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Character and authorship of the Epitaphios.

Two questions have to be considered in regard to the Epitaphios; whether it was written for a real occasion or merely as an exercise; and whether it is or is not the work of Lysias1.

If it was written for a real occasion, then it can hardly be his work; for Lysias, not being an Athenian citizen, could not have spoken it himself; and it is unlikely that he should have composed it for another, since the citizen chosen by the Senate to pronounce a funeral harangue was usually an orator of repute2. But two things are in favour of the view that the Epitaphios was a mere rhetorical exercise; first, the character of the references to supposed contemporary events,—references particular enough to have been inserted by a composer anxious for the appearance of reality, yet not exactly corresponding with any known situation; secondly, the neglect of topics which a mere exercise could afford to ignore, but which in a real oration would, according to all fitness and all usage, be prominent—the topics of practical advice and of consolation. This Epitaphios says little enough about the dead; it scarcely attempts to exhort or to comfort the living. If, then, we may assume what the general character of the speech indicates—that it was composed merely as a rhetorical essay—the next question is—Was Lysias the author? The external evidence is inconclusive. Harpokration and Theon3 ascribe it without suspicion to Lysias. Aristotle quotes from ‘the Epitaphios’ a passage which is found in our speech, but does not name Lysias, though in the same chapter he cites Perikles, Isokrates and others by name. Nothing, however, can fairly be inferred from this except that in Aristotle's time the speech was celebrated4. Dionysios nowhere mentions an Epitaphios by Lysias; and his silence is suspicious. Turning from the external to the internal evidence, we find that this is overwhelmingly against the authorship of Lysias. All his leading characteristics—simplicity, grace, clearness, the sense of symmetry—are conspicuous by their absence. The structure of the whole is clumsy; the special topics are ill-arranged, and receive a treatment sometimes meagre, sometimes extravagantly diffuse; the language is affected, turgid and in many places obscure to a degree which makes it inconceivable that this oration and the fragment of the Olympiakos can be the work of the same man5. There are several resemblances of expression between this Epitaphios and the Panegyrikos of Isokrates, and these have often been explained by supposing Isokrates to have borrowed from Lysias. But let any careful reader note how thoroughly the more rhetorical parts of the Epitaphios bear the stamp of a cento, and he will prefer to suppose that some very inferior writer has borrowed from Isokrates6. No weight can be allowed to the argument that Plato in the Menexenos (386 B. C.?) had this particular Epitaphios in view. The Menexenos goes, indeed, over very nearly the same range of subjects; but these subjects were the commonplaces of commemorative oratory, and the coincidence is no warrant for assuming a direct imitation. If it may be taken for granted that Aristotle's citation in the Rhetoric is from our Epitaphios, the composition of the speech, whoever was the author, may be placed between 380 and 340 B. C.7. In any case, considering the general character of the Greek8, it can scarcely be put much below the first half of the second century B. C.

1 The case for, and the case against, the authenticity of the Epitaphios are well argued in two essays—(1) Lysias Epitaphios als echt erwiesen, by Dr Le Beau, Stuttgart, 1863; (2) De Epitaphio Lysiae Oratori falso tributo, by H. Eckert, Berlin [1865?] Le Beau's able essay is clear and admirably thorough, but defends a hopeless cause: Eckert's is a full re-statement, in reply to Le Beau, of the arguments against the genuineness.

2 Cf. Thuc. II. 34, ἀνὴρ ᾑρημένος ὑπὸ τῆς πόλεως ὃς ἂν γνώμῃ τε δοκῇ μὴ ἀξύνετος εἶναι καὶ ἀξιώσει προήκῃ. A third hypothesis has been advanced by Le Beau (pp. 37 ff.)— that the oration was written by Lysias to be spoken by the Archon Polemarch at one of the annual commemorations of citizens who had died during the past year; but Eckert maintains that such annual commemorations were not instituted before the time of Alexander (pp. 6 ff.).

3 Theon, προγυμνάσματα p. 164 (Spengel, Rhet. Gr. II. p. 68) ἔχομεν δὲ καὶ Ἰσοκράτους μὲν τὰ ἐγκώμια, Πλάτωνος δὲ καὶ Θουκυδίδου καὶ Ὑπερείδου καὶ Λυσίου τοὺς ἐπιταφίους.

4 Arist. Rhet. III. 10 καὶ οἷον ἐν τῷ ἐπιταφίῳ, διότι ἄξιον ἦν ἐπὶ τῷ τάφῳ τῷ τῶν ἐν Σαλαμῖνι τελευτησάντων κείρασθαι τὴν Ἑλλάδα, κ.τ.λ. The passage occurs in nearly the same words in § 60 of our Epitaphios.

5 Eckert, in the essay referred to above, examines at length (pp. 19—48) the arrangement (τάξις), ‘invention’ (εὕρεσις), and diction (λέξις) of the speech, and shows how thoroughly each is foreign to the manner of Lysias. It has not been judged necessary here to follow his analysis into details. The broad impression left upon the mind by the speech as a whole will be enough for most readers. As Dobree said—‘Lysias in genere epideictico quantumvis plenus et diffluens; nugax, salebrosus, indigestus nunquam esse potuit.’ (Advers. I. p. 15.)

6 Cf. Panegyr. § 72, with Epitaph. § 9 Pan. § 88 with E. § 29: Pan. § 115 with E. § 59; &c. ‘Illic’ (i.e. in the Panegyrikos), says Dobree, ‘summum oratorem videas, hic nugacem compilatorem.’

7 Aristotle's Rhetoric having been written probably during his second residence at Athens, 335— 323 B. C.: see Grote's Aristotle, I. 34.

8 ‘Sermone utitur sat bene Graeco atque Attico, et in universum spectanti non videtur in sermonis puritatem et verborum delectum admodum peccasse’ (Dobree Adv. p. 14). Cf. Eckert, p. 52.

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