TOPOS is ‘topic’ or ‘location’. In fact, this Greek name is translatable as ‘site’ (in Latin <locus>) but it might designate figurative places, for instance topos of mind. When this is the use, <topos> stands for ‘topic’, ‘theme’, ‘issue’, ‘matter’, ‘commonplace’.
In classical Greek rhetoric, <topos> refers to a method for developing arguments. In fact, <topoi> are stock formulas (such as puns, proverbs and comparison) which rhetors use to produce arguments.
The term <topoi> is a metaphor established by Aristoteles (Aristotle). It identifies the “places” where a speaker or writer may “locate” arguments that are appropriate to certain subjects. As such, <topoi> are tools or strategies of invention.
<Topos> is ‘topic’ or ‘location’. However, in his Rhetoric, Aristoteles identifies two types of <topoi> (as topics). The general (<koinoi topoi>) and the particular (<idioi topoi>). Firstly, general <topoi> (‘commonplaces’) are those which can be applied to many different subjects. Secondly, particular ones (‘private places’) are those that apply only to a specific discipline. Since Aristoteles sometimes calls the specific ones <protaseis> (and <protasis> is the Greek word for ‘premise’), the issue of particular <topoi> is confusing.
Friedrich Solmsen says there are two types of <enthymeme> (statement, maxim). Some belong to <topoi> and some are premises, not <topoi>. According to this view, the specific <topoi> given in the first book of Rhetoric are the premises of the latter type of <enthymeme>. And the <enthymeme> of the former type is taken only from common <topoi>. Therefore, only common <topoi> would be <topoi> in the proper sense, while specific <topoi> would be, strictly speaking, nothing else but premises.
In his Epideictic Rhetoric, classicist Laurent Pernot maintains that “<topoi> are one of the most important contributions of ancient rhetoric and they exert a deep influence on European culture“.
On speaking and arguments see also <lexis>.