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(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Quintilian (kwihn-TIHL-yehn) came to Rome at a time when Spanish provincials had become prominent in Rome. He may have received his education in Rome and was active in the courts there until he returned to Spain around 60 c.e. He was brought back to Rome by Servius Sulpicus Galba when he became emperor (r. 68-69 c.e.). Quintilian continued to be favored by the subsequent emperors Vespasian and Domitian, earning the honor of being the first teacher of rhetoric to be paid from the public treasury. In about 88 c.e., Quintilian retired after twenty years of teaching, but the emperor Domitian recalled him to tutor his two grandnephews. For this, Quintilian was awarded honorary symbols of the consulship.

Quintilian’s major writing is the Institutio Oratoria (c. 95 c.e.; English translation, 1921) in twelve books. The so-called Minor Declamations may also be by him, or notes of his lectures. His book De causis corruptae eloquentiae (on the corruption of eloquence) is lost. The Institutio Oratoria is a fairly comprehensive treatise for the training of the orator from childhood to graduation.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Quintilian’s influence as a teacher was considerable in his own day. Students and those heavily influenced by him include Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Juvenal, and Martial. His writings were unknown through most of the Middle Ages until a single copy of the Institutio Oratoria was found in 1416 by Poggio Bracciolini. The Humanists were attracted to his attitude toward and method of education.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Kennedy, George. Quintilian. New York: Twayne, 1969.

Quintilian. “From Institutes of Oratory.” In The Rhetorical Tradition, edited by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: St. Martin’s Press, 1990.