As a result of a critically aware rereading, of the Institutiones oratoriae in particular, it is now possible to propose a vision of Vico’s work very different from that which was widespread at least up to the 1970s. For the Neapolitan philosopher rhetoric is a tool for investigating the historical origins of human societies, following a path that the author defined in the New Science, the work which finally recognized the historic temporality of man and his linguistic and cultural evolution. Moreover, the study of rhetoric can indeed prove extremely useful for understanding Vico’s influence on the prose of the southern Italian Enlightenment. Among those who attended Giambattista Vico’s last lectures at the University of Naples was Antonio Genovesi. His style is traversed by those very topics and myths – already revitalized by Vico – aimed at defining a thought that acknowledged both the greatness and prosperity of southern Italy and, at the same time, its realms of backwardness and barbarity.
Keywords: Vico; Antonio Genovesi; Rhetoric; Historic temporality; Linguistic and cultural evolution; Greatness and prosperity of southern Italy.