Cicero’s ‘tria genera dicendi’ (Three Types of Speaking)

In the Rhetorica ad Herennium (which is falsely attributed to Cicero), “Cicero” lays out the “tria genera dicendi” (three types of speaking):

Sunt igitur tria genera, quae genera nos figuras appellamus, in quibus omnis oratio non vitiosa consumitur: unam gravem, alteram mediocrem, tertiam extenuatam vocamus.

Which I translate as:

There are therefore three ways which we call “types”, in which all oratory that is without fault is found: the first is called Grand, the second is Middle, and the third we call Plain.

The near enemy of the Grand style Cicero calls “sufflata” (Puffed up). His example of a sentence that is sufflatum is really funny to me:

Nam qui perduellionibus venditat patriam non satis subplicii dederit si praeceps in Neptunias depultus erit lacunas. Poenite igitur istum qui montis belli fabricatus est, campos sustulit pacis.

Which I read as:

Now the one who by high treason offers for sale the fatherland will not have paid enough of a penalty if he is driven head first into the Neptunian pools. Punish therefore this man, who has built up the mountains of war, who destroyed the plains of peace.

What a ridiculous use of the Latin language. “Neptunian pools” (Neptunias lacunas)?! Who has “built up the mountains of war” while destroying the “plains of peace”?! How silly.

Then again, how much academic writing today would Cicero categorize as ‘sulffatus’ and not as ‘gravis’?

 

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