The Roman schoolboy, or rather the teacher of rhetoric who would be instructing him, was Quintilian’s audience. The statue is one of a pair now. M. FABII QVINTILIANI INSTITVTIO ORATORIA LIBER PRIMVS ut libros quos ad Marcellum meum de institutione oratoria scripseram iam emittere inciperem. File:Quintiliano, institutio oratoria, firenze ca., pluteo , JPG. From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Jump to navigation Jump to.

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This webpage reproduces a section of Institutio Oratoria by Quintilian published in Vol.

This text has not yet been proofread. If you find a mistake though, please let me know! For our whole education depends upon memory, and we shall receive instruction all in vain if all we hear slips from us, while inxtitutio is the power of memory alone that instltutio before us the store of precedents, laws, rulings, sayings and facts which the orator must possess in abundance and which he must always hold ready for immediate use.

Indeed it is not without good reason that memory has been called the treasure-house of eloquence. For while we are saying one thing, we must be considering something else that we are going to say: Again, is it not an extraordinary inconsistency that we forget recent and remember distant events, that we cannot recall what happened yesterday and yet retain a vivid impression of the acts of our childhood?

But we should never have realised the fullness of its power nor its supernatural capacities, but for the fact that it is memory which has brought oratory to its present position of glory. Thus it results that after writing for several days with a view to acquiring by heart what we have written, we find that our mental effort has of itself imprinted it on our memory. He had written an ode of the kind usually composed in honour of victorious athletes, to celebrate the achievement of one who had gained the crown for boxing.

And according to the story they paid their debt. He found no trace of them, but what followed proved to him that the gods had shown their gratitude.

Then it is said, Simonides, who remembered the order in which the guests had been sitting, succeeded in restoring to each man his own dead. For when we return to a place after considerable absence, we not merely recognise the place itself, but remember things that we did there, and recall the persons whom we met and even the unuttered thoughts which passed through our minds when we were there before.

Thus, as in most cases, art originates in experiment. Everything of note therein is carefully committed to the memory, in order that the thought may be enabled to run through all the details without let or hindrance.

LacusCurtius • Quintilian — Institutio Oratoria

And undoubtedly the first task is to secure that there shall be no delay in finding any single detail, since an idea which is to lead by association to some other idea requires to be fixed in the mind with more than ordinary certitude. However, let us suppose that the symbol is drawn from navigation, as, for instance, an anchor; or from warfare, as, for example, some weapon.

The first thought is placed, as it were, in the forecourt; the second, let us say, in the living-room; the remainder are placed in due order all round the impluvium 59 and entrusted not merely to bedrooms and parlours, but even to the care of statues and the like.

This done, as soon as the memory of the facts requires to be revived, all these places are visited in turn and the various deposits are demanded from their custodians, as the sight of each recalls the respective details.


Consequently, however large the number of these which it is required to remember, all are linked one to the other like dancers hand in hand, and there can be no mistake since they what precedes to what follows, no trouble being required except the preliminary labour of committing the various points to memory.

Or we may even imagine such places to ourselves. We require, therefore, places, real or imaginary, and images or symbols, which we must, of course, invent for ourselves. It was doubtless due to the vanity and boastfulness of a man who was inclined to vaunt his memory as being the result of art rather than of natural gifts. For those who use such aids place the things which have quintiliajo be remembered in localities which they have previously fixed in the memory; they put a table, for instance, in the forecourt, a proof in the hall and so on with instituio rest, and then, when they retrace their steps, they find the objects where they had placed them.

It will, however, be of less service in learning the various parts of a set speech. For thoughts do not call up the same images as material things, and a symbol requires to be specially invented for them, although even here insttitutio particular place may serve to remind us, as, for example, of some conversation that may have been held there.

But how can such a method grasp a whole series of connected words? We may, it is true, like shorthand writers, have definite symbols for everything, and may select an infinite number of places to recall all the words contained in the five books of the second pleading against Verres, and we may even remember them all as if they were deposits placed in safe-keeping.

But will not the flow of our speech inevitably be impeded by the double task imposed upon our memory? My precepts on the subject shall be of a simpler kind. Ooratoria the sections into which we divide it for this purpose should not be very short: But if anyone is slow to recognise his own signs, he should employ the following additional remedy, which, though drawn from the mnemonic system discussed above, 64 is not without its uses: Specially effective are those devices which lead the memory from one thing to another similar thing which we have got to remember; for example, in the case of names, if we desire ooratoria remember the name Fabius, we should think of the famous Cunctator, whom we are certain not to forget, or of some friend insritutio the same name.

Origin again may assist us to a better remembrance of derivative names, such as Cicero, Verrius, or Aurelius. Further, if the writing should be interrupted by some erasure, addition or alteration, there are certain symbols available, the sight of which will prevent us from wandering from the track.

File:Quintiliano, institutio oratoria, firenze 1477 ca., pluteo 46.12, 02.JPG

The question has been raised as to whether we should learn by heart in silence; it would imstitutio best to do so, save for the fact that under such circumstances the mind is apt to become indolent, with the result that other thoughts break in. For this reason the mind should be kept alert by the sound of the voice, uqintiliano that the memory may derive assistance from the double effort of speaking and listening.

But our voice should be subdued, rising scarcely above a murmur. It is, indeed, important for other reasons to tests ourselves thus from time to time, since continuous reading has this drawback, that it passes over the passages which we find hard to remember at the same speed quintilizno those which we find less difficulty in retaining.

Thus, only those passages which tend to slip quintiliaon the memory are repeated with a view to fixing them in the mind by frequent rehearsal, although as quintilianno rule the mere fact that they once slipped our memory makes us ultimately remember them with specially accuracy.


Both learning by heart and writing have this feature in common: For just as it is easier to learn verse than prose, so it is easier to learn prose when it is artistically constructed than when it has no such organisation. The most important thing is to learn much by heart and to think much, and, if possible, to do this daily, since there is nothing that is orxtoria increased by practice or impaired by neglect than memory.

This task will be rendered less tiresome if we begin by confining ourselves to learning only a little at a time, in amounts not sufficient to create disgust: We should begin with poetry and then go on to oratory, while finally we may attempt passages still freer in rhythm and less akin to ordinary speech, such, for example, as passages from legal writers.

Whatever the cause, things which could not be recalled on the spot are easily co-ordinated the next day, and quiintiliano itself, which is generally accounted one of the causes of forgetfulness, as to strengthen the memory. To this problem no answer is possible that will be of universal application. It is specially important to train the young to such precision, and the memory should be continually practised to this end, that we may never learn to become indulgent to its failure.

On the other hand, a good memory will give us credit for quickness of wit as well, by creating the impression that our words have not been prepared in the seclusion of the quintuliano, but are due to the inspiration of the moment, an impression which is of the utmost importance both to the innstitutio and to his cause. Further, we must make it one of our chief aims in pleading to deliver passages oratoriaa have been constructed with the utmost care, in such manner as quintilinao make it appear that they are but casually strung together, and to suggest that we are thinking out and hesitating over words which we have, as a matter of fact, carefully prepared in advance.

If, however, our own memory be naturally somewhat dull or time presses, it will be useless to tie ourselves down rigidly to every word, since if we forget any one of them, the result may be awkward hesitation or even a tongue-tied silence.

It is, therefore, far safer to secure a good grasp of the facts themselves and to leave ourselves free to speak as we will. But even this is no remedy for a weak memory, auintiliano for those who have acquired the art of speaking extempore.

File:Quintiliano, institutio oratoria, firenze 1477 ca., pluteo 46.12, 05.JPG

But such a misfortune will be of but rare occurrence. Still, we shall do well to have faith in such miracles, if only that he who believes may also hope to achieve the like.

He used the signs of the Zodiac as aids to the memory, subdividing each into thirty compartments. Quintilian wonders on orstoria principle he can have made such a division, necessarily purely artificial in nature. Quintilian’s contemporary Ptolemy, for example, while not believing in the interpretive value of individual degrees, is a witness that others did Tetrabiblos I. Charmadas or Charmides, an elder contemporary of Cicero.

Commanded in the war against Aristonicus of Pergamum, was defeated and killed. Images with borders lead to more information. The thicker the border, the more information. See my copyright page for qhintiliano and contact information.