(…) gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio, quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse. dicunt enim, cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen, quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei, quod pactus esset, pro illo carmine daturum; reliquum a suis Tyndaridis, quos aeque laudasset, peteret, si ei videretur. paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret; iuvenes stare ad ianuam duo quosdam, qui eum magno opere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem: hoc interim spatio conclave illud, ubi epularetur Scopas, concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interisse: quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo, quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset, demonstrator unius cuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime, qui memoriae lumen adferret. itaque eis, qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent, locos esse capiendos et ea, quae memoria tenere vellent, effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda; sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.
(Cicero, De Oratore 2.351-354)
(…) and I am grateful to the famous Simonides of Ceos, who is said to have first invented the science of mnemonics. There is a story that Simonides was dining at the house of a wealthy nobleman named Scopas at Crannon in Thessaly, and chanted a lyric poem which he had composed in honor of his host, in which he followed the custom of the poets by including for decorative purposes a long passage referring to Castor and Pollux; whereupon Scopas with excessive meanness told him he would pay him half the fee agreed on for the poem, and if he liked he might apply for the balance to his sons of Tyndareus, as they had gone halves in the panegyric. The story runs that a little later a message was brought to Simonides to go outside, as two young men were standing at the door who earnestly requested him to come out; so he rose from his seat and went out, and could not see anybody; but in the interval of his absence the roof of the hall where Scopas was giving the banquet fell in, crushing Scopas himself and his relations underneath the ruins and killing them; and when their friends wanted to bury them but were altogether unable to know them apart as they had been completely crushed, the story goes that Simonides was enabled by his recollection of the place in which each of them had been reclining at table to identify them for separate interment; and that this circumstance suggested to him the discovery of the truth that the best aid to clearness of memory consists in orderly arrangement. He inferred that persons desiring to train this faculty must select localities and form mental images of the facts they wish to remember and store those images in the localities, with the result that the arrangement of the localities will preserve the order of the facts, and the images of the facts will designate the facts themselves, and we shall employ the localities and images respectively as a wax writing tablet and the letters written on it. (tr. Edward William Sutton)