In classical Greek rhetoric, topos, pl. topoi, (from Ancient Greek: τόπος "place", elliptical for Ancient Greek: τόπος κοινός tópos koinós,[1] 'common place'), in Latin locus (from locus communis), refers to a method for developing arguments. (See topoi in classical rhetoric.)

Meaning and history

Topos is translated variously as "topic", "themes", "line of argument", or "commonplace". Ernst Robert Curtius studied topoi as "commonplaces", themes common to orators and writers who re-worked them according to occasion, e.g., in classical antiquity the observation that "all must die" was a topos in consolatory oratory, for in facing death the knowledge that death comes even to great men brings comfort.[2] Curtius also discussed the topoi in the invocation of nature (sky, seas, animals, etc.) for various rhetorical purposes, such as witnessing to an oath, rejoicing or praising God, or mourning with the speaker.[3]

Lists of themes

Some examples of topoi are the following:

See also


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Commonplace" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 6 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 779.
  2. ^ Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, trans. from German by Willard R. Trask (New York, NY: Pantheon Books, 1953), 80.
  3. ^ Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, 92–94.

Further reading