QUINTILIAN

ca. A.D. 40-ca. 96

Roman educator and writer

Marcus Fabius Quintilianus, or Quintilian, was a Roman educator and writer. The first professor in any subject to hold an official appointment in Rome, he taught rhetoric* to potential leaders of the Roman Empire. His most famous work is the Institutio Oratoria (The Education of an Orator), in which he described the training and career of an orator* from infancy to old age. It remained an important work in education until the 1800s.

Born in Spain, Quintilian was educated in Rome. He returned to Spain but accompanied Galba, the governor of Spain, in a march against Rome to overthrow the emperor Nero in A.D. 68. In A.D. 71 the emperor Vespasian appointed Quintilian the first professional teacher of rhetoric employed by the state. Among his many students were the historian Tacitus, the senator and writer Pliny the Younger, and the heirs of the emperor Domitian. Quintilian retired around A.D. 91 to write his great work on the theory and practice of education.

For Quintilian, the goal of education was to produce a civilized man of high principles. An admirer of the great Roman orator and statesman Cicero, Quintilian adapted Cicero’s teachings to the needs of his own time. To excel at oratory, according to Quintilian, a speaker must be a good person and his objective a morally justifiable one. In the Institutio Oratoria, Quintilian discussed all aspects of education, including moral, literary, and rhetorical principles. He urged that education for young children be amusing and encouraging. After learning the Greek and Latin languages, he believed students ought to analyze the writings of great writers of the past. Only then was a student ready to learn rhetoric. Quintilian urged his students to write and speak in a natural style, as well as to exercise good judgment. {See also Education and Rhetoric, Roman.)

* rhetoric art of using words effectively in speaking or writing

* orator public speaker of great skill

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