BMCR 2007.02.27

[Quintilian]. The Lesser Declamations. Loeb Classical Library 500-501

, , The lesser declamations. The Loeb classical library /. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. 2 volumes ; 17 cm.. ISBN 9780674996182 $21.50 (each volume).

Any celebratory feelings that may accompany the Loeb Classical Library’s publication of volume 500 (and 501) must be tempered by its being the last work submitted to press by the late D. R. Shackleton Bailey (henceforth, of course, SB). These two volumes, the seventeenth and eighteenth produced by SB for the Library, offer readers a reliable and readable Latin text of the Minor Declamations attributed to Quintilian, accompanied by the first-ever English translation. Those interested in the history of rhetoric and education will particularly welcome these affordable new Loebs.

The corpus of declamations on offer here comprises 145 specimens from an original 388, of varying length and subject matter. The collection undoubtedly reflects daily practice at a school of the early Empire containing students of varying levels of experience. Each piece follows a typical format: after a short title (probably not original), a theme tersely states the nature of the case, together with applicable laws; a sample declamation follows, arguing one side of the issue (rarely, arguments are offered for both sides). This declamation is often preceded by, or occasionally interspersed with, the sermo of a teacher, a set of hints discussing how one should argue particular points. As SB notes, somewhat ungenerously considering the haphazard state of the extant collection, this discussion “not seldom . . . provides little relevance to the declamation that follows and is so opaquely phrased that one pities the pupils it is supposed to edify” (1). This world of declamation is populated with the familiar evil step-mothers, tyrannicides, and pirates, all interacting in unlikely scenarios—sample titles include “A parricide’s bones dug up” or “An exposed beater’s hands cut off”—and these incidents are governed by laws rarely corresponding with known legislation from antiquity. The student declaimer is clearly not intended to become an expert in Roman jurisprudence from these exercises but rather receives training on how to take up an unfamiliar persona and negotiate it through a set of circumstances that require no prior background (hence the dearth of suasoria -type declamations in the collection). I for one have little difficulty recognizing the value of this type of training. As a young student, I was faced with the choice among a priest, a doctor, a pregnant woman and her husband, a nun, and a scholar of literature, and asked to explain to my teacher, Sister Patricia, which three I would accept into a bomb shelter. I would like to think that such exercises have contributed to my survival in later life, a life spent largely outside the courtroom.

The nature of the collection as it has come down to us is much better understood since the publication of Winterbottom’s edition and commentary in 1984, and SB, in his two-page discussion of the issue, accepts his conclusions regarding authorship and composition.1 Winterbottom argues that the surviving text represents not, as previously thought, the lecture notes of a pupil, but those of the “Master” himself, in a form compiled later by an incompetent editor. This hypothesis well explains the largely random order of presentation, as well as the often sketchy character of the sermones, since these would have received elaboration from a teacher before a classroom. SB also raises the intriguing possibility that some of the declamations on display represent works of pupils (2), a suggestion that accords well with the diverse range of sophistication in arguments and of Latin style. An alternative suggestion, offered by Winterbottom, is that this range shows the Master catering to the varying abilities of his students. It would be worthwhile to do a stylometric analysis of select declamationes to determine if a decisive claim can be made for either position. In any case, this persuasive account of the collection’s origins, unique to the Roman world, marks it as significantly different from the extracts of showpieces collected by the Elder Seneca or the much later Major Declamations (also ascribed to Quintilian), since they allow us to examine closely the day-to-day workings of pedagogy in Latin during the early Empire. As for the identity of the Master, SB again follows Winterbottom in concluding that the original author, if not Quintilian, is certainly steeped in the Institutio and that style and vocabulary are consistent with a date in the late first or early second century. Our Loeb edition cleverly exploits the ambiguity—the name “Quintilian” appears prominently on the spine, with the square brackets that mark dubious authorship reserved for the title page.

As a corollary to his hypothesis of how the text was compiled, Winterbottom had introduced, and SB has followed, a system of double bracketing by which to distinguish those parts of the collection “that are either clear doublets of other passages or clearly misplaced in their transmitted context”.2 In other words, these brackets mark the hypothetical compiler’s incompetence. Predictably, in a work as tortuous as this, quot editores, tot loci alieni; SB has added a couple of dozen new instances of the double bracket, while excising a few of Winterbottom’s. In considering each of SB’s deletions, I could see no underlying principle to justify such liberal use of bracketing.

Before embarking on this Loeb, SB had already offered hundreds of textual comments on the Minor Declamations and produced a Teubner edition. Here he offers another few score emendations.3 Indeed, many of the notes that accompany the translation, contrary to normal Loeb practice, include references to issues that better belong in the Latin apparatus, if in fact anywhere (e.g., 304, theme n. 1, which I understood only after consulting Winterbottom’s commentary; 342.3 n. 4; 369.3 n. 7). In accordance with the principles that he had adopted in editing other Loebs of prose authors, SB’s conjectures and suggestions for filling lacunae aim at readability in ways that yield the appropriate sense without any presumption of having precisely reconstructed the original text. Most of the new conjectures seem minor (on the order of quo for quod at 251.1, or istam for ipsam at 325.6), while others substantially improve the Master’s rhetorical power, which of course does not necessarily mean that they accurately reflect the author’s original text (e.g., the clever change of duos to tresII to III —at 277.1). At the same time, SB freely admits to the rare occasions when a (translatable) text makes no sense to him (e.g., 321.8 n. 6).

The translation constitutes the most substantial contribution of these volumes. The qualities familiar from SB’s earlier renderings of Latin prose are present here, and he does a particularly fine job of capturing the staccato quality of many of the speeches and the stylistic differences between theme, sermo, and declamation proper. Considering the opacity of much of the argument and style that occupies these 500 pages of Latin text, it is remarkable in how few places the translation was incomprehensible (333.6 is a rare example: “By his generosity, his wealth, I came by study abroad, the most illustrious models, leisure, the greatest aid to study,” whose syntactical peculiarities do not seem to represent an attempt to recover corresponding features in the Latin). There also seemed to be many fewer Anglicisms or outdated idioms than in SB’s earlier translations.

Despite the fine achievement and real service for contemporary classicists that these volumes represent, more attentive editing could have further improved their usefulness. SB’s general aversion to most contemporary scholarship that does not contribute to a better Latin text—what he has elsewhere referred to, in scare quotes, as “higher criticism”—is well known. The only hint here that the Minor Declamations, and declamation in general, have received recent scholarly attention is a passing reference to the short list of works cited in Winterbottom’s edition and to Hakanson’s bibliographical review, both of which appeared over twenty years ago.4 In prior Loeb volumes SB (or the Loeb editors) has enlisted the aid of specialists to help inform those readers who may care about recent scholarly literature on the relevant author (e.g., C. Skidmore for Valerius Maximus, K. Coleman for Statius). Such an addition here would be a desideratum.

A second missing feature impairs usefulness. One particular pleasure in preparing this review is the chance it afforded to read through the declamations seriatim; since I cannot imagine that this is a pleasure that all would wish to share, the lack of an index of any sort is lamentable. Since SB’s recent Loebs include very full and helpful indices, I can only imagine that SB had not arranged for any in this instance and that the press chose not to fill the gap. I am thinking not so much of an Index Nominum, which would be of little moment since the characters tend to be anonymous figures such as “Rich Man” or “a virgin” (the Index Nominum Propriorum in SB’s Teubner, for example, has only forty-nine entries, and it includes personified concepts such as Pax and Pietas). Rather, an index of topics would be particularly helpful for the scholar of Roman cultural history, especially since no such list is readily available; for now, the Tables of Contents with which each volume opens provide the most convenient, but insufficient, access to this material.5 Also helpful for the lay reader would be a glossary of legal terms, for both the original Latin and SB’s renderings (e.g., praescriptio“demurrer”; optio“option”; parricidium is regularly and confusingly translated “parricide” regardless of whether the situation is treason, the murder of a father, or of any other relative).

These pages contain very few misprints. I append here a list that includes apparent errors in Latin text or English translation (cited by declamation and section number if not indicated otherwise): vol. 1, p. 6: Vaticanus Palatinus lat. 1558 is misidentified in the Sigla as “B” rather than “D”; 244.1: Occidisti should be in quotation marks in both text and translation; 249.19: SB deletes his populos since “only this community is in mind”, but our author often justifies a particular point by showing its application to more general circumstances (cf. 368.3, which SB puts in double brackets); 259, theme: “On a day” should presumably be “One day” ( quodam tempore); 259.6: rendering deprecatio as “deprecation” will surely mislead the Latinless; 260.7 n. 9: read SB 1 for SB 2; 265.6: delete “a” in “like a committing”; 265.14: “that” should be “than”; 270.29: read refugiunt for refugium; 274.11: read existimatis for existimans; 280.9: Profugerat needs an opening quotation mark; 308.3: nihil necesse est should be translated “there is no need”; 308.13: “supposed” should be “suppose”; 311.10: “that he should be in bonds” should read “that only he should be in bonds”; 325.1: cum ipsa loqui nihil ausus est, locutus est cum viro omitted from translation (so too 350.9: quomodo autem comprobare ista possumus); 343.9: “neither it is credible” should read “neither is it credible”; 344.8 n. 3: for “Poor Man” read “Rich Man”; 349.8: “laurelled beard” should read “laurelled head”; 369, theme: read violati for violari; 373.2: “It is no use”; 377.14: read clementiam for dementiam.


1. M. Winterbottom, The Minor Declamations ascribed to Quintilian (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1984); his arguments for authorship are at XI-XIX.

2. Winterbottom 1984.XII. SB incorrectly credits L. Hakanson with this innovation (4).

3. “Notes on Quintilian,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 87 (1983) 230-239; “More on Quintilian’s (?) Shorter Declamations,” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 92 (1989) 367-404; Quintilianus, Declamationes Minores (Stuttgart: Teubner, 1989).

4. Winterbottom 1984.XXVIII-XXIX; L. Hakanson, “Die quintilianischen Deklamationen in der neueren Forschung,” ANRW II, 32.4 (1986) 2272-2306.

5. Extremely useful, but not quite comparable, are the “Index of Laws and Actions” in Winterbottom 1984.597-602 and the thirty-page Index verborum et locutionum notabiliorum of SB’s Teubner.