previous next

‘And as the reputation which the poets acquired in spite of the simplicity of what they said (the silliness of the thoughts expressed) was thought (by those who imitated them) to be due to their language, it was for this reason that the language (of prose) first took a poetical colour, as that of Gorgias. And still, even at this day, the mass of the uneducated think the discourses of speakers of this kind mighty fine. Such however is not the fact, but the language of prose and poetry is distinct’.

To the same effect Dionysius, de Lys. Iud. c. 3, (v. 457, Reiske). Lysias' predecessors were not of his opinion about style—his was the ἀφελὴς λόγος, the ‘smooth and simple’ style—ἀλλ᾽ οἱ βουλόμενοι κόσμον τινὰ προσεῖναι τοῖς ὅλοις ἐξήλλαττον ἰδιώτην, καὶ κατέφυγον εἰς τὴν ποιητικὴν φράσιν μεταβολαῖς τε πολλαῖς χρώμενοι καὶ ὑπερβολαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἄλλαις τροπικαῖς ἰδέαις, ὀνομάτων τε γλωττηματικῶν καὶ ξένων χρήσει, καὶ τῶν οὐκ εἰωθότων σχηματισμῶν τῇ διαλλαγῇ καὶ τῇ ἄλλῃ καινολογίᾳ καταπληττόμενοι τὸν ἰδιώτην, κ.τ.λ. This was the new style introduced by Gorgias and his followers Polus and Licymnius (Alcidamas, &c.). Hermogenes, περὶ ἰδεῶν, β́, περὶ δεινότητος (Spengel, Rhet. Gr. III 395); on the third kind of δεινότης represented by Gorgias and his school, οἱ σοφισταί; φαινόμενος λόγος δεινὸς οὐκ ὢν τοιοῦτος. γίνεται γὰρ τὸ πλεῖστον περὶ τὴν λέξιν, ὅταν τραχείας καὶ σφοδράς τις καὶ σεμνὰς συμφορήσας λέξεις εἶτ᾽ ἐξαγγέλλῃ ταύταις ἐννοίας ἐπιπολαίους καὶ κοινάς.

λέγοντες εὐήθη κ.τ.λ.] Cic. Orat. LII 175, of Isocrates, also a follower of Gorgias, Quum enim videret oratores cum severitate audiri poetas autem cum voluptate, tum dicitur numeros secutus quibus etiam in oratione uteremur, quum iucunditatis causa tum ut varietas occurreret satietati. So Theophrastus, Dion. Lys. Iud. c. 14, condemns this affected poetical language of the Sicilian school of rhetoricians as childish, τὸ ἴσον καὶ ὅμοιον παιδιῶδες, and unworthy of a serious purpose, καθαπερεὶ ποίημα: διὸ καὶ ἧττον ἁρμόττει τῇ σπουδῇ κ.τ.λ. Plato, Rep. X 601 A—B.

On Gorgias' novel and poetical style and the figures that he introduced into Rhetoric, see Camb. Journ. of Classical and Sacred Philology, No. VII Vol. III pp. 66—7, 73—5, and on the rhetorical figures, which are classified, 69—72. Comp. Cic. Orat. § 175 [paria paribus adiuncta et similiter definita itemque contrariis relata contraria, quae sua sponte, etiamsi id non agas, cadunt plerumque numerose, Gorgias primus invenit, sed eis est usus intemperantius. See also Blass, die Attische Beredsamkeit, 1 esp. pp. 57—64. As a specimen of the poetical style of Gorgias we have his metaphorical term for vultures, ἔμψυχοι τάφοι, parallels to which may be found in the poets Lucretius and Spenser, Lucr. V 924, viva videns vivo sepeliri viscera busto, and Faery Queen II 8. 16 (quoted by Munro), To be entombed in the raven or the kight. That this fancy for poetic prose was with Gorgias a ‘ruling passion strong in death’, is proved by the phrase used at the close of his life, ‘At last Sleep lays me with his brother Death’. Another of his death-bed utterances, ὥσπερ ἐκ σαπροῦ καὶ ῥέοντος συνοικίου ἀσμένως ἀπαλλάττομαι (Thompson's ed. of the Gorgias, p. 184), may be illustrated by Waller's lines, The soul's dark cottage, battered and decayed, Lets in new light through chinks that time has made].

λόγου] prose, opposed to ποίησις. infra § 9, c. 2 §§ 3 and 6, ψιλοὶ λόγοι, § 7, ἐν ποιήσει καὶ ἐν λόγοις, § 8, λόγος τῶν μέτρων. Poet. II 5, VI 26. Plato Rep. III 390 A, ἐν λόγῳ ἐν ποιήσει. ‘This is shewn by the result: for even the tragic writers no longer employ it (sc. τῇ λέξει) in the same way (as the earlier tragedians did), but just as they passed from the (trochaic) tetrameter to the iambic measure because of all other metres this most resembles prose, so also in the use of words (names or nouns) they have dropped all that are contrary to the usage of ordinary conversation, and have dropped also those with which the earliest (dramatic) writers (subaudi ποιήσαντες; especially Æschylus) used to adorn (their compositions), a practice which is even now retained by the writers of hexameters (Epics): it is absurd therefore to copy those who themselves no longer employ that (the original) style’.

ὥσπερ καὶ...οὕτω καί] This tautological repetition of καί in an antithesis is characteristic of Aristotle's style. [Cf. supra § 3.]

ἐκ τῶν τετραμέτρων εἰς τὸ ἰαμβεῖον μετέβησαν] Poet. IV 17, 18, 19. μάλιστα γὰρ λεκτικὸν τῶν μέτρον τὸ ἰαμβεῖόν ἐστι...πλεῖστα γὰρ ἰαμβεῖα λέγομεν ἐν τῇ διαλέκτῳ τῇ πρὸς ἀλλήλους κ.τ.λ. III 3. 3 ult. where this passage is referred to. III 8. 4. Welcker, Nachtrag, p. 239.

ὁμοιότατον τῶν ἄλλων] In translating this I have purposely retained the ungrammatical and illogical ‘other’ with the superlative, because the same blunder is equally common in our own language. Swift, Tale of a Tub, ‘The most perfect of all others’, Hooker, Eccl. Pol. ‘of all other, they are...most infallible’. Bacon, Essay Of Envy, ‘one of the most able of his predecessors’ (of whom he is not, and cannot be, one), ‘of all other affections (envy) the most importune and continual’. The examination of this, and the other irregular use of ἄλλος, (πολῖται καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι ξένοι [Plat. Gorg. p. 473 C]), and the analogies in English, is reserved for an Appendix [this Appendix was apparently never written, though its intended preparation is also hinted in Mr Cope's translation of the Gorgias, p. 11. Compare note I to II 9. 9, τῶν ἄλλων οἱ αὐτουργοὶ μάλιστα].

διάλεκτον] for ‘common conversation’ (properly dialogue): compare c. 2. 5, εἰωθυῖα διάλεκτος, and Poet. XXII 14. In a somewhat different application διάλεκτος is the third and highest stage of ‘sound’, (1) noise, ψόφος, which even inanimate things, brute matter, wood and stone, are capable of producing: (2) φωνή, φθόγγος, the indistinct voice of an animal: and (3) διάλεκτος, the distinct utterance of the μέροπες ἄνθρωποι, the power of conversation, characteristic of humanity. This distinction lies in the power which man has, and other animals (I believe) want, of pronouncing consonants, which produce distinct, articulate words. On speech, as the characteristic of man, see Pol. I 2, 1253 a 10, seq. where λόγος is substituted for διάλεκτος, [also Isocr. Paneg. § 48, τοῦτο μόνον (sc. τοὺς λόγους) ἐξ ἁπάντων τῶν ζῴων ἴδιον ἔφυμεν ἔχοντες, and Cicero, de Off. I 16. 50, (ferae) rationis et orationis expertes, de Oratore I §§ 32, 33].

οὕτω καὶ τῶν ὀνομάτων ἀφείκασιν] Of this change, the lowering of the language of tragedy to the level of common life, the earliest author (as we are told in c. 2. 5) was Euripides, in his later plays, which are to be carefully distinguished from such as the Medea, Hippolytus, and Ion. The change was completely carried out in the New Comedy of Menander, Philemon Diphilus, &c. On this everyday character of Euripides' later and worse compositions—which are to be carefully distinguished from such as the Medea, Hippolytus and Ion—to which the language was made to conform, see Müller, Hist. Gr. Lit. ch. XXV. §§ 2, 3. In Arist. Ran. 959, Euripides is made to take credit for it, οἰκεῖα πράγματ᾽ εἰσάγων, οἷς χρώμεθ̓, οἷς ξύνεσμεν.

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: