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Abstract

This study examines Quintilian’s portrayal of the ideal orator in his Institutio Oratoria— “a good man skilled in speaking” (vir bonus dicendi peritus)—as a response to the Platonic problem of how to make sure that a trained speaker uses the power of speech for good rather than for evil. Departing from Quintilian’s recontextualization, in Institutio 2.15, of Plato’s Gorgias 460b-c (“therefore it is necessary for the rhetorical man to be just, and for the just man to want to do just things”), I suggest that Quintilian answers the Platonic critique by claiming to educate an orator who will want the good and will therefore use his powers of speaking in the service of the community. This approach opens up a reading of the orator’s education as an illustration of how the orator-in-training can gradually be led, over the course of his lifetime, to want the good of his own accord. By accepting the invitation of Quintilian’s authorial persona to enter into a series of relationships outlined and mediated by the Institutio—teacher and student, father and son, and friendship—the reader can begin to experience the education of the virtuous orator for himself and so develop the bona voluntas that Quintilian claims is the Institutio’s most important legacy.

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