Extant literature of Political Oratory: 354—324 B.C.
Apart from the scantiest fragments,—preserved chiefly by Aristotle in the Rhetoric
, and handed down to him mainly, it would seem, like the sayings of Perikles, by oral tradition—the extant literature of Attic Political Oratory begins with the speech of Demosthenes on the Navy Boards, in 354 B.C., and ends with the speeches of Deinarchos against Demosthenes, Aristogeiton and Philokles in 324 B.C.
In this period of thirty years, our concern, as defined by the scope of our inquiry, is no longer with details either of style or of work. It is, here, with tendencies or characteristics, considered
as showing in what general relation the perfecters
stand to the inventors. Now, in the first place, Deinarchos may be set aside as being, for this purpose, valueless. The reason of Dionysios for not giving him a separate treatment is equally good for us. He was neither an inventor nor a perfecter1
. He has, indeed, been called the best among the imitators of Demosthenes2
. But the praise would be faint, even if the epithets3
with which antiquity qualified it, did not attest a coarseness in the copy which is not less evident to modern readers. Hermogenes, his too lenient judge, admits his want of finish4
. A more serious defect is his dependence on imitation or on plagiarism; and it follows that he has nothing to show us which is not incomparably better shown by Demosthenes.
Lykurgos, Hypereides, Aeschines, Demosthenes are the four men who illustrate the maturity of civil eloquence. Each has an interest of his own, and each serves, in his own way, to show the unity of the whole Attic development.