Quintilian’s Rhetoric

Quintilian’s Rhetoric

The famous Roman rhetorician Mark Fabius Quintilian (35 – circa 100 AD) is the author of an extensive work in twelve books “Rhetorical Instructions.” The work of Quintilian is systematic and strictly thought out. Here, all the experience of classical rhetoric is taken into account and the own experience of a teacher of rhetoric and a court attorney is generalized. In this work, the philosopher notes that the orator’s work is extensive and varied, and that everything has never been said about him, nevertheless he will try to set forth the best from the traditional rules, but he will change something unimportant, add or discard something.

At the end of the preface, the author outlines a plan that follows: the first book is devoted to the initial education of

boys in the family and the grammar before their rhetoric; the second – studies in the rhetorical school and the nature of rhetoric as a science; the third – the ninth book – a kind of encyclopedia of the traditional theory of oratory; The tenth is devoted to a critical analysis of Greek and Roman literature on the genres and characteristics of samples, interesting and useful for the future speaker; the eleventh sets forth the outer devices of the speaker; the twelfth draws the moral and social image of the speaker.

This is a well-organized essay on oratory: it analyzes the theory and practice of Roman eloquence, examines the problems of pedagogy, ethics, gives a description of rhetorical schools and styles. The work of Quintilian is the peak of the study of oratory. Neither before nor after it were there works that with such thoroughness would give a theoretical analysis of eloquence.

First Quintilian draws the image of an ideal orator, continuing to develop this theme after Cicero: “So let the speaker be such that he could be called a sage in justice, not only committed in the mores (for in my opinion, although others think otherwise, is not enough), but it is also perfect in all knowledge, in all the qualities needed for eloquence. “

In the first book Quintilian talks about the upbringing

of the future speaker. The future speaker should be educated from childhood, influenced by the environment (wet nurse, parents, uncles), teachers who should teach well. This book contains methodological arguments about teaching in childhood: the teaching must be fun, the child consciously must memorize the material, engage in writing and reading aloud. Speech should be correct, clear and beautiful. To do this, it is necessary to study the grammar of exemplary speakers, poets, prose writers, and then move on to their own compositions. The future speaker must know a great deal, including philosophy, music, geometry, pronunciation. The second chapter is devoted to the methodology of the teacher’s work, in particular, it talks about the system of exercises, gives recommendations for reading the works of art and speeches of well-known speakers. ” Should the rhetorical rules be strictly adhered to? “Quintilian asks that the speaker should not read rhetorical rules for the necessary laws, but the rules can change a lot according to the case, time, occasion, and circumstances.” Quintilian deviates from the strict regulation of the construction adopted in his rhetoric The rules are only a guide to action, but not a dogma, they should not bind the speaker and deprive him of the opportunity to exercise autonomy. He compares the rigid rules with the commander’s injunction how to arrange an army, but the location of the army depends on the situation. “So in a speech one must know whether it is necessary or too much an introduction, and moreover a short or lengthy one; whether to turn the whole speech to the judges or to another person, using any figure for that;

Quintilian rhetoric as a science divides into three parts: the first discuss about art, the second – about the master, in the third – about the work itself. “Art will be something that, according to the rules, must be learned, and this makes up science to speak well, a master is one who comprehended this art, that is, an orator whose goal is to speak well.” The work is what the master does, that is, the good speech “. Here Quintilian repeats the opinion of Cicero: the true eloquence is owned only by a kind and honest man. Actually, this opinion was spread in ancient Rome, for Quintilian also refers to others who adhered to this.

He writes that rhetoric is the ability and power to persuade. This definition, notes Quintilian, comes from Isocrates (rhetoric is the creator of persuasion). This is the opinion of Cicero. Immediately, Quintilian ironically notes that they convince the word and the charmers, and caresses, and debauchees. The same drawback in the definition of Aristotle, who said that rhetoric is the ability or the power to invent everything that can convince in a speech. The author criticizes these definitions, which are also picked up by school textbooks of eloquence. He offers a different definition, making the reservation that it is found in others: rhetoric is a science to speak well. Quintilian argues that rhetoric is art and science. Astronomy, which is limited to the observation of its subject, can be called speculative; “dancing”, which consists in action, can be called ” active “science, he calls painting” productive “science.” Rhetoric can, it seems, be considered a science, in action consisting, for it achieves its goal through action; all teachers believe so. “But he believes that rhetoric also borrows a lot from other sciences, in fact, this idea continues the views of Plato, Aristotle and Cicero about the need for a speaker to know other sciences.

Quintilian asks the question: does a natural gift or teaching promote eloquence? You can not become an orator without the help of both. He observes: “In short, nature is matter, and science is an artist: this one gives the form or image, and that one accepts.” Art without substance means nothing, matter has no value without art, but excellent finishing is better than the most precious substance. ” The subject of rhetoric can be everything you can talk about, that is, it is a broad, essentially boundless, environment of the speaker’s activities. So says Quintilian, referring to Plato and Cicero.

According to Quintilian, rhetoric consists of five parts: invention, arrangement, presentation, memory, utterance (or action). The objectives of the speaker – to teach, excite, delight, although not all speech is pursued by all three.

He singles out, following the previous theorists, three kinds of speech: evidence, judgment and judicial. The first kind – the evidence – refers to praise and blame: funeral speeches, sometimes speech in court (the defendant has a praise), praise (or blasphemy) can be pronounced in other cases. Praise especially requires distribution and decoration. There may be praise to the gods, people, and also to cities and other subjects.

The second kind of speech – judicious (or debating, advisory) – has a purpose to advise (speeches in the Senate and people’s congresses). In this speech, a good role is played by a good opinion about the speaker. He speaks here of peace, war, the number of troops, allowances, taxes. He should know about the strength of the state and about the customs of citizens.


Quintilian’s Rhetoric