External influences: The Sicilian Rhetoric.
Deeper causes than a political crisis fitted Sicily to become the birthplace of Rhetoric. The first cause was the general character of the Sicilian Greeks. Thucydides remarks that the quick and adventurous
Character of the Sicilian Greeks.
Athenians, who were often benefited by Lacedaemonian slowness or caution, found most formidable adversaries in the Syracusans just because the Syracusans were so like themselves1
; and this resemblance, we have good reason to suppose, included the taste for lively controversy and the passion for lawsuits described by Aristophanes in the Wasps.
‘An acute people, with an inborn love of disputation’, is the description of the Sicilians which Cicero quotes from Aristotle (Brut. xii. § 46.
): ‘Sicilians are never so miserable’, he says in one of the Verrine speeches, ‘that they cannot make a happy joke2
Political development of the Sicilian cities.
population thus gifted had, further, gone through the same political phases as Athens; through aristocracy they had arrived at tyranny, and through tyranny at a democracy. The flourishing age of the Sicilian
The Age of the Sicilian Tyrants.
Tyrants—the early part of the fifth century B. C.— was illustrated by art and literature, by the lyric poetry which, native to Ionia, found its most splendid theme in the glory of these Dorian princes of the West, and by a home-growth of Comedy, the creation of Phormis and Epicharmos. It was in 466
The Democratic Revolution.
that Thrasybulos, last of the Gelonian dynasty, was expelled and that a democracy was established at Syracuse. Somewhat later, a democracy arose at
Character of Sicilian Democracy.
Agrigentum also. Popular life was now as exuberant in Sicily as it was at Athens after the Persian Wars; but, with its mixture of races, it was less fortunately tempered; its vigour, instead of glowing with the sense of national welfare secured against aliens, had the feverish vehemence of a domestic reaction; and hence we should be prepared to find these younger democracies showing almost at once some features which do not appear in the elder Athenian democracy until the time of the Peloponnesian War. But it was neither by the turbulent rivalries of the popular assembly, nor by
Circumstances under which Rhetoric became an Art.
the natural growth of συκοφαντική
or pettifogging, that the formulation of Rhetoric as an Art was immediately caused. The absolute princes of Sicily had done as they listed. They had banished, they
Derangement of civil life by the Tyrants.
had confiscated,—like Dionysios I. in later times, they had effaced towns and transferred populations,— they had turned all things upside-down. When they were driven out, and when governments arose based on the equality of citizens before the law, a
crowd of aggrieved claimants presented themselves wherever that law had a seat. ‘Ten years ago’, this one would say, ‘Hieron banished me from Syracuse because I was too much a democrat, and gave my house on the Epipolae to Agathokles, who still lives among you; I ask the people to restore it to me.’ ‘When Gelon razed our city’, another would say, ‘and divided the lands among
his friends, we were commanded to dwell at Selinus, where I have lived many years; my father's land was given to a favourite of the tyrant's, whose first cousin still holds it; I ask you to insist on this man making restitution.’ Claims of this kind would be innumerable. And, besides those which were founded in justice, a vast number of false claims would be encouraged by the general presumption that the rights of property had been universally deranged. If, twenty years after the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, a government had arisen of such a nature as to make it worth people's while to dispute every possession taken under that settlement in the Ten Counties, the state of things which would have ensued would have borne some resemblance to that which prevailed throughout Sicily, but especially at Syracuse, in 466 B.C.3
Now, if we consider what would be, as a rule,
General features of such claims.
the characteristics of claims to property made under such conditions, we shall find that they throw a significant light on the little which is expressly recorded in regard to the first artists of Rhetoric. First, such claims would, as a rule, go several years back, and would often require for their elucidation that a complicated mass of details should be stated or arranged. Secondly, such claims would often lack documentary support; the tablets proving a purchase, a sale, or a contract, would, in many or most cases, have been lost or destroyed, and the
claimant would have to rely chiefly on inferences from other facts which he could substantiate.
Best aids for such claimants:
If, then, we imagine a man conceiving the idea that these innumerable claimants want help, and that the occupation of helping them may be a way to notoriety or gain, in what particular forms is it probable that he would have tried to render
1. Skill in marshalling facts:
this help? He would have seen, first, that people must be assisted to deal with an array of complex facts; they must be taught method. He would have seen, secondly, that they must be assisted to dispense with documentary or circumstantial
2 Skill in arguing probabilities.
evidence; they must be given hints as to the best mode of arguing from general probabilities.