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date: 01 December 2022

communes locilocked

communes locilocked

  • M. Winterbottom

Extract

Communes loci (Gk. koinoi topoi), ‘common places’. Traced back as far as *Gorgias (1) and *Protagoras by *Cicero (Brut.46–7), they were ‘arguments that can be transferred to many cases’ (Cic. Inv. rhet. 2. 48). They were practised at school among the progymnasmata, and theorists laid down headings (e.g. Hermog.Prog. 6); declaimers made them part of their stock-in-trade. They were often directed against generalized targets, vices or the vicious, and they were a means of ‘amplification’ (Rhet. Her. 2. 47); but they could be less polemical, and might be legal (e.g. the credibility of witnesses), moral (e.g. the fickleness of fortune, with scope for historical examples), or philosophical (e.g. the gods). The types are well illustrated in the pages of L. *Annaeus Seneca (1), who often speaks simply of loci, thus approaching modern scholars’ talk of topoi. The danger of commonplaces was that they might be dragged in regardless of strict relevance (see Quint.

Subjects

  • Latin Literature

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