The art of grappling.
It was the secret of waging an oratorical contest, not, in the more stately manner of an elder school, as from contrary stages, but at close quarters, with the grip as of wrestlers, with the instance of pleaders who urge their case, point by point, on critics as exact as themselves, with the intensity of a prosecutor or prisoner, a plaintiff or defendant, who knows that the imminent award will be given by men whom the habit of listening to acute discussion has led to set their standard high, for whom the detection of sophistry has become a pastime and its punishment a luxury, and whose attention can be fixed only by a demonstration that the speaker is in earnest. Since the time when Kleon1
described that keen and brilliant fencing in the ekklesia at which the majority of the citizens delighted to assist as at a spectacle, the fitness for such encounter had been becoming more and more important to deliberative oratory: but its peculiar sphere was forensic, and in that sphere Isaeos was its earliest master. As an example of the ‘agonistic’ quality of Isaeos—the new manner of strenuous and cogent assault—take this passage, in which the speaker is
pressing home his argument2
:—“What, in the name
of heaven, are the guarantees of credibility for statements? Are they not witnesses? And what are the guarantees of credibility for a witness? Are they not tortures? Yes: and on what ground are the adversaries to be disbelieved? Is it not because they shrink from our tests? Assuredly. You see, then, that I
am urging this inquiry and bringing it to the touch of proof; the plaintiff is shifting them to a basis of slanders and hearsays—precisely the course that would be taken by a grasping adventurer. If he meant honestly, and was not trying to delude your judgments, obviously this was not the way for him to set to work: he ought to have given us figures and brought witnesses: he ought to have gone through each several item in the account, examining me thus—‘How many payments of wartax do your books show?’—‘So many.’—‘What sum was paid on each occasion?’—‘This.’—‘In accordance with what decrees?’—‘With these.’—‘Who received the money?’—‘Persons who are here to certify it.’— He ought to have examined the decrees, the amounts imposed, the amounts paid, the persons who collected them, and then, if all was satisfactory, he ought to have accepted my statement; or, if it was not, he ought now
to have brought witnesses regarding any false item in the outlay which I charged to my wards' account.” It is the same kind of close and vehement insistance that gives their stamp to such passages as
Example from Demosthenes.
this in the Third Olynthiac3
: ‘What—do you
mean a paid army?’ I shall be asked. Yes—and the same arrangement forthwith for all, Athenians, that each, getting his dividend from the State, may be what the State requires. Is peace possible? Then you are better at home, removed from the temptation to act dishonourably under the stress of want. Is there such a crisis as the present? Better to accept such allowances as I have described, and to be a soldier, as you ought, in your country's cause. Is any one of you beyond the military age? What he now gets by an anomaly, and without doing any good, let him receive under a regular system in return for supervising and managing necessary affairs. In a word—without taking away anything or adding anything, but simply by abolishing anomalies, I bring the city into order, I establish a uniform system of remuneration for service in the army, for service on juries, for general usefulness in accordance with the age of each citizen and the demands of each occasion.’ It is a peculiarity of Isaeos that he loves to make the epilogue, not an
Agonistic Epilogue in Isaeos — Or. VI.
appeal to feeling or to character, but the occasion for grappling with the adversary in a strict and final argument; there could scarcely be a better example of τὸ ἐναγώνιον
than this ending of the speech On the Estate of Philoktemon:
‘I ask you, then, judges,—in order that you may not be deceived,—to take note of the affidavit on which you have to give the verdict. Insist that his defence, like our plaint, shall be relevant to that affidavit. He has stated that Philoktemon did not give or bequeath the estate to Chaerestratos;
this has been proved to be a falsehood: he gave and bequeathed it, and those who were present are the witnesses. What more? He says that Philoktemon died childless. Now, in what sense was he ‘childless’ who had left his nephew as his adopted son and heir, an heir to whom the law allows the succession just as to the issue of the body? The provision in the law is express—that if a son is born
to a man who has already adopted
a son, both sons shall share alike in the inheritance. Let the defendant prove then, as anyone of you would prove, that his clients are legitimate. Legitimacy is not demonstrated by stating the mother's name, but by a proof that the statement is true, supported by the evidence of the kinsfolk, of those who knew the woman to be Euktemon's wife, of the demesmen and of the clansmen, to these points:—whether they have heard, or are aware, that Euktemon ever discharged a public service on account of his wife's property: where, or among what tombs, she is buried; who saw Euktemon performing the rites at her grave; whither her sons still repair with offerings and libations for the dead; and what citizen or what servant of Euktemon has seen it. These things together will give us—not abusive language, but—a logical test. If you keep him to this, if you bid him give his proof in conformity with his affidavit, your verdict will be religious and lawful, and these men will get their rights.’ The First and
Epilogues of the Speeches Against Onetor.
Second Speeches Against Onetor were written just at the time when the influence of Isaeos on Demosthenes was probably most direct and mature. They
have no mark more specially Isaean than this, that both conclude, not, like the two earlier speeches Against Aphobos, with a peroration of the more ordinary type, but with a keen argument swiftly thrust home4