Antiphon is imaginative but not florid.
A further characteristic of the older style—that it is ‘fanciful in imagery, but by no means florid’— is exemplified in Antiphon. The meaning of the antithesis is sufficiently clear in reference to Aeschylos and Pindar, the poets chosen by Dionysios as his instances. In reference to prose also it means a choice of images like theirs, bold, rugged, grand; and a scorn, on the other hand, for small prettinesses, for showy colouring, for maudlin sentiment. The great representative in oratory of this special trait must have been Perikles. A few of his recorded expressions bear just this stamp of a vigorous and daring fancy;—his description of Aegina as the ‘eyesore’ of
; his saying that, in the slain youth of Athens, the year had lost its spring2
; his declaration, over the bodies of those who fell at Samos, that they had become even as the gods; ‘for the gods themselves we see not, but infer their immortality from the honours paid to them and from the blessings which they bestow3
.’ The same imaginative boldness is found in Antiphon, though but rarely, and under severe control. ‘Adversity herself is wronged by the accused,’ he makes a prosecutor exclaim, ‘when he puts her forward to screen a crime and to withdraw his own villainy from view4
.’ A father, threatened with the condemnation of his son, cries to the judges:—‘I shall be buried with my son—in the living tomb of my childlessness5
.’ But in Antiphon, as in Thucydides, the haughty6
, careless freedom of the old style is shown oftener in the employment of new or unusual words or phrases7
. The orator could not, indeed, go so far as the historian, who is expressly censured on this score by his Greek critic8
; but they have some expressions of the same character in common9
Antiphon is sparing of imagery, he is equally moderate in the use of the technical figures of rhetoric. These have been well distinguished as ‘figures of language’ (σχήματα λέξεως
) and ‘figures of thought’ (σχήματα διανοίας
）—the first class including various forms of assonance and of artificial symmetry between clauses; the second including irony, abrupt pauses, feigned perplexity, rhetorical question and so forth. Caecilius of Calacte, the author of this distinction, was a student of Antiphon, and observed that the ‘figures of thought’ are seldom or never used by him10
. The figures of language all occur, but rarely11
and K. O. Müller13
agree in referring this marked difference between the older and later schools of oratory—the absence, in the former, of those lively figures so abundant in the latter—to an essential change which passed upon Greek character in the interval. It was only when fierce passion and dishonesty had become strong traits of a degenerate national character that vehemence and trickiness came into oratory. This seems a harsh and scarcely accurate judgment. It appears simpler to suppose that the conventional stateliness of the old eloquence altogether precluded such vivacity as marked the later; and that the mainspring of this new vivacity was merely the natural impulse, set free from the restraints of the older style, to give arguments their most spirited and effective form.