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Quintilian, 1, 1.1-5

September 7, 2011


Post inpetratam studiis meis quietem, quae per viginti annos erudiendis iuvenibus inpenderam, cum a me quidam familiariter postularent, ut aliquid de ratione dicendi componerem, diu sum equidem reluctatus, quod auctores utriusque linguae clarissimos non ingnorabam multa quae ad hoc opus pertinerent diligentissime scripta posteris reliquisse. sed qua ego ex causa faciliorem mihi veniam meae deprecationis arbitrabar fore, hac accendebantur illi magis, quod inter diversas opiniones priorum et quasdam etiam inter se contrarias difficilis esset electio, ut mihi si non inveniendi nova, at certe iudicandi de veteribus iniungere laborem non iniuste viderentur. quamvis autem non tam me vinceret praestandi quod exigebatur fiducia quam negandi verecundia, latius se tamen aperiente materia plus quam imponebatur oneris sponte suscepi, simul ut pleniore obsequio demerer amantissimos mei, simul ne vulgarem viam ingressus alienis demum vestigiis insisterem.  nam ceteri fere, qui artem orandi litteris tradiderunt, ita sunt exorsi, quasi perfectis omni alio genere doctrinae summam in eloquentia manum inponerent, sive contemnentes tamquam parva quae prius discimus studia, sive non ad suum pertinere officium opinati, quando divisae professionum vices essent, seu, quod prosimum vero, nullam ingenii sperantes gratiam circa res etiamsi necessarias, procul tamen ab ostentatione positas, ut operum fastigia spectantur, latent fundamenta.  ego cum existimem nihil arti oratoriae alienum sine quo fieri non posse oratorem fatendum est, nec ad ullius rei summam nisi praecendentibus initiis perveniri, ad minora illa, sed quae si neglegas, non sit maioribus locus, demittere me non recusabo nec aliter quam si mihi tradatur educandus orator studia eius formare ab infantia incipiam.  quod opus. Marcelle Vitori, tibi dicamus, quem cum amicissimum nobis tum eximio litterarum amore flagrantem non propter haec modo, quamquam sint magna, dignissimum hoc mutuae inter nos caritatis pignore iudicabamus, sed iam ingenii lumen ostendit, non inutiles fore libri videbantur, quos ab ipsis dicendi velut incunabulis per omnis quae modo aliquid oratori futuro conferant artis ad summam eius operis perducere destinabamus, atque eo magis, quod duo iam sub nomine meo libri ferebantur artis rhetoricae neque editi a me neque in hoc comparati.  namque alterum sermonem per biduum habitum pueri, quibus id praestabatur, exceperant, alterum pluribus sane diebus, quantum notando consequi potuerant, interceptum boni iuvenes, sed nimium amentes mei temerario editionis honore vulgaverant.  quare in his quque libris erunt eadem aliqua, multa mutata, plurima adjecta, omnia vero compositiora et quantum nos poterimus elaborata.


After I obtained a rest from my studies, which for twenty years I devoted to educating young men, when certain friends of mine were asking me to put together something on the method of speaking, for my part I resisted, because I was not ignorant that very famous authors in either language[1] had left to posterity many careful writings which pertain to this need.  But by the very cause from which I imagined the pardon for my refusal would be easier, they were further inflamed, because the choice would be difficult between the diverse (and even conflicting among themselves) opinions of earlier authors, so they might seem not unjustly to impose the task, if not of discovering new things, certainly of deciding about the old works.  However, although it was not so much faith that I would accomplish what they asked as shame in denying it[2] that won me over, when the subject matter they imposed opened itself wider, I took it up voluntarily rather than as a burden, at once so that I might please my dearest with a fuller compliance and so that, having entered upon a well-trodden path, I might not tread only in the footprints of others. For in general, the others who have handed the art of public speaking over to letters began as though they they were setting the highest hand in eloquence on men perfected in ever other kind of knowledge, either despising the studies we have already learned as unimportant or supposing that they do not pertain to their duty (because the plights of the professions are separated) or, what is nearest the truth, expecting that there would be no ornament for their natural talent in things which, although they are necessary, are nevertheless placed out of sight, as the roofs of buildings are seen, their foundations hidden.  I, because I believed that nothing is alien to the art of oratory without which it is admitted that an orator cannot be made, and that one cannot reach the highest point of any matter unless the beginnings come first, did not refuse to lower myself to those lesser things — but if you neglect them, there is no place for the greater ones — no differently than, if an orator were handed over to me to be educated, I would begin to form his studies from their infancy.  This work, Marcellus Vitorius, I dedicate to you, whom not only most dear to me but also inflamed with an extraordinary love for literature I judge most worthy of this sign of the affection between us, not because of these qualities alone — although they are great — but because it seems that the books will not be unhelpful in educating your Geta, whose first age already displays the manifest light of a natural talent; I intend them to lead him through as if from the very cradle-apparatus of speaking through all the arts — each one that may contribute something for the future orator[3] — to the highest point of that work, and so much the more because two books were already brought out under my name, although they were neither edited by me nor collected in this one. For in fact, the one speech was made over a two-day period, and the boys for whom it was performed took it away.  As to the other, over surely over more days, young men — good ones, but loving the accidental honor of my edition too much — intercepted and published as much as they had been able to obtain by noting it down.  Wherefore in these books also some things will be the same, many changed, very many added, and everything certainly more organized and elaborated as much as we can.
1. I.e., Greek and Latin. — After all, what other languages are there?
2. I can’t seem to get across the sense here without destroying the parallelism; lit. “not so much faith of accomplishing what they asked as shame of denying…”
3. This clause is my clumsy attempt to translate “omnis…quae…artis,” if I am right that they go together. (“Artis” here with a long i?)

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