Life at Athens as a writer for the lawcourts, 403—393 B.C.
Now begins the first period of his regular professional life—that period during which he wrote speeches for the law-courts. The six forensic speeches which are extant cover a period of about ten years. The speech Against Euthynus (XXI) may be placed in 403, immediately after the restoration of the democracy; that Against Kallimachos (XVIII) in 402; the De Bigis
(XVI) in 397 or 396; the speech Against Lochites (XX) in 394; the Trapezitikos (XVII) and Aeginetikos (XIX) in the second half of 394 or early in 393.
In his later writings Isokrates nowhere recognises this phase of his own activity. He speaks
His later repudiation of Forensic Rhetoric.
with contempt of those who write for the law-courts, and emphatically claims it as his own merit that he chose nobler themes1
. It may have been partly the tone of such passages which emboldened his adopted
son Aphareus to assert that Isokrates had never written a forensic speech. This statement is decisively rejected by Dionysios, who concludes, on the authority of Kephisodoros, the orator's pupil, that Isokrates wrote a certain number of such speeches, though not nearly so many as Aristotle had reported2
. The modern hypothesis that Isokrates composed the extant forensic orations merely as exercises (μελέται
), not for real causes, is another attempt to explain his later tone3
. But these later utterances merely mean that Isokrates regarded his former work for the law-courts as an unworthy accident of his early life previous to the beginning of his true career. Nowhere, be it observed, does he deny that he ever wrote for the courts, or that, to use his own phrase, he had been a doll-maker before he became a Pheidias4
. He only says that his choice
, his real calling, lay in another direction.