Ancient rhetoric and the art of Tertullian (Oxford theological monographs) [1 ed.] 0198267088, 9780198267089

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Ancient rhetoric and the art of Tertullian (Oxford theological monographs) [1 ed.]
 0198267088, 9780198267089

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3^5 Oxford University Press, Ely House, London W.i GLASGOW CAPE TOWN



























writing this book I have put to the test the qualities of mercy and human kindness of many people. Of these I must mention two. Professor S. L. Greenslade, of Oxford, guided me towards the initial idea of a study of Tertullian’s argument, read patiently through an endless series of revisions of the text, and with a never-failing eye for irrelevancies, non-sequiturs, and the extravaganzas of youthful scholarship helped to mould its final form. I was fortunate to find in one man such an exemplary combination of patience, goodwill, and careful scholarship. I have lost count of the pages my wife has typed, with astonish¬ ing grace, in the midst of the sweet distractions of children, students, and guests. But I was able to finish the book only because she knows how to listen. To Dickinson College I must express gratitude not only for financial aid from the Faculty Research Fund, but also for providing a context, unusual these days, in which both scholar¬ ship and education flourish together. Finally, a Summer Fellowship granted by the National Endowment for the Humanities made possible a summer of reading in 1967 at Harvard University where I was able to develop fresh ideas which contributed much to the final form of the book. n

R. D. S. New Tear’s Eve ig6g


xi I II





74 101 I 15 126 133





De Baptismo


De Exhortatione Castitatis


De Corona


De Cultu Feininarum


De Fuga


Adversus Hermogenem


De Idololatria


Adversus Marcionem


De Monogamia


De Paenitentia


De Patientia


De Praescriptione


Adversus Praxean

Res. Mort.

De Resurrectione Mortuorum




De Spedaculis


Ad Uxorem




uring the past century scholars have gradually been | discovering the extreme complexity of the writings of Tertullian. It is probable that this complexity arises to a great extent from the richness and variety of the intellectual and religious background which provided Tertullian with both tools and material for the construction of his treatises. Accordingly, in an effort to rediscover him, scholars have approached his work simultaneously from at least four major directions. There has been in the first place a persistent attempt to discover precisely the degree to which his indisputable legal training has shaped the form and content of his work. The most significant studies in this field have perhaps been those of Harnack,1 Beck,2 and Stirnimann.3 Secondly, a good deal has been written about Tertullian’s philosophical background, though only a few studies have offered any penetrating analysis and recon¬ struction.4 Thirdly, while studies in his language have had many 1 A. Harnack, in his History of Dogma, contended that Tertullian’s view of the Trinity was to be understood in terms of the legal conception that property could be held by several persons in common (cf. trans. from the third German edition by Neil Buchanan [Little, Brown, Boston, 1898], iv. 121, footnote 3). J. F. BethuneBaker, An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine (Methuen, London, 1962), pp. 138-9, followed Harnack, though with some caution (cf. footnote 2, p. 138). This view has, however, been effectively refuted by Ernest Evans, Tertullian’s Treatise Against Praxeds (S.P.G.K., London, 1948), pp. 38-75, who argued that the idea was essentially philosophical in conception, an interpretation widely accepted by scholars today (cf. G. G. Stead, ‘Divine Substance in Tertullian’, JTS n.s. xiv (1963), 46-66. 2 A. Beck, Romisches Recht bei Tertullian und Cyprian (Max Niemeyer, Halle [Salle],

1930), believing that Tertullian was both advocate and jurisconsult,

catalogued many legal terms that enter Tertullian’s work. 3 J. K. Stirnimann, Die Praescriptio Tertullians im Lichte des romischen Rechtes und der Theologie (Paulusverlag, Freiburg in der Schweiz, 1949), has shown how deeply the De Praescriptione Haereticorum with its prescriptive rule has been influenced by the Roman legal practice of the praescriptio. On pp. 2-4 Stirnimann gives an excellent summary of the lengthy debate on the question of whether Tertullian was simply advocate or jurisconsult also. 4 Typical of the rather general descriptive studies are those of D. E. Roberts, The Theology of Tertullian (Epworth, London, 1924), C. Shortt, The Influence of



facets, they have made particularly important contributions in two fields: the history of language and semantics. In the former the burning question has been how far he created a theological Latin, and this in turn depended primarily upon a decision as to whether he used an already existing Latin Bible.1 In the latter, an increasing number of studies are attempting in various ways to define the precise connotation of key theological terms in Tertullian.2 There remains, in the fourth place, the large and variegated province of the study of the rhetorical influences which helped to shape his work. It is in this field that the present study hopes to make a contribution to the understanding of his mind. Writing in 1924, in the Journal of Theological Studies, F. H. Colson showed how two passages in the Fathers, one of them from Tertullian, could be greatly illuminated if we observed that the argument proceeded according to patterns recom¬ mended and established by the rhetorical theory of antiquity. He argued that the influence of rhetoric went much deeper than mere stylistic ornamentation, that it provided categories and distinctions which affected the structure of thought, and he called for a history describing the influence of rhetoric on the Philosophy on the Mind of Tertullian (E. Stock, London, 1933), and M. Spanneut, Le Stoicisme des Peres de iTglise; de Clement de Rome a Clement d’Alexandrie (Editions du Seuil, Paris, 1957). Of the more analytical studies perhaps none is bolder and more imaginative than Stephen Otto, Natura und Dispositio. Untersuchung zum Naturbegriff und zur Denkform Tertullians (Max Hueber, Miinchen, i960). Otto endeavours to show how the structure of Tertullian’s thought (das Denkform) grows out of a Stoic base into a Christian pattern. 1 The various aspects of this problem, as well as the broader problems of the development of a special Christian speech, have been given a particularly fine summary in T. P. O’Malley, Tertullian and the Bible (Dekker & Van de Vegt N. V. Nijmegen, Utrecht, 1967), pp. 4-37 and esp. 4-8. 2 The work of R. Braun, Deus Christianorum. Recherches sur le vocabulaire doctrinal de Tertullien (P.U.F., Paris, 1962), is perhaps a model of this type of research, especially in so far as he attempts to show the relation of Tertullian’s theological language to both its pagan and Christian antecedents. O’Malley, also, in Tertullian and the Bible has made a beginning in the study of the cross-fertilization of pagan and Christian connotations in the imagery of Tertullian. Two further studies are especially worthy of mention. J. Moingt, Theologie trinitaire de Tertullien (Aubier, Paris, 1966), has attempted to give precision to Tertullian’s Trinitarian language by an in¬ tensive consideration of its usage in a wide variety of contexts from the entire Corpus, while Heinz Fine S.J., Die Terminologie der Jenseitsvorstellungen bei Tertullian (P. Hanstein, Bonn, 1958), studied Tertullian’s language of the hereafter in the light not only ofits antecedents both pagan and Christian, but also of the social and psychological conditions of language development (for his method see his pp. 23-31).



Fathers at the basic level of thought patterns.1 Perhaps Colson’s challenge was too demanding: such a history can be written only after we have discovered the rhetorical basis of the thought of the individual writers. It is precisely to this quest that the present work is committed: how far would a thorough investi¬ gation of the classical patterns of rhetorical argument in Tertullian’s writings explain his workmanship and illuminate his mind? The highly unusual character both of the style and argument in Tertullian has, of course, often arrested the attention of his readers, and certain efforts have already been made to investi¬ gate the relation of rhetoric to various aspects of his work. A brief preliminary survey of the more important of such studies will afford us an opportunity not only to set the general direc¬ tion for our study but to define more precisely the nature of our problem. For an outline, we may divide the studies on Ter¬ tullian’s rhetorical habits into three basic categories, style, structure, and method of argument. Since, in following Colson’s directive, our purpose is to move beyond the rhetorical aspects of style, it would be inappropriate to attempt a burdensome review of the studies on the rhetoric of Tertullian’s style. It may be useful, however, to illustrate the range of studies of this kind. On the one hand, scholars have attempted to show the place of Tertullian in the development of prose style in antiquity. E. Norden briefly touched upon Tertul¬ lian in his ponderous survey of ancient prose style2 in order to demonstrate that Tertullian wrote in the ‘New Style’ rather than in the ‘archaic style’, and thus illustrated along with many other writers of.late antiquity the continuity of a rhetorical tradition going back to Gorgias. Hoppe followed Norden and took some time to illustrate the ‘Asianist’ qualities of Tertullian’s style.3 On the other hand, there has been an attempt to work out meticulously the precise stylistic figures and their place and proportion in Tertullian. One may cite, for example, the useful catalogue of rhetorical figures compiled by Quacquarelli in the 1 F. H. Colson, ‘Two Examples of Literary and Rhetorical Criticism in the Fathers’, JTS xxv (1924), 364-77. 2 E. Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa vom VI. Jahrhundert v. Chr. bis in die £eit der Renaissance, ii, 2nd edn. (B. G. Teubner, Leipzig and Berlin, 1909), pp. 606-15. 3 H. Hoppe, Syntax und Stil des Tertullian (B. G. Teubner, Leipzig, 1903), pp. 910 and 146-93.



introduction to his commentaries.1 This sort of work is not only instructive but may offer a certain admonition to proceed further: if, on analysis, Tertullian’s style bears so clearly the imprint of rhetorical theory about figures of speech, may we not confidently expect to find the pattern of argument similarly shaped by the textbook rules for debate?2 Although scholars have occasionally shown that certain of the traditional rhetorical parts of a speech can be seen in the structure of Tertullian’s treatises, on the whole little effort has been made to show that at least some of his treatises are struc¬ tured quite consistently upon the ancient rhetorical principles of composition.3 There are, of course, exceptions. In the introduction to his commentaries on the De Came Christi and the De Resurrectione Mortuorum, Ernest Evans has argued in some detail for the influence of rhetorical practice on the structure of these two treatises. Evans thinks that Tertullian has presented his case against the heretics for the integrity of the flesh in two treatises, rather than in just one, in order to imitate the practice adopted sometimes by advocates of presenting a speech in two acts, the actio prima (in this case, the De Came Christi) and the actio secunda (the De Resurrectione Mortuorum) d In the first treatise Tertullian carefully carries through his plan to imitate a debate in court and accordingly divides his treatise into the parts traditional in such a speech: exordium (chapter i), narratio, partitio, and reprehensio (chapters 2-16), amplificatio (chapters 1 A. Quacquarelli, Q. S. F. Tertulliani ad Scapulam (Desclee, Rome, 1957), pp. 31-42, and d- S. F. Tertulliani ad martyras (Desclee, Rome, 1963), pp. 45-59. 2 While scholarship on Tertullian’s style has characteristically considered its rhetorical aspects, two recent studies have broken fresh ground. G. -Saflund in Die Pallio und die stilistische Entwicklung Tertullians (CWK Gleerup, Lund, 1955) shows the possibility of using style for dating some of the works of Tertullian, while C. Becker,

Tertullians Apologeticum:


und Leistung


Munchen, 1954), shows how stylistic refinement argues repeated editions of the Apologeticum. 3 As a representative example, one may consider the article ‘Tertullianea’ by P. G. Vander Nat in VigiliaeChristianae, xviii (1964), 127-43. Although Van der Nat devotes his article specifically to a consideration of the structure of the De Spectaculis (and offers, indeed, a very fine analysis of the contents), beyond a passing reference to apropositio he makes no attempt to consider the influence of rhetorical categories on the structure. 4 E. Evans, Tertullian’s Treatise on the Incarnation (S.P.C.K., London, 1956), p. x. This view is repeated in his commentary, Tertullian's Treatise on the Resurrection (S.P.C.K., London, i960), p. xvi.



17-23), andperoratio (chapters 24-5).1 Evans believes, however, that in the De Resurrectione Alortuorum he abandoned the attempt to apply rhetorical principles of structure.2 We shall see present¬ ly how Richard Heinze was able to account for the structure of the Apologeticum by the same rhetorical principles. If we turn now to the study of Tertullian’s methods of argu¬ ment we find a very similar situation prevailing. There is, on the one hand, a general recognition that Tertullian uses the age-old rhetorical techniques of sophistical argumentation. Norden thought his sophistical techniques perfectly becoming to his ‘New Style’ prose: ‘With incredible refinement he knew how to make the worse argument appear the better ... in the art of argumentation nothing at all distinguishes this Christian sophist and orator from the verbal swordsmen and hairsplitters whom Plato had marked in the Euthydemus . . .’3 Similarly, Joseph Lortz, in a lengthy chapter devoted to Tertullian’s techniques in the Apologeticum, found them typically sophistic.4 Yet such a characterization is not only too general, but deals too exclusively with the mere sophistical techniques of his argumentation. Certainly he employed the range of sophistical techniques, but does not his argument go beyond this? Whence does he find page after page of material, and how does he impose form on it? This raises the question whether there are any studies which have sought to work out in detail the essential shape of Ter¬ tullian’s argument in one or more treatises. Happily, two works of an almost model nature come to mind. These are the studies of Heinze on the Apologeticum, and of Helene Petre on Tertul¬ lian’s use of the exemplum in his writings as a whole. Because these scholars point the way for further study, and because a summary of their conclusions will be of value to the student of Tertullian, I shall take some time to explicate their work. Heinze undertook an extensive examination of the art of the Apologeticum in order to show that the superiority of Tertullian’s Apology over that of his Greek predecessors rested upon the fact that Tertullian brought to the traditional material a knowledge 1 Evans, Incarnation, pp. x-xii. For a critique of Evans’s analysis cf. below, p. 33. 2 Evans, Resurrection, p. xvi. But for a different view cf. below, p. 23. 3 Norden, pp. 610-11 (trans. mine). 4 Joseph Lortz, Tertullian als Apologet (Aschendorff, Munster [VVestf.], 1927-8), 2 vols. Cf. chap, xiii, ‘Die Taktik’, ii. 151-998267088




of Roman forensic practice based on his own experience. Heinze showed how his superiority rested on at least four major factors. There was, first, the fact that Tertullian knew how to give his treatise the neat formal clarity of the Gerichtsrede of the advocate.1 Heinze, accordingly, showed how its structure was based on the normal rhetorical divisions of such a speech: exordium (1-3); partitio and propositio (4. 1-2); refutatio (4-45); and peroratio (46-50) .2 Second, Heinze demonstrated Tertullian’s skill in his use of modes of argument familiar to Roman ad¬ vocates. Thus, in the exordium, while Tertullian takes over the traditional complaint of the Apologists that the trial of Chris¬ tians was not fair, he bases his complaint upon grounds quite different from those of his Greek predecessors. The Greeks had asked that the trial of Christians, like that of other criminals, should investigate the charge of criminal acts. Tertullian stresses rather the fact that the trial of Christians is prejudiced by the hatred of the masses and a lack of knowledge of the crime on the part of the judges. His superiority in argument here rested upon the fact that he was able to employ a commonplace of forensic debate. ‘Solche Klage [i.e. that the case was unfairly prejudiced against the defendant] hat seit alters im Prooemium der Verteidigungsrede, vor der eigentlich sachlichen Discussion, ihren Platz . . .’,3 and Heinze culls examples from the speeches of Cicero to establish this claim. At other points throughout the study Heinze shows how the topoi have contributed to Ter¬ tullian’s argument. Tertullian divides his defence against the charge of the facinora occulta (7-9) into artificial and inartificial proofs, and moves from the vloreLs dreyyoi to the mareis' 1 In an unpublished dissertation, ‘Justins und Tertullians Apologien. Eine rhetorische Untersuchung’ (Inaugural Dissertation, Karl-Franzens-Universitat zu Graz, 1963 [available in University of Toronto Library]), Paul Keresztes has argued that the Apologeticum is not in aim a Gerichtsrede but a ‘demonstrative’ or ‘epideictic’ speech. Keresztes argues that Tertullian knew that any defence of the Christians was impossible on legal grounds and would not therefore have attempted a defence; at least it was not traditional for an advocate to begin a speech in a tone so openly hostile to the judges as Tertullian did in the Apologeticum. Hence the treatise is rather an attempt to demonstrate and judge the injustice of the legal situation and the hostile attitude of the whole heathen world (cf. pp. 245-6). Although I find his position attractive, I do not think he satisfactorily answers the evidence Heinze adduces to show that the topics and the modes of argument generally used are those belonging to a forensic speech. 2 Thus Heinze contributed to the study of the rhetorical structure of Tertullian’s work. Cf. above, pp. 4-6.

3 Heinze, p. 296.



eWeyvoi.1 Again, in his defence against the charge of crimen maiestatis, he first of all (in chap. 29) treats the case according to the status iuridicialis: the Christians do not, it is true, make offerings to the Caesar, but this is not lese majeste.2 Heinze shows that in chapters 42 and 43 also the defence of the Christians against the charge of lack of productivity utilizes several of the rhetorical bases: the status coniecturalis, the constitutio iuridicialis assumptiva, and the constitutio iuridicialis absoluta.3 Heinze argues in the third place that forensic practice had taught Tertullian how clever disposition of the material could help achieve convincing argu¬ ment. And finally, he comments frequently on the vastly superior ability of Tertullian to state an argument clearly and persuasively, and to add to the power of the whole by convin¬ cing description. It is particularly in the first two points that we shall find Heinze a model to follow. His ability to see clearly the rhetorical structure of the treatise and the patterns of argument characteristic of forensic rhetoric make his work a fundamental contribution to our study. We may turn now from Heinze’s work to consider the highly suggestive study of Helene Petre on the exemplum as a mode of argument in Tertullian’s treatises.4 Petre shows that his use of exempla is based on the rules of the rhetorical schools and this fact explains many curious features of his work. It explains, for example, the frequent use of lists of exempla, especially the his¬ torical exempla. Tertullian’s wide knowledge of history and philosophy is due less probably to broad reading than to the custom in the rhetorical schools of learning lists of examples, parcularly historical examples.5 It helps to explain, too, his some¬ what ambiguous treatment of examples in argument. Orators knew that exempla, while useful for positive argument, could also be used against one by the opponent. The orator must then be prepared to use freely his own exempla, but be armed with reasons to invalidate those of his opponent.6 Moreover, Petre has shown how rhetorical rules account for Tertullian’s use of historical exempla. A particular problem arises from his use of examples culled from profane history. One might expect him to 1 Ibid., p. 321. 2 Ibid., pp. 438-9. 3 Ibid., pp. 457-8. 4 H. P6tre, L’Exemplum chez Tertullien (en depot chez l’auteur, 24, Boulevard Victor-Hugo, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1940). 6 Ibid., pp. 25-6. 5 Ibid., pp. 13 ff.



use profane examples when appealing to the heathen in his apologetic works, but how does one explain his abundant use of them even in writings addressed to Christians? The answer is to be found in the rhetoricians’ distinction between exempla domestica and exempla externa. The former had the greater proofvalue but the latter offered with a certain rhetorical scorn a very efficacious form of the argument ex minoribus admaiora. Tertullian uses this type of argument particularly in connection with two recurrent themes. On the one hand these examples are, here and now, for our encouragement: we should attempt to emulate the virtues set forth in them; on the other hand, they will be on the day of judgement for our shame and condemnation.1 Petre summarizes the results of her study thus: C’est la [from their pagan masters] qu’ils [the Christian writers] ont appris la technique de Vexemplum, son importance, son usage, la maniere de le presenter, de le refuter si c’est necessaire. Rien d’etonnant des lorsque Tertullien le traite selon toutes les regies de la rhetorique, appliquant a la distinction entre exemples religieux et exemples profanes la division classique des exempla en exempla externa et exempla domestica, usant des moyens que recommande Quintilien pour refuter l’example allegue comme preuve, introduisant ses personnages au moyen de formules consacrees par l’usage.2 One of the first characteristics to strike the reader of Ter¬ tullian is his abundant use of Scripture in argument. We are not able to escape, therefore, the question of the relation of classical rhetoric to Tertullian’s use of Scripture, and indeed the attempt to show that rhetorical principles have helped to form Ter¬ tullian’s exegetical habits will occupy a large part of this study. We need not disagree with A. Harnack that in his exegesis Tertullian worked out from the tradition, partly Christian and partly Judaic, to which he fell heir.3 Tertullian employs allegory and typology as his predecessors had done. Nor were some of the features we especially associate with Tertullian’s Biblical argument—for example his use of context or the practice of 1 Ibid., pp. 67-8. 2 Ibid., p. 145. 3 A. Harnack,

‘Tertullians Bibliothek christlicher Schriften’, SitzungsberichU

Preuss. Akad. der Wissensch. (Berlin, 1914), p. 312. So also O’Malley, pp. 134-7.



grammatical analysis—in themselves by any means new with him. They were the standard exegetical equipment of the Rabbis, and had been employed by the Church Fathers.1 In spite of this fact, however, scholars characteristically record their impression that Tertullian’s use of the Bible stands some¬ how by itself and apart from the exegetical habits of his pre¬ decessors. R. P. C. Hanson is perhaps too optimistic when he declares the distinguishing characteristics of Tertullian’s exege¬ sis to be ‘common sense, realism, and restraint’.2 Yet it certainly must be granted that Tertullian’s interpretation from context, from the consideration of the historical data available, from the language of the author, goes far beyond anything that can be found in the Christian tradition he inherited. Other scholars, less sanguine, have noted Tertullian’s opportunism in his use of the Bible and his disregard for the very principles of exegesis he himself has formulated.3 Even here, however, there is admira¬ tion for Tertullian’s (almost modern) perception of the proper rules for Biblical interpretation. Perhaps Karpp has identified the heart of the problem when he says that Tertullian failed sometimes to practise his own very good rules of exegesis because his exegetical principles did not take root in a clear theological perspective.4 If then Tertullian’s exegetical principles do not have an essentially theological grounding, it is precisely at this point that we shall want to raise the question whether they do not find their true home in his rhetorical background. Nor need we see any problem if classical rhetoric provided him with exe¬ getical principles, such as the rule of context, which corre¬ sponded with those available from his Christian heritage. If two such traditions merge in Tertullian, we may feel safe in postu¬ lating that his uniqueness as a second-century exegete was made possible by the special skill through which he was able to adapt his training in classical rhetoric to Biblical materials and thus 1 For short but helpful accounts of Rabbinical methods cf. E. Ellis, St. Paul’s Use of the Old Testament (W. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1957), pp. 39-45, and W. Shotwell, The Exegesis of Justin Martyr (S.P.C.K., London, 1965), pp. 90-3. 2 R. P. C. Hanson, ‘Notes on Tertullian’s Interpretation of Scripture’, JTS n.s. xii (1961), 275. 3 Cf. G. Zimmerman, Die hermeneutischen Prinzipien Tertullians (Konrad Triltsch, Wurzburg, 1937), p. 5, and H. Karpp, Schrift und Geist bei Tertullian (C. Bertelsmann Verlag, Gtitersloh, 1954), p. 28. 4 Karpp, loc. cit.



sharpen and improve the tools he inherited from the tradi¬ tion.1 We should now be able to see clearly the area within which this study on Tertullian falls and the direction it will pursue. If research into Tertullian’s legal, philosophical, and linguistic background has contributed much to our rediscovery of this author, we must expect the rhetoric which so heavily dominated the culture of his day to form also an essential part of the fabric of his writings. I shall not, however, attempt to carry further the study of Tertullian’s style, which would be primarily descriptive work, listing the rhetorical figures of speech or the age-old sophistical tricks of argument. We shall try rather to catch Tertullian in the process of formulating a debate, to discover his mental posture as he searches for arguments; in short to see whether classical rhetoric has provided him with a framework for disposing a debate, and a pattern, or rather patterns, for developing his arguments. Hence the structure of this study. In the next chapter, I shall outline the basic patterns of argument which were more or less standard with the rhetori¬ cians. In the chapters that follow we shall work through numer¬ ous pages of Tertullian to see how far the structure of his work and the patterns of his argument conform to those outlined in the ancient textbooks of rhetoric. 1

O’Malley cautiously suggests that the rhetorical tradition is part of Tertul¬

lian’s exegetical background, as well as the Judaeo-Christian tradition. He makes no attempt, however, to test the idea by a sustained analysis of the writings (cf. pp. I37-I41)-




ertullian lived in an age when rhetoric dominated the educational system. It was regarded as the ‘queen of subjects’,1 and it constituted the curriculum for the cul¬ minating and thus most significant stage of a normal education.2 Moreover, in spite of the dominance of the Second Sophistic3 at that time, the outlines of rhetoric found in the classical texts remained the basis of the training given to youth,4 so that young men not only acquired virtuosity in the formal ornamentation and dramatic delivery of a speech, but a grounding in the traditional patterns of forensic and deliberative argument.5 Since in this study I shall attempt to show that Tertullian’s patterns of argument are based on the conventional modes of argument outlined in the texts, it will be necessary here to 1 H. I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity, trans. George Lamb, 3rd edn.

(Sheed & Ward, London, 1956), p. 194. 2 Ibid., pp. 265, 283. 3 The character of the Second Sophistic is succinctly described by C. S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic (Macmillan, New York, 1928), pp. 19-23. T. E. Ameringer, The Stylistic Influence of the Second Sophistic on the Panegyrical Sermons of St. John Chrysostom (Catholic University of America, Washington, 1921), defines the move¬ ment as ‘that renaissance of Greek Rhetoric which dominated Greek literature from the close of the first century b.c. to the end of the fourth a.d.’ (p. 11). Though the term is generally applied to Greek rhetoric and oratory of the period, it is also applicable to the Latin (cf. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric, p. 8, footnote 10). It will be sufficient here to add that the Second Sophistic developed a rhetoric concerned not with persuasion in a live option, but with the elaboration of fictitious, historic, and often deliberately insignificant themes. As a result, vigorous argument was replaced by ornamentation, and style came to be cultivated for its own sake. A helpful study on the movement may be found in A. Boulanger, Aelius Aristide et la Sophistique dans la province d’Asie au ii siecle de noire he (Anciennes Maisons Thorin et Fontemoing, Paris, 1923). 4 R. Nadeau, ‘Hermogenes’ On Stases’, Speech Monographs, xxxi (1964), pp.

363-9s L. Meridier, L’ Influence de la Second Sophistique sur I'ceuvre de Gregoire de Nysse (Francis Simon, Rennes, 1906), points out that even in the period of the Second Sophistic, the tradition of debating in the courts continued (p. 8), so that we may assume the need for practice in the skills of forensic debate, which the classical texts tended to stress, would remain very much alive.



identify the traditional structures and forms recommended by the classical works of antiquity. In tracing the outlines of the rhetorical method of argument, I shall describe only the major patterns which were to a very great extent the common possession of all rhetoricians. It is, of course, clear both from the extant texts and from the numerous views frequently summarized by Quintilian that there were many variants of traditional rhetorical theory. Our purpose here, however, is to seek in Tertullian’s arguments for those conventional patterns which persisted over the centuries, and which constituted what I may call the essential rhetorical habit of thought.1 In describing rhetorical theory, therefore, I shall rely upon those ancient texts which are best known and most available to the general reader today, those of Aristotle, Cicero,2 and Quintilian.3 I shall describe first the basic frame¬ work of the rhetorical theory of argument in order to explain its characteristic movements, and conclude by illustrating at greater length the typical rhetorical development of the details 1 The view that the main outlines of rhetoric as they are embodied in the work of Cicero and Quintilian enjoyed a widespread dominance and a long continuity lasting at least from the second century b.c. to the second century a.d. is solidly supported by the historical sketch by Ray Nadeau, ‘Classical Systems of Stases in Greek: Hermagoras to Hermogenes’, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, ii (1959),



We shall be using the De Inventione throughout this study as a basic reference

work. It is true that the book is a very youthful work of Cicero, and one which he later regarded with some embarrassment. In De Oratore i. 2. 5, he describes it as quae pueris aut adolescentulis nobis ex commentariolis nostris inchoata ac rudia exciderunt, vix hac aetate digna. H. M. Hubbell regards the treatise as ‘hardly more than an elaborate note-book in which he [Cicero] recorded the dictation of his teacher’ (H. M. Hubbell in the edn. of the De Inventione for the Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1949, p. vii). The treatment of ‘Invention’ is similar to, though fuller than, that in the Auctor ad Herennium, and Hubbell argues that both have a common origin in the Greek textbooks of rhetoric (ibid., pp. viii-ix). The De Inventione thus represents an established rhetorical tra¬ dition rather than the personal views of the mature Cicero. This feature in itself gives the book a certain utility for our purposes, since it relates a contemporary theory which presumably had some vogue. Moreover, the book contains the fullest discussion to be found in Cicero on the invention of arguments, and is especially valuable, therefore, in a study of the theory of argument. We shall have some occasion to note differences between the De Inventione and Cicero’s later works on rhetoric, but such differences are not of the kind that would invalidate the use of the De Inventione for this study. 3 Hermogenes’ On Stases (second century a.d.) has been translated for the non¬ classicist by Ray Nadeau, and is available in Speech Monographs, xxxi (1964), 361424, which, unfortunately, is not easily accessible to the general reader.



of argumentation in one important part of the theory—the stasislehre. In a general outline at least six major aspects of the rhetorical theory of argument must be identified.1 I. It had long been traditional to divide the kinds of speeches into three: forensic, or speeches appropriate to civil and criminal cases in court; deliberative, speeches persuading to a course of action in either public or private life; and epideictic, or ‘show-piece’ oratory, which, however, came to be thought of especially as speeches of praise or blame.2 3 Of the three kinds of speeches, both Cicero, in the De Inventione, and Quintilian lay a special emphasis upon the rules for forensic oratory. Not only do they devote a considerably larger space to elucidating its rules, but, as their illustrations make clear, even when they are describing the sources of arguments in a general way appli¬ cable to all speeches, they tend to be thinking of forensic oratory. II. It had long been traditional, beginning indeed before the time of Aristotle, to divide a speech into certain parts Although the exact number of these varied with the rhetoricians, by the time of Tertullian at least five or six parts were fairly standard: the exordium, either a narratio or a partitio, or both, the confirmatio, the reprehensio, and the conclusion III. Aristotle saw that the means of persuasion, or proof, were essentially of three kinds: ethos—the appeal to the character of the speaker; pathos—the appeal to the emotions of the listener; and logos—the appeal to rational argument. Ethos, pathos, and logos continued to be recognized as the means of persuasion. While rhetoricians tended to think of ethos and pathos as belong¬ ing especially to the introduction and conclusion of a speech, 1 Two studies which not only support the general sketch attempted here but offer a much more detailed discussion of the intricate and often confusing refine¬ ments of the main outline, as well as excellent bibliographies, are W. Kroll, ‘Rhetorik’, Paulys Real-Encyclopadie (J. B. Metzler, Stuttgart, 1940), Supplementband vii, 1039-1138, and G. Kennedy, The Art of Persuasion in Greece, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1963). 2 Cf. T. C. Burgess, Epideictic Literature (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1902). Epideictic speeches came to include a great variety of forms, for example, the consolation or exhortation, in which other elements than praise or blame were found. It was used especially, however, of speeches of praise or blame (cf. pp. 11013; so Kennedy, pp. 152-3. 3 For the definition of these parts cf. below, pp. 21-2.



some, such as Quintilian, recognized their importance through¬ out.1 IV. It was, however, to logos or rational argument that rhetoricians especially applied themselves in their study of In¬ vention. Rational arguments might be of two kinds: artificial and inartificial. The latter had from time immemorial comprised such evidence as is ‘not supplied by our own efforts, but existed beforehand, such as witnesses, admissions under torture, written contracts, and the like’, while the artificial proofs were those that could be furnished ‘by the method of rhetoric through our own efforts’.2 While the classification of the artificial proofs is not without confusion, we may see their essential nature if we follow Quintilian who divides them into indications or signs, ‘arguments’, and examples. Examples offered inductive proof and attempted to persuade by similar cases. In Quintilian’s narrow sense, ‘arguments’ were the inferences that could be gathered from the persons and things associated with an action. Signs, while placed among the artificial proofs, provided, in Quintilian’s view, evidence of a very direct sort analogous to that of the inartificial proofs {Inst. v. 9. 1-2).3 We may note here that rhetoricians gave particular attention to the question of the quality of proof, whether evidence was irrefutable on the one hand, or simply probable on the other. 1 Cf. F. Solmsen, ‘Aristotle and Cicero on the Orator’s Playing Upon the Feelings’, Classical Philology, xxxiii (1938), 390-404. 2 The definition is taken from Aristotle, Rhetoric i. 2. i355b quoted in J. H. McBurney, ‘The Place of the Enthymeme in Rhetorical Theory’, Speech Mono¬ graphs, iii (1936), 55. 3 Although there was some confusion in terminology as the doctrine of the sign developed (cf. McBurney, ‘The Place of the Enthymeme’, pp. 56-8), basically rhetoricians recognized two kinds of inference from the evidence of the sign: necessary and probable. Aristotle had called necessary signs Ta