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Ἑλένης ἐγκώμιον

. [Or. X.] — The Encomium on Helen (like another of his works, the Busiris, or. XI.) is a slight essay by Isocr. in a province not his own. Declamations on subjects taken from epos or from the myths had always a prominent place among the ‘displays’ of ordinary Sophists. Such, for instance, are the Encomium on Helen and the Defence of Palamedes ascribed to Gorgias; the speech of Odysseus Against Palamedes ascribed to Alcidamas; the speeches of Ajax and Odysseus in the contest for the arms, ascribed to Antisthenes. The bent of Isocrates, as he himself tells us, was not towards this kind of composition. He was not, indeed, hostile to it, any more than he was hostile to criticism of the poets and other branches of literary work which employed the Sophists. The encomia which he depreciates in or. X. § 12 are encomia on bumble-bees and salt; on the other hand he expressly commends the choice of such a subject as Helen (§ 14); and if he speaks of Busiris as a poor theme (or. XI. § 22), he clearly means only that it is one which baffles the panegyrist. Yet it is important to note that he comes upon this field of ‘display’ not as a candidate for distinction, but merely as a critic. The Busiris and the Encomium on Helen are alike criticisms, in which he first reviews the work of others, and then shows, for the sake of vindicating his right to criticise, how he would have done the work himself.

Two indications help to fix the time at which Isocrates wrote. 1. From § 3 it may be inferred that Gorgias was dead; and Gorgias died about 380 B.C. 2. In § 1 there is an allusion to the three chief Socratic sects — the Cynics, the Academy, the Megarics. These sects must have already been mature. The language implies further that Antisthenes, founder of the Cynics — who died in 376 B.C. — is still alive. The Encomium may probably be put about 370 B.C. — Attic Orators, II. 93, 102.

A translation of the following passage will be found in the Attic Orators, II. p. 78.

§§ 54 — 58.

κἀκεῖνοι ταῦτ᾽ ἔγνωσαν The καὶ before ἐκεῖνοι is not ‘also’, but ‘both’, to which κἀγώ answers. — ἐκεῖνοι, Helen's lovers — Theseus, Menelaus, Paris and the heroes who fell in the War of Troy — Achilles, Sarpedon, etc.: §§ 39 — 53. ταῦτ᾽ ἔγνωσαν, ‘made this choice’, sc. τεθνάναι μαχομένοις περὶ τῆς Διὸς θυγατρός, § 53.

τούτων ἕκαστον i.e. than ἀνδρία, σοφία, δικαιοσύνη. — We might expect ἑκάστου (sc. μετέχοντα), but ἕκαστον is more forcible.

ταύτης τῆς ἰδέας So below, § 58, περὶ τὴν ἰδέαν τὴν τοιαύτην: ‘this attribute’ or ‘quality’ (viz. τὸ κάλλος, beauty): a meaning derived from that of ‘species’ or ‘kind’: cp. Lat. genus, e.g. Cic. De Or. II. 4. 17,qui in aliquo genere aut inconcinnus aut multus est”, ‘in any respect’. Isocr. has also some peculiar uses of ἰδέαι in reference to literary composition, viz. (1) as = τρόποι λόγων, the branches or styles: Antid. § 11: (2) = σχήματα, figures of rhetoric, Panath. § 2: (3) in a larger sense, all ‘artificial resources’ which can be formulated, Antid. § 183: see Attic Orators, II. 39 and note.

οὐκ ἀπαγορ. θεραπ.] ‘are never tired of paying homage’.

ἀποκαλοῦμεν here, as usually ‘call contemptuously’: cp. below, p. 111 § 4, ἀργυρίδιον...τὸν πλοῦτον ἀποκαλοῦντες: but not always so: e.g. Arist. Eth. II. 9, τοὺς χαλεπαίνοντας ἀνδρώδεις ἀποκαλοῦμεν: cp. Shilleto on Dem. F. L. § 274.

περὶ τῆς αὑτῶν ἡλικίας Cp. below, p. 123 § 290, τὸν ὀρθῶς καὶ πρεπόντως προεστῶτα τῆς ἡλικίας καὶ καλὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ βίου ποιούμενον.

ὅσοι δ᾽ ‘but we honour for all time, and as benefactors to the State, those who have guarded the glory of their own youth in the chasteness of an inviolable shrine’. — ἄβατον, bolder than ἄθικτον: cp. Plat. Phaedr. 245 A, ἀπὸ Μουσῶν κατοκωχή τε καὶ μανία λαβοῦσα ἁπαλὴν καὶ ἄβατον ψυχήν, ἐγείρουσα καὶ ἐκβακχεύουσα...παιδεύει. Soph. frag. 86 (Aleuadae), Nauck p. 118, δεινὸς γὰρ ἕρπειν πλοῦτος ἔς τε τἄβατα | καὶ πρὸς βέβηλα (vulg. τὰ βατά), wealth can worm its way into sacred places no less than into those that all may tread.

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