Rhetoric as a Virtue: Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 2.20

“There is a certain mataiotechnia, that is, an entirely idle imitation of art, which has nothing good nor bad about it, but fruitless labor, such as that of the man who threw chickpeas from a distance through a needle and without missing. When Alexander had seen this, he is said to have bestowed upon him a bushel of chickpeas, which was indeed a reward worthy of that work. To these kinds of frippery I would compare those who, in their declamations, which they want to be as dissimilar to the truth as possible, waste a lifetime with much study and labor. But this model of rhetoric, which we are trying to establish, and the image of which we have already taken up in our minds, which is fit for a good man and is truly rhetoric, this will be a virtue. ”

Mataiotekhnia quoque est quaedam, id est superuacua artis imitatio, quae nihil sane neque boni neque mali habeat, sed uanum laborem, qualis illius fuit qui grana ciceris ex spatio distante missa in acum continuo et sine frustratione inserebat; quem cum spectasset Alexander, donasse dicitur eiusdem leguminis modio, quod quidem praemium fuit illo opere dignissimum. His ego comparandos existimo qui in declamationibus, quas esse ueritati dissimillimas uolunt, aetatem multo studio ac labore consumunt. Verum haec quam instituere conamur et cuius imaginem animo concepimus, quae bono uiro conuenit quaeque est uere rhetorice, uirtus erit.

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