Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 3 - Chapter 4

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Whether there are three sorts of oratory, or more, § 1-3. Quintilian adheres to the old opinion that there are but three; his reasons, 4-8. Opinions of Anaximenes, Plato, Isocrates, 9-11. Quintilian's own method, 12-15. He does not assign particular subjects to each kind, 16.

1. BUT it is a question whether there are three or more. Certainly almost all writers, at least those of the highest authority among the ancients, have acquiesced in this tripartite distinction, following the opinion of Aristotle, who merely calls the deliberative by another name, concionalis, "suitable for addresses to public assemblies." 2. But a feeble attempt was made at that time by some of the Greek writers, an attempt which has since been noticed by Cicero in his books De Oratore, and is now almost forced upon us by the greatest author of our own day, to make it appear that there are not only more kinds, but kinds almost innumerable. 3. Indeed, if we distinguish praising and blaming in the third part of oratory, in what kind of oratory shall we be said to employ ourselves when we complain, console, appease, excite, alarm, encourage, direct, explain obscure expressions, narrate, entreat, offer thanks, congratulate, reproach, attack, describe, command, retract, express wishes or opinions, and speak in a thousand other ways? 4. So that if I adhere to the opinion of the ancients, I must, as it were, ask pardon for doing so and must inquire by what considerations they were induced to confine a subject of such extent and variety within such narrow limits? 5. Those who say that the ancients were in error suppose that they were led into it by the circumstance that they saw in their time orators exerting themselves for the most part in these three kinds only. For laudatory and vituperative speeches were then written; it was customary to pronounce funeral orations; and a vast deal of labor was bestowed on deliberative and judicial eloquence, so that the writers of books on the art included in them the kinds of eloquence most in use as the only kinds. 6. But those who defend the ancients make three sorts of hearers: one, who assemble only to be gratified; a second, to listen to counsel; and a third, to form a judgment on the points in debate. For myself, while I am searching for all sorts of arguments in support of these various opinions, it occurs to me that we might make only two kinds of oratory, on this consideration, that all the business of an orator lies in causes either judicial or extrajudicial. 7. Of matters in which decision is sought from the opinion of a judge, the nature is self-evident; those which are not referred to a judge have respect either to the past or to the future; the past we either praise or blame; and about the future we deliberate. 8. We may also add, that all subjects on which an orator has to speak are either certain or doubtful. The certain he praises or blames, according to the opinion which he forms of them; of the doubtful, some are left free for ourselves to choose how to decide on them, and concerning these there must be deliberation. Some are left to the judgment of others, and concerning these there must be litigation.

9. Anaximenes admitted only the general divisions of judicial and deliberative, but said that there were seven species: those, namely, of exhorting and dissuading, of praising and blaming, of accusing and defending, and of examining, which he calls the exetastic sort. But it is easy to see that the first two of these species belong to the deliberative kind of oratory, the two following to the epideictic, and the last three to the judicial. 10. I pass over Protagoras, who thinks that the only parts of oratory are those of interrogating, replying, commanding, and intreating, which he calls εὐχωιή (euchōlē). Plato, in his Sophistes, has added to the judicial and deliberative a third kind which he calls προσομιλητικόν (prosomiletikon), and which we may allow ourselves to call the sermocinatory sort, which is distinct from the oratory of the forum and suited to private discussions, and of which the nature is the same as that of dialectics or logic. 11. Isocrates thought that praise and blame have a place in every kind of oratory.

To me it has appeared safest to follow the majority of writers, and so reason seems to direct. 12. There is, then, as I said, one kind of oratory in which praise and blame are included, but which is called, from the better part of its office, the panegyrical; others, however, term it the demonstrative or epideictic (Both names are thought to be derived from the Greeks, who apply to those kinds the epithets ἐγκωμιαστικόν (enkōmiastikon) and ἐπιδεκτικό (epideiktikon). 13. But the word epideiktikon seems to me to have the signification not so much of demonstration as of ostentation, and to differ very much from the term enkōmiastikon, for though it includes in it the laudatory kind of oratory, it does not consist in that kind alone. 14. Would any one deny that panegyrical speeches are of the epideictic kind? Yet they take the suasory form and generally speak of the interests of Greece. So that there are, indeed, three kinds of oratory, but in each of them part is devoted to the subject-matter and part to display. But perhaps our countrymen, when they call a particular kind demonstrative, do not borrow the name from the Greeks, but are simply led by the consideration that praise and blame demonstrate what the exact nature of anything is. 15. The second kind is the deliberative, and the third the judicial. Other species will fall under these genera, nor will there be found any one species in which we shall not have either to praise or to blame, to persuade or to dissuade, to enforce a charge or to repel one, while to conciliate, to state facts, to inform, to exaggerate, to extenuate, and to influence the judgment of the audience by exciting or allaying the passions are common to every sort of oratory.

16. I could not agree even with those who, adopting, as I think, a division rather easy and specious than true, consider that the matter of panegyrical eloquence concerns what is honorable, that of deliberative what is expedient, and that of judicial what is just; all are supported, to a certain extent, by aid one from another, since in panegyric, justice and expediency are considered, and in deliberations, honor; and you will rarely find a judicial pleading into some part of which something of what I have just mentioned does not enter.


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Lee Honeycutt (honeycuttlee@gmail.com) Last modified:5/25/2004
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