Quintilian

Quintilian

Overview
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (ca. 35 – ca. 100) was a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

ian from Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

, widely referred to in medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 schools of rhetoric and in Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 writing. In English translation, he is usually referred to as Quintilian, although the alternate spellings of Quintillian and Quinctilian are occasionally seen, the latter in older texts.

Quintilian was born ca. 35 in Calahorra
Calahorra
Calahorra, , La Rioja, Spain is a municipality in the comarca of Rioja Baja, near the border with Navarre on the right bank of the Ebro. During ancient Roman times, Calahorra was a municipium known as Calagurris.-Location:...

, La Rioja
La Rioja (Spain)
La Rioja is an autonomous community and a province of northern Spain. Its capital is Logroño. Other cities and towns in the province include Calahorra, Arnedo, Alfaro, Haro, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and Nájera.-History:...

 in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

.
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Encyclopedia
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (ca. 35 – ca. 100) was a Roman
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

ian from Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

, widely referred to in medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 schools of rhetoric and in Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 writing. In English translation, he is usually referred to as Quintilian, although the alternate spellings of Quintillian and Quinctilian are occasionally seen, the latter in older texts.

Life


Quintilian was born ca. 35 in Calahorra
Calahorra
Calahorra, , La Rioja, Spain is a municipality in the comarca of Rioja Baja, near the border with Navarre on the right bank of the Ebro. During ancient Roman times, Calahorra was a municipium known as Calagurris.-Location:...

, La Rioja
La Rioja (Spain)
La Rioja is an autonomous community and a province of northern Spain. Its capital is Logroño. Other cities and towns in the province include Calahorra, Arnedo, Alfaro, Haro, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and Nájera.-History:...

 in Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

. His father, a well-educated man, sent him to Rome to study rhetoric early in the reign of Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

. While there, he cultivated a relationship with Domitius Afer
Domitius Afer
Gnaeus Domitius Afer was a Roman orator and advocate, born at Nemausus in Gallia Narbonensis. He flourished in the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero....

, who died in 59. "It had always been the custom … for young men with ambitions in public life to fix upon some older model of their ambition … and regard him as a mentor" (Kennedy, 16). Quintilian evidently adopted Afer as his model and listened to him speak and plead cases in the law courts. Afer has been characterized as a more austere, classical, Ciceronian speaker than those common at the time of Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

, and he may have inspired Quintilian’s love of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

.

Sometime after Afer's death, Quintilian returned to Spain, possibly to practice law in the courts of his own province. However, in 68, he returned to Rome as part of the retinue of Emperor Galba
Galba
Galba , was Roman Emperor for seven months from 68 to 69. Galba was the governor of Hispania Tarraconensis, and made a bid for the throne during the rebellion of Julius Vindex...

, Nero's short-lived successor. Quintilian does not appear to have been a close advisor of the Emperor, which probably ensured his survival after the assassination of Galba in 69.

After Galba's death, and during the chaotic Year of the Four Emperors
Year of the Four Emperors
The Year of the Four Emperors was a year in the history of the Roman Empire, AD 69, in which four emperors ruled in a remarkable succession. These four emperors were Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian....

 which followed, Quintilian opened a public school of rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

. Among his students were Pliny the Younger
Pliny the Younger
Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, born Gaius Caecilius or Gaius Caecilius Cilo , better known as Pliny the Younger, was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome. Pliny's uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped raise and educate him...

, and perhaps Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

. The Emperor Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 made him a consul
Consul
Consul was the highest elected office of the Roman Republic and an appointive office under the Empire. The title was also used in other city states and also revived in modern states, notably in the First French Republic...

. The emperor "in general was not especially interested in the arts, but…was interested in education as a means of creating an intelligent and responsible ruling class" (19). This subsidy enabled Quintilian to devote more time to the school, since it freed him of pressing monetary concerns. In addition, he appeared in the courts of law, arguing on behalf of clients.

Of his personal life, little is known. In the Institutio Oratoria, he mentions a wife who died young, as well as two sons who predeceased him.

Quintilian retired from teaching and pleading in 88, during the reign of Domitian
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

. His retirement may have been prompted by his achievement of financial security and his desire to become a gentleman of leisure. Quintilian had also survived under several emperors; the reigns of Vespasian and Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

 were relatively peaceful, but Domitian was reputed to be difficult even at the best of times. Domitian’s increasing cruelty and paranoia may have prompted the rhetorician to quietly distance himself. The emperor does not appear to have taken offence; in the year 90, Quintilian was made tutor of Domitian's two grand-nephews and heirs. Even this may not have been a vote of confidence; "by the time [Quintilian] finished the Institutio Oratoria, the two young men—potential rivals to a shaky throne—had vanished into exile" (Murphy, xx). Otherwise, Quintilian spent his retirement writing his Institutio Oratoria. The exact date of his death is not known, but is believed to be sometime around 100. He does not appear to have long survived Domitian, who was assassinated in 96.

Works


The only extant work of Quintilian is a twelve-volume textbook on rhetoric entitled Institutio Oratoria (generally referred to in English as the Institutes of Oratory), published around AD 95. This work deals not only with the theory and practice of rhetoric, but also with the foundational education and development of the orator himself, providing advice that ran from the cradle to the grave. An earlier text, De Causis Corruptae Eloquentiae ("On the Causes of Corrupted Eloquence") has been lost, but is believed to have been "a preliminary exposition of some of the views later set forth in [Institutio Oratoria]" (Kennedy, 24).

In addition, there are two sets of declamations, Declamationes Majores and Declamationes Minores, which have been attributed to Quintilian. However, there is some dispute over the real writer of these texts; "Some modern scholars believe that the declamations circulated in his name represent the lecture notes of a scholar either using Quintilian's system or actually trained by him" (Murphy, XVII-XVIII).

Institutio Oratoria



Introduction


As mentioned above, Quintilian wrote his book during the last years of the reign of Emperor Domitian. In the tradition of several Roman emperors, such as Nero and Caligula
Caligula
Caligula , also known as Gaius, was Roman Emperor from 37 AD to 41 AD. Caligula was a member of the house of rulers conventionally known as the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Caligula's father Germanicus, the nephew and adopted son of Emperor Tiberius, was a very successful general and one of Rome's most...

, Domitian’s regime grew harsher as time went on. “[An] active secret police preyed on the Roman population, and even senators were encouraged in various ways to inform on each other ... under Domitian, even the slightest suspicion of disrespect for the emperor became a capital crime” (xx). Social and political corruption were rife. In a move of utmost irony, the debauched Domitian appointed himself “censor perpetuus, making himself responsible for public morals” (xx).

Against this backdrop, it was very difficult to find orators in the tradition of Cicero, part of whose "fame as an orator stems from his public denunciations of enemies of the state" (XIX). Such positions were simply too dangerous to take during the reign of the emperors since Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

. Therefore, the role of the orator had changed since Cicero's day. Now, they were more concerned with pleading cases than anything else. Into this time, Quintilian attempted to interject some of the idealism of an earlier time. “Political oratory was dead, and everyone in Rome knew it was dead; but Quintilian deliberately chooses the oratory of a past generation as his educational ideal” (Gwynn, 188).

Overview of Books I and II


In the first two books, Quintilian focuses on the early education of the would-be orator, including various subjects he should be skilled in, such as reading and composition. “He offers us indeed not so much a theory as a curriculum. For instance in ch. iv of Book I he discusses certain letters, the derivation of words, and parts of speech; in ch. v, the necessity of correctness in speaking and writing, choice of words, barbarisms, aspiration, accent, solecisms, figures of speech, foreign words, and compound words; in ch. vi, analogy, and in ch. viii, orthography” (Laing). Regarding the age at which the orator’s training should begin, Quintilian refers to the views of Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

 and Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

, but accepts Chrysippus’
Chrysippus
Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BC, Chrysippus became the third head of the school...

 view that a child’s life should never be without education (Quintilian 1.1.15-19).

Quintilian sees these formative years as the most critical to the education of an orator: “The infancy of the mind is as important as the infancy of the body and needs as much attention” (Quintilian 1.1.1-24). The role of the orator’s nurse is greatly emphasized as “it is she that the boy will hear first, [and] it is her words that he will imitate” (Laing, 519). Parents play an equally important role, their education being a determining factor in the orator’s progress. Thirdly, the paedagogus, (the slave who attends the young orator) “must be well educated and ready at all times to correct errors in grammar” (Laing, 520). Finally, Quintilian stresses that the orator should be educated by “the most accomplished teacher” (1.1.22). This ideal teacher is described in detail in at (2.2.5).

In Book II, Quintilian defines rhetoric as an art, while classifying the three types of arts: theoretical, practical, and productive (2.17-18). He concludes that rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 partakes of all three categories, but associates it most strongly with the practical (2.18.1-5). Rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 is also divided into three categories: (1) art, (2) artist, and (3) work (2.14.5). Quintilian then moves into an exploration of rhetoric's
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 nature and virtue, following it with a comparison of oratory and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 (2.19-21). It should also be noted that Quintilian uses these two terms, rhetoric and oratory, interchangeably (see Book II).

Overview of Books III-IX


Books III-IX explore and develop the various types of oratory, focusing on the structure and methods of persuasion. Thus, these books are “concerned primarily with the art of rhetoric” (Walzer, 40).

In Book III, Quintilian begins with an apology to his readers for dry, technical nature of his writing (3.1). The following chapters discuss the origins of rhetoric (3.2), as well as its nature and various divisions (3.3). Quintilian then asks whether there are more than three types of oratory (3.4) before discussing cause (3.5) and the status of a cause (3.6). Three over-arching forms of oratory are discussed: panegyric
Panegyric
A panegyric is a formal public speech, or written verse, delivered in high praise of a person or thing, a generally highly studied and discriminating eulogy, not expected to be critical. It is derived from the Greek πανηγυρικός meaning "a speech fit for a general assembly"...

 (3.7), deliberative (3.8), and forensic (3.9).

A significant portion of the text is structured around Aristotle's
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 5 canons of rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

: Books III to VI concern the process of invention
Inventio
Inventio is the system or method used for the discovery of arguments in Western rhetoric and comes from the Latin word, meaning "invention" or "discovery"...

, arrangement
Dispositio
See also: Disposition Dispositio is the system used for the organization of arguments in Western classical rhetoric. The word is Latin, and can be translated as "organization" or "arrangement."...

 in Book VII, and style
Elocutio
Elocutio is the term for the mastery of stylistic elements in Western classical rhetoric and comes from the Latin loqui, "to speak". Although today we associate the word elocution more with eloquent speaking, for the classical rhetorician it connoted "style".It is the third of the five canons of...

 in Books VIII and IX. In Book IV, Quintilian discusses Cicero's
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 parts of an oration (4.1-5). Book V is largely a discussion of proofs, designated as artificial or unartificial (5.1). Aristotle's three artistic appeals, ethos
Ethos
Ethos is a Greek word meaning "character" that is used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. The Greeks also used this word to refer to the power of music to influence its hearer's emotions, behaviors, and even morals. Early Greek stories of...

, pathos
Pathos
Pathos represents an appeal to the audience's emotions. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric , and in literature, film and other narrative art....

, and logos
Logos
' is an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word," "speech," "account," "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus ' is an important term in...

, are also discussed in Book VI (6.2).

Overview of Book X


In Book X, Quintilian surveys the past contributions of Latin and Greek authors to rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

(10.1). Following this discussion, Quintilian argues that the orator should imitate
Dionysian imitatio
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetoric practice of emulating, adaptating, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author...

 the best authors if he wishes to be successful (10.1.5), "For there can be no doubt that in art no small portion of our task lies in imitation
Dionysian imitatio
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetoric practice of emulating, adaptating, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author...

, since, although invention
Inventio
Inventio is the system or method used for the discovery of arguments in Western rhetoric and comes from the Latin word, meaning "invention" or "discovery"...

 came first and is all-important, it is expedient to imitate
Dionysian imitatio
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetoric practice of emulating, adaptating, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author...

 whatever has been invented with success" (10.2.1). Writing is then discussed (10.3), followed by correction (10.4), varied forms of composition: translation, paraphrase, theses, commonplaces, and declamations (10.5), premeditation (10.6), and improvisation (10.7).

Overview of Book XI


In Book XI, Quintilian emphasizes the orator's choice of appropriate subject matter at varying times (11.1). He further stresses the role of the audience within oratory: "Their power and rank will make no small difference; we shall employ different methods according as we are speaking before the emperor, a magistrate, a senator, a private citizen, or merely a free man, while a different tone is demanded by trials in the public courts, and in cases submitted to arbitration" (11.1.43). Also discussed are the orator's memory
Memoria
Memoria was the term for aspects involving memory in Western classical rhetoric. The word is Latin, and can be translated as "memory."It was one of five canons in classical rhetoric concerned with the crafting and delivery of speeches and prose.The art of rhetoric grew out of oratory, which was...

 (11.2) and delivery
Pronuntiatio
Pronuntiatio was the discipline of delivering speeches in Western classical rhetoric. It is the one of five canons of classical rhetoric that concern the crafting and delivery of speeches. In literature the equivalent of ancient pronuntiatio is the recitation of epics Pronuntiatio was the...

 (11.3), the final canons of Aristotle's
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

.

Overview of Book XII


Book XII addresses the career of the educated orator after he has completed his training. In the preface, Quintilian expresses, for the first time, that he is theorizing beyond the work of others:

Now there is "Nothing before and nothing behind but the sky and the Ocean." One only can I discern in all of the boundless waste of waters, Marcus Tullius Cicero, and even he, though the ship in which he entered the seas is of such size and so well found, begins to lessen sail and to row a slower stroke, and is content to speak merely of the kind of speech to be employed by the perfect orator. But my temerity is such that I shall essay to form my orator's character and to teach him his duties. Thus I have no predecessor to guide my steps and must press far, far on, as my theme may demand (Quintilian 12.Pref.4).


Above all else, Quintilian advocates that a good orator must be a vir bonus, a good man (12.1.1). To aid the orator in becoming a good man, Quintilian discusses methods for influencing his character, coupled with the study of philosophy (12.2). Quintilian then emphasizes the study of civic law as essential to orator's ability to advise the state (12.3). Also discussed are the orator's ability to draw from past and present examples (12.4), as well as a certain "loftiness of the soul" that situates the orator above fear (12.5.1). Quintilian does not offer a specific age at which the order should begin to plead; he reasons that this age "will of course depend on the development of his strength" (12.6.2). The orator's careful selection of cases is then discussed, alongside the question of payment (12.7). In (12.8), Quintilian stresses that the orator must devote time and effort to his study of cases. But above his other duties, Quintilian makes clear that the orator "should never, like so many, be led by a desire to win applause to neglect the interest of the actual case" (12.9.1). Lastly, Quintilian compares various styles of Greek and Roman oratory (especially Atticism
Atticism
Atticism was a rhetorical movement that began in the first quarter of the 1st century BC; it may also refer to the wordings and phrasings typical of this movement, in contrast with spoken Greek, which continued to evolve in directions guided by the common usages of Hellenistic Greek.Atticism was...

 and the Asiatic style
Asiatic style
The Asiatic style or Asianism |Brutus]] 325) refers to an Ancient Greek rhetorical tendency that arose in the third century BC, which later became an important point of reference in debates about Roman oratory....

), also commenting on artistic styles of painting and sculpture (12.10). As he concludes, Quintilian discusses when the orator should retire and examines the possible advantages of such a career. His final words urge the orator to devote himself fully to the task: "Wherefore let us seek with all our hearts that true majesty of oratory, the fairest gift of god to man, without which all things are stricken dumb and robbed alike of present glory and the immortal record of posterity; and let us press forward to whatsoever is best, since, if we do this, we shall either reach the summit or at least see many others far beneath us" (12.11.30).

Quintilian on Rhetoric


In Quintilian’s time, rhetoric was primarily composed of three aspects: the theoretical, the educational, and the practical. Institutio Oratoria does not claim originality; Quintilian drew from a number of sources in compiling his work. This eclecticism also prevented him from adhering too rigidly to any particular school of thought on the matter, although Cicero stands out among the other sources. Quintilian also refused any short, simple lists of rules; he evidently felt that the study and art of rhetoric could not be so reduced. This might explain the length of Institutio Oratoria, which consists of twelve books.

From the middle of the first century BC to Quintilian's time, there had been a flowering of Roman rhetoric. But by Quintilian's time, the current of popular taste in oratory was rife with what has been called "silver Latin," a style that favored ornate embellishment over clarity and precision. Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria can in many ways be read as a reaction against this trend; it advocates a return to simpler and clearer language. It may also reflect the influence of the late Emperor Vespasian, who was “[a] man of plebeian stock, ... a down-to-earth realist with the common touch” (Murray, 431); Vespasian disliked excess and extravagance, and his patronage of Quintilian may have influenced the latter’s views of language. Cicero is the model Quintilian adopts as the standard-bearer for this form; during the previous century, Cicero’s far more concise style was the standard. This relates to his discussion of nature and art. Quintilian evidently preferred the natural, especially in language, and disliked the excessive ornamentation popular in the style of his contemporaries. Deviating from natural language and the natural order of thought in pursuit of an over-elaborate style created confusion in both the orator and his audience. “Even difficult questions can be dealt with by an orator of moderate ability if he is content to follow nature as his leader and does not give all his attention to a showy style” (Gwynn, 78).

Institutio Oratoria is effectively a comprehensive textbook of the technical aspects of rhetoric. From the eleventh chapter of Book II to the end of Book XI, Quintilian covers such topics as natural order, the relation of nature and art, invention, proof, emotion, and language. Perhaps most influential among the ideas discussed is his examination of tropes and figures
Figure of speech
A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile,...

, found in Books 8 and 9. “[A] trope involves the substitution of one word for another, a figure does not necessarily entail any change either to the order or the meaning of words” (Leitch, 156). An example of a trope would be metaphor, the altering of a word’s meaning. A figure, on the other hand, gives the words a new aspect or greater emotional value. Figures are divided into figures of thought, which may make proof seem more forceful, intensify emotions, or add elegance or ornamentation; and figures of diction, which is further subdivided into “the grammatical, in which the form of the word creates the figure, and the rhetorical, in which the position of the word is the primary factor” (Gwynn, 88).

A good part of this work, of course, deals with the technical aspects of rhetoric and the Institutio Oratoria stands — along with Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's 'Rhetoric' and Cicero's works — as one of the ancient world's greatest works on rhetoric. He organizes the practice of oratory into five canons: inventio (discovery of arguments), dispositio (arrangement of arguments), elocutio (expression or style), memoria (memorization), and pronuntiatio (delivery). For each canon, particularly the first three, he provides a thorough exposition of all the elements that must be mastered and considered in developing and presenting arguments. The thorough and sensible presentation reflect his long experience as orator and teacher, and in many ways the work can be seen as the culmination of Greek and Roman rhetorical theory.

Throughout these and other discussions, Quintilian remains concerned with the practical, applicable aspect, rather than the theoretical. Unlike many modern theorists, he “does not see figurative language as a threat to the stability of linguistic reference” (Leitch, 156). The referential use of a word was always the primary meaning, and the use of figurative language was merely an addition to it, not a replacement for it.

Quintilian on Education


“My aim, then, is the education of the perfect orator” (Quintilianus, 1.Preface.9). Book I of Institutio Oratoria discusses at length the proper method of training an orator, virtually from birth. This focus on early and comprehensive education was in many ways a reflection of Quintilian’s career; Emperor Vespasian’s influence on the official status of education marked the period as one of conscientious education. Quintilian’s contribution to this line of thought, aside from his long career as a public educator, was the opening of his text, and it is regarded as a highlight of the discussion:
“Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria is a landmark in the history of Roman education: it is the culmination of a long development, and it had no successor … [No] teacher was found who could speak with Quintilian’s authority, no orator sufficiently interested in the theory of his art to produce a second de Oratore” (Gwynn, 242).


His theory of education is one area in which Quintilian differs from Cicero. Cicero called for a broad, general education; Quintilian was more focused. He lays out the educational process step by step, from “hav[ing] a father conceive the highest hopes of his son from the moment of his birth” (Quintilianus, 1.1.1). Other concerns are that the child’s nurse should speak well (“The ideal according to Chrysippus
Chrysippus
Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher. He was a native of Soli, Cilicia, but moved to Athens as a young man, where he became a pupil of Cleanthes in the Stoic school. When Cleanthes died, around 230 BC, Chrysippus became the third head of the school...

, would be that she should be a philosopher” (1.1.4)), and that both the parents and the teachers of the child should be well-educated. With respect to the parents, Quintilian “do[es] not restrict this remark to fathers alone” (1.1.6); a well-educated mother is regarded as an asset to the growing orator.
Quintilian also presents a wide review of suitable literary examples, and this work is also an important work of literary criticism
Literary criticism
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals...

. While he clearly favors certain writers, his fairness is notable, as even writers, such as Sallust
Sallust
Gaius Sallustius Crispus, generally known simply as Sallust , a Roman historian, belonged to a well-known plebeian family, and was born at Amiternum in the country of the Sabines...

, an influential practitioner of the sort of style that Quintilian opposed, are afforded some consideration. Above all, Quintilian holds up Cicero as an example of a great writer and orator.

Quintilian discusses many issues of education that are still relevant today. He believed that education should be begun early, as mentioned above, but also that it should be pleasurable for the child. “Above all things we must take care that the child, who is not yet old enough to love his studies, does not come to hate them and dread the bitterness which he had once tasted, even when the years of infancy are left behind. His studies must be made an amusement” (1.1.20). The proliferation of educational toys available for pre-school aged children shows that this view still has power. He also examines the various pros and cons of public schooling versus homeschooling
Homeschooling
Homeschooling or homeschool is the education of children at home, typically by parents but sometimes by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private school...

, eventually coming out in favour of public school, so long as it is a good school. His view is that public schools teach social skills along with their studies, and a student would benefit more from this than from studying in seclusion. One must note, however, that Quintilian makes a point of declaring that “a good teacher will not burden himself with a larger number of pupils than he can manage, and it is further of the very first importance that he should be on only friendly and intimate terms with us and make his teaching not a duty but a labor of love” (1.2.15).

Quintilian’s most arresting point about the growing orator, however, is that he should be educated in morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

 above all else. To Quintilian, only a good man could be an orator. This is another aspect where he differs from Cicero, or rather pushes further Cicero’s injunction that an orator should be a good man. Quintilian quite literally believed that an evil man could not be an orator, “[f]or the orator’s aim is to carry conviction, and we trust those only whom we know to be worthy of our trust” (Gwynn, 231). This was quite possibly a reaction to the corrupt and dissolute times in which Quintilian lived; he may have attributed the decline in the role of the orator to the decline in public morality. Only a man free from vice could concentrate on the exacting study of oratory. But “the good man does not always speak the truth or even defend the better cause…what matters is not so much the act as the motive” (Clarke, 117). Therefore, Quintilian’s good orator is personally good, but not necessarily publicly good.

Limitations of Institutio Oratoria


Several limitations have been pointed out in Quintilian’s work. Among them is the injunction that he was too immersed in the culture of rhetoric. Because of his position and his profession, it was impossible for him to view rhetoric from the outside. Therefore, it would have been difficult for him to entertain any doubts about its value. This helps explain his ideal orator as a morally good man—-rhetoric to Quintilian was in itself inherently good. It may also shed some light on his view of philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

; he “considered rhetoric to be the basis of all education, [and] viewed philosophy as a challenge to its supremacy” (Dominik, 53). He believed that an orator should read philosophy, but only because philosophy had usurped some of the functions of oratory in the first place.

Another limitation of Quintilian is that he is inevitably a victim of his own educational tradition. As mentioned above, he lived in a time of flowery, ornate language. Therefore, although he obviously prefers natural language and attempts to interject some simplicity into the way language is taught, to a certain degree he is forced to accept the unnatural language of his time, simply because of the force of current fashion.

Finally, some have called into question the idea of the ideal orator. The education so dictated in Institutio Oratoria was designed to create a person who had never existed, and probably never would. Quintilian seemed willfully unconscious of the changes since the days of great Ciceronian oratory. To what end would this perfect orator be created, if there was no place for him?

Placement of Quintilian’s Rhetoric


Quintilian references many authors in the Institutio Oratoria before providing his own definition of rhetoric
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

 (Quintilian 10.1.3). His rhetoric is chiefly defined by Cato the Elder’s
Cato the Elder
Marcus Porcius Cato was a Roman statesman, commonly referred to as Censorius , Sapiens , Priscus , or Major, Cato the Elder, or Cato the Censor, to distinguish him from his great-grandson, Cato the Younger.He came of an ancient Plebeian family who all were noted for some...

 vir bonus, dicendi peritus, which translates to the “the good man speaking well” (Quintilian 12.1.1). Later on, he states: “I should like the orator I am training to be a sort of Roman Wise Man” (Quintilian 12.2.7). Quintilian also “insists that his ideal orator is no philosopher because the philosopher does not take as a duty participation in civic life; this is constitutive of Quintilian's (and Isocrates'
Isocrates
Isocrates , an ancient Greek rhetorician, was one of the ten Attic orators. In his time, he was probably the most influential rhetorician in Greece and made many contributions to rhetoric and education through his teaching and written works....

 and Cicero's
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

) ideal orator" (Walzer, 26). Though he calls for imitation
Dionysian imitatio
Dionysian imitatio is the influential literary method of imitation as formulated by Greek author Dionysius of Halicarnassus in the first century BCE, which conceived it as the rhetoric practice of emulating, adaptating, reworking and enriching a source text by an earlier author...

, he also urges the orator to use this knowledge to inspire his own original invention (Quintilian 10.2.4).

No author receives greater praise in the Institutio Oratoria than Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

: “For who can instruct with greater thoroughness, or more deeply stir the emotions? Who has ever possessed such a gift of charm?” (Quintilian 10.1.109). Quintilian’s definition of rhetoric shares many similarities with that of Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, one being the importance of the speaker’s moral character (Logie). Like Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

, Quintilian also believes that “history and philosophy can increase an orator’s command of copia and style;" they differ in that Quintilian “features the character of the orator, as well as the art” (Walzer, 36-7).

In Book II, Quintilian sides with Plato’s
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 assertion in the Phaedrus that the rhetorician must be just: “In the Phaedrus, Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 makes it even clearer that the complete attainment of this art is even impossible without the knowledge of justice, an opinion in which I heartily concur" (Quintilian 2.15.29). Their views are further similar in their treatment of “(1) the inseparability, in more respects than one, of wisdom, goodness, and eloquence; and (2) the morally ideological nature of rhetoric. [...] For both, there are conceptual connections between rhetoric and justice which rule out the possibility of amorally neutral conception of rhetoric. For both, rhetoric is ‘speaking well,’ and for both ‘speaking well’ means speaking justly" (Logie, 371).

Influence of Quintilian


The influence of Quintilian’s masterwork, Institutio Oratoria, can be felt in several areas. First of all, there is his criticism of the orator Seneca
Seneca the Younger
Lucius Annaeus Seneca was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero...

. Quintilian was attempting to modify the prevailing imperial style of oratory with his book, and Seneca was the principal figure in that style’s tradition. He was more recent than many of the authors mentioned by Quintilian, but his reputation within the post-classical style necessitated both his mention and the criticism or back-handed praise that is given to him. Quintilian believed that “his style is for the most part corrupt and extremely dangerous because it abounds in attractive faults” (Quintilianus, 10.1.129). Seneca was regarded as doubly dangerous because his style was sometimes attractive. This reading of Seneca “has heavily coloured subsequent judgments of Seneca and his style” (Dominik, 51).

Quintilian also made an impression on Martial
Martial
Marcus Valerius Martialis , was a Latin poet from Hispania best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103, during the reigns of the emperors Domitian, Nerva and Trajan...

, the Latin poet. A short poem, published in 86, was addressed to him, and opened, "Quintilian, greatest director of straying youth, / you are an honour, Quintilian, to the Roman toga". However, one should not take Martial's praise at face value, since he was known for his sly and witty insults. The opening lines are all that are usually quoted, but the rest of the poem contains lines such as "A man who longs to surpass his father’s census rating" (6). This speaks of Quintilian's ambitious side and his drive for wealth and position.

After his death, Quintilian's influence fluctuated. He was mentioned by his pupil, Pliny, and by Juvenal
Juvenal
The Satires are a collection of satirical poems by the Latin author Juvenal written in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries AD.Juvenal is credited with sixteen known poems divided among five books; all are in the Roman genre of satire, which, at its most basic in the time of the author, comprised a...

, who may have been another student, “as an example of sobriety and of worldly success unusual in the teaching profession” (Gwynn, 139). During the 3rd to 5th centuries, his influence was felt among such authors as St. Augustine of Hippo, whose discussion of signs and figurative language certainly owed something to Quintilian, to St. Jerome, editor of the Vulgate Bible, whose theories on education are clearly influenced by Quintilian’s. The Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 saw a decline in knowledge of his work, since existing manuscripts of Institutio Oratoria were fragmented, but the Italian humanists
Humanism
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 revived interest in the work after the discovery of a forgotten, complete manuscript in central Europe. The Italian poet Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 addressed one of his letters to the dead to Quintilian, and for many he “provided the inspiration for a new humanistic philosophy of education” (140). This enthusiasm for Quintilian spread with humanism itself, reaching northern Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

, the German theologian and ecclesiastical reformer, “claimed that he preferred Quintilian to almost all authors, “in that he educates and at the same time demonstrates eloquence, that is, he teaches in word and in deed most happily”” (140).

After this high point, Quintilian’s influence seems to have lessened somewhat, although he is mentioned by the English poet Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 in his versified “An Essay on Criticism”:

In grave Quintilian’s copious works we find

The justest rules and clearest method join’d (lines 669-70).


In addition, “he is often mentioned by writers like Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

 and Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

 ... but he made no major contribution to intellectual history, and by the nineteenth century he seemed to be ... rather little read and rarely edited” (Gwynn, 140-1). However, in his celebrated Autobiography, John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

 (arguably the nineteenth-century's most influential English intellectual) spoke highly of Quintilian as a force in his early education. He wrote that Quintilian, while little-read in Mill's day due to "his obscure style and to the scholastic details of which many parts of his treatise are made up," was "seldom sufficiently appreciated." "His book," Mill continued, "is a kind of encyclopaedia of the thoughts of the ancients on the whole field of education and culture; and I have retained through life many valuable ideas which I can distinctly trace to my reading of him ..."

In more recent times, Quintilian appears to have made another upward turn. He is frequently included in anthologies of literary criticism, and is an integral part of the history of education. He is believed to be the “earliest spokesman for a child-centered education” (141), which is discussed above under his early childhood education
Early childhood education
Early childhood education is the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family or in settings outside of the home. 'Early childhood' is usually defined as before the age of normal schooling - five years in most nations, though the U.S...

 theories. As well, he has something to offer students of speech, professional writing, and rhetoric, because of the great detail with which he covers the rhetorical system. His discussions of tropes and figures also formed the foundation of contemporary works on the nature of figurative language, including the post-structuralist
Post-structuralism
Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

 and formalist theories. For example, the works of Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

 on the failure of language to impart the truth of the objects it is meant to represent would not be possible without Quintilian’s assumptions about the function of figurative language and tropes.

Further reading

  • P. Galand, F. Hallyn, C. Lévy, W. Verbaal, Quintilien ancien et moderne. Etudes réunies, Turnhout 2010, Brepols Publishers, ISBN 9782503528656
  • Bonner, Stanley F. Education in Ancient Rome: From the elder Cato to the younger Pliny. London: Methuen & Company, Ltd., 1977.
  • Clarke, M.L. Rhetoric at Rome: A Historical Survey. New York: Routledge, 1996.
  • Dominik, William J. “The style is the man: Seneca, Tacitus, and Quintilian’s canon.” Roman Eloquence: Rhetoric in Society and Literature. Ed. William J. Dominik. New York: Routledge, 1997.
  • Gernot Krapinger (ed.), [Quintilian] Der Gladiator (Groessere Deklamationen, 9). Collana Scientifica, 18. Cassino: Universita\ degli Studi di Cassino, 2007.
  • Gwynn, Aubrey
    Aubrey Gwynn
    -Life:He came from a Protestant academic family, the son of Stephen Gwynn and the grandson of John Gwynn, professor of theology at Trinity College Dublin. Gwynn converted to Roman Catholicism at age 10, when his mother was received into the Catholic Church.. He attended the Jesuit-run Clongowes...

     S.J. Roman Education from Cicero to Quintilian. New York: Teachers College Press, 1926.
  • Kennedy, George. Quintilian. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1969.
  • Laing, Gordon J. Quintilian, the Schoolmaster. The Classical Journal 15.9 (1920): 515-34.
  • Leitch, Vincent B., Ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.
  • Logie, John. Quintilian and Roman Authorship. Rhetoric Review 22.4 (2003): 353-73.
  • Murphy, James J.,ed. Quintilian on the Teaching of Speaking and Writing: Translations from Books One, Two, and Ten of the Institutio Oratoria. Edwardville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987.
  • Murray, Oswyn, John Boardman, and Jasper Griffin, Eds. The Oxford History of the Roman World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Quintilian. Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory; Or, Education of an Orator. J. S. Watson. London: G. Bell and Sons, 1856. Print.
  • Quintilianus, Marcus Fabius. Institutio Oratoria. Trans. H.E. Butler. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University press, 1920.
  • Walzer, Arthur E. "Quintilian's "Vir Bonus" and the Stoic Wise Man." Rhetoric Society 33.4 (2003): 25-41.
  • Thomas Zinsmaier, [Quintilian], Die Hände der blinden Mutter (Größere Deklamationen, 6). Collana Scientifica 24. Cassino: Edizioni Università di Cassino, 2009.

Primary sources

  1. Institutio OratoriaEnglish translation, with indices, search engine, bibliography, and history of the text at Iowa State
  2. Institutio OratoriaLatin text and English translation at LacusCurtius
    LacusCurtius
    LacusCurtius is a website specializing in ancient Rome, currently hosted on a server at the University of Chicago. It went online on August 26, 1997; in January 2008 it had "2786 pages, 690 photos, 675 drawings & engravings, 118 plans, 66 maps." The site is the...

  3. Institutio Oratoria and the disputed Declamationes Majores Latin texts at the Latin Library
  4. Institutio OratoriaLatin text at the Bibliotheca Augustana

Other material

  1. Detailed Outline of Institutio Oratoria: Outline
  2. Short biography of Quintilian: About
  3. Article on Quintilian from NNBD: Quintilian
  4. A timeline history of Institutio Oratoria and its influence: MSU