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into the conquering city. Plutarch attributes the first schools
in Rome to an innovator in moral as in intellectual matters,
Spurius Carvilius, and his Greek freedman, in the year 260 B.C.
Suetonius, c. 121, 'attributes them to Livius Andronicus and
Ennius, the first Roman poet, both of them Greek freedmen, in
204 B.C., and to Crates of Mallos, a Greek ambassador from
Pergamus in 157 B.C., who, having broken his leg by falling
into a hole in a drain, stayed in Rome, and set up a school.
At first, says Suetonius, the grammar school masters were
called literati, a translation of the Greek grammatid, which
word superseded it. Oddly enough, the term Indus literarius,
grammar school, is used by Plautus in one of his plays,
which were of course translated from the Greek, a century or
two before the word schola grammatica, of which it is a trans-
lation, is found, though probably in ordinary talk grammar
school was always used then as it certainly was from the first
to the nineteenth century. According to Suetonius, at first the
same masters taught both grammar and rhetoric ; but these sub-
jects were afterwards taught in distinct schools. The grammar
school's proper function was considered to be teaching and
explaining the poets, while the historians and orators were
left for the rhetoric school. But in Quintilian's day, c. A.D. 90,
the grammar school had encroached on the rhetoric school,
and had taken the exposition of the historians and orators as
well as the poets into its curriculum.

We know very little about the Roman schools before Quin-
tilian. But we gather from stray passages of Martial, Horace,
and Juvenal that the schools were distinguished by early hours
and much flogging. The edification or cult of character,
which some modern " Educationists " seem to regard as a
new idea for schools, was as much insisted on as the instruc-
tion in literature, and was effected by beginning school at
dawn and shouting at and flogging the boys with the rod or
cane (ferula), the tawse (scutica), and the birch (flagellum), very
much as in the English schools down to 1850. In the Greek
grammar schools, Homer, and in the Latin grammar schools,
Virgil, were the supreme authors studied ; but Horace and
Claudian became classics and entered the schools while they
were still alive. Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory or Rhetoric,
written about A.D. 90, is a detailed treatise on educational


theory and practice. Like all Latin literary efforts, it is
founded on Greek originals. Eratosthenes, he says, main-
tained that boys should not be taught at all before seven
years old, but Quintilian decides with Chrysippus that they
should begin at three years old, if learning is made pleasant.
He recommends for teaching reading the ivory letter game.
Writing was to be learnt by going over with the stilus letters
ready engraved on the wax tablet. A quick and good hand-
writing, which was apt to be despised and neglected by gentle-
men (honestis), should be early cultivated. Moral sentences
should be used as copies, that the boy may imbibe morals
insensibly. When boys are set to serious learning, the ques-
tion at once arises, "Are boys better taught at home or in
schools ? " The objections to schools are chiefly on the score
of morals, but an immoral private tutor or bad parents are
worse. " And boys take vice to school from home, they do
not bring it home from school." Moreover, as the orator has
to live a public life, he must not be brought up alone, when he
would lose the " almost sacred friendships of school," and the
common sense learnt by mixing with his equals. Quintilian
decides therefore in favour of the public schools.

The first was the grammar school under the grammattcus.
This school should be not too large and not too small.
How many boys were too few or too many we are not told.
Classes are mentioned, but as to how many classes there were
and how many in a class, no indication is given. An usher is
contemplated, but other assistant masters seem unknown. It
is certain that an Eton of I ooo boys never entered the dreams
of Greek or Roman. We may safely fix 100 as the upward
limit of a school.

Grammar teaching Quintilian divides into two parts, the
science of correct speech and the explanation of the poets,
though it should not be confined to poets. The former includes
also correct writing, and the latter correct editing of MSS.
A grammar schoolmaster must know music, since he has to
teach metre, besides philology and grammar ; astronomy
and philosophy, as he has to explain Empedocles and Lucre-
tius ; and must have no small knowledge of rhetoric since he
has to explain everything fully and clearly. " Grammar," he
says, " is a necessity to boys, a pleasure to their elders, an


agreeable companion in retirement, and is the only branch of
study which is of more use than show." Grammar schools,
Quintilian complains, then encroached on the rhetoric schools.
The rhetoricians would not teach anything but forensic or
parliamentary speaking (deliberativas judicialesve materias],
leaving to the grammarians speaking in fictitious characters
(frosopopoias), as e.g. in that of Hannibal relating the passage
of the Alps, and persuasive arguments (suasorias\ as e.g.
whether it is better to follow pleasure or virtue. " So that
those old enough for more advanced studies remain at school
and learn rhetoric of grammarians, with the absurd result that
a boy is not thought fit to go to a master of speech before he
has learnt how to speak." Quintilian fixes no age at which
boys should leave the grammar school for the school of rhe-
toric ; except " when they are fit ". While, however, he com-
plains that the grammar school overlaps the rhetoric school, he
would have the rhetorician trench on the grammarian's province,
and, restricting the latter to the explanation of the poets, be-
gin with reading the historians and the orators. These re-
commendations, however, certainly did not prevail, and the
historians and orators were read in grammar schools, and
rhetoric and declamations practised in them at Rome and
afterwards throughout Christendom till at least the eighteenth
century. In another general practice, which Quintilian wished
to change, he was equally unsuccessful. Though Chrysippus
had approved, he strongly disapproves of corporal punishment,
as fit only for slaves, and tending to harden, not to reform.
" Besides," he asks, " after you have driven the boy by flogging,
what will you do with him as a young man, when you cannot
hold this over him, though his tasks are more difficult ? " a
question which our ancestors answered by the very simple
method of extending the rule of the rod to the University as
well as to the school.

The rhetoric school, except for the very select few, like
Cicero or Quintilian himself, who went to what is some-
times called the University of Athens, seems to have per-
formed for the upper classes the function of the Secondary
School and University, as well as that of the Inns of
Court and Theological Colleges. The one aim of Roman
education was to fit a boy for public life, as advocate or


statesman, and generally both, and this was done by train-
ing him for public speaking. Besides the foundation of
grammar, in its wide sense, Quintilian would have every bud-
ding orator learn mathematics, including geometry, from the
mathematician, music from the musician, and the art of
gesticulation from the actor. For these last items he is only
repeating Greek formulae and does not represent actual Roman

The rhetoric school itself laid down formal rules for the
construction of speeches, and an analysis of the figures of
speech, which strikes the modern as pedantic to the last
degree. The over-subtle Greek mind, in its analysis of
oratory as of philosophy, ran into precisely the same sort of
excesses as the medieval mind did in the analysis of theology.
In fact, the Greek rhetorician was the intellectual father of
the Oxford schoolman. In the rhetoric school, the boys at once
began to practise public speaking. They began with narration,
i.e. stating a case in the best way and language possible ;
then proceeding to speeches in supporting or attacking the
statement (avao-fcevij or Karao-Kevr)). The examples given
are of a puerile kind, e.g. whether the stories of the wolf of
Romulus and the Egeria of Numa are true. Next followed
panegyrics or censures ; and contrasts, e.g. whether Alexander
or Caesar were the greater man. Plutarch's " Lives " is one
of the results of such exercises. Then commonplaces (com-
munes loa), declamations against gaming or adultery, gener-
alities to be used in particular cases of attack against e.g.
Clodius or Milo. Next, theses, e.g. is town or country life
better ? is a successful lawyer or a successful soldier the greater
man ? " Conjectural causes " followed. " Why the Lacede-
monians represented Venus armed ? " " Why Cupid carried
arrows and a torch?" Lastly, preparatory to the Senate, the
praise and blame of laws, i.e. speeches on the model of a
minister introducing a t bill or moving to repeal an act ; and
trying fictitious cases, preparatory for the Courts.

It is clear from Quintilian that in his time the schools of
rhetoric had got very far from life. Declamations were still
modelled on Demosthenes and Cicero, though, from the loss
of constitutional liberty, such subjects as the praise of tyran-
nicides and the laus et interpretatio legum had become empty
verbiage. As Seneca said, "We learn for the schools, not for


life ". Rounded periods, far-fetched conceits and out-of-the-
way expressions gained applause in the schools, but they
tended to destroy real oratory and hastened rather than
hindered the decadence of public life.

It is in the age of Quintilian that we first find private persons
endowing schools and founding exhibitions. The younger
Pliny, A.D. 97-108, in a letter to a friend, sending him a copy
of a speech he made to his fellow-citizens of Como on giving
them a public library, incidentally mentions that, instead of
a gladiatorial show, he had established exhibitions (annuos
sumptus in alimenta ingenuorum pollicebamur), since to make any
one willingly undergo the tedium and labour of education,
not only premiums, but endowments were required.

The institution of both grammar and rhetoric schools
becomes more organized and more widespread in every
generation. Vespasian, A.D. 69-79, was tne author of a system
of endowed schools, being, according to Suetonius, "the first
to endow Latin and Greek rhetoricians with a stipend of
100,000 sesterces" [= 800, says Mr. A. S. Wilkins in his
Roman Education]. Antoninus Pius, A.D. 140-162, extended
the system beyond Italy and "bestowed honours and stipends
on rhetoricians and philosophers in every province ". Had-
rian, A.D. 117-138, had established an Athenaeum includ-
ing public grammar school buildings. Alexander Severus,
A.D. 195-212, "established (instituif) salaries for rhetoricians,
provided school halls for them (audiloria decrevif), and a
system of exhibitions for the sons of poor men, if free-born
(discipulos cum annonis pauperum filios modo ingenuos dari
jussif)," a limitation which, whether through conscious imitation
or mere coincidence of circumstance, was reproduced as to the
qualification for fellowships at All Souls and scholarships at
Eton in the reign of Henry VI. Constantius Chlorus, A.D.
305-306, with vicarious liberality, ordered the municipality of
Augustodunum (Auturi) to pay Eumenius, the master of the
rhetoric school, from the public funds a salary of 600,000
sesterces (4800 a year). The Christian Emperor Constantine
in A.D. 321 relieved grammar schoolmasters and other pro-
fessors (projessores) from military and municipal service, while
leaving them open to accept municipal honours, " so that they
may more readily enter numerous pupils in liberal studies ".


The anti-Christian Emperor Julian, in A.D. 362, forbade school-
masters to teach except under decrees of the municipal councils,
" and that higher honour may accrue to the city schools,"
directed that these decrees should be submitted for imperial
confirmation. This, it has been conjectured, was with a view
to preventing the appointment of Christians. According to
Augustine and others, he also by edict prohibited Christians
from teaching in the schools ; but as there is no record of
any such edict forthcoming, this accusation must be re-
ceived with the caution due to all the statements made by
early Christian apologists about their opponents. It is more
probable that the centralizing edict was only to prevent town
councils from appointing local favourites to the exclusion of
better men from outside, and from cutting down salaries.
For the Christian Emperor Gratian, in A.D. 376, went even
further in extending the interference of the central authority,
charging the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul that " in all towns
which are called metropolis," equivalent in modern parlance to
county boroughs, " notable professors should be elected," and
paid according to a scale of salaries laid down, viz. masters of
rhetoric schools, twenty-four annonae, and masters of grammar
schools, Greek and Latin, twelve annonae. An annona was the
yearly pay of an ordinary soldier or day labourer, so that the
grammar schoolmaster was reckoned as worth twelve times, and
the rhetorician twenty-four times an ordinary man. So that if
$2 a year was the pay of a working man, the schoolmaster
received 624 or 1248 a year. In Trier, or Treves, then the
capital of the Western Empire, the rhetoric master was to draw
30 annonae, the Latin grammar schoolmaster 20, and the
Greek grammar schoolmaster, "if a fit one can be gotten,"
1 2 annonae ; a striking piece of evidence of the tendency to
the disappearance of Greek from the schools of Northern and
Western Europe, as the like words used by Colet in the
statutes of his reformed St. Paul's School in 1518 are to its
reappearance. In A.D. 414 Honorius and Theodosius ex-
tended the privileges of grammar masters, rhetoric masters,
and philosophy preceptors, to their wives and children, their
sons even being exempt from military service.

In the later Roman Empire endowed grammar and rhe-
toric schools were ubiquitous. The lives and writings of the




chief and earliest Latin " doctor," whom the Middle Ages
worshipped, St. Augustine of Hippo, and his contemporary
the Christian poet Ausonius, may suffice by way of sample.

Augustine was born at Tagaste in Numidia, on the north
coast of Africa, on 13 November, 354, of a Christian mother and
a still heathen father. Though he was " seasoned with salt,"
i.e. made a catechumen, a ceremony practically equivalent to
our infant baptism baptism being delayed till at least the age
of thirty he attended the elementary school, the grammar
school, and the school of rhetoric just in the same way, and learnt
the same things, as the " heathen " Juvenal or Quintilian had
done. He tells us (Confessions, I, ix. 14) what miseries he
endured when obedience to teachers was set before him that he
might flourish in the' world and distinguish himself in eloquence
and gain wealth and honours. " I was put to school to get
learning of which I knew not what use there was ; and yet, if
slow to learn I was flogged. For this was deemed praise-
worthy by our forefathers. Many before us, passing through
the same course, had appointed these troublesome ways,
multiplying labour and sorrow upon the sons of Adam." His
faith indeed was shaken, because he prayed to God to escape
a flogging, yet flogged he was. He played too much at
games of ball, loving the pride of winning, was eager for the
shows and sports of his elders, and, as he did not want to learn,
he learnt badly. "I have never," he says, " thoroughly under-
stood why I hated Greek literature in which I was dipped as
a little boy. For I liked Latin, not indeed that which the
preparatory masters taught me (quas primi magistri\ but that
which those who are called grammarians (grammatict) teach.
For as to the primary instruction, in which reading, writing, and
arithmetic are learnt, I thought it no less of a burden and a
punishment than the whole of Greek." Yet now he would
rather forget the wanderings of ./Eneas or the death of Dido
which he wept over than the more certain learning of reading
and writing. "But though a veil hangs over the entrance
of the grammar school (gramaticarum scolarum), yet it is rather
a covering of error than the honour due to a mystery." But
still " one and one are two and two and two are four was a
hateful sing-song," while " the wooden horse, the burning
Troy, and the shade of Creusa were a charming vision ". He


concludes with rather obvious good sense that he hated Homer
for the same reason as he supposes a Greek boy would have
hated Virgil. Latin being his mother-tongue he had learnt it
naturally and without trouble, but Greek was dinned into him
with difficulty and with fierce threats and punishments. Greek
he therefore never learnt properly, he could not understand
the Greek fathers on the Trinity, and falls into some strange
mistakes over the New Testament in consequence (Sources
of the De Civitate Dei, 1906). Augustine abuses Homer, as
Plato did, for the immoral behaviour of his gods, and he com-
ments on dropping the h in human as being considered a worse
crime than hating humans. On leaving the elementary school
at Tagaste, Augustine went to Madaura to learn grammar and
rhetoric, and at sixteen had a year's holiday, while his father
was saving up to send him to what we may call Carthage
University. Here he stayed three years ; was head of the
school of rhetoric (major in schola rhetoris) and a member of
a band of students called Ever sores, upsetters, apparently as
turning everything upside down. Reading Cicero's Horten-
sius converted him to philosophy and the love of God. From
nineteen to twenty-eight he himself taught rhetoric and " sold
victorious eloquence for money," first at Tagaste, then at Carth-
age. He wrote a book on The Beautiful and the Fitting, and
dedicated it to Hierius, an orator of Rome who, though a Greek,
had become a celebrated speaker in Latin. Augustine left
Carthage for Rome, partly for better pay, partly because he
heard that the Roman students were kept in better order, and
did not break in on the lectures and insult the lecturer. But
when he found that the Roman students used to combine to-
gether to evade payment of fees, he accepted an invitation from
the prefect of Milan to a public school of rhetoric there. His
fellow-townsman and friend, Nebridius, while studying philo-
sophy, acted as assistant-master in the Grammar School to
Verecundus, a citizen of Milan. Augustine finally " found
salvation," partly under the influence of Simplicianus, who had
converted Ambrose himself, then bishop of Milan, partly be-
cause he developed a disease of the lungs which made continu-
ous speaking painful. Moreover, at this moment, Victorinus,
who was a famous rhetoric teacher at Rome, and had been
decreed a statue in the Forum, publicly professed himself a


Christian. So in 387, at the age of thirty-three, Augustine
was baptized. At the end of the next vintage vacation (vin-
demiales ferias) he gave up his school, or, as he puts it, "with-
drew the service of his tongue from the talk-market, that boys
might no longer buy, not God's law and God's peace, but lies
and tricks for the war in the courts, and arms for their fury,
from his mouth ". He then betook himself to theological
controversy and shortly became a bishop. But even as a
bishop, in his latest work written in 427, On Christian Teach-
ing, Book iv. while repudiating any intention of " giving the
rules of rhetoric as he had learnt and taught them in secular
lecture rooms," he defends the art of rhetoric as one " to be
learnt at the right and proper time of life," i.e. boyhood. " It
is enough that boys should give attention to it." In the earlier
part of the same work, written, it is said, some twenty years
earlier (ii. 39-42), he says that dialectic, i.e. logic, is indispens-
able " because it runs like a system of nerves through the whole
body of scriptures," and " all branches of heathen learning,"
and, while containing much superstition, " contains also liberal
instruction adapted to the use of the truth ". He cites Lac-
tantius, Victorinus, Cyprian, and others who were "laden with
the spoils of the heathen, while Moses himself was learned in
all the wisdom of the Egyptians ". The reasoned defence of
learning in this book was one of the main influences which
prevented the monastic furore which attacked all learning, as
it attacked marriage and other institutions of civilization, from
converting the darkness of the Dark Ages into absolute black-

Of the same generation as Augustine, on the opposite
shore of the Mediterranean, lived Ausonius,' another provincial
schoolmaster, who found his way to Rome in the higher sphere
of an imperial official. Born near Bordeaux, with a patrimony
of 1050 acres, he was educated in the grammar and rhetoric
school at Toulouse, of which his uncle was master. He him-
self became grammar schoolmaster at Bordeaux, and was public
orator of the city before becoming prefect, first of Illyria, then
of Gaul. When he retired in his old age to his paternal in-
heritance, he addressed a poem to his grandson and namesake,
telling him not to be afraid of his schoolmaster and to like his
Virgil and Horace ; his Terence and Sallust ; Homer and


Menander ; and holds before his eyes " the rewards of learning,
the seat in court, the purple-bordered robe, the consulship ".
One of his poems is a commemoration of the Bordeaux masters.
His own had been Tiberius Victor Minerius, who had taught
at Constantinople and Rome before settling at Bordeaux,
whence he had sent 1000 youths into the Forum, i.e. into busi-
ness, and 2000 to the Senate, i.e. public life. Ausonius men-
tions six successors, one of whom had been his fellow-pupil ;
another was the scion of an ancient Druid family at Bayeux.
He commemorates also Leontius and three other Greek
grammar masters and six Latin grammar masters. Of the for-
mer, Annaeus Sperchius had taught at Corinth and Menestheus
at Athens, while Citharius, who had come from Syracuse and
was " another Simonides," made a good marriage in Bordeaux,
but died young. Of the Latin grammar masters, Macrinus,
Ausonius' own teacher, was a man of low family, place, and
merit, but sober and useful for boys. Phcebicius had come
from Armorica (Brittany), while Sucuro, a Bordeaux boy, had
taught a grammar school at Poitou ; and, though his learn-
ing was inferior and his manners unpleasing, Ausonius
could not leave him out. Besides these, Ausonius commemo-
rates his uncle Arborius, who taught rhetoric at Toulouse, and
while still young, had a noble and well-endowed wife, house,
school, and the friendship of princes, the brothers of Constantine,
with whom he went to Constantinople and died there rich, his
body being sent by the Emperor for burial at Bordeaux. Next,
Ausonius celebrates Exuperius, whom Toulouse first venerated,
then dismissed, who at Narbonne taught for large fees two
future emperors, and was made by them prefect of Spain.
Marcellus, another Burgundian grammar master at Narbonne,
was making a fortune when his own misbehaviour robbed him
of everything ; while a third who had fled, owing to a Don
Juan exploit, from Bordeaux, married and made a fortune as
a teacher of rhetoric at Lerida (Ilerda) in Spain. Nor does
Ausonius omit to mention his two elementary teachers, Crispus
and Urbicus, who taught both Latin and Greek, or even the
usher (subdoctor sive proscholus] Victorius, who was keener as
an antiquary than as a litterateur, and knew ancient law and
history better than his Virgil.

It was while Augustine and Ausonius flourished that


Roman Britain was becoming England and the Roman
schools and Christianity were disappearing. After the defeat
in Italy of the last Roman Emperor " made in Britain," in

Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 3 of 39)