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Religious feeling of Antiphon.

Nor was it by the stamp of his eloquence alone that he was fitted to command the attention of that Court. In politics Antiphon was aristocratic; in religion, an upholder of those ancient ideas and conceptions, bound up with the primitive traditions of Attica, of which the Areiopagos was the embodiment and the guardian. For most minds of his day these ideas were losing their awful prestige,—fading, in the light of science, before newer beliefs, as obligarchy had yielded to democracy, as Kronos to the dynasty of Zeus. But, as Athene, speaking in the name of that dynasty, had reserved to the Eumenides a perpetual altar in her land (Aesch. Eum. 804), so Antiphon had embraced the new culture without parting from a belief in gods who visit national defilement1, in spirits who hear the curse of dying men2 and avenge blood crying from the ground. In the recent history of his own city he had seen a great impiety followed by a tremendous disaster3. The prominence which he always gives to the theological view of homicide means more than that this was the tone of the Court to which his speeches were most frequently addressed: it points to a real and earnest feeling in his own mind. There is no better instance of this feeling than the opening of the Third Tetralogy—a mere exercise, in which the elaborate simulation of a religious sentiment would have had no motive:—

‘The god, when it was his will to create mankind, begat the earliest of our race and gave us for nourishers the earth and sea, that we might not die, for want of needful sustenance, before the term of old age. Whoever, then, having been deemed worthy of these things by the god, lawlessly robs any one among us of life, is impious towards heaven and confounds the ordinances of men. The dead man, robbed of the god's gift, necessarily bequeaths, as that god's punishment, the anger of avenging spirits —anger which unjust judges or false witnesses, becoming partners in the impiety of the murderer, bring, as a self-sought defilement, into their own houses. We, the champions of the murdered, if for any collateral enmity we prosecute innocent persons, shall find, by our failure to vindicate the dead, dread avengers in the spirits which hear his curse; while, by putting the pure to a wrongful death, we become liable to the penalties of murder, and, in persuading you to violate the law, responsible for your sin also4.’

1 See, for instance, the close of the accuser's first speech in the First Tetralogy (I. A. § 10)...‘It is also harmful for you that this man, vile and polluted as he is, should enter the precincts of the gods to defile them, or should poison with his infection the guiltless persons whom he meets at the same table. From such causes spring plagues of barrenness (αἱ ἀφορίαι) and reverses in men's fortunes. You must therefore remember that vengeance is yours: you must impute to this man his own crimes: you must bring their penalty home to him, and purity back to Athens.’ Again, in Tetr. II. Γ. § 8, he speaks of θεία κηλίς. Compare the passage in which the Erinyes threaten Attica with “λιχὴν ἄφυλλος, ἄτεκνος,Eum. 815; and Soph. O. T. 25, 101.

2 οἱ ἀλιτήριοι (which Antiphon uses in the sense of ἀλάστορες: and so Andok. de Myst. § 131)—οἱ τῶν ἀποθανόντων προστρόπαιοι: Tetr. III. A. § 4. He uses ἐνθύμιος (Tetr. II. A. 2 &c), just as the older poets do, of a sin which lies heavy on the soul, bringing a presage of avenging Furies; and the poetical ποινή (Tetr. I. Δ. § 11), of atonement for blood.

3 Timaeos, writing early in the 3rd century B.C., directly connected the defeat of the Athenians in Sicily with the mutilation of the Hermae—noticing that the Syracusan Hermokrates was a descendant of the god Hermes: Tim. frag. 103—4, referred to by Grote, vol. VII. p. 230.

4 Tetr. III. A. §§ 2 f.

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