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.