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Structure of speeches

Lysias is no less simple in the arrangement of his subject-matter than in his language. Practically every speech which has come down to us in entirety may be analysed into four elements—preface, narrative, proof, and epilogue. The preface or epilogue may be very slight; the narrative may be so self-evident that proof is practically unnecessary, or on the other hand, there may be hardly any facts to narrate, so that beyond the words of the indictment only an accumulation of proofs is required; but the order of the parts seems to be invariable. We have seen that Andocides instinctively divided up his narrative, where there was a long story to tell, and interspersed the parts with proofs of the details. Isocrates, who states the necessity of the divisions which Lysias tacitly adopted, himself departs from his own rules at times, while Isaeus, by a judicious subdivision and shifting of the parts, contrives, as Dionysius says, to ‘outmanœuvre’ the judges (καταστρατηγεῖ).

Within these limits Lysias aimed at elasticity; though the form of the speech was to be settled precisely, his artistic sense demanded a variety in the details. It is remarked by Dionysius that, though he composed two hundred speeches, he never used the same preface twice. Some orators were in the habit of using over again the opening sentences which had already served as introduction to an old speech, and even borrowing such proems whole from the speeches of their predecessors or from rhetorical handbooks.

Lysias, with a truer instinct for what was appropriate, composed for every speech a proem adapted to its requirements. His versatility in this small matter is much to be admired. It is to be noticed also that there is considerable variety in his ways of ending his speeches; though many of his epilogues practically say the same thing in different words, they nearly all succeed in saying it in a way more appropriate to the particular speech than to any other.

As there is diversity in these forms, so there is great variety in the details of expression. There are very few formal mannerisms on which we could seize if we wished to produce a parody of the style. There are indeed one or two common necessary phrases which he employed frequently, but even these are presented in different shape from time to time.1

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