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Introduction

In describing the Revolution of the Four Hundred at Athens, Thucydides lays stress upon the fact that the measures which had effected it owed their unity and their success to the control of a single mind. The figure of Peisandros is most conspicuous in the foreground. ‘But he who contrived the whole matter, and the means by which it was brought to pass, and who had given his mind to it longest, was Antiphon; a man second to no Athenian of his day in virtue; a proved master of device and of expression; who did not come forward in the assembly, nor, by choice, in any scene of debate, since he lay under the suspicion of the people through a repute for cleverness; but who was better able than any other individual to assist, when consulted, those who were fighting a cause in a law-court or in the assembly. In his own case, too—when the Four Hundred in their later reverses were being roughly used by the people, and he was accused of having aided in setting up this same government—he is known to have delivered the greatest defence made in the memory of my age by a man on trial for his life.’ (Thuc. VIII. 68.

This passage gives in outline nearly all that is known of the life of Antiphon. Other sources supply details, and make it possible to work up the sketch into something like a picture; but they add nothing which enlarges its framework. The Revolution of the Four Hundred is still the one great scene presented to our view.

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