The Greek art of rhetoric was first naturalized at Rome in the time of the younger Scipio, and Latin treatises on the subject were in circulation from the time of the Gracchi. But the books by Cato, Antonius, and the other Roman writers have not come down to us, and it is from the second decade of the first century b.c. that we have, in the treatise addressed to Gaius Herennius, the oldest Latin Art preserved entire. Like Cicero’s incomplete De Inventione, which belongs close to it in time, this work reflects Hellenistic rhetorical teaching. Our author, however, gives us a Greek art in Latin dress, combining a Roman spirit with Greek doctrine. It is a technical manual, systematic and formal in arrangement; its exposition is bald, but in greatest part clear and precise. Indeed the writer’s specific aims are to achieve clarity and conciseness, and to complete the exposition of his subject with reasonable speed. He seeks clarity through the use of Roman terms, and of specially selected examples; he seeks conciseness by keeping practical needs always in view, by scrupulously avoiding irrelevant matter, and by presenting methods and principles, not a host of particular illustrations of a given point.a
The fact that the treatise appeared, from Jerome’s
- aSee Schanz, ed. 1909, p. 466.