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This webpage reproduces a section of
Institutio Oratoria


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

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. II) Quintilian
Institutio Oratoria

 p417  Book VI

Chapter 2

2 1 The peroration is the most important part of forensic pleading, and in the main consists of appeals to the emotions, concerning which I have consequently been forced to say something. But I have not yet been able to give the topic specific consideration as a whole, nor should I have been justified in doing so. We have still, therefore, to discuss a task which forms the most powerful means of obtaining what we desire, and is also more difficult than any of those which we have previously considered, namely that of stirring the emotions of the judges, and of moulding and transforming them to the attitude which we desire. 2 The few remarks which I have already made on this subject were only such as were essential to my theme, while my purpose was rather to show what ought to be done than to set forth the manner in which we can secure our aim. I must now review the whole subject in a more exhaustive fashion.

There is scope for an appeal to the emotions, as I have already said,​23 in every portion of a speech. Moreover these emotions present great variety, and demand more than cursory treatment, since it is in their handling that the power of oratory shews itself at its highest. 3 Even a slight and limited talent may, with the assistance of practice or learning, perhaps succeed in giving life to other departments of oratory, and in developing them to a serviceable extent. At any rate there are, and have always been, a considerable  p419 number of pleaders capable of discovering arguments adequate to prove their points. I am far from despising such, but I consider that their utility is restricted to providing the judge with such facts as it is necessary for him to know, and, to be quite frank, I regard them merely as suitable persons to instruct pleaders of real eloquence in the facts of a case. But few indeed are those orators who can sweep the judge with them, lead him to adopt that attitude of mind which they desire, and compel him to weep with them or share their anger. 4 And yet it is this emotional power that dominates the court, it is this form of eloquence that is the queen of all. For as a rule arguments arise out of the case itself, and the better cause has always the larger number to support it, so that the party who wins by means of them will have no further satisfaction than that of knowing that his advocate did not fail him. 5 But the peculiar task of the orator arises when the minds of the judges require force to move them, and their thoughts have actually to be led away from the contemplation of the truth. No instruction from the litigant can secure this, nor can such power be acquired merely by the study of a brief. Proofs, it is true, may induce the judges to regard our case as superior to that of our opponent, but the appeal to the emotions will do more, for it will make them wish our case to be the better. And what they wish, they will also believe. 6 For as soon as they begin to be angry, to feel favourably disposed, to hate or pity, they begin to take a personal interest in the case, and just as lovers are incapable of forming a reasoned judgment on the beauty of the object of their affections, because passion forestalls  p421 the sense of sight, so the judge, when overcome by his emotions, abandons all attempt to enquire into the truth of the arguments, is swept along by the tide of passion, and yields himself unquestioning to the torrent. 7 Thus the verdict of the court shows how much weight has been carried by the arguments and the evidence; but when the judge has been really moved by the orator he reveals his feelings while he is still sitting and listening to the case. When those tears, which are the aim of most perorations, well forth from his eyes, is he not giving his verdict for all to see? It is to this, therefore, that the orator must devote all his powers,

"There lie the task and toil!"​24

Without this all else is bare and meagre, weak and devoid of charm. For it is in its power over the emotions that the life and soul of oratory is to be found.

8 Emotions however, as we learn from ancient authorities, fall into two classes; the one is called pathos by the Greeks and is rightly and correctly expressed in Latin by adfectus (emotion): the other is called ethos, a word for which in my opinion Latin has no equivalent: it is however rendered by mores (morals) and consequently the branch of philosophy known as ethics is styled moral philosophy by us. 9 But close consideration of the nature of the subject leads me to think that in this connexion it is not so much morals in general that is meant as certain peculiar aspects; for the term morals includes every attitude of the mind. The more cautious writers have preferred to give the sense of the term rather than to translate it into Latin. They therefore explain pathos  p423 as describing the more violent emotions and ethos as designating those which are calm and gentle: in the one case the passions are violent, in the other subdued, the former command and disturb, the latter persuade and induce a feeling of goodwill. 10 Some add that ethos is continuous, while pathos is momentary. While admitting that this is usually the case, I still hold that there are some subjects which demand that the more violent emotion should be continuous. But, although the gentler emotions require less force and impetus, they call for no less art and experience than the more vehement, and are demanded in a greater number of cases, indeed in a certain sense they are required in all. 11 For as everything treated by the orator may be regarded from the ethical standpoint, we may apply the word ethos whenever he speaks of what is honourable and expedient or of what ought or ought not to be done. Some regard commendation and excuse as the peculiar spheres of ethos, but while I admit that they do fall within its sphere, I do not regard them as being alone in so doing. 12 Indeed I would add that pathos and ethos are sometimes of the same nature, differing only in degree; love for instance comes under the head of pathos, affection of ethos; sometimes however they differ, a distinction which is important for the peroration, since ethos is generally employed to calm the storm aroused by pathos. I ought however to explain what is meant by ethos in greater detail, since the term is not in itself sufficiently expressive of its meaning. 13 The ethos which I have in my mind and which I desiderate in an orator is commended to our approval by goodness more than aught else and is not merely calm and mild, but in most cases  p425 ingratiating and courteous and such as to excite pleasure and affection in our hearers, while the chief merit in its expression lies in making it seem that all that we say derives directly from the nature of the facts and persons concerned and in the revelation of the character of the orator in such a way that all may recognise it. 14 This kind of ethos should be especially displayed in cases where the persons concerned are intimately connected, whenever we tolerate or pardon any act or offer satisfaction or admonition, in all of which cases there should be no trace of anger or hatred. On the other hand the moderation shown by a father to his son, a guardian to his ward or a husband to his wife will differ from that which is shown by an old man to a youthful stranger who has insulted him or by a man of high rank to his inferior, since in the former cases they emphasise their affection for the wrongdoer and there is no desire to do anything that will excite dislike against them save by the manifestation of the fact that they still love them; while in the one case the offended party should be no more than provoked, in the other he should be really deeply moved. 15 Of the same character, though less violent, is the emotion to be shown when we ask pardon for the errors of the young, or apologise for some youthful amour. Sometimes again gentle raillery of another's passion may derive its tone from ethos, though only to a partial extent. More closely dependent on ethos are the skilful exercise of feigned emotion or the employment of irony in making apologies or asking questions, irony being the term which is applied to words which mean something other than they seem to express. 16 From the same source springs also that  p427 more powerful method of exciting hatred, when by a feigned submission to our opponents we pass silent censure on their violence. For the very fact of our yielding serves to demonstrate their insupportable arrogance, while orators who have a passion for abuse or are given to affect freedom of speech fail to realise that it is a far more effective course to make your antagonist unpopular than to abuse him. For the former course makes our antagonists disliked, the latter ourselves. 17 The emotion of love and longing for our friends and connexions is perhaps of an intermediate character, being stronger than ethos and weaker than pathos. There is also good reason for giving the name of ethos to those scholastic exercises​25 in which we portray rustics, misers, cowards and superstitious persons according as our theme may require. For if ethos denotes moral character, our speech must necessarily be based on ethos when it is engaged in portraying such character.

18 Finally ethos in all its forms requires the speaker to be a man of good character and courtesy. For it is most important that he should himself possess or be thought to possess those virtues for the possession of which it is his duty, if possible, to commend his client as well, while the existence of his own character will make his pleading all the more convincing and will be of the utmost service to the cases which he undertakes. For the orator who gives the impression of being a bad man while he is speaking, is actually speaking badly, since his words seem to be insincere owing to the absence of ethos which would otherwise have revealed itself. 19 Consequently the style of oratory employed in such cases should be calm and mild with no trace of pride, elevation or  p429 sublimity, all of which would be out of place. It is enough to speak appropriately, pleasantly and persuasively, and therefore the intermediate​26 style of oratory is most suitable.

20 The pathos of the Greeks, which we correctly translate by emotion, is of a different character, and I cannot better indicate the nature of the difference than by saying that ethos rather resembles comedy and pathos tragedy. For pathos is almost entirely concerned with anger, dislike, fear, hatred and pity. It will be obvious to all what topics are appropriate to such appeals and I have already spoken on the subject in discussing the exordium and the peroration.​27 21 I wish however to point out that fear is of two kinds, that which we feel and that which we cause in others. Similarly there are two kinds of invidia (hatred, envy), to which the two adjectives invidus (envious) and invidiosus (invidious, hateful) correspond. The first supplies an epithet for persons, the second for things, and it is in this latter connexion that the orator's task is even more onerous. For though some things are hateful in themselves such as parricide, murder, poisoning, other things have to be made to seem hateful. 22 This latter contingency arises when we attempt to shew that what we have suffered is of a more horrible nature than what are usually regarded as great evils. Vergil will provide an example in the lines:​28 —

"O blest beyond all maidens Priam's child,

Beneath Troy's lofty bulwarks doomed to die

Upon the tomb of him that was thy foe."

For how wretched was the lot of Andromache, if Polyxena be accounted happy in comparison with  p431 her! 23 Again the same problem arises when we endeavour to magnify our wrongs by saying that other far lesser ills are intolerable; e.g. "If you had merely struck him, your conduct would have been indefensible. But you did more, you wounded him." However I will deal with this subject more fully when I come to speak of amplification.29 Meanwhile I will content myself with the observation that the aim of appeals to the emotion is not merely to shew the bitter and grievous nature of ills that actually are so, but also at once make ills which are usually regarded as tolerable seem unendurable, as for instance when we represent insulting words as inflicting more grievous injury than an actual blow or represent disgrace as being worse than death. 24 For the force of eloquence is such that it not merely compels the judge to the conclusion toward which the nature of the facts leadsº him, but awakens emotions which either do not naturally arise from the case or are stronger than the case would suggest. This is known as deinosis,​30 that is to say, language giving additional force to things unjust, cruel or hateful, an accomplishment in which Demosthenes created immense and special effect.

25 If I thought it sufficient to follow traditional rules, I should regard it as adequate treatment for this topic to omit nothing that I have read or been taught, provided that it be reasonably sound. But my design is to bring to light the secret principles of this art, and to open up the inmost recesses of the subject, giving the result not of teaching received from others, but of my own experience and the guidance of nature herself. 26 The prime essential for stirring the emotions of others is, in my opinion,  p433 first to feel those emotions oneself. It is sometimes positively ridiculous to counterfeit grief, anger and indignation, if we content ourselves with accommodating our words and looks and make no attempt to adapt our own feelings to the emotions to be expressed. What other reason is there for the eloquence with which mourners express their grief, or for the fluency which anger lends even to the uneducated, save the fact that their minds are stirred to power by the depth and sincerity of their feelings? 27 Consequently, if we wish to give our words the appearance of sincerity, we must assimilate ourselves to the emotions of those who are genuinely so affected, and our eloquence must spring from the same feeling that we desire to produce in the mind of the judge. Will he grieve who can find no trace of grief in the words with which I seek to move him to grief? Will he be angry, if the orator who seeks to kindle his anger shows no sign of labouring under the emotion which he demands from his audience? Will he shed tears if the pleader's eye are dry? It is utterly impossible. 28 Fire alone can kindle, and moisture alone can wet, nor can one thing impart any colour to another save that which it possesses itself. Accordingly, the first essential is that those feelings should prevail with us that we wish to prevail with the judge, and that we should be moved ourselves before we attempt to move others. 29 But how are we to generate these emotions in ourselves, since emotion is not in our own power? I will try to explain as best I may. There are certain experiences which the Greeks call φαντασίαι, and the Romans visions, whereby things absent are presented to our imagination with such extreme  p435 vividness that they seem actually to be before our very eyes. 30 It is the man who is really sensitive to such impressions who will have the greatest power over the emotions. Some writers describe the possessor of this power of vivid imagination, whereby things, words and actions are presented in the most realistic manner, by the Greek word εὐφαντασίωτος; and it is a power which all may readily acquire if they will. When the mind is unoccupied or is absorbed by fantastic hopes or day-dreams, we are haunted by these visions of which I am speaking to such an extent that we imagine that we are travelling abroad, crossing the sea, fighting, addressing the people, or enjoying the use of wealth that we do not actually possess, and seem to ourselves not to be dreaming but acting. Surely, then, it may be possible to turn this form of hallucination to some profit. 31 I am complaining that a man has been murdered. Shall I not bring before my eyes all the circumstances which it is reasonable to imagine must have occurred in such a connexion? Shall I not see the assassin burst suddenly from his hiding-place, the victim tremble, cry for help, beg for mercy, or turn to run? Shall I not see the fatal blow delivered and the stricken body fall? Will not the blood, the deathly pallor, the groan of agony, the death-rattle, be indelibly impressed upon my mind?

32 From such impressions arises that ἐνάργεια which Cicero​31 calls illumination and actuality, which makes us seem not so much to narrate as to exhibit the actual scene, while our emotions will be no less actively stirred than if we were present at the actual  p437 occurrence. Is it not from visions such as these that Vergil was inspired to write —

"Sudden her fingers let the shuttle fall

And all the thread was spilled,"​32

33 Or,

"In his smooth breast the gaping wound,"​33

or the description of the horse at the funeral of Pallas, "his trappings laid aside"?​34 And how vivid was the image of death conceived by the poet when he wrote —

"And dying sees his own dear Argive home"?​35

34 Again, when we desire to awaken pity, we must actually believe that the ills of which we complain have befallen our own selves, and must persuade our minds that this is really the case. We must identify ourselves with the persons of whom we complain that they have suffered grievous, unmerited and bitter misfortune, and must plead their case and for a brief space feel their suffering as though it were our own, while our words must be such as we should use if we stood in their shoes. 35 I have often seen actors, both in tragedy and comedy, leave the theatre still drowned in tears after concluding the performance of some moving role. But if the mere delivery of words written by another has the power to set our souls on fire with fictitious emotions, what will the orator do whose duty it is to picture to himself the facts and who has it in his power to feel the same emotion as his client whose interests are at stake? 36 Even in the schools it is desirable that the student should be moved by his theme, and should imagine it to be true; indeed, it is all the more desirable then, since, as a rule in scholastic  p439 declamations, the speaker more often appears as the actual litigant than as his advocate. Suppose we are impersonating an orphan, a shipwrecked man, or one in grave peril. What profit is there in assuming such a rôle unless we also assume the emotions which it involves? I have thought it necessary not to conceal these considerations from my reader, since they have contributed to the acquisition of such reputation for talent as I possess or once possessed. I have frequently been so much moved while speaking, that I have not merely been wrought upon to tears, but have turned pale and shown all the symptoms of genuine grief.

The Translator's Notes:

23 VI.I.51.

24 Aen. VI.128.

25 cp. I.IX.3.

26 i.e. the style intermediate between the restrained (Attic) and the grand (Asiatic) style.

27 IV.I and VI.I.

28 Aen. III.321.

29 VIII.IV.9.

30 Lit. "making terrible."

31 Perhaps an allusion to Part. Or. vi.20. ἐνάργεια = clearness.

32 Aen. IX.474.

33 ib. xi.40.

34 ib. xi.89.

35 ib. x.783.

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