Orators of the period 320-250 B.C.
During the first half century or so of the decadence—
These tendencies universal, 320— 250 B.C.
to about 250 B.C.—we are able to see this, at least, clearly, that the new tendencies are at work in all schools alike. Not even the definite Isokratic type,
or the scientific Rhetoric founded by Aristotle, is proof against them. Aristotle's pupil Demetrios of
Phaleron is named by Cicero as the first who impaired the strength of Attic oratory, ‘preferring his own sweetness to the weight and dignity of his predecessors1
’. His style, like his life, was elegantly luxurious; but in becoming ornate it became nerveless; there is no longer, says Cicero, ‘sucus ille et sanguis incorruptus’, the sap, the fresh vigour, which had hitherto been in oratory; in their place there is ‘fucatus nitor’, an artificial gloss2
. In the school of Isokrates, the decline is represented by Kallisthenes of Stageiros, who accompanied
Alexander to the East, and who, in a memoir, described the Pamphylian Sea as lashing its shores for joy at the hero's approach. Timaeos of Tauromenion,
also an imitator of Isokrates, did not err on this side, but had the taste for verbal conceits in a measure which the Middle Comedy would not have tolerated. Kleitarchos, son of the historian Deinon,
was more like Kallisthenes; as the author of the treatise On Sublimity
, ‘His pipe is small, but he blows it loud’; and the criticism is justified by a specimen of his manner which another writer has preserved. Kleitarchos, describing the habits of a bee, said, κατανέμεται τὴν ὀρεινήν
,—just, the critic complains, as if he had been speaking of the Erymanthian boar4
. But the new tendencies are more strongly exemplified by Hegesias of Magnesia,
(about 270 B.C.), who has sometimes been called, in a
misleading phrase, the founder of Asianism. Hegesias was deliberately opposed to everything that Isokrates had introduced and Demosthenes had perfected. In diction, he was a coarse imitator of Lysias; in composition, he adopted a style of short clauses which was his own. Dionysios5
pronounces him ‘finnikin’ (μικρόκομψον
), ‘languid,’ and blames especially his ‘ignoble rhythms’—meaning thereby especially the trochee and the tribrach as opposed to the paeon and the dactyl. But the chief characteristic of his style must have been the curious combination of jerkiness and magniloquence, of which the following is a specimen6
:—ὅμοιον πεποίηκας, Ἀλέξανδρε, Θήβας κατασκάψας, ὡς ἂν εἰ ὁ Ζεὺς ἐκ τη_ς κατ᾽ οὐρανὸν μερίδος ἐκβάλοι τὴν σελήνην. τὸν γὰρ ἥλιον ὑπολείπομαι ταῖς Ἀθήναις. δύο γὰρ αὗται πόλεις τῆς Ἑλλάδος ἦσαν ὄψεις. διὸ καὶ περὶ τῆς ἑτέρας ἀγωνιῶ νῦν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ εἷς αὐτῶν ὀφθαλμὸς ἡ Θηβαίων ἐκκέκοπται πόλις
. Within fifty years after the death of Demosthenes, Hegesias could be a favourite. Gorgias of Athens, Cicero's master, took his examples from Hegesias as well as from Demosthenes and Hypereides; Varro (Cic. ad Att. XII. 6.
) and Strabo (p. 396
) praised him; and it was reserved for Cicero and Dionysios to discover that he was an example of what is to be avoided.