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This webpage reproduces a section of
Institutio Oratoria


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

The text is in the public domain.

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(Vol. III) Quintilian
Institutio Oratoria

 p349  Book IX

Chapter 1

1 1 In my last book I spoke of tropes. I now come to figures, called σχήματα in Greek, a topic which is naturally and closely connected with the preceding. 2 For many authors have considered figures identical with tropes, because whether it be that the latter derive their name from having a certain form or from the fact that they effect alterations in language (a view which has also led to their being styled motions), it must be admitted that both these features are found in figures as well. Their employment is also the same. For they add force and charm to our matter. There are some again who call tropes figures, Artorius Proculus among them. 3 Further the resemblance between the two is so close that it is not easy to distinguish between them. For although certain kinds differ, while retaining a general resemblance (since both involve a departure from the simple and straightforward method of expression coupled with a certain rhetorical excellence), on the other hand some are distinguished by the narrowest possible driving line: for example, while irony belongs to figures of thought just as much as to tropes,​1 periphrasis, hyperbaton and onomatopoea2 have been ranked by distinguished authors as figures of speech rather than tropes.

4 It is therefore all the more necessary to point out the distinction between the two. The name of trope  p351 is applied to the transference of expressions from their natural and principal signification to another, with a view to the embellishment of style or, as the majority of grammarians define it, the transference of words and phrases from the place which is strictly theirs to another to which they do not properly belong. A figure, on the other hand, as is clear from the name itself, is the term employed when we give our language a conformation other than the obvious and ordinary. 5 Therefore the substitution of one word for another is placed among tropes, as for example in the case of metaphor, metonymy, antonomasia, metalepsis, synecdochè, catachresis, allegory3 and, as a rule, hyperbole, which may, of course, be concerned either with words or things. Onomatopoea is the creation of a word and therefore involves substitution for the words which we should use but for such creation. 6 Again although periphrasis often includes the actual word whose place it supplies, it still uses a number of words in place of one. The epithet as a rule involves an element of antonomasia4 necessarily becomes a trope on account of this affinity. Hyperbaton is a change of order and for this reason many exclude it from tropes. None the less it transfers a word or part of a word from its own place to another. 7 None of these can be called figures. For a figure does not necessarily involve any alteration either of the order or the strict sense of words. As regards irony, I shall show elsewhere​5 how in some of its forms it is a trope, in others figure. For I admit that the name is common to both and am aware of the complicated and minute discussions to which it has given rise. They, however, have no bearing on my present task. For it  p353 makes no difference by which name either is called, so long as its stylistic value is apparent, since the meaning of things is not altered by a change of name. 8 For just as men remain the same, even though they adopt a new name, so these artifices will produce exactly the same effect, whether they are styled tropes or figures, since their values lie not in their names, but in their effect. Similarly it makes no difference whether we call a basis conjectural or negative, or concerned with fact or substance,​6 provided always that we know that the subject of enquiry is the same. 9 It is best therefore in dealing with these topics to adopt the generally accepted terms and to understand the actual thing, by whatever name it is called. But we must note the fact that trope and figure are often combined in the expression of the same thought, since figures are introduced just as much by the metaphorical as by the literal use of words.

10 There is, however, a considerable difference of opinion among authors as to the meaning of the name,​7 the number of genera and the nature and number of the species into which figures may be divided. The first point for consideration is, therefore, what is meant by a figure. For the term is used in two senses. In the first it is applied to any form in which thought is expressed, just as it is to bodies which, whatever their composition, must have some shape. 11 In the second and special sense, in which it is called a schema, it means a rational change in meaning or language from the ordinary and simple form, that is to say, a change analogous to that involved by sitting, lying down on something or looking back. Consequently when a student tends  p355 to continuous or at any rate excessive use of the same cases, tenses, rhythms or even feet, we are in the habit of instructing him to vary his figures with a view to the avoidance of monotony. 12 In so doing we speak as if every kind of language possessed a figure: for example cursitare lectitare8 are said to have the same figure, that is to say, they are identical in formation. Therefore in the first and common sense of the word everything is expressed by figures. If we are content with this view, there is good reason for the opinion expressed by Apollodorus (if we may trust the statement of Caecilius on this point) to the effect that he found the rules laid down in this connexion quite incomprehensible. 13 If, on the other hand, the name is to be applied to certain attitudes, or I might say gestures of language, we must interpret schema in the sense of that which is poetically or rhetorically altered from the simple and obvious method of expression. It will then be true to distinguish between the style which is devoid of figures(or ἀσχημάτιστος) and that which is adorned with figures (or ἐσχηματισμένη). 14 But Zoilus narrowed down the definition, since he restricted the term schema to cases when the speaker pretends to say something other than that which he actually does say. I know that this view meets with common acceptance: it is, in fact, for this reason that we speak of figured controversial themes, of which I shall shortly speak.​9 We shall then take a figure to mean a form of expression to which a new aspect is given by art.

15 Some writers have held that there is only one kind of figure, although they differ as regards the reasons which lead them to adopt this view. For  p357 some of them, on the ground that a change of words causes a corresponding change in the sense, assert that all figures are concerned with word, while others hold that figures are concerned solely with the sense, on the ground that words are adapted to things. 16 Night these views are obviously quibbling. For the same things are often put in different ways and the sense remains unaltered though the word are changed, while a figure of thought may include several figures of speech. For the former lies in the conception, the latter in the expression of our thought. The two are frequently combined, however, as in the following passage: "Now, Dolabella, I have no pity either for you or for your children";​10 for the device by which he turns from the judges to Dolabella is a figure of thought, while iam iam ("now") and liberum (Your children") are figures of speech. 17 It is, however, to the best of my knowledge, generally agreed by the majority of authors that there are two classes of figure, namely figures of thought, that is of the mind, feeling or conceptions, since all these terms are used, and figures of speech, that is of words, diction, expression, language or style: the name by which they are known varies, but mere terminology is a matter of indifference. 18 Cornelius Celsus, however, to figures of thought and speech would add those produced by "glosses";​11 but he has merely been led astray by an excessive passion for novelty. For who can suppose that so learned a man was ignorant of the fact that "glosses" and "reflexions" both come under the heading of thought? We may therefore conclude that, like language itself, figures are necessarily concerned with thought and with words.

 p359  19 As, however, in the natural course of things we conceive ideas before we express them, I must take figures of thought first. Their utility is at once great and manifold, and is revealed with the utmost clearness in every product of oratory. For although it may seem that proof is infinitesimally affected by the figures employed, none the less those same figures lend credibility to our arguments and steal their way secretly into the minds of the judges. 20 For just as in sword-play it is easy to see, parry, and ward off direct blows and simple and straightforward thrusts. While side-strokes and feints are less easy to observe and the task of the skilful swordsman is to give the impression that his design is quite other than that it actually is, even so the oratory in which there is no guile fights by sheer weight and impetus alone; on the other hand, the fighter who feints and varies his assault is able to attack flank or back as he will, to lure his opponent's weapons from their guard and to outwit him by a slight inclination of the body. 21 Further, there is no more effective method of exciting the emotions than an apt use of figures. For if the expression of brow, eyes and hands has a powerful effect in stirring the passions, how much more effective must be the aspect of our style itself when composed to produce the result at which we aim? But, above all, figures serve to commend what we say to those that hear us, whether we seek to win approval for our character as pleaders, or to win favour for the cause which we plead, to relieve monotony by variation of our language, or to indicate our meaning in the safest or most seemly way.

22 But before I proceed to demonstrate what figures best suit the different circumstances, I must  p361 point out that their number is far from being as great as some authorities make out. For I am not in the least disturbed by the various names which the Greeks more especially are so fond of inventing. 23 First of all, then, I must repudiate the views of those who hold that there are as many types of figure as there are kinds of emotion, on the ground, not that emotions are not qualities of the mind, but that a figure, in its strict, not its general sense, is not simply the expression of anything you choose to select. Consequently the expression in words of anger, grief, pity, fear, confidence or contempt is not a figure, any more than persuasion, threats, entreaty or excuse. 24 But superficial observers are deceived by the fact that they find figures in all passages dealing with such themes, and select examples of them from speeches; whereas in reality there is no department of oratory which does not admit such digs. But it is one thing to admit a figure and another to be a figure; I am not going to be frightened out of repeating the term with some frequency in my attempt to make the facts clear. 25 My opponents will, I know, direct my attention to special figures employed in expressing anger, in entreating for mercy, or appealing to pity, but it does not follow that expressions of anger, appeals to pity or entreaties for mercy are in themselves figures. Cicero, it is true, includes all ornaments of oratory under this head, and in so doing adopts, as it seems to me, a middle course. For he does not hold that all forms of expression are to be regarded as figures, nor, on the other hand, would he restrict the term merely to those expressions whose form varies from ordinary use. But he regards as figurative  p363 all those expressions which are especially striking and most effective in stirring the emotions of the audience. He sets forth this view in two of his works, and that my readers may have the opportunity of realising the judgment of so high an authority, I subjoin what he says verbatim.12

26 In the third book of the de Oratore we find the following words:

"As regards the composition of continuous speech, as soon as we have acquired the smoothness of structure and rhythm of which I have spoken, we must proceed to lend brilliance to our style by frequent embellishments both of thought and words. 27 For great effect may be produced by dwelling on a single point, and by setting forth our facts in such a striking manner that they seem to be placed before the eyes as vividly as if they were taking place in our actual presence. This is especially effective in stating a case or for the purpose of illuminating and amplifying the facts in course of statement, with a view to making our audience regard the point which we amplify as being as important as speech can make it. 28 On the other hand, as opposed to this procedure we may often give a rapid summary, suggest more than is actually said, may express ourselves tersely in short, clean-cut sentences and disparage, or, what is much the same, mock our opponent in a manner not inconsistent with the precepts given us by Caesar.​13 Or we may employ digressions and then, after thus delighting our audience, make a neat and elegant return to our main theme. We may set forth in advance what we propose to say, mark off the topics already treated from those which are to follow, return to our point, repeat it and draw our formal  p365 conclusions. 29 Again, with a view to augmenting or attenuating the force of some point, we may exact and overstate the truth: we may ask questions, or, what is much the same, enquire of others and set forth our own opinion. There is also available the device of dissimulation, when we say one thing and mean another, the most effective of all means of stealing into the minds of men and a most attractive device, so long as we adopt a conversational rather than a controversial tone. 30 Hesitation may be expressed between two alternatives, our statement may be adventured in groups or we may correct ourselves, within before or after we have said something or when we repel some allegation against ourselves. We may defend ourselves by anticipation to secure the success of some point which we propose to make or may transfer the blame for some action to another. We may confer with our audience, admitting them as it were into our deliberations, may describe the life and character of persons either with or without mention of their names, a device which is one of the greatest embellishments of oratory and specially adapted to conciliate the feelings, as also frequently to excite them. 31 Again by the introduction of fictitious personages we may bring into play the most forcible form of examination. We may describe the results likely to follow some action, introduce topics to lead our hearers astray, move them to mirth or anticipate the arguments of our opponent. Comparisons and examples may be introduced, both of them most effective methods; we may divide, interrupt, contrast, suppress, commend. 32 Our language may be free or even unbridled with a view to heighten our effects,  p367 while anger, reproach, promises that we shall prove our case, entreaty, supplication, slight deviations from our proposed course (which must be distinguished from the longer digressions mentioned above), exculpation, conciliation, personal attacks, wishes and execrations are all of value. 33 The above include practically all the devices of thought which may be employed for the adornment of our speech. As regards diction, this may either be employed like weapons for menace and attack, or handled merely for the purpose of display. For example, sometimes the repetition of words will produce an impression of force, at other times of grace. Again, slight changes and alterations may be made in words, the same word may be repeated sometimes at the beginning of a sentence and sometimes at the end, or the sentence may be made to open and close with the same phrase.​14 One verb may be made to serve the purpose of a number of clauses, our words may be worked up to a climax, the same word may be repeated with a different meaning or reiterated at the opening of one sentence from the close of the preceding, while we may introduce words with similar terminations or in the same cases of balancing or resembling each other. 34 Other effects may be obtained by the graduation or contrast of clauses, by the elegant inversion of words, by arguments  p369 drawn from opposites, asyndeton, paraleipsis, correction, exclamation, meiosis, the employment of a word in different cases, moods and tenses, the correspondence of subsequent particulars with others previously mentioned, the addition of a reason for what is advanced, the assignment of a reason for each distinct statement; 35 again we may employ concession and another form of hesitation, introduction of the unexpected, distinction by heads, another form of correction, local distribution, rapid succession of clauses, interruption of clauses, imagery, answering our own questions, immutation,​15 the appropriate distinction of one proposition from another, effective arrangement, reference, digression and circumscription. 36 These (and there may be yet more like them) are the various devices for the embellishment of our style, either by the cast of our thought or the conformation of our language."

Most of these statements are repeated by Cicero in the Orator,​16 but not all, while his language is somewhat more precise, since after dealing with figures of speech and of thought he adds a third section, concerned, as he himself says, with the other excellences of style.

37 "And those other embellishments which are derived from the arm of words contribute greatly to the adornment of our style. They may be compared to what we term the decorations of the forum or a richly-ornamented stage, since they not only adorn, but stand out conspicuously in the midst of other ornaments. 38 The principle governing the use of embellishments and decorations of style is the same: words may be repeated and reiterated or reproduced with some slight change. Sentences may repeatedly commence or end with  p371 the same word or may begin and end with the same phrase. The same word may be reiterated​17 either at the beginning or at the conclusion, or may be repeated, but in a different sense. 39 Words may have the same inflexion or termination or be placed in various antitheses, our language may rise by gradations to a climax, or a number of words may be placed together in asyndeton without connecting particles. Or we may omit something, while making clear the reason for such omission, or correct ourselves with apparent censure of our carelessness, may utter exclamations of admiration or grief, or introduce the same word repeatedly in different cases. 40 The ornaments of thought are, however, more important. They are so frequently employed by Demosthenes that some critics have held that it is in them that the chief beauty of his style resides. And in truth there is hardly a topic in his speeches which is not distinguished by some artificial treatment of the thought, and it must be admitted that speaking involves the embellishment of all, or at any rate most of our thoughts with some form of ornament. 41 As you, Brutus, have such an admirable knowledge of all these methods, it would be waste of time for me to cite all their names or give illustrations. I shall therefore content myself merely with indicating this topic. Our ideal orator then will speak in such a manner that will cast the same thought into a number of different forms, will dwell on one point and linger over the same idea. 42 He will often attenuate some one point or deride his opponent, will diverge from his theme and give a bias to his thought, will set forth what he intends to say, after completing his argument will give a brief summary, will  p373 recall himself to the point which he has left, repeat what he has said, complete his proof by a formal conclusion, embarrass his opponent by asking questions or answer himself in reply to imaginary questions; 43 will desire his words to be taken in a different sense from their literal meaning, will hesitate what argument or form of statement to prefer, will classify and divide, will deliberately omit and ignore some point, and defend himself by anticipation; will transfer the blame of some charge brought against him to his opponent, will often take his audience, and sometimes even his opponent into consultation, 44 will describe the character and talk of particular persons, will put words into the mouths of inanimate objects, divert the minds of the audience from the point at issue, often move them to merriment or laughter, anticipate objections, introduce comparisons, cite precedents, assign and distribute different sentiments to different persons, silence interrupters, assert that there are certain things of which he prefers not to speak, warn his audience to be on their guard against certain things, or venture on a certain licence of speech. Again, he will wax angry, sometimes indulge in rebuke, entreaty or supplication, will clear away unfavourable impressions, swerve a left from his point, utter wishes or execrations, or address his audience in terms of familiar intimacy. 45 There are also other virtues at which he should aim, such as brevity, if his theme demands it, while he will often set forth topics in such vivid language as almost to present them to the very eyes of his audience, or will exaggerate his subject beyond the bounds of possibility. His meaning will frequently be deeper than his words seem to  p375 indicate, his tone will often be cheerful, and he will often mimic life and character. In fact, as regards this department of oratory, of which I have given you the substance, he must display eloquence in all its grandest forms."

The Translator's Notes:

1 See IX.II.44.

2 VIII.VI.59 sqq., 62, 31, respectively.

3 See VIII.VI.

4 VIII.VI.29 and 46.

5 IX.II.44.

6 See III.VI.15, 39.

7 i.e. figure.

8 Frequentative forms of curro (run) and lego (read).

9 IX.II.65.

10 Cic. Verr. I.XXX.77. iam iam is a figure, as being a reduplication, and liberum as being a contraction.

11 See IV.II.88. color = "the particular aspect given to a case by a skilful representation of the facts — the 'gloss' or varnish put on them by either the accused or the accuser."

12 The two works are the Orator (xxxix.134 sqq.) — see sect. 36 and the de Oratore III.LII.201, which is here quoted.

13 de Or. II.261 sqq. Iulius Caesar Strabo loq.

14 This appears to be the meaning of impetus and concursio, but there can be no certainty. The long list of technical terms which follows provides almost insuperable difficulty to the translator, since many can neither be translated nor even paraphrased with certainty. Quintilian himself is not always certain as to their meaning: see IX.III.90. For adiunctio, see Q's remarks on ἐπεζευγμένον IX.III.62. conversio (§ 33) is illustrated by Auct. ad Herenn. IV.19 by Poenas populus Romanus iustitia vicit, armis vicit, liberalitate vicit, while in § 34 it is a form of antithesis (e.g. "eat to live, not live to eat"). For revocatio verbi, see IX.III.44; for transgressio VIII.VI.62, for contrarium and immutatio see IX.III.90. declinatio is explained by Cicero in Orator 135 as occurring when we pass something by and show why we do so. reprehensio means correction of the expression as opposed to the correction of thought referred to above. For the obscure and perhaps correct clause quod de singulis rebus propositis ductum refertur ad singula see on IX.III.83. dubitatio is the hesitation between two expressions in contrast to the hesitation between two alternative conceptions. alia correctio cannot be clearly distinguished from reprehensio; but (p367)cp. IX.II.60, paenitentia dicti. dissipatio is illustrated in IX.III.39. diiunctio is not to be confused with the disiunctio of IX.III.45. Here it refers to the conclusion of each separate proposition with its appropriate verb, and is the opposite of adiunctio (above). The meaning of relatio is unknown even to Quintilian (see IX.III.97), while he is doubtful as to the meaning of circumscriptio (see IX.III.90); perhaps = periphrasis.

15 Perhaps = metonymy.

16 xxxix.134 sqq.

17 adiungitur apparently refers to the same figure described in Herodian (Rh. Gr. III.99) as ἐπίζευξις, for which he give as an example Θῆβαι δὲ Θῆβαι, πόλις κ.τ.λ., from Aeschin., Ctes. 133.

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