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                                                      Term Paper: Fall/2001 / Classical Rhetorical Theory/ UC Berkeley: Rhetoric 200/ Prof. Caroline Humfress

                                                                             Cicero and Augustine:

                                                                               A Comparative Study of Relation 

                                                                                     Between Cicero and Augustine in Rhetoric

                                                                                              HeeChun (Richard) Park/GTU

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Augustine wrote the first homiletic textbook in the preaching history of Christianity. From this fact, Augustine and his De doctrina christiana deserve to be examined and illumined modern homiletics. The real situation, however, is not so. Rather, Augustine and his homiletic seems to be forgotten by his posterity. Futher, some others defy him as a vicious influential figure. Not just with defense of Augustine, positively, I find from Augustine and his pastoral, practical, apologetical works immense wisdom that can be effective today, called, postmodern society. First there are many misinterpretations of Augustine in terms of rhetoric and homiletic, so we need to put Augustine to the right place for further benefits from him. This term paper of UC Berkeley, rhetoric 200-Classical Rhetorical Theory, attempts to understand Augustine rightly and estimate him also rightly in terms of rhetoric and Christian homiletic. Thus I chose Cicero, because most people think, from their seemingly akin closeness, they are very similar with no distinction, but in reality it is not so. For that purpose this paper will survey of past discussions of that issue of what the relation between Cicero and Augustine in terms of rhetoric(chapter I), and then I narrow down the issue into immorality of rhetoric through philosophical quarrel happened in the ancient rhetoric history up to Augustine(chapter II), finally, more narrowing down into two particular works of each, Orator of Cicero and De doctrina christiana 4 of Augustine for examining their similarity and dissimilarity in order to get their sophisticate intertextuality and interstructurality, and further their continuity and discontinuity and instrumentalization and sublimation.

I. Survey of discussions

The reason for this past research survey is apparent; for last one century, academic accomplishments for Augustine and his De doctrina christiana[1] in relation with rhetoric(Cicero etc.) have thoroughly been developed till now. So, it must, before discussion going further, be understood for avoiding redundancy and helping understand some backgrounds and smooth involvement thereof. Hence this short survey of the history investigated in this issue.

After all, from the early twentieth century on, the issue of the relation between Cicero and Augustine has been raised. Dargan(1905), a homiletic historian would seem to have begun the first short but significant note of On Christian Teaching(De doctrina christiana, hereafter, DDC), where he mentions of ‘a conception of the preaching office,’[2] evaluating Augustine’s position this way: “He(Augustine) cared not so much for graces of style as for depth of matter and power of effect. To convince, persuade, instruct and win his auditors was his supreme concern.”[3]

Whereas Dargan views in Augustine a divorce between style and subject matter that means undervalue of rhetoric, Eskridge(1912) from his dissertation[4] has thoroughly done a comparative study between Cicero and Augustine’s DDC,  attempting to prove how Augustine to be influenced from Cicero overall, except some elements, what he calls, “fundamental differences between Augustine and Cicero”(XIV) which is, in my view, not to be meant for Eskridge that Augustine have not been influenced from Cicero, rather, Eskidge seems to see it that Augustine has been influenced by Cicero exhaustively in particular of styles, to the extant that there is no  difference in rhetoric itself, though some difference in mostly terms of the religious of Augustine. After all, no other seems to have done thorough analysis of that issue as Eskidge did.

Baldwin(1925)[5] in his lecture later on developed into Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic(1928),  claims of that issue, saying: this rhetoric (Augustine), not only simpler than sophistic, but quite different in emphasis, is set forth in the terms of Cicero.[6] Augustine’s application of the three typical styles is more just, and more practically distinct than Cicero’s own.[7] Augustine has passed(xxii-xix) from Cicero’s three tasks of oratory to his three typical styles by applying to the preacher Cicero’s definition of the orator[8], and thus,

 Augustine is more explicit than Cicero in showing that the three typical styles are but three ways(xxvi) of achieving a single end, even as the three corresponding tasks, though one of them absorbs attention at a time, are but three aspects of the simple task.[9]

 In this, Baldwin, unlike Eskridge, notices the distinct marks of Augustine’s rhetoric.

McNew(1957), however, critiques above Eskridge and Baldwin alike, for leading readers “to believe that only minor difference distinguish the rhetorical doctrines of Cicero and Augustine”[10]. McNew goes on to say this way:

Generally this effort is understandable, for the admirers of Augustine no doubt are eager to show that his conception of rhetoric has its roots in the best of the classical Roman tradition. But the case is established at considerable cost, for it rests on words, not principles; and in the process of demonstration the vast philosophic difference which separate Augustine and Cicero are lost sight of; or perhaps, what is worse, it is assumed that the philosophic principles of each writer have little or nothing to do with his conception of rhetoric.[11]

Indeed, McNew concludes this way: Augustine’s conception of rhetoric cannot be explained simply as a return to an ancient ideal, and further that Augustine’s use of the “language” of rhetoric available to him through his study of Cicero does not commit him to a notion of rhetoric identical to Cicero’s and applied to Christian preaching. And if these conclusions are warranted, the way is open to view Augustine not as one who applied his early rhetorical studies to Christian teaching, but as one who, working out philosophically the implications of his Christian position, was able to construct and state a uniquely Christian conception of the art of rhetoric.[12] This means McNew claims his as the most distinct, unique position of Augustine’s rhetoric from rhetoric’s influence.

In aligning with McNew, Murphy(1974) in his book insists that:

Augustine recommends Cicero as the precepter of the Christian orator. But he makes the recommendation with the positive ideal of spiritual conversion in mind. Hence it is not enough to seek to move men’s minds, merely for the sake of power; instead, the power to move(flectere) is to be used to lead men to Truth(verum). The ultimate end of discourse for the Christian must be different from that of the pagan Cicero”.[13]

 Murphy highlights that:

Augustine’s proposal is to look at the Scriptures themselves for examples of style, and most of Book Four is taken up with an attempt to demonstrate how this can be done. Indeed, Augustine postulates the existence of a new type of eloquence, ‘fitting for men most worthy of the highest authority and clearly inspired by God’[14].

 Murphy notes the anti-feeling of church fathers against rhetoric, from the extreme to the moderate. In regards to extreme Turtullian(analogy of Athens with Jerusalem), Cyprian(‘sweets which contain poison) and Jerome(in dream, ‘you are not a Christian but a Ciceronian) are representatives. But Murphy raises a moderate position such as of Ambrose, who had ‘mixed feelings’.[15]

Although he(Ambrose) emphasizes the distinction between sapientia saeculi and sapientia spiritualis, he recognizes the need for training of preaches and condemns not rhetoric itself but its sophistic abuses.[16]

In the same context, Murphy notes that despite the rhetorical training of the major ecclesiastical orators, the fourth century marks a high point of popularity for the simple ‘homily’ style of preaching.[17] And he goes on to insist that, coupled with the many utterances denouncing the sophistic, the comparative simplicity of the homilies might be seen as further indication of the dilemma of the times.[18] Reaching this dilemma of styles of fourth century, now we are ready to meet Oberhelman and his breath-taking great work(1991).[19]Oberhelman’s central idea is this: after thorough examining church fathers’ style in particular ‘rhythm,’

the Latin Christian writers in the West, beginning with Tertullian, were uncomfortable with pagan rhetoric and pagan style, and yet they did not refrain from using them. The contents of their works may have been Christian, but the style was no less rhetorical than what informed pagan secular literature. In other words, content and style should have been different, but they were not.[20]

 However, Oberhelman doesn’t overlook the distinct, unique Christian styles found in fourth century fathers. He diagnoses the marks of the day this way:

The sermon explained in simple yet colorful language the mysteries of the scriptures; the style was constructed to guide the audience to an understanding of, and belief in, the truths of Christianity. The formal characteristics of rhetoric were minimized; instead, vivid imagination, sound-play, parenthesis and antithesis, vignettes, rhyme, paratactic cola, and all the other elements typical of colloquial speech and popular novel were used to make that truth accessible to all.[21]

 As for Augustine, Oberhelman articulates this way: One may conclude that Ambrose, as well as Jerome and Augustine, accomodated the stylistic ornaturs of traditional pagan rhetoric and also followed the new homiletic oratory that was being developed by Christians in the late fourth century.[22] Oberhelman warns against those who wants to conclude with ease of the relation between rhetoric and homiletic, saying: 

the compromise, however, did not consist of a fixed spatial coordinate. Rather, the nature of any one individual work’s audience, purpose, and theme dictated the author’s choice of one of the many types of Christian style available to him as he moved in the various realms of formal rhetoric and homiletic preaching.[23]

Among those constructive and positive critiques of the relation between Cicero and Augustine, there is a reproachful, ‘arbitrary’ critique thereof; it is Kennedy’s. In his famous introductory book, Classical Rhetoric–and its Christian and secular tradition from Ancient to modern times, Kennedy is virtually reproaching Augustine’s rhetoric arbitrarily. His critique and evaluation doesn’t seem to base thorough research of that issue. Kenney simply narrates that Augustine considers the three duties of the orator which Cicero developed out of the Aristotelian modes of proof[24], with no specific proof from text and with no in depth research. As we will see in the later chapters, it was not that simple. He critique Augustine was not concerned with the rhetoric of conversion, while Augustine really did in the DDC XIX 38 and the like, saying, ‘antagonistic minds are being driven to change their attitude’[25]. He reproaches Augustine as one who ‘canonized the view that rhetoric is largely a matter of style’[26], and who does not ‘distinguish Christian rhetoric from classical or other rhetorics’[27], who ‘retained’ ‘certain features of sophistic, including emphasis on the function of the orators as well as on imitation and style[28]. More seriously, Kennedy says this way:

Augustine’s rhetoric belongs largely in what we have called the technical tradition, with some threads of the sophistic strand… Indeed, Augustine knew little Greek. His primary source was Cicero… De doctrina christiana…had been more appreciated by the rhetoricians than by grammarians and dialecticians: interpretation must be based on an understanding of the context in which a word or passage occurs and also on the overall meaning or structure of the work in which it occurs. Christianity, with its consciousness of its message, would have everything consistent with one theme.[29]

Kennedy would seem not to realize, unlike Cicero, Augustine have never related styles with subject matter.[30]  Contextual relativism of truth which Kennedy critiqued was nowhere in Augustine, instead, there is only stylistic relativism, fitting appropriately to the particular context. Kennedy said.[31]

The weakness of Augustine’s treatise is that it encouraged the identification of rhetoric with style…which was already an obsession of classical rhetoric.

So we will see how thoroughly Augustine did not, through this paper.

By the name of A Classic of Western Culture, De doctrina christiana  has fully been discussed(1995)[32] by sixteen scholars of Augustine, one of whom is Adolf Primmer, whose article[33] is one of the most thorough treatments of relation between Cicero an Augustine recently published. Primmer attempts to show how Augustine’s baptizing of Cicero’s rhetoric represents a step forward[34], guaranteeing by saying that we will see that, in the end, Augustine transcended the categorizations of classical rhetoric.[35] Comparing and analyzing Cicero’s Orator and DDC, Primmer says that:

it should be of interest to us that in De doctrina 4 Augustine expresses agreement with Cicero’s practice but not his theory…thus Augustine corrects Cicero’s crescendo as regards rhythm although he doe so very politely and discreetly…[36] as far as I know, nobody has noticed, for instance, the bipartite organization Augustine adopted from Cicero, although Augustine emphasized the originality of his own doctrine exactly by such contrasting intertextual relations.[37]

From the last saying, Primmer means that there is a intriguing ‘contrast in terms of structure in order to emphasize the contrast between the orator and the preacher in terms of content.’[38] Primmer goes far beyond anybody who talked about the relation, in terms of his ‘originality and his instrumentalizing of Cicero.’[39] As regards style, Primmer claims that:

for Cicero, the mixed style was the best; Augustine discusses the blending of officia, regardless of style, as more important,[40] so this time Augustine does not ally himself with Cicero against the handbooks but with the handbooks and rhetoric in general against too mechanical an application of the theory of the three styles,[41] and Augustine talks in Isocrateic maner not to boast of his abilities but to show how natural the free blending of styles can be.[42]

Primmer, in sum, overall, concludes his argument with which I very much agree in this discussion, saying,

I(Primmer) hope you can see from this short outline of Augustine’s main line of argumentation how, on the one hand, his decrescendo technique places emphasis on the subordinate function of style in humble Christian preaching and, on the other, how he achieves and enhances this effect by creating a counterpart to Cicero’s triumphant Orator.[43]

Pelikan(2001) very recently seems to try to return this issue to the past again, arguing that ‘as a pagan rhetorician Augustine had been a Ciceronian’.[44] Recalling the influence of Cicero’s Hortensius, Pelikan seems to be going back to Eskridge(1912)’s view and Kennedy (1980)’s.

Now we have been investigating serious quarrel of the relation between Cicero(rhetoric) and Augustine(De doctrina christiana) among scholars. I, however, tend to agree with those constructive, positive scholars on Augustine’s position, for their detailed investigation legitimately proves it. Next chapter, before jumping into direct, main discussion of Cicero’s Orator and Augustine’s DDC 4, will be needed indirectly, of the background of this issue, from outside to inside, to understand an historical discussion of such philosophical and rhetorical issue.

II. Philosophical Quarrel

From the early antiquity there was a serious quarrel between philosophers and sophist on the rhetoric. Both were opposite against each other seriously. Their main issues were three: the question whether rhetoric was an art, the immorality of rhetoric, and the knowledge necessary for oratory.[45] Now with the hypothetical presupposition concluded in the preceding chapter, I attempt to prove it in the realm of classical quarrel, especially focusing on the second issue, immorality of rhetoric, that is, the question of whether rhetoric is good or bad. Unlike anticipation of historical orderly treatments, instead, I would like to deal this chapter conversely from Augustine to the distant past when necessary, because, in so doing, we may not lose our main focus on Augustine.  For in many cases some critique not from direct Augustine’s works but from others, which becomes unfair.

Let me summarize in general of this issue before delving into it in order to keep right direction. For Augustine, rhetoric was neither good nor bad, but neutral. Rhetoric is only functional faculty to anyone who uses rhetoric. Traditionally philosophers had attacked rhetoric as immoral, for it is used only badly without any philosophical knowledge, that is, truth. From Cicero we can see the functional position to rhetoric. Augustine, however, develops much further from Cicero. Cicero didn’t know rhetoric of religion whose persuasion should be always true and every topic dealt not trivial but crucial. Though Cicero revolutionary makes rhetoric neutral, different from ancient philosophers aggressive to rhetoric, Augustine, admitting Cicero’s position, goes back to the classical idealistic quest, Can rhetoric become nobler?  Indeed, Augustine answers to that question of philosophers, and transcends over the impossibility of suggesting how rhetoric can be nobler concretely in terms of Christian rhetoric. Socrates and Plato had tried to seek after the possibility, but couldn’t find the answer, yet Augustine, in aligning with their quests, attempts to answer with specific rhetorical model. Meanwhile, Cicero, though a ideal in Augustine’s rhetoric, due to his mainly judicial character, which sometimes can be unethically compromised, seem to be unable to have Augustine follow him. Rather, Augustine’ resolution of rhetoric anew could be a ‘nobler rhetoric’ of which philosophers have been dreaming for a long time.

Let us first listen from Augustine of what he insist to his new attempt. In this chapter I would attempt without DDC book IV, and mainly with book II, for before dealing book IV, where we will deal with it later  chapter, it is legitimate to consider earlier books of book IV. The reason is this; while some scholars view just book IV is Augustine’s divine rhetoric, the whole book of DDC which we shouldn’t neglect was author’s initial intent as Christian rhetoric, or, homiletic textbook. Thus, if we could possible find some principles from earlier books, it would be applied to book IV as well. Conversely speaking, to know better book IV, we should know former books of the same author, though the time of writing is distant.

Back to the initial issue, whether rhetoric itself is immoral or not, Augustine says in relation with the perspective of using liberal arts in Christianity, unlike early Church Fathers such as Tertullian, Cyprian, and Jerome and the like, who seriously attacks rhetoric, that is, secular liberal arts. In the first place, let us note the aggressive voice to rhetoric and liberal arts. Ironically enough, their attacks against rhetoric represents classical philosophers’  in much the same way. Tertullian attacks rhetoric: ‘what indeed Athens has to do with Jerusalem’, Cyprian after converion ‘never quoted from outside’, Lactantius ‘sweets which contains poison’,[46] and Jerome with the dream experience-not Christian but Ciceronian.[47] There was no midway between divine and human for them seemingly.

Augustine, however, differentiates among the secular arts the superstitious from not.

there are two kinds of learning pursued even in pagan society. One comprises things which have been instituted by humans, the other things already developed, or divinely instituted by humans, some are superstitious, some not[48]

Augustine’s claim is this that if so, though careful for the superstitious, we shouldn’t hesitate using the-not-superstitious. Augustine enumerates other disciplines saying that ‘the study of definition, division, and classification though often applied to false things, is not in itself false.’[49] Here is his famous metaphor thereof, a metaphor of Egyptian gold and silver ‘on leaving Egypt’ which ‘the people of Israel’ can be ‘make better use of them’ from ‘poor use’.[50] In the same context, Augustine champions the use of rhetoric, for it can be applied to their true function, that of preaching the gospel. It is quite different from other early church fathers such as Tertullian and the above, and the others. Augustine’s position can be pursued toward Isocrates, for he also had acknowledged the possibility of rhetoric to be used and abused. Isocrates distinguishes, in Against the Sophists, ‘distinguishes himself from unscrupulous Sophists or teachers of rhetoric who were concerned only with teaching tricks’[51] Baldwin treats the second Sophists movement in the age of Augustine so well. The age when Augustine worked was a time of decadence of classical philosophical rhetoric. Baldwin penetrates it this way:

Style, no longer controlled by such urgencies of subject, tends toward decoration and virtuosity…Sophistic practically reduces rhetoric to style. The old lore of investigation(inventio), paralyzed by the compression of its trunk nerve, has little scope beyond ingenuity. Organized movement(dispositio), similarly impaired at the source, tends to be reduced to salience and variety, or to be supplanted by pattern…But style and delivery, becoming the main reliance, are elaborated into a systematic technic to a degree almost incredible to-day.[52]

As a product of the age, Augustine must have felt some necessity of reformation or revolution in relation with sophistry, though a former professor of rhetoric, as a convert to the divine realm and its sublime mission. Christianity must have demanded him to do something between contemporary decadent rhetoric and divine noble religion. Viewed from Confessions, it would not have been grudging but active reformation of rhetoric.

Confessions shows us seemingly Augustine’s conversion from sophistry to Ciceronian philosophical rhetoric.[53] Augustine confesses it this way:

My interest in the book was not aroused by its usefulenss in the honing of my verbal skills…it was not merely as an instrument for sharpening my tongue that I used that book, for it had won me over not by its style but by what it had to say.[54]

 In my view this rhetorical conversion for Augustine would be so important that later on Augustine had been led to not Sophistry but Ciceronian moderate philosophical rhetoric when instituting Christian rhetoric. We will investigate further next chapter thereof. Noting Confessions book VI, late Augustine himself seems to have looked down on sophistic rhetoric, saying that ‘I was trying to sell the art of speaking.’[55] In terms of his opposition to Sophistry, though Augustine is in connection with philosophers who had attacked rhetoric, there was a significant difference from them too.

As surveyed above in this chapter, of course, there is also similarity between Augustine and ancient philosophers in this sense in which to oppose sophistry. Paradoxically even in Socrates, there shows some hesitation like Augustine. Socrates says anything bad is contemptible, so in my opinion rhetoric is contemptible,[56] while saying although sophistry and rhetoric are essentially different.[57] Socrates, however, in Phaedrus, seems to go to negative, or pessimistic for he put his ideal so highly this way:

No one will ever possess the art of speaking, to the extant that any human being can…no one can acquire these abilities without great effort-a laborious effort a sensible man will make not in order to speak and act among human beings, but so as to be able to speak and act in a way that pleases the gods as much as possible…not to his fellow slaves but to his masters, who are wholly good.[58]

As shown above, Plato/Socrates’ standard of rhetoric is so high, or so impractical that Aristotle should have done his practical work of rhetoric, for the purpose of on the one hand saving rhetoric from sophistry and the other settling rhetoric into the level of practicality.

Thus, Aristotle changes his teacher Socrates’ trajectory to the more or less moderate camp but absolutely avoid of his teacher’s theistic/supernatural realm of attention. However, in terms of neutrality of rhetoric, Aristotle is sided with Augustine, for he saved rhetoric from sophistry and impossible idealistic rhetoric by making practical rhetoric within the limitations of human anthropology. Like Augustine, Aristotle too is a functionalist of rhetoric:

its function is not to persuade but to see the available means of persuasion in each case, as is true also in all the other arts; for neither is it the function of medicine to create health but to promote this as much as possible.[59]

Cicero too stands with the line of moderate position of neutrality of rhetoric. For Cicero, rhetoric

can drive the audience in whatever direction it has applied its weight’ …the more necessary it is to join it to integrity and the highest measure of good sense. For if we put the full resources of speech at the disposal of those who lack these virtues, we will certainly not make orators of them, but will not weapons into the hands of madman[60]

However, Cicero seems to have had belief of not certainty, or truth, but plausibility, or opinion. With this Cicero seems to be aligned with Sophists not with Plato and Augustine and the like. Cicero put this way:

All the subjects dealt with by the orators, however, were doubtful and uncertain, since the speakers understood none of them accurately, and the listeners were not to be given real knowledge, but merely an opinion for the moment, false, or at best unclear.[61]

May evaluates that for Cicero, ‘the moral component is conspicuously absent,[62] ‘the moral issue, then, is not connected with the knowledge theme, and plays a very minor part in De oratore,’[63] and ‘the demand the orator should have philosophical knowledge has no moral background’[64]. As shown above proofs, one anticipates Augustine’s right decision not to stay with Cicero but to depart from plausibility of common opinion to certainty of religious truth that should be preached. In this sense Augustine is different from Cicero in the light of history of philosophical quarrel of rhetoric. Augustine is in aligned with Cicero’s functionalistic view and neutrality of rhetoric, once he says this way in his main rhetorical book IV:

Since rhetoric is used to give conviction to both truth and falsehood, who could dare maintain that truth, which depends on us for its defense, should stand unarmed in the fight against falsehood?…they would expound falsehoods in descriptions that are succinct, lucid, and convincing, while we would expound the truth in such way as to bore our listeners, cloud their understanding, and stifle their desire to believe; that they would assail the truth and advocate falsehood with fallacious arguments, while we would be too feeble either to defend what is true or refute what is false;…while we, in the name of truth, can only idle along sounding dull and indifferent…oratorical ability, so effective a resource to commend either right or wrong, is available to both sides; why then is it not acquired by good and zealous Christians to fight for the truth, if the employ it is the service of iniquity and error, to achieve their perverse and futile purposes?[65]

Augustine, with philosophers, make turn decadent rhetoric to nobler; with Aristotle  and Cicero to neutrality and practicality of rhetoric. Further, with Sophists sustaining technicality of rhetoric. But the main difference is that Augustine is sublimating decadent rhetoric for which Baldwin says this way:

We must hasten to add that he great Christians of the fourth century, if they could not escape sophistic, at least redeemed it by curbing its extravagance and turning it to nobler uses. But Augustine did much more. He set about recovering for the new generation of Christian orators the true ancient rhetoric.[66]

Thus, in this chapter our attempt, that is, how different between Cicero and Augustine is obvious. Needless to say, no doubt Augustine goes beyond Cicero much back and much full. In a sense, this conclusion and proof was anticipated in nature, for already there is a critical chasm between Cicero and Augustine in their subject matter. Now we are ready to examine all the more close research of the relation between Cicero and Augustine, so I decided to do comparative study between Orator of Cicero and De doctrina christiana 4 of Augustine in terms of rhetorical treaty. For I believe it would enlighten and disillusion us as far as my capacity goes for it.

 III. Orator  vs. De Doctrina Christiana 4

Both Cicero and Augustine wrote their final rhetorical treaties each after thirty-five years later from practical experience; Cicero, from forum and senate, Augustine, from pastoral ministry and preaching experience. When discussing De doctrina Christiana book IV about style thereof, we don’t have any other route avoiding treatment of Cicero’ Orator, because almost exhaustively Augustine is adopting textual structure and almost every terminology therein. Hence without any close investigation and delving into both with a keen eye, we can not but conclude readily and undiscerningly that Augustine uncritically has borrowed Cicero’s rhetoric and there is no distinct difference between them. However, thanks to some prudent, devoted scholars, we would have benefits not to lose otherwise the unknowable. Through this chapter from marvelous discoveries of others, we will see how Augustine humbly adopted from Cicero, his teacher, and then deliberately and discreetly adapted for his own need, i.e., for  divine, Christian rhetoric’s sake.

We, first of all, need to understand what the content of Orator of Cicero is and how it is comprised and composed before contrasting and comparing with Augustine’s DDC IV.  In Orator, i.e., Cicero’s a final answer of his opinion of rhetoric, he links genera dicendi, styles(genera tenue, medium, grande) to, on the one hand, officia,[67] i.e., duties of orator(docere, delectare, flectare), and res, i.e., subject matter(parvae, modice, magnae), on the other hand(Orator 1.4). This attempt to link is a sign of counteracting against sophists, for in the side of philosophers Cicero stresses on subject matter while not abandoning neutral rhetoric from over-embellished rhetoric(style) of sophists. This is the same reason for Augustine to which to adhere, for Augustine too sees nearly the same crisis of rhetoric as Cicero saw in the past.

Though modern people would perplex from this kind of seemingly too archaic discussion of style, in the times of antiquity both Cicero’s and Augustine’s the style could be paraphrased with rhetoric because people at that times thought rhetoric is just ornate like some modern does. Since Ad Herennium, which was written at the youth of Cicero about style, became a critical portion of rhetorical handbook of style, it had

                      Cicero’s Orator

                                    (Table 1) 


0.INTRODUCTION: The ‘ideal’ orator and the best style
0.1    The question is a philosophical one          M. Antonius, Disertos se vidisse multos,                     eloquentem neminem

0.2     The best ‘Attic’ orator commands three styles
Praise of Demosthenes

Part 1 ANALYSIS: In search of the best orator/style

1.0    Preface to part 1  

1.1    Wanted: the best style, not for epideixis, but for speech in foro

1.2    Wanted: the most important of the five fundamental officia: Elocutio

1.3    Wanted: the best genus dicendi: The three styles

1.3.0       Not the philosophical, sophistic,                  historical, poetic styles

1.3.1       The genus dicendi, depending on the three offica (docere, deletare, flectare)

1.3.2       Nature and description of the three styles      Genus summissum                      Nature/Description/No rhythm!      Genus temperatum                      Nature/Description/Rhythm      Genus grande
Nature/Dangerous if employed

1.4.0       Pseudo-peroration: Variation of genera,                              depending on res

M. Antonius; Cicero, Demosthenes

          Description of the ideal orator

2.1     The orator doctus(ornatus rerum)

2.1.1        He knows philosophy, law, history, etc

2.1.2        He knows rhetoric, above and beyond school rhetoric
(stasis, topic, auxesis, ethos, and pathos)

2.2.   The ideal style

2.2.1        Ornatus verborum(lumina, figurae…)

2.2.2        Compositio verborum(numerus, clausulae)

2.3             Peroration:Applause for the artist Demosthene; Cicero


                 (Primmer, p.70-71)

              Augustine’s DDC 4

                               (Table 2)



                 Against overestimation
And underestimation of rhetoric



          Part 1   DUTIES AND AIMS
            of preachers and preaching(official)

               1.1     Priority of (biblical) sapientia

over (human) eloquentia

   1.2       Excursus: Biblical eloquentia
:only partially imitable

   1.3       Eloquentia:
Subordinated to the listerner

               1.3.1          Plane dicere docere
               1.3.2                         The three officia

1.4       Pseudo-peroration:

Pray for God’s grace




       Part 2     STYLES
                               of preachers and preaching (genera dicendi)

   2.1    The three styles
(subordinated to officia)

   2.1.1           Genera not dependant on res

   2.1.2           Example of the three styles

               2.2     Against mechanical application
     of the styles

   2.2.1        Necessity of mixing the genera
(genus temperatum subordinated)

   2.2.2        Necessity of mixing the officia
                (regardless of genera)

   2.2.3        Exemplary life
                      and truth-more effective

than genus grande

                  2.3      Peroration:
Pray for God’s grace



                             (Primmer, p.74-75)

dominated the handbook until the time of Augustine as well.[68]

According to the analysis of Primmer, Orator has structural distinctive, i.e., uniformity parallel elements in permanent crescendo towards the final apotheosis of numerus and complementarily duality structure.[69] In my opinion, the understanding of Orator’s crescendo would help later see the critical difference of both. So we had better talk about what is Orator’s crescendo. Primmer more than anybody else has examined it in depth. I am gratefully indebted to him. My understanding thereof is this.

The Crescendo is being shown, in the first place, from the two parts contrast.[70] In Orator, part 1 is an analysis of what the ideal orator is  and what the best style is, and part 2 is a synthesis of what the orator doctus’ quality and ideal style are.[71] And for the ideal examples Orator suggests Antonius and Demosthenes and Cicero. Overall structure seems to have been composed to stress ascending quality of orator up to the state of ideal. It appears more or less not pragmatic in reality to catch up by common orator. And that Cicero puts himself as ideal orator to imitate is intriguing, as will not be shown thus in Augustine later.[72] Second crescendo, which will be most important and sophisticated, is of style and its blending. For Cicero in Orator, in attempting mixing of styles and linking styles to officia and res, the crescendo is presupposed as ascending order: for example, in styles, from low style to grand, in officia, from sober docere to passionate, emotional flectere and movere, in res, subject, parva, modica, and magna. For Cicero, above all it seems the last third of those is the most significant. Cicero says:

The man of eloquence whom we seek, following the suggestion of Antonius, will be one who is able to speak in court or in deliberative bodies so as to prove, to please and to sway or persuade. To prove is the first necessity, to please is charm, to sway is victory; for it is the one thing of all that avails most in winning verdicts. For these three functions of the orator there are three styles, the plain style for proof, the middle style for pleasure, the vigorous style for persuasion; and in this last is summed up the entire virtue of the orator.[73]

This ascending, strict understanding of each, nevertheless, would be a problem of Cicero. Furthermore, Cicero attempts to mix those tripartite patterns with parallelism so that it makes trouble. Especially middle style, when blending with flectere, pleasing and with modica, middle importance of subject matter, is put as the main problem in Orator of Cicero, not resolved.[74] For this matter, Primmer argues this way that

he cleverly exploits the opportunity to depart from the inconvenient link between the aim of pleasing(delectare) and the middle style with its rhythmical periods.[75]

 For that middle style can be simply blended with two other officia and res, because it, above all, has in fact prose rhythm, which is not to simply be blended with each second portions due to its place. In prose rhythm, middle style can be grander than grand style, can be connected with the third officia, flectere, and can be linked with other two res. That’s why later Augustine is against ‘mechanical application of the styles’.[76]

Complementary role of duality is then this. As shown above table 1, Orator emphasizes dually. It means something reappears. That is for example reappearing the concept of mixed style with part II, and reappearing two pairs example orators, in the pseudo-peroration and real peroration.[77]

 Now it is time to compare Orator with DDC IV, noting above two tables closely. Overall structure was adopted by Augustine from Cicero’ Orator, but adapted. Augustine doesn’t treat styles until part 2, while Orator from the very start deals with styles. Instead, Augustine treats the duties and aims of preachers at part 1. More striking, even in part 2 Augustine is subordinating styles to officia.[78] As mixing the genera and styles, he is subordinating genus temperatum, middle style, which is most ornate among three styles.[79] One is not possible to find anywhere Augustine does not decrescendo styles.

Augustine, in detail, differentiates from Cicero by linking genera not to res, like Cicero, but to officia, which is the same case with Cicero, yet, Augustine again differentiates from Cicero even in linking genera, styles to officia, not by depending on it but by subordinating. It means Augustine’s linking styles to officia is more thorough as to servitude. This is another sign of Augustine’s decrescendo.

Herein Augustine gives preachers freedom saying ‘regardless of genera’ unlike Cicero’s strict parallel linking.[80] Furthermore, Augustine is against Cicero of what Cicero is doing mechanical application of styles as shown above.[81] This point is not just adoption and even adaptation, but revolution from Cicero’s influence.

See how much Augustine corrects Cicero’s strict parallel blending to appropriately free choice.

But although our teacher must be a speaker on important matters, he should not always speak of them in the grand style but rather use the restrained style when teaching, and the intermediate style when censuring or praising something. But when action must be taken and we are addressing those who ought to take it but are unwilling, then we must speak of what is important in the grand style, the style suitable for moving minds to action. Sometimes one speaks about one and the same important matter in all three styles: in the restrained style, if it is being taught; in the moderate style, if it is being praised; and in the grand style, if antagonistic minds are being driven to change their attitude.[82]

In contrast with crescendo of Cicero, Primmer discloses the using of the decrescendo of Augustine’s strategy. For Cicero, the crescendo can not be stopped until getting victory from the opponents. So for that, orator should have done his best to prove, attract, and win, and orator from the consequences could get acclaim and admiration. However, for Augustine preacher is a servant to have to serve sapinentia[83], Bible and biblical wisdom than eloquentia, to serve listeners[84], to rely on God’s grace,[85] and to appeal by his life example,[86] than by the styles. This is a shocking decrescendo of Augustine’s strategy in DDC IV. This crescendo and decrescendo analysis would be well to show that again,

on the one hand, his(Augustine) decrescendo technique places emphasis on the subordinate function of style in humble Christian preaching and, on the other, how he achieves and enhances this effect by creating a counterpart to Cicero’s triumphant Orator.[87]

Indeed, I would like to argue one specific text which Augustine adopts from Cicero that shows how Augustine adapt from what he borrows even in a verb, which is significantly important to Christianity. Here it is:

It has been said by a man of eloquence, and quite rightly, that the eloquent should speak in such a way as to instruct, delight, and move their listeners. He then added: ‘instructing is a matter of necessity, delighting a matter of charm, and moving them a matter of conquest’-docere necessitatis est, delectare suavitatis, flectere victoriae. The first of these three, the need to instruct, relates to the subject-matter of our discourse, the other two the style we use.[88]

But for Cicero’s Orator it is this: Probare necessitatis est, delectare suaviatis, flectere victoriae.[89] Here is seeminly serious adaptation of Augustine from Cicero in my view, because each verbs represent huge differences of both. Eskridge, however, resolves that problem of changing verb by saying that ‘he does no violence to the though of Cicero’,[90] which means there is no intentional adaptation of Augustine from Cicero, and in Cicero there is proofs of docere.

Yet as we see here Augustine’s decrescendo, servitude, Augustine must have adapted that verb, to prove, which is used mostly at forum by lawyer like Cicero to win the victory in every cases, into to docere, to teach the truth clearly, which is most critical in Augustine. In the late antiquity as Christianity has faced the mission to preach the truth to all class and all ages, it follows that Christian oratory needs to be simple and clear and easy to understand and accept the truth. Oberhelmann maintains that ‘typical Augustine sermon emerged with its hallmarks of great simplicity, clarity’.[91] Cameron also argues the characteristic of Christian rhetoric in the Roman Empire by ‘the contrast between the “simplicity” claimed for Christian discourse and the sophistry of its opponents’.[92] For Augustine, in opposition to Cicero, to teach simply is the most urgent responsibility. So, to me, the verb change-from provere to docere is not by haphazard but by inevitability.

In relation to it, herein we should note the priority among styles and duties and subject matters. Cicero has the opposite priority of those.

For Cicero, in his Orator, there is vertical ascending priority. For example, in styles, as we discussed it, grand style is the most significant to Cicero because it makes audience to be wined to the acclaim and admiration. In duties, for Cicero movere, in subject, magna. However in Augustine the order of priority has been changed. For Augustine the first priority is to teach the truth intelligently, clearly, and simply. There is for Augustine not trivial truth but everything significant unlike Cicero.[93]

Isocartes was the ideal orator of both Cicero and Augustine though not referred directly his name. Linking style and subject matter with fitting it to the specific context with the fitting embellishment is of totally Isocrates. In his Against Sophist, Isocrates teaches us that

good oratory should have the qualities of fitness for the occasion, propriety of style, and originality of treatment,[94] warning that no system of knowledge can possibly cover these occasions, since in all cases they elude our science[95]

Attention to the persona and her particular situation of his rhetoric with flexibility is also of Isocrates. To me, Cicero’s stress of linking styles with officia and res seems strict, rather, Augustine allows much freedom in so doing. Isocrateic the fourth style is ‘appropriate’. As Augustine stress in introduction, ‘against overestimation and underestimation’, wisely(properly) speaking than eloquently allures Augustine seems to be doing anew in rhetoric influenced not by Cicero but by Isocrates.[96]

Novel emphasis and introduction of ‘listener(persona)’ as communication partner of Augustine would be revolutionary. Cicero’s new attempt to link style with officia would have been striking but it is about speaker’s duty. Yet, when reflecting Augustine’s pastoral experience and preaching, the trinary structure-message, sign, and receiver in DDC can be understood with no difficulty. For Augustine, persona, congregation, is vital; responding to sheep’s needs is of the first priority.

In debates everyone has an opportunity to ask questions, but when all hush their voices to listen to one speaker, and turn their attentive faces towards him, it is not usual or acceptable for someone to ask questions about something he has not understood. So the speaker’s sensitivity must come to the aid of the silent listener.[97]

Markus also notes in DDC ‘community’(listeners) as ‘a necessary condition of any communication’.[98] This fact, further, would have made him spontaneous sermon which reacts the urgent need of audience. Deferrari, having examined with all the sermons(about four hundreds) of Augustine, showes the Augustine’s principle proved in his sermons of his tendency of ‘striking marks of spontaneity’[99]  which might have responded the spontaneous need of listeners. So we find in Augustine even what we didn’t see in Cicero.

By these arguments, we can conclude that Augustine have adopted from Cicero and then adapted for his own needs, for the divine, Christian rhetoric’s sake. In other words, though Augustine has unnegligibly adopted Cicero’s structure and terminology, we can conclude that Augustine has splendidly adapted Cicero’s rhetoric,  ‘instrumentalizing it’. 


From the outset I attempted to examine three elements- philosophical quarrel, style, and imitation, but I couldn’t finish it due to various limitation. Imitation is for learning of rhetoric and homiletics. I meant to prove in that realm of imitation that we can see Augustine transcends over Cicero. Next, overall approach will be needed. And there are another aspects of what other factors influenced Augustine’s homiletic. There seems to be a crucial influence of Church Fathers such as Ambrose, Cyprian, and Jerome and so on. Once I sought outside influence to Augustine, now there should be quest inside influence, that is, not secular but church tradition itself. Above all, as known, Ambrose’s influence should be my next quest. In terms of hermeneutics of homiletics, one can not ignore Augustine’s figural interpretation which is immensely influenced by Ambrose. By Enlightenment biblical hermeneutics stifled biblical pulpit. Now seeing the new parade of spiritual, meditational, and allegorical but pastoral and practical interpretation that resuscitate pulpit, I anticipate De doctrina christiana(I-III) burst into flames again. Indeed, that will be another job to us.

Nearly one century has watched this issue’s so tough debate: what the relation between Cicero and Augustine is. That quest can be paraphrased by this: what relation with rhetoric Augustine has. Not just for ecclesiastical orators, i.e., preachers, but for secular ideal orators, the quest, that is, how much orators have to do with rhetoric. Of course there should be first defined what is rhetoric, and then we can discuss its utility and application as well as its instrumentality. From those three chapters I attempted to show one conclusion, that is, Augustine is unique in his using rhetoric. He is instrumentalizing rhetoric, defining rhetoric neutral, functional according to the users. It is not enough to say this compressed conclusion to be benefited from Augustine and his rhetorical homiletic. Today, modern or postmodern, we, homileticians, need to find our roots that can build up our rootless arts. Through Augustine and thorough examining his homiletic, contemporary homileticians will be greatly helped in order to set up our preaching arts on the basis of more systematic and scientific-teachable-liberal arts.

[1] Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana(Oxford 1995), edit. and R.P.H. Green. English translation of DDC is indebted to Green.

[2] Edwin Charles Dargan, A History of Preaching, vol I.,(Michigan 1905) p.102.

[3] Ibid., 103.

[4] James Burnette Eskridge, The Influence of Cicero Upon Augustine in the Development of his Oratorical Theory for the Training of the Ecclesiastical orator, a dissertation(U. of Chicago 1912). I am indebted to him in basing this issue.

[5] C.S. Baldwin, “St. Augustine and the Rhetoric of Cicero”(Classical Association 1925).

[6] Ibid., p.29

[7] Ibid., p.30

[8] Ibid., p.41

[9] Ibid., p.44

[10] Louis D. McNew, “The Relation of Cicero’s rhetoric to Augustine”, Research Studies of the State College of Washington 25(1957), p.5

[11] Ibid., p.6.

[12] Ibid., p.13

[13] James J. Murphy, Rhetoric in the Middle Ages(Berkeley 1974),p.62.

[14] Ibid., p.59

[15] Ibid., p.52

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., p.55

[18] Ibid.

[19] Steven M. Oberhelman,  Rheotric and Homiletics In Fourth-Century Christian Liturature(Atlanta 1991)

[20] Ibid., p.121

[21] Ibid., p.125, quote Mohrmann(1961), 1.395.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., quote Fontaine(1976a) 478.

[24] George A. Kenndey, Classical Rhetoric –and its Christian and secular tradition from Ancient to modern times(Chapel Hill 1980), p.159.

[25] DDC, XIX 38

[26] Kennedy, p.158

[27] Ibid., p.159

[28] Ibid.

[29] .Ibid.

[30]Cf., DDC 2.1.1., see, table 2(Primmer’s)

[31] Kennedy., pp.159-160

[32] De doctrina christiana, A Classic of Western Culture, Edit. ByDuane W. H. Arnold(Notre Dame 1995)

[33] Adolf Primmer, “The Function of the genera dicendi in De doctrina christiana 4” in A Classic of Western Culure.

[34] Ibid., p.69

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid., p.72

[37] Ibid., p.74

[38] Ibid., p.75

[39] Ibid., p.78

[40] Ibid., p.76

[41] Ibid., p.79

[42] Ibid., p.82

[43] Ibid., p.76

[44] Jaroslav Pelikan, Divine Rhetoric-the sermon on the Mount as Message and as Model in Augustine, Chrysostom, and Luther(NY 2001),p.59

[45] Cicero, On the Ideal Orator(De Oratore) translation and introduction by James M. May, Jakob Wisse(Oxford, 2001), p.23

[46] Murphy, p.49

[47] Ibid., p.53

[48] DDC II ,XIX 29

[49] Ibid., XXXV 53

[50] Ibid., XXXVI 54

[51] Isocrates, Against Sophists, Course reader for Rhetoric 200(UC Berkeley 2001 fall), p.41

[52] Charles Sears Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic(Gloucester 1959), p.7. Uniquely Baldwin deals with Second Sophistic trend in antiquity, so to understand the counterpart of Augustine is helpful from him.

[53] Augustine, Confessions, III. 4.7. I used translations by Maria Boulding(1997).

[54] Ibid.,III.4.7

[55] Ibid.,VI.6.13

[56] Plato, Gorgias, 463a. I read translation by Robin Waterfield(Oxford 1994)

[57] Ibid., 465c

[58] Plato, Phaedrus, 273d-274a. I read Paul Woodruff’s(Cambridge 1995)

[59] Aristotle, On Rhetoric(Oxford 1991), I.1.14. I read translation of George A. Kennedy.

[60] Cicero, De Oratore 3.55.,trans by May & Wisse. Hereafter call May, if necessary.

[61] Ibid., 1.92

[62] Ibid., p.24,  introduction.

[63] Ibid., p.12

[64] Ibid., p.25

[65] DDC. IV. II. 3

[66] Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic, p.52

[67] Cicero, Orator(Cambridge 1988), 1.3.1, I used G.L. Hendrickson’s translation. Yet the numbering is Primmer’s outline.

[68] Primmer, p.69

[69] Ibid., p.74

[70] Ibid. p.72

[71] Note, it is not the best but the ideal, different from part 1.

[72] Cf. Table 1 and 2 from their outline of content by Primmer

[73] Cicero, Orator, XX 69.

[74] Ibid., 77

[75] Primmer, p.73

[76] see table 2.2

[77] Cf. Table 1 and 2

[78] Cf. Table 2.1

[79] Cf. Table 2.2.1

[80] Cf. Table 2.2.2

[81] Cf. Table 2.2

[82] DDC IV, XIX 38, 104

[83] Cf. Table 2.1.1

[84] Cf. Table 2.1.3

[85] Cf. Table 2.1.4, 2.2.3

[86] Cf. Table 2.2.3

[87] Primmer, p.76

[88] DDC  74

[89] Orator 69

[90] Eskridge, p.17, see Eskridge for the detailed defense for this.

[91] Oberhelman, p.110

[92] Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire-the development of Christian discourse(Berkeley 1991), p.96

[93] see, DDC IV, XVIII for the detailed.

[94] Isocrates, Against Sophists, p.37. UCB course reader(rhetoric 200).

[95] Isocrates, Antidosis, p.39. course reader..

[96] Primmer also concludes that ‘(Augustine) thus demonstrates both his distance from Cicero and his personal solution to the problem of the Isocrateic pleasing style’ p.70, Murphy too refers ‘Isocratean trilogy of talent, education, and pactice’ which is a keystone of Ciceronian tradition’, Murphy, p.62, in discussion with Augustine’s rhetoric.

[97] DDC  IV. X, 25, 67

[98] R.A. Markus, “Signs, Communication, and Communities in Augustine’s De doctrina christiana” in De doctrina christiana A classic of Western Culture(Notre Dame 1995), p.97

[99] Roy J. Defeffari, “St. Augustine’s Method of Composing and Delivering Sermons” in American Journal of Philology vol. XLIII, 2. p.101