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Reliance on single words.

Antiphon relies much on the full, intense significance of single words. This is, indeed, a cardinal point in the older prose. Its movement was slow; each word was dropped with deliberation; and now and then some important word, heavy with concentrated meaning, came down like a sledge-hammer. Take, for instance, the chapter in which Thucydides shows how party strife, like that in Corcyra, had the effect of confusing moral distinctions. Blow on blow the nicely-balanced terms beat out the contrasts, until the ear is weary as with the clangour of an anvil. ‘Reckless daring was esteemed loyal courage,—prudent delay, specious cowardice; temperance seemed a cloak for pusillanimity; comprehensive sagacity was called universal indifference1.’ ‘Remonstrance is for friends who err; accusation for enemies who have done wrong2.’ In Antiphon's speech On the Murder of Herodes, the accused says (reminding the court that his case ought not to be decided until it has been heard before the Areiopagos):—‘Be now, therefore, surveyors of the cause, but then, judges of the evidence,—now surmisers, but then deciders, of the truth3.’ And in the Second Tetralogy:—‘Those who fail to do what they mean are agents of a mischance; those who hurt, or are hurt, voluntarily, are authors of suffering4.’ Examples of this eagerness to press the exact meaning of words are frequent in Antiphon, though far less frequent than in Thucydides. It is evidently natural to that early phase of prose composition in which, newly conscious of itself as an art, it struggles to wring out of language a force strange to the ordinary idiom; and in Greece this tendency must have been further strengthened by the stress which Gorgias laid on antithesis, and Prodikos on the discriminating of terms nearly synonymous. Only so long as slow and measured declamation remained in fashion could the orator attempt thus to put a whole train of thought into a single weighty word. What the old school sought to effect by one powerful word, the later school did by the free, rapid, brilliant development of a thought in all its fulness and with all the variety of contrasts which it pressed upon the mind.

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