Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Roman Studies


W. J. Slater


The purpose of this dissertation is to examine Quintilian's discussion of the progymnasmata, or elementary rhetorical exercises, in the Institutio Oratoria against an historical background. The study of evidence for the development of the exercises will therefore be important, as well as comparison with the Greek Progymnasmata of Aelius Theon, who was probably a contemporary of Quintilian, and of Hermogenes, Aphthonius and Nicolaus, who all lived during the period of the Roman Empire. Authors after the fifth century A.D. have not been considered, since the progymnasmata seem to have been fixed by then and collections which appeared in the Byzantine period added no new exercises.

The comparison of Quintilian's work with Greek texts has necessitated a good deal or Greek terminology, for which I apologize to the reader. Since the Greek progymnasmatists have a love of classification and categorization, the reader will also find discussion of rhetorical terms. At the same time, this study shows how often the ideas of Quintilian and Theon are similar, especially in regard to teaching method, which was not usually an interest of ancient rhetorical writers, and it seems likely that Quintilian was acquainted with Theon's work. It is also instructive to see Quintilian's affirmation of the value of the progymnasmata, at a time when they were not popular with Roman rhetoricians, as part of an educational tradition which continued for many centuries.

It was hoped to add an appendix containing the parts of Theon's work which are missing from the Greek text but which are found in an Armenian translation of the sixth century A.D. Unfortunately, I have not yet found anyone who can translate sixth-century Armenian. The missing passages, when translated, should be of considerable worth, not only for understanding Theon's Progymnasmata, but also for throwing more light on Quintilian's use of these exercises, especially paraphrase, and praise and denunciation of laws, concerning which little is known.

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