In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Latin Rhetoric

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Encyclopedias
  • Handbooks and Companions
  • Rhetoric and Education
  • Rhetoric and Politics
  • Rhetoric and Literature
  • Influence of Latin Rhetoric

Classics Latin Rhetoric
Robert N. Gaines
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0287


This bibliography is designed to provide a structured list of materials relevant to the study of Latin rhetoric in ancient times. In Rome, rhetoric was the art of making persuasive discourse, and its pursuit typically involved the mastery of rhetorical principles and the application of political speaking. Accordingly, the general subject of the bibliography is Latin rhetorical theory and oratorical practice. The period covered in the bibliography is 300 BCE to 430 CE. These boundaries—at their outer extremes—are designed to include the earliest oration for which we have a date during the Roman republic (On King Pyrrhus by Appius Claudius Caecus, delivered around 280 BCE) as well as the latest theory of Latin speaking that might be called ancient (Teaching Christianity by Saint Augustine, completed in 428 CE). The materials included in the bibliography are organized under headings, and these headings are ordered into three groups. In the first group there are four headings: General Overviews, Reference Works, Encyclopedias, and Handbooks and Companions. These headings cover materials of broad interest that allow users to orient themselves to Latin rhetorical scholarship and to answer questions—from simple to very complex—without consulting primary sources. In the second group there are three headings: Rhetorical Theory, Oratorical Discourse of the Republican Era, and Oratorical Discourse of the Imperial Era. Together these three headings organize a basic collection of the primary and secondary sources that make original research possible on Latin rhetoric. Subheadings under these headings are generally categories of authors or texts, and citations typically refer to Latin primary sources, modern language translations, and interpretive scholarship—including commentaries and scholarly books or essays—related to primary sources. This group of headings is designed principally for users who are undertaking research on Latin rhetoric. The final group of headings includes Rhetoric and Education, Rhetoric and Politics, Rhetoric and Literature, and Influence of Latin Rhetoric. These headings comprise scholarship on the interactions of Latin rhetoric with particular aspects of society and culture during ancient times and in subsequent eras. This group of headings offers aid to users who wish to explain historically situated events and artifacts that are related to, but lie outside the narrow sphere of, Latin rhetorical theory and oratory.

General Overviews

Useful surveys of Latin rhetorical theory are provided in Clarke 1996, Kennedy 1972, and Pernot 2005. Broadly based treatments of Latin oratory appear in Steel 2006 as well as Berry and Erskine 2010.

  • Berry, D. H., and Andrew Erskine. 2010. Form and function in Roman oratory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    This collection of seventeen essays addresses Roman oratory in the 1st century BCE through the 3d century CE. Topics include constraints of setting, rhetorical strategies, and the occurrence of speeches within speaking, philosophizing, and history writing.

  • Clarke, M. L. 1996. Rhetoric at Rome: A historical survey. 3d ed. London: Routledge.

    First published in 1953, Clarke’s foundational study contains chapters concerning these matters: (1.) Development of Greek rhetoric; (2.) Rhetoric arrives in Rome; (3.) Elements of rhetorical theory—genres, functions of orators, speech parts, issues, styles; (4.) Latin rhetoric prior to Cicero; (5.) Cicero on rhetoric; (6–7). Rhetorical theories in Ciceronian oratory; (8.) Declamatory speaking; (9.) Non-declamatory oratory in early empire; (10–11). Quintilian on rhetorical education and declamation; (12.) Latin rhetoric in the Second Sophistic; (13.) Minor Latin rhetoricians; (14.) Christian rhetoric; (15.) Assessment of rhetoric. D. H. Berry’s revision and introduction summarizes and supplements Clarke’s original work.

  • Kennedy, George. 1972. The art of rhetoric in the Roman world 300 B.C.–A.D. 300. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Kennedy surveys developments between 300 BCE and 300 CE. Among other subjects, he discusses Latin rhetoric in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE, Latin rhetorical handbooks in the 1st century BCE, Cicero’s oratorical and theoretical career (including contemporaries), Augustan oratory and criticism, declamation (including Seneca the Elder), early imperial rhetoric (including Quintilian and Tacitus), and Latin rhetoric during the Second Sophistic (including Fronto, Apuleius, and rhetorics of attack and defense concerning Christianity).

  • Pernot, Laurent. 2005. Rhetoric in antiquity. Washington, DC: Catholic Univ. of America Press.

    Pernot treats rhetorical theory and practice throughout antiquity, but the larger part of the book concerns Latin rhetoric. Separate chapters deal with Romanized rhetoric in the republican and imperial eras, and the book concludes with a chapter concerning the heritage of Greco-Roman rhetoric from the end of antiquity up to the present time. Of special interest in this work are Pernot’s treatment of the appropriation (or “conquest”) of Greek rhetoric by Romans and the use of oratory by Roman emperors.

  • Steel, Catherine. 2006. Roman oratory. Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics 36. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Steel traces Roman oratory from the 2nd century BCE through the 1st century CE. She conceptualizes Roman oratory using speech occasions: public meetings, funerals, Senate deliberations, and legal proceedings. She also considers forms of speech representation—oral delivery, published manuscript, letter, and inscription. Additionally, she explains social, political, and professional expectations applied to orators as well as particulars of Roman oratorical education—including declamation.

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