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Sentence structure

Lysias varies greatly in the structure of his sentences, at one time producing periods neatly turned, with clauses carefully balanced, at another time writing in a style by no means periodic; again varying his form by mingling the two methods, inserting in the middle of the period a parenthesis or relative clause which keeps us in suspense, or attaching to the end of the period an extra limb which, from a technical point of view, spoils its symmetry. It is impossible without quoting a large number of examples to prove these statements in detail, but we may state broadly that in speeches dealing with serious matters of public interest the style is more periodic; in some of the private speeches on comparatively trivial subjects the style is simpler and more straightforward.

But there is often much variety within the limits of the same speech; as Blass and others have pointed out, the narrative is usually told in a simple style,1 while for arguments and proofs the greater elaboration of the period is employed. As I have pointed out in a previous chapter (Ch. ii. pp. 26-7), narrative and argument seem naturally to evoke different styles, and it may be supposed further that the juries trying the more serious cases looked for a more finished style of speech than the colloquial simplicity which would be admissible in minor police-court cases. But even in the unimportant private speeches Lysias has not one method only, and we feel that he varied his style of sentence construction to suit the character of the speaker for whom he wrote. Thus the youth Mantitheus is nearly as simple in speech as he is ingenuous in thought, while the cripple, whom we feel to be a plausible rascal, glibly produces strings of neat antitheses, such as the following:

“The rich with their money can buy exemption from danger, the poor are compelled by their indigence to practise moderation. The young claim indulgence from their elders, but both young and old are equally severe on the faults of the others.

The strong have the opportunity, without risk to themselves, of ill-treating whom they will; the weak can neither defend themselves against an aggressor when they are ill treated, nor overpower their intended victims when they wish to ill-treat others.

1 Examples are numerous: e.g. the speech of Polyaenus (For the Soldier, §§ 4-5) shows a simplicity in narrative which Herodotus could not have surpassed.

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