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Something 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.1 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.2 Conscious, no doubt, of his natural advantages, to which Demosthenes had once paid a more or less sincere tribute,3 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.4

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:

“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.

Aeschines considered ἀπαιδευσία, want of education, almost as a cardinal sin, and could never conceive that he himself was guilty of it.5 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.’6 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.

“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.

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.’7

‘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.’8

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.9 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.’10 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:

“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.

Whatever his origin may have been, he was not ashamed of it. He more than once refers with affectionate respect to his father.11 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:

“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.

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:

“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.

1 de Cor., §§ 129, 262, etc. Further, de Falsa Leg., § 246. A tritagonist would ordinarily have to play the parts of kings and tyrants, who must as a rule be majestic characters (cf. “ Κρέων Αὶσχίνης,de Falsa Leg., § 247).

2 Dem., de Falsa Leg., § 255,σεμνολογεῖ . . . φωνασκήσας”, etc.; de Cor., § 133,σεμνολόγου”; and numerous references to τριταγωνίστης.

3 Aesch., de Leg., § 41,τὴν φύσιν μου μακαρίζων”, etc. (of the behaviour of Demosthenes during the first embassy).

4 Ctes., §§ 228-229,ἐξ ὀνομάτων συγκείμενος”, etc.

5 References to himself as πεπαιδευμένος, to his adversaries as ἀπαίδευτοι, to their ἀπαιδευσία, τὸ ἀμαθές, etc., are very common in the speeches against Timarchus and on the embassy.

6 Timarch., § 26. Aeschines adds a characteristically Greek touch—‘his body was so horribly out of condition through his drunkenness and other excesses that decent people covered their eyes.’ It was the neglect of the body, rather than the exposure of the arms and legs, which is exaggerated into ‘nakedness,’ that really shocked the spectators, in addition to the ‘rough-and-tumble’ gestures of the orator.

7 Timarch., § 39. Ἄκυρος is used in a double sense; the early actions of Timarchus are unratified in the sense of not proved; the actions of the Thirty are not ratified by the succeeding governments. It is a looseness of expression which does not spoil the general sense, and there is, perhaps, an implied reference to the Amnesty, declared after the expulsion of the Thirty. Similarly Aeschines declares an amnesty for all the offences of Timarchus before a certain date.

8 Ibid., § 55. In § 70 there is a further apology. Cf. also § 76.

9 Dem., de Falsa Leg., §§ 2, 257.

10 ξενία, expressing the mutual relations of host and guest, cannot be adequately translated into English.

11 E.g., de Leg., § 147. His esteem for his mother is expressed, ibid., § 148.

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