Bill Thayer






This webpage reproduces a section of
Institutio Oratoria
published in Vol. I
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1920
The text is in the public domain.
This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

(Vol. I)
Book II
Chapters 14‑21
14 1 Rhetoric is a Greek term which has been translated into Latin by oratoria or oratrix. I would not for the world deprive the translators of the praise which is their due for attempting to increase the vocabulary of our native tongue; but translations
from Greek into Latin are not always satisfactory, just as the attempt to represent Latin words in a Greek dress is sometimes equally unsuccessful. 2 And the translations in question are fully as harsh as the essentia and queentia27 of Plautus,​28 and have not even the merit of being exact. For oratoria is formed like elocutoria and oratrix like elocutrix, whereas the rhetoric with which we are concerned is rather to be identified with eloquentia, and the word is undoubtedly used in two senses by the Greeks. 3 In the one case it is an adjective i.e. ars rhetorica, the rhetorical art, like piratic in the phrase nauis piratica, in the other it is a noun like philosophy or friendship. It is as a substantive that we require it here; now the correct translation of the Greek grammatice is litteratura not litteratrix or litteratoria, which would be the forms analogous to oratrix and oratoria. But in the case of "rhetoric" there is no similar Latin equivalent. 4 It is best therefore not to quarrel about it, more especially as we have to use Greek terms in many other cases. For I may at least use the words philosophus​, musicus and geometres without outraging them by changing them into clumsy Latin equivalents. Finally, since Cicero gave a Greek title​29 to the earlier works which he wrote on this subject, I may without fear of rashness accept the great orator as sufficient authority for the name of the art which he professed.
5 To resume, then, rhetoric (for I shall now use the name without fear of captious criticism) is in my opinion best treated under the three following heads, the art, the artist and the work. The art is that which we should acquire by study, and is the art of
speaking well. The artist is he who has acquired the art, that is to say, he is the orator whose task it is to speak well. The work is the achievement of the artist, namely good speaking. Each of these three general divisions is in its turn divided into species. Of the two latter divisions I shall speak in their proper place. For the present I shall proceed to a discussion of the first.
15 1 The first question which confronts us is "What is rhetoric?" Many definitions have been given; but the problem is really twofold. For the dispute turns either on the quality of the thing itself or on the meaning of the words in which it is defined. The first and chief disagreement on the subject is found in the fact that some think that even bad men may be called orators, while others, of whom I am one, restrict the name of orator and the art itself to those who are good. 2 Of those who divorce eloquence from that yet fairer and more desirable title to renown, a virtuous life, some call rhetoric merely a power, some a science, but not a virtue, some a practice, some an art, though they will not allow the art to have anything in common with science or virtue, while some again call it a perversion of art or κακοτεχνία. 3 These persons have as a rule held that the task of oratory lies in persuasion or speaking in a persuasive manner: for this is within the power of a bad man no less than a good. Hence we get the common definition of rhetoric as the power of persuading. What I call a power, many call a capacity, and some a faculty. In order therefore that there may be no misunderstanding I will say that by power I mean δύναμις. 4 This view is derived from Isocrates, if indeed the treatise on
rhetoric​30 which circulates under his name is really from his hand. He, although far from agreeing with those whose aim is to disparage the duties of an orator, somewhat rashly defined rhetoric as πειθοῦς δημιουργός the "worker of persuasion": for I cannot bring myself to use the peculiar derivative which Ennius​31 applies to Marcus Cethegus in the phrase suadae medulla, the "marrow of persuasion." 5 Again Gorgias,​32 in the dialogue of Plato that takes its title from his name, says practically the same thing, but Plato intends it to be taken as the opinion of Gorgias, not as his own. Cicero​33 in more than one passage defined the duty of an orator as "speaking in a persuasive manner." 6 In his Rhetorica34 too, a work which it is clear gave him no satisfaction, he makes the end to be persuasion. But many other things have the power of persuasion, such as money, influence, the authority and rank of the speaker, or even some sight unsupported by language, when for instance the place of words is supplied by the memory of some individual's great deeds, by his lamentable appearance or the beauty of his person. 7 Thus when Antonius in the course of his defence of Manius Aquilius tore open his client's robe and revealed the honourable scars which he had acquired while facing his country's foes, he relied no longer on the power of his eloquence, but appealed directly to the eyes of the Roman people. And it is believed that they were so profoundly moved by the sight as to acquit the accused. 8 Again there is a speech of Cato, to mention no other records, which informs us that Servius Galba escaped condemnation solely by
the pity which he aroused not only by producing his own young children before the assembly, but by carrying round in his arms the son of Sulpicius Gallus. 9 So also according to general opinion Phryne was saved not by the eloquence of Hyperides, admirable as it was, but by the sight of her exquisite body, which she further revealed by drawing aside her tunic. And if all these have power to persuade, the end of oratory, which we are discussing, cannot adequately be defined as persuasion. 10 Consequently those who, although holding the same general view of rhetoric, have regard it as the power of persuasion by speaking, pride themselves on their greater exactness of language. This definition is given by Gorgias, in the dialogue​35 mentioned above, under compulsion from the inexorable logic of Socrates. Theodectes agrees with him, whether the treatise on rhetoric which has come down to us under his name is really by him or, as is generally believed, by Aristotle. In that work the end of rhetoric is defined as the leading of men by the power of speech to the conclusion desired by the orator. 11 But even this definition is not sufficiently comprehensive, since others besides orators persuade by speaking or lead others to the conclusion desired, as for example harlots, flatterers and seducers. 12 And yet Apollodorus is not very far off this definition when he asserts that the first and all-important task of forensic oratory is to persuade the judge and lead his mind to the conclusions desired by the speaker. For
even Apollodorus makes the orator the sport of fortune by refusing him leave to retain his title if he fails to persuade. 13 Some on the other hand pay no attention to results, as for example Aristotle,​36 who says "rhetoric is the power of discovering all means of persuading by speech." This definition has not merely the fault already mentioned, but the additional defect of including merely the power of invention, which without style cannot possibly constitute oratory. 14 Hermagoras, who asserts that its end is to speak persuasively​, and others who express the same opinion, though in different words, and inform us that the end is to say everything which ought to be said with a view to persuasion, have been sufficiently answered above, when I proved that persuasion was not the privilege of the orator alone. 15 Various additions have been made to these definitions. For some hold that rhetoric is concerned with everything, while some restrict its activity to politics. The question as to which of these views is nearer to the truth shall be discussed later in its appropriate place. 16 Aristotle seems to have implied that the sphere of the orator was all-inclusive when he defined rhetoric as the power to detect every element in any given subject which might conduce to persuasion; so too does Patrocles who omits the words in any given subject, but since he excludes nothing, shows that his view is identical. For he defines rhetoric as the power to discover whatever is persuasive in speech. These definitions like that quoted above include no more than the power of invention alone. Theodorus avoids this fault and holds that it is the power to discover and to utter forth in elegant language whatever is credible in every subject of oratory. 17 But, while others besides
orators may discover what is credible as well as persuasive, by adding the words in every subject he, to a greater extent than the others, concedes the fairest name in all the world to those who use their gifts as an incitement to crime. 18 Plato makes Gorgias​37 say that he is a master of persuasion in the law-courts and other assemblies, and that his themes are justice and injustice, while in reply Socrates allows him the power of persuading, but not of teaching. 19 Those who refused to make the sphere of oratory all-inclusive, have been obliged to make somewhat forced and long-winded distinctions: among these I may mention Ariston, the pupil of the Peripatetic Critolaus, who produced the following definition, "Rhetoric is the science of seeing and uttering what ought to be said on political questions in language that is likely to prove persuasive to the people." 20 Being a Peripatetic he regards it as a science, not, like the Stoics, as a virtue, while in adding the words "likely to prove persuasive to the people" he inflicts a positive insult on oratory, in implying that it is not likely to persuade the learned. The same criticism will apply to all those who restrict oratory to political questions, for they exclude thereby a large number of the duties of an orator, as for example panegyric, the third department of oratory, which is entirely ignored. 21 Turning to those who regard rhetoric as an art, but not as a virtue, we find that Theodorus of Gadara is more cautious. For he says (I quote the words of his translators), "rhetoric is the art which discovers and judges and expresses, with an elegance duly proportioned to the importance of all such elements of persuasion as may exist in any subject in the field of politics." 22 Similarly Cornelius Celsus defines the end of rhetoric as
to speak persuasively on any doubtful subject within the field of politics. Similar definitions are given by others, such for instance as the following:— "rhetoric is the power of judging and holding forth on such political subjects as come before it with a certain persuasiveness, a certain action of the body and delivery of the words."23 There are countless other definitions, either identical with this or composed of the same elements, which I shall deal with when I come to the questions concerned with the subject matter of rhetoric. Some regard it as neither a power, a science or an art; Critolaus calls it the practice of speaking (for this is the meaning of τριβή), 24 Athenaeus styles it the art of deceiving, while the majority, content with reading a few passages from the Gorgias of Plato, unskilfully excerpted by earlier writers, refrain from studying that dialogue and the remainder of Plato's writings, and thereby fall into serious error. For they believe that in Plato's view rhetoric was not an art, but a certain adroitness in the production of delight and gratification,​38 25 or with reference to another passage the shadow of a small part of politics39 and the fourth department of flattery. For Plato assigns​40 two departments of politics to the body, namely law and justice, while he styles the art of cookery​41 a form of flattery of medicine, the art of the slave-dealer a flattery of gymnastic, for they produce a false complexion by the use of paint and a false robustness by puffing them out with fat: sophistry he calls a dishonest counterfeit of legal science, and rhetoric of justice. 26 All these statements occur in the Gorgias and are uttered by Socrates who appears to be the mouthpiece
of the views held by Plato. But some of his dialogues were composed merely to refute his opponents and are styled refutative, while others are for the purpose of teaching and are called doctrinal.27 Now it is only rhetoric as practised in their own day that is condemned by Plato or Socrates, for he speaks of it as "the manner in which you engage in public affairs":​42 rhetoric in itself he regards as a genuine and honourable thing, and consequently the controversy with Gorgias ends with the words, "The rhetorician therefore must be just and the just man desirous to do what is just."​43 28 To this Gorgias makes no reply, but the argument is taken up by Polus, a hot-headed and headstrong young fellow, and it is to him that Socrates makes his remarks about "shadows" and "forms of flattery." Then Callicles,​44 who is even more hot-headed, intervenes, but is reduced to the conclusion that "he would truly be a rhetorician ought to be just and possess a knowledge of justice." It is clear therefore that Plato does not regard rhetoric as an evil, but holds that true rhetoric is impossible for any save a just and good man. 29 In the Phaedrus45 he makes it even clearer that the complete attainment of this art is impossible without the knowledge of justice, an opinion in which I heartily concur. Had this not been his view, would he have ever written the Apology of Socrates or the Funeral Oration​46 in praise of those who had died in battle for their country, both of them works falling within the sphere of oratory. 30 It was against the class of men who employed their glibness of speech for evil purposes that he directed his denunciations. Similarly Socrates thought it incompatible with his honour to
make use of the speech which Lysias composed for his defence, although it was the usual practice in those days to write speeches for the parties concerned to speak in the courts on their own behalf, a device designed to circumvent the law which forbade the employment of advocates. 31 Further the teachers of rhetoric were regarded by Plato as quite unsuited to their professed task. For they divorced rhetoric from justice and preferred plausibility to truth, as he states in the Phaedrus.47 32 Cornelius Celsus seems to have agreed with these early rhetoricians, for he writes "The orator only aims at the semblance of truth," and again a little later "The reward of the party to a suit is not a good conscience, but victory." If this were true, only the worst of men would place such dangerous weapons at the disposal of criminals or employ the precepts of their art for the assistance of wickedness. However I will leave those who maintain these views to consider what ground they have for so doing.
33 For my part, I have undertaken the task of moulding the ideal orator, and as my first desire is that he should be a good man, I will return to those who have sounder opinions on the subject. Some however identify rhetoric with politics, Cicero​48 calls it a department of the science of politics (and science of politics and philosophy are identical terms), while others again call it a branch of philosophy, among them Isocrates. 34 The definition which best suits its real character is that which makes rhetoric the science of speaking well. For this definition includes all the virtues of oratory and the character of the orator as well, since no man can speak well who is not good himself. 35 The definition given by Chrysippus, who
derived it from Cleanthes, to the effect that it is the science of speaking rightly, amounts to the same thing. The same philosopher also gives other definitions, but they concern problems of a different character from that on which we are now engaged. Another definition defines oratory as the power of persuading men to do what ought to be done, and yields practically the same sense save that it limits the art to the result which it produces. 36 Areus again defines it well as speaking according to the excellence of speech. Those regard it as the science of political obligations, also exclude men of bad character from the title of orator, if by science they mean virtue, but restrict it overmuch by confining it to political problems. Albutius, a distinguished author and professor of rhetoric, agrees that rhetoric is the science of speaking well, but makes a mistake in imposing restrictions by the addition of words on political questions and with credibility; with both of these restrictions I have already dealt. 37 Finally those critics who hold that the aim of rhetoric is to think and speak rightly, were on the correct track.
These are practically all the most celebrated and most discussed definitions of rhetoric. It would be both irrelevant and beyond my power to deal with all. For I strongly disapprove of the custom which has come to prevail among writers of text-books of refusing to define anything in the same terms as have been employed by some previous writer. I will have nothing to do with such ostentation. 38 What I say will not necessarily be my own invention, but it will be what I believe to be the right view, as for instance that oratory is the science of speaking well. For when the most satisfactory definition has been
found, he who seeks another, is merely looking for a worse one.
This much being admitted we are now in a position to see clearly what is the end, the highest aim, the ultimate goal of rhetoric, that τέλος in fact which every art must possess. For if rhetoric is the science of speaking well, its end and highest aim is to speak well.
16 1 There follows the question as to whether rhetoric is useful. Some are in the habit of denouncing it most violently and of shamelessly employing the powers of oratory to accuse oratory itself. 2 "It is eloquence" they say "that snatches criminals from the penalties of the law, eloquence that from time to time secures the condemnation of the innocent and leads deliberation astray, eloquence that stirs up not merely sedition and popular tumult, but wars beyond all expiation, and that is most effective when it makes falsehood prevail over the truth." 3 The comic poets even accuse Socrates of teaching how to make the worse cause seem the better, while Plato says that Gorgias and Tisias made similar professions. 4 And to these they add further examples drawn from the history of Rome and Greece, enumerating all those who used their pernicious eloquence not merely against individuals but against whole states and threw an ordered commonwealth into a state of turmoil or even brought it to utter ruin; and they point out that for this very reason rhetoric was banished from Sparta, while its powers were cut down at Athens itself by the fact that an orator was forbidden to stir the passions of his audience. 5 On the showing of these critics not only orators but generals, magistrates, medicine and philosophy
will all be useless. For Flaminius was a general, while men such as the Gracchi, Saturninus and Glaucia were magistrates. Doctors have been caught using poisons, and those who falsely assume the name of philosopher have occasionally been detected in the gravest crimes. 6 Let us give up eating, it often makes us ill; let us never go inside houses, for sometimes they collapse on their occupants; let never a sword be forged for a soldier, since it might be used by a robber. And who does not realise that fire and water, both necessities of life, and, to leave merely earthly things, even the sun and moon, the greatest of the heavenly bodies, are occasionally capable of doing harm.
7 On the other hand will it be denied that it was by his gift of speech that Appius the Blind broke off the dishonourable peace which was on the point of being concluded with Pyrrhus? Did not the divine eloquence of Cicero win popular applause even when he denounced the Agrarian laws,​49 did it not crush the audacious plots of Catiline and win, while he still wore the garb of civil life, the highest honour that can be conferred on a victorious general, a public thanksgiving to heaven? 8 Has not oratory often revived the courage of a panic-stricken army and persuaded the soldier faced by all the perils of war that glory is a fairer thing than life itself? Nor shall the history of Sparta and Athens move me more than that of the Roman people, who have always held the orator in highest honour. 9 Never in my opinion would the founders of cities have induced their unsettled multitudes to form communities had they not moved them by the magic of their eloquence: never without the highest gifts of oratory
would the great legislators have constrained mankind to submit themselves to the yoke of law. 10 Nay, even the principles which should guide our life, however fair they may be by nature, yet have greater power to mould the mind to virtue, when the beauty of things is illumined by the splendour of eloquence. Wherefore, although the weapons of oratory may be used either for good or ill, it is unfair to regard that as an evil which can be employed for good.
11 These problems, however, may be left to those who hold that rhetoric is the power to persuade. If our definition of rhetoric as the science of speaking well implies that an orator must be a good man, there can be no doubt about its usefulness. 12 And in truth that god, who was in the beginning, the father of all things and the architect of the universe, distinguished man from all other living creatures that are subject to death, by nothing more than this, that he gave him the gift of speech. 13 For as regards physical bulk, strength, robustness, endurance or speed, man is surpassed in certain cases by dumb beasts, who also are far more independent of external assistance. They know by instinct without need of any teacher how to move rapidly, to feed themselves and swim. 14 Many too have their bodies clothed against cold, possess natural weapons and have not to search for their food, whereas in all these respects man's life is full of toil. Reason then was the greatest gift of the Almighty, who willed that we should share its possession with the immortal gods. 15 But reason by itself would help us but little and would be far less evident in us, had we not the power to express our thoughts in speech; for it is the lack of this power rather than thought
and understanding, which they do to a certain exercise possess, that is the great defect in other living things. 16 The construction of a soft lair, the weaving of nests, the hatching and rearing of their young, and even the storing up of food for the coming winter, together with certain other achievements which we cannot imitate, such as the making of honey and wax, all these perhaps indicate the possession of a certain degree of reason; but since the creatures that do these things lack the gift of speech they are called dumb and unreasoning beasts. 17 Finally, how little the heavenly boon of reason avails those who are born dumb. If therefore we have received no fairer gift from heaven than speech, what shall we regard as so worthy of laborious cultivation, or in what should we sooner desire to excel our fellow-men, than that in which mankind excels all other living things? 18 And we should be all at more eager to do so, since there is no art which yields a more grateful recompense for the labour bestowed upon it. This will be abundantly clear if we consider the origins of oratory and the progress it has made; and it is capable of advancing still further. 19 I will not stop to point out how useful and how becoming a task it is for a good man to defend his friends, to guide the senate by his counsels, and to lead peoples or armies to follow his bidding; I merely ask, is it not a noble thing, by employing the understanding which is common to mankind and the words that are used by all, to win such honour and glory that you seem not to speak or plead, but rather, as was said of Pericles, to thunder and lighten?50
17 1 However, if I were to indulge my own inclinations in expatiating on this subject, I should go
on for ever. Let us therefore pass to the next question and consider whether rhetoric is an art. 2 No one of those who have laid down rules for oratory has ever doubted that it is an art. It is clear even from the titles of their books that their theme is the art of rhetoric, while Cicero​51 defines rhetoric as artistic eloquence. And it is not merely the orators who have claimed this distinction for their studies with a view to giving them an additional title to respect, but the Stoic and Peripatetic philosophers for the most part agree with them. 3 Indeed I will confess that I had doubts as to whether I should discuss this portion of my inquiry, for there is no one, I will not say so unlearned, but so devoid of ordinary sense, as to hold that building, weaving or moulding vessels from clay are arts, and at the same time to consider that rhetoric, which, as I have already said, is the noblest and most sublime of tastes, has reached such a lofty eminence without the assistance of art. 4 For my own part I think that those who have argued against this view did not realise what they were saying, but merely desired to exercise their wits by the selection of a difficult theme, like Polycrates, when he praised Busiris and Clytemnestra; I may add that he is credited with a not dissimilar performance, namely the composition of a speech which was delivered against Socrates.
5 Some would have it that rhetoric is a natural gift though they admit that it can be developed by practice. So Antonius in the de Oratore52 of Cicero styles it a knack derived from experience, but denies that it is an art: 6 this statement is however not intended to be accepted by us as the actual truth, but is inserted to make
Antonius speak in character, since he was in the habit of concealing his art. Still Lysias is said to have maintained this same view, which is defended on the ground that uneducated persons, barbarians and slaves, when speaking on their own behalf, say something that resembles an exordium, state the facts of the case, prove, refute and plead for mercy just as an orator does in his peroration. 7 To this is added the quibble that nothing that is based on art can have existed before the art in question, whereas men have always from time immemorial spoken in their own defence or in denunciation of others: the teaching of rhetoric as an art was, they say, a later invention dating from about the time of Tisias and Corax: oratory therefore existed before art and consequently cannot be an art. 8 For my part I am not concerned with the date when oratory began to be taught. Even in Homer we find Phoenix​53 as an instructor not only of conduct but of speaking, while a number of orators are mentioned, the various styles are represented by the speeches of three of the chiefs​54 and the young men are set to contend among themselves in contests of eloquence:​55 moreover lawsuits and pleaders are represented in the engravings on the shield of Achilles.​56 9 It is sufficient to call attention to the fact that everything which art has brought to perfection originated in nature. Otherwise we might deny the title of art to medicine, which was discovered from the observation of sickness and health, and according to some is entirely based upon experiment: wounds were bound up long before medicine developed into an art, and fevers were reduced by rest and abstention from food, long before the reason for such treatment was
known, simply because the state of the patient's health left no choice. 10 So too building should not be styled an art; for primitive man built himself a hut without the assistance of art. Music by the same reasoning is not an art; for every race indulges in some kind of singing and dancing. If therefore any kind of speech is to be called eloquence, I will admit that it existed before it was an art. 11 If on the other hand not every man that speaks is an orator and primitive man did not speak like an orator, my opponents must needs acknowledge that oratory is the product of art and did not exist before it. This conclusion also rules out their argument that men speak who have never learnt how to speak, and that which a man does untaught can have no connexion with art. 12 In support of this contention they adduce the fact that Demades was a waterman and Aeschines an actor, but both were orators. Their reasoning is false. For no man can be an orator untaught and it would be truer to say that these orators learned oratory late in life than that they never learned at all; although as a matter of fact Aeschines had an acquaintance with literature from childhood since his father was a teacher of literature, while as regards Demades, it is quite uncertain that he never studied rhetoric and in any case continuous practice in speaking was sufficient to bring him to such proficiency as he attained for experience is the best of all schools. 13 On the other hand it may fairly be asserted that he would have achieved greater distinction, if he had received instruction: for although he delivered his speeches with great effect, he never ventured to write them for others. 14 Aristotle, it is true, in his Gryllus57 produces some tentative arguments to
the contrary, which are marked by characteristic ingenuity. On the other hand he also wrote three books on the art of rhetoric, in the first of which he not merely admits that rhetoric is an art, but treats it as a department of politics and also of logic. 15 Critolaus and Athenodorus of Rhodes have produced many arguments against this view, while Agnon renders himself suspect by the very title of his book in which he proclaims that he is going to indict rhetoric. As to the statements of Epicurus on this subject, they cause me no surprise, for he is the foe of all systematic training.
16 These gentlemen talk a great deal, but the arguments on which they base their statements are few. I will therefore select the most important of them and will deal with them briefly, to prevent the discussion lasting to all eternity. 17 Their first contention is based on the subject-matter; for they assert that all arts have their own subject-matter (which is true) and go on to say that rhetoric has none, which I shall show in what follows to be false. 18 Another slander is to the effect that no art will acquiesce in false opinions: since an art must be based on direct perception, which is always true: now, say they, rhetoric does give its assent to false conclusions and is therefore not an art. 19 I will admit that rhetoric sometimes substitutes falsehood for truth, but I will not allow that it does so because its opinions are false, since there is all the difference between holding a certain opinion oneself and persuading someone else to adopt an opinion. For instance a general frequently makes use of falsehood: Hannibal when hemmed in by Fabius persuaded his enemy that he was in retreat by
tying brushwood to the horns of oxen, setting fire to them by night and driving the herds across the mountains opposite.​58 But though he deceived Fabius, he himself was fully aware of the truth. 20 Again when the Spartan Theopompus changed clothes with his wife and escaped from custody disguised as a woman, he deceived his guards, but was not for a moment deceived as to his own identity.​59 Similarly an orator, when he substitutes falsehood for the truth, is aware of the falsehood and of the fact that he is substituting it for the truth. He therefore deceives others, but not himself. 21 When Cicero boasted that he had thrown dust in the eyes of the jury in the case of Cluentius, he was far from being blinded himself. And when a painter by his artistic skill makes us believe that certain objects project from the picture, while others are withdrawn into the background, he knows perfectly well that they are really all in the same plane. 22 My opponents further assert that every art has some definite goal towards which it directs its efforts, but that rhetoric as a rule has no such goal, while at other times it professes to have an aim, but fails to perform its promise. They lie: I have already shown that rhetoric has a definite purpose and have explained what it is. 23 And, what is more, the orator will always make good his professions in this respect, for he will always speak well. On the other hand this criticism may perhaps hold good as against those who think persuasion the end of oratory. But our orator and his art, as we define it, are independent of results. The speaker aims at victory, it is true, but if he speaks well, he has lived up to the ideals of his art, even if he is defeated. 24 Similarly a pilot will desire
to bring his ship safe to harbour; but if he is swept out of his course by a storm, he will not for that reason cease to be a pilot, but will say in the well-known words of the old poet​60 "Still let me steer straight on!" 25 So too the doctor seeks to heal the sick; but if the violence of the disease or the refusal of the patient to obey his regimen or any other circumstance prevent his achieving his purpose, he will not have fallen short of the ideals of his art, provided he has done everything according to reason. So too the orator's purpose is fulfilled if he has spoken well. For the art of rhetoric, as I shall show later, is realised in action, not in the result obtained. 26 From this it follows that there is no truth in yet another argument which contends that arts know when they have attained their end, whereas rhetoric does not. For every speaker is aware when he is speaking well. These critics also charge rhetoric with doing what no art does, namely making use of vices to serve its ends, since it speaks the thing that is not and excites the passions. 27 But there is no disgrace in doing either of these things, as long as the motive be good: consequently there is nothing vicious in such action.​a Even a philosopher is at times permitted to tell a lie, while the orator must needs excite the passions, if that be the only way by which he can lead the judge to do justice. 28 For judges are not always enlightened and often have to be tricked to prevent them falling into error. Give me philosophers as judges, pack senates and assemblies with philosophers, and you will destroy the power of hatred, influence, prejudice and false witness; consequently there will be very little scope for eloquence whose value will lie almost entirely in its power to charm. 29 But if, as is
the case, our hearers are fickle of mind, and truth is exposed to a host of perils, we must call in art to aid us in the fight and employ such means as will hope our case. He who has been driven from the right road cannot be brought back to it save by a fresh détour.
30 The point, however, that gives rise to the greatest number of these captious accusations against rhetoric, is found in the allegation that orators speak indifferently on either side of a case. From which they draw the following arguments: no art is self-contradictory, but rhetoric does contradict itself; no art tries to demolish what itself has built, but this does happen in the operations of rhetoric; or again:— rhetoric teaches either what ought to be said or what ought not to be said; consequently it is not an art because it teaches what ought not to be said, or because, while it teaches what ought to be said, it also teaches precisely the opposite. 31 Now it is obvious that all such charges are brought against that type of rhetoric with which neither good men nor virtue herself will have anything to do; since if a case be based on injustice, rhetoric has no place therein and consequently it can scarcely happen even under the most exceptional circumstances that an orator, that is to say, a good man, will speak indifferently on either side. 32 Still it is in the nature of things conceivable that just causes may lead two wise men to take different sides, since it is held that wise men may fight among themselves, provided that they do so at the bidding of reason. I will therefore reply to their criticisms in such a way that it will be clear that these arguments have no force even against those who concede the name of orator to persons of bad character. 33 For rhetoric is not self-contradictory. The conflict is
between case and case, not between rhetoric and itself. And even if persons who have learned the same thing fight one another, that does not prove that what they have learned is not an art. Were that so, there could be no art of arms, since gladiators trained under the same master are often matched against each other; 34 nor would the pilot's art exist, because in sea-fights pilots may be found on different sides; nor yet could there be an art of generalship, since general is pitted against general. In the same way rhetoric does not undo its own work. For the orator does not refute his own arguments, nor does rhetoric even do so, because those who regard persuasion as its end, or the two good men whom chance has matched against one another seek merely for probabilities: and the fact that one thing is more credible than another, does not involve contradiction between the two. 35 There is no absolute antagonism between the probable and the more probable, just as there is none between that which is white and that which is whiter, or between that which is sweet and that which is sweeter. Nor does rhetoric ever teach that which ought not to be said, or that which is contrary to what ought to be said, but solely what ought to be said in each individual case. 36 But though the orator will as a rule maintain what is true, this will not always be the case: there are occasions when the public interest demands that he should defend what is untrue.
The following objections are also put forward in the second book of Cicero's de Oratore:—​61 "Art deals with things that are known. But the pleading of an orator is based entirely on opinion, not on knowledge, because he speaks to an audience who do not know,
and sometimes himself states things of which he has no actual knowledge." 37 Now one of these points, namely whether the judges have knowledge of what is being said to them, has nothing to do with the art of oratory. The other statement, that art is concerned with things that are known, does however require an answer. Rhetoric is the art of speaking well and the orator knows how to speak well. 38 "But," it is urged, "he does not know whether what he says is true." Neither do they, who assert that all things derive their origin from fire or water or the four elements or indivisible atoms; nor they who calculate the distances of the stars or the size of the earth and sun. And yet all these call the subject which they teach an art. But if reason makes them seem not merely to hold opinions but, thanks to the cogency of the proofs adduced, to have actual knowledge, reason will do the same service to the orator. 39 "But," they say, "he does not know whether the cause which he has undertaken is true." But not even a doctor can tell whether a patient who claims to be suffering from a headache, really is so suffering: but he will treat him on the assumption that his statement is true, and medicine will still be an art. Again what of the fact that rhetoric does not always aim at telling the truth, but always at stating what is probable? The answer is that the orator knows that what he states is no more than probable. 40 My opponents further object that advocates often defend in one case what they have attacked in another. This is not the fault of the art, but of the man. Such are the main points that are urged against rhetoric; there are others as well, but they are of minor importance and drawn from the same sources.
41 That rhetoric is an art may, however, proved in a very few words. For if Cleanthes'​62 definition be accepted that "Art is a power reaching its ends by a definite path, that is, by ordered methods," no one can doubt that there is such method and order in good speaking: while if, on the other hand, we accept the definition which meets with almost universal approval that art consists in perceptions agreeing and cooperating to the achievement of some useful end, we shall be able to show that rhetoric lacks none of these characteristics. 42 Again it is scarcely necessary for me to point out that like other arts it is based on examination and practice. And if logic is an art, as is generally agreed, rhetoric must also be an art, since it differs from logic in species rather than in genus. Nor must I omit to point out that where it is possible in any given subject for one man to act without art and another with art, there must necessarily be an art in connexion with that subject, as there must also be in any subject in which the man who has received instruction is the superior of him who has not. 43 But as regards the practice of rhetoric, it is not merely the case that the trained speaker will get the better of the untrained. For even the trained man will prove inferior to one who received a better training. If this were not so, there would not be so many rhetorical rules, nor would so many great men have come forward to teach them. The truth of this must be acknowledged by everyone, but more especially by us, since we concede the possession of oratory to none save the good man.63
18 1 Some arts, however, are based on examination, that is to say on the knowledge and proper appreciation no things, as for instance astronomy,
which demands no action, but is content to understand the subject of its study: such arts are called theoretical. Others again are concerned with action: this is their end, which is realised in action, so that, the action once performed, nothing more remains to do: these arts we style practical, and dancing will provide us with an example. 2 Thirdly there are others which consist in producing a certain result and achieve their purpose in the completion of a visible task: such we style productive, and painting may be quoted as an illustration. In view of these facts we must come to the conclusion that, in the main, rhetoric is concerned with action; for in action it accomplishes that which it is its duty to do. 3 This view is universally accepted, although in my opinion rhetoric draws largely on the two other kinds of art. For it may on occasion be content with the mere examination of a thing. Rhetoric is still in the orator's possession even though he be silent, while if he gives up pleading either designedly or owing to circumstances over which he has no control, he does not therefore cease to be an orator, any more than a doctor ceases to be a doctor when he withdraws from practice. 4 Perhaps the highest of all pleasures is that which we derive from private study, and the only circumstances under which the delights of literature are unalloyed are when it withdraws from action, that is to say from toil, and can enjoy the pleasure of self-contemplation. 5 But in the results that the orator obtains by writing speeches or historical narratives, which we may reasonably count as part of the task of oratory, we shall recognise features resembling those of a productive art. Still, if rhetoric is to be regarded as one of these three classes of art, since it is with action that its
practice is chiefly and most frequently concerned, let us call it an active or administrative art, the two terms being identical.
19 1 I quite realise that there is a further question as to whether eloquence derives most from nature or from education. This question really lies outside the scope of our inquiry, since the ideal orator must necessarily be the result of a blend of both. But I do regard it as of great importance that we should decide how far there is any real question on this point. 2 For if we make an absolute divorce between the two, nature will still be able to accomplish much without the aid of education, while the latter is valueless without the aid of nature. If, on the other hand, they are blended in equal proportions, I think we shall find that the average orator owes most to nature, while the perfect orator owes more to education. We may take a parallel from agriculture. A thoroughly barren soil will not be improved even by the best cultivation, while good land will yield some useful produce without any cultivation; but in the case of really rich land cultivation will do more for it than its own natural fertility. 3 Had Praxiteles attempted to carve a statue out of a millstone, I should have preferred a rough block of Parian marble to any such statue. On the other hand, if the same artist had produce a finished statue from such a block of Parian marble, its artistic value would owe more to his skill than to the material. To conclude, nature is the raw material for education: the one forms, the other is formed. Without material art can do nothing, material without art does possess a certain value, while the perfection of art is better than the best material.
20 1 More important is the question whether rhetoric is to be regarded as one of the indifferent arts, which in themselves deserve neither praise nor blame, but are useful or the reverse according to the character of the artist; or whether it should, as not a few even among philosophers hold, be considered as a virtue. 2 For my own part I regard the practice of rhetoric which so many have adopted in the past and still follow to‑day, as either no art at all, or, as the Greeks call it, ἀτεχνία (for I see numbers of speakers without the least pretension to method or literary training rushing headlong in the direction in which hunger or their natural shamelessness calls them); or else it is a bad art such as is styled κακοτεχνία. For there have, I think, been many persons and there are still some who have devoted their powers of speaking to the destruction of their fellow-men. 3 There is also an unprofitable imitation of art, a kind of ματαιοτεχνία​, which is neither good nor bad, but merely involves a useless expenditure of labour, reminding one of the man who shot a continuous stream of vetch-seeds from a distance through the eye of a needle, without ever missing his aim, and was rewarded by Alexander, who was a witness of the display, with the present of a bushel of vetch-seeds, a most appropriate reward. 4 It is to such men that I would compare those who spend their whole time at the expense of much study and energy in composing declamations, which they aim at making as unreal as possible. The rhetoric on the other hand, which I am endeavouring to establish and the ideal of which I have in my mind's eye, that rhetoric which befits a good man and is in a word the only true rhetoric, will be a virtue. 5 Philosophers arrive
at this conclusion by a long chain of ingenious arguments; but it appears to me to be perfectly clear from the simpler proof of my own invention which I will now proceed to set forth.
The philosophers state the case as follows. If self-consistency as to what should and should not be done is an element of virtue (and it is to this quality that we give the name of prudence), the same quality will be revealed as regards what should be said and what should not be said, 6 and if there are virtues, of which nature has given us some rudimentary sparks, even before we were taught anything about them, as for instance justice, of which there are some traces even among peasants and barbarians, it is clear that man has been so formed from the beginning as to be able to plead on his own behalf, not, it is true, with perfection, but yet sufficiently to show that there are certain sparks of eloquence implanted in us by nature. 7 The same nature, however, is not to be found in those arts which have no connexion with virtue. Consequently, since there are two kinds of speech, the continuous which is called rhetoric, and the concise which is called dialectic (the relation between which was regarded by Zeno as being so intimate that he compared the latter to the closed fist, the former to the open hand), even the art of disputation will be a virtue. Consequently there can be no doubt about oratory whose nature is so much fairer and franker.
8 I should like, however, to consider the point more fully and explicitly by appealing to the actual work of oratory. For how will the orator succeed in panegyric unless he can distinguish between what is honourable and the reverse? How
can he urge a policy, unless he has a clear perception of what is expedient? How can he plead in the law-courts, if he is ignorant of the nature of justice? Again, does not oratory call for courage, since it is often directed against the threats of popular turbulence and frequently runs into peril through incurring the hatred of the great, while sometimes, as for instance in the trial of Milo, the orator may have to speak in the midst of a crowd of armed soldiers? Consequently, if oratory be not a virtue, perfection is beyond its grasp. 9 If, on the other hand, each living thing has its own peculiar virtue, in which it excels the rest or, at any rate, the majority (I may instance the courage of the lion and the swiftness of the horse),​b it may be regarded as certain that the qualities in which man excels the rest are, above all, reason and powers of speech. Why, therefore, should we not consider that the special virtue of man lies just as much in eloquence as in reason? It will be with justice then that Cicero​64 makes Crassus say that "eloquence is one of the highest virtues," and that Cicero himself calls it a virtue in his letters to Brutus​65 and in other passages. 10 "But," it may be urged, "a bad man will at times produce an exordium or a statement of facts, and will argue a case in a manner that leaves nothing to be desired." No doubt; even a robber may fight bravely without courage ceasing to be a virtue; even a wicked slave may bear torture without a groan, and we may still continue to regard endurance of pain as worthy of praise. We can point to many acts which are identical with those of virtue, but spring from other sources. However, what I have said here must suffice, as I have already dealt with the question of the usefulness of oratory.
21 1 As to the material of oratory, some have asserted that it is speech, as for instance Gorgias​66 in the dialogue of Plato. If this view be accepted in the sense that the word "speech" is used of a discourse composed on any subject, then it is not the material, but the work, just as a statue is the work of the sculptor. For speeches like statues require art for their production. If on the other hand we interpret "speech" as indicating the words themselves, the can do nothing unless they are related to facts. Some again hold that the material consists of persuasive arguments. But they form part of the work, are produced by art and require material themselves. 2 Some say that political questions provide the material. The mistake made by these lies not in the quality of their opinion but in its limitation. For political questions are material for eloquence but not the only material. 3 Some, on the ground that rhetoric is a virtue, make the material with which it deals to be the whole of life. Others, on the ground that life regarded as a whole does not provide material for every virtue, since most of them are concerned only with departments of life (justice, courage and self-control each having their own duties and their own end), would consequently restrict oratory to one particular department of life and place it in the practical or pragmatic department of ethics, that is to say the department of morals which deals with the business of life.
4 For my own part, and I have authority to support me, I hold that the material of rhetoric is composed of everything that may be placed before it as a subject for speech. Plato, if I read him aright, makes Socrates​67 say to Gorgias that its material is to be
found in things not words; while in the Phaedrus68 he clearly proves that rhetoric is concerned not merely with law-courts and public assemblies, but with private and domestic affairs as well: from which it is obvious that this was the view of Plato himself. 5 Cicero also in a passage​69 of one of his works, states that the material of rhetoric is composed of the things which are brought before it, but makes certain restrictions as to the nature of these things. In another passage,​70 however, he expresses his opinion that the orator has to speak about all kinds of things; I will quote his actual words: "although the very meaning of the name of orator and the fact that he professes to speak well seem to imply a promise and undertaking that the orator will speak with elegance and fullness on any subject that may be put before him." 6 And in another passage​71 he says, "It is the duty of the true orator to seek out, hear, read, discuss, handle and ponder everything that befalls in the life of man, since it is with this that the orator is concerned and this that forms the material with which he has to deal."
7 But this material, as we call it, that is to say the things brought before it, has been criticised by some, at times on the ground that it is limitless, and sometimes on the ground that it is not peculiar to oratory, which they have therefore dubbed a discursive art, because all is grist that comes to its mill. 8 I have no serious quarrel with these critics, for they acknowledge that rhetoric is concerned with every kind of material, though they deny that it has any peculiar material just because of that material's multiplicity. But in spite of this multiplicity, rhetoric is not unlimited in scope, and there are other minor
arts whose material is characterised by the same multiplicity: such for instance is architecture, which deals with everything that is useful for the purpose of building: such too is the engraver's art which works on gold, silver, bronze, iron. 9 As for sculpture, its activity extends to wood, ivory, marble, glass and precious stones in addition to the materials already mentioned. 10 And things which form the material for other artists, do not for that reason cease forthwith to be material for rhetoric. For if I ask what is the material of the sculptor, I shall be told bronze; and if I ask what is the material of the maker of vessels (I refer to the craft styled χαλκευτική by the Greeks), the answer will again be bronze: and yet there is all the difference in the world between vessels and statues. 11 Similarly medicine will not cease to be an art, because, like the art of the gymnast, it prescribes rubbing with oil and exercise, or because it deals with diet like the art of cookery. 12 Again, the objection that to discourse of what is good, expedient or just is the duty of philosophy presents no difficulty. For when such critics speak of a philosopher, they mean a good man. Why should I feel surprised to find that the orator whom I identify with the good man deals with the same material? 13 There is all the less reason, since I have already shown in the first book​72 that philosophers only usurped this department of knowledge after it had been abandoned by the orators: it was always the peculiar property of rhetoric and the philosophers are really trespassers. Finally, since the discussion of whatever is brought before it is the task of dialectic, which is really a concise form of oratory, why should not this task be regarded as also being the appropriate material for continuous oratory?
14 There is a further objection made by certain critics, who say "Well then, if an orator has to speak on every subject, he must be master of all the arts." I might answer this criticism in the words of Cicero,​73 in whom I find the following passage:— "In my opinion no one can be an absolutely perfect orator unless he has acquired a knowledge of all important subjects and arts." I however regard it as sufficient that an orator should not be actually ignorant of the subject on which he has to speak. 15 For he cannot have a knowledge of all causes, and yet he should be able to speak on all. On what then will he speak? On those which he has studied. Similarly as regards the arts, he will study those concerning which he has to speak, as occasion may demand, and will speak on those which he has studied.
16 What then? — I am asked — will not a builder speak better on the subject of building and a musician on music? Certainly, if the orator does not know what is the question at issue. Even an illiterate peasant who is a party to a suit will speak better on behalf of his case than an orator who does not know what the subject in dispute may be. But on the other hand if the orator receive instruction from the builder or the musician, he will put forward what he has thus learned better than either, just as he will plead a case better than his client, once he has been instructed in it. 17 The builder and the musician will, however, speak on the subject of their respective arts, if there should be any technical point which requires to be established. Neither will be an orator, but he will perform his task like an orator, just as when an untrained person binds up a
wound, he will not be a physician, but he will be acting as one. 18 It is suggested that such topics never crop up in panegyric, deliberative or forensic oratory? When the question of the construction of a port at Ostia came up for discussion, had not the orator to state his views? And yet it was a subject requiring the technical knowledge of the architect. 19 Does not the orator discuss the question whether livid spots and swellings on the body are symptomatic of ill-health or poison? And yet that is a question for the qualified physician. Will he not deal with measurements and figures? And yet we must admit that they form part of mathematics. For my part I hold that practically all subjects are under certain circumstances liable to come up for treatment by the orator. If the circumstances do not occur, the subjects will not concern him.
20 We were therefore right in asserting that the material of rhetoric is composed of everything that comes before the orator for treatment, an assertion which is confirmed by the practice of everyday speech. For when we have been given a subject on which to speak, we often preface our remarks by calling attention to the fact that the matter has been laid before us. 21 Gorgias indeed felt so strongly that it was the orator's duty to speak on every subject, that he used to allow those who attended his lectures to ask him questions on any subject they pleased. Hermagoras also asserted that the material of oratory lay in the cause and the questions it involved, thereby including every subject that can be brought before it. 22 If he denies that general questions​74 are the concern of oratory, he disagrees with me: but if they do concern rhetoric, that
supports my contention. For there is nothing which may not crop up in a cause or appear as a question for discussion. 23 Aristotle​75 himself also by his tripartite division of oratory, into forensic, deliberative and demonstrative, practically brought everything into the orator's domain, since there is nothing that may not come up for treatment by one of these three kinds of rhetoric.
24 A very few critics have raised the question as to what may be the instrument of oratory. My definition of an instrument is that without which the material cannot be brought into the shape necessary for the effecting of our object. But it is not the art which requires an instrument, but the artist. Knowledge needs no instruments, for it may be complete although it produces nothing, but the artist must have them. The engraver cannot work without his chisel nor the painter without his brush. I shall therefore defer this question until I come to treat of the orator as distinct from his art.
The Translator's Notes:
27 sc. essence and possibility.
28 A Stoic. cp. X.I.124.
29 See § 6 of next chapter.
30 This treatise is lost. It may have been the work of the younger Isocrates.
31 Ann. IX.309 (Vahlen). The derivative to which he objects is the rare word suada.
32 Gorg. 453A.
33 de Inv. I.V.6, de Or. I.XXXI.138.
34 cp. III.I.20 and Cic. de Or. I.II.5. The work in question is better known as the de Inventione.
35 Gorg. p452E.
36 Rhet. I.2.
37 Gorg. 454B.
38 Gorg. 462C.
39 ib. 463D.
40 ib. 464B.
41 ib. 464B-465E.
42 500C.
43 460C.
44 508C.
45 261A-273E.
46 Menexenus.
47 267A, with special reference to Tisias and Gorgias.
48 de Inv. I.V.6.
49 i.e. though denouncing laws which would naturally be popular.
50 cp. Aristoph. Ach. 530: "Then in his wrath Pericles the Olympian lightened and thundered and threw all Greece into confusion."
51 de Inv. I.V.6. The titles in question are such as Ars rhetorica, Ars Hermagorae​, etc.
52 II.LVII.232.
53 Il. IX.432.
54 i.e. the copious style by Nestor, the plain by Menelaus, the intermediate by Ulysses.
55 Il. XV.284.
56 Il. XVIII.497 sqq.
57 A lost treatise, named after Gryllus, the son of Xenophon.
58 See Livy, XXII.XVI.
59 Probably a king of Sparta, 770‑720 B.C.
60 Ennius, Ann. 483 (Vahlen).
61 II.VII.30.
62 Fr. 790.
63 i.e. since our ideals are so high.
64 de Or. III.XIV.55.
65 Lost.
66 Gorg. 449E.
67 Gorg. 449E.
68 Phaedr. 261A.
69 de Inv. I.5.
70 de Or. I.VI.21. "I will not demand omniscience from an orator, although" etc.
71 ib. III.XIV.54.
72 Pref. § 10 sqq.
73 de Or. I.VI.20.
74 See III.V.12‑16.
75 Rhet. I.III.3.
Thayer's Notes:
a The critics of course are right: behind the argumentation and seductive prose befitting an orator, Quintilian is telling us that the end justifies the means. Furthermore, if what underlies this is in turn his oft-repeated thesis that an orator is by definition a good man, and that he can therefore do no wrong — he should be ridden out of town on a rail. (And lest the gentle reader find I'm reading too much into this, see XII.I.36, where Quintilian makes a specific application of the principle: lying to a judge is a justifiable weapon in an orator's arsenal.)
b Not to rain overmuch on Quintilian's parade, but the top speed of the African lion is slightly more than that of the modern racehorse; both clock at about 50‑55 kilometers per hour. To be fair, he may conceivably have had in mind the European lion, a species that seems to have become extinct around the time he wrote: we do not know how fast it ran.
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