Quintilian, "Institutio Oratoria"
The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, with an English translation by H. E. Butler, Loeb Classical Library L124, William Heinemann and G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1920
Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book I, Chapter 1, 1-31
I would, therefore, have a father conceive the highest hopes of his son from the moment of his birth. If he does so, he will be more careful about the groundwork of his education. For there is absolutely no foundation for the complaint that but few men have the power to take in the knowledge that is imparted to them, and that the majority are so slow of understanding that education is a waste of time and labour. On the contrary you will find that most are quick to reason and ready to learn. Reasoning comes as naturally to man as flying to birds, speed to horses and ferocity to beasts of prey: our minds are endowed by nature with such activity and sagacity that the soul is believed to proceed from heaven. Those who are dull and unteachable are as abnormal as prodigious births and monstrosities, and are but few in number. A proof of what I say is to be found in the fact that boys commonly show promise of many accomplishments, and when such promise dies away as they grow up, this is plainly due not to the failure of natural gifts, but to lack of the requisite care. But, it will be urged, there are degrees of talent. Undoubtedly, I reply, and there will be a corresponding variation in actual accomplishment: but that there are any who gain nothing from education, I absolutely deny. The man who shares this conviction, must, as soon as he becomes a father, devote the utmost care to fostering the promise shown by the son whom he destines to become an orator.
James J. Murphy and Cleve Wiese (eds.), Quintilian on the Teaching of Speaking and Writing: Translations from Books One, Two, and Ten of the “Institutio Oratoria”, second ed., Landmarks in Rhetoric and Public Address, Southern Illinois University Press, 2016
Let a father, then, as soon as his son is born, conceive first of all the best possible hopes of him; he will thus grow the more solicitous about his improvement from the very beginning. It is a complaint without foundation that very few people are granted the faculty of comprehending what is imparted to them, and that most, through dullness of understanding, lose their labor and their time; on the contrary, you will find the greater number of men both ready in conceiving and quick in learning. Such quickness is natural to man; and as birds are born to fly, horses to run, and wild beasts to show fierceness, so to men peculiarly belong activity and sagacity of understanding-hence the origin of the mind is thought to be from heaven. But dull and unteachable persons are no more produced in the course of nature than are persons marked by monstrosity and deformities; such are certainly but few. It will be a proof of this assertion, that, among boys, good promise is shown in the far greater number; and, if it passes off in the progress of time, it is manifest that it was not natural ability, but care, that was wanting. But one surpasses another, you will say, in ability. I grant that this is true, but only so far as to accomplish more or less; there is no one who has not gained something by study. Let him who is convinced of this truth, bestow, as soon as he becomes a parent, the most vigilant possible care on cherishing the hopes of a future orator.
Quint. Inst. I 1, 1-3:2
Igitur nato filio pater spem de illo primum quam optimam capiat: ita diligentior a principiis fiet. Falsa enim est querela, paucissimis hominibus vim percipiendi quae tradantur esse concessam, plerosque vero laborem ac tempora tarditate ingenii perdere. Nam contra plures reperias et faciles in excogitando et ad discendum promptos. Quippe id est homini naturale, ac sicut aves ad volatum, equi ad cursum, ad saevitiam ferae gignuntur, ita nobis propria est mentis agitatio atque sollertia: unde origo animi caelestis creditur. Hebetes vero et indociles non magis secundum naturam hominis eduntur quam prodigiosa corpora et monstris insignia, sed hi pauci admodum fuerunt. Argumentum, quod in pueris elucet spes plurimorum: quae cum emoritur aetate, manifestum est non naturam defecisse sed curam. “Praestat tamen ingenio alius alium.” Concedo; sed plus efficiet aut minus: nemo reperitur qui sit studio nihil consecutus. Hoc qui perviderit, protinus ut erit parens factus, acrem quam maxime datur curam spei futuri oratoris inpendat.