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Character of Lysias.

The character, as well as the capacity, of Lysias must be judged from the indirect evidence of his own writings. Circumstances kept him out of political life, in which his versatility and shrewdness would probably have held and improved the position which great powers of speech must soon have won. The part which he took during the troubles under the Thirty proved him a generous friend to Athens, as the Olympiakos shows him to have been a wise citizen1 of Greece; but his destiny was not that of a man of action. It is not likely that he regretted this much, though he must have felt his exclusion from the Athenian franchise as the refusal of a reward to which he had claims. His real strength—as far as can be judged now—lay in his singular literary tact. A fine perception of character in all sorts of men, and a faculty for dramatising it, aided by a sense of humour always under control; a certain pervading gracefulness and flexibility of mind; rhetorical skill, masterly in a sense hardly dreamed of at that day, since it could conceal itself—these were his most distinctive qualities and powers. His liberal discharge of public services, and his generosity to the exiles in 404, accord with the disposition which is suggested by the fragments of his letters. He was a man of warm nature, impulsive, hospitable, attached to his friends; fond of pleasure, and freely indulging in it; but, like Sophokles at the Chian supper-party described by Ion2, carrying into social life the same intellectual quality which marks his best work—the grace and the temperate brightness of a thoroughly Athenian mind.

1 The expression is his own: he claims to give counsel as a good citizen (Olymp. § 3)—with the thought in his mind, perhaps, that if he was still but a μέτοικος of Athens he was at least a πολίτης of Hellas.

2 Athenaeos XIII. pp. 603 E—604 D.

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