The Speech probably by a late sophist.
But an overwhelming amount of evidence tends to show that the speech is the work of a later sophist. First stand two general reasons; the supposed occasion of the speech, and the style of its composition.
As far as the nature of ostracism is known to us,
the whole speech involves a thorough misconception of it: it assumes a situation which could never have existed. Once every year the ekklesia was formally asked by its presidents whether, in that year, an ostracism should be held. If it voted affirmatively, a day was fixed. The market-place was railed in for voting, every citizen might write any name he pleased on the shell which he dropped into the urn; and if against any one name there were six thousand votes, the person so indicated was banished for ten— in later times, for five—years. The characteristic feature of the whole proceeding was the absence of everything like an open contest between definite rivals. The very object of ostracism was to get rid of a dangerous man in the quietest and least invidious way. No names were mentioned; far less was discussion dreamed of. The idea of a man rising in the ekklesia or other public gathering, and stating that he was one of three persons who were in danger of ostracism; then inveighing at great length and with extraordinary bitterness against one of the other two; and concluding with a vindication of his own consequence—would have probably seemed to Athenians of the days of ostracism incredibly indecent and absurd. In the first place, they would have been offended by his open assumption—whether true or not—that he
was one of the citizens who had rendered the resort to ostracism necessary; secondly,
they would have resented his attempt to prejudice the ballot; and if, in the end, he had escaped, his escape would probably have been due to their conviction that, as the poet Plato said of Hyperbolos, ‘it was not for such fellows that shells were invented1
.’ But the speaker against Alkibiades does not only himself speak thus; he asserts that Alkibiades is about to address the house next, and to endeavour to move it by his tears2
If the nature of the situation supposed were not enough, the style of the composition would in itself be almost decisive. The speaker begins with a formal statement of the matter in hand, evidently meant for a reader; and then goes on to string together all the tritest stories about Alkibiades. This —the body of the speech—has the unmistakable air of a compilation.