Progymnasmata was a set of rudimentary exercises designed to prepare students of rhetoric for the creation and performance of orations. Following the stage of progymnasmata, the student engaged in gymnasmata and then in their own declamations.

The ancient Greeks and Romans organized the trainings into 14 progymasmata, some of which involve exercises to identify and learn different parts of a typical oration, others involved practice on different oratory genres.

The 14 Progymnasmata

The following 14 progymnasmata are taught in order, with similar ones grouped together.

  1. Fable
  2. Narrative
  3. Chreia
  4. Proverb
  5. Refutation
  6. Confirmation
  7. Commonplace
  8. Encomium
  9. Vituperation
  10. Comparison
  11. Impersonation
  12. Description
  13. Thesis or Theme
  14. Defend / Attack a Law

Related Figures

Both Hermogenes of Tarsus and Aelius Festus Aphthonius wrote treatises containing progymnasmata (in the second and third century CE, respectively)

Writings about Progymnasmata exercises

Gibson, Craig (2010). Libanius's Progymnasmata: model exercises in Greek prose composition and rhetoric. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature. Retrieved on March 1, 2010.

Aphthonius: Retrieved on March 1, 2010.

Johnson, Francis (1943). Two renaissance textbooks of rhetoric: Aphthonius' "Progymnasmata" and Rainolde's "A Booke Called the Foundacion of Rhetorike" The Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 4 (Aug., 1943), pp. 427-444

Nadeau, Ray (1952) The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius in translation, Communication Monographs, Volume 1919, 4, 264-285.