Life of Quintilian
Marcus Fabius Quintilianus was, like Seneca, of
Spanish origin, being born about 35 A.D. at Calagurris. His father was a rhetorician of some note
who practised with success at Rome. It is not surprising therefore to find that the young Quintilian
was sent to Rome for his education. Among his
teachers were the famous grammaticus
Palaemon, and the no less distinguished rhetorician
Domitius Afer. On completing his education he
seems to have returned to his native land to teach
rhetoric there, for we next hear of him as being
brought to Rome in 68 A.D. by Galba, then governor
of Hispania Tarraconensis. At Rome he met with
great success as a teacher and was the first rhetorician to set up a genuine public school and to receive
a salary from the State. He continued to teach for
twenty years and had among his pupils the younger
Pliny and the two sons of Domitilla, the sister of
Domitian. He was also a successful pleader in the
courts as we gather from more than one passage in
his works. Late in life he married and had two
sons. But both wife and children predeceased him.
He died full of honour, the possessor of wide lands
and consular rank. The date of his death is unknown, but it was before 100 A.D. He left behind
him a treatise “On the causes of the decadence of
Roman oratory” (De causis corruptae eloquentiae
present work, and a speech in defence of a certain
Naevius Arpinianus, who was accused of murdering
his wife. These are the only works known to have
been actually published by him, though others of
his speeches had been taken down in shorthand and
circulated against his will, while an excess of zeal on
the part of his pupils resulted in the unauthorised
publication of two series of lecture notes. The
present work alone survives. The declamations
which have come down to us under his name are
spurious. Of his character the Institutio Oratoria
gives us the pleasantest impression. Humane,
kindly and of a deeply affectionate nature, gifted
with a robust common sense and sound literary
judgment, he may well have been the ideal school-master. The fulsome references to Domitian are
the only blemishes which mar this otherwise pleasing
impression. And even here we must remember his
great debt to the Flavian house and the genuine
difficulty for a man in his position of avoiding the
official style in speaking of the emperor.
As a stylist, though he is often difficult owing
to compression and the epigrammatic turn which he
gives his phrases, he is never affected or extravagant.
He is still under the influence of the sound traditions
of the Ciceronian age, and his Latin is silver-gilt
rather than silver. His Institutio Oratoria,
the fact that much of it is highly technical, has still
much that is of interest to-day, even for those who
care little for the history of rhetoric. Notably in
the first book his precepts as regards education have
lasting value: they may not be strikingly original,
but they are sound, humane and admirably put. In
the more technical portions of his work he is unequal;
the reader feels that he cares but little about the
minute pedantries of rhetorical technique, and that
he lacks method in his presentation of the varying
views held by his predecessors. But once he is free of
such minor details and touches on themes of real
practical interest, he is a changed man. He is at
times really eloquent, and always vigorous and
sound, while throughout the whole work he keeps
the same high ideal unswervingly before him.
Ed. princeps, Campano, Rome, 1470.
Gronov, Leyden, 1665.
Gibson, Oxford, 1693.
Obrecht, Strassburg, 1698.
Burmann, Leyden, 1720.
Capperonnier, Paris, 1725.
Gesner, Göttingen, 1738.
Spalding, Leipzig, 1798–1816, with supplementary volume of notes by Zumpt, 1829, and another by Bonnell, 1834.
Zumpt, Leipzig, 1831.
Bonnell. Tenbner texts, 1854.
Halm, Leipzig, 1868.
Meister, Leipzig, 1886–7.
Radermacher, Teubner texts, 1907 (Bks. 1–6). Second edition by V. Buchheit, 2 vols., 1959.
D. M. Gaunt, M. Fabii Quintiliani Institutio Oratoria.
Selections with commentary and summaries of the intervening material. London, W. Heinemann. 1952.
editions of single books
Bk. 1, Fierville, Paris, 1890; F. Colson. Cambridge, 1924.
Bk. 10, Peterson, Oxford, 1891.
Bk. 10 and 12, Frieze, New York; Bk. 12, R. G. Austin, Oxford, 1948.
Of the above the commentary of Spalding and the texts of Halm, Meister and Radermacher are by far the most important. Peterson's edition of Bk. 10 contains an admirable introduction dealing with the life of Quintilian, his gifts as a critic, his style and language and the MSS.
In connection with the history of rhetorical theory and practice at Rome, the following works are of special importance:—
Cicero, de Oratore
(Ed. Wilkins, Oxford, 1892).
(Ed. Sandys, Cambridge, 1889).
(Ed. Kellogg, Boston, 1889).
Tacitus, Dialogus de claris oratoribus
(Ed. Peterson, Oxford, 1893).
For the history of Latin rhetoric and education the following works may be consulted:—
Norden, Die Antike Kunstprosa,
Volkmann, Die Rhetorik der Griechen und Römer,
Marquardt, Das Privatleben der Römer,
pp. 80–126, ed. 2, Leipzig, 1886.
Wilkins, Roman Education,
English translations of Quintilian
Guthrie, London, 1805.
Watson, in Bohn's series, reprinted 1903.
The MSS. of the Institutio Oratoria
fall into three groups:—
(1) The Codex Ambrosianus (E153), an eleventh-century MS. now at Milan. Chs. ix. iv. 135 to xii. xi. 22 are missing.
(2) The Codex Bernensis (351) of the 10th century.
The Codex Bambergensis (M. 4, 14) of the 10th century.
The Codex Nostradamensis (Paris, Lat. 18527) of the 10th (?) century.
This group has the following lucunae
: i. to i. 7; v. xiv.
12 to viii. iii. 64; viii. vi. 17 to 67; IX. iii. 2 to x. i. 107;
xi. i. 71 to ii. 23; XII. x. 43 to end.
The gaps are to be
supplied from the Codex Bambergensis, in which they have
been filled in by a later hand from a MS. resembling the
(3) A number of late MSS of the 15th century of the
Occasional assistance may he obtained from the Ars
of Julius Victor (Halm, Rhet. Lat. minores,
pp. 373 8qq.), which is based on Quintilian and often transcribes whole passages: the Rhetorical treatise attributed
to Cassiodorus (Haln, op. cit.
p. 501) is also sometimes
The text in this volume is that of Halm, with a few slight
alterations in reading, and a considerable number in punctuation. The first family is indicated by A in critical notes,
the second by B. Where particular MSS. are mentioned
they are indicated by their name.
A = Codex Ambrosianus I, 11th century.
B = Agreement of Codex Bernensis, Bambergensis and Nostradamensis, 10th century.
G = Codex Bambergensis in those passages where gaps have been supplied by a later 11th-century hand.