Pathos and Êthos in Antiphon.
Nothing in the criticism of Dionysios on the ‘austere’ style is more appreciative than his remark, that it aims rather at pathos than at êthos. That is, it addresses itself directly to the feelings; but does not care to give a subtle persuasiveness to its words by artistically adjusting them to the character and position of the person who is supposed to speak them. It is tragic; yet it is not dramatic. There has never, perhaps, been a greater master of stern and solemn pathos than Thucydides. The pleading of the Plataeans before their Theban judges, the dialogue between the Athenians and the Melians, the whole history of the Sicilian Expedition and especially its terrible closing scene, have a wonderful power over the feelings; and this power is in a great degree due to a certain irony. The reader feels throughout the restrained emotion of the historian; he is conscious that the crisis described was an agonising one, and that he is hearing the least that could be said of it from one who felt, and could have said, far more. On the other hand, a characteristic colouring, in the literary sense, is scarcely attempted by Thucydides. No writer is more consummate in making personal or national character appear in the history of actions. And when his characters speak, they always speak from the general point of view which he conceived to be appropriate to them. But in the form and language of their speeches there is little discrimination. Athenians and Lacedaemonians, Perikles and Brasidas, Kleon and Diodotos1
speak much in the same style; it is
the ideas which they represent by which alone they are broadly distinguished2
. The case is nearly the same with Antiphon. His extant works present no subject so great as those of Thucydides, and his pathos is necessarily inferior in degree to that of the historian; but it resembles it in its stern solemnity, and also in this, that it owes much of its impressiveness to its self-control. The second3
speeches of the First Tetralogy, and the second5
of the Second, furnish perhaps the best examples. In êthos, on the contrary, Antiphon is weak; and this, in a writer of speeches for persons of all ages and conditions, must be considered a defect. In the Herodes case the defendant is a young Mytilenean, who frequently pleads his inexperience of affairs and his want of practice as a speaker. The speech On the Choreutes is delivered by an Athenian citizen of mature age and eminent public services. But the two persons speak nearly in the same strain and with the same measure of self-confidence. Had Lysias been the composer, greater deference to the judges and a more decided avoidance of rhetoric would have distinguished the appeal of the young alien to an unfriendly court from the address of the statesman to his fellow citizens.