1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cornificius
CORNIFICIUS, the author of a work on rhetorical figures, and perhaps of a general treatise (ars, τέχνη) on the art of rhetoric (Quintilian, Instit., iii. 1. 21, ix. 3. 89). He has been identified with the author of the four books of Rhetorica dedicated to a certain Q. Herennius and generally known under the title of Auctor ad Herennium. The chief argument in favour of this identity is the fact that many passages quoted by Quintilian from Cornificius are reproduced in the Rhetorica. Jerome, Priscian and others attributed the work to Cicero (whose De inventione was called Rhetorica prima, the Auctor ad Herennium, Rhetorica secunda), while the claims of L. Aelius Stilo, M. Antonius Gnipho, and Ateius Praetextatus to the authorship have been supported by modern scholars. But it seems improbable that the question of authorship will ever be satisfactorily settled. Internal indications point to the date of compositions as 86–82 B.C., the period of Marian domination in Rome. The unknown author, as may be inferred from the treatise itself, did not write to make money, but to oblige his relative and friend Herennius, for whose instruction he promises to supply other works on grammar, military matters and political administration. He expresses his contempt for the ordinary school rhetorician, the hair-splitting dialecticians and their “sense of inability to speak, since they dare not even pronounce their own name for fear of expressing themselves ambiguously.” Finally, he admits that rhetoric is not the highest accomplishment, and that philosophy is far more deserving of attention. Politically, it is evident that he was a staunch supporter of the popular party.
The first and second books of the Rhetorica treat of inventio and forensic rhetoric; the third, of dispositio, pronuntiatio, memoria, deliberative and demonstrative rhetoric; the fourth, of elocutio. The chief aims of the author are conciseness and clearness (breviter et dilucide scribere). In accordance with this, he ignores all rhetorical subtleties, the useless and irrelevant matter introduced by the Greeks to make the art appear more difficult of acquisition; where possible, he uses Roman terminology for technical terms, and supplies his own examples of the various rhetorical figures. The work as a whole is considered very valuable. The question of the relation of Cicero’s De inventione to the Rhetorica has been much discussed. Three views were held: that the Auctor copied from Cicero; that they were independent of each other, parallelisms being due to their having been taught by the same rhetorician at Rome; that Cicero made extracts from the Rhetorica, as well as from other authorities, in his usual eclectic fashion. The latest editor, F. Marx, puts forward the theory that Cicero and the Auctor have not produced original works, but have merely given the substance of two τέχναι (both emanating from the Rhodian school); that neither used the τέχναι directly, but reproduced the revised version of the rhetoricians whose school they attended, the introductions alone being their own work; that the lectures on which the Ciceronian treatise was based were delivered before the lectures attended by the Auctor.
The best modern editions are by C. L. Kayser (1860), in the Tauchnitz, and W. Friedrich (1889), in the Teubner edition of Cicero’s works, and separately by F. Marx (1894); see also De scholiis Rhetorices ad Herennium, by M. Wisen (1905). Full references to authorities will be found in the articles by Brzoska in Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopädie (1901); M. Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Litt., i. (2nd ed., pp. 387–394); and Teuffel-Schwabe, Hist. of Roman Lit. (Eng. trans., p. 162); see also Mommsen, Hist. of Rome, bk. iv. ch. 13.