Aeschylean tone in Antiphon.The analogy of Antiphon to Aeschylos in regard to general style has once already been noticed; it forces itself upon the mind in a special aspect here, where the threat of judgment from the grave on blood is wrapt round with the very terror and darkness of the Eumenides. In another place, where Antiphon is speaking of the signs by which the gods point out the guilty, the Aeschylean tone is still more striking. No passage, perhaps, in Aeschylos is more expressive of the poet's deepest feeling about life than that in which Eteokles forebodes that the personal goodness of Amphiaraos will not deliver him:—
In the Herodes trial the defendant appeals to the silent witness which the gods have borne in his behalf:—‘You know doubtless that often ere now men red-handed or otherwise polluted have, by entering the same ship, destroyed with themselves those who were pure towards the gods; and that others, escaping death, have incurred the extremity of danger through such men. Many again, on standing beside the sacrifice, have been discovered to be impure and hinderers of the solemn rites. Now in all such cases an opposite fortune has been mine. First, all who have sailed with me have had excellent voyages: then, whenever I have assisted at a sacrifice it has in every instance been most favourable. These facts I claim as strong evidence touching the present charge and the falsity of the prosecutor's accusations1.’ Coincidences of thought and tone such as these deserve notice just because they are general coincidences. There is no warrant for assuming a resemblance in any special features between the mind of Antiphon and the mind of Aeschylos: all the more that which the two minds have in common illustrates the broadest aspect of each. By pursuits and calling Antiphon belonged to a new Athenian democracy antagonistic to the old ideas and beliefs: by the bent of his intellect and of his sympathies he belonged, like Aeschylos, to the elder democracy. It is this which gives to his extant work a special interest over and above its strictly literary interest. All the other men whose writings remain to show the development of oratorical Attic prose have around them the atmosphere of eager debate or litigation; Antiphon, in language and in thought alike, stands apart from them as the representative of a graver public life. Theirs is the spirit of the ekklesia or the dikastery; his is the spirit of the Areiopagos.
“Alas that doom which mingles in the world
A just man with the scorners of the gods! ...
Aye, for a pure man going on the sea
With men fierce-blooded and their secret sin
Dies in a moment with the loathed of heaven