Quintilian’s Reading Recommendations

Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria 1.8.5-6

It was laid down in the best way possible that the student’s reading should begin with Homer and Vergil, although one needs a firmer capacity for judgment to understand their virtues. But there is time remaining for this, since they will not be read only once. For the time being, the mind should rise up from the sublimity of heroic song and draw its breath from the grandeur of the matter and be imbued with the noblest things.

Tragedies are useful: lyric poems will nourish the mind as well, if you carefully select not just the authors but even the parts of the work which are to be read. For the Greeks wrote a lot of things licentiously, and I wouldn’t even want to explain certain parts of Horace. Elegies, especially those about love, and hendecasyllabics, which are parts of Sotadean verse (and one should never teach about these) should be removed from the classroom if they can; if not, they should at least be reserved for a firmer time of life.

File:Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, Florence, Plut. 46.12.jpg - Wikimedia  Commons

Ideoque optime institutum est ut ab Homero atque Vergilio lectio inciperet, quamquam ad intellegendas eorum virtutes firmiore iudicio opus est: sed huic rei superest tempus, neque enim semel legentur. Interim et sublimitate heroi carminis animus adsurgat et ex magnitudine rerum spiritum ducat et optimis inbuatur. Vtiles tragoediae: alunt et lyrici, si tamen in iis non auctores modo sed etiam partes operis elegeris: nam et Graeci licenter multa et Horatium nolim in quibusdam interpretari. Elegia vero, utique qua amat, et hendecasyllabi, qui sunt commata sotadeorum (nam de sotadeis ne praecipiendum quidem est), amoveantur si fieri potest, si minus, certe ad firmius aetatis robur reserventur.

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