Isokrates and Xenophon, Aristotle, modern prose
Xenophon was no trained rhetor. The natural eloquence which did good service in the Retreat was of the rough and ready kind; nor, in writing, did he consciously or systematically aim at art. If he had studied expression, he would probably have become Lysian: as it is, in his manner of neither seeking nor declining ornament, he is sometimes like Andokides. Xenophon, living away from Athens, did not come under the direct influence of the Isokratic school. But there are indications, which a sober criticism can scarcely reject, that in his later years he was strongly influenced as a writer by his fellow-demesman and early friend, whose works were then read throughout Greece. Xenophon was engaged on the Hellenika
to the end of his life; and the Agesilaos,
of which the genuineness seems certain, was one of his very latest writings. In both these there is a distinct dualism of style. The last five books of the Hellenika
are decidedly smoother and more copious than their predecessors: they have something of the Isokratic manner which just then was coming into history. The Agesilaos
is thoroughly Xenophontic in diction: the structure of the sentences is, on the whole, rather stiff and uniform: there are characteristic oddities—e.g., the frequency of γε μήν, ἀλλὰ μήν
—as in the Hipparchikos
and elsewhere. But the historical portion—a narrative of the hero's deeds, partly adapted from the Hellenika
—is separate from the rest in its greater smoothness of flow.
Unquestionably it was more as a practical teacher
Isokrates and Aristotle as theorists.
than as a theorist, and more as a writer than as a teacher, that Isokrates was important for Attic prose. Earlier contributors to the Art of Rhetoric had collected materials which Isokrates worked up into something like a system. Anaximenes, who, like Isokrates, conceived political Rhetoric as a culture, drew up the best practical treatise on Rhetoric which has come down to us in Greek; it would have been the best in Greek or Latin, if the Rhetorica ad Herennium
were not extant. But, if a philosophical treatment is required, neither Anaximenes nor the writer to Herennius can be accepted. Aristotle stands alone. Yet the school of Aristotle—in which Rhetoric was both scientifically and assiduously taught—produced not a single orator of note except Demetrios Phalereus; the school of Isokrates produced a host. Why was this so? Clearly because Isokrates, though inferior in his grasp of principles, was greatly superior in the practical department of teaching. It was not mainly by his theory, τέχνη
, it was rather by exercises, μελέται
, for which his own writings furnished models, that he formed his pupils. At the same time, his theory, so far as it went, was definite. Aristotle's philosophy of Rhetoric proved comparatively barren, not at all because Rhetoric is incapable of profiting materially by such treatment, but because such treatment can be made fruitful only by laborious attention to the practical side of the discipline. Had Aristotle's Rhetoric been composed a century earlier, it would have been inestimable to oratory. As it was, the right thing was done too late.
In the political eloquence contemporary with
The Political Oratory is eclectic:
Demosthenes, earlier types are continued, combined and perfected. The Lysian tradition, which Isaeos had striven to ally with the frank strength of technical mastery, is joined by Hypereides to the Isokratic. The Isokratic manner is united, in Lykurgos, to that of the long neglected school of Antiphon. That same archaic style, studied in a greater master, Thucydides, reaches, in Demosthenes, a final harmony with both the Lysian and the Isokratic; while Aeschines, the clever and diligent amateur, shows, by his failures, how much patient science was needed to bring a faultless music out of all the tones which had now made themselves clear in Attic speech. But, among these various elements, one is dominant.
but fundamentally Isokratic.
The Isokratic style has become the basis of the rest. That style, in its essential characteristics of rhythm
Isokrates and modern prose.
and period, passed into the prose of Cicero; modern prose has been modelled on the Roman; and thus, in forming the literary rhetoric of Attica, Isokrates founded that of all literatures.