previous next

Date of death.

The death of Isaeos is conjecturally placed about 350 B.C. In a general view of his career, we are
Antiphon and Isaeos.
irresistibly struck with a resemblance and a contrast. Antiphon and Isaeos are brothers in accomplishment, in calling, in bent of genius, in subjection to the general disfavour which recognized but survived their success. Each was deeply versed, not only in rhetoric, but in law; each, too, was eminent in a branch—Antiphon in the law of homicide, Isaeos in the law of property. Each used his art for his client, not, indeed, without some attempt at persuasive simplicity, but with a masterful force which rendered the attempt little more than a tribute to usage. Each had a sinister reputation; Antiphon ‘lay under the suspicion of the people through a repute for cleverness,’ and never came before the people when he could help it; Isaeos, too, was deemed ‘clever in elaborating pleas for the worse part1,’ and, with the exception of the Greek Argument to his Oration On the Estate of Nikostratos—and that Argument is a worthless authority2—there is no evidence that he ever spoke in a law-court3. Each was the object of a public satire which reflected this unpopularity; Antiphon figured in the Peisandros of Plato Comicus, Isaeos in the Theseus4 of Theopompos. But, if thus far the personal analogy is close, there is a strange divergence of fates beyond it. Antiphon worked patiently, indeed, at his disliked and suspected calling through long years of judicious abstention from every battle-field of the civic life. But his climax was political; the strife of parties was the focus on which his disciplined powers were finally concentrated; and when the keen weapon which had so often served others was at last bared in his own hand, it was for no single combat, but for the encounter of oligarchy with democracy, for a struggle which filled Athens with bitterness, as it drowned his own life in blood. Isaeos, subtle and patient, but not, like Antiphon, passionate also, was congenially placed in days when an Athenian had ceased to be primarily a citizen. The early application of rhetorical art to politics—so natural, even so necessary, yet so crude—had long given place to a conception of the rhetorical province in which politics made only one department. With this department Isaeos recognised—probably with the indifference of the time—that he had nothing to do; the intellectual ardour which he clearly had was of a kind that his tasks at once satisfied and limited—making it enough for him to live and die the laborious, successful, rather unpopular master of Attic Law; not the first at Athens who had followed a calling, but perhaps the earliest Athenian type of a professional man.

1 Dionys. Isae. 4.

2 See the note on it below, ch. XXI.

3 Schömann praef. vi. (where his ‘fortasse’ seems to leave the question as to Or. IV. open; but see p. 269 of his Commentary): Schäfer Dem. 1. 254. Curtius observes that Demosthenes could learn little as to delivery from Isaeos, ‘who himself never came forward in public’ (v. 226, Ward).

4 [Plut.] vit. Isae.—The idea of the comedy was that Theseus, expelled from Athens, goes to Persia. We have two lines of a mock-heroie speech; predicting the wanderings of the hero, as those of Io are foretold by Prometheus:—ἥξεις δὲ Μήδων γαῖαν, ἔνθα καρδάμωνπλείστων ποιεῖται καὶ πράσων ἀβυρτάκη,Meineke, Frag. Com. p. 306.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (1 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, 13.25
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: