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Quintilian – outstanding educator and rhetorician

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Rhetoric, Woodcut in: Gregor Reich, Margarita Philosophica, Strasbourg 1512
Rhetoric, Woodcut in: Gregor Reich, Margarita Philosophica, Strasbourg 1512

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (approx. 35 – approx. 96 CE) became famous for his work “Institutes of Oratory”, on which many a humanist grew up. Quintilian taught the rhetoric for which he became famous in the Roman Empire, but he was also an outstanding educator. The scientist raised problems that concern modern people and that is why his thought is valid.

Quintilian in his work touched upon the problem of education and youth education and answered the question whether private education at home is better, or whether the child should be sent for collective education to school. The thinker recognizes the superiority of the latter method by responding to accusations about the deterioration of morals in schools. The thinker notices that pathologies also occur at home. Quintilian emphasizes that the speaker must stay in society from an early age and get used to his company, and this is what the school is to teach.

Quintilian devoted much space to rhetoric in his work. The thinker wonders how to define rhetoric based on the opinions of other ancient writers. The educator notices that not only words have a power of impact, but also symbolic gestures and gives the example of the consul Antony, who, while defending Manius Aquilius, tore his clothes and showed wounds sustained in the fight for his homeland, which moved the audience. Another example is the case of Servius Galba, who became famous for his cruelty during the war but avoided the sentence by showing his underage children and thus aroused pity in the assembly. The teacher ultimately recognizes that rhetoric is knowledge of fair pronunciation. Later, Quintilian defends the use of rhetoric, noting that it helps to defend friends, to direct assemblies and the army. The Roman writer defends the thesis that rhetoric is an art, pointing to the enormity of materials dealing with it and the outstanding teachers who teach it. Quintilian responds to the objection that even the vicious can be an outstanding rhetorician, pointing out that valour is a virtue even if it is a bandit.

Getting to know the figure of Quintilian, we will appreciate the thought of the ancient Romans, on which we built our culture. Science owes much to Roman politicians, thinkers, lawyers, philosophers and educators. We cannot forget it!

Author: Paweł Krzemiński (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)
  • Kwintylian, Kształcenie mówcy, przekład i opracowanie Mieczysław Brzozek, Warszawa 2002

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