A Twelfth-Century Treatise on Dictamen and Metaphor

Martin Camargo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The more we learn about the quantity and diversity of the copies, commentaries, and adaptations of Ciceronian rhetoric that have survived from the medieval period, the more we are led to ask why these materials were preserved and how they were used. The question of practical utility has especially concerned those students of medieval commentaries on the De inventione and Rhetorica ad Herennium who are faced with the task of explaining why these treatises continued to be copied and studied long after the demise of both the Roman law courts and the Roman schools. While the use to which the ars dictaminis was put is considerably more evident, there is still much to be learned about the circumstances in which it was taught. Since twelfth-century teachers of dictamen generally saw themselves as the heirs of Cicero, study of their works and the curricula in which they found their place often casts light on the status of rhetoric instruction as a whole. Nowhere is this complementarity so manifest as in central France, by the mid-twelfth century widely regarded as the foremost center for study of the auctores. During the second half of the twelfth century, even as the concise, functional artes dictandi from Italy were rapidly establishing themselves alongside the more traditional commentaries on the classical rhetorics, the French grammar masters were busy refining the synthesis of ars grammatica and ars rhetorica, of Horace and Cicero, preserved in Matthew of Vendôme's Ars versificatoria (ca. 1175).
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-213
StatePublished - 1992


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