Classics Quintilian
Elaine Fantham, Emily Fairey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 June 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 December 2009
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0057


Marcus Fabius Quintilianus was born c. 35 CE in Calagurris in Hispania (modern Calahorra in La Rioja, Spain). His father, a well-educated man, sent him to Rome to study rhetoric early in the reign of Nero. Quintilian evidently adopted as his model Domitius Afer, who died in 59, and listened to him speak and plead cases in the law courts. Sometime after Afer’s death, Quintilian returned to Spain, possibly to practice law in the courts of his own province. However, in 68 he returned to Rome as part of the retinue of the emperor Galba, Nero’s short-lived successor. After Galba’s death, and during the chaotic Year of the Four Emperors that followed, Quintilian opened a public school of rhetoric. Among his students were Pliny the Younger, and perhaps Tacitus. Quintilian received the ornamenta consularia under Domitian, but was not consul. Of his personal life, little is known. In the Institutio oratoria, he mentions a wife who died young, as well as two sons who predeceased him. Quintilian retired from teaching and pleading in 88, during the reign of Domitian. His retirement may have been prompted by his achievement of financial security and his desire to become a gentleman of leisure. The emperor does not appear to have taken offense; in the year 90, Quintilian was made tutor of Domitian’s two grand-nephews and heirs, and he was shortly afterward honored with the privileges of an ex-consul. Otherwise, Quintilian spent his retirement writing his Institutio oratoria. The exact date of his death is not known but is believed to be sometime around 100.

Texts and Translations

This brief bibliography bears witness to how few scholars in the past century have devoted their attention to Quintilian, and how repeatedly their texts and commentaries have been reprinted. There was no new Loeb Classical Library text between the four volumes edited by H. E. Butler and published in 1920–1922, and Russell’s (Quintilian 2003) eighty years later, and there has been no new Teubner edition since Buchheit’s revision of Radermacher (Quintilian 1971). For texts without translation we have Winterbottom (Quintilian 1970), from Oxford, a superior text. Early but useful texts include Radermacher (Quintilian 1971) and Cousin (Quintilian 1980), who has also published secondary scholarship on the author. The most recent text with English translation is Russell (Quintilian 2003), easily the best tool we have for understanding Quintilian’s language, content, and rhetorical background, both Greek and Latin.

  • Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus). 1970. Institutionis oratoriae libri duodecim. Edited by Michael Winterbottom. 2 vols. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Clarendon.

    Remains a valuable text.

  • Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus). 1971. Institutionis oratoriae libri XII. Edited by Ludwig Radermacher; revised by V. Buchheit. 2 vols. Leipzig, Germany: Teubner.

    Text, notes and introduction in Latin. There were two previous editions in 1907 and 1935.

  • Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus). 1980. Institution oratoire. Edited by Jean Cousin. 5 vols. Collection Budé. Paris: Les Belles Lettres.

    Originally published 1936. Latin text and French translation of Institutiones oratoriae, with commentary in French.

  • Quintilian (Marcus Fabius Quintilianus). 2003. The orator’s education. Edited by Donald A. Russell. 5 vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    With five volumes that contain books 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–10, and 11–12. An up-to-date text, replacing H. E. Butler`s eighty-year-old edition, with facing translation and explanatory notes that take modern scholarship into account.

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