Influence of Isokrates on the Greek Language.
It was inevitable that when such a manner as that of Isokrates was developed and became widely popular it should have a certain reflex action on the language; and the nature of this action was determined by the fact that Isokrates had the Greek impulses in art without the sureness or fineness of the best Greek instinct. The invariable desire of rounding periods led to periphrasis, the craving for antitheses to a bold use of synonyms. Hence came a certain loss of that strict yet always graceful precision which had marked the best Attic, when the accurate expression of a clearly defined thought was the first thing, and the light which played over the words came through the eyes of the thought. That language which had been as a perfect human body to a vivid soul began in these later days to be more like a dress fitting loosely to a form still fair and stately; a dress which Oriental taste gradually changed into a flowing robe, with always ampler folds and heavier embroideries as there
was less and less of natural vigour or comeliness beneath.
Yet, if Isokrates does not give the intimate Attic charm, it must not be forgotten that a Greek could still distinguish him from Lysias by saying that Lysias was to Kalamis and Kallimachos what Isokrates was to Praxiteles and Pheidias1
: his beauty and his majesty are genuinely Greek; and, until the sense of these is wholly lost, Isokrates must always take rank as one of the great masters of expression. The growing divergence of the modern ideal from his has already, perhaps, narrowed the modern faculty of appreciating him; but most readers can still admire his power of feeling, and of honouring, what is admirable. A French scholar has observed that, in
Modern analogue for his oratory— that of the pulpit.
regard to expression, the grave oratory of the preacher alone preserves for the modern world an image of that in which Isokrates excelled; and has at the same time rendered to Isokrates a tribute as high, perhaps, as the modern world could offer, in bringing proof that Isokrates had some share in forming whatever owed its virtue to form in the eloquence of Bossuet2