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The Educational Theory of Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus)

Analyst: Paul O'Neill

edited 8/18/11


    Quintilian is thought to have been born somewhere around 35-40 A. D. (Kennedy, 1969, p. 15) in Calagurris, now known as Calahorra, Spain. He studied in Rome, later becoming a teacher of oratory and rhetoric (Mayer, 1967, p. 101). His father had been an orator before him (Russell, 2001, p. 143, Book IX) but never was as prominent as his son would become.

Quintilian's major work titled Institutio Oratoria (The Orator's Education) was a series of twelve books containing lessons involved with the form of rhetoric. In Book I Quintilian recommended that the orator's education in rhetoric begin as a young boy, in the tradition of the Greeks. Book II then dealt with the foundations of rhetoric, leading to the next nine books, in which the first five detailed 'Invention' and ended with "Elocution, with which was associated Memory and Delivery" (Ibid., p. 63, Book I).

His final book depicted the orator in every facet of life from "his character, the principles of undertaking, preparing, and pleading cases, his style, the end of his active career and the studies he may undertake thereafter" (Ibid., p. 63, Book I). Overall, it was Quintilian's hope to "educate the perfect orator" (Ibid., p. 63, Book I), by providing a template of teaching rhetoric as well as formatting methods of teaching altogether through his books.

I. Theory of Value. What knowledge and skills are worthwhile learning? What are the goals of education?

Quintilian believed that all forms of knowledge were equally important and that speaking, writing and reading were the most dominant of skills. He illustrated that talent, good health and valuable attributes are "of no profit without a skilled teacher, persistence in study, and much continued practice in reading, writing and speaking" (Ibid., p. 65, Book I). Learning to speak well was so important that Quintilian advised that upon the child's birth, the parent must "make sure that the nurses speak properly" for the parent must "devote the keenest possible care, from the moment he becomes a parent, to fostering the promise of an orator to be" (Ibid., p. 67, Book I). If such resources were unavailable, Quintilian later insisted there be "one person always at hand who knows the right ways of speaking, who can correct on the spot any faulty expression used by others" (Ibid., p. 71, Book I).

Under Quintilian's advice, Greek was to be taught first because it was where true instruction began, followed by Latin. After learning to speak, read and write, Quintilian stressed that other subjects and skills be mastered, however, he maintained that speaking correctly was paramount. When learning 'grammatici' or the "study of correct speech and the interpretation of the poets" (Ibid., p. 103) all other skills were tied in for:

"Grammatici cannot be complete without music, because it has to discuss meter and rhythm; nor can it understand the poets without a knowledge of astronomy, since they often use the risings and settings of constellations as indications of time; nor again should it be ignorant of philosophy, because of the numerous passages in every poem that depend on intricate points of natural science. Eloquence too is needed, and in no small measure, to give a proper and fluent explanation of the various matters mentioned." (Ibid., p. 104, Book I)

    Overall, Quintilian believed that the goal of education, aided by his belief and aim to create the 'perfect orator', was to create an upstanding citizen in every facet of everyday life and to cultivate an individual above the basic standards of nature. In his final book he urged all to fully explore "the majesty of oratory, the best gift of gods to man, without which all things are dumb and robbed of present splendor and future remembrance" further adding "let us all strive for the best, because in so doing we shall either reach the summit or at least look down on many below us" (Ibid., p. 341, Book XII).

II. Theory of Knowledge. What is knowledge? How is it different from belief? What is a mistake? What is a lie?

Quintilian believed that knowledge was not inherent and could only be acquired through proper education; that is, knowledge exists, but must be attained through proper training and learning. Quintilian believed that the proper training one must undertake to possess knowledge is the art of oratory. In the final passage of book two of Institutio Oratoria, Quintilian discussed the 'instrument' of oratory, stating that instrument was "that without which the material cannot be shaped into the work which we wish to produce" (Ibid., p. 415, Book II). He later went on to state "knowledge needs no 'instrument' because it can be perfect even if it does nothing" further adding that the artist, in this case the orator, needs the 'instrument' like "an engraver needs his chisel, and a painter his brush" (Ibid., p. 415-16, Book II). Although Quintilian believed that knowledge is not inherent, he did believe that humans were born with the natural quest for reason:

"There is no foundation for the complaint that only a small minority of human beings have been given the power to understand what is taught to them, the majority being so slow-witted that they waste time and labor. On the contrary, you will find that the greater number quick to reason and prompt to learn. This is natural to man: as birds are born for flying, horses for speed, beasts of prey for ferocity, so are we for mental activity and resourcefulness. This is why the soul is believed to have its origin in heaven." (Ibid., p.65, Book I).

    When discussing mistakes, Quintilian recommended utilizing certain materials to avoid mistakes in order to build on progress. When teaching the child to write, he suggested having the child trace the outlines of the letters utilizing grooves in the tablets in order to expeditiously aid in what could be considered a laborious process (Ibid., p.79, Book I). Building on his theory of learning through guides and repetition, Quintilian also believed that when learning to read and write one must not give way to haste, for, when attempting to read, "the result is hesitation, interruption and repetition, because they are venturing beyond their powers and then when they make mistakes, losing confidence also in what they know" (Ibid., pp.79-80, Book I).

When later discussing peoples' actions, Quintilian described the motives of both right and wrong actions. "Wrong actions", he stated, "arise from false opinions, because they originate with beliefs about good and evil, and from this spring mistakes and evil emotions such as anger, hatred, envy, greed, expectation, ambition, audacity, fear and the like" (Ibid., p.383, Book V). Finally, when discussing mistakes in the line of work as the orator, Quintilian warned that it is due to believing "that some people say one thing but mean another" (Ibid., p.85, Book IX). Illustrating his point by describing a story of one of his former cases, Quintilian advised that "the whole process of saying one thing and meaning another is akin to allegory" (Ibid., p.89, Book IX).

Quintilian discussed lies and lying at great length due to the fact that he was teaching the art of oratory. Overall, he believed "a good man only pleads good causes, and truth itself is defense enough for them without the help of learning" (Ibid., pp 214-15, Book XII). He further explained that at times, the orator must defend a guilty person, stating "it is not useless to consider how one may on occasion speak for a falsehood or even for an injustice, if only because it enables us to detect and refute such things more easily" further illustrating that "equity is better understood by looking at the opposite" (Ibid., pp 214-15, Book XII). This last statement expressed Quintilian's feelings about the existence of lies and how he felt they were not virtuous, but prevalent nonetheless.

In book IV, Quintilian discussed lies in his passage titled "false narratives"; two types of which he described are "one which depends on external evidence" and "one which can be supported by the speaker's ingenuity" (Ibid., p. 263, Book IV). When discussing the latter narrative, Quintilian asserted when lying, one must invent a lie that is "feasible", and "have credible structure...confirming person, place or time...if possible linking it to something which is true, or be confirmed by an argument which has a role in the cause" (Ibid., p. 265, Book IV). This, in contrast to the first statement, illustrates Quintilian as an advocate of lying. He later added: "Fictions drawn entirely from circumstances outside the case reveal that we have taken a license out to lie" (Ibid., p. 265, Book IV). He did, however, warn against the use of false narrative, cautioning others to "avoid self-contradiction and inconsistency" further advising "the orator will need to remember his fictions throughout the pleading because falsehoods commonly slip the mind; the common saying that 'a liar should have a good memory' is very true" (Ibid., p. 265, Book IV).

III. Theory of Human Nature: What is a human being? How does it differ from other species? What are the limits of human potential?

The human being, according to Quintilian, was a model of the gods whose soul was a product of heaven and whose mind was meant for reason and learning (Ibid., p. 65, Book I, also p. 235, Book XII). He stated that reason was "natural to man: as birds are born for flying, horses for speed, beasts of prey for ferocity, so are we for mental activity and resourcefulness" (Ibid., p. 65, Book I). Multiple factors defined a man in the time of Quintilian. In the seventh chapter of his third book, he declared that "before the man's life will come country, parents and ancestors" and that the "praise of this man must be based on mind, body and external circumstances" (Ibid., p.107, Book III).

When differentiating between humans and other species, Quintilian argued that man differs from other species in means of reason, his linguistic abilities and in his high values. He stated: "it is absolutely certain that man excels other animals in reason and speech" further asking "why should we not accept that human virtue lies in eloquence just as much as in reason?" (Ibid., p. 405, Book II). In terms of linguistic abilities, Quintilian emphasized that nature "specially favored the human race and marked us off from all other animals" by granting them with "the faculty of speech" (Ibid., p. 199, Book XII). When he discussed some of his detractors who disagreed with his beliefs of teaching many subjects at one time, Quintilian retorted:

"these critics do not appreciate the power of the human mind; it is so nimble and quick, so ready to look in all directions, that it cannot even concentrate exclusively on one thing at a time but applies its powers to many objects, not only on the same day but at the same moment." (Ibid., p. 245, Book I)

When discussing the limitations of human potential, Quintilian foresaw great things for those who employ a good work ethic and follow his teachings. In his pursuit to educate the perfect orator, he envisioned him to be a man "who can truly be called 'wise', not only perfect in morals, but also in knowledge and his general capacity for speaking" for "such a person has perhaps not yet existed, but that is no reason for relaxing our efforts to attain the ideal" (Ibid., p. 61, Book I). He further argued that "consummate eloquence is surely a real thing, and the nature of human ability does not debar us from attaining it" (Ibid., p. 61, Book I). Quintilian did believe in some limitations, highlighting "some will achieve more and some less" adding, however, "we never find one who has not achieved something by his efforts" (Ibid., p. 67, Book I).

Quintilian also pointed out that the "path to excellence...is extremely easy" further adding "we have only to watch nature and follow her" (Ibid., p. 381, Book VIII). Later he explained that "nature created us to have the right attitudes...to learn the better course" and that "it ought to be easier to live according to nature than against her will" (Ibid., p. 331, Book XII). He did have great faith in humans and their ability to acquire knowledge despite their shortcomings, for he felt that even when one does not succeed, they leave behind a solid foothold for others to continue.

"But even if we fail, those who make an effort to get to the top will climb higher than those who from the start despair of emerging where they want to be, and stop right at the foot of the hill." (Ibid., p. 61, Book I)

In the end, Quintilian believed that the power of the human mind was great and that we are all "capable of reaching its end" (Ibid., p.329, Book XII).

IV. Theory of Learning: What is learning? How are skills and knowledge acquired?

Quintilian believed that learning was the acquisition of knowledge and its associated abilities and competently committing them to memory. He stated that children must begin learning at an early age for "the elements of reading and writing are entirely a matter of memory" which is at "it's most retentive" during childhood (Ibid., p. 73, Book I). Memory is an important trait and is the key feature of learning according to Quintilian, and he felt that there was nothing more important than "practice for nourishing and strengthening it" (Ibid., p. 81, Book I). Adding to the importance of rehearsal, he later stated that "continual practice...is in fact the most effective way of learning" (Ibid., p. 385, Book II).

Quintilian asserted that memory was a "gift of nature" which is "improved by cultivation" (Ibid., p. 59, Book XI). As an orator, it is importent to keep a good memory full of the acquired knowledge rooted in "examples, laws, rulings, sayings and facts which the orator must possess in abundance and have always at his fingertips"; Quintilian called this reserve the "treasury of eloquence"(Ibid., p. 59, Book XI). In order to perform any type of learning, Quintilian thought it important to chain all knowledge together, that way retrieval was possible. Learning is an important function, and Quintilian deemed it so stating:

"It has to be admitted that learning does take something away-as a file takes something from a rough surface, or a whetstone from a blunt edge, or age from wine-but it takes away faults, and the work that has been polished by literary skills is diminished only in so far as it is improved" (Ibid., p. 337, Book II)

Memory is a learning tool that, like all other instruments, must be practiced and reviewed. Quintilian warned that one "must beware of trusting the first memory too readily" advising that repeating and reviewing avoids any hasty mistakes and ensures "speed and continuity (Ibid., p. 79, Book I).

Skills and knowledge, according to Quintilian, are acquired through many different practices revolving around rehearsal. Important skills that Quintilian stressed learning involved speaking, and writing well, in addition to an established knowledge for the foundation of most subjects: "Speaking well and writing well are one and the same thing" (Ibid., p. 309, Book XII). By practicing one's speech along with "writing in one's own hand is important in our studies and is the only way to ensure real, deep-rooted progress" (Ibid., p. 79, Book I).

Imitation should not be a form of education for it is not a form of learning, and it only leads to a multitude of weaknesses according to Quintilian. Although he considered it important to follow templates and standards in education, such as writing tools, he emphasized that only at the rudimentary level was imitation acceptable. He raised five points against the practice of imitation, arguing that it "is not sufficient on its own... and only a lazy mind is content with what others have discovered; it is a disgrace to be content merely to attain the effect one is imitating; it is generally easier to improve on something than simply to repeat it; whatever resembles another object is bound to be less than what it imitates; and, the greatest qualities of the orator are inimitable...everything that is not taught in textbooks" (Ibid., pp. 323-7, Book X).

V. Theory of Transmission: Who is to teach? By what methods? What will the curriculum be?

Quintilian believed that the teacher was one of the most important elements in a child's life, and that everyone plays a role. From birth, all those that have any type of contact with the child impact the child's education. In their formative years, which Quintilian believed to be before the age of seven (Ibid., p. 73, Book I), the child is learning from his family, nurses, 'paedagogi' (slaves responsible for the "early training and behavior" [Ibid., p. 69, Book I]), and peers. The teacher was to play a more important role in the lives of children and their education more so than any other influence, for Quintilian believed that the teacher's obligation was to both "foster the good qualities he finds in each of the students, and, so far as possible, to make good of their deficiencies, and correct or change some of their characteristics...he is the guide and molder of the minds of others" (Ibid., p. 331, Book X).

Teachers, as well as students (to be discussed in section VII: Theory of opportunity) at the time of Quintilian were to be only males. Quintilian stated that the teacher should be one of good character, for children are with them for a majority of an impressionable time period, and "the impeccable character of the teacher should preserve the younger pupils from injury, and his authority deter the more aggressive from licentious behavior" (Ibid., p. 271, Book II). The good character of the teacher, according to Quintilian, was to aid the teacher to take on a "paternal role" and "be free from any vice and intolerant of it in others" (Ibid., p. 271, Book II). Other qualities Quintilian insisted the teacher possessed were further explained in book II:

" Let him be strict, but not grim, and friendly but not too relaxed as to incur neither hatred nor contempt; he should talk a great deal about what is good and honorable; the more often he has admonished his pupils, the more rarely will he need to punish them; he must not be given to anger, but he must not turn a blind eye to things that need correction; he must be straightforward in his teaching, willing to work, persistent but not obsessive; must answer questions readily and put questions to himself to those who do not ask any; in praising his pupils' performances he must neither grudging nor fulsome (the one produces dislike of the work, the other complacency); in correcting faults, he must not be biting, and certainly not abusive for many have been driven away from learning because some teachers rebuke pupils as though they hate them" (Ibid., p. 271, Book II).

The most qualified teachers were sought in Quintilian's vision, and were to be men who were well learned in a variety of subjects and capable of higher reasoning. If they are not, then the pupil may never learn proper material for "the unlearned teacher may well approve faulty work and force his pupils to like it because of his own judgment" (Ibid., p. 281, Book II). Because all students possess different learning styles and traits, Quintilian stressed that the teacher must take note of this. He claimed that it is "a virtue in a teacher that he should carefully observe the differences in the abilities of the pupils whose education he has undertaken, and understand the direction to which their various talents incline" (Ibid., p. 317, Book II). Realizing what natural bent the pupil may have a propensity for, a teacher must nurture. Two things for which Quintilian stressed teachers avoid were "trying to do the impossible and diverting the pupil from what he can do best to something for which he is less well suited" (Ibid., p. 323, Book II). The major duty of the teacher, Quintilian urged, is to have "pointed out the right course at the start than to rescue a pupil from errors into which he has already fallen" (Ibid., p. 313, Book II). In order to do this, Quintilian illustrated methods for the teacher to follow.

Quintilian likened the teacher's methods to that of examples in nature. By providing a 'division' in curriculum, Quintilian explained that the teacher is to give a broad outline of the material, have the students give their own version of the material after presentation and combine the two to clear up any misunderstanding. He urged the methods be combined, for if they were to only follow the former, "the student will only hear the corrections" and not necessarily absorb the material; and the latter where the students "are more willing to listen to advice than criticism" (Ibid., p. 313, Book II). He then clarified the statements saying that beginner students must receive the "material predigested" supplying them with a 'track' to follow leading them to eventually perform the instruction on their own power. (Ibid., p. 313, Book II). After they have successfully completed the beginning tasks, the teacher can then provide them with further freedom. If they do not, and commit further mistakes, Quintilian advised that the pupils must then "be brought back under his guidance" (Ibid., p. 313, Book II). He compared this type of instruction to that of the characteristics of birds:

"When their young are tender and feeble, they collect food in their own mouths and divide it among them; but when the young seem fully grown, they teach them to go a little way from the nest and circle around it, leading the way themselves, until they have proved their strength and are allowed the freedom of the sky and left to rely on their own self-confidence" (Ibid., p. 315, Book II).

In order to manage a class, Quintilian stated that it is important the population not be an over abundance: "a good teacher will not burden himself with a bigger crowd of pupils that he cannot manage" (Ibid., p. 89, Book I). In addition to this, Quintilian added "it is very important to ensure that he looks at his teaching not as a matter of duty but of affection (Ibid., p. 89, Book I).

One of the more important traits in teaching involves assortment of subject matter according to Quintilian. He explained that "variety refreshes and restores the mind" after asking why men should not "divide hours among other concerns" (Ibid., p. 247, Book I). He further added that "the learner will be refreshed by change just as the stomach is refreshed by a variety of sustenance and nourished more appetizingly by a number of different foods" (Ibid., p. 247, Book I). Overall, Quintilian emphasized the "Study depends on the will to learn, and this cannot be forced. Thus renewed and refreshed, they will bring to their learning both more energy and that keener spirit" (Ibid., p. 99, Book I). It is important to keep a fresh curriculum and provide the students with a multitude of subjects to learn.

The curriculum teachers were to follow, as Quintilian emphasized, was rooted in many subjects and stressed the importance of oration. Reading, writing and speaking were considered by Quintilian to be the most important functions of the pupil, and he laid out implicit instructions on the facilitation of said material. When learning the letters of the alphabet, Quintilian believed that learning the shapes of the letters along with the pronunciation and succession was important; subsequently, syllables and pronunciation were equally important to master (Ibid., pp. 77-9, Book I). Following the basic reading, writing and speaking portion, Quintilian insisted the child then be schooled in grammatici which was "the subject comprised of two parts: the study of correct speech and the interpretation of the poets" (Ibid., p. 103, Book I).

The study of grammatici was extremely important Quintilian thought because "the principles of writing are closely connected with those of speaking, correct reading is a prerequisite of interpretation, and judgment involved in all these" (Ibid., p. 103, Book I). All of the prominent poets, philosophers and historians of (what is now considered) antiquity were to be a part of the reading as well as music and many other subjects, for the reader needed a broad understanding of the 'universe' (Ibid., p. 105, Book I). The subject matter of the readings was to contain moral undertones and be substantial models for exemplary morals. "These tender minds, which will be deeply affected by whatever is impressed upon them in their untrained ignorance, should learn not only eloquent passages, but, even more, passages which are morally improving" (Ibid., p. 201, Book I).

Following the elementary education of the child, it was then Quintilian's attempt to lay out the curriculum for the future orator which dealt with every possible angle from interpreting narrative, court room appearance, how one carries himself, as well knowledge of 'cases' and examples all to be used when both giving a speech or arguing/pleading a case. Quintilian's curriculum is his twelve books, which he intended to supply the orator with a guide to lifelong learning and provide those teaching the art of rhetoric a template to follow.

VI. Theory of Society: What is society? What institutions are involved in the educational process?

Quintilian deals little with defining what society is, or what the ideal society should be, but does provide a glimpse as to how the orator must be as a member of society and how important the spread of certain cultural aspects are. Clabaugh and Rozycki (2007) explained that socialization is a "process of cultural transmission" which consists of a "system of shared meanings, language, customs, values, ideas and material goods" (p. 13). During the time of Quintilian, Roman culture was paramount, and was the basis for a large percentage of the western world. Quintilian believed that the important aspects of society revolved around language, morals and education as well as interaction during the education. Quintilian considered the orator to be a man of "not only exceptional powers of speech, but all the virtues of character as well" (Russell, 2001, p. 57, Book I). He further added that the philosophers were not the men to be left in charge of placing any moral code on society, but the orator was "fit for management of public and private business, and can guide cities by his counsel, give them firm basis by his laws, and put them right by his judgments"; he further added that orators "are often obliged to speak of justice, courage, temperance and the like" (Ibid., p. 57, Book I).

Quoting Cicero, Quintilian contended that both philosophers and orators at one time were considered one and the same, however, Quintilian insisted that the split occurred when philosophers utilized language as a tool for immoral use (Ibid., p. 59, Book I). He concluded by stating that the orator should be called 'wise' which he defined as "not only perfect in morals, but also in knowledge and in speaking" (Ibid., p. 61, Book I).

When speaking of socialization, Quintilian believed that the orator must be in the public eye and an example of the virtues the ideal society should possess; because of this, it was important that the child develop social relations for a multitude of reasons. In school, the child needed socialization for a means of assessment. In order to judge what he knows, the student must judge himself against his peers and compare what he knows "because any person who has no one to rate himself is bound to rate himself too highly" (Ibid., p. 91, Book I). Quintilian believed that socialization also fueled learning because "the mind needs constant stimulus and challenge" and without any social contact "it either languishes and gathers mold, as it were, in the dark, or else swells up with vain conceit" (Ibid., p. 91, Book I).

His final statement about the importance of society spoke of commonalities and solidarity: "where will he learn what we call common feeling if he shuts himself off from society, which is natural not only to humans but to dumb animals?" (Ibid., p. 91, Book I). His overview of socialization stemmed from his argument concerning home education versus public schooling.

Quintilian believed that public schools were a vital institution involved in the educational process and more important than home education. When disputing the claims that home education is far superior to public schooling, Quintilian addressed two of the major issues: questionable morality possessed by both the school system and the student's peers, and the value of one on one instruction opposed to classroom setting. When arguing the position of morals of the public schools, Quintilian contended that the morals at home are just as compromised if not more so stating that "the whole difference lies in the in the nature of the individual and the attention he receives" (Ibid., p. 85, Book I). He insisted that the child may have a "natural bent towards evil" that cannot be corrected without proper guidance or that he may have "a teacher of bad character" (Ibid., p. 85, Book I).

One on one instruction, to Quintilian, was both impossible and disadvantageous. He stressed this point by stating that "all good teachers like a large class and think they deserve a bigger stage" adding that it is the "weaker teachers, conscious of their own defects, who cling to individual pupils and seem content" (Ibid., p. 87, Book I). The single teacher may also succumb to such pitfalls such as his own shortcomings of knowledge and opinions according to Quintilian, stating the "unlearned teacher may well approve faulty work and force the pupil to like it due to his own judgment" (Ibid., p. 281, Book II). His final critique of individual instruction ended with: "if we only talked to one person at a time, there would be no such thing as eloquence in human life" (Ibid., p. 97, Book I) further concluding by calling home schooling detrimental because "that soft upbringing we call indulgence destroys the sinews of the body and mind" (Ibid., p. 85, Book I).

VII. Theory of Opportunity: Who is to be educated? Who is to be schooled?

In The Orator's Education, Quintilian placed emphasis on the education of boys and spoke of the paternal importance echoed in the time of the Roman Empire. He began his book by stating: "as soon as his son is born, the father should form the highest expectations of him" (Ibid., p. 65, Book I). Quintilian never mentioned the education of females except for when he wished "for the parents to be as highly educated as possible" (Ibid., p. 67, Book I). When the education of the future orator was at hand, Quintilian felt that all around him from his parents, 'paedagogi', slaves, and nurses were to be as highly educated as possible. He also believed that 'slaves' had an opportunity to be educated, but felt that this 'lower class' "scorn to give up the role of instructor and, conceiving that they have a certain title to authority (a frequent source of vanity in this class of persons) become imperious and sometimes even brutal teachers of their own foolishness" (Ibid., p. 69, Book I).

Quintilian made it quite clear that only males were to be the educated ones of Roman society. He does not once mention the role, methods for teaching or barely the existence of females in his work. One of the few mentions of females in his books deals with nouns and gender variations involving verbs and nouns in book IX.

VIII.      Theory of Consensus: Why do people disagree? How is consensus achieved? Whose opinion takes precedence?

When addressing disagreements, Quintilian pointed to the tool of argument, which is necessary to the orator. He felt that it was unnecessary to explain the root of disagreement for it was "a waste of time...it is pretty obvious what should be said against injustice, avarice... and to say everything about all these is an infinite task, just as infinite as trying to expound all the Questions, Arguments and Thoughts involved in everyday controversy" (Ibid., p. 463, Book V). When discussing the use of argument, Quintilian asks "how can doubtful propositions be proved by doubtful propositions"; answering "some things which we adduce to prove something else need to be proved themselves" (Ibid., p. 457, Book V). This means that all evidence in the court case must be in agreement and that any refutation is subject to uncertainty.

In order to achieve consensus, Quintilian advised the art of argument in rhetoric and the importance of gaining support. He maintained

"the strongest arguments should be pressed individually, the weaker ones massed together because it is wrong to let naturally strong points be obscured by their context and their qualities concealed, whereas the naturally weaker points are supported by the help of one another"

The substance of the argument is also extremely important. Quintilian asserted "a judge cannot believe in the sufficiency of arguments which we, the speakers, do not think adequate" (Ibid., p. 459, Book V). Because Quintilian's work centered around the court, he felt that consensus was achieved through 'previous judgments', and that the "confirmation of such judgments were made in two ways: by the authority of the judges in the previous case, and by the similarities of the cases in question" (Ibid., p. 327, Book V). Overall, consensus is achieved when the orator has argued his point well utilizing the tools and skills necessary for his profession as Quintilian illustrated in his books.

In Quintilian's era, there was a multitude of opinions that took precedence in the matters of law and rhetoric. In his book V, he detailed the fact that "decisions of the senate or decrees of the emperors or magistrates" were omnipotent, and in the courts, the judges had the final say (Ibid., p. 329, Book V). The judge's opinion was so strong that Quintilian warned "it would be foolish of me to warn against saying explicitly or even hinting at anything unfavorable to him" because it should be common knowledge that his opinion takes precedence.

Quintilian further advised the orator to "ensure the judge's goodwill" and to "take advantage of the judge's character qualities" (Ibid., pp. 187-89, Book IV). He ended book IV by stating "we need the judge's opinion...and it cannot be changed unless we make him receptive and attentive to what we are going to say" (Ibid., p. 199, Book IV). In the end, Quintilian did cement the importance of the orator when attempting to achieve consensus through the person whose opinion was most important:

"When the judge assigned to us is the people, or some persons drawn from the people, and those who are to pronounce the verdict are unlearned and uneducated countrymen, we must bring into play every device that we think will help to secure our aims" (Ibid., p. 311, Book XII).


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