[Cicero], Rhetorica ad Herennium

LCL 403: 206-207

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memoriae—quare placeat alias ostendemus; in praesentia cuiusmodi sit ea aperiemus.

Sunt igitur duae memoriae: una naturalis, altera artificiosa. Naturalis est ea quae nostris animis insita est et simul cum cogitatione nata; artificiosa est ea quam confirmat inductio quaedam et ratio praeceptionis. Sed qua via in ceteris rebus ingenii bonitas imitatur saepe doctrinam, ars porro naturae commoda confirmat et auget, item fit in hac re ut nonnumquam naturalis memoria, si cui data est 29egregia, similis sit huic artificiosae, porro haec artificiosa naturae commoda retineat et amplificet ratione doctrinae. Quapropter et naturalis memoria praeceptione confirmanda est ut sit egregia, et haec quae doctrina datur indiget ingenii. Nec hoc magis aut minus in hac re quam in ceteris artibus fit, ut ingenio doctrina, praeceptione natura nitescat. Quare et illis qui natura memores sunt utilis haec erit institutio, quod tute paulo post poteris intellegere; et si illi, freti ingenio, nostri non indigerent, tamen iusta causa daretur quare iis qui minus ingenii habent adiumento velimus esse. Nunc de artificiosa memoria loquemur.

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Ad Herennium, III

satisfied that there is an art of memory—the grounds of my belief I shall explain elsewhere.a For the present I shall disclose what sort of thing memory is.

There are, then, two kinds of memory: one natural, and the other the product of art. The natural memory is that memory which is imbedded in our minds, born simultaneously with thought. The artificial memory is that memory which is strengthened by a kind of training and system of discipline. But just as in everything else the merit of natural excellence often rivals acquired learning, and art, in its turn, reinforces and develops the natural advantages,b so does it happen in this instance. The natural memory, if a person is 29endowed with an exceptional one, is often like this artificial memory, and this artificial memory, in its turn, retains and develops the natural advantages by a method of discipline. Thus the natural memory must be strengthened by discipline so as to become exceptional, and, on the other hand, this memory provided by discipline requires natural ability. It is neither more nor less true in this instance than in the other arts that science thrives by the aid of innate ability, and nature by the aid of the rules of art. The training here offered will therefore also be useful to those who by nature have a good memory, as you will yourself soon come to understand.c But even if these, relying on their natural talent, did not need our help, we should still be justified in wishing to aid the less well-endowed. Now I shall discuss the artificial memory.

  • aWhether our author ever published such an explanation we do not know. See notes on 3. ii. 3 and 4. xii. 17.
  • bFor the commonplace cf. Isocrates, Adv. Soph. 14 ff., Antid. 189 ff.; Plato, Phaedrus 269 D; Cicero, Pro Archia 7. 15, Tusc. Disp. 2. 13, Crassus in De Oratore 1. 25. 113 ff.; Horace, Ars Poet. 408–11; the comic (?) poet Simylus, in Stobaeus, 4. 18 α 4; Longinus, De Sublim. 36. 4; Quintilian, 2. 19. 1 ff., and (on Delivery) 11. 3. 11 ff.; and for its applica- tion to memoria Antonius in Cicero, De Oratore 2. 88. 360, and Longinus, in Spengel-Hammer 1 (2). 204.
  • cCf. 3. xxii. 36 below.
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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.marcus_tullius_cicero-rhetorica_ad_herennium.1954