previous next


THE first object of this book is to offer a contribution to a chapter in the history of Greek Literature which has perhaps received less attention than its importance deserves. The oratorical branch of Attic prose has a more direct and more fruitful relation to the general development than modern analogies would suggest. To trace the course of Athenian oratory from its beginnings as an art to the days of its decline is, necessarily, to sketch the history of Greek prose expression in its most widely influential form, and to show how this form was affected by a series of causes, political or social.

The second object of the book is to supply an aid to the particular study of the Attic orators before Demosthenes. The artistic development of Attic oratory is sketched as a whole. But a separate and minute treatment is given only to Antiphon, Andokides, Lysias, Isokrates and Isaeos. The period thus specially determined has more than a correspondence with a practical need: it has an inner unity, resting on grounds which are stated in the Introduction and which are illustrated at each stage of the subsequent inquiry.

As regards the former and larger of these two purposes, the writer may venture to hope that his attempt, however imperfect, will be recognised at least as one for which, in this country, there is room. The History of Greek Literature by Otfried Müller— translated and continued by Donaldson—had been carried only to Isokrates when the author died, at the early age of forty-three, in 1840. Müller's chapters on ‘The beginnings of regular Political and Forensic Oratory among the Athenians’ (XXXIII), on ‘The new cultivation of Oratory by Lysias’ (XXXV), and on ‘Isokrates’ (XXXVI) are, relatively to the plan of his work, very good: that is, they state clearly the chief characteristics of each writer separately. But this very plan precluded a full examination of each writer's works, and even a full discussion of his style. Nor does Müller appear to have regarded Oratory otherwise than as strictly a department, or adequately to have conceived its relation to the universal prose literature. The materials for a more comprehensive estimate had already been brought together in Westermann's Geschichte der Beredsamkeit, which carries the chronicle of technical rhetoric and of eloquence to the days of Chrysostom. But this great work is rather a storehouse of references than properly a history; and, owing to its vast compass and its annalistic method, gives too little space, proportionally, to the best period of Athens. Westermann's thesaurus and Müller's sketch have recently been supplemented by the excellent works of Dr F. Blass: (1) ‘Die Attische Beredsamkeit von Gorgias bis zu Lysias,’ 1868: (2) ‘Isokrates und Isaios’, 1874—of which the latter came into my hands only after my own chapters on Isokrates were almost wholly printed. I desire here to record in general terms my obligations to both these works. Particular debts are in every case, so far as I know, acknowledged on the page where they occur.

For the analyses of the orations it seemed best to adopt no uniform scale, but to make them more or less full according to the interest of the subjectmatter or the nature of its difficulties. In analysing the works of Isokrates, which abound in matter of literary or historical value, I have endeavoured to give the whole of the contents in a form easy of access, and, at the same time, to preserve the most characteristic features of expression. A careful analysis, whether copious or not, is necessarily to some extent a commentary, since the analyst must exhibit his view of the relation in which each part of the writer's meaning stands to the rest.

In this sense, I hope that the analyses will serve my second and more special purpose—to help students of these five orators who have nothing but a Greek text before them. Critical scholarship in England has done some of its best work on the orators before Demosthenes. The names of John Taylor, Markland, Robert Tyrwhitt, Dobree, Dobson, Churchill Babington—to mention only a few—are proof enough. But it is long since the orators before Demosthenes have been taken into the ordinary course of reading at our schools and universities. The commentary of Mr Sandys on Isokrates Ad Demonicum and Panegyricus is (so far as I know) alone in this country. Frohberger's selections from Lysias, Schneider's selections from Isokrates, Rauchenstein's selections from Lysias and from Isokrates, Bremi's selections from Lysias and from Aeschines, are representative of the German feeling that these Greek orators should be read by ordinary students. The principal reason why they have dropped out of school and university favour among ourselves is perhaps not difficult to assign. Demosthenes and (in his measure) Aeschines have a political and historical interest of a kind which every one recognises, and which lends dignity to ancient prose in the eyes of a public that is rather political than philological. Many speeches which Demosthenes did not write have long been studied among us in the belief that they were composed by that statesman; while, on the other hand, comparatively few know, or comprehend, the conjecture of Mr Freeman that every Athenian ekklesiast was equal in political intelligence to an average Member of Parliament. In truth, an oration taken at hazard from Antiphon, Andokides, Lysias, Isokrates or Isaeos, will often be poor food for the mind if it is read alone. What is necessary to make it profitable is some idea of the world in which it was spoken. These orators who were not conspicuous actors in history must be read, not fragmentarily or in the light of notes which confine themselves to explaining what are termed ‘allusions,’ but more systematically, and with some general comprehension of the author and the age. Brougham, one of the best and most diligent critics of ancient oratory, himself tells us that he could not read Isaeos:—‘the total want of interest in the subject, and the minuteness of the topics, has always made a perusal of them so tedious as to prevent us from being duly sensible of the force and keenness with which they are said to abound.’ If, however, Brougham had considered Isaeos, not as merely a writer on a series of willcases, but as the oldest and most vivid witness for the working of inchoate testation in a primitive society, and, on the other hand, as the man who, alone, marks a critical phase in the growth of Attic prose, it is conceivable that Brougham should have thought Isaeos worthy of the most attentive perusal.

The present attempt to aid in giving Attic Oratory its due place in the history of Attic Prose was begun in the summer of 1870, and has since employed all the time that could be spared to it from the severe and almost incessant pressure of other occupations. In addition to the works of Dr Blass, I would name the exhaustive work of Arnold Schäfer, Demosthenes und seine Zeit, as one which has been my constant help. M. Perrot's ‘L'Éloquence Politique et Judiciaire à Athènes: 1 Partie, Les Précurseurs de Démosthène,’ and Mr Forsyth's Hortensius, also claim my gratitude. Among particular aids, I must mention the Essay on Isokrates, by M. Havet, prefixed to M. Cartelier's translation of the περὶ ἀντιδόσεως,—an acknowledgement which is the more due since, by an inadvertence for which I would fain atone, the essay is ascribed at p. 45 of my second volume, not to its true author, but to the scholar whose memory he has so loyally served. The article of Weissenborn on Isaeos in Ersch and Gruber's Encyclopaedia, the editions of Isaeos by Schömann and Scheibe, and the edition of the two Speeches On the Crown by MM. Simcox, must be added to the list. I am glad that my Introduction was not printed too soon to profit by some of Mr Watkiss Lloyd's remarks on Perikles. The authorities, general or particular, not specified above will be found in a list which is subjoined. If an obligation anywhere remains unacknowledged, I would beg my readers to believe that it is by an oversight which I should rejoice to have the opportunity of repairing.

Last, though not least, I have to thank my friend Mr Sandys for his help in revising some of the earlier sheets of the book for the press, as well as for several valuable suggestions.

It seems probable that the study of antiquity, especially of the Greek and Latin languages and literatures, so far from declining, is about to enter on a larger and a more truly vigorous life than it has had since the Revival of Letters. That study has become, in a new and fuller sense, scientific. The Comparative Method, in its application to Language, to Literature, to Mythology, to Political or Constitutional History, has given to the classics a general interest and importance far greater than they possessed in the days when the devotion which they attracted was most exclusive. For the present, indeed, during a time of transition, the very breadth of the view thus opened is apt to be attended by a disadvantage of its own. So long as the study given to ancient Greece or Rome was practically confined to the short periods during which the literature of either was most brilliant, this study was often narrow, perhaps, but it was usually searching and sympathetic. The great masters in each kind were known at close quarters. Their excellence was not something taken on credit as giving them their claim to a place in a rapid survey. It was apprehended and felt. Paradoxes as to then relative merits were, therefore, not so easily commended to educated opinion in the name of a revolt from academical prescription. I remember to have seen an ingenious travesty of ‘The Last Days of Pompeii,’ in which the sorcerer Arbaces had occasion to recite the praises of his countrymen, the Egyptians. ‘The Greeks,’ Arbaces sang, ‘are wonderfully clever; but we have invented the Greeks.’ Goethe said that Winckelmann had ‘found’ the antique; but it appears sometimes to be forgotten that this merit is essentially distinct from that intimated by the Egyptian. In the meantime, I am persuaded that anyone will be doing useful work who makes a contribution, however slight, to that close study of the best Greek literature which ought ever to be united with attention to the place of Greece in the universal history of the mind. In these things, as in greater still, the words are true, “Securus iudicat orbis terrarum.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: