Further Evidence

I find this passage from Ad Herrenium particularly uncanny. As you know, people play an essential part in my approach to memory. I have even assigned characters to every number from 00 to 99. Ad Herrenium is the only one of the three surviving Latin sources which states that people make the best images. Quintillian advocates the use of objects such as anchors (to remind him of the naval content of a speech) and weapons (to remind him of the military content), and Cicero talks ambiguously about using masks (persona) as images. It won't surprise you to learn that I think Ad Herrenium is the most accurate account of the Greek's use of imagery. The famous anecdote about Simonides and the banquet suggests that he was equally adept at memorizing people as he was places, or loci. There is also an extant fragment of Greek text (Dialexis, 400 BC) which implies that the Greeks thought of the gods Mars or Achilles to remember courage, and Vulcan to remember metal working.

Thomas Aquinas's chief contribution to the art of memory was to establish it in a religious context. In the hands of the thirteenth century Scholastics, memory shifted from rhctoric to ethics, even becoming a part of the cardinal virtue of Prudcnce. Put simply, memory was a way of getting to heaven and avoiding hell. Virtues and vices were quickly personified; once they were seen as people, we all stood a better chance of remembering what was right and wrong in this world.

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