Ancient texts on Greek/Latin poetic techniques


Feles Curiosissima
Not sure this is quite the right place for this thread, but I couldn't find a better one.

I'm looking for ancient or early medieval texts that explicitly discuss poetic techniques. By this I mean things such as meter, alliteration and assonance, word-painting, subtleties of word order, etc. I.e. texts like Horace's Ars Poetica.

Texts that discuss the *philosophy* of poetics (like Aristotle's Poetics) are also of interest, but ultimately I'm looking for the sort of practical resource which an aspiring poet in Greek/Latin times might read in order to discover how to write "good" poetry.

Any ideas?


Feles Curiosissima
Ancient criticism of poetry (as poetry) would also be helpful.


Civis Illustris
Quintilian discusses such things, I suppose ... but I don't know if he ever really touches on poetic techniques (I haven't read him in detail).
There certainly must have been some conventions among Augustean poets (you can even see a certain poetic progression in Propertius), but I can't think of any old source that clearly described them. Maybe Dantius has come across something like that (he's very well-read).


Homo Sapiens
Staff member
I'm not familiar with any such things. There's metrical treatises by folks like Caesius Bassus and Terenti(an)us Maurus but I don't believe they discuss poetic techniques, just the nature of various meters.


Cívis Illústris
I think it might be a mistake to discount Aristotle. The bits that I've read of the Poetics seem much more focused on poetic techniques, in a very prescriptive manner, than on the philosophical aspects of poetry. There's similar stuff in Ps.-Longinos On the Sublime.

As others have pointed out above, there are lots of works on techniques in rhetoric: Ps.-Demetrios On Style, Cicero, the Rhetorica Ad Herennium, Quintilian... some of them probably have some bearing on poetic technique. There are also various relevant bits in the grammarians - eg. Consentius, who discusses and categorises the use of poetic forms/archaisms etc. But I haven't heard of any specifically about writing poetry, except Horace; which is not to say that they don't exist. It's possible that such treatises did exist but do not survive; or that ancient poets simply used their predecessors combined with rhetorical training; or that they do exist and I simply haven't heard of them yet or can't think of them right now.

There's probably also a lot of relevant material in the scholia to literary texts (and of course ancient readers would have used them or their ancestors - it's established that eg. Vergil was aware of ancient literary scholarship on the Iliad, for example, when alluding to it).