Progymnasmata (Greek "fore-exercises", Latin praeexercitamina) are rhetorical exercises gradually leading the student to familiarity with the elements of rhetoric, in preparation for their own practice speeches (gymnasmata, "exercises") and ultimately their own orations.
The traditional course of rhetoric gave the progymnasmata in this order:
- Defend or attack a law
Once these exercises were mastered, the student would begin preparation of a gymnasmatum, a full oration on a topic given a specific context.
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