?" and then, when he had the minds of the judges, for a long time in suspense, added something far more atrocious. This figure Celsus calls sustentatio, "suspension." 23. It is, however, of two kinds, for frequently, on the other hand, when we have raised an expectation of something enormous, we stoop to something that is either of little moment or not at all criminal. But as this is not always done by communication, others have given the figure the name of παράδοξον (paradoxon) or surprise. 24. Let me add that I do not agree with those who think that even when we speak of something surprising having happened to ourselves, our language is figurative, as in what Pollio says, "I never imagined it would come to pass, judges, that when Scaurus was accused, I should have to entreat that interest may have no influence on his trial."

25. The source of what we call permission is almost the same as that of communication. We are said to use this figure, when we leave something to be settled by the judges themselves, or sometimes even by the opposite party, as Calvus said to Vatinius, "Assume a bold face, and say that you are more worthy to be made praetor than Cato."

26. As to the figures which are adapted for exciting the feelings, they consist chiefly in simulation, for we feign that we are angry, and that we rejoice, or fear, or wonder, or grieve, or feel indignant, or wish, or are moved by other similar affections. Hence the expressions, Liberatus sum; respiravi, "I am freed, I have recovered my spirits;" Bene habet, "It is well;" Quae amentia est haec? "What madness is this?" O tempora, O mores! "O times, O manners!" Miserum me! consumptis enim lacrymis infixus tamen pectori haeret dolor; "Wretched that I am! for, though my tears are exhausted, grief yet remains fixed in my heart," And,

Magnae nunc hiscite terrae!

Gape now, O earth profound!

27. This some call exclamation and number among verbal figures. When such exclamations, however, arise from sincere feeling, they are not figurative in the sense of which I am speaking, but when they are fictitious and the offspring of art, they must indisputably be regarded as figures. The same may be said of that freedom of speech which Cornificius calls licentia, and the Greeks παῤῥησία (parrhesia). For what can be less figurative than plain and sincere speech? Out under the appearance of it there frequently lurks flattery. 28. Thus when Cicero says in his speech for Ligarius, "After the war had been commenced, Caesar, and even almost brought to a conclusion, I, without being driven by any compulsion, but of my own purpose and will, set out to join that party which had taken up arms against you," he not only looks to the interest of Ligarius, but bestows the highest possible praise on the clemency of the conqueror. 29. But in the question, "What other object had we in view, Tubero, but that we might possess the same power which Caesar now possesses?" he represents, with admirable art, the cause of both parties as good, while he thus conciliates him whose cause was in reality bad.

A figure which is still bolder, and requires, as Cicero thinks, greater force is the personation of characters, or prosopopoeia. 30. This figure gives both variety and animation to eloquence, in a wonderful degree. By means of it, we display the thoughts of our opponents, as they themselves would do in a soliloquy, but our inventions of that sort will meet with credit only so far as we represent people saying what it is not unreasonable to suppose that they may have meditated; and so far as we introduce our own conversations with others, or those of others among themselves, with an air of plausibility; and when we invent persuasions, or reproaches, or complaints, or eulogies, or lamentations, and put them into the mouths of characters likely to utter them. 31. In this kind of figure, it is allowable even to bring down the gods from heaven, evoke the dead, and give voices to cities and states. There are some, indeed, who give the name of prosopopoeia only to those figures of speech in which we represent both fictitious beings and speeches. They prefer calling the feigned discourses of men διάλογοι (dialogoi), to which some of the Latins have applied the term sermocinatio. 32. For my own part, I have included both, according to the received practice, under the same designation, for assuredly a speech cannot be conceived without being conceived as the speech of some person. But when we give a voice to things to which nature has not given a voice, our figure may be softened in such a way as this: "For if my country, which is far dearer to me than my life, if all Italy, if the whole republic, should thus address me, Marcus Cicero, what are you doing?" etc. Another prosopopoeia, in the same speech, is of a bolder nature: "Your country, Catiline, thus pleads, and as it were tacitly addresses you: 'No great wickedness has arisen, for several years past, but by your means.'" We also pretend at times, and with good effect, that the images of things and persons are before our eyes, and that their voices sound in our ears, and affect to wonder that the same appearances are not perceptible to our opponents or to the judges, as when we say, "It seems to me," or "Does it not seem to you?" But great power of eloquence is necessary for such efforts, for what is naturally fictitious and incredible must either make a stronger impression from being beyond the real or be regarded as nugatory from being unreal.

34. But just as speeches are often imagined, so also are writings. Thus Asinius Pollio suggests an imaginary will in pleading for Liburnia: "Let my mother, who was most dear to me and my greatest delight, who lived for me and gave me life twice in the same day, etc., inherit none of my property." This is itself a figure and is doubly so when, as in this case, it is framed in imitation of another document. 35. For a will had been read on the other side in this form, "Let Publius Novanius Gallio, to whom, as my greatest benefactor, I desire and owe everything good, and in consideration of his eminent affection towards me (several other particulars being also added) inherit all my property." This partakes of the nature of parody, a term derived from the modulation of tunes in imitation of other tunes, but applied, catachrestically, to imitation in verse or prose. 36. We also frequently conceive imaginary beings, as Virgil personifies Fame, Prodicus (as is said by Xenophon) Pleasure and Virtue, and Ennius Death and Life, whom he represents in one of his Satires as engaging in combat. An imaginary speech is sometimes given, too, to a person not specified, as, "Here somebody says," or "Somebody may say." 37. A speech may also be given without mention of any person, as,

Hic Dolopum manus, hic saevus tendebat Achilles,

Here lay the force of the Dolopians, here
The fierce Achilles.

This is effected by a union of figures, since to prosopopoeia is added the figure of speech which is called per detractionem, or ellipsis, for all allusion as to who made the speech is omitted. The prosopopoeia sometimes assumes the appearance of narration, whence oblique speeches are found among the historians, as in the beginning of the first book of Livy, "That cities also, as well as other things, spring from humble origins, and that those which the gods and their own valor support, acquire at length great power and a great name."

38. The diversion of our speech from the judge, which is a figure called ἀποστροϕή (apostrophē), also has an extraordinary effect, whether in attacking our adversary, as, "What was that sword of yours doing, Tubero, in the field of Pharsalia?" or in digressing to make some invocation, as, "For I call upon you, O Alban hills and groves!" or in imploring aid in order to throw odium on the opposite party, as, "O Porcain laws! O Sempronian laws!" 39. But whatever draws away the hearer from the subject in question is called apostrophe, as,

Non ego cum Danais Trojanam exscindere gentem Aulide juravi,

I did not swear at Aulis with the Greeks
To uproot the Trojan race.

This is done by means of many and various figures, for example, when we feign that we expected something else, or that we feared something more considerable, or that the judges, being ignorant on some point, may believe it of greater importance than it really is. Such is the object of the exordium of the speech for Caelius.

40. But as to the figure which, as Cicero says, "sets things before the eyes," it is used not when a thing is simply mentioned as having been done, but with a representation how it was done, and not merely in a general way, but in all its attendant circumstances. This figure I have noticed in the preceding book under evidentia or "illustration." Celsus has given it that name, but others called it hypotyposis, which means a representation of things so fully expressed in words that it seems to be seen rather than heard: "He himself, inflamed with wickedness and fury, came into the forum; his eyes glared; cruelty showed itself over his whole countenance." 41. Nor do we imagine only what has been done or is done, but also what is likely to be or might have been. Cicero gives an admirable example of this in his speech for Milo, where he depicts what Clodius would have done if he had secured the praetorship. But this transmutation of time, which is properly called μετάστασις (metastasis), was very cautiously used in hypotyposis by the old orators, for they introduced it with some such observations as these: "Imagine that you behold," as Cicero says, "These things, which you have not seen with your eyes, you may represent to yourselves in your minds." 42. But our modern speakers, and especially our declaimers, indulge their imaginations more boldly, and not without some animation. A good example is Seneca in that case in which a father, led by one of his sons, surprises his other son and the step-mother in adultery and kills them both: "Lead me," the father is made to say, "I follow; take my aged hand and direct it wherever you please." 43. And a little afterwards the son is represented as exclaiming, "See what you have long refused to believe. As for me, I cannot see; night and the thickest darkness comes over my eyes." Such a figure is of too bold a character, for the case does not seem to be stated, but to be acted. 44. Under hypotyposis is also included, by some writers, the luminous and vivid description of places, but others call it topographia.

As to εἰρωνεία (eironeia), I have found some authors who call it "dissimulation," but as the whole force of this figure does not appear to be sufficiently indicated by that name, I shall content myself, as in regard to most other figures, with the Greek term. The figure of Eironeia, then, differs very little in kind from that which is called a trope, for in both the contrary of what is said is to be understood. But for him who considers the various species of them, it will be easy to see that they are distinct. 45. In the first place, the trope is less disguised, and though it expresses something different from what it means, it can hardly be said to pretend anything different, for all that accompanies it is generally plain, as in what Cicero says of Catiline, "Being repulsed by him, you took yourself to your accomplice, that excellent man Marcus Marcellus." Here the irony lies only in two words, and, therefore, it is a very short trope. 46. But in irony considered as a figure, there is a disguise of the speaker's whole meaning, a disguise perceptible rather than ostentatious, for in the trope, some words are put for others, but in the figure, the sense of a passage in a speech, and sometimes the whole configuration of a cause, is at variance with the air of our address. Nay, even the whole life of a man may wear the appearance of a continued irony, as did that of Socrates, for he was called εἴρων (eiron) because he assumed the character of an ignorant man and affected to be the admirer of other men's wisdom. Thus, as a continued metaphor constitutes an allegory, so a continuation of ironical tropes forms the figure irony.

47. However, some kinds of this figure have no affinity with tropes, as, in the first place, that which has its name from negation and which some call ἀντίφρασις (antiphrasis): as, "I will not proceed with you according to the rigor of the law; I will not insist upon a point which I should perhaps carry," and, "Why should I mention his decrees, his plunderings, the rights of inheritance to property resigned to him, or of which he forcibly possessed himself?" and, "I say nothing of that injury committed through lust," and, "I do not even produce the evidence which has been given concerning the seven hundred thousand sesterces," and, "I could say, etc." 48. Such kinds of irony we carry sometimes through entire divisions of a speech, as when Cicero says, "If I were to treat this matter as if I had a charge to overthrow, I should express myself at greater length." Irony is also used when we assume the air of persons commanding or permitting something, in such a way as this:

I, sequere Italiam ventis,

Go with the winds, and seek your Italy.

49. Or when we allow to our adversaries qualities which we should be unwilling to see recognized in them. This kind of irony is more cutting when those qualities are in ourselves and are not in our adversaries:

Meque timoris
Argue tu, Drance, quando tot caedis acervos
Teucrorum tua dextra dedit.

Me of cowardice,
Drances, do thou accuse, when thy right hand
Such heaps of slaughter'd Trojans shall have rais'd.

A similar effect is produced, though in a contrary way, when we confess, as it were, to faults from which we are free, and which even touch our opponent:

Me duce Dardanius Spartam expugnavit adulter,

'Twas by my guidance Troy's adulterer
Fell foul of Sparta.

50. Nor is this artifice, of saying something contrary to what you wish to be understood, used only with regard to persons, but may be extended also to things, as in the whole of the exordium of the speech for Ligarius, and in those extenuations, Videlicet, O dii boni, "Forsooth, O good gods!" So likewise in Virgil,

Scilicet is superis labor est!

That, doubtless, is a trouble to the gods!

51. Another example is the well-known passage in the speech for Oppius, "O wonderful love! O singular benevolence!" etc. Not very different from irony are these three modes of speaking, very similar to one another:

  1. Confession, such as will not hurt the party who makes it, as, "You have, therefore,Tubero, what is most to be desired by an accuser, a confession from the accused"; the second,
  2. Concession, when we make a show of admitting something unfavorable to us through confidence in our cause, as "The captain of a ship, from a most honorable city, redeemed himself from the terror of a scourging by paying a sum of money; it was kind in Verres to allow it"; and, as it is said, in the speech for Cluentius, concerning popular feeling: "Let it prevail in assemblies of the people, but let it have no influence in courts of justice";
  3. Acknowledgment, as Cicero, in the same speech, acknowledges that "the judges had been bribed."

52. The last of these figures is more observable when we assent to something that is likely to prove in our favor, but which nevertheless will not be so without some error on the part of our adversary. Faults, too, that have been committed by a person whom we accuse, we sometimes affect to praise, as Cicero, in pleading against Verres, says of the charge brought against him about Apollonius of Drepanum, "If you took anything from him, I am even delighted at it and think that nothing better was ever done by you." 53. Sometimes also we exaggerate charges against ourselves, when we might either refute or deny them, a practice which is too frequent to render an example of it necessary. Sometimes, again, by such exaggeration, we render charges against us incredible, as Cicero, in his oration for Roscius, speaking of the enormity of parricide, which is sufficiently manifest of itself, nevertheless exaggerates it by the power of his eloquence.

54. The figure άποσιώπησις (aposiopesis), which Cicero calls reticentia, Celsus obticentia, and some authors interruptio, is used in testifying something of passion or anger, as,

Quos egosed motos praestat componere fluctus,

Whom I—but better 'tis to tranquilize
The troubled waves;

or anxiety and conscientious hesitation, as, "Would he have dared to make mention of the law of which Clodius boasts that he was the author, while Milo lived, I will not say while he was consul? for, with regard to all of us,—I cannot venture to say everything," etc., a passage that is similar to the exordium of the speech of Demosthenes for Ctesiphon. 55. It may also be adopted for the purpose of making a transition, as, "Cominius however—but pardon me, judges," etc., where the figure digression also follows (if indeed digression ought to be reckoned among figures, for by some it is considered as one of the divisions of a cause), and the speech goes off into the praises of Pompey, who might, however, have been praised without recourse being had to aposiopesis. 56. As to the shorter kind of digression, it may be made, as Cicero says, in various ways, but the two following instances will suffice as examples: "When Caius Varenus, he who was killed by the slaves of Ancharius (to this point, judges, pay, I beseech you, the most careful attention)" etc., and in the speech for Milo, "He regarded me with that sort of look which he was accustomed to assume when he threatened every kind of violence," etc. 57. There is also a kind of self-interruption, which is not indeed an aposiopesis, so as to leave a speech unfinished, but a suspension of what we are saying before we come to the natural termination of it, as, "I am too urgent, the young man seems to be moved," and, "Why should I say more? You have heard the young man himself speak."

58. The imitation of other persons' manners, which is called ἠθοποιΐα (ethopoeia), or as others prefer, μίμησις (mimesis), may be numbered among the lighter artifices for touching the feelings, for it consists mostly in mimicry, but it may be exhibited either in acts or in words. That which consists in acts is similar to ὑποτύπωσις (hypotyposis); of that which consists in words we may take the following example from Terence:

At ego nescibam quorsum tu ires. Parvula
Hinc est abrepta: eduxit mater pro suâ:
Soror dicta est. Cupio abducere ut reddam suis.

I did not know, forsooth, what was your drift.
A little girl was stolen from hence; my mother
Brought her up as her own; and she was call'd
My sister; I would fain lay hands on her,
To give her to her friends.

59. But an imitation of our own sayings and doings is sometimes adopted in narration, and is of a similar character, except that it is more frequently intended for asseveration than mere mimicry, as, "I said that they had for accuser Quintus Caecilius."

There are other artifices, too, which are not only pleasing, but are of great service in securing favorable attention to our arguments, as well by the variety which they give, as by their own nature. For by making our speech appear plain and unstudied, they render us objects of less suspicion to the judge. 60. One of these is a repenting, as it were, of what we have said, as in the speech for Caelius, "But why did I introduce so grave a character?" Of a similar nature, also, are the expressions which we daily use, such as, Imprudens incidi, "I have hit upon the matter unawares," or as we say when we pretend to be at a loss, "What comes next?" or, "Have not I omitted something?" or when we pretend to find something suggested to us by the matter of which we are speaking. Thus Cicero says, "One charge of this sort remains for me to notice," and "One thing is suggested to me by another." 61. By such means, likewise, graceful transitions are effected (though transition itself, be it observed, is not a figure) as when Cicero—after relating the story of Piso, who, while sitting on his judgment seat, had given orders for a ring to be made for him by a goldsmith—adds, as if reminded by the circumstance, "This ring of Piso has just put me in mind of something that had entirely escaped me. From how many honest men's fingers do you think that he has taken away gold rings?" etc. Sometimes we affect ignorance of some particular, "But the artificer of those statues, whom they say that he was? whom? You prompt me correctly—they said that it was Polycletus." 62. This kind of artifice may serve more purposes than one, for by such means, we may, while we seem to be intent on one object, accomplish another, as Cicero, in the present instance, while he reproaches Verres with his inordinate rage for statues and pictures, secures himself from being thought to have a passion for them likewise. Demosthenes, also, in swearing by those who were killed at Marathon and Salamis, makes it his object that he may suffer less odium for the disaster incurred at Chaeronea. 63. It gives agreeableness to a speech, moreover, to defer the discussion of some points, laying them up as it were in the memory of the judge, and afterwards to reclaim what we have deposited, to separate certain particulars by some figure (for separation is not itself a figure), to bring others prominently forward, and to exhibit the subjects of our speech under various aspects. For eloquence delights in variety, and as the eyes are more attracted by the contemplation of diversified objects, so that is always more gratifying to the mind to which it directs itself with the expectation of novelty.

64. Among figures is also to be numbered emphasis, which is used when some latent sense is to be elicited from some word or phrase, as in this passage of Virgil,
Non licuit thalami expertem sine crimine vitam
Degere, more ferae

Might not I have lived
Free from the nuptial couch, without a crime,
Free, like the savage herd?

for though Dido complains of marriage, her passion forces us to understand that she thinks life without marriage to be a life not for human beings, but for beasts. There is another example of it, but of a different character, in Ovid, where Zmyrna confesses to her nurse her passion for her father, in these words:

—O, dixit, felicem conjuge matrem!

O mother, happy in her spouse! she cried.

65. Similar or identical to this figure is one we use greatly in the present day. For I must now proceed to treat an extremely common figure, on which I believe most readers earnestly expect I should make some observations. It is figure in which we intimate, by some suspicion that we excite, that something is to be understood which we do not express, though not something contrary to what we express, as in the εἰρωνεία (eironeia), but something latent and to be discovered by the hearer's penetration. This, as I mentioned above, is almost the only mode of expression that our rhetoricians call a figure, and from its frequent use, certain pleadings have acquired the name of figurative. 66. It may be adopted for one of three reasons: (1) if it is unsafe to speak plainly, (2) if it is unbecoming to do so, and (3) if recourse is had to the figure merely for the purpose of ornament, and of giving more pleasure, through novelty and variety, than would be felt if a straightforward narration were offered.

67. Of these three cases, the first is of common occurrence in the schools, where are imagined conditions made by tyrants laying down their power, and decrees of senates after a civil war. It is a capital crime to reproach a person with what is past, and what is not allowable in the forum is considered not to be admissible in the schools. But, in reality, the declaimer does not have the same need for figures as the orator, for he may speak as plainly as he pleases against those tyrants, provided that what he says is susceptible to another interpretation, because he has to avoid danger only to himself, and not offense to them. If he can escape all hazard through ambiguity of language, everyone will applaud his address. 68. But real pleadings have never been attended with such necessity for silence, though they sometimes require caution almost equal to it. Indeed, they are much more embarrassing to the orator, especially when powerful persons oppose him, and his cause cannot be gained without offending them. 69. Hence, he must proceed with greater care and circumspection, for if he offends , it makes no difference how the offense is given, whether in a figure or otherwise. If a figure betrays itself, it ceases to be a figure. Accordingly all this sort of artifice is rejected by some rhetoricians, whether it is understood or not. But it is possible to be moderate in the use of such figures.

In the first place, we may take care that they are not too palpable, and they will not be so if they are not formed of words of doubtful or double meaning, like the equivocation in regard to the daughter-in-law suspected of a criminal connection with her father-in-law, "I married a wife," said her husband, "that pleased my father." 70. Or what is much more foolish, of ambiguous arrangements of words, of which there is an example in the case in which a father, accused of having dishonored his virgin daughter, asks her at whose hands she had suffered violence: "Who," he asks, "ill-treated you?" to which she replies, "My father, do not you know?" 71. Let the matter itself lead the judge to a suspicion of the truth, and let us set aside other points that it may appear the more evident, to which end displays of feeling will greatly contribute, and words interrupted by silence and hesitation. Thus it will happen that the judge himself will seek for the latent something, which he perhaps would not believe if he heard it stated plainly, but to which he will give credit when he thinks that he has himself divined it.

72. However, even if they are of the highest possible excellence, figures should not be numerous, for they betray themselves by multiplicity, and while they are not less objectionable, they are less effective. Our forbearance to speak plainly appears then to proceed, not from modesty, but from distrust of our cause. In a word, the judge puts most trust in our figures when he thinks we are unwilling to express ourselves undisguisedly. 73. I have, indeed, met with persons who could not be gained but by such artifice, and I was once concerned in a cause (a thing of less frequent occurrence) in which it was absolutely required. I defended a woman who was accused of forging her husband's will, and the heirs named in it were said to have given a bond to her husband just before his death. This latter allegation was true. Because the wife could not be made his heir by law, this expedient had been devised so the property might pass into her hands by a secret conveyance in trust. 74. To defend the woman against the main charge was easy, even if we had stated the matter boldly, but she would have lost the inheritance. I had to manage the matter, therefore, in such a way that the judges might understand what had been done, and yet that the informers might be unable to take advantage of anything that was said. I was successful in both objects. I would not have mentioned this affair, through fear of the imputation of vanity, had I not wished to show there is a use for such figures, even in the forum. 75. Some things too, which we cannot prove, may be insinuated advantageously here and there by a figure, for a hidden dart sometimes sticks fast and cannot be extracted for the very reason that it is hidden. If you state the same things plainly, they will be contradicted, and you will have to prove them.

76. But when respect for a person stands in our way (which I mentioned previously as the second case), we must speak with still more caution, as respect is a stronger restraint on the ingenuous than fear. In such a case, the judge should think that we hide what we know and that we check our words which are bursting from us under the force of truth. For how much less will those against whom we speak, or the judges, or the audience, dislike our figurative mode of attack if they think we wish to say what we are saying? 77. Or what difference does it make how we speak as long as our expressions and feelings are understood? Or what do we gain by speaking thus, but to make it evident that we are doing what we feel should not be done? Those times when I first began teaching rhetoric suffered excessively from this fault, for the declaimers spoke, at least willingly, only on such causes as were attractive from their apparent difficulty, though they were, in reality, much easier than many others. 78. A straightforward kind of eloquence cannot recommend itself but with the aid of the strongest power of mind, while doublings and turnings are the resources of weakness, just as those who are poor runners endeavor to elude their pursuers by winding about. That figurative sort of oratory, which is so much affected, is not very different from jesting and provides further benefit because the auditor delights to understand what is insinuated, applauds his own penetration, and plumes himself on another's eloquence. 79. Hence declaimers had recourse to figures, not only when respect for some person was a hindrance to plainness of speech (in which case there is oftener need of caution than of figures), but made a place for them even when they were useless or pernicious. For example, suppose a father, who secretly killed his son for suspicion of incest with his mother and who was accused by the wife of having ill-treated her, then threw out oblique insinuations, in figures, against her. 80. What could have been more scandalous in a man than to have retained such a wife? What could be more absurd than a man, who was brought under accusation because he had suspected his wife of the most detestable guilt, confirming in his defense the very guilt he should be trying to disprove? Had those declaimers conceived themselves in the judges' place, they would have perceived how little they would have endured such a pleading, and much less when abominable charges were thrown out against parents.

81. Since we have fallen upon this subject, let us bestow a little more consideration on the schools. This is where the orator is brought up, and the manner in which he declaims depends upon the manner in which he will plead. I must speak, therefore, about those declamations in which most teachers have introduced figures that are not necessarily harsh, but are contrary to the spirit of the cause. One case, for example, is this: "Let it be the law that a person who is found guilty of aspiring to tyranny be put to the torture, to compel him to name his accomplices, and that his accuser be allowed to choose whatever recompense he pleases. A son who had established such an accusation against his father desires that his father may not be put to the torture; the father opposes his desire." 82. When pleading on behalf of the father, no declaimer would restrain himself from throwing out insinuations, in figurative expressions, against the son, intimating that the father, if put to the torture, will name him among his accomplices. But what is more preposterous than such a course? For when the judges understand the insinuations, the father will either not be put to the torture (if such be his reason for wishing to be put to it), or if he is put to it, he will not be believed. 83. "But," it may be said, "it is probable that his object was to implicate his son." Perhaps so, but he should then have disguised it in order to succeed in it. "But what will it profit us" (I speak in the person of the declaimers) "to have discovered that object unless we make it known?" If, then, a real cause of the kind were pleaded, should we, in such a manner, bring to light that concealed object? Or what if such is not the real object? The guilty father may have other reasons for opposing the desire of his son. He may think that the law should be observed, or he may be unwilling to owe a favor to his accuser, or (what I should think most probable) he may be resolved to assert his own innocence under the torture. 84. Therefore, not even the common excuse, "He who invented the case intended that mode of defense," will be any support to those who plead in such a way, for perhaps the inventor intended no such thing. But suppose that he did intend it. Are we, if he judged foolishly, to plead foolishly for that reason? For my own part, I think that in pleading even real causes, we should frequently pay no attention to what the party going to law wishes.

85. Another common mistake in disclaimers in this kind of case is to suppose that certain characters say one thing and mean another. A remarkable example of this occurs in the case of the man who petitions for leave to put himself to death: "A man who had given proofs of bravery on previous occasions demanded in a subsequent war that he be exempted from service because, as the law allows, he is fifty years of age. However, being opposed by his son, he was compelled to take the field, but later deserted. His son, who distinguished himself by his valor in that war, demanded, in his right of opinion, that his father be pardoned. The father opposed the demand." Here, the declaimers would say the father does not really wish to die, but merely to throw odium on his son. 86. For myself, I laugh at the fear which they manifest on his account, speaking as if they themselves were in danger of death and carrying their terrors into their counsels. They forget the multiple instances of voluntary deaths and the reason why a man who was once brave and has become a deserter might want to end his life. 87. But it would be useless to particularize all that would be against a cause in any one instance. In general, I think it is no business of a pleader to prevaricate, and I can form no conception of a cause in which both parties have the same object in view. Nor can I imagine a man so foolish that when he wishes to save his life, he would rather ask for death absurdly than forbear to ask for it at all. 88. I do not, however, deny that there are causes in which figures of this kind may have a place, such as the following, "A young man accused of murder for killing his brother seemed likely to be found guilty, but his father testified that the son had committed the murder by his order. Yet when the son was acquitted, the father disinherited him." In this case, the father does not pardon his son entirely, yet he cannot openly retract what he asserted in his evidence at first. Although he does not extend his severity beyond the punishment of disinheritance, he does not hesitate to disinherit him. Besides, figurative insinuation unfairly has more effect on the side of the father and less on that of the son.

89. Though a person may not speak contrary to what he wishes, he may wish something of more importance than what he says, as "the disinherited son who petitions his father to pay the maintenance and take back another son who had been brought up by himself." The disinherited son would perhaps prefer that he himself should be reinstated in his rights, yet he may be thought sincere in desiring what he asks.

90. There is another sort of tacit insinuation that we adopt when we demand from the judge rigid justice on our adversary, but intimate some hope of mercy, not indeed openly, lest we should appear to make a promise, but so as to afford some plausible suspicion of our intent. Examples of this may be seen in many cases in the schools, and especially in the following: "Let there be a law that he who has dishonored a virgin is to be put to death, unless he obtains pardon from the father of the virgin, as well as from his own father, within thirty days after the commission of the crime. A man who has dishonored a virgin, after obtaining the forgiveness of her father, cannot obtain that of his own, and charges his father with being insane." 91. In this case, the process is at an end if the father promises forgiveness. If he gives no hope of it, he would be thought, not mad, but certainly cruel and would alienate the feelings of the judge. Porcius Latro, accordingly, with great judgment, made the son say, "Will you kill me then, my father?" and the father reply, "Yes, if I shall be able." The elder Gallio made the father express himself more relentingly and more in accordance with his own disposition. "Be resolute, my soul, be resolute; yesterday you were more determined." 92. Similar to this sort of figures are those much celebrated among the Greeks, by which they soften that which would otherwise appear harsh. Thus Themistocles is thought to have persuaded the Athenians to "commit their city to the care of the gods" because it would have been offensive to them to say abandon it. And the man who recommended the golden statues of Victory be melted down for the expenses of a war, brought forward his proposal in this form: "We should make proper use of our victories." All that belongs to allegory is of a similar nature and consists in saying one thing and intimating another.

93. It is also a matter of consideration how we ought to reply to figures. Some rhetoricians believe they should always be laid open by the opposite party, as morbid matter is cut out of the human body. This, indeed, should be the course most frequently adopted, for otherwise the objections contained in them cannot be overthrown, especially when the matter in question lies in the very point at which the figures aim. But when they are mere vehicles of invective, it is sometimes a mark of good judgment to pretend not to understand them. 94. If such figures, however, are too numerous to allow us to avoid noticing them, we must call upon our opponents to state plainly, if they have confidence enough in their cause, whatever charge they are endeavoring to intimate in ambiguous expressions, or to forbear at least from expecting that the judge will not only comprehend, but even believe that which they themselves will not express intelligibly. 95. It is sometimes of great effect, too, to pretend not to understand that a figure is a figure, as in the well-known story of the man who, when he was addressed by the advocate of his opponent in the words, "Swear by the ashes of your patron," replied that he was quite ready to do so. The judge gravely accepted his proposal, though the advocate made great opposition and said the use of figures would thus be utterly abolished. It is, consequently, a necessary precept that we must not use figures of that kind rashly.

96. There is a third kind of figure in which the object is to add grace to style, and which Cicero, therefore, considers as not falling on the point in question between the parties. Such is the remark which Cicero himself directs against Clodius: "By which means he, who was well acquainted with all our sacrifices, thought that the gods might easily be propitiated in his favor." 97. Irony is very common in observations of this nature. But the far greatest proof of art is given when one thing is intimated through another. Thus a person engaged in a suit against a tyrant who had laid down his power on condition of an amnesty said to him, "It is not lawful for me to speak against you, but do you speak against me? You can, for I very lately had conceived the intention of killing you." 98. It is also a common practice, though not much deserving of imitation, to employ an oath by way of figure. Thus an advocate, speaking on behalf of a son who had been disinherited, exclaimed, "So may it be my fate to die, having a son for my heir!" To swear at all, except when it is absolutely necessary, is by no means becoming in a man of sense, and it was happily said by Seneca that "to swear is the business not of pleaders, but of witnesses." Nor does he, indeed, who swears for the sake of a little oratorical flourish, deserve attention. To swear as well as Demosthenes, to whom I alluded a little above, is a very different matter.

99. By far the most trivial sort of figure is that which consists in a play upon a single word, though an example of it can be found in a remark of Cicero on Clodia: Praesertim quum omnes amicam omnium potius quam cujusquam inimicam putaverunt; "Especially when everybody thought her rather the friend of all men than the enemy of any man."

100. As to comparison, I conceive, for my own part, that it is not to be numbered among figures, as it is sometimes a sort of proof and sometimes the foundation of a cause; the form of it is such as it appears in Cicero's speech for Muraena: "You watch by night to give answers to your clients; he, to arrive early at the place to which he is marching. You are awakened by the crowing cocks; he, by the sound of trumpets," etc. 101. I am unsure whether it is a verbal figure rather than a figure of thought, the only difference being that generals are not opposed to generals, but particulars to particulars. Celsus, however, and Visellius, no negligent author, have placed it among figures of thought, while Rutilius Lupus puts it under both kinds of figures and calls it antithesis.

102. But in addition to the figures which Cicero calls illuminations of thought, the same Rutilius, following Gorgias (not the Leontine, but another who was his contemporary and whose four books he has condensed into one of his own) and Celsus, following Rutilius, enumerate many others; 103. as:

  • consummatio, "comprehension," which Gorgias calls διαλλαγή (diallage), when several arguments are brought to establish one point
  • consequens, "consequence," which he calls ἐπακολούθησις (epakolouthesis), and of which we have spoken under the head of arguments
  • collectio, "collection," which with him is συλλογισμός (syllogismos)
  • threatening, which he calls κατάπληξις (kataplexis), and
  • exhortation, παραινετικόν (parainetikon).

But every one of these is delivered in plain and simple language, unless when it attaches to itself one of the figures of which we have been speaking. 104. Yet, besides these, Celsus thinks that "to except," "to assert," "to refuse," "to excite the judge," "to use proverbs, verses, or jests, or invectives, or invocations, to aggravate a charge (which is the same as δείνωσις (deinosis)), to flatter, to pardon, to express disdain, to admonish, to apologize, to entreat, to reprove, are all figures. 105. He has the same opinion, too, regarding partition, and proposition, and distinction, and affinity between two things, that is, the demonstration that things which appear to be different may establish the same fact. For example, he who has destroyed a man's life by giving him a potion is not the only poisoner, but he also who has destroyed his understanding, a point which depends on definition. 106. To these Rutilius, or Gorgias, adds:

  • ἀναγκαῖον (anankaion), "the representation of the necessity of a thing,"
  • ἀνάμνησις (anamnēsis), "reminding," or "recapitulation,"
  • ἀνθυποϕορά (anthypophora), "replying to anticipated objections,"
  • ἀντιῤῥησις (antirrhēsis), "refutation of the objections of our adversary,"
  • παραύξησις (parauxēsis), "amplification,"
  • προέκθεσις (proekthesis), which is "to state what ought to have been done, and then what has been done,"
  • ἐναντιότης (enantiotēs), "proof from the admissions of the opposite party," from whence come enythymenes κατ᾽ ἀντίασιν (kat antiasin), and
  • μετάληψις (metalēpsis), which Hermagoras considers as a position.

107. Though he makes very few figures, Visellius reckons among them the ἐνθύμημα (enthymema), which he calls commentum, "conception," and the ἐπιχείρημα (epicheirema), which he calls ratio, "reason." This Celsus in some degree admits, for he doubts whether consequence is not the same as the epicheirema. Visellius adds also sententia. I find some, too, who add to these what the Greeks call διασκευή (diaskeuē), "circumstantiality," ἀπαγόρευσις (apagoreusis), "prohibition," and παραδιήγησις (paradiēgēsis), "extraneous confirmation." Though these are not regarded as figures, there may perhaps be others that have escaped me, or even fresh ones might still be made, though they would be of the same nature as those of which I have spoken.

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Lee Honeycutt (honeycuttlee@gmail.com) Last modified:1/15/07
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