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Life of Isokrates to 404 B.C.

Want of nerve and weakness of voice—defects which at Athens, as he says, entailed more than the ignominy of disfranchisement1—kept Isokrates out of public life. During the last years of the Peloponnesian War,—that time so vividly described in the Memorabilia, when it was easier to find money in the streets of Athens than a man able and willing to lend it (Xen. Mem. II. vii. 2.),—Isokrates lost all his patrimony2. Then came the taking of Athens by Lysander and the eight months' rule of the Thirty Tyrants—from July, 404, to February, 403. In the autumn of 404 Theramenes was put to death. When he was denounced by Kritias, and sprang for safety to the altar, Isokrates alone, so the story went, dared to rise and make an attempt to plead for him. Theramenes begged him to desist;—death would be bitterer if it was the death of a friend too3. Whatever may be the worth of this story, it is likely that Isokrates, a young man of promise and a disciple of the new culture, should have been an object of suspicion to the party of Kritias; and the proscription of the Art of Words would have been another motive for leaving Athens in the case of one who, having lost his fortune and being unfitted for a public career, had now to rely on some kind of literary work.

1 Those who want φωνή and τόλμα are ἀτιμότεροι τῶν ὀφειλόντων τῶν δημοσίῳ: Panath. (XII) § 10.

2 Antid. (xv.) § 161.

3 [Plut.] Vit. Isocr. The story is amplified by the Anonymous Biographer, but not noticed by Dionysios, although he makes Isokrates a pupil of Theramenes. Compare the story of Isokrates daring to wear mourning for Sokrates [Plut].

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