Character of the collection
There is perhaps no Attic writer, certainly no
orator, of whom it is more true than of Isaeos that his work, to be understood, must be viewed as a whole. The monotony of subject in his extant
Character of the Collection as regards matter:
speeches is seldom relieved by such picturesque glimpses of Attic life as abound in Lysias. Such monotony might certainly be forgiven to a series of illustrations so valuable for a province of ancient law, showing, as they do, how the practice of Adoption worked in a society now developed beyond the conceptions in which that limited testation begins,
though not yet arrived at the ideas embodied in the civil law of Rome. If, however, we turn from
matter to form, the character of the speeches is not monotony but variety. In the first, the second and the ninth oration, we have reproduced, in no slight measure, the dignified and austere pathos of Antiphon. In the seventh and twelfth, there is much of the êthos, the attractive simplicity and winning grace of Lysias; while in the third, the sixth, the eighth, and the eleventh, on the other hand, this moral charm is hardly less conspicuous by its absence. Excellences of narrative are prominent in the second, the fifth, the sixth and the seventh speech. Argument excludes everything else in the third. The fourth oration surprises us with something like the lighter humour of Lysias, if only in a single gleam1
The typical Spceches — V., XI., VIII.
But, of the twelve, there are three which stand out from all the rest, and which, taken together, symbolize their author's place in the progress of Athenian oratory. The fifth is Lysian, the eleventh is Demosthenic, the eighth is distinctively Isaean. The fifth recalls Lysias by the graceful and persuasive management of the narrative—for here argument has a subordinate part—by the general simplicity of the language, and not less by the skill which, in the epilogue, indulges itself with pointed and lively antithesis. The eleventh, renouncing everything like a semblance of artlessness, glorying, rather, in technical power, pours a torrent of indignation and contempt on an adversary who is in the wrong; and,
alone among the speeches of Isaeos, has the stamp of Demosthenes in this, that from beginning to end it is the outcome of a single impulse. But the eighth oration is Isaeos himself; it is the very image of his faculty, displaying its several sides at their best, the old plainness with the modern force, artistic narrative with trenchant proof; and these, too, in the right proportions, for here the logical division dominates the rhetorical, and the department in which Isaeos was an imitator yields to that in which he was a master.