previous next

Speech On the Choreutes.

The speech On the Choreutes relates to the death of Diodotos, a boy who was in training as member of a chorus to be produced at the Thargelia, and who was poisoned by a draught given to him to improve his voice1. The accused is the choregus, an Athenian citizen, who discharged that office for his own and another tribe, and at whose house the chorus received their lessons. The accuser, Philokrates, brother of the deceased Diodotos, laid an information for poisoning before the Archon Basileus; and after some delay, the case came before the Areiopagos2. It was not contended that the accused had intended to murder the boy, but only that he had ordered to be administered to him the draught which caused his death. According to Athenian law this was, however, a capital offence. The present speech is the second made by the defendant, and the last, therefore, of the trial. Its date may probably be placed soon after the Sicilian disaster3.

In a long proem, the accused dwells on the advantage

of a good conscience—on the excellence of the court of the Areiopagos—and on the weight of a judicial decision in such a case (§§ 1—6). He goes on to complain of the manner in which the adversaries have mixed up irrelevant charges with the true issue; he will address himself to the latter, and then refute the former (§§ 7—10). A narrative of the facts is then begun; but he breaks it off with the remark that it would be easy to expose the falsehoods contained in the adversary's second speech, and that he will now bring proofs (§§ 11—15). The testimony of witnesses is adduced and commented upon (§§ 16—19). The defendant goes on to contrast his own conduct in the matter with that of the accuser; dwells on the refusal of his challenge to an examination of slaves; and urges the strength in all points of his case (§§ 20—32). The evidence closed, he digresses into a full review of the adversaries' conduct from the first, in order to illustrate their malice and dishonesty. ‘What judges,’ he asks in conclusion, ‘would they not deceive, if they have dared to trifle with the awful oath under which they came before this court?’ (§§ 33—51.)

It seems probable that the end of the speech has been lost. Standing last in the MSS. of Antiphon, it would thus be the more liable to mutilation; and in the concluding speech of a trial the orator would scarcely have broken the rule, which he observes in every other instance, of finishing with an appeal to the judges. The fact that a rhetorical promise made in the speech4 is not literally fulfilled need not be insisted upon to strengthen this view.

In the speech On the Murder of Herodes, Antiphon had to rely mainly on his skill in argument; here, witnesses were available, the case against the accusers was strong, and little was needed but a judicious marshalling of proofs. This is ably managed; but, as a display of power, the speech is necessarily of inferior interest. The Mytilenean defendant in the Herodes case and the choregus here speak in the same general tone—with a certain directness and earnestness; but the common êthos is more strongly marked here, as the personality of the speaker comes more decidedly forward. In other points of style there is a striking contrast between the earlier and the later oration. The proem here is, indeed, as measured and as elaborate as any thing in the earlier work. But it stands alone; in the rest of the speech there is no stiffness. The language is that of ordinary life; the sentences are more flowing, if not always clear; the style is enlivened by question and exclamation, instead of being ornamented with antitheses and parallelisms; and already the beginning of a transition to the easier, more practical style of the later eloquence is well-marked.

1 The object with which the draught was given is not stated in the speech itself: but the argument says εὐφωνίας χάριν ἔπιε φάρμακον καὶ πιὼν τέθνηκεν. Compare the passage in which Plutarch speaks of the pains taken to train the voices of the chorus (De glor. Athen. c. 6): οἱ δὲ χορηγοὶ τοῖς χορευταῖς ἐγχέλια καὶ θριδάκια καὶ σκελλίδας καὶ μυελὸν παρατιθέντες εὐώχουν ἐπὶ πολὺν χρόνον φωνασκουμένους καὶ τρυφῶντας.

2 That the Areiopagos was the court which tried the case appears certain (1) because that court alone had jurisdiction in γραφαὶ φαρμάκων: (2) because the special compliment to the court as ‘the most conscientious and upright in Greece’ (§ 51) points to the Areiopagos Some have supposed that this case came before court at the Palladion, because, in § 16, the accused is spoken of as βουλεύσας τὸν θάνατον, and, according to Harpokration, cases of βούλευσις were tried at the Palladion by the Ephetae. But the βούλευσις of Harpokration is a technical term,=ἐπιβούλευσις, and denotes the intent to kill in cases in which death had not actually followed. On the other hand, the accused here is said βουλεῦσαι τὸν θάνατον merely in the sense that it was by his order that the draught was given to the boy, though he did not hand the cup to him. No intent to murder was imputed to him: see § 19 οἱ κατήγοροι ὁμολογοῦσι μὴ ἐκ προνοίας μηδ᾽ ἐκ παρασκουῆς γενέσθαι τὸν θάνατον.

3 In §§ 12, 21, 55 the choregus speaks of having brought an action for embezzlement of public monies against Philînos and two other persons. Now Antiphon wrote a speech κατὰ Φιλίνου,—very probably, as Sauppe conjectures, against this same Philînos when prosecuted by the choregus: and from the speech κατὰ Φιλίνου are quoted the words, τούς τε θῆτας ἅπαντας ὁπλίτας ποιῆσαι. Sauppe thinks this points to a time just after the Sicilian disaster: ‘in illis enim rerum angustiis videntur A thenienses thetes ad arma vocasse.’ (Or. Att. vol. II. p. 144.) This is quite possible: but Sauppe's other argument that the fact of the choregus representing two tribes (§ 11) points to a contraction of public expenses in a time of distress, is not worth much, since we do not know that this may not have been the usual custom at the Thargelia. At any rate the decidedly modern character of the speech as compared with the De caed. Herodis warrants us in placing it some years after the latter, which (as has been said above) was probably spoken between 421 and 416 B. C.

4 In § 8 the speaker says that he will first deal with the matter at issue, and then meet certain other charges which the adversaries have brought against him, but which he feels sure that he can turn to their own discomfiture. The promise, however, is conditional—ἐὰν ὑμῖν ἡδομένοις : and is, in effect, if not literally, fulfilled by the digression (§§ 33—51) in which he brings out the malicious character of their whole conduct towards him.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (2 total)
  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, 12
  • Cross-references to this page (1):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Selections from the Attic Orators, 12
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: