Hyperides (390-322 BC) was an Athenian political leader and logographer of considerable talent in so many different areas that he was called the pentathlete of orators. He was always strongly opposed to Macedon and was a leader of Athenian resistance to Philip, Alexander, and their successors. After Athens’ final surrender to Antipater in 322, the victor demanded the deaths of Hyperides and others (including Demosthenes), and he was tried, convicted and executed.
LifeHyperides came from a good Athenian family and studied under Isocrates and Plato. At the beginning of his career he was a logographer, writing speeches for others, but in 362 he also began prosecuting public cases. During the 340s and 330s he worked together with Demosthenes to organize resistance to Philip, but he later broke with Demosthenes and prosecuted him during the Harpalus affair (324). After Alexander's death in 323, Hyperides organized opposition to Macedon culminating in the brief Lamian War; and after Athens’ defeat, Hyperides delivered the funeral oration over the Athenian dead. Soon thereafter he was tried and executed at the demand of Antipater. Despite the seriousness of his opposition to Macedon, Hyperides was also known as a bon vivant, fond of good food and drink and the companionship of women.
WorksAlthough ancient critics ranked Hyperides second only to Demosthenes in rhetorical skill, only a few fragments of his speeches were known to the modern age until 1847, when the first papyrus remains were found. We now possess one speech in its entirety, In Defense of Euxenippus (4 in the Loeb numbering), and substantial fragments of five others. One of these, Against Demosthenes (5), is from the Harpalus affair, in which Hyperides was one of the prosecutors along with Dinarchus. Unfortunately, all the papyrus texts need considerable restoration, so that in many cases we cannot be certain what Hyperides wrote. Hyperides was well known for his skill in a variety of styles, and especially for his wit and humor. He avoided personal invective and used more ordinary language than most orators, thus resembling Lysias more than Demosthenes. His most famous private case was his defense of the renowned courtesan Phryne. Only two brief fragments of this speech (Loeb fr. 30) survive, but the story is told that Hyperides secured Phryne's acquittal by revealing her breasts to the jurors at an opportune moment.
SignificanceIt is regrettable that so little of Hyperides survives, and that the remains are in such fragmentary condition. His Greek is relatively straightforward and his speeches covered a wide variety of private matters in addition to some of the leading public issues of his day. Had a selection of his speeches survived in the manuscript tradition, as in the case of Lysias, Hyperides would probably be a popular Greek author today.
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Jebb, R. C. The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeus, vol. 2. London 1893.
Kennedy, George, The Art of Persuasion in Greece. Princeton 1963.
Kennedy, George, “Oratory” in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature I: Greek Literature. Ed. by P. E. Easterling and B. M. W. Knox (Cambridge 1985), pp. 498-526.
Hyperides (2), an Athenian
- sent as envoy to Elis: Paus. 5.21.5