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Bill Thayer

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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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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. I) Quintilian
Institutio Oratoria

Book II

Chapters 6‑13

 p259  6 1 I come now to another point in which the practice of teachers has differed. Some have not been content with giving directions as to the arrangement of the subjects set them as themes for declamation, but have developed them at some length themselves, supplying not merely the proofs, but the lines upon which the emotional passages should proceed. 2 Others have merely suggested a bare outline, and then when the declamations were over, have indicated the points missed by each speaker and worked up certain passages with no less care than they would have used, had they been going to stand up to speak themselves. Both practices have their advantages, and therefore I will not give either the pre-eminence. But if we must choose one of the two, it will be found more profitable to point out the right road at the outset, and not merely to recall the pupil from his error when he has already gone astray, 3 since in the first place the correction is only received by the ear, whereas when he is given a sketch of the various heads of the declamation, he has to take them down and think about them: secondly instruction is always more readily received than reproof. Indeed those of our pupils who have a lively disposition are liable in the present condition of manners to lose their temper when admonished and to offer silent resistance. 4 That, however, is no reason for refraining from the public correction of faults; for we must take the rest of the class into account, who will believe that whatever has not been corrected by the master is right. The two methods should be employed conjointly and in such a way as circumstances may demand. 5 Beginners must be given a subject  p261 sketched out ready for treatment and suitable to their respective powers. But when they show that they have formed themselves sufficiently closely on the models placed before them, it will be sufficient to give them a few brief hints for their guidance and to allow them to advance trusting in their own strength and without external support. 6 Sometimes they should be left entirely to their own devices, that they may not be spoilt by the bad habit of always relying on another's efforts, and so prove incapable of effort and originality. But as soon as they seem to have acquired a sound conception of what they ought to say, the teacher's work will be near completion: if they still make some mistakes, they must be brought back under his guidance. 7 We may draw a lesson from the birds of the air, whom we see distributing the food which they have collected in their bills among their weak and helpless nestlings; but as soon as they are fledged, we see them teaching their young to leave the nest and fly round about it, themselves leading the way; finally, when they have proved their strength, they are given the freedom of the open sky and left to trust in themselves.

7 1 There is one practice at present in vogue for boys of the age under discussion, which ought in my opinion undoubtedly to be changed. They should not be forced to commit all their own compositions to memory and to deliver them on an appointed day, as is at present the custom. This practice is especially popular with the boys' fathers, who think that their sons are not really studying unless they declaim on every possible occasion, although as a matter of fact progress depends  p263 mainly on industry. 2 For though I strongly approve of boys writing compositions and would have them spend as much time as possible over such tasks, I had much rather that for the purpose of learning by heart passages should be selected from the orators or historians or any other works that may be deserving of such attention. 3 For it is a better exercise for the memory to learn the words of others than it is to learn one's own, and those who have practised this far harder task will find no difficulty in committing to memory their own compositions with which they are already familiar. Further they will form an intimate acquaintance with the best writings, will carry their models with them and unconsciously reproduce the style of the speech which has been impressed upon the memory. 4 They will have a plentiful and choice vocabulary and a command of artistic structure and a supply of figures which will not have to be hunted for, but will offer themselves spontaneously from the treasure-house, if I may so call it, in which they are stored. In addition they will be in the agreeable position of being able to quote the happy sayings of the various authors, a power which they will find most useful in the courts. For phrases which have not been coined merely to suit the circumstances of the lawsuit of the moment carry greater weight and often win greater praise than if they were our own. 5 I would however allow boys occasionally to declaim their own compositions that they may reap the reward of their labours in the applause of a large audience, that most coveted of all prizes. But this should not be permitted until they have produced  p265 something more finished than usual: they will thus be rewarded for their industry and rejoice in the thought that the privilege accorded them is the recompense of merit.

8 1 It is generally and not unreasonably regarded as the sign of a good teacher that he should be able to differentiate between the abilities of his respective pupils and to know their natural bent. The gifts of nature are infinite in their variety, and mind differs from mind almost as much as body from body. 2 This is clear from a consideration of the orators themselves, who differ in style to such an extent that no one is like another, in spite of the fact that numbers have modelled their style on that of their favorite authors. 3 Many again think it useful to direct their instruction to the fostering of natural advantages and to guide the talents of their pupils along the lines which they instinctively tend to follow. Just as an expert gymnast, when he enters a gymnasium full of boys, after testing body and mind in every way, is able to decide for what class of athletic contest they should be trained, 4 even so, they say, a teacher of oratory after careful observation of a boy's stylistic preferences, be they for terseness and polish, energy, dignity, charm, roughness, brilliance or wit, will so adapt his instructions to individual needs that each pupil will be pushed forward in the sphere for which his talents seem specially to design him; 5 for nature, when cultivated, goes from strength to strength, while he who runs counter to her bent is ineffective in those branches of the art for which he is less suited and weakens the talents which he seemed born to employ. 6 Now, since the critic who is guided by his reason is free to dissent even from  p267 received opinions, I must insist that to my thinking this view is only partially true. It is undoubtedly necessary to note the individual gifts of each boy, 7 and no one would ever convince me that it is not desirable to differentiate courses of study with this in view. One boy will be better adapted for the study of history, another for poetry, another for law, while some perhaps had better be packed off to the country. The teacher of rhetoric will distinguish such special aptitudes, just as our gymnast will turn one pupil into a runner, another into a boxer or wrestler or an expert at some other of the athletic accomplishments for which prizes are awarded at the sacred games. 8 But on the other hand, he who is destined for the bar must study not one department merely, but must perfect himself in all the accomplishments which his profession demands, even though some of them may seem too hard for him when he approaches them as a learner. For if natural talent alone were sufficient, education might be dispensed with. 9 Suppose we are given a pupil who, like so many, is of depraved tastes and swollen with his own conceit; shall we suffer him to go his own sweet way? If a boy's disposition is naturally dry and jejune, ought we not feed it up or at any rate clothe it in fairer apparel? For, if in some cases it is necessary to remove certain qualities, surely there are others where we may be permitted to add what is lacking. 10 Not that I would set myself against the will of nature. No innate good quality should be neglected, but defects must be made good and weaknesses made strong. 11 When Isocrates, the prince of instructors, whose works proclaim his eloquence no less than his pupils testify to his excellence as a  p269 teacher, gave his opinion of Ephorus and Theopompus to the effect that the former needed the spur and the latter the curb, what was his meaning? Surely not that the sluggish temperament of the one and the headlong ardour of the other alike required modification by instruction, but rather that each would gain from an admixture of the qualities of the other.

12 In the case of weaker understandings however some concession must be made and they should be directed merely to follow the call of their nature, since thus they will be more effective in doing the only thing that lies in their power. But if we are fortunate enough to meet with richer material, such as justifies us in the hope of producing a real orator, we must leave no oratorical virtue uncared for. 13 For though he will necessarily have a natural bent for some special department of oratory, he will not feel repelled by the others, and by sheer application will develop his other qualities until they equal those in which he naturally excels. The skilled gymnast will once again provide us with a parallel: if he undertakes to train a pancratiast,​18 he will not merely teach him how to use his fists or his heels, nor will he restrict his instructions to the holds in wrestling, giving special attention to certain tricks of this kind, but will train him in every department of the science. Some will no doubt be incapable of attaining proficiency in certain exercises; these must specialise on those which lie within their powers. 14 For there are two things which he must be most careful to avoid: first, he must not attempt the impossible, secondly he must not switch off his pupil from what he can do well to exercises for which he is less well suited. But if his pupil is like the famous  p271 Nicostratus, whom we saw when he was old and we were boys, he will train him equally in every department of the science and make him a champion both in boxing and wrestling, like Nicostratus himself who won the prix for both contests within a few days of each other. 15 And how much more important is the employment of such methods where our future orator is concerned! It is not enough to be able to speak with terseness, subtlety or vehemence, any more than it would be for a singing master to excel in the upper, middle or lower register only, or in particular sections of these registers alone. Eloquence is like a harp and will never reach perfection, unless all its strings be taut and in tune.

9 1 Though I have spoken in some detail of the duties of the teacher, I shall for the moment confine my advice to the learners to one solitary admonition, that they should love their masters not less than their studies, and should regard them as the parents not indeed of their bodies but of their minds. 2 Such attachments are of invaluable assistance to study. For under their influence they find it a pleasure to listen to their teachers, believe what they say and long to be like them, come cheerfully and gladly to school, are not angry when corrected, rejoice when praised, and seek to win their master's affection by the devotion with which they pursue their studies. 3 For as it is the duty of the master to teach, so it is the duty of the pupil to show himself teachable. The two obligations are mutually indispensable. And just as it takes two parents to produce a human being, and as the seed is scattered in vain, if the ground is hard and there is no furrow to receive it and bring it to growth, even so eloquence can never come to  p273 maturity, unless teacher and taught are in perfect sympathy.

10 1 These elementary stages are in themselves no small undertaking, but they are merely members and portions of the greater whole; when therefore the pupil has been thoroughly instructed and exercised in these departments, the time will as a rule have come for him to attempt deliberative and forensic themes. But before I begin to discuss these, I must say a few words on the theory of declamation, which is at once the most recent and most useful of rhetorical exercises. 2 For it includes practically all the exercises of which we have been speaking and is in close touch with reality. As a result it has acquired such a vogue that many think that it is the sole training necessary to the formation of an orator, since there is no excellence in a formal speech which is not also to be found in this type of rhetorical exercise. 3 On the other hand the actual practice of declamation has degenerated to such an extent owing to the fault of our teachers, that it has come to be one of the chief causes of the corruption of modern oratory; such is the extravagance and ignorance of our declaimers. But it is possible to make a sound use of anything that is naturally sound. 4 The subjects chosen for themes should, therefore, be as true to life as possible, and the actual declamation should, as far as may be, be modelled on the pleadings for which it was devised as a training. 5 For we shall hunt in vain among sponsiones19 and interdicts for magicians and plagues and oracles and stepmothers more cruel than any in tragedy, and other  p275 subjects still more unreal than these.​20 What then? are we never to permit young men to handle unreal or, to be more accurate, poetic themes that they may run riot and exult in their strength and display their full stature? 6 It were best to prohibit them absolutely. But at any rate the themes, however swelling and magnificent, should not be such as to seem foolish and laughable to the eye of an intelligent observer. Consequently, if we must make some concession, let us allow the declaimer to gorge himself occasionally, as long as he realises that his case will be like that of cattle that have blown themselves out with a surfeit of green food: they are cured of their disorder by blood-letting and then put back to food such as will maintain their strength; similarly the declaimer must be rid of his superfluous fat, and his corrupt humours must be discharged, if he wants to be strong and healthy. 7 Otherwise, the first time he makes any serious effort, his swollen emptiness will stand revealed. Those, however, who hold that declamation has absolutely nothing in common with pleading in the courts, are clearly quite unaware of the reasons which gave rise to this type of exercise. 8 For if declamation is not a preparation for the actual work of the courts, it can only be compared to the rant of an actor or the raving of a lunatic. For what is the use of attempting to conciliate a non-existent judge, or of stating a case which all know to be false, or of trying to prove a point on which judgment will never be passed? Such waste of effort is, however, a comparative trifle. But what can be more ludicrous than to work oneself into a passion and to attempt to excite the anger or grief of our hearers, unless we are preparing ourselves by  p277 such mimic combats for the actual strife and the pitched battles of the law-courts? 9 Is there then no difference between our declamations and genuine forensic oratory? I can only reply, that if we speak with a desire for improvement, there will be no difference. I wish indeed that certain additions could be made to the existing practice; that we made use of names, that our fictitious debates dealt with more complicated cases and sometimes took longer to deliver, that we were less afraid of words drawn from everyday speech and that we were in the habit of seasoning our words with jests. For as regards all these points, we are mere novices when we come to actual pleading, however elaborate the training that the schools have given us on other points. 10 And even if display is the object of declamation, surely we ought to unbend a little for the entertainment of our audience. 11 For even in those speeches which, although undoubtedly to some extent concerned with the truth, are designed to charm the multitude (such for instance as panegyrics and the oratory of display in all its branches), it is permissible to be more ornate and not merely to disclose all the resources of our art, which in cases of law should as a rule be concealed, but actually to flaunt them before those who have been summoned to hear us. 12 Declamation therefore should resemble the truth, since it is modelled on forensic and deliberative oratory. On the other hand it also involves an element of display, and should in consequence assume a certain air of elegance. 13 In this connexion I may cite the practice of comic actors, whose delivery is not exactly that of common speech, since that would be inartistic, but is on the other hand not  p279 far removed from the accents of nature, for, if it were, their mimicry would be a failure: what they do therefore is to exalt the simplicity of ordinary speech by a touch of stage decoration. 14 So too we shall have to put up with certain inconveniences arising from the nature of our fictitious themes; such drawbacks occur more especially in connexion with those numerous details which are left uncertain and which we presume to suit our purpose, such as the ages of our characters, their wealth, their families, or the strength, laws and manners of the cities where our scenes are laid, and the like. 15 Sometimes we even draw arguments from the actual flaws of the assumptions involved by the theme. But each of these points shall be dealt with in its proper place. For although the whole purpose of this work is the formation of an orator, I have no intention of passing over anything that has a genuine connexion with the practice of the schools, for fear that students may complain of the omission.

11 1 I have now arrived at the point when I must begin to deal with that portion of the art at which those who have omitted the preceding stages generally commence. I can see, however, that certain critics will attempt to obstruct my path at the very outset: for they will urge that eloquence can dispense with rules of this kind and, in smug satisfaction with themselves and the ordinary methods and exercises of the schools, will laugh at me for my pains; in which they will be only following the example of certain professors of no small reputation. One of these gentlemen, I believe, when asked to define a figure and a thought, replied that he did not know what they were, but that, if they had anything  p281 to do with the subject, they would be found in his declamation. 2 Another when asked whether he was a follower of Theodorus or Apollodorus, "Oh! as for me, I am all for the Thracians."​21 To do him justice, he could hardly have found a neater way to avoid confessing his ignorance. These persons, just because, thanks to their natural gifts, they are regarded as brilliant performers and have, as a matter of fact, uttered much that deserves to be remembered, think that, while most men share their careless habits, few come near them for talent. 3 Consequently they make it their boast that there is no need of proof or careful marshalling of facts when we are speaking on fictitious themes, but only of some of those sounding epigrams, the expectation of which has filled the lecture-room; and these they say are best improvised on the spur of the moment. 4 Further, owing to their contempts for method, when they are meditating on some future effusion, they spend whole days looking at the ceiling in the hope that some magnificent inspiration may occur to them, or rock their bodies to and fro, booming inarticulately as if they had a trumpet inside them and adapting their agitated movements, not to the delivery of the words, but to their pursuit. 5 Some again settle on certain definite openings long before they have thought what they are going to say, with a view to using them as pegs for subsequent snatches of eloquence, and then after practising their delivery first in silent thought and then aloud for hours together, in utter desperation of providing any connecting links, abandon them and  p283 take refuge in one formula after another, each no less hackneyed and familiar than the last. 6 The least unreasonable of them devote their attention not to the actual cases, but to their purple patches, in the composition of which they pay no attention to the subject-matter, but fire off a series of isolated thoughts just as they happen to come to hand. 7 The result is a speech which, being composed of disconnected passages having nothing in common with each other, must necessarily lack cohesion and can only be compared to a schoolboy's notebook, in which he jots down any passages from the declamations of others that have come in for a word of praise. None the less they do occasionally strike out some good things and some fine epigrams, such as they make their boast. Why not? slaves and barbarians sometimes achieve the same effects, and if we are to be satisfied with this sort of thing, then good-bye to any theory of oratory.

12 1 I must, however, admit that the general opinion is that the untrained speaker is usually the more vigorous. This opinion is due primarily to the erroneous judgment of faulty critics, who think that true vigour is all the greater for its lack of art, regarding it as a special proof of strength to force what might be opened, to break what might be united and to drag what might be led. 2 Even a gladiator who plunges into the fight with no skill at arms to help him, and a wrestler who puts forth the whole strength of his body the moment he has got a hold, is acclaimed by them for his outstanding vigour, although it is of frequent occurrence in such cases for the latter to be overthrown by his own strength and for the former to find the fury of his  p285 onslaught parried by his adversary with a supple turn of the wrist. 3 But there are many details in this department of our art which the unskilled critic will never notice. For instance, careful division under heads, although of the utmost importance in actual cases, makes the outward show of strength seem less than the reality; the unhewn block is larger than the polished marble, and things when scattered seem more numerous than when placed together. 4 There is moreover a sort of resemblance between certain merits and certain defects: abuse passes for freedom of speech, rashness for courage, prodigality for abundance. But the untrained advocate will abuse too openly and too often, even though by so doing he imperils the success of the case which he has undertaken and not seldom his own personal safety as well. 5 But even such violence will win men's good opinion, since they are only too pleased to hear another say things which nothing would have induced them to utter themselves. Such speakers are also less careful to avoid that other peril, the pitfall of style, and are so reckless in their efforts that sometimes in their passion for extravagance they light upon some really striking expression. But such success is rare and does not compensate for their other defects.

6 For the same reason the uninstructed sometimes appear to have a richer flow of language, because they say everything that can be said, while the learned exercise discrimination and self-restraint. To this must be added the fact that such persons take no trouble to prove their contentions, and consequently steer clear of the chilly reception given in our decadent law-courts to arguments and  p287 and seek only for such themes as may beguile the ears of the public even at the cost of appealing to the most perverted tastes. 7 Again, their epigrams, the sole objects of their quest, seem all the more striking because of the dreariness and squalor of their context, since flashes are more clearly seen against a background, not of mere "shade," as Cicero​22 says, but of pitchy darkness. Well, let the world credit them with as much genius as it pleases, so long as it is admitted that such praise is an insult to any man of real eloquence. 8 None the less it must be confessed that learning does take something from oratory, just as the file takes something from rough surfaces or the whet-stone from blunt edges or age from wine; it takes away defects, and if the results produced after subjection to the polish of literary study are less, they are less only because they are better.

9 But these creatures have another weapon in their armoury: they seek to obtain the reputation of speaking with greater vigour than the trained orator by means of their delivery. For they shout on all and every occasion and bellow their every utterance "with uplifted hand," to use their own phrase, dashing this way and that, panting, gesticulating wildly and wagging their heads with all the frenzy of a lunatic. 10 Smite your hands together, stamp the ground, slap your thigh, your breast, your forehead, and you will go straight to the heart of the dingier members of your audience.​23 But the educated speaker, just as he knows how to moderate his style, and to impart variety and artistic form to his speech, is an equal adept in the matter of delivery and will suit his action to the tone of each  p289 portion of his utterances, while, if he has any one canon for universal observance, it is that he should both possess the reality and present the appearance of self-control. 11 But the ranters confer the title of force on that which is really violence. You may also occasionally find not merely pleaders, but, what is far more shameful, teachers as well, who, after a brief training in the art of speaking, throw method to the winds and, yielding to the impulse of the moment, run riot in every direction, abusing those who hold literature in higher respect as fools without life, courage or vigour, and calling them the first and worst name that occurs to them. 12 Still let me congratulate these gentlemen on attaining eloquence without industry, method or study. As for myself I have long since retired from the task of teaching in the schools and of speaking in the courts, thinking it the most honourable conclusion to retire while my services were still in request, and all I ask is to be allowed to console my leisure by making such researches and composing such instructions as will, I hope, prove useful to young men of ability, and are, at any rate, a pleasure to myself.

13 1 Let no one however demand from me a rigid code of rules such as most authors of textbooks have laid down, or ask me to impose on students of rhetoric a system of laws immutable as fate, a system in which injunctions as to the exordium and its nature lead the way; then come the statement of facts and the laws to be observed in this connexion: next the proposition or, as some prefer, the digression, followed by prescriptions as to the order in which the various questions should be discussed, with all the other rules, which some speakers follow though they had no  p291 choice but to regard them as orders and as if were a crime to take any other line. 2 If the whole of rhetoric could be thus embodied in one compact code, it would be an easy task of little compass: but most rules are liable to be altered by the nature of the case, circumstances time and place, and by hard necessity itself. Consequently the all-important gift for an orator is a wise adaptability since he is called upon to meet the most varied emergencies. 3 What if you should instruct a general, as often as he marshals his troops for battle, to draw up his front in line, advance his wings to left and right, and station his cavalry to protect his flank? this will perhaps be the best plan, if circumstances allow. But it may have to be modified owing to the nature of the ground, if, for instance, he is confronted by a mountain, if a river bars his advance, or his movements are hampered by hills, woods or broken country. 4 Or again it may be modified by the character of the enemy or the nature of the crisis by which he is faced. On one occasion he will fight in line, on another in column, on one he will use his auxiliary troops, on another his legionaries; while occasionally a feint of flight may win the day. 5 So, too, with the rules of oratory. Is the exordium necessary or superfluous? should it be long or short? addressed entirely to the judge or sometimes directed to some other quarter by the employment of some figure of speech?​24 Should the statement of facts be concise or developed at some length? continuous or divided into sections? and should it follow the actual or an artificial order of events? The orator will find the answers to all these questions in the circumstances of the case. So, too, with the order in which questions should be discussed,  p293 6 since in any given debate it may often suit one party best that such and such a question come up first, while their opponents would be best suited by another. For these rules have not the formal authority of laws or decrees of the plebs, but are, with all they contain, the children of expediency. 7 I will not deny that it is generally expedient to conform to such rules, otherwise I should not be writing now; but if our friend expediency suggests some other course to us, why, we shall disregard the authority of the professors and follow her.

8 For my part above all things

"This I enjoin and urge and urge anew"​25

that in all his pleadings the orator should keep two things constantly in view, what is becoming and what is expedient. But it is often expedient and occasionally becoming to make some modification in the time-honoured order. We see the same thing in pictures and statues. Dress, expression and attitude are frequently varied. 9 The body when held bolt upright has but little grace, for the face looks straight forward, the arms hang by the side, the feet are joined and the whole figure is stiff from top to toe. But that curve, I might almost call it motion, with which we are so familiar, gives an impression of action and animation. So, too, the hands will not always be represented in the same position, and the variety given to the expression will be infinite. 10 Some figures are represented as running or rushing forward, others sit or recline, some are nude, others clothed, while some again are half-dressed, half-naked. Where can we find a more violent and elaborate attitude than that of the Discobolus of Myron? Yet the critic who  p295 disapproved of the figure because it was not upright, would merely show his utter failure to understand the sculptor's art, in which the very novelty and difficulty of execution is what most deserves our praise. 11 A similar impression of grace and charm is produced by rhetorical figures, whether they be figures of thought or figures of speech. For they involve a certain departure from the straight line and have the merit of variation from the ordinary usage. 12 In a painting the full face is most attractive. But Apelles painted Antigonus in profile, to conceal the blemish caused by the loss of one eye. So, too, in speaking, there are certain things which have to be concealed, either because they ought not to be disclosed or because they cannot be expressed as they deserve. 13 Timanthes, who was, I think, a native of Cythnus, provides an example of this in the painting with which he won the victory over Colotes of Teos. It represented the sacrifice of Iphigenia, and the artist had depicted an expression of grief on the face of Calchas and of still greater grief on that of Ulysses, while he had given Menelaus an agony of sorrow beyond which his art could not go. Having exhausted his powers of emotional expression he was at a loss to portray the father's face as it deserved, and solved the problem by veiling his head and leaving his sorrow to the imagination of the spectator. 14 Sallust​26 did something similar when he wrote "I think it better to say nothing of Carthage rather than say too little." It has always, therefore, been my custom not to tie myself down to universal or general rules (this being the nearest equivalent I can find for the Greek catholic rules). For rules are rarely of such a kind that their validity cannot be shaken and overthrown in some  p297 particular or other. 15 But I must reserve each of these points for fuller treatment in its proper place. For the present I will only say that I do not want young men to think their education complete when they have mastered one of the small text-books of which so many are in circulation, or to ascribe a talismanic value to the arbitrary decrees of theorists. The art of speaking can only be attained by hard work and assiduity of study, by a variety of exercises and repeated trial, the highest prudence and unfailing quickness of judgement. 16 But rules are helpful all the same so long as they indicate the direct road and do not restrict us absolutely to the ruts made by others. For he who thinks it an unpardonable sin to leave the old, old track, must be content to move at much the same speed as a tight-rope walker. Thus, for example, we often leave a paved military road​a to take a short cut or, finding that the direct route is impossible owing to floods having broken down the bridges, are forced to make a circuit, while if our house is on fire and flames bar the way to the front door, we make our escape by breaking through a party wall. 17 The orator's task covers a large ground, is extremely varied and develops some new aspect almost every day, so that the last word on the subject will never have been said. I shall however try to set forth the traditional rules and to point out their best features, mentioning the changes, additions and subtractions which seem desirable.

The Translator's Notes:

18 The pancration was a mixture of wrestling and boxing.

Thayer's Note: For comprehensive details and sources, see the article Pancratium in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

19 sponsio (= a wager) was a form of lawsuit in which the litigant promised to pay a certain sum of money if he lost his case. The interdict was an order issued by the praetor (p273)commanding or prohibiting certain action. It occurred chiefly in disputes about property.

Thayer's Note: For comprehensive details and sources on this difficult topic, see the articles Vindicatio and Interdictum in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

20 The themes of the controversiae often turned on the supernatural and on crimes and incidents such as rarely or never occur in actual life.

21 i.e. I care naught for your rival schools of rhetoric. I give all my favour to the men armed with the buckler (the gladiators known as Thraces). Such contests of the amphitheatre interest me far more than the contests between rival schools of rhetoric.

22 de Or. III.XXVI.101.

23 pullatus = wearing dark clothes, i.e. the common people, as opposed to the upper classes wearing the white or purple-bordered toga.

24 i.e. by the figure known as apostrophe, in which the orator diverts his speech from the judge to some other person: see IX.II.38.

25 Verg. Aen. III.436.

26 Jug. xix.

Thayer's Note:

a military road: I think we can do better on the translation here. Quintilian wrote stratum militari labore iter; literally: "the road paved by military labor." The road has been paved by the massive organized effort of many people for the common good — by the hard work of whole armies — but occasionally we shall have to move away from it.

Parenthetically, the student of Roman roads can learn quite a lot from this brief remark, tossed off as an easily understood illustration from daily life: (a) highway construction and repair was the job of the military; (b) paved roads were not that common, but rather should be thought of as the interstate highways of antiquity: eventually you'd be driving on unpaved roads to get to where you wanted to go; (c) floods frequently knocked out the bridges — and in view of the great attention to flood management with which surviving Roman bridges were demonstrably built, and of course that very survival itself, we may reasonably conclude that most bridges were of wood and that these carefully built stone bridges we now see were in fact also an élite minority.

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Page updated: 13 Apr 07