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This webpage reproduces a section of
Institutio Oratoria


published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. I) Quintilian
Institutio Oratoria

 p205  Book II

Chapters 1‑5

1 1 The custom has prevailed and is daily growing commoner of sending boys to the schools of rhetoric much later than is reasonable: this is always the case as regards Latin rhetoric and occasionally applies to Greek as well. The reason for this is twofold: the rhetoricians, more especially our own, have abandoned certain of their duties and the teachers of literature have undertaken tasks which rightly belong to others. 2 For the rhetorician considers that his duty is merely to declaim and give instruction in the theory and practice of declamation and confines his activities to deliberative and judicial themes, regarding all others as beneath the dignity of his profession; while the teacher of literature is not satisfied to take what is left him (and we owe him a debt of gratitude for this), but even presumes to handle declamations in character and deliberative themes,1 tasks which impose the very heaviest burden on the speaker. 3 Consequently subjects which once formed the first stages of rhetoric have come to form the final stages of a literary education, and boys who are ripe for more advanced study are kept back in the inferior school and practise rhetoric under the direction of teachers of literature. Thus we get the absurd result that a boy is not regarded as fit to go on to the schools of declamation till he knows how to declaim.

 p207  4 The two professions must each be assigned their proper sphere. Grammatice, which we translate as the science of letters, must learn to know its own limits, especially as it has encroached so far beyond the boundaries to which its unpretentious name should restrict it and to which its earlier professors actually confined themselves. Springing from a tiny fountain-head, it has gathered strength from the historians and critics and has swollen to the dimensions of a brimming river, since, not content with the theory of correct speech, no inconsiderable subject, it has usurped the study of practically all the highest departments of knowledge. 5 On the other hand rhetoric, which derives its name from the power of eloquence, must not shirk its peculiar duties nor rejoice to see its own burdens shouldered by others. For the neglect of these is little less than a surrender of its birthright. 6 I will of course admit that there may be a few professors of literature who have acquired sufficient knowledge to be able to teach rhetoric as well; but when they do so, they are performing the duties of the rhetorician, not their own.

7 A further point into which we must enquire concerns the age at which a boy may be considered sufficiently advanced to profit by the instructions of the rhetorician. In this connexion we must consider not the boy's actual age, but the progress he has made in his studies. To put it briefly, I hold that the best answer to the question "When should a boy be sent to the school of rhetoric?" is this, "When he is fit." 8 But this question is really dependent on that previously raised. For if the duties of the teacher of literature are prolonged to include instruction in deliberative declamation, this will  p209 postpone the need for the rhetorician. On the other hand if the rhetorician does not refuse to undertake the first duties of his task, his instruction will be required from the moment the boy begins to compose narratives and his first attempts at passages of praise or denunciation. 9 We know that the orators of earlier days improved their eloquence by declaiming themes and common-places2 and other forms of rhetorical exercises not involving particular circumstances or persons such as provide the material for real or imaginary causes.3 From this we can clearly see what a scandalous dereliction of duty it is for the schools of rhetoric to abandon this department of their work, which was not merely its first, but for a long time its sole task. 10 What is there in those exercises of which I have just spoken that does not involve matters which are the special concern of rhetoric and further are typical of actual legal cases? Have we not to narrate facts in the law-courts? Indeed I am not sure that this is not the most important department of rhetoric in actual practice. 11 Are not eulogy and denunciation frequently introduced in the course of the contests of the courts? Are not common-places frequently inserted in the very heart of lawsuits, whether, like those which we find in the works of Cicero, they are directed against vice, or, like those published by Quintus Hortensius, deal with questions of general interest such as "whether small points of argument should carry weight," or are employed to defend or impugn the credibility of witnesses? 12 These are the weapons which we should always have stored in our armour ready for immediate use as occasion may demand. The critic who denies that  p211 such matters concern an orator is one who will refuse to believe that a statue is being begun when its limbs are actually being cast. Some will think that I am in too great a hurry, but let no one accuse me of thinking that the pupil who has been entrusted to the rhetorician should forthwith be withdrawn from the teacher of literature. 13 The latter will still have certain hours allotted him, and there is no reason to fear that a boy will be overloaded by receiving instruction from two different masters. It will not mean any increase of work, but merely the division among two masters of the studies which were previously indiscriminately combined under one: and the efficiency of either teacher will be increased. This method is still in vogue among the Greeks, but has been abandoned by us, not perhaps without some excuse, as there were others ready to step into the rhetorician's shoes.

2 1 As soon therefore as a boy has made sufficient progress in his studies to be able to follow what I have styled the first stage of instruction in rhetoric, he should be placed under a rhetorician. Our first task must be to enquire whether the teacher is of good character. 2 The reason which leads me to deal with this subject in this portion of my work is not that I regard character as a matter of indifference where other teachers are concerned, (I have already shown how important I think it in the preceding book), but the age to which the pupil has attained makes the mention of this point especially necessary. 3 For as a rule boys are on the verge of manhood when transferred to the teacher of rhetoric and continue with him even when they are young men: consequently we must spare no effort to secure  p213 that the purity of the teacher's character should preserve those of tenderer years from corruption, while its authority should keep the bolder spirits from breaking out into licence. 4 Nor is it sufficient that he should merely set an example of the highest personal self-control; he must also be able to govern the behaviour of his pupils by the strictness of his discipline.

5 Let him therefore adopt a parental attitude to his pupils, and regard himself as the representative of those who have committed their children to his charge. Let him be free from vice himself and refuse to tolerate it in others. Let him be strict but not austere, genial but not too familiar: for austerity will make him unpopular, while familiarity breeds contempt. Let his discourse continually turn on what is good and honourable; the more he admonishes, the less he will have to punish. He must control his temper without however shutting his eyes to faults requiring correction: his instruction must be free from affectation, his industry great, his demands on his class continuous, but not extravagant. 6 He must be ready to answer questions and to put them unasked to those who sit silent. In praising the recitations of his pupils he must be neither grudging nor over-generous: the former quality will give them a distaste for work, while the latter will produce a complacent self-satisfaction. 7 In correcting faults he must avoid sarcasm and above all abuse: for teachers whose rebukes seem to imply positive dislike discourage industry. 8 He should declaim daily himself and, what is more, without stint, that his class may take his utterances home with them. For however many models for imitation he may  p215 give them from the authors they are reading, it will still be found that fuller nourishment is provided by the living voice, as we call it, more especially when it proceeds from the teacher himself, who, if his pupils are rightly instructed, should be the object of their affection and respect. And it is scarcely possible to say how much more readily we imitate those whom we like.

9 I strongly disapprove of the prevailing practice of allowing boys to stand up or leap from the seats in the expression of their applause. Young men, even when they are listening to others, should be temperate in manifesting their approval. If this be insisted upon, the pupil will depend on his instructor's verdict and will take his approval as a guarantee that he has spoken well. 10 The worst form of politeness, as it has come to be called, is that of mutual and indiscriminate applause, a practice which is unseemly, theatrical and unworthy of a decently disciplined school, in addition to being the worst foe to genuine study. For if every effusion is greeted with a storm of ready-made applause, care and industry come to be regarded as superfluous. 11 The audience no less than the speaker should therefore keep their eyes fixed on their teacher's face, since thus they will learn to distinguish between what is praiseworthy and what is not: for just as writing gives facility, so listening begets the critical faculty. 12 But in the schools of to‑day we see boys stooping forward ready to spring to their feet: at the close of each period they not merely rise, but rush forward with shouts of unseemly enthusiasm. Such compliments are mutual and the success of a declamation consists in this kind of applause. The  p217 result is vanity and empty self-sufficiency, carried to such an extent that, intoxicated by the wild enthusiasm of their fellow-pupils, they conceive a spite against their master, if his praise does not come up to their expectation. 13 But teachers must also insist on receiving an attentive and quiet hearing from the class when they themselves declaim. For the master should not speak to suit his pupil's standard, but they should speak to suit his. Further he should, if possible, keep his eyes open to note the points which each boys praises and observe the manner in which he expresses his approval, and should rejoice that his words give pleasure not only for his own sake, but for that of those who show sound judgment in their appreciation.

14 I do not approve of boys sitting mixed with young men. For even if the teacher be such an one as we should desire to see in charge of the morals and studies of the young, and can keep his youthful pupils under proper control, it is none the less desirable to keep the weaker members separate from the more mature, and to avoid not only the actual charge of corruption but the merest suspicion of it. 15 I have thought it worth while to put my views on this subject quite briefly. For I do not think it necessary even to warn the teacher that both he and his school must be free from the grosser vices. And should there be any father who does not trouble to choose a teacher for his son who is free from the obvious taint of immorality, he may rest assured that all the other precepts, which I am attempting to lay down for the benefit of our youth, will be absolutely useless to him, if he neglects this.

3 1 I do not think that I should pass by in silence  p219 even the opinion of those who, even when they regard boys as ripe for the rhetorician, still do not think that they should at once be placed under the most eminent teacher available, but prefer to keep them for a while under inferior masters, on the ground that in the elementary stages a mediocre instructor is easier to understand and to imitate, and less reluctant to undertake the tiresome task of teaching the rudiments as being beneath his notice. 2 I do not think that I need waste much time in pointing out how much better it is to absorb the best possible principles, or how hard it is to get rid of faults which have once become engrained; for it places a double burden on the shoulders of the later teacher and the preliminary task of unteaching is harder than that of teaching. 3 It is for this reason that the famous piper Timotheus is said to have demanded from those who had previously been under another master a fee double the amount which he charged for those that came to him untaught. The mistake to which I am referring is, however, twofold. First they regard these inferior teachers as adequate for the time being and are content with their instruction because they have a stomach that will swallow anything: 4 this indifference, though blameworthy in itself, would yet be tolerable, if the teaching provided by these persons were merely less in quantity and not inferior in quality as well. Secondly, and this is a still commoner delusion, they think that those who are blest with greater gifts of speaking will not condescend to the more elementary details, and that consequently they sometimes disdain to give attention to such inferior subjects of study and sometimes are incapable of so doing. 5 For my part I regard the  p221 teacher who is unwilling to attend to such details as being unworthy of the name of teacher: and as for the question of capacity, I maintain that it is the most capable man who, given the will, is able to do this with most efficiency. For in the first place it is a reasonable inference that a man blest with abnormal powers of eloquence will have made careful note of the various steps by which eloquence is attained, 6 and in the second place the reasoning faculty, which is specially developed in learned men, is all-important in teaching, while finally no one is eminent in the greater things of his art if he be lacking in the lesser. Unless indeed we are asked to believe that while Phidias modelled his Jupiter to perfection, the decorative details of his statue would have been better executed by another artist, or that an orator does not know how to speak, or a distinguished physician is incapable of treating minor ailments.

7 "Yes" it may be answered "but surely you do not deny that there is a type of eloquence that is too great to be comprehended by undeveloped boys?" Of course there is. But this eloquent teacher whom they fling in my face must be a sensible man with a good knowledge of teaching and must be prepared to stoop to his pupil's level, just as a rapid walker, if walking with a small child, will give him his hand and lessen his own speed and avoid advancing at a pace beyond the powers of his little companion. 8 Again it frequently happens that the more learned the teacher, the more lucid and intelligible is his instruction. For clearness is the first virtue of eloquence, and the less talented a man is, the more he will strive to exalt and dilate himself, just as short men tend to walk on tip-toe and weak  p223 men to use threats. 9 As for those whose style is inflated or vicious, and whose language reveals a passion for high-sounding words or labours under any other form of affectation, in my opinion they suffer not from excess of strength but of weakness, like bodies swollen not with the plumpness of health but with disease, or like men who weary of the direct road betake them to bypaths. Consequently the worse a teacher is, the harder he will be to understand.

10 I have not forgotten that I stated in the preceding book, when I urged that school was preferable to home education, that pupils at the commencement of their studies, when progress is as yet but in the bud, are more disposed to imitate their schoolfellows than their masters, since such imitation comes more easily to them. Some of my readers may think that the view which I am now maintaining is inconsistent with my previous statement. 11 But I am far from being inconsistent: for my previous assertion affords the strongest reason for selecting the very best teachers for our boys; since pupils of a first rate master, having received a better training, will when they speak say something that may be worthy of imitation, while if they commit some mistake, they will be promptly corrected. But the incompetent teacher on the other hand is quite likely to give his approval to faulty work and by the judgment which he expresses to force approval on the audience. 12 The teacher should therefore be as distinguished for his eloquence as for his good character, and like Phoenix in the Iliad be able to teach his pupil both how to behave and how to speak.

 p225  4 1 I shall now proceed to indicate what I think should be the first subjects in which the rhetorician should give instruction, and shall postpone for a time our consideration of the art of rhetoric in the narrow sense in which that term is popularly used. For in my opinion it is most desirable that we should commence with something resembling the subjects already acquired under the teacher of literature.

2 Now there are three forms of narrative, without counting the type used in actual legal cases. First there is the fictitious narrative as we get it in tragedies and poems, which is not merely not true but has little resemblance to truth.4 Secondly, there is the realistic narrative as presented by comedies, which, though not true, has yet a certain verisimilitude. Thirdly there is the historical narrative, which is an exposition of actual fact. Poetic narratives are the property of the teacher of literature. The rhetorician therefore should begin with the historical narrative, whose force is in proportion to its truth. 3 I will, however, postpone my demonstration of what I regard as the best method of narration till I come to deal with narration as required in the courts.5 In the meantime, it will be sufficient to urge that it should be neither dry nor jejune (for why spend so much labour over our studies if a bald and naked statement of fact is regarded as sufficiently expressive?); nor on the other hand must it be tortuous or revel in elaborate descriptions, such as those in which so many are led to indulge by a misguided imitation of poetic licence. 4 Both these extremes are faults; but that which springs from poverty of wit is worse than that which is due  p227 to imaginative excess. For we cannot demand or expect a perfect style from boys. But there is greater promise in a certain luxuriance of mind, in ambitious effort and an ardour that leads at times to ideas bordering on the extravagant. 5 I have no objection to a little exuberance in the young learner. Nay, I would urge teachers too like nurses to be careful to provide softer food for still undeveloped minds and to suffer them to take their fill of the milk of the more attractive studies. For the time being the body may be somewhat plump, but maturer years will reduce it to a sparer habit. 6 Such plumpness gives hope of strength; a child fully formed in every limb is likely to grow up a puny weakling. The young should be more daring and inventive and should rejoice in their inventions, even though correctness and severity are still to be acquired. Exuberance is easily remedied, but barrenness is incurable, be your efforts what they may. 7 To my mind the boy who gives least promise is one in whom the critical faculty develops in advance of the imagination. I like to see the first fruits of the mind copious to excess and almost extravagant in their profusion. The years as they pass will skim off much of the froth, reason will file away many excrescences, and something too will be removed by what I may perhaps call the wear and tear of life, so long as there is sufficient material to admit of cutting and chiselling away. And there will be sufficient, if only we do not draw the plate too thin to begin with, so that it runs the risk of being broken if the graver cut too deep. 8 Those of my readers who know their Cicero will not be surprised  p229 that I take this view: for does he not say "I would have the youthful mind run riot in the luxuriance of its growth?"6

We must, therefore, take especial care, above all where boys are concerned, to avoid a dry teacher, even as we avoid a dry and arid soil for plants that are still young and tender. 9 For with such a teacher their growth is stunted and their eyes are turned earthwards, and they are afraid to rise above the level of daily speech. Their leanness is regarded as a sign of health and their weakness as a sign of sound judgment, and while they are content that their work should be devoid of faults they fall into the fault of being devoid of merit. So let not the ripeness of vintage come too soon nor the must turn harsh while yet in the vat; thus it will last for years and mellow with age.

10 It is worth while too to warn the teacher that undue severity in correcting faults is liable at times to discourage a boy's mind from effort. He loses hope and gives way to vexation, then last of all comes to hate his work and fearing everything attempts nothing. 11 This phenomenon is familiar to farmers, who hold that the pruning-hook should not be applied while the leaves are yet young, for they seem to "shrink from the steel"7 and to be unable as yet the endure a scar. 12 The instructor therefore should be as kindly as possible at this stage; remedies, which are harsh by nature, must be applied with a gentle hand: some portions of the work must be praised, others tolerated and others altered: the reason for the alterations should however be given, and in some cases the master will illumine an obscure passage by inserting something of his own.  p231 Occasionally the teacher will find it useful to dictate whole themes himself that the boy may imitate them and for the time being love them as they were his own. 13 But if a boy's composition is so careless as not to admit of correction, I have found it useful to give a fresh exposition of the theme and to tell him to write it again, pointing out that he was capable of doing better: for there is nothing like hope for making study a pleasure. 14 Different ages however demand different methods: the task set and the standard of correction must be proportioned to the pupil's strength. When boys ventured on something that was too daring or exuberant, I used to say to them that I approved of it for the moment, but that the time would come when I should no longer tolerate such a style. The result was that the consciousness of ability filled them with pleasure, without blinding their judgment.

15 However, to return to the point from which I had digressed. Written narratives should be composed with the utmost care. It is useful at first, when a child has just begun to speak, to make him repeat what he has heard with a view to improving his powers of speech; and for the same purpose, and with good reason, I would make him tell his story from the end back to the beginning or start in the middle and go backwards or forwards, but only so long as he is at his teacher's knee and while he is incapable of greater effort and is beginning to connect words and things, thereby strengthening the memory. Even so when he is beginning to understand the nature of correct and accurate speech, extempore effusions, improvised without waiting for thought to supply the matter or a moment's  p233 hesitation before rising to the feet, must not be permitted: they proceed from a passion for display that would do credit to a common mountebank. 16 Such proceedings fill ignorant parents with senseless pride, while the boys themselves lose all respect for their work, adopt a conceited bearing, and acquire the habit of speaking in the worst style and actually practising their faults, while they develop an arrogant conviction of their own talents which often proves fatal even to the most genuine proficiency. 17 There will be a special time for acquiring fluency of speech and I shall not pass the subject by unnoticed. For the meantime it will suffice if a boy, by dint of taking pains and working as hard as his age will permit, manages to produce something worthy of approval. Let him get used to this until it becomes a second nature. It is only he who learns to speak correctly before he can speak with rapidity who will reach the heights that are our goal or the levels immediately below them.

18 To narratives is annexed the task of refuting and confirming them, styled anaskeue and kataskeue, from which no little advantage may be derived. This may be done not merely in connexion with fiction and stories transmitted by the poets, but with the actual records of history as well. For instance we may discuss the credibility of the story that a raven settled on the head of Valerius in the midst of a combat and with its wings and beak struck the eyes of the Gaul who was his adversary, and a quantity of arguments may be produced on either side: 19 or we may discuss the tradition that Scipio8 was begotten by a serpent, or that Romulus was suckled by a she-wolf, or the story of Numa and Egeria. As regards Greek history, it allows itself something very like poetic  p235 licence. Again the time and place of some particular occurrence and sometimes even the persons concerned often provide matter for discussion: Livy for instance is frequently in doubt as to what actually occurred and historians often disagree.

20 From this our pupil will begin to proceed to more important themes, such as the praise of famous men and the denunciation of the wicked. Such tasks are profitable in more than one respect. The mind is exercised by the variety and multiplicity of the subject matter, while the character is moulded by the contemplation of virtue and vice. Further wide knowledge of facts is thus acquired, from which examples may be drawn if circumstances so demand, such illustrations being of the utmost value in every kind of case. 21 It is but a step from this to practice in the comparison of the respective merits of two characters. This is of course a very similar theme to the preceding, but involves a duplication of the subject matter and deals not merely with the nature of virtues and vices, but with their degree as well. But the method to be followed in panegyric and invective will be dealt with in its proper place, as it forms the third department of rhetoric.9

22 As to commonplaces (I refer to those in which we denounce vices themselves such as adultery, gambling or profligacy without attacking particular persons), they come straight from the courts and, if we add the name of the defendant, amount to actual accusations. As a rule, however, the general character of a commonplace is usually given a special turn: for instance we make our adulterer blind, our gambler poor and our profligate far advanced in years. Sometimes too they entail  p237 defence: 23 for we may speak on behalf of luxury or love, while a pimp or a parasite may be defended in such a way that we appear as counsel not for the character itself, but to rebut some specific charge that is brought against him.

24 Theses on the other hand are concerned with the comparison of things and involve questions such as "Which is preferable, town or country life?" or "Which deserves the greatest praise, the lawyer or the soldier?" These provide the most attractive and copious practice in the art of speaking, and are most useful whether we have an eye to the duties of deliberative oratory or the arguments of the courts. For instance Cicero in his pro Murena10 deals very fully with the second of the two problems mentioned above. 25 Other theses too belong entirely to the deliberative class of oratory, as for instance the questions as to "Whether marriage is desirable" or "Whether a public career is a proper object of ambition." Put such discussions into the mouths of specific persons and they become deliberative declamations at once.

26 My own teachers used to prepare us for conjectural cases by a form of exercise which was at once useful and attractive: they made us discuss and develop questions such as "Why in Sparta is Venus represented as wearing armour?"11 or "Why is Cupid believed to be a winged boy armed with arrows and a torch?" and the like. In these exercises our aim was to discover the intention implied, a question which frequently occurs in controversial declamations. Such themes may perhaps be regarded as a kind of chria or moral essay.

27 That certain topics such as the question as to  p239 whether we should always believe a witness or whether we should rely on circumstantial evidence, are part and parcel of actual forensic pleading is so obvious that certain speakers, men too who have held civil office with no small distinction, have written out passages dealing with such themes, committed them to memory and kept them ready for immediate use, with a view to employing them when occasion arose as a species of ornament to be inserted into their extempore speeches. 28 This practice — for I am not going to postpone expressing my judgment on it — I used to regarda a confession of extreme weakness. For how can such men find appropriate arguments in the course of actual cases which continually present new and different features? How can they answer the points that their opponents may bring up? how deal a rapid counterstroke in debate or cross-examine a witness? if, even in those matters which are of common occurrence and crop up in the majority of cases, they cannot give expression to the most familiar thoughts except in words prepared so far in advance. 29 And when they produce the same passage in a number of different cases, they must come to loathe it like food that has grown cold or stale, and they can hardly avoid a feeling of shame at displaying this miserable piece of furniture to an audience whose memory must have detected it so many times already: like the furniture of the ostentatious poor, it is sure to shew signs of wear through being used for such a variety of different purposes. 30 Also it must be remembered that there is hardly a single commonplace of such universal application that it will fit any actual case, unless some special link is provided to connect it with  p241 the subject: otherwise it will seem to have been tacked on to the speech, not interwoven in its texture, 31 either because it is out of keeping with the circumstances or like most of its kind is inappropriately employed not because it is wanted, but because it is ready for use. Some speakers, for example, introduce the most long-winded commonplaces just for the sake of the sentiments they contain, whereas rightly the sentiments should spring from the context. 32 Such disquisitions are at once ornamental and useful, only if they arise from the nature of the case. But the most finished eloquence, unless it tend to the winning of the case, is to say the least superfluous and may even defeat its own purpose. However I must bring this digression to a close.

33 The praise or denunciation of laws requires greater powers; indeed they should almost be equal to the most serious tasks of rhetoric. The answer to the question as to whether this exercise is more nearly related to deliberative or controversial oratory depends on custom and law and consequently varies in different states. Among the Greeks the proposer of a law was called upon to set forth his case before a judge,12 while in Rome it was the custom to urge the acceptance or rejection of a law before the public assembly. But in any case the arguments advanced in such cases are few in number and of a definite type. For there are only three kinds of law, sacred, public, and private. 34 This division is of rhetorical value chiefly when a law is to be praised. For example the orator may advance from praise to praise by a series of gradations, praising an enactment first because it is law, secondly because it is public, and, finally, designed for the support of religion. As regards the questions  p243 which generally arise, they are common to all cases. 35 Doubts may be raised as to whether the mover is legally in a position to propose a law, as happened in the case of Publius Clodius, whose appointment as tribune of the plebs was alleged to be unconstitutional.13 Or the legality of the proposal itself may be impugned in various ways; it may for instance be urged that the law was not promulgated within seventeen14 days, or was proposed, or is being proposed on an improper day, or in defiance of the tribunicial veto or the auspices or any other legal obstacle, or again that it is contrary to some existing law. 36 But such points are not suitable to elementary rhetorical exercises, which are not concerned with persons, times or particular cases. Other subjects, whether the dispute be real or fictitious, are generally treated on the following lines. 37 The fault must lie either in the words or the matter. As regards the words, the question will be whether they are sufficiently clear or contain some ambiguity, and as regards the matter whether the law is consistent with itself or should be retrospective or apply to special individuals. The point however which is most commonly raised is the question whether the law is right or expedient. 38 I am well aware that many rhetoricians introduce a number of sub-divisions in connexion with this latter enquiry. I however include under the term right all such qualities as justice, piety and religion. Justice is however usually discussed under various aspects. A question may be raised about the acts with which the law is concerned, as to whether they  p245 deserve punishment or reward or as to the degree of punishment or reward that should be assigned, since excess in either direction is open to criticism. 39 Again expediency is sometimes determined by the nature of things, sometimes by the circumstances of the time. Another common subject of controversy is whether a law can be enforced, while one must not shut one's eyes to the fact that exception is sometimes taken to laws in their entirety, but sometimes only in part, examples of both forms of criticism being found in famous speeches. 40 I am well aware, too, that there are laws which are not proposed with a view to perpetuity, but are concerned with temporary honours or commands, such as the lex Manilia15 which is the subject of one of Cicero's speeches. This however is not the place for instructions on this topic, since they depend on the special circumstances of the matters under discussion, not on their general characteristics.

41 Such were the subjects on which the ancients as a rule exercised their powers of speaking, though they called in the assistance of the logicians as well to teach them the theory of argument. For it is generally agreed that the declamation of fictitious themes in imitation of the questions that arise in the lawcourts or deliberative assemblies came into vogue among the Greeks about the time of Demetrius of Phalerum. 42 Whether this type of exercise was actually invented by him I have failed to discover, as I have acknowledged in another work.16 But not even those who most strongly assert his claim to be the inventor, can produce any adequate authority in support of their opinion. As regards Latin teachers of rhetoric, of whom Plotius was the  p247 most famous, Cicero17 informs us that they came into existence towards the end of the age of Crassus.

5 1 I will speak of the theory of declamation a little later. In the mean time, as we are discussing the elementary stages of a rhetorical education, I think I should not fail to point out how greatly the rhetorician will contribute to his pupils' progress, if he imitates the teacher of literature whose duty it is to expound the poets, and gives the pupils whom he has undertaken to train, instruction in the reading of history and still more of the orators. I myself have adopted this practice for the benefit of a few pupils of suitable age whose parents thought it would be useful. 2 But though my intentions were excellent, I found that there were two serious obstacles to success: long custom had established a different method of teaching, and my pupils were for the most part full-grown youths who did not require this form of teaching, but were taking my work as their model. 3 However, the fact that I have been somewhat late in making the discovery is not a reason why I should be ashamed to recommend it to those who come after me. I now know that this form of teaching is practised by the Greeks, but is generally entrusted to assistants, as the professors themselves consider that they have no time to give individual instruction to each pupil as he reads. 4 And I admit that the form of lecture which this requires, designed as it is to make boys follow the written word with ease and accuracy, and even that which aims at teaching the meaning of any rare words that may occur, are to be regarded as quite below the dignity of the teacher of rhetoric. 5 On the other hand it is emphatically part of his profession  p249 and the undertaking which he makes in offering himself as a teacher of eloquence, to point out the merits of authors or, for that matter, any faults that may occur: and this is all the more the case, as I am not asking teachers to undertake the task of recalling their pupils to stand at their knee once more and of assisting them in the reading of whatever book they may select. 6 It seems to me at once an easier and more profitable method to call for silence and choose some one pupil — and it will be best to select them by turns — to read aloud, in order that they may at the same time learn the correct method of elocution. 7 The case with which the speech selected for reading is concerned should then be explained, for if this is done they will have a clearer understanding of what is to be read. When the reading is commenced, no important point should be allowed to pass unnoticed either as regards the resourcefulness or the style shown in the treatment of the subject: the teacher must point out how the orator seeks to win the favour of the judge in his exordium, what clearness, brevity and sincerity, and at times what shrewd design and well-concealed artifice is shown in the statement of facts. 8 For the only true art in pleading is that which can only be understood by one who is a master of the art himself. The teacher will produce further to demonstrate what skill is shown in the division into heads, how subtle and frequent are the thrusts of argument, what vigour marks the stirring and what charm the soothing passage, how fierce is the invective and how full of wit the jests, and in conclusion how the orator establishes his sway over the emotions of his audience, forces his way  p251 into their very hearts and brings the feelings of his jury into perfect sympathy with all his words. 9 Finally as regards the style, he will emphasise the appropriateness, elegance or sublimity of particular words, will indicate where the amplification of the theme is deserving of praise and where there is virtue in a diminuendo; and will call attention to brilliant metaphors, figures of speech and passages combining smoothness and polish with a general impression of manly vigour.

10 It will even at times be of value to read speeches which are corrupt and faulty in style, but still meet with general admiration thanks to the perversity of modern tastes, and to point out how many expressions in them are inappropriate, obscure, high-flown, grovelling, mean, extravagant or effeminate, although they are not merely praised by the majority of critics, but, worse still, praised just because they are bad. 11 For we have come to regard direct and natural speech as incompatible with genius, while all that is in any way abnormal is admired as exquisite. Similarly we see that some people place a higher value on figures which are in any way monstrous or distorted than they do on those who have not lost any of the advantages of the normal form of man. 12 There are even some who are captivated by the shams of artifice and think that there is more beauty in those who pluck out superfluous hair or use depilatories, who dress their locks by scorching them with the curling iron and glow with a complexion that is not their own, than can ever be conferred by nature pure and simple, so that it really seems as if physical beauty depended entirely on moral hideousness.

13 It will, however, be the duty of the rhetorician  p253 not merely to teach these things, but to ask frequent questions as well, and test the critical powers of his class. This will prevent his audience from becoming inattentive and will secure that his words do not fall on deaf ears. At the same time the class will be led to find out things for themselves and to use their intelligence, which is after all the chief aim of this method of training. For what else is our object in teaching, save that our pupils should not always require to be taught? 14 I will venture to say that this particular form of exercise, if diligently pursued, will teach learners more than all the text-books of all the rhetoricians: these are no doubt of very considerable use, but being somewhat general in their scope, it is quite impossible for them to deal with all the special cases that are of almost daily occurrence. 15 The art of war will provide a parallel: it is no doubt based on certain general principles, but it will none the less be far more useful to know the methods employed, whether wisely or the reverse, by individual generals under varying circumstances and conditions of time and place. For there are no subjects in which, as a rule, practice is not more valuable than precept. 16 Is a teacher to declaim to provide a model for his audience, and will not more profit be derived from the reading of Cicero or Demosthenes? Is a pupil to be publicly corrected if he makes a mistake in declaiming, and will it not be more useful, and more agreeable too, to correct some actual speech? For everyone has a preference for hearing the faults of others censured rather than his own. 17 I might say more on the subject. But every one can see the advantages of this method. Would that the reluctance to put it into practice  p255 were not as great as the pleasure that would undoubtedly be derived from so doing!

18 This method once adopted, we are faced by the comparatively easy question as to what authors should be selected for our reading. Some have recommended authors of inferior merit on the ground that they were easier to understand. Others on the contrary would select the more florid school of writers on the ground that they are likely to provide the nourishment best suited to the mind of the young. 19 For my part I would have them read the best authors from the very beginning and never leave them, choosing those, however, who are simplest and most intelligible. For instance, when prescribing for boys, I should give Livy the preference over Sallust; for, although the latter is the greater historian, one requires to be well-advanced in one's studies the appreciate him properly. 20 Cicero, in my opinion, provides pleasant reading for beginners and is sufficiently easy to understand: it is position not only to learn much from him, but to come to love him. After Cicero I should, following the advice of Livy, place such authors as most nearly resemble him.

21 There are two faults of taste against which boys should be guarded with the utmost care. Firstly no teacher suffering from an excessive admiration of antiquity, should be allowed to cramp their minds by the study of Cato and the Gracchi and other similar authors. For such reading will give them a harsh and bloodless style, since they will as yet be unable to understand the force and vigour of these authors, and contenting themselves with a style which doubtless was admirable in its day, but is quite unsuitable to ours, will come to think (and  p257 nothing could be more fatal) that they really resemble great men. 22 Secondly the opposite extreme must be equally avoided: they must not be permitted to fall victims to the pernicious allurements of the precious blooms produced by our modern euphuists, thus acquiring a passion for the luscious sweetness of such authors, whose charm is all the more attractive to boyish intellects because it is so easy of achievement. 23 Once, however, the judgment is formed and out of danger of perversion, I should strongly recommend the reading of ancient authors, since if, after clearing away all the uncouthness of those rude ages, we succeed in absorbing the robust vigour and virility of their native genius, our more finished style will shine with an added grace: I also approve the study of the moderns at this stage, since even they have many merits. 24 For nature has not doomed us to be dullards, but we have altered our style of oratory and indulged our caprices over much. It is in their ideals rather than their talents that the ancients show themselves our superiors. It will therefore be possible to select much that is valuable from modern writers, but we must take care that precious metal is not debased by the dross with which it is so closely intermingled. 25 Further I would not merely gladly admit, but would even contend that we have recently had and still have certain authors who deserve imitation in their entirety. 26 But it is not for everyone to decide who these writers are. Error in the choice of earlier authors is attended with less danger, and I have therefore postponed the study of the moderns, for fear that we should imitate them before we are qualified to judge of their merits.

The Translator's Notes:

1 suasoriae are declamations on deliberative themes (e.g. Hannibal deliberates whether he should cross the Alps).

2 communes loci = passages dealing with some general principle or theme. For theses see II.IV.24.

3 controversiae are declamations on controversial of judicial themes. A general rule or law is stated: then a special case, which has to be solved in accordance with the law. An abbreviated controversia is to be found in I.X.33, and they occur frequently hereafter (cp. esp. III.VI.96).

4 With special reference to the element of the miraculous. Ovid's Metamorphoses would give a good example.

5 Book IV chap. ii.

6 De Or. II.XXI.88.

7 cp. Verg. G. II.369, ante reformidant ferrum.

8 See Aul. Gell. VII.I.

9 Book III chap. vii.

10 Pro Mur. ix.21 sqq.

11 The reason according to Lactantius (Inst. Div. 1.20) was the bravery of the Spartan women in one of the Messenian wars.

12 i.e. a court of nomothetae appointed by the Athenian assembly, who examined the provisions of the proposed law.

13 Clodius was a patrician and got himself made a plebeian by adoption to enable him to hold the tribunate. The question of the legality of this procedure is discussed by Cicero in the de Domo, 13‑17.

14 Lit. within the space of three market-days. nundinum = 9 days, the second market-day being the ninth, and forming the last day of the first nundinum and the first of (p243)the second. Similarly the third market-day is the last day of the second nundinum and the first of the third.

Thayer's Note: For a clear and detailed explanation of the nundinae, see the article in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

15 The lex Manilia proposed to give Pompey the command against Mithridates.

16 Probably the lost treatise on "The causes of the decline of oratory" (De causis corruptae eloquentiae).

17 See Cic. de Or. III.XXIV.93.º

Thayer's Note:

a used to regard . . .: An accurate translation of the facing Latin text in the Loeb edition; yet nothing in this passage or elsewhere indicates that Quintilian had come to think differently by the time he put pen to paper. Emending the Latin text by dropping two letters (videntur in place of videbantur) would make better sense: I would have him write I regard.

Page updated: 29 Aug 12