Biography of Marco Fabio Quintiliano (ca. 30-35-ca. 100)

Although there have been disagreements about the place of birth of this famous orator and teacher of rhetoric, today seems accepted that Quintilian was natural of Calagurris (currently, Calahorra, Logroño) according to trials of Ausonius(16th 2: 7) and St. Jerome. As to the date of his birth, we must assume that it took place ca. 30-35 do not know much about his life, do not even know if her father was the rhetor Quintiliano appointed by Seneca the elder in their disputes. It is also difficult to venture long remained in Spain before moving to Rome, where the bulk of his training was developed. There, according to the own Quintiliano throughout his work, attended the school of grammar of Q. Remmio Palaemon (master also Persio) and, later, was very close to the famous orator Domitius Afro (died 59); also remember to have met Pomponio and Seneca. Completed his education at Rome, we must assume that around the age of twenty, he/she returned to Spain, where he/she stayed for some time until his definitive return to the city. Jerome is precisely who says (chronic 211, 4) that Quintilian "had been taken to Rome by Galba", something which took place at 68, only secure date in the life of this speaker.

Since that time, Quintilian was dedicated to the teaching of rhetoric, activity developed for at least 20 years as stated in the foreword of his Institutio oratoria (perhaps among the 68-88 years or 70-90). As Professor of rhetoric, Quintilian achieved great fame and, in fact, became the first teacher who opened a public school by the Treasury under Vespasian. His pupils were Pliny the younger(Epist. II 14, 10) and surely Tacitus. And although Juvenal (VII 186 et seq.) points out that his salary was not very high, Quintilian managed to amass a good fortune. In all this time, not completely abandoned his profession as a lawyer and was even published some of his speeches; Perhaps one of his most famous was the Queen Berenice, he/she referred to in his Institutio, IV 1, 19.

Under the Emperor Domitian, Quintilian was commissioned to protect the education of grandchildren of his sister (Flavio Clemente and Flavia Domitila sons) and was at that time when he/she received ornamenta consularia them thanks to the intervention of the own Clemente; Anyway, there is so much that that real power, according to Ausonius XXIX was more than one honorific title 7 31: "Quintilian, who received consular logos thanks to Clemente, seems more had the ornaments of that title to the attributes of power" (the quote comes from the translation of A. Alvar, Ausonius, Gredos1990).

After all those years dedicated to teaching, Quintilian retired and decided to compose a work for young bonae mentis, a Treaty of rhetoric or, rather, a true manual for the instruction of youth: we refer to the aforementioned Institutio oratoria, work composed between 93 and 96, year of the death of Domitian. In this work, in the preface to Book VI, Quintilian speaks also of an important event in his life: his marriage and his two sons. Here we learn that his wife had died age 19 (quae nondum expleto aetatis anno undevicesimo) hardly compliments. Also killed his two sons: one when he/she was 5 years old (mihi filius minor quintum egressus annum prior alterum ex duobus eruit lumen ["my youngest son, leaving already five-year-old, was the first to snatch me one of my two lights"]) and another with 9 years (Non enim florets, sicut prior, sed iam decimum aetatis ingressus annum, certos ac deformatos fructus ostenderat ["this no longer flowers"])([", as above, but about to turn ten, he/she showed certain fruits and well-trained"]). Once this work is completed, do not return to have some news on Quintilian, so that can not pinpoint the exact date of his death, which we have put before the year 100.


The minor works.

Before turning to the study of the most important work of Quintilian, the Institutio oratoria, is necessary to mention a few other works yours which, unfortunately, have not survived to this day. Firstly, it should be noted the De causis corruptae eloquentiae, where Quintiliano addressed the problem of the decline of this art. The author tells us that he/she began the composition of this work at the time that his son had died (see saw praef. 3) and refers to it in several passages of his Institutio.

Secondly it should be noted his speech, also lost, Pro Naevio Arpiniano, referred to in Inst. VII 2, 24, whose publication is safe and not as happens with other his speeches that could circulate without your authorization (nam ceterae quae sub nomine meo feruntur, negligentia excipientium in quaestum notariorum corruptae minimam partem mei habent ["as other works that go under my name, corrupted by the negligence of notaries, who take them to their profit, have very little of me"]).

There is also a group of works falsely attributed to Quintilian: are called Declamationes Pseudo-Quintilianeae, which can be divided into two types. Known as declamationes maiores and declamationes minores. The first are 19 rhetorical pieces which circulated under the name of the great Hispanic rhetor during the fourth century and that were probably published by some scholars of that period. Today there are great doubts about the real authorship of Quintilian on these orationes which are extremely contrived and convoluted, partly contradicting own doctrine of Quintilian.

At the same time, the declamationes minores are a set of 145 pieces from a collection that originally had 388. They are much shorter than the previous and each develops a theme in simple way. This makes us think that these declamationes are rather the result of school and that they composed as simple training exercises. It's really hard to think that its author was Quintilian, although the authorship is not at all impossible.

The Institutio oratoria.

Left aside these minor works, there stand out above all the Institutio oratoria, a great Treaty of rhetoric in 12 books published surely before the death of Emperor Domiciano in the year 96, who is praised in book X. The work is dedicated to Victorio Marcelo and, according to his own words in the proem, it took to conclude it somewhat over two years (paulo plus quam biennium). In agreement with the letter headed the Institutio dedicated to the bookseller Trifon, the publication of the text had advance to the demands of those who longed to be able to read the work. In addition, at the time circulated under his name two trataditos from rhetoric that were not his own but rather notes taken in class, that had led him to write his own manual to avoid misunderstandings.

From the outset Quintiliano exposes its Treaty will not be characterized by its originality that is going to be based, above all, on his own experience as a rhetor. In addition, since he/she believed that nothing was stranger to the art of oratory, his book was going to try all those aspects, even the most insignificant, which helped in the formation of a good speaker, an individual also eloquent and virtuous (vir bonus dicendi perituss). Thus, the Institutio is not a simple Treaty of rhetoric but a whole educational programme that starts from the first years of life of an individual (studia eius formare ab infantia incipiam).

In this way, for great admirer of Cicero , Quintilian TULIO and his style, the speaker is more than just someone able to convince through the word; for him, the speaker is, above all, a man useful to the State because his training has made him an individual charged with moral values, connoisseur, among many other things, philosophy and, ultimately, a Sage (opinion not shared, among others, Seneca, author against which directed abundant criticism). So, Quintilian resumes the Roman tradition, and against Cicero considered philosophy as one of the main disciplines that any speaker should know and even identified the speaker with the philosopher (the speaker is a philosopher who speaks eloquently), he/she thinks that the speaker is simply sapiens (wise) and that philosophy is one of the arts must learn to complete his training.

Actually, admiration of Quintilian felt by Cicero, whom he/she considered the true incarnation of eloquence, speaks volumes about his stance: Quintilian did not see with good eyes routes that was taking the eloquence in Rome or not liked the way in which the new speakers and writers handled the language; Therefore, with his treatise, sought to put things back in place. To that end, Quintilian wrote his Handbook, in which Cicero was the model; in fact, the ciceronianas orationes serve here to illustrate the functions of different parts of speech; also according to Cicero, Quintilian considered that the elocutio is the most important of the five parties that breaks down the activity of the speaker (inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memory and actio) and develops the same theory of the three styles (the sublime, the medium and the negligible).

However, there is an important aspect in which the doctrine of Quintilian is opposed to the Cicero and is precisely to study the relationship between ars ('art, technique') and natura ('nature, wit or flair'): If for Cicero eloquence was a natural gift that could enhance the study of rhetoric, Quintilian is a gift that can be achieved thanks precisely to the rhetoric. Here lies the main difference: while Cicero spoke in his treatises on rhetoric from his own experience of successful speaker and thus revealed the fruits of their experience, Quintilian speaks as Professor of rhetoric and, therefore, try to be exhaustive in all aspects that Cicero had not even tried on the idea that the perseverance and some good teachers are able to create a speaker.Certainly, speaking of the times of Cicero was not the same as the epoch of Quintilian; Thus, although Quintilian recognized the importance of deliberative oratory, times were not the most propitious for political debate in a Senate that is subjected to the power of the Emperor; Yes, change, for forensic oratory, real field where he/she exercised and which enrich themselves. However, this speech, abandoning all restraint, had fallen into excess, something criticized by authors such as Tacitus or Pliny: here, everything was valid to get applause from the Auditorium, and the oratory, taught in the school through the famous controversies and persuasive, he/she had distorted and had lost its moral intention.

Eloquence weapons could fall into the hands of anyone, with the danger that that entailed. This situation, Quintilian only aspired to return to speaking their measure and although it advocated the school declamationes, wanted these will abide to the field of how credible and how close to the reality of processes. This should add the need of turning the speaker into a good man; Thus good intentions could join the appropriate means to put them into practice through the debate.

Quintilian draws in his work a full curriculum that includes a theoretical part, which dealt with the basic precepts of the rhetoric of known enough given the large number of existing treaties, and a practical part, which is recommended for the future speaker exercise of his art over the aforementioned declamationes or proposed models for imitation. In book I, our author is the preparation of children for higher education (or rhetoric), by what here addresses some issues with the grammar (as in I 9, which speaks of the double office of the Grammarian: ratio loquendi et enarratio auctorum) and also recommends the study of geometry and music.

In book II, Quintilian puts the child in the school of rhetoric; throughout this book, the elements, the nature and the essence of this art; are exposed in a theoretical way then in Book III to VI described the doctrine of inventio and Book VII speaks of the dispositio. Book VIII is devoted to the style (elocutio) and speaks here of the proprietas, motif and the tropes; in book IX the tropes or figures of thought are studied and a few paragraphs are dedicated to the artistic rhythms of prose. Book X is of great interest because it is built as a true chapter of literary criticism, where Quintiliano compares with the Greek Latin literature and made value judgments on the most important authors of antiquity. This preamble is used to treat then certain aspects relating to the imitatio (imitation of models). This book, by its content, has enjoyed a huge reputation and has been recognized on numerous occasions independent editions.

Initially, this book X is inspired in the interest of Quintilian to seek a practical method to enable the speaker to acquire ease of Word and thought; But anyway, what has attracted the attention of scholars has been sketching a brief history of classical literature, which serves to offer the student of public speaking a number of models of reading and learning. Thanks to this text, although limited by pedagogical questions to a small number of authors, we can know some Latin writers whose works we have not preserved; In addition, Quintilian is not only limited to appoint those authors and their works, but also expresses in a few words his judgment critical and severe, although, occasionally, this is not merely the reflection of all a prior tradition.

This can be seen especially when deals with Greek literature; Here, Quintilian demonstrates enough matches to Dionysius of Halicarnassus and his De veterum censorship and seem to quote those perpetrators in accordance with a plan drawn up by a previous criticism. In terms of Latin literature, our return is intended to prepare a catalogue in the manner of the catalogues which the Alexandrians scholars had made of Greek literature; Anyway, here yes reflected the personal views of the own Quintiliano about the authors cited. Thus, in this book is inscribed the famous paean to Cicero, who is designated as the most perfect and finished model, and includes a trial fairly even-handed about Seneca, whose unique style is criticized in other chapters of the Institutio.

Book XI is the memory of the actio. The work culminates in the twelfth book, Quintilian, worried about the formation of the full or perfect speaker, speaking of the ethical-moral qualities that should preside over the hearts and minds of true citizen, true vir bonus.

Language and style.

Although Quintilian was aware of that was writing a teaching manual, he/she wanted to adorn his work with a dress that make it more enjoyable to your audience; therefore resorted at times to an ornate and florid style and, despite trumpeting their intention to recover the model awoke, it was unable to escape of the influences that came from his own time, that which has been named as the silver age of Latin letters. His latin together, therefore, the characteristics of the imperial latin: linguistic and stylistic audacities and a marked inclination for the language with poetic flavor, what makes your style closest to Seneca than you might think. In fact, Quintilian, who detested the extreme traits of modernity, wanted to find medium between these models and the more archaic. All this has made that his work, despite what it might seem by their content, an important piece in the literature of that time.



BUTLER, H. E. Loeb, Cambridge, 1979.COUSIN, J. Budé, L. Teubner, 1965.WINTERBOTTOM, M. Oxford, 1975-1980.RADERMACHER, 1970.dolc, M. institution oratoria. Book X, Barcelona, 1947.


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T. Jiménez Calvente.