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Comparative scantiness of evidence

THE silence which surrounds the life of Isaeos, in contrast with the reputation of his work, has a meaning of its own. Dionysios, in setting forth those few and barren facts which the Augustan age could discover to his search, unconsciously indicates the chief cause of their scantiness. ‘I cannot tell,’ he says, ‘what were the politics of Isaeos, —or whether he had any politics at all1.’ Unlike Antiphon or Andokides, unlike even Lysias or Isokrates, Isaeos, so far as is known, had no definite relation, literary or active, with the affairs of Athens. Nothing could better illustrate the workings of that deep change which was passing over the life of Athens and of Greece. Half a century earlier, a citizen with the like powers could not have failed to find his place in the history of the city; and a resident who, like Lysias, did not possess the citizenship, would at least have left some evidence of his interest in Athenian or Panhellenic affairs, even if it had not been his fortune to impeach an Eratosthenes or to address the Greeks at Olympia. But, with the progressive divergence of Society from the State, the separation of the man from the citizen naturally expressed itself, not merely in apathy or in organized frivolity, but also, and with a graver meaning, in the clearer definition of all those pursuits which could be called professional. ‘Let the ekklesia be the care of the statesmen—my profession is to write for the courts’;—this is what the life of Isaeos, by the fact that it is almost hidden, declares. That change has set in which is to lead, without a break, from the old life of the republics to a cosmopolitan Hellenism, and thence to the modern world.

The date of his birth can only be guessed from

Probable date of birth.
the dates of his works. Of those extant speeches which can be placed chronologically, the earliest (Or. V., On the Estate of Dikaeogenes) may be assigned to 390 B.C.; the latest (Or. VII., On the Estate of Apollodoros) to 353. In 366 his reputation was fully established. The conjecture which places his birth about 420 B. C. is probably not far wrong2. One account represents Isaeos as a Chalkidian3, another as an Athenian4; and the
theory which harmonises these statements by supposing the family to have migrated from Chalkis to Athens becomes something more than a mechanical compromise when it is recollected that, in 411, Euboea (except Oreos) revolted from Athens, and
The revolt of Euboea.
that at such a time, residents in Euboea whose sympathies were Athenian might well have crossed the Euripos5. About 509 B. C.6, after an Athenian victory over the Chalkidians, the lands of the
Was Isaeos a citizen?
Chalkidian Hippobotae, or Knights, had been shared among four thousand Athenian kleruchs7. If the family of Isaeos was descended from one of these settlers, the account which represents Isaeos as ‘an Athenian by descent’ would be justified, and the fact that the name Diagoras8, attributed to his father, is not Athenian, would be explained. It might, indeed, be argued that the case of Isaeos is analogous to that of Deinarchos, who was certainly a resident alien, and who yet was represented by one account as an Athenian citizen9. But the cases would be really parallel only if the foreign birthplace assigned to Deinarchos had been the seat of an Athenian settlement. Nor can abstention from political life be urged as disproving citizenship in the case of one who had a distinct and an engrossing occupation10.

1 Dionys. Isae. c. 1, οὐδὲ περὶ τῆς προαιρέσεως τῶν πολιτευμάτων (εἰπεῖν ἔχω): οὐδὲ ἀρχὴν εἰ προείλετό τινα πολιτείαν.

2 Hermann Weissenborn, in his excellent article on Isaeos in Ersch and Gruber's Encylopaedia, sect. II., part 38, pp. 286—310, takes Ol. 90 (420—417 B.C.)—assuming (rightly, I think) that Or. V. belongs to 390 B.C. Independently of that assumption, however—since at all events we have Or. X. in 384 B.C.—420 must be near the mark.

3 [Plut.] vit. Isae. and vit. Demosth.: Demetrios ap. Suid. and Harpokr.: Photios cod. 263.

4 Suidas s.v. Ἰσαῖος: Hermippos (see above, p. 12) ap. Harpokr.— Dionysios gives the preference to this account: de Isae. c. 1 Ἀθηναῖος ἦν τὸ γένος: ὡς δὲ ἕτεροι γράφουσι, Χαλκιδεύς. The anonymous Γένος Ἰσαίου is taken almost wholly from Dionysios, our earliest source, to whom the Plutarchic Life also owes much: but the Γένος says merely κατὰ μέν τινας Ἀθηναῖος, κατὰ δέ τινας Χαλκιδεύς.

5 Schömann praef. vi.: Weissenborn l.c. Curtius approves: V. 172 (Ward.) For the revolt of Euboea, see Thuc. VIII. 95. Chalkis was the place where the remnant of the Athenian ships sought refuge. Athenian kleruchs had held Oreos since the reconquest of Euboea by Perikles. Thuc. I. 14: Cox Hist. Gr. II. 494.

6 The exact date is uncertain: but see Cox I. pp. xiv. and 236.

7 Her. V. 77.

8 Anon. Biogr. For Διαγόρας Meier (ap. Weissenborn l.c.) proposed Ἰσαγόρας.

9 [Plut.] Vit. Din. ὡς μέν τινες, ἐγχώριος, ὡς δέ τισι δοκεῖ, Κορίνθιος.

10 Westermann and Weissenborn think that Isaeos was somehow a citizen. Schäfer assumes the reverse, when he says (Dem. u. seine Zeit, I. 255) that to Isaeos ‘as an alien, the public career was closed’: and Blass favours the latter view (Att. Ber. II. 454).

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