This paper examines the links between Classical (Ciceronian) rhetorical theory and the teaching of medieval Latin prose composition and epistolography between the eleventh century and the renaissance, mainly in Italy. Classical rhetorical theory was not replaced by dictamen, nor was it the “research dimension” of everyday dictaminal activity. Rather Classical rhetorical theory, prose composition and epistolography responded to distinct market niches which appeared from time to time in different places as a consequence of social and political changes. Boncompagno's apparent setting aside of Ciceronian rhetorical theory in favour of stricter notarial and dictaminal procedures was in turn superseded by his successors who chose to enrich their notarial theory with studies of classical rhetoric. Classical rhetorical theory proved influential on dictaminal theory and practice. Dictamen was not ousted by classical rhetoric. It only really declined when growing lay literacy and the use of the vernacular combined with the autonomous professionalism of the legal training institutions to erode the privileged position occupied in medieval times by the dictatores.
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