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This chapter explores Cicero’s ideal of the union between philosophy and rhetoric, incarnated by the figure of the perfect orator, and the formative process associated with it: the rhetorical paideia of which Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria offers the most accomplished account. This ideal represents an alternative to the Platonic view that postulates an intrinsic tension between philosophy and politics, to the extent that makes of eloquence the crucial element in and through which these two elements can meet and complement each other. The process of self-cultivation and political commitment become two interdependent endeavours, being the practice of eloquence their point of encounter and culmination. This ambitious ideal, one of the founding elements of humanism, is thus an ideal that aspires to combine transcendence and contingency through eloquence.
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The question of the best form of life, whether the bios theoretikos or praktikos ( vita contemplativa or vita activa), is broached in clear terms in: Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics, trans. Hippocrates G. Apostle (Dordrecht and Boston: Reidel, 1980), 1097b16–20, 1098a16–20; Aristotle, The Eudemian Ethics, trans. Anthony Kenny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 1215 b15–16a36. Cf. Aristotle, Politics, trans. C. D. C. Reeve (with introduction and notes) (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998), 1260b28–29, 1323a–24a; Plato, Gorgias, trans. Donald J. Zeyl (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987), 500c1–8.
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 16.
Cicero’s attempt to blend political action and intellectual reflection has generated along the centuries two opposite reactions, generally depending on whether those expressing the judgment are more inclined towards politics or philosophy. In the former case, Cicero has been celebrated as one of the very rare examples of those able to bring theory and practice together. In the latter, instead, his attempt to combine theory and practice has been criticized for producing mediocre results in both fields. John Adams is an example of the former opinion. For him “as all the ages of the world have not produced a greater statesman and philosopher united than Cicero, his authority should have great weight.” John Adams, The Political Writings of John Adams (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2001), 121. On the other side, we can mention the famous historian Theodor Mommsen, who, under the influence of Hegel, expressed in his Römische Geschichte an harsh judgment on Cicero, defining him an irrelevant philosopher and a statesman without vision. Theodor Mommsen, The History of Rome, Vol. 4—part II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 511, 609ff. On this see: Walter Nicgorski, “Cicero’s Paradoxes and His Idea of Utility,” Political Theory 12 (1984): 559; Walter Nicgorski, Cicero’s Practical Philosophy (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012), 257.
Eugene F. Rice, The Renaissance Idea of Wisdom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958), 39.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator (De Oratore), trans. James M. May and Jakob Wisse (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 3.55. In talking about Cicero, beyond the term rhetoric I will also use interchangeably the expressions used by him: ‘oratory’ and ‘eloquence’. Eloquence ( eloquentia) in particular is the expression Cicero employs more frequently in his most important work on the subject, De oratore, where he defends the ideal of the union between eloquence and wisdom ( eloquentia and sapientia). On the different meanings of ‘oratory’ and ‘eloquence’ in Cicero and the relation with the Greek word ‘rhetoric’ see: James S. Baumlin and Joseph J. Hughes, “Eloquence,” in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication from Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. Theresa Enos (New York and London: Garland, 1996), 215.
William H. F. Altman, “Introduction,” in Brill Companion to the Reception of Cicero, ed. William H. F. Altman (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015), 8.
George Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World, 300 B.C.–A.D. 300 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972), 496. Cf. Jiří Kraus, Rhetoric in European Culture and Beyond (Prague: Karolinum Press, Charles University, 2016), 70; Renato Barilli, Rhetoric (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 35; Michael Mooney, Vico in the Tradition of Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 34.
Quintilian famously wrote that Cicero is “not his name but of eloquence itself.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, trans. Harold Edgeworth Butler (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1963), 10.1.112. As one scholar has recently put it, we can say that Cicero “is omnipresent on Quintilian in ways large and small, the sine quo non of his masterwork, the standard by which he defines the arts and practitioners of oratory and eloquence.” Alain M. Gowing, “Tully’s Boat: Responses to Cicero in the Imperial Period,” in The Cambridge Companion to Cicero, ed. Catherine Steel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 233. On the reception of Cicero’s view of oratory in the Imperial period and further on see also: M. L. Clarke, “‘Non Hominis Nomen, Sed Eloquentiae’,” in Cicero, ed. T. A. Dorey (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964); Virginia Cox and John O. Ward, eds., The Rhetoric of Cicero in Its Medieval and Early Renaissance Commentary Tradition (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2006).
Cf. Joy Connolly, The State of Speech: Rhetoric and Political Thought in Ancient Rome (Princeton, NJ and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2007), 254–9; Vincenzo Scarano Ussani, Il retore e il potere (Naples: M. D’Auria, 2008).
Friedrich W. Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language, ed. Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair, and David J. Parent (Oxford University Press, 1989), 97. Nietzsche was well acquainted with the tradition of rhetoric, on which he lectured as professor of classical philology at the University of Basle. The influence of rhetoric is visible in important strands of his thought, particularly on his view of language. Cf. Carole Blair, Sander L. Gilman, and David J. Parent, “Introduction,” in Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language, ed. Carole Blair, Sander L. Gilman, and David J. Parent (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).
On the influence on the humanists of Latin rhetorical culture and in particular of Cicero’s idea of eloquence see for instance: Jerrold Seigel, Rhetoric and Philosophy in Renaissance Humanism: The Union of Eloquence and Wisdom, Petrarch to Valla (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), Ch. 1; Paul O. Kristeller, “Humanism,” in The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Quentin Skinner, Eckhard Kessler, and Charles B. Schmitt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 122–3; Marc Fumaroli, L’âge de l’éloquence. Rhétorique et “res literaria” de la Renaissance au seuil de l’époque classique (Paris: Albin Michel, 1994), 37–46; Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought: Vol. I. The Renaissance (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 27, 35–48, 84–101; Cary J. Nederman, “The Union of Wisdom and Eloquence before the Renaissance: The Ciceronian Orator in Medieval Thought,” Journal of Medieval History 18 (1992); Ronald G. Witt, In the Footsteps of the Ancients: The Origins of Humanism from Lovato to Bruni (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2000), 201ff.
In general terms, we can say that Cicero follows the Isocratean ideal of a culture with a marked civic and practical character (but at the same time not too mundane or technical), centred on the use of speech and on humanistic disciplines such literature, ethics, and politics. Aristotle, instead, is a key influence for Cicero in a number of aspects: first, for the idea of the combination of philosophy and rhetoric (see: Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, trans. J. E. King (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960), 1.7; Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.141); second, for the idea of the existence of three proofs of persuasion— logos, ethos, pathos—that in Cicero becomes the three tasks of the orator: probare/docere, conciliare/delectare, and movere (see Ibid., 2.115, 128, 310, 3.104; Cicero, “Brutus,” in Brutus, Orator, trans. G. L. Hendrickson and H. M. Hubbell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 185, 276; Cicero, “Orator,” in Brutus, Orator, trans. G. L. Hendrickson and H. M. Hubbell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1934), 69); and finally, for the view of rhetoric as an unsystematizable art and an aspect of practical reason. On the influence of Isocrates and Aristotle in Cicero see: Alain Michel, Les rapports de la rhétorique et de la philosophie dans l’oeuvre de Cicéron. Recherches sur les fondements philosophiques de l’art de persuader (Louvain and Paris: Peeters, 2003), 101–8, 119–23; George Kennedy, A New History of Classical Rhetoric (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 142–3; Sarah C. Stroup, “Greek Rhetoric Meets Rome: Expansion, Resistance, and Acculturation,” in A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, ed. William Dominik and Jon Hall (Malden: Blackwell, 2007), 23–37; William W. Fortenbaugh and David C. Mirhady, eds., Peripatetic Rhetoric after Aristotle (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1994), Chs. 5 and 6.
Connolly, The State of Speech, 169. The same is valid also for Quintilian, for whom a good citizen and politician cannot but be a good orator. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 1.pr.10.
On the relationship between philosophy and rhetoric in Cicero, see: Michel, Les rapports de la rhétorique et de la philosophie dans l’oeuvre de Cicéron; Robert Gaines, “Cicero’s Response to the Philosophers in De Oratore, Book 1,” in Rhetoric and Pedagogy, ed. Winifred Bryan Horner and Michael Leff (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995); Emanuele Narducci, Cicerone. La parola e la politica (Rome: Laterza, 2009), Ch. 19; Alberto Grilli, “Cicerone tra retorica e filosofia,” in Interpretare Cicerone. Percorsi della critica contemporanea. Atti del II Symposium Ciceronianum Arpinas, ed. Emanuele Narducci (Florence: Felice Le Monnier, 2002); Bryan Garsten, Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), Ch. 5; Connolly, The State of Speech, 121–9; Ingo Gildenhard, Creative Eloquence: The Construction of Reality in Cicero’s Speeches (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Yelena Baraz, A Written Republic: Cicero’s Philosophical Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2012).
Cicero, “De Inventione,” in De Inventione, De Optimo Genere Oratorum, Topica, trans. M. Hubbell (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949), 1.1.1.
Quentin Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 2.
The full passage states: “For there was a time when men wandered at large in the fields like animals and lived on wild fare…At this juncture a man—great and wise I am sure—…assembled and gathered them in accordance with a plan; he introduced them to every useful and honourable occupation, though they cried out against it at first because of its novelty, and then when through reason and eloquence they had listened with greater attention, he transformed them from wild savages into a kind and gentle folk. To me, at least, it does not seem possible that a mute and voiceless wisdom could have turned men suddenly from their habits and introduced them to different patterns of life.” Cicero, “De Inventione,” 1.1.2–3.
Ibid., 1.5; Cicero, De Officiis, trans. Walter Miller (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univesity Press, 1997), 1.11–12.
Cicero, De Officiis, 1.132.
According to Sean McConnell, Cicero’s position on the relation between philosophy and politics (which is strictly related to that between philosophy and rhetoric) has changed along the years. If at the beginning he considered them two neatly separated subjects, he came progressively to develop the idea that philosophy could give an essential contribution to politics. In this sense, according to McConnell, the turning point could have been his exile in 58 BC. After this Cicero gradually withdrew from public life and thus could devote more and more time to philosophy and come to see under a different light its relation with politics. Sean McConnell, Philosophical Life in Cicero’s Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), Ch. 1.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.143.
Ibid., 3.122. In relation to the importance of philosophy for oratory according to Cicero, in Orator he comes to affirm that it is Plato’s Academia, rather than the workshops of the rhetoricians, who has made him an orator. Something similar is asserted in the Tusculanae disputationes, when he sustains that the source of his oratorical accomplishments is his study of philosophy. Cicero, “Orator,” 12; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.6.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.72, see also 1.16. Cf. Cicero, “Pro Archia,” in Pro Archia. Post Reditum in Senatu. Post Reditum Ad Quirites. De Domo Sua. De Haruspicum Responsis. Pro Plancio, trans. Nevile Hunter Watts (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1923), 12.
Cicero, “Brutus,” 322, cf. 161. See also Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.17–18, 20–1, 48–70, 157–8, 160–203, 2.6, 3.54, 76.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.55. Cf. Plato, Gorgias, 456c–57c, 469c–69e.
The distinction between general and particular questions, theses and hypotheses, was a customary one in ancient rhetoric. The former were usually studied by philosophers, while the latter were studied by rhetoricians. In the De oratore Cicero accepts this distinction. However, in an open polemic against a technicist understanding of rhetoric, he strongly criticizes the rhetors of his time for not paying attention to the general questions and thus for reducing their discipline to a set of rules to be applied to standard cases. Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.58–68, 2.42, 133–4, 3.04–25. However, Cicero’s position on this topic has evolved along the years. In De inventione he was still of the idea that “these [abstract] questions are far removed from the business of an orator.” Cicero, “De Inventione,” 1.6.8. Later, first in De oratore and then in Orator, he came to include in the domain of oratory these general, abstract arguments, though keeping them in a subordinate position to the specific issues at hand, since his orator is not a full-fledged philosopher but first of all a politician. This shift is consistent with the argument (see supra note 21) that Cicero came only progressively to develop the idea that philosophy can give a fundamental contribution to politics. Cicero, “Orator,” 14.45–6; Gary Remer, Humanism and the Rhetoric of Toleration (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 18.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.56–7, 94.
So Cicero specifies that for those involved in practical life only need a certain familiarity with philosophical wisdom. They don’t need to become experts in every domain, because their responsibility is to act and they don’t have much time to study philosophy. See ibid., 1.94, 3.86–9, etc. As Nicgorski correctly points out in this respect, in De oratore Crassus clarifies that what interests him is not the truest philosophy, but rather that philosophy which is best suited to the orator (and therefore to his political commitment). Nicgorski, “Cicero’s Paradoxes and His Idea of Utility,” 558. Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.64.
In the Introduction to their translation of De oratore, May and Wisse argue that Cicero’s idea that eloquence needs to be supported by philosophy has no moral background, but is motivated only by the fact that in every particular and concrete question with which an orator has to deal, there is always implicit a more general and indefinite one. James M. May and Jakob Wisse, “Introduction,” in Cicero: On the Ideal Orator, trans. James M. May and Jakob Wisse (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 25. This may be true in the sense that for Cicero philosophy is not a discipline able to provide a knowledge about the good and the bad, which is directly and easily applicable to practice through eloquence. However, keeping in mind his general understanding of philosophy as a spiritual guide, we can say that for him philosophy has the key ethical and political function of helping to reshape and expand the moral framework of an individual and a citizen. This is what has been defended, for instance, by Bryan Garsten, Renato Grilli, or Ingo Gildenhard: Garsten, Saving Persuasion, 156–66; Grilli, “Cicerone tra retorica e filosofia,” 60; Gildenhard, Creative Eloquence.
When centuries later Giambattista Vico defended the rhetorical humanistic model of education threatened by the diffusion of Descartes’s new critical method, he felt the necessity to clarify that the ancient method is not opposed to critical thinking and moral rightness. In De ratione Vico writes: “Here some learned pundit might object that, in the conduct of life, I would have our young students become courtiers, and not philosophers; pay little attention to truth and follow not reality but appearances; and cast down morality and put on a deceitful ‘front’ of virtue. I have no such intention. Instead, I should like to have them act as philosophers, even at court; to care for truth that both is and has the appearance of truth, and to follow that which is morally good and which everybody approves.” Giambattista Vico, On the Study Methods of Our Time, trans. Elio Gianturco (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990), 37–8.
See e.g., Cicero, “Paradoxa Stoicorum,” in De Oratore, Book III; De Fato; Paradoxa Stoicorum, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968), 2–3; Cicero, “Orator,” 12; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.1–4, 4.5–6, 5.9; Cicero, “De Legibus,” in De Republica (on the Republic) & De Legibus (on the Laws), trans. Clinton Walker Keyes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 1.28, 58; Cicero, “De Natura Deorum,” in On the Nature of the Gods. Academics, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1933), 1.7–8; Cicero, “De Divinatione,” in On Old Age. On Friendship. On Divination, trans. W. A. Falconer (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1923), 2.1–2.
The idea to create a Roman tradition of philosophy was conceived by Cicero in the 40s, when the advent to power of Caesar forced him to abandon politics.
Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.7. In this text, and more in general in Cicero’s philosophical writings of the 40s, the hierarchy between philosophy and politics seems to change in favour of the former, so that the focus is no more on the profile of the statesman and orator perfectus, but rather on perfecta philosophia. Ingo Gildenhard, Paideia Romana: Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 149–56.
Gildenhard, Creative Eloquence, 2, 6.
According for Cicero, this occurs in those cases when, for instance, a tyrant as he believes to be Sulla transforms a res publica into a res private, thus going against natural justice; or when a law goes against the interest of the state. Cicero, “On the Agrarian Law,” in Pro Quinctio. Pro Roscio Amerino. Pro Roscio Comoedo. On the Agrarian Law, trans. J. H. Freese (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), 3.5; Cicero, Philippics, trans. Walter C. A. Ker (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 5.16. Another very interesting case discussed by Gildenhard is the concept of humanitas, which in Cicero acquires an extremely rich semantic connotation: Gildenhard, Creative Eloquence, 175, 191–2, 201–16. Natural law and justice are, of course, foundational elements in Cicero’s conception of the state. See e.g., Cicero, “De Re Publica,” in De Re Publica (on the Republic) & De Legibus (on the Laws), trans. C. W. Keyes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000), 1.21, 39, 42, 3.3; Cicero, “De Legibus,” 1.17–18, 2.8; Cicero, De Officiis, 1.12, 157–8.
This kind of reading of the Pro Murena, which goes against the standard interpretation of this speech that takes it as an example of Cicero’s manipulative use of eloquence, has been defended by Michael Leff. Michael Leff, “Cicero’s Pro Murena and the Strong Case for Rhetoric,” Rhetoric and Public Affaris 1 (1998).
Yelena Baraz has studied in depth the prefaces of Cicero’s philosophical works of the 40s—where Cicero usually provides a justification of the choice to devote himself to philosophy—both to explore the meaning of this political-cultural project and scrutinize the rhetorical strategies he employs to justify it. Baraz, A Written Republic.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.12; Cicero, “Paradoxa Stoicorum,” 1. Cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 2.4.
Baraz, A Written Republic, 131–6.
On the importance of the exempla see for instance: Cicero, “Pro Archia,” 14.
See e.g., Cicero, “De Re Publica,” 1.8, 12, 3.5–7, 6.13, 29, etc.; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.19, 90; Cicero, De Officiis, 1.22, 70–3.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.56; Connolly, The State of Speech, 125.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 11.2.30, see also 1.12.16–18, 2.15.34, 2.16.16, 2.17.31, 12.1–3, 12.2.1, etc. The motto ‘ ut vivat, etiam quemque dicere’ Quintilian cites (and that, as he says, is a Greek aphorism) recalls Cato’s famous motto of vir bonus dicendi peritus, or Seneca’s talis oratio, qualis vita ( Epistolae 114.1). See also: Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 5.47. John Dugan, Making a New Man: Ciceronian Self-Fashioning in the Rhetorical Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 2.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 12.3.12.
Ibid., 1.pr.13–15, 12.3.12. See also: 11.1.35, 12.2.8–10.
See e.g., Kennedy, A New History of Classical Rhetoric, 9, 181–2.
Clarity is for Quintilian one of the main qualities of a good speech; and arrogance, a vice (very typical of the youngsters) that is pernicious in all the aspects of life and that has to be avoided at all costs. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 1.5.1, 12.6.2. Also in Cicero we find references to arrogance as a vice quite common among philosophers. For instance: Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.193. Cf. Cicero, De Officiis, 1.99.
For instance: Ernesto Grassi, Vico e l’umanesimo (Milan: Guerini, 1992); Ernesto Grassi, Retorica come filosofia. La tradizione umanistica (Naples: La città del sole, 1999).
For Quintilian “a man’s character is generally revealed and the secrets of his heart are laid bare by his manner of speaking.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 11.2.30. In humanists such as Petrarca and Valla we find the same idea. See, respectively: Eugenio Garin, L’umanesimo italiano. Filosofia e vita civile nel Rinascimento (Bari: Laterza, 1965), 27; Salvatore Camporeale, Lorenzo Valla. Umanesimo e Teologia (Florence: Istituto Palazzo Strozzi, 1972), 152. Miguel de Cervantes, another great humanist, writes in the Don Quijote: “Si el poeta fuere casto en sus costumbres, lo será también en sus versos; la pluma es lengua del alma: cuales fueran los conceptos que en ella se engendraren, tales serán sus escritos.” [If the poet be pure in his habits, he will be pure in his verses too; the pen is the tongue of the soul, and as the thoughts engendered there, so will be his writings]. My translation. Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, 2 vols., vol. II (Madrid: Castalia, 1982), 157.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.1–5; Cicero, “De Re Publica,” 1.1–12. For Nicgorski, if De re publica is Cicero’s most important political work, De oratore is its continuation. In the former Cicero argues that the Roman Republic is the greatest regime ever realized because of the greatness of its statesmen. And in the latter, he explains the kind of education necessary for statesmanship. Walter Nicgorski, “Cicero’s Focus: From the Best Regime to the Model Statesman,” Political Theory 19 (1991): 250. On the relation between the perfect orator and the perfect statesman in Cicero see also: Jonathan Powell, “The Rector Rei Publicae of Cicero’s De Republica,” Scripta Classica Israelica 13 (1994); Grilli, “Cicerone tra retorica e filosofia,” 59; Jonathan Zarecki, Cicero’s Ideal Statesman in Theory and Practice (London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2014), 46.
There are many relevant passages in Cicero’s writings on the relationship between theory and practice and the necessity of their union. For instance: Cicero, “De Re Publica,” 1.2, 15, 28, 3.4–6; Cicero, De Officiis, 1.28–9, 153–7; Cicero, “De Legibus,” 1.17, 28, 58; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 1.1–3, 4.5–6, 5.9; Cicero, “De Natura Deorum,” 1.7–9; Cicero, “De Divinatione,” 2.1–2, etc.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 1.34. Cf. Cicero, De Officiis, 1.156–7.
Cf. Nicgorski, “Cicero’s Focus: From the Best Regime to the Model Statesman,” 249.
Likewise, Joy Connolly has argued that: “Cicero’s representation of the orator perfectus takes on significance as an intervention in ethical theory that reinvents the process of conceptualizing the good life in terms of communication.” Connolly, The State of Speech, 139.
Ibid., 14. In the third book of De oratore, Crassus justifies his choice to talk about the summus orator (an orator in his highest accomplishment) by arguing that in order to understand the nature of something it is necessary to see it in its perfect form. In the first book, Crassus talks about “the Orator we are seeking”, evoking the ideal city envisioned by Plato in the Republic. Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 3.85, 1.118, see also 1.202. The connection between the figure of the perfect orator and the Platonic concept of ‘ideas’ is made explicit in Cicero’s last work on rhetoric, Orator, where he writes: “Consequently in delineating the perfect orator I shall be portraying such a one as perhaps has never existed. Indeed I am not inquiring who was the perfect orator, but what is that unsurpassable ideal which seldom if ever appears…This ideal cannot be perceived by the eye or ear, nor by any senses, but we can nevertheless grasp it by the mind and imagination…these patterns of things are called ιδεαι or ideas by Platο.” Cicero, “Orator,” 7–11.
Similarly Zarecki underlines that the figure of the ideal statesman outlined by Cicero in De re publica (and that for Zarecki coincides in crucial aspects with that of the perfect orator) is an ideal, but with a practical meaning, since it is supposed to inspire political actions. Zarecki, Cicero’s Ideal Statesman in Theory and Practice, 91–4.
There is a passage in De oratore, which particularly stresses the materiality of the process of self-fashioning to become an orator. It is when Antonius, in commenting on this process, says: “After doing what I set out to do, namely begetting, nourishing, and developing the strength of this orator that I am now fashioning, I shall hand him over to Crassus to be clothed and equipped.” Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 2.123. This process of self-fashioning is extremely difficult, according to Cicero, because of the “incredible scope and difficulty of oratory.” And this explains why for him there are so few examples in history of orators who have been able to get close to the ideal of the perfect orator. Ibid., 1.16–19, cf. 1.76ff., 94–5, 118, 128, 202, 2.187, 3.84. Among the few examples of remarkable oratory and statesmanship Cicero includes Crassus and Pericles, who thanks to “his supreme learning, counsel and eloquence, was the leader of Athens for forty years.” Ibid., 3.15, 3.138. Cicero’s judgment on Pericles is in open contrast with Plato’s negative appreciation of him as a leader who corrupted the demos. Plato, Gorgias, 515d–e.
On the topic of rhetorical self-creation an increasing number of works have been published in the last years. For example: Emanuele Narducci, Cicerone e l’eloquenza romana (Bari: Laterza, 1997); Martin Bloomer, “Schooling in Persona: Imagination and Subordination in Roman Education,” Classical Antiquity 16 (1997); Erik Gunderson, Staging Masculinity: The Rhetoric of Performance in the Roman World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2000); Dugan, Making a New Man; Maud W. Gleason, Making Men: Sophists and Self-Presentation in Ancient Rome (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008); Connolly, The State of Speech.
On the influence of Quintilian and Cicero on the development of the Renaissance programme of the studia humanitatis see for instance: Paul O. Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and Its Sources, ed. Michael Mooney (New York: Columbia University Press, 1979), 22ff.; Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, 21–6.
For Quintilian’s scepticism about rules and general principles, see: Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 2.13.14, 12.5.1.
Ibid., 2.15.11, 2.17.25, 12.5.1, etc.
Confirming the importance of the exempla, Quintilian underlines how important is for the students to read great writers and philosophers, as well as the stories of great historical characters, who can serve as models of imitation. However, beyond the humanistic disciplines, Quintilian includes in the curriculum also other disciplines such as geometry, astronomy, and music. Ibid., 1.4, 1.10, 10.1.27–36.
As Quintilian writes “the art of speaking can only be attained by hard work and assiduity of study, by a variety of exercises and repeated trial, the highest prudence and unfailing quickness of judgment.” Ibid., 2.13.15.
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980), 54.
Jaeger, quoted in: ibid., p. 53.
Eloquence requires education, natural talents, and practice, according to Quintilian. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 2.19.
At the beginning of the Institutio oratoria, Quintilian complains that his contemporary rhetoricians neglect the early years in the development of the student, which are for him fundamental. Ibid., 1.pr.4, see also 1.1.5. An interesting parallelism could be drawn between the interest of Quintilian in the early phase of the life of a student and that of Vico (who knew Quintilian’s work very well) in the origins whether of a word, a person, or a civilization.
Quintilian writes: “the art of oratory includes all that is essential for the training of an orator, and that it is impossible to reach the summit in any subject unless we have first passed through all the elementary stages. I shall not therefore refuse to stoop to the consideration of those minor details, neglect of which may result in there being no opportunity for more important things, and propose to mould the studies of my orator from infancy, on the assumption that his whole education has been entrusted to my charge…It has been my design to lead my reader from the very cradle of speech through all the stages of education which can be of any service to our budding orator till we have reached the very summit of the art.” Ibid., 1.pr.5–6. On the relation between natural talent and education according to Quintilian, see: Elaine Fantham, “The Concept of Nature and Human Nature in Quintilian’s Psychology and Theory of Instruction,” Rhetorica 13 (1995).
Javier Roiz, La recuperación del buen juicio (Madrid: Foro Interno, 2003), 39–40.
On several occasions Quintilian shows a strong optimism about the human capacity to learn. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 1.pr.20, 1.7.2, 2.17.9, 12.11.25, etc. Cf. 2.20.1. On this point see: Fantham, “The Concept of Nature and Human Nature in Quintilian’s Psychology and Theory of Instruction”; Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World, 429.
For Quintilian “the material of rhetoric is composed of everything that may be placed before it as a subject.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 2.21.1–4.
See e.g., Brian Vickers, In Defence of Rhetoric (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 276–86; Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, 120–6; Ruth Webb, “Imagination and the Arousal of Emotions in Greco-Roman Rhetoric,” in The Passions in Roman Thought and Literature, ed. Susanna Morton Braund and Christopher Gill (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Richard A. Katula, “Quintilian on the Art of Emotional Appeal,” Rhetoric Review 22 (2003).
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 6.2.1–3.
Ibid., 6.2.7. On the instrumental use of the emotions in Roman rhetoric cf.: Daniel M. Gross, “Introduction,” in Heidegger and Rhetoric, ed. Daniel M. Gross and Ansgar Kemmann (Albany, NY: SUNY, 2005); Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, 124; Katula, “Quintilian on the Art of Emotional Appeal,” 12–14.
Quintilian translates pathos with adfectus and argues that for the term ethos there is no adequate translation in Latin, although it is usually rendered by the term mores. However, he adds, this translation is inadequate because the meaning of mores is very general, since it refers to a state of mind in general. This is why for him it would be better to explain the meaning of ethos (rather than trying to translate it), in order to show its affinity with the word pathos. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 6.2.8–10.
Cicero defines style as “the fitting of the proper language to the invented matter.” Cicero, “De Inventione,” 1.7.9. He individuates three basic styles of oratory: the grand (or also Asiatic), the tempered, and the plain style (or also Attic). See e.g., Cicero, “Orator,” 20–1, 69, 106–9. Quintilian’s discussion of the style follows in many aspects that of Cicero. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 12.10.58–72.
Among the various tropoi, Quintilian highlights in particular the importance of metaphors. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 8.6.4–5. On paradiastole, see: ibid., 8.3.89. Skinner has analysed in depth the fundamental meaning of paradiastole and redescription in rhetoric: Skinner, Reason and Rhetoric in the Philosophy of Hobbes, Ch. 4.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 8.4.1. On the proximity between the orator and the musician see: Roiz, La recuperación del buen juicio, 33–4, 39–40, 62, 72, 112–13, 304, 331–2.
This principle, Quintilian says, belongs to “the secret principles of this art” and “the inmost recesses of the subject.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 6.2.25–28, cf. 12.5.4.
Ibid., 6.2.29. For Quintilian eloquence “depends in the main on the state of the mind, which must be moved, conceive images and adapt itself to suit the nature of the subject which is the theme of the speech.” Ibid., 1.20.30. Cf.: Katula, “Quintilian on the Art of Emotional Appeal,” 7.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 2.4.7–12. Quintilian however doesn’t neglect analytical and critical skills, which are relevant, for instance, to the study of geometry. Indeed, he includes this discipline in the curriculum from the very early years of study. Ibid., 1.10.34, 37. Giambattista Vico criticizes the rigid application of the Cartesian method in education, by arguing that its exclusive emphasis on the critical and analytical could inhibit the development in the youngsters of imagination, and correlated capacities as ingenuity and memory. Also Vico, however, is perfectly aware of the importance of these analytical and critical skills. See for instance: Giambattista Vico, “Il metodo degli studi del tempo nostro,” in Opere, ed. Fausto Nicolini (Milan and Naples: Riccardo Ricciardi Editore, 1953), 177. The idea that among young people the creative faculties are stronger and that rationality matures gradually over the years is confirmed in one of the degnità (axioms) of the Scienza Nuova and represents the basis of his theory of poetic character of the first peoples: Giambattista Vico, “Prinicipi di Scienza Nuova,” in Opere, ed. Fausto Nicolini (Milan and Naples: Riccardo Ricciardi Editore, 1953), par. 211.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 3.8.50–1.
Cicero, On the Ideal Orator, 2.102–4. Cf. Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 12.8.15.
Brian Vickers, for instance, has written that if you ask for (as Cicero does in De oratore) “the subtlety of the logician, the thoughts of a philosopher, a diction almost poetic, a lawyer’s memory, a tragedian’s voice, and the bearing almost of a consummate actor”, enriched by an in-depth knowledge in all fields of knowledge and transformed into an eloquence so potent “that it embraces the origin and operation and developments of all things, all the virtues and duties, all the natural principles governing the morals and minds and life of mankind, and also determines their custom and laws and rights, and controls the government of the state”, than you end up giving an empty response to Plato’s criticism because you pass from nothing to too much. Vickers, In Defence of Rhetoric, 164–5. Cf. Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World, 227, 504. In this perspective, we could say that Cicero and Quintilian’s conceptions of rhetoric represent an emblematic example of what Dilip Gaonkar has called the recurrent temptation of rhetoricians to “flee from mere rhetoric.” Dilip P. Gaonkar, “Rhetoric and Its Double: Reflections of the Rhetorical Turn in the Human Sciences,” in Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader, ed. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill (New York and London: The Guilford Press, 1999), 194.
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 5.14.31.
The quotation continues in this way “and sometimes it [ rhetoric] seduces him.” George Kennedy, the author of this remark, alludes here to the possibility that the technical and instrumental dimension of rhetoric takes the upper hand on the ethical one. Kennedy, The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World, 24.
Connolly, The State of Speech, 129.
Joy Connolly, “Virile Tongues: Rhetoric and Masculinity,” in A Companion to Roman Rhetoric, ed. William Dominik and Jon Hall (Malden: Blackwell, 2007), 91. John Dugan has argued that in the repertoire of Roman orations we find a rich set of different and competing representations of an imagined idea of Rome as a community, in which the identity of the orator—and the auctoritas he claims for himself—enters as a constitutive part. So, despite the cult of the tradition, in practice the idea of Rome as a community was subject to great flexibility, which the orator could use for his own political purposes. John Dugan, “Rhetoric and the Roman Republic,” in The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rhetoric, ed. Erik Gunderson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 180.
Cicero, “De Re Publica,” 2.69. Quintilian similarly writes: “assuredly the man who will best inspire such feelings in others is he who has first inspired them in himself.” Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, 12.1.25, 29.
Connolly, stressing the role of eloquence in materializing wisdom, has argued that “Cicero constructs a contest over the communication of knowledge between the Roman orator and the Greek philosopher that turns on the way the orator embodies, emotionalizes, and contextualizes what he knows—making it natural by making it a product of the body, taking philosophical themes and giving them flesh and blood.” Connolly, The State of Speech, 120.
- The Union of Philosophy and Rhetoric: Cicero and Quintilian
- Palgrave Macmillan UK
- Chapter 3