Athens the chief seat of Civil Oratory.
But while literary fashion or private need thus lent their aid, greater and older causes than these had prepared Athens to be the home of Civil Oratory.
Political morality of the Greeks.
The chief importance of Grecian history depends on this, that the Greeks are the first people from whom we can learn any lessons in the art of ruling men according to law1
. While all the nations with which the Greeks came in contact were governed more or less despotically, the Greek cities alone were governed politically. No Persian or Egyptian had any conception of the principle that both sides of a public question should be fairly heard, that it should be decided by the opinion of the civic majority, and that the minority should be bound by this decision. Every Greek city, be it planted where it might, at the Pillars of Herakles or on the shores of the Inhospitable Sea, was perfectly familiar with this doctrine. Sometimes a tyrant forcibly suspended its operation, sometimes an oligarchy capriciously narrowed its scope, but it was known wherever the Greek tongue
This morality most practical at Athens.
was spoken. In democratic Athens, more than in any other Greek city, this doctrine was no speculative opinion, no occasional motive, but the present and perpetual spring of public action; nor did any goddess of the pantheon receive a tribute more fitting or more sincere than that which Athenians
Relation of Athenian to Greek Oratory
annually laid on the altar of Persuasion2
. It has
sometimes been said that Greek Oratory means Athenian Oratory. This is far from being true in the sense that all the considerable masters of oratorical prose were either natives of Attica or permanent residents at Athens. Gorgias of Leontini, Theodoros of Byzantium, Thrasymachos of Chalkedon, Anaximenes of Lampsakos, Naukrates of Erythrae, Philiskos of Miletos, Ephoros of Cumae, Theopompos of Chios, Theodektes of Phaselis, and many more, might be adduced. But there is another sense in which the statement is true. Athens was the home, though Attica was not the birth-place, of all the very greatest men in this branch of art, of all the men whose works had wide and lasting acceptance as canons. Athens was, further, the educator of all those men, whether first-rate or not, who, after about 400 B. C., won a Panhellenic name for eloquence. The relation of Athenian to Greek oratory is accurately stated by Isokrates when, in 353 B. C., he is defending his theory of culture against supposed objections—objections which, as the very history of his school shows, had never really taken hold of the Athenian mind, but were restricted to a much narrower circle than his rather morbid sensibility imagined (Isokr. Antid. (Or. XV.) §§ 295— 298
). ‘You must not forget that our city is regarded as the established3
teacher of all who can speak or teach others to speak. And naturally so, since men see that our city offers
the greatest prizes to those who possess this faculty, —provides the most numerous and most various schools for those who, having resolved to enter the real contests, desire a preparatory discipline,—and, further, affords to all men that experience which is the main secret of success in speaking. Besides, men hold that the general diffusion and the happy temperament of Attic speech, the Attic flexibility of intelligence and taste for letters, contribute not a little to literary culture; and hence they not unjustly deem that all masters of expression are disciples of Athens. See, then, lest it be folly indeed to cast a slur on this name which you have among the Greeks...; that unjust judgment will be nothing else than your open condemnation of yourselves. You will have done as the Lacedaemonians would do if they introduced a penalty for attention to military exercises, or the Thessalians, if they instituted proceedings at law against men who seek to make themselves good riders.’