LifeAeschines was for twenty years a bitter enemy of Demosthenes. This enmity was perhaps the chief interest in his life; at any rate it is the dominant motive of his extant speeches. Demosthenes on his side could not afford to despise an enemy whose biting wit and real gift of eloquence assured him an attentive hearing, whether in the courts or before the ecclesia, and thus gave him an influence which the vagueness of his political views and the instability of his personal character could never entirely dissipate. Aeschines had no constructive policy, but he had just the talents which are requisite for the leader of a captious and malicious opposition. To the fact of the long-maintained hostility between these two men we owe a good deal of first-hand information about each of them, both as regards public and private life. It is true that we cannot accept without reservation the statements and criticisms made by either speaker about his rival; but in many cases they agree about facts, though they put different interpretations on them, and so, with care, we may arrive at a substratum of truth. Aeschines was born about 390 B.C.1 His father Atrometus, an Athenian citizen of pure descent,2 was exiled by the Thirty, and fled to Corinth, with his wife. He served for some time as a mercenary soldier in Asia, and finally returned to Athens, where he kept a school. His wife, Glaucothea, filled some minor religious office, initiating the neophytes in certain mysteries, apparently connected with Orphism. Aeschines seems to have helped both his parents in their work, if we may suppose that there is a grain of truth mixed with the malice of Demosthenes:
The whole of the description from which the foregoing passage is taken is an obvious caricature, and its chief value is to show that Demosthenes, if circumstances had not made him a statesman, might have been a successful writer of mediocre comedy; but it seems to point to the fact that Aeschines' parents were in humble circumstances, that he himself had a hard life as a boy, and did not enjoy the usual opportunities of obtaining the kind of education desirable for a statesman.3 After this, at an age when other aspirants to public life would have been studying under teachers of rhetoric, he was forced to earn his living. He was first clerk to some minor officials, then an actor— according to Demosthenes he played small parts in an inferior company, and lived chiefly on the figs and olives with which the spectators pelted him (de Cor., § 262, p. 249 below). He also served as a hoplite, and, by his own account, distinguished himself at Mantinea and Tamynae. In 357 B.C. he obtained political employment, first under Aristophon of Azenia, then under Eubulus, and later we find him acting as clerk of the ecclesia. He married into a respectable family about 350 B.C., and in 348 B.C. he first appears in a position of public trust, being appointed a member of the embassy to Megalopolis in Arcadia. On this occasion he went out admittedly as an opponent of Philip, but came back a partisan of peace. The reasons for this change of view will be discussed later. His own explanation, that he realized war to be impracticable is reasonable in itself (de Leg., § 79; p. 168 below). Two years later he was associated with Demosthenes in the famous embassies to Philip, which, after serious delays, resulted in the unsatisfactory peace of Philocrates. The peace was pronounced by Demosthenes to be unworthy of Athens,4 though he urged that, good or bad, it must be upheld; and besides uttering insinuations against the conduct of Aeschines as an ambassador, he prepared to prosecute him for betraying his trust by taking bribes from Philip. He associated with himself as a prosecutor one Timarchus. Aeschines prepared a counter-stroke. He prosecuted Timarchus on the ground that he was a person of notorious immorality, and, as such, debarred from speaking in public. Timarchus appears to have been found guilty. In 343 B.C. Demosthenes brought the action in which his speech de Falsa Legatione and that of Aeschines bearing the same title were delivered, and Aeschines was acquitted by the rather small majority of thirty votes. In the next year Aeschines prepared for reprisals, but when on the point of impeaching Demosthenes he in his turn was thwarted by a counter-move on his rival's part (Aesch., Ctes., §§ 222-225.). In 339 B.C. Aeschines was a pylagorus at the Amphictyonic Council, and an inflammatory speech which he made there led to the outbreak of the Sacred War. In 337 B.C., the year after the battle of Chaeronea, the proposal of Ctesiphon to confer a crown on Demosthenes for his services to Athens gave Aeschines a new weapon with which to strike at his enemy. He impeached Ctesiphon for illegality. The case was not actually tried till 330 B.C., when Aeschines, failing to obtain a fifth of the votes, was fined a thousand drachmae, and, being unable or unwilling to pay, went into exile. He retired to Asia Minor, and lived either in Ephesus or Rhodes. He is said by Plutarch to have spent the rest of his life as a professional Sophist, that is to say, no doubt, as a teacher of rhetoric;5 but we have no further information about his life or the manner or date of his death.
“You used to fill the ink-pots, sponge the benches, and sweep the schoolroom, like a slave, not like a gentleman's son. When you grew up you helped your mother in her initiations, reciting the formulas, and making yourself generally useful. All night long you were wrapping the celebrants in fawn-skins, preparing their drink-offerings, smearing them with clay and bran, etc.”
Public characterAeschines cannot be considered as a statesman, since he had no definite policy. He was, as he admitted himself, an opportunist. ‘Both individual and state,’ he says, ‘must shift their ground according to change of circumstances, and aim at what is best for the time’;6 and though he claims to be ‘the adviser of the greatest of all cities,’7 he never had in public matters any higher principle than this following of the line of least resistance. It is necessary, however, to consider whether he was actually the corrupt politician that Demosthenes makes him out to be. Athenian opinion with regard to corrupt practices was less strict than ours; Hyperides admits that there are various degrees of guiltiness in the matter of receiving bribes; the worst offence is to receive bribes from improper quarters, i.e. from an enemy of the State, and to the detriment of the State (Hyperides, adv. Dem., xxiv). This principle implies a corollary that to receive bribes for doing one's duty and acting in the best interests of one's country is a venial offence, if indeed it is an offence at all; in which case a man's guilt or innocence may be a matter for his individual conscience to determine. Demosthenes definitely accused Aeschines of changing his policy in consequence of bribes received from Philip. It is known that at the beginning of his public life he was an opponent of Macedon, and we have his own account of his conversion on the occasion of the embassy to Megalopolis:
After the conclusion of the peace of Philocrates the accusations were more definite. Demosthenes asserts that Aeschines had private interviews with Philip when on the second embassy, and that for his services he received certain lands in Boeotia;8 he recurs to this charge in the de Corona, many years later. Aeschines does not deny or even mention this charge either in the speech On the Embassy or in the accusation of Ctesiphon. Demosthenes, having, apparently, little direct evidence, tries to establish his case by emphasizing the relations of Aeschines with the traitor Philocrates; but this is a weak argument, for though Aeschines at one time boasted of these relations, on a later occasion he repudiated them, and even ventured to rank Demosthenes himself with Philocrates.9 Perhaps we should attach more importance to the other fact urged by Demosthenes, that Aeschines from time to time urged the city to accept Philip's vague promises of goodwill; but before we condemn him on this ground we must recollect that Isocrates, a man of far greater intelligence than Aeschines, and of undoubted honesty, had come so completely under the spell of Philip's personality as to place a thorough belief in the sincerity of his professions (above, p. 148). Aeschines may have been duped in the same manner. But the most severe condemnation of Aeschines' policy is contained in his own speeches. During a visit to the Macedonian army in Phocis he was guilty of a gross piece of bad taste by joining with Philip in dancing the paean to celebrate the defeat of Phocis. He admits the charge, and maintains that it was even a proper thing to do (de Leg., § 163). His conduct at the Amphictyonic Council was far more serious (above, p. 166). He was invited to make a speech, and as he began, was rudely interrupted by a Locrian of Amphissa. In revenge it ‘occurred to him’10 to recall the impiety of the Amphissians in occupying the Cirrhaean plain. He caused to be read aloud the curse pronounced after the first Sacred War, and by recalling the forgotten events of past generations worked up his audience to such a pitch of excitement that on the following morning—for it was too late to take action that night—the whole population of Delphi marched down to Cirrha, destroyed the harbour buildings, and set fire to the town. Though this action undoubtedly plunged Greece into an Amphictyonic War, Aeschines, quite regardless of the awful consequences, can only dwell upon the remarkable effects of his own oratory.
“You reproach me for the speech which I made, as an envoy, before ten thousand people in Arcadia; you say that I have changed sides, you abject creature, who were nearly branded as a deserter. The truth is that during the war I tried to the best of my ability to unite the Arcadians and the rest of the Greeks against Philip; but when I found that nobody would give help to Athens, but some were waiting to see what happened and others were marching against us, and the orators in the city were using the war as a means of meeting their daily expenses, I admit that I advised the people to come to terms with Philip, and make the peace which you, who have never drawn a sword, now say is disgraceful, though I say that it is far more honourable than the war.”
PersonalitySomething of the personal characteristics of Aeschines may be gathered from his own writings and those of Demosthenes. He must have been a man of dignified presence, for even if he only played minor parts, as Demosthenes so frequently asserts, he acted, on occasion, in good company, as his enemy, in an unguarded moment, admitted. The conditions under which Greek tragedy was performed required a majestic bearing even in a tritagonist, and the taunt of Demosthenes, who calls him ‘a noble statue,’ makes it certain that Aeschines did not fall short of these requirements.11 The words of Demosthenes probably imply that the dignity was overdone, that the statuesque pose of the ex-actor appeared pompous and exaggerated in a lawcourt. Aeschines himself condemned the use of excited gestures by orators. He urged the necessity of restraint, and often insisted that an orator should, while speaking, hold his hand within his robe (Timarch., § 25). This declared prejudice on his part gave Demosthenes his opportunity for a neat retort—‘You should keep your hand there, not when you are speaking, but when you go on an embassy.’ (Dem., de Falsa Leg., § 252). On this occasion Demosthenes scored a point, but where wit and repartee were in question, the honours generally rested with Aeschines. Another striking characteristic of Aeschines was his magnificent voice, which he used with practised skill; Demosthenes, who had serious natural disabilities as a speaker, envied him bitterly, and in consequence was always trying to ridicule his delivery.12 Conscious, no doubt, of his natural advantages, to which Demosthenes had once paid a more or less sincere tribute,13 Aeschines was apparently unmoved by these taunts; but he seems to have been deeply injured when Demosthenes compared him to the Sirens, whose voices charm men to their destruction. His indignation can find no repartee; he can only expostulate that the charge is indecent, and even if it were true, Demosthenes is not a fit man to bring it; only a man of deeds would be a worthy accuser; his rival is nothing but a bundle of words. Here, recovering himself a little, he delivers himself of the idea that Demosthenes is as empty as a flute—no good for anything if you take away the mouthpiece.14 In the case of other orators I have laid but little stress on personal characteristics, because as a rule the orator must be judged apart from his qualities as a man. In considering Isaeus, for instance—an extreme case, certainly—personal qualities and peculiarities are of no importance at all. But so many personal traits appear in the writings of Aeschines that we cannot afford to neglect them; they form important data for our estimate of him, both as a speaker and a public character. There is some excuse, then, for dealing at greater length with his personality than with that of any other of the Attic orators. The question of his public morality has already to some extent been discussed (above, pp. 167-170); an examination of his more private qualities may possibly throw further light on the question of his culpability. He was, as we saw, to some extent a self-made man; he had at least risen far above the station in which he was born. All through his speeches we find traces of his pride in the position and the culture which he has attained—his vanité de parvenu, as M. Croiset styles it. He is proud of his education, and boasts of it to excess, not realizing that he thus lays himself open to the charge of having missed the best that education can give. Demosthenes is just, though on the side of severity:
Aeschines considered ἀπαιδευσία, want of education, almost as a cardinal sin, and could never conceive that he himself was guilty of it.15 He displays his learning by quotations from the poets, which are sometimes, it must be admitted, very appropriate to his argument, and by references to mythology and legend, which are sometimes frigid. His use of history betrays a rather superficial knowledge of the subject; it is hardly probable that he had studied Thucydides, for instance. Still, he possessed a fair portion of learning; what leads him astray is really his lack of taste. He is at his best in the use of quotation when he adduces the lines of Hesiod on the man whose guilt in volves a whole city in his own ruin—the passage will be quoted later (pp. 184, 187). The verses give a real sting to his denunciations, and the opinion which he expresses on the educational influence of poetry is both solemn and sincere. But he cannot keep to this level. His much boasted education results generally in an affectation of a sort of artificial propriety in action and language, and a profession of prudery which is really foreign to his nature. He professes an admiration for the self-restraint of public speakers in Solon's time, and during the greatness of the republic, and speaks with disgust of Timarchus, who ‘threw off his cloak and performed a pancration naked in the assembly.’16 In the opening of the same speech he makes a strong claim to the merit of ‘moderation’; in the prosecution of Timarchus his moderation consists in hinting at certain abominable practices, which he does not describe by name.
“What right have you (he asks) to speak of education? No man who really had received a liberal education would ever talk about himself in such a tone as you do; he would have the modesty to blush if any one else said such things about him; but people who have missed a proper education, as you have, and are stupid enough to pretend that they possess it, only succeed in offending their hearers when they talk about it, and fail completely to produce the desired impression.”
Notice again the hypocritical reticence or ‘omission’ (paraleipsis）—a rhetorical device familiar to readers of Cicero—which insinuates what it cannot prove: ‘Mark, men of Athens, how moderate I intend to be in my attack on Timarchus. I omit all the abuses of which he was guilty as a boy. So far as I am concerned they may be no more valid than, say, the actions of the Thirty, the events before the archonship of Euclides, or any other limitation which may ever have been established.’17 ‘I hear that this creature’ (an associate of Timarchus) ‘has committed certain abominable offences, which, I swear by Zeus of Olympus, I should never dare to mention in your presence; he was not ashamed of doing these things, but I could not bear to live if I had even named them to you explicitly.’18 In spite of the prosecutor's modesty, particular references to the offences of Timarchus are frequent enough throughout the speech; the reticence is assumed for the purpose of insinuating that only a tithe of the offences are really named. The whole tone of the speech, therefore, is disingenuous and dishonest. On the other hand, the orator's tribute to the judges' respectability is at times overdrawn. They are informed that ‘Timarchus used to spend his days in a gambling-house, where there is a pit in which cockfights are held, and games of chance are played—I imagine there are some of you who have seen the things I refer to, or if not, have heard of them.’ (Timarch., § 53). No large assembly could ever take quite seriously such a compliment to its innocence, and it must have been meant as a lighter touch to relieve the dark hues around it. Such playful sallies are not infrequent, and, like this one, are often quite inoffensive (compare p. 191, below). A far more serious arraignment of the character of Aeschines is brought by Blass, who, having made a very careful study of the speech against Timarchus, finds a strong presumption, on chronological grounds, that the majority of the charges are false. It is certainly remarkable that the charges of immorality rest almost entirely on the statements of the prosecutor. He expresses an apprehension that Misgolas, a most important witness, will either refuse to give evidence altogether, or will not tell the truth. To meet trouble half-way like this is a very serious confession of weakness, which is confirmed by the orator's further comment on the state of the case. He has, he says, other witnesses, but ‘if the defendant and his supporters persuade them also to refuse to give evidence—I think they will not persuade them; at any rate not all of them—there is one thing which they never can do, and that is to abolish the truth and the reputation which Timarchus bears in the city, a reputation which I have not secured for him; he has earned it for himself. For the life of a respectable man should be so spotless as not to admit even the suspicion of offence.’ (Timarch., § 48). Blass considers that the minor charges, directed against the reckless extravagance with which Timarchus had dissipated his inherited property, are better substantiated; but these alone would have been hardly enough to secure his condemnation. Against Blass' theories we must set the little that we know about the facts. Timarchus was certainly condemned and disfranchised.19 Now an Athenian jury was not infallible, and whether in an ordinary court of justice or, as for this case, in the high court of the ecclesia, political convictions might triumph over partiality; nevertheless, a man who was innocent of the charge specifically brought against him, especially if he had not only committed no real political offence, but had played no part in political affairs—a man, moreover, who had the powerful influence of Demosthenes behind him—might reasonably expect to have a fair chance of being acquitted. Aeschines himself was acquitted a few years later on a political charge, though his political conduct required a good deal of explanation, and he had all the weight of Demosthenes not for him, but against him. Aeschines might well feel a legitimate pride at the high position to which he had climbed from a comparatively humble starting-point; but to reiterate the reasons for this pride is a display of vanity. He likes to talk of himself as ‘the counsellor of this the greatest of cities,’ as the friend of Alexander and Philip. ‘Demosthenes,’ he says, ‘brings up against me the fact of my friendship with Alexander.’20 Demosthenes retorts that he has done nothing of the sort. ‘I reproach you, you say, with Alexander's friendship? How in the world could you have gained it or deserved it? I should never be so mad as to call you the friend of either Philip or Alexander, unless we are to say that our harvesters and hirelings of other sorts are “friends” and “guests” of those who have hired their services.’ (de Cor., § 51). And again—‘On what just or reasonable grounds could Aeschines, the son of Glaucothea, the tambourine-player, have as his host, or his friend, or his acquaintance, Philip?’ (Ibid., § 284). Demosthenes' estimate of the position is probably the truer one; Aeschines, with all his cleverness, was not the man, as Isocrates was, to meet princes on terms of equality. His vanity about his speeches and the effect which they produced is attested by the various occasions on which he quotes them, or refers to them. He gives a summary of a speech which he made as an envoy to Philip (Aesch., de Leg., §§ 25-33); a speech delivered before the ecclesia is epitomized (Ibid., §§ 75-78); a speech made before ‘thousands and thousands of Arcadians’ is mentioned (Ibid., § 79). The notorious speech delivered to the Amphictyons is quoted at some length (Ctes., §§ 119-121), and its disastrous effect described, the speaker's delight in his own powers blinding him completely to the serious and far-reaching consequences of his criminal indiscretion. His private life, in spite of some damaging admissions in the Timarchus, seems to have been satisfactory according to Athenian standards. Demosthenes accused him of offering a gross insult to an Olynthian lady. Whether or not the statement was an entire fiction, we are not in a position to judge. Aeschines indignantly denies the charge, and asserts that the Athenian people, when it was made, refused to listen to it, in view of their confirmed respect for his own character:
“I pray you, Gentlemen, to forgive me if, when forced to speak of certain practices which are not honourable by nature, but are the established habits of the defendant, I am led away into using any expression which resembles the actions of Timarchus. . . . The blame should rest on him rather than on me. It will be impossible to avoid all use of such expressions, . . . but I shall try to avoid it as far as possible.”
Whatever his origin may have been, he was not ashamed of it. He more than once refers with affectionate respect to his father.21 His love for his wife and children is on one occasion ingeniously introduced in an eloquent passage to influence the feelings of his hearers. This use of ‘pathos’ was familiar enough to Greek audiences, but Aeschines shows his originality by the form in which he puts the appeal—aiming directly at the feelings of individual hearers for their own families, rather than asking the assembly collectively to pity the victims of misfortune:
“Only consider the folly, the vulgarity of the man, who has invented so monstrous a lie against me as the one about the Olynthian woman. You hissed him down in the middle of the story, for the slander was quite out of keeping with my character, and you knew me well.”
Lastly, he could speak of himself with dignity, as in the passage, quoted above, p. 178, where he rebuts a charge against his private character, and in the following:
“I have by my wife, the daughter of Philodemus and sister of Philon and Echecrates, three children, a daughter and two sons. I have brought them here with the rest of my family in order that I may put one question and prove one point to my judges; and this I shall now proceed to do. I ask you, men of Athens, whether you think it likely that, in addition to sacrificing my country and the companionship of my friends and my right to a share in the worship and the burial-place of my fathers, I could betray to Philip these whom I love more than anything in the world, and value his friendship higher than their safety? Have I ever become so far the slave of base pleasures? Have I ever yet done anything so base for the sake of money? No; it is not Macedon that makes a man good or bad, but nature; and when we return from an embassy we are the same men that we were when you sent us out.”
“My silence, Demosthenes, is due to the moderation of my life; I am content with a little; I have no base desire for greatness; and so my silence or my speech is due to careful deliberation, not to necessity imposed by habits of extravagance. You, I imagine, are habitually silent when you have got what you want; when you have spent it, you raise your voice.”
StyleThe vocabulary of Aeschines consists mostly of words in ordinary use which require no comment. Though he was a great admirer of poetry, his ordinary writing does not display more poetical or unusual words than that of any other orator. The difference between his style and that of a writer such as Lysias is, essentially, a difference not of vocabulary but of tone; the tones of Aeschines are raised. He tends to use words which are stronger than they need be, to be ‘angry’ when only surprise is called for; to be ‘excessively indignant’ when a moderate resentment would meet the case, to ‘detest’ when to dislike would be enough.22 He makes unnecessary appeals to the gods more frequently than any other orator except Demosthenes. Exaggeration is part of the secret of his splendor verborum, as the Roman critic described it; but by far the greatest part is his instinct for using quite ordinary words in the most effective combinations. His best passages, if analysed, contain hardly any words which are at all out of the common, and yet their vigour and dignity are unquestionable.23 The ancients, however, denied purity of diction to Aeschines, perhaps on account of the characteristics just described. He is, as Blass observes, occasionally obscure; that is, it is possible to find sentences which are not quite easy to understand; but on the whole these are very rare. No writer, even a Lysias, can be at all times perfectly lucid.24 As a rule Aeschines is as simple in the construction of his sentences as he is in the arrangement of his speeches, and he is much easier to understand than, for instance, Demosthenes. He has not the consummate grace and terseness which critics admire as the chief beauties of Lysias; sometimes unnecessary repetitions of a word are to be found, sometimes two synonyms are used where one word would suffice; but such repetitions often give us lucidity, though at the expense of strict form, and the accumulation of synonyms increases the emphasis.25 Only the great artist, who is perfectly confident that he has found the right word to express adequately his whole meaning in exactly the right way, can afford to do without all superfluous strokes. Aeschines is not a perfect artist in language; he aims not at artistic beauty but effect, to which style is nothing but a subordinate aid. The composition of artistic prose is, for him, far from being an end in itself. His speeches were designed not to be read by literary experts, but to be delivered from the platform, and he aimed, not at pleasing the critics' taste but at working on the passions of the ordinary citizen. Some of his most important orations were not written at all, though he probably preserved notes of them,26 and the three which he did write out in full were preserved not for their literary beauty but for their subject-matter. The time for the rhetoric of culture was past; the course of events required the kind of oratory that would stir men to action. As to the effectiveness of his speeches, there can be no doubt. We know—on his own authority, certainly; but it has never been disputed—how his harangue moved the Amphictyons; and we know that, without any conspicuous moral qualities, with no advantages from family influence and no definite political principles, he became a power in Athens solely by virtue of his eloquence. Aeschines varies the length of his sentences very considerably; some of them are long, and consist of strings of participial and relative clauses. These, however, occur mostly in narrative passages, where such discursive style is excusable: for instance, the long sentences in the de Legatione, §§ 26-27, §§ 75-77, and § 115, contain reports of Aeschines' own earlier speeches. The first of these (§§ 26-27) is monotonous owing to the series of genitives absolute which compose an inordinately long protasis, the main verb not occurring till near the end of the sentence, and then being followed by another genitive clause. A long sentence early in the Ctesiphon gives a résumé of the circumstances by which the orator is impelled to speak; the clauses are mostly connected by καί, though all depend on a relative at the beginning. No skill is displayed in the structure of such sentences, and their possible length is limited only by the amount of water in the clepsydra. Up to a certain length, they are forcible, but if the limit is exceeded, the effect is lost, for the point which the orator wishes to make is too long deferred, since the main clause, containing the statement which the preceding relative clauses illustrate or explain, is not reached until the heavy accumulation of relative clauses has wearied the perception. In general, however, Aeschines is moderate in length; his sentences, on the average, are shorter than those of Isocrates, and he tacitly adheres to the rule that a period should not be so long that it cannot be uttered in one breath. Though not pedantic, he was far from being without a taste for composition. In all the speeches we find examples of the deliberate avoidance of hiatus, and in the de Legatione he bestowed some care on the matter. The avoidance may generally, though not always, be traced in an unusual order of words.27 Examples of harsh hiatus are rare, though there are many unimportant instances. Quite apart from theoretical rules, a good orator will instinctively avoid awkward combinations of letters, for euphony is necessary for fluent speaking. Aeschines, secure in the possession of a perfect delivery, might admit sounds which Isocrates and other theorists considered harsh; it was with practical declamation that he was concerned. The use of the rhetorical ‘figures’ is a prominent characteristic of Aeschines. The verbal contrasts which Gorgias and the Sophists affected, many of which seem to us so frigid and tedious, have too much honour from Aeschines; for instance, the purely formal antithesis—‘He mentions the names of those whose bodies he has never seen’ (Ctes., § 99), where the sound of the jingle— ὀνόματα, σώματα—is more important than the sense. The effect of such ‘like endings’ (homoeoteleute) cannot as a rule be reproduced, though sometimes a play upon words will indicate it: e.g. “οὐ τὸν τρόπον ἀλλὰ τὸν τόπον μόνον μετήλλαξεν” “— ‘he has changed, not his habits, but only his habitation.’” (Ibid., § 78). In such assonance there is an undoubted aiming at comic effect. A forcible repetition of words is found in such sentences as the following: ‘What I saw, I reported to you as I saw it; what I heard, as I heard it; now what was it that I saw and heard about Cersobleptes? I saw . . .’ etc. (de Leg., § 81). Repetitions of this and similar kinds seem to break at times from the speaker's control, and pass all measure.28 Aeschines does not seem to have paid any attention to rhythmical writing; his style is too free to be bound by unnecessary restrictions; verses and metrical passages occur sporadically, but they are rare. He seems to have fallen into them by accident, since they occur in positions where no special point is marked by an unusual rhythm.29 Direct quotations of poetry, for which he had a great liking, are, on the other hand, very frequent. No other orator, except Lycurgus, is comparable to him in this respect, and Lycurgus uses his power of quotation with much less force than Aeschines, who often employs it aptly. He gives us the impression that serious religious conviction is at the back of his quotation from Hesiod:
In other cases the quotations are excessively long and, like those of Lycurgus, have hardly any bearing on the point. His metaphors are sometimes vivid and well chosen —ἀμπελουργεῖν τὴν πόλιν—‘to strip the city like a vineyard’ ἔναυλον ἦν πᾶσιν—‘it was dinned into everybody's ears.’ Some of the most forcible occur in passages which purport to be quotations or paraphrases of Demosthenes: e.g. ἐπιστομίσαι, ‘to bridle’ the war-party; ἀπορράψειν τὸ Φιλίππου στόμα, ‘to sew up Philip's mouth.’ (Ctes., §§ 192-193). These are probably caricatures of Demosthenes' daring phrases. Turning now from the consideration of the materials to the finished product, we find that Aeschines can attain a high level of style. His denunciation of the sharp practices prevailing in the course of his day is impressive; we know that he is speaking the truth, and he does not make the mistake of exaggerating. The seriousness is relieved, but not impaired, by the light thread of sarcasm which runs through the whole fabric: ‘The hearing of such cases, as my father used to tell me, was conducted in a way very different from ours. The judges were much more severe with those who proposed illegal measures than the prosecutor was, and they would often interrupt the clerk and ask him to read over again the laws and the decree; and the proposers of illegal measures were found guilty not if they had ridden over all the laws, but if they had subverted one single clause. The present procedure is ridiculous beyond words; the clerk reads the illegal decree, and the judges, as if they were listening to an incantation or something that did not concern them, keep their minds fixed on something else. And already, through the devices of Demosthenes, you are admitting a disgraceful practice; you have allowed the course of justice to be changed, for the prosecutor is on his defence, and the defendant conducts his prosecution; and the judges sometimes forget the matter of which they are called on to be arbiters, and are compelled to vote on questions which they ought not to be judging. The defendant, if he ever refers to the facts at all, tells you, not that his proposal was legal, but that somebody else has proposed similar measures before his time, and has been acquitted.’ The following passage has been many times pointed out, and justly, as a fine example of the higher style of Aeschines' rhetoric. Taken apart from its context, and without any consideration of the truth of the insinuations which it makes, it is a notable piece of ‘pathetic’ pleading. The Romans, with a fondness for epigrammatic contrast, attributed to Aeschines more of sound and less of strength than to Demosthenes. This is true if we regard their works as a whole; but in isolated passages like this, Aeschines finds his level with the best of Attic orators:
“Often the whole of a city must suffer for one man's sin.”
We know that Aeschines took education very seriously—more seriously, in fact, than anything else— and his reference here to the educative influence of the poets gives proof of his earnestness, which may have been a transient emotion, but was, for the moment, a strong one. Setting apart a few such serious passages, Aeschines is at his best when he is directly accusing Demosthenes. His attacks are nearly always characterized by a humorous manner which does not make them any the less forcible, and they generally contain just enough truth to make their malice effective. The fact that Aeschines himself had too deep a respect for the truth to be prodigal in the use of it does not diminish the virulence of his attack on his rival's veracity, while any question as to the exactitude of his statements would be drowned in the laugh that followed the concluding paragraph:
“Thebes, our neighbour Thebes, in the course of a single day has been torn from the midst of Greece; justly, perhaps, for in general she followed a mistaken policy; yet it was not human judgment but divine ordinance that led her into error. And the poor Lacedaemonians, who only interfered in this matter originally in connection with the seizure of the sanctuary, they who once could claim to be the leaders of the Greeks, must now be sent up to Alexander to offer themselves as hostages and advertise their disaster; they and their country must submit to any treatment on which he decides, and be judged by the clemency of the conqueror who was the injured party. And our city, the common asylum of all Greeks, to whom formerly embassies used to come from Greece to obtain their safety from us, city by city, is struggling now not for the leadership of the Greeks but for the very soil of her fatherland. And this has befallen us since Demosthenes took the direction of our policy. A passage in Hesiod contains a solemn warning appropriate to such a case. He speaks, I believe, with the intention of educating the people, and advising the cities not to take to themselves evil leaders.I shall quote the lines, for I conceive that we learn by heart the maxims of the poets in childhood, so that in manhood we may apply them:— “Often the whole of a city must suffer for one man's sin, Who plotteth infatuate counsel, and walketh in evil ways, On such God sendeth destruction, by famine and wasting plague, And razeth their walls and armies, and shatters their ships at sea.””
The pleasing custom followed by the orators of antiquity, whether Greek or Roman, of defiling the graves of the ancestors of their political opponents, and defaming their private lives, can be as well exemplified from Aeschines as from his rival. Aeschines shows no great originality in particular terms of abuse—Dinarchus has a greater variety of offensive words—but the following extract from his circumstantial fictions about Demosthenes is more effective, because more moderate in tone, than the incredible insults with which the latter described the family circumstances and the career of Aeschines:30
“The fellow has one characteristic peculiarly his own when other impostors tell a lie, they try to speak vaguely and indefinitely, for fear of being convicted of falsehood; but when Demosthenes seeks to impose upon you, he first of all enforces his lie with an oath, invoking eternal ruin on himself; secondly, though he knows that a thing never can happen at all, he dares to speak with a nice calculation of the day when it is going to happen; he utters the names of people whose faces he has never seen, thus cheating you into hearing him, and assuming an air of truthfulness; and so he thoroughly merits your detestation, since, being such a scoundrel as he is, he discredits the usual proofs of honesty.After talking in this way he gives the clerk a decree to read—something longer than the Iliad, and more empty than the speeches he makes or the life he has led; full of hopes that can never be realized, and armies that will never be mustered.”
But he is really at his best where some slight slip on the part of his opponent gives him the opportunity of magnifying a trivial incident into importance. In the following caricature the indecision of Demosthenes is better expressed by the vacillating language thrust into his mouth than it could have been by the most eloquent description in the third person:
“So, on his grandfather's account, he must be an enemy of the people, for you condemned his ancestors to death; but through his mother's family he is a Scythian, a barbarian, though he speaks Greek; so that even his wickedness is not of native growth. And what of his daily life? Once a trierarch, he appeared again as a speechwriter, having in some ridiculous fashion thrown away his patrimony; but as in this profession he came under suspicion of disclosing the speeches to the other side, he bounded up on to the tribunal; and though he took great sums of money from his administration, he saved very little for himself. Now, however, the king's treasure has drowned his extravagance—but even that will not be enough; for no conceivable wealth can survive evil habits.Worst of all, he makes a living not out of his private sources of income, but out of your danger.”
The failure of Demosthenes to rise to the occasion when he had the opportunity of delivering an impressive speech before Philip, during the first embassy, forms the groundwork for excellent comedy on the part of Aeschines. Demosthenes, by his rival's account, was usually so intolerable as a companion that his colleagues refused to stay in the same lodging with him whenever another was obtainable; but he had found opportunity to impress them with his own sense of his importance as an orator. These professions are well indicated in a few words. The account of his failure, of Philip's patronizing encouragement, of the fiasco in which the whole proceedings terminated, are sketched with a delicate malice that must have made any defence or explanation impossible; indeed Demosthenes seems to have attempted no reply:
“While I was in the middle of this speech, Demosthenes shouted out at the top of his voice—all our fellow-envoys can support my statement—for in addition to his other vices he is a partisan of Boeotia. What he said was something to this purpose:—“This fellow is full of a spirit of turbulence and recklessness; I admit that I am made of softer stuff, and fear dangers afar off. However, I would forbid him to raise disturbances between the States, for I think that the right course is for us ambassadors not to meddle with anything. Philip is marching to Thermopylae; I cover my face. No man will judge me because Philip takes up arms; I shall be judged for any unnecessary word that I utter, or for any action in which I exceed my instructions.””
Aeschines not only excelled in this class of circumstantial caricature, but he could win a laugh by a single phrase. It is well known that Midias, after various discreditable quarrels, put the final touch to his insolence by a public assault on Demosthenes, whose face he slapped in the theatre. Demosthenes on many occasions made capital out of this assault; which fact inspires the remark of Aeschines, ‘His face is his fortune.’31 Of his dexterity in repartee a single instance may be quoted: Demosthenes, in an outburst of indignation, had suggested that the court should refuse to be impressed by the oratory of a man who was notoriously corrupt, but should rather be prejudiced by it against him (de Falsa Leg., § 339). Aeschines, catching at the words, rather than the spirit, retorted, ‘Though you, gentlemen, have taken a solemn oath to give an impartial hearing to both parties, he has dared to urge you not to listen to the voice of the defendant.’ (Aesch., de Leg., § 1).
“When these and other speeches had been made, it was Demosthenes' turn to play his part in the embassy, and everybody was most attentive, expecting to hear a speech of exceptional power; for, as we gathered later, even Philip and his companions had heard the report of his ambitious promises. When everybody was thus prepared to listen to him, the brute gave utterance to some sort of obscure exordium, half-dead with nervousness, and having made a little progress over the surface of the subject he suddenly halted and hesitated, and at last completely lost his way. Philip, seeing the state he was in, urged him to take courage, and not to think he had failed because, like an actor, he had forgotten his part; but to try quietly and little by little to recollect himself and make the speech as he intended it. But he, having once been flurried, and lost the thread of his written speech, could not recover himself again; he tried once more, and failed in the same way. A silence followed, after which the herald dismissed the embassy.”