Quintilian, The Orator's Education

LCL 127: 246-247

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Introduction

Introduction

This is the best-known part of the whole work; there are separate editions in several languages, the best being still W. Peterson (1891; abridgement for schools, 1902). The book continues the account of elocutio, specifically ornatus, but there is a change of perspective. Instead of a catalogue of features and devices, we have recommendations on how the student is to acquire “facility”: namely, by reading, by imitating, and by writing. Imitatio (mimēsis) is the key concept. Relevant ancient discussions include “Longinus” 13–14, Seneca, Epistles 114, and especially the remains of Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ De imitatione (περὶ μιμήσεως), on which Quintilian appears to be heavily dependent (text in Usener–Radermacher, 2. 197–217; text and French translation, ed. G. Aujac, Denys d’Halicarnasse, Opuscules rhétoriques, vol. 5 (Paris, 1992); not in LCL Dionysius). See in general OCD3 s.v. imitatio, and D. A. Russell in West and Woodman (edd.) 1979, 1–16.

10.1 begins (1–15) with general remarks on acquiring a good “stock” of words by reading, and proceeds (16–19) with a consideration of the relative usefulness of listening and reading. In reading the orators (20–26), great care is needed, so that the strategy of the speech can be understood. Theophrastus and others (27–30) are right in recommending

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Introduction

also the reading of poetry, but the orator must remember that the rules of his art are quite different. History (31–34) is also good, but with reservations (it is closely related to poetry, 31), and is especially valuable for the store of exempla which it provides. Philosophers (38–39) are a good source for the moral ideas which orators ought to have made their own; but (once again) the difference between the circumstances of the courts and those of the school must never be forgotten.

Detailed guidance, some sort of canon, will be expected; and, after some preliminaries (37–45), Quintilian proceeds to give it. On this see especially P. Steinmetz, “Gattungen und Epochen der griechischen Literatur in der Sicht Quintilians,” Hermes 92 (1964) 454–466; reprinted in Stark (1968) 451–463. Homer (46–51) of course comes first: Quintilian’s eloquent rhetorical evaluation of him is very traditional, and is particularly well illustrated by VPH 161–174. Other hexameter poetry (52–57) has less to offer; some writers, like Theocritus (55), are very remote from the orator’s world. These may be read with profit at a later stage, when tastes and abilities are securely formed. So too with elegy (58–59); of the iambic writers, only Archilochus (60) is of value. Of the lyricists, Pindar, Stesichorus, Alcaeus, and Simonides have all something to contribute. Drama comes next (65–72), and Quintilian specially recommends Euripides and Menander, the latter being almost sufficient on his own as a paradigm of all the oratorical virtues—particularly for the declaimer. Historians (73–75), orators (76–80), and philosophers (81–84) are all discussed in terms very like those we find in Dionysius. How wide Quintilian’s own Greek reading was is a difficult question; his inclusion of the elegist Tyrtaeus

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.quintilian-orators_education.2002