Defects of Lysias as an orator.
The language, the method, the genius of Lysias have now been considered in reference to their chief positive characteristics. But no attempt to estimate what Lysias was would be true or complete if it failed
to point out what he was not. However high the rank which he may claim as a literary artist, he cannot, as an orator, take the highest. The defects which exclude him from it are chiefly two; and these are to a certain extent the defects of his qualities. As he excelled in analysis of character and in elegance, so he was, as a rule, deficient in pathos and in fire.
The limits of pathos in Lysias.
It would be untrue to say that Lysias never appeals to the feelings with effect, and unfair to assume that he lacked the power of appealing to them with force. But the bent of his mind was critical; his artistic instinct shrank from exaggeration of every sort; and, instead of giving fervent expression to his own sense of what was pitiable or terrible in any set of circumstances, it was his manner merely to draw a suggestive picture of the circumstances themselves. This self-restraint will be best understood by comparing a passage of Lysias with a similar passage of Andokides. The speech On the Mysteries describes the scene in the prison when mothers, sisters, wives came to visit the victims of the informer Diokleides1
. A like scene is described in the speech Against Agoratos, when the persons whom he had denounced took farewell in prison of their kinswomen2
. But the two orators take different means of producing a tragic effect. ‘There were cries and lamentations,’ says Andokides, ‘weeping and wailing for the miseries of the hour.’3
Lysias simply remarks that the wife who came to see her husband had already put on mourning4
. For hearers of a certain
class the pathos of facts is more eloquent than an express appeal; but the speaker who is content to rely upon it renounces the hope of being found pathetic by the multitude. It was only now and then that, without going beyond the limits which his own taste imposed, Lysias could expect to stir general sympathy. In the defence which he wrote for the nephews of Nikias, the last survivors of a house made desolate by violent deaths and now threatened with spoliation, he found such an opportunity. He used it well, because, though declamation would have been easy, he abstained from everything rhetorical and hollow. The few words in which the defendant speaks of his claim to the protection of the court are plain and dignified:—
‘Judges, I have no one to put up to plead for us; for of our kinsmen some have died in war, after showing themselves brave men, in the effort to make Athens great; some, in the cause of the democracy and of your freedom, have died by the hemlock of the Thirty; and so the merits of our kinsmen, and the misfortunes of the State, have become the causes of our friendlessness. It befits you to think of these things and to help us with good will, considering that under a democracy those deserve to be welltreated at your hands who, under an oligarchy, had their share of the troubles.’5