Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 3 - Chapter 1

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Quintilian proposes to consider the various branches and precept of oratory more fully than they are generally set forth in treatises on the art, a part of his work more desirable for students than agreeable to them, § 1-4. Diversities of opinions and methods, 5-7. Various writers on the art; the Greeks, 8-15. Followers of Hermagoras, Apollodorus, Theodorus, 16-18. The Romans, 19-21. Quintilian will give his own opinion on matters as they occur, 22.

1. Since I have examined in the second book what oratory is and what is its object; since I have shown, as well as my abilities allowed, that it is an art, that it is useful, and that it is a virtue; and since I have put under its power every subject on which it may be necessary to speak, I shall now proceed to show whence it had its origin, of what parts it consists, and how every department of it is to be contemplated and treated. For most of the writers of books on the art have stopped even short of these limits, so that Apollodorus confined himself to judicial pleadings only.

2. Nor am I ignorant that those who are studious of oratory have desired to receive from me that part of my work, of which this book proceeds to treat, more anxiously than any other. It is a part which, though it will be the most difficult to myself, from the necessity of examining a vast diversity of opinions, will yet perhaps afford the least pleasure to my readers, since it admits merely of a dry exposition of rules. 3. In other parts, I have endeavored to introduce some little embellishment, not with the view of displaying my own ability (since for that purpose, a subject of more fertility might have been chosen), but in order that by that means, I might more successfully attract youth to the study of those matters which I thought necessary for their improvement; for if being stimulated by some pleasure in the reading, they might more willingly learn the precepts of which I found that a bare and dry enumeration might be repulsive to their minds and offend their ears, especially as they are grown so delicate. 4. It was with such a view that Lucretius said he put the precepts of philosophy into verse, for he uses, as is well known, the following simile

Ac veluti pueris absinthia tetra medentes
Quum dare conantur, prius oras pocula circum
Aspirant mellis dulci, flavoque liquore

And as physicians, when they attempt to give
bitter wormwood to children, first tinge the rim round the cup
with the sweet and yellow liquid of honey, etc.

5. But I fear that this book may be thought to contain very little honey and a great deal of wormwood, and may be more serviceable for instruction than agreeable. I am afraid, too, that it may find the less favor, as it will contain precepts not newly invented, for the most part, by me, but previously given by others. It may also meet with some who are of contrary opinions and who will be ready to assail it, because most authors, though they have directed their steps to the same point, have made different roads towards it, and each drawn his followers into his own. 6. Their adherents, moreover, approve whatever path they have pursued, and you will not easily alter prepossessions that have been inculcated in youth, for every one would rather have learned than learn.

7. But there is, as will appear in the progress of the book, an infinite diversity of opinions among authors; some have added their own discoveries to what was previously rude and imperfect, and then others, that they might seem to produce something themselves, have even altered what was right. 8. The first writer who, after those that the poets have mentioned, touched at all upon oratory, is said to have been Empedocles, and the most ancient composers of rules on the art were Corax and Tisias, natives of Sicily, to whom succeeded a native of the same island, Gorgias the Leontine, who, as is said, was a pupil of Empedocles. 9. Gorgias, through the advantage of a very long life (for he lived a hundred and nine years), flourished as a contemporary with many rhetoricians and was thus a rival of those whom I have just named, surviving even the age of Socrates. 10. At the same period with him lived Thrasymachus of Chalcedon, Prodicus of Ceos, Protagoras of Abdera (from whom Euathlus is said to have learned the art of oratory, on which he published a treatise, for ten thousand denarii), Hippias of Elis, and Alcidamus of Elaae, whom Plato calls Palamedes. 11. There was also Antiphon (who was the first that wrote speeches and who, besides, composed a book of rules on rhetoric, and was thought to have pleaded his own cause on a trial with great ability), Polycrates, by whom I have said that a speech was written against Socrates, and Theodorus of Byzantium, one of those whom Plato calls λογοδαίδαλοι (logodaidaloi), "artificers in words." 12. Of these, the first that treated general subjects were Protagoras, Gorgias, Prodicus, and Thrasymachus. Cicero, in his Brutus, says that no composition having any rhetorical embellishment was written before the time of Pericles, but that some pieces of his were in circulation. For my part, I find nothing answerable to the fame of such eloquence as his and am therefore the less surprised that some should think that nothing was written by Pericles, but that the writings which were circulated under his name were written by others.

13. To these succeeded many other rhetoricians, but the most famous of the pupils of Gorgias was Isocrates; though authors, indeed, are not agreed as to who was his master, I, however, trust to Aristotle on that point. 14. From this time different roads, as it were, began to be formed; for the disciples of Isocrates were eminent in every department of learning and, when he was grown old (he lived to complete his ninety-eighth year), Aristotle began to teach the art of oratory in his afternoon lessons, frequently parodying, as is said, the well-known verse from the tragedy of Philoctetes, thus:

Α᾽σχρὸν σιωπᾶν, καὶ ᾽Ισοκράτην ἐᾶν λέγειν

(Aischron siôpan, kai Isokratên legein)

"It is disgraceful to be silent, and to allow Isocrates to speak."

A treatise on the art of oratory was published by each of them, but Aristotle made his to consist of several books. At the same time lived Theodectes, of whose work I have already spoken. 15. Theophrastus, also, a disciple of Aristotle, wrote very carefully on rhetoric, and since that time, the philosophers, especially the leaders of the Stoics and Peripatetics, have paid even greater attention to the subject than the rhetoricians. 16. Hermagoras then made, as it were, a way for himself, which most orators have followed, but Athenaeus appears to have been most nearly his equal and rival. Afterwards Apollonius Molon, Areus, Caecilius, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, wrote much upon the art. 17. But the two that attracted most attention to themselves were Apollodorus of Pergamus, who was the teacher of Caesar Augustus at Apollonia, and Theodorus of Gadara, who preferred to be called a native of Rhodes and whose lectures Tiberius Caesar, when he retired into that island, is said to have constantly attended. 18. These two rhetoricians taught different systems, and their followers were thence called Apollodoreans and Theodoreans, after the manner of those who devote themselves to certain sects in philosophy. But the doctrines of Apollodorus you may learn best from his disciples, of whom the most exact in delivering them in Latin was Caius Valgius, in Greek Atticus. Of Apollodorus himself, the only work on the art seems to have been that addressed to Matius, for the epistle written to Domitius does not acknowledge the other books attributed to him. The writings of Theodorus were more numerous, and there are some now living who have seen his disciple Hermagoras.

19. The first among the Romans, as far as I know, that composed anything on this subject, was Marcus Cato the Censor, after whom Marcus Antonius made some attempt in it—it is the only writing that is extant of his and is in quite an unfinished state. Less celebrated writers followed, whose names, if occasion shall anywhere require, I will not forbear to mention. 20. But Marcus Tullius Cicero threw the greatest light, not only on eloquence itself, but also on its precepts, giving the only model of excellence among us in speaking and in teaching the art of speaking. After him, it would be most becoming to be silent, if he himself had not said that his books on rhetoric escaped from his hands when he was very young, and if he had not intentionally omitted, in his dialogues on oratory, those minor points on which most learners require instruction. 21. Cornificius wrote much on the same subject, Stertinius something considerable, and Gallio the father a little. But Celsus and Laenas, who preceded Callio, and Vilginius, Pliny, and Tutilius in our own age, have written on the art with greater accuracy. There are also at this very time eminent writers on the same subject, who, if they had embraced every part of it, would have relieved me from my present task. But I forbear to mention the names of living authors; the due time for honoring them will arrive, for their merits will live in the memory of posterity, to whom the influence of envy will not reach.

22. Yet, after so many great writers, I shall not hesitate to advance, on certain points, my own opinions, for I have not attached myself to any particular sect, as if I were affected with any spirit of superstition. As I bring together the observations of many authors, liberty must be allowed my readers to choose from them what they please, being myself content, wherever there is no room for showing ability, to deserve the praise due to carefulness.

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Lee Honeycutt (honeycuttlee@gmail.com) Last modified:1/15/07
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