- Jun 2021
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Though it is often assumedthat mnemonics were used to memorize speeches, the importance of memory to theinventionofspeech was readily apparent to ancient orators—thus the famous praise of memory as athesauruminventorum(Herennium3.16.28). As Cicero writes inDe Oratore, the orator must commit tomemory“the whole past with its storehouse of examples and precedents,”as well as a knowledgeof all laws general and civil, for without such memories, the orator is left speechless (1.17–18).Expanding on Cicero’s point, Quintilian claims that“it is the power of memory alone that bringsbefore us all the store of precedents, laws, rulings, sayings, and facts which the orator must possessin abundance . . . and hold ready for immediate use”(Institutio11.2.1). The art of memory was thusto be used to recollect not only pre-written orations but also knowledge from a variety of sources tobe called upon when constructing new texts, speakingex tempore, or responding to an interlocutor’sarguments.
Too often, this seems to me to be a missing piece that few talk about now. Those posting to the Art of Memory forum are usually talking about the need to memorize for memorization's sake. Rarely are they talking about or noticing the second or third level order changes as the result of an improved memory.