Birth and parentage
ISOKRATES was born five years before the beginning of the Peloponnesian War and died just after the battle of Chaeroneia. It might have been expected that such a life, touching both limits of such a century, would have been in its written records the vivid image of that century itself, with all its vicissitudes of struggle, with all its variety of impressive contrasts. One whose youth had known the intense and desperate energy of that war in which Imperial Athens was fighting for existence, whose early manhood had witnessed the terrible and moving drama of her overthrow, whose middle age had been passed under the dominion of Sparta now changed from the deliverer into the despot, whose later days had seen the restoration of Athens to the headship of a great Confederacy, the rise of Epameinondas—a second, though a Theban, Perikles for Greece—and his death before his national patriotism could give a new coherence to the nation, then
the space of hopeless quarrelling and confusion, with the voice of Demosthenes heard above it all, but heard in vain, till Philip came in and struck his blow—surely, it might have been thought, a political essayist with such a compass of personal experience must be of almost unique value for the comparison of period with period. Isokrates in one sense disappoints any such hope. For us, he lives and thinks and feels almost exclusively in the years 380—338 B.C. By his ideas and aspirations, by the whole bent of his character, he is thoroughly detached from that order of things under which the first part of his long life was passed; he has carried little or nothing of its mind on with him; it is a memory, giving a certain tragic irony to his afterlife, not a force blending with the new forces. As Antiphon breathes the spirit of the elder commonwealth, as Andokides is associated with the troubled politics of Athens in the second half of the Peloponnesian War, as Lysias expresses the ordinary citizenlife of the restored democracy, so Isokrates is distinctively the man of the decadence—an Athenian, still more a Greek, of the age of declining independence.
Isokrates was born in 436 B.C. (Ol. 86. 1.)— five years before the birth of Xenophon1
, a native of the same deme of Erchia, and seven years before the birth of Plato. His father Theodoros owned slaves skilled in the trade of flute-making,—a
fact of which Comedy, when it attacked Isokrates, did not forget to avail itself2
,—and was rich enough to have been choregus; his mother's name was Hêduto. He had three brothers, Diomnêstos, Telesippos and Theodoros; and a sister. The teachers of the young Isokrates are variously enumerated. One thing is clear, that two contrasted influences came to bear upon his early training; the influence of Sokrates and the influence of the sophists.
The augury of the Platonic Sokrates.
The dramatic date of the Phaedros
—whatever is its actual date—may be placed about 410 B.C., when Isokrates was twenty-six years of age, and when Lysias, according to the received account, was forty-eight. At the end of the conversation, Sokrates suggests that Phaedros should relate it to his friend Lysias.
And you—what will you do? Your
friend ought not to be neglected either.
And who is he?
The gentle Isokrates. What message will you take to him, Sokrates? What are we to call him?
Isokrates is still young, Phaedros; but I do not mind telling you what I prophesy of him.
And what may that be?
He seems to me to have a genius above the oratory of Lysias, and altogether to be tempered of nobler elements. And so it would not surprise me if, as years go on, he should make all his predecessors seem like children in the kind of oratory to which he is now addressing himself; or if—supposing this should not content him—some diviner impulse should lead him to greater things. My dear Phaedros, a certain philosophy is inborn in him. This is my
message, then, from the gods of the place to my pet Isokrates —and you have your message for your Lysias3
This memorable prophecy offers to Isokrates the choice of two careers; and the fact that, in Plato's sense, he did not
eventually rise to the higher career only increases the interest of such a testimony. The ‘philosophy’ of Isokrates—the way in which he was affected by Sokrates, and his relation to the Sokratics—must be considered separately. At present we are concerned with the outer facts of his life. It appears, then, from the Phaedros
that Isokrates was intimate with Sokrates; and further, that there was a time in his earlier life when he seemed to Plato capable of rising from the art of expression to the highest search for truth. The companionship of Sokrates has left a broad mark upon his work, in his purpose of bringing his ‘philosophy’ to bear directly on the civic life: the ‘philosophic’ bent which raised and disappointed the hopes of Plato may perhaps be traced in his constant effort to grasp general conceptions and to bring phenomena back to principles.
Early relations with the Sophists.
Nearly all the popular sophists of that day are named as teachers of Isokrates4
. Prodikos, skilled in the distinguishing of synonyms, seems to have been esteemed by Sokrates; and it is probable that Isokrates, like Xenophon, was a pupil of both.
Protagoras may have helped to form, by grammatical studies, a style which was afterwards as correct as it was free. Theramenes was the master through whom Isokrates first knew the art of Gorgias. Of all the merely literary influences which reached
Isokrates, that of Gorgias was by far the strongest. Isokrates was not, indeed, a mere imitator. His matured style was not only severer but more completely artistic than that of Gorgias can ever have been. But the first literary inspiration of Isokrates came from the great Sicilian rhetorician; and it is another proof of the astonishing natural force, the power of impressing and fascinating, which Gorgias certainly possessed. It was probably not until about 390 B. C., after he had begun his professional life at Athens, that Isokrates came into personal contact with Gorgias. He then visited Gorgias in Thessaly5
; and, in all likelihood, brought back with him the idea of the work which occupied him for the next ten years,—the Panegyrikos.
Life of Isokrates to 404 B.C.
Want of nerve and weakness of voice—defects which at Athens, as he says, entailed more than the ignominy of disfranchisement6
—kept Isokrates out of public life. During the last years of the Peloponnesian War,—that time so vividly described in the Memorabilia
, when it was easier to find money in
the streets of Athens than a man able and willing to lend it (Xen. Mem. II. vii. 2.
),—Isokrates lost all his patrimony7
. Then came the taking of Athens by Lysander and the eight months' rule of the Thirty Tyrants—from July, 404, to February, 403. In the autumn of 404 Theramenes was put to death. When he was denounced by Kritias, and sprang for safety to the altar, Isokrates alone, so the story went, dared to rise and make an attempt to plead for him. Theramenes begged him to desist;—death would be bitterer if it was the death of a friend too8
. Whatever may be the worth of this story, it is likely that Isokrates, a young man of promise and a disciple of the new culture, should have been an object of suspicion to the party of Kritias; and the proscription of the Art of Words would have been another motive for leaving Athens in the case of one who, having lost his fortune and being unfitted for a public career, had now to rely on some kind of literary work.
Stay of Isokrates at Chios, 404—403 B.C.
It can hardly be doubted that it was at this time—in the autumn of 404—that Isokrates left Athens for Chios: In that island he opened a school of Rhetoric, and had some success. He seems to have returned to Athens either just before or just after the Athenian democracy was formally restored in September, 4039
Life at Athens as a writer for the lawcourts, 403—393 B.C.
Now begins the first period of his regular professional life—that period during which he wrote speeches for the law-courts. The six forensic speeches which are extant cover a period of about ten years. The speech Against Euthynus (XXI) may be placed in 403, immediately after the restoration of the democracy; that Against Kallimachos (XVIII) in 402; the De Bigis
(XVI) in 397 or 396; the speech Against Lochites (XX) in 394; the Trapezitikos (XVII) and Aeginetikos (XIX) in the second half of 394 or early in 393.
In his later writings Isokrates nowhere recognises this phase of his own activity. He speaks
His later repudiation of Forensic Rhetoric.
with contempt of those who write for the law-courts, and emphatically claims it as his own merit that he chose nobler themes10
. It may have been partly the tone of such passages which emboldened his adopted
son Aphareus to assert that Isokrates had never written a forensic speech. This statement is decisively rejected by Dionysios, who concludes, on the authority of Kephisodoros, the orator's pupil, that Isokrates wrote a certain number of such speeches, though not nearly so many as Aristotle had reported11
. The modern hypothesis that Isokrates composed the extant forensic orations merely as exercises (μελέται
), not for real causes, is another attempt to explain his later tone12
. But these later utterances merely mean that Isokrates regarded his former work for the law-courts as an unworthy accident of his early life previous to the beginning of his true career. Nowhere, be it observed, does he deny that he ever wrote for the courts, or that, to use his own phrase, he had been a doll-maker before he became a Pheidias13
. He only says that his choice
, his real calling, lay in another direction.
392 B.C. Beginning of his career as (1) an educator, (2) a publicist.
It was about the year 392 that this choice was finally made. He opened a school at Athens near the Lykeion14
; and thenceforth his social function
was twofold. He was first of all an educator; next, not for his pupils only but the whole Greek public, he was a political essayist.
The discourse Against the Sophists is the manifesto which he put forth (about 391) at the beginning of his professional life, as the speech on the
The Discourse ‘Against the Sophists.’
Antidosis is the apologia in which about forty years later he reviewed it. In this first pamphlet he negatively defines his view of culture by protesting against three classes of ‘sophists’; (1) the Eristics, by whom he seems to mean the minor Sokratics—the reference to Plato is not certain here, as in the Helenae Encomium
—especially Eukleides and the Megarics: (2) the ordinary professors of deliberative and forensic speaking, whom he censures chiefly for the imposture (ἀλαζόνεια
) of ascribing a boundless and infallible efficacy to a technical method; (3) the earlier writers of ‘Arts,’ of whom he complains, as Aristotle complained afterwards, that they confined themselves to the least worthy, the forensic, branch of Rhetoric.
Leading ideas of the Isokratic culture.
Here, then, we have hinted the leading ideas of the new culture which Isokrates was preparing to interpret: (1) it is to be practical—avoiding barren subtleties: (2) it is to be rational—resting on the development of the whole intelligence, not on technicalities; (3) it is to be comprehensive—not limited to any single professional routine.
To judge from the ages of the men who were his pupils, Isokrates must have been successful from the first. The outer history of his school falls into
three periods: 1. from 392 to 378: 2. from 376 to 351: 3. from 350 to 338 B.C.
First period of his School, 392—378 B.C; second period, 376-351 B.C.
From 392 to 378 his pupils were almost exclusively Athenian. His own literary activity is marked by the Busiris
(391 or 390)—in which he undertakes to shew Polykrates, a rhetorician afterwards of some repute, how to treat mythical subject matter: and by the Panegyrikos
, which made his name known throughout Greece.
In 378 the new Confederation revived for
Athens at least a shadow of that naval supremacy which had been given up just a century before. It was probably during the next two years (378—376) that Isokrates was the companion and the secretary of Timotheos the son of Konon—known to him since about 38415
, and at this time successfully energetic in organising the new League both in the Archipelago and in the Ionic Sea16
. The friendship of Isokrates with Evagoras, king of Salamis in Cyprus, the friend of Konon and his son, may have begun at this time.
Between the years 376 and 351 the school of Isokrates reached the height of its prosperity and
Second period of the School, 376—351 B.C.
fame. His own reputation, and the new rank of Athens as the centre of the Naval Confederacy, combined to bring him pupils from all parts of Greece, from Sicily in the West and from Pontus in the East. Some of these pupils stayed three years with him, some even four. Meanwhile he was
writing much. In the letter To Nikokles
(374 B.C.) and the discourse, Nikokles, or the Cyprians
(372?), he discusses the mutual duties of king and subjects. The letter of advice To Demonikos
is of about the same date. The Helenae Encomium
(370) and the Evagoras
(365) are examples of imaginative and of historical panegyric. The Plataikos
(373) and the Archidamos
(366) deal with the contemporary affairs of Boeotia and Lacedaemon; the Areopagitikos
(355) and the oration On the Peace
(355) treat the domestic and the foreign politics of Athens. The speech On the Antidosis
(353) reviews the professional life of the writer—then eighty-three—and defends the ideas to which it had been devoted.
In the year 351 Mausôlos, dynast of Karia, died; and his widow Artemisia proposed in honour of his memory a contest of panegyrical eloquence which brought a throng of brilliant rhetoricians to Halikarnassos. No competitor (it is said) presented himself who had not been a pupil of Isokrates; and it was certainly a pupil of Isokrates—Theopompos the historian—who gained the prize. A tradition that this day of glory for the school was a day of personal defeat for its master may safely be rejected. One who had always been deterred by want of nerve and of voice from speaking in the Athenian ekklesia was not likely, at the age of eighty-five, to ignone these defects, for the purpose of competing in a foreign city with his own pupils. The Isokrates named as a competitor by Suidas was unquestionably Isokrates of Apollonia17
Third period of his School, 351—338 B C.
The speech On the Antidosis
(353) would have been a fitting farewell to a long and prosperous career. During the last thirteen years of his life (351—338) the foremost interest of Isokrates cannot have been in his work as a teacher. Philip of Macedon was coming to his full power; and in the Philippos
(346) Isokrates already hails the destined restorer of Greece. But to the end of his life Isokrates continued to teach. The Panathenaikos
was begun in 342. It was about half-finished when he was attacked by a disease against which—when he finished the discourse in 339—he had been fighting for three years18
. But he was still working hard every day. He speaks of himself, in another place19
, as revising it with some young pupils. He was then ninety-seven.
The importance of his school for Athens and for
Greece can best be judged from the series of men whom it helped to form. Hermippos of Smyrna wrote a book on the ‘Disciples of Isokrates’;20
and the monograph of a modern scholar has brought together forty-one of these21
. In the speech On the
it is part of the imaginary accuser's indictment that the pupils of Isokrates have been not only private persons but statesmen, generals, kings22
. Cicero describes the school of Isokrates as that in which the eloquence of all Greece was trained and perfected (Brut. 32
: Orator § 40.
). Its disciples were the foremost speakers or writers of their time—brilliant, as he says elsewhere, ‘either in battle or in pageant’.23
According to Dionysios, Isokrates was the most illustrious teacher of his day; he educated the best youths of his own city and of all Greece—distinguished, some as politicians, some as advocates, some as historians; and made his school the true image of Athens24
. Among the statesmen are Timotheos, the orator Leôdamas of Acharnae, Lykurgos and
Representative pupils of Isocrates.
Hypereides. Among the philosophers or rhetoricians are Isaeos, Isokrates of Apollonia, successor of his master in the school, and Speusippos, successor of his uncle Plato in the Academy. History is represented by Ephoros and Theopompos.
But it was not only or most directly through the statesmen, speakers and writers whom he
His influence as a political writer.
trained that Isokrates was related to the public interests of his day. His own political writings, read throughout Greece, gave him greater influence upon popular opinion than belonged to any other literary man of the time; and he used this influence principally to enforce one idea.
Isokrates and Greece
The fourth century B.C. is filled with the feverish struggle of the Greek States for two objects, one of which was no sooner partly gained than it seemed
Conflict of tendencies in the 4th century B.C.
to conflict with the other;—the unity of Greece, and the freedom of the individual Greek state. Athens is the centre of this struggle. The sentiment of Greek unity created by the Persian Wars revived after the exhausting struggle of the Peloponnesian War. For the next twenty years, however, it was kept down by the oppressive dominion of Sparta. In 378 it received a partial expression in the new Naval Confederacy of which Athens was the head, just as, in 478, it had been more completely expressed by the Confederacy of Delos. But the second hegemony, like the first, gradually passed into an empire irksome to the allies. At the end of twenty years it was broken up by the Social War. Unity was overthrown in favour of freedom. Two speeches of Isokrates mark the two crises. The Panegyrikos
(381) is a call to the unity partly realised just afterwards: the speech On the Peace
The Panegyrikos and the De Pace.
(355) foreshadows the victory soon to be gained by the rival principle of separate autonomy25
Under this struggle, as the cause of its feverishness and its futility, lay the mortal disease which
Gradual separation of Society from the State.
had already stricken Greek civilisation. From the close of the colonizing period that civilisation had been almost stationary; for it was not so highly
or so flexibly organized that it could go on developing itself greatly on a limited area or continue to advance otherwise than by self-diffusion26
. And now the arrest of development had given place to the beginning of dissolution. The process of this dissolution might be defined as the gradual divorce of Society from the State. In the normal Greek conception Society and the State were one. The man had no existence apart from the citizen; morality was inseparable from civic virtue27
. But meanwhile new intellectual and moral needs had come into being, to which the limited elasticity of the state-life could no longer respond; and on the other hand Greek democracy had passed the point up to which, organized as it was, it was capable of a healthy growth. The individual had begun to draw more and more away from the State. Instead of the citizen's duty being the standard of spiritual life, the needs of individual development became the measure of what could reasonably be expected from the citizen. The most striking proof of this is the decay—almost the disappearance—of a virtue which has its root in the idea of the State—readiness for personal self-sacrifice. Active love of one's own city—the central instinct of healthy
Greek life—begins to merge in contemplative citizenship of the world28
At Athens this cosmopolitanism at least assumed its noblest form. It was there that the distinction between Greek and barbarian had taken its finest edge; and it was there that the first movement was made towards effacing it. The old Greek communal feeling, now no longer in sympathy with the State, found its new seat in the schools of the philosophers, in a republic of the cultivated and the thoughtful. They formed a polity apart, of which the franchise was possible for all who could prove kinship with the Hellenic spirit. Isokrates was the prophet, as Epameinondas and Timotheos were the practical exponents, of this new and more comprehensive Hellenism which is not of the blood but of the soul. ‘Athens,’ he says, ‘has so distanced the rest of the world in power of thought and speech that her disciples have become the teachers of all other men. She has brought it to pass that the name of Greek should be thought no longer a matter of race but a matter of intelligence; and should be given to the participators in our culture rather than to the sharers of our common origin29
But it was not only in this ideal sense that the sympathies of Isokrates were panhellenic: he was animated by a practical patriotism for the whole of Greece, a patriotism which was vividly affected by the miseries of the time and which burned with
the hope of relieving them. The special evils springing
The three special evils of the time
from the general condition of Greece were mainly three. First;—after the Peloponnesian War the wealth of the community had ceased to grow, as population had ceased to grow about fifty years sooner. The rich went on accumulating; the poor, having no means of enriching themselves by enterprise, were for the most part occupied in watching for some chance of snatching from the rich a larger fraction of the stationary total. Secondly, the Greek desire of personal distinction was manifesting itself— since the breach between Society and the State—as the egotism of unprincipled ambition. Hence the traitors and reprobates who, as Demosthenes says, were positively admired30
. Thirdly, swarms of ‘men without cities,’ paupers, political exiles, malefactors, were for ever moving over the face of Greece, ready to take military service with any one who would pay them. In 401 Cyrus had found it difficult to raise ten thousand mercenaries from all Greece. In 338 ten thousand mercenaries formed a single contingent at Chaeroneia31
. In his Letter to Archidamos, Isokrates draws a fearful picture of the misery caused by these roving desperadoes, ‘who speak our language, but in character are barbarians. They slay, they banish, they plunder; children are outraged; women, whom none but kinsmen had ever seen even veiled, are stripped before all eyes32
Idea of invasion of Asia.
How were these evils to be cured? By inducing the Greeks to lay aside their quarrels with each other, and to unite in some common cause. And Isokrates conceived that there was but one cause which could so unite them—war against Persia.
He was not the first advocate of this idea. Gorgias had long ago proclaimed it in his speech at Olympia. Lysias had eloquently urged it at the same festival in 38833
. Isokrates set it forth with all the power and finish of consummate art, in his Panegyrikos;
a work which he had probably conceived during his visit to Gorgias in Thessaly. It is said to have occupied him ten years34
, and was published in 380 B.C., probably at the time of the Olympian festival in the autumn; though it is
Possible leaders of the invasion. Athens and Sparta.
unlikely that it was actually spoken. He calls upon Athens and Sparta to forego their jealousies, and to take the joint leadership of an expedition to Asia.
The appeal failed. Isokrates ceased to hope that either of the foremost States, as such, would lead forth the united Greeks to the East. But for thirtyfour years he persevered in the endeavour to find some man who would lead them.
Jason of Pherae was master of Thessaly from
374 to 370,—a man of great ability and great ambition35
; he had talked of a war with Persia, and
had gained popularity thereby. He was the pupil of Gorgias and the friend of Isokrates. If the latter did not directly appeal to him he must certainly for a time have hoped in him. Jason was assassinated in 370. It was then, probably, that Isokrates turned his eyes on Dionysios I., tyrant of Syracuse. The
fragment of the extant letter to Dionysios is only prefatory; it appears to have been written in 368 B.C. and encourages Dionysios with the prospect of Athenian support; elsewhere he takes credit for having spoken boldly36
. Dionysios died in 367. Archidamos
III., who succeeded his father Agesilaos as a king of Sparta in 361, next attracted the hopes of Isokrates. The letter to Archidamos belongs probably to 356 B.C. It urges him to undertake a task to which his father Agesilaos was devoted, and in which he failed only because he tried to do two things at once—to make war on the Great King and to restore his political friends to their cities37
. But meanwhile Philip of Macedon had become strong. After a fitful
war of ten years, peace was made between Philip and Athens in March, 346. The letter or pamphlet which bears his name was addressed to him by Isokrates about April in 346. Philip is summoned as a Greek and a descendant of Herakles to levy war against Asia. Either he will conquer Persia, or at least he will detach from it all that lies
westward of a line drawn from Cilicia to Sinôpê. In either case he will free the Asiatic Greeks and make new settlements for the Greeks who are now homeless. Seven years later—in 339—Isokrates remonstrates with Philip for recklessly exposing his life in frays with barbarians which only delay his real task38
. In the Third Letter—of which the genuineness, though not unquestioned, is hardly questionable —he rejoices, a few days before his death, that he has lived to see part of his hopes fulfilled by the battle of Chaeroneia.
In the conventional view this is enough. Isokrates is condemned. He has blindly abetted, to the last moment, the destined enslaver of Greece, even if he has not congratulated him on success. It may be worth while, however, to consider these two questions;—first—what was the abstract worth of this ruling idea of Isokrates—war with Persia? Secondly—how far is he to be held the dupe, or, if not the dupe, the unpardonable accomplice of Philip?
Isokrates believed that the first necessity of the
War with Persia as a cure for the ills of Greece.
day was to heal the strife of Greeks with Greeks by enlisting all Greeks in one cause. This was undoubtedly true. He believed that such a cause would be furnished by an aggressive war on Persia. Here he was probably mistaken. The state-life of the separate cities, and consequently their capacity for acting, as cities, with each other, was so thoroughly undermined that they could be united by nothing
but an evident and imminent danger. Now Persia did not represent such a danger. On the contrary, the Great King influenced Greek affairs, in so far as he did so, through Greece itself. Union might have been had for a war of defence. Union was not to be had for a war of aggression. Demosthenes saw the truth, when speaking in 354 of war with Persia, and of the proposal to anticipate the rumoured preparations of Artaxerxes Ochus by a bold initiative, he said—‘Do not talk of calling the Greeks together when they will not listen to you.
The special results which Isokrates expected obviously do not affect the merit of his scheme as a remedy in the first instance for disunion; and it is of secondary importance that here he was partly wrong. He expected three main results:—(1) the liberation from Persia of the Asiatic Greeks; (2) the drafting of the dangerous classes into new Asiatic settlements; (3) a certain influx of wealth into Greece Proper. Now when a Greek expedition against Persia really took place, the chief result corresponded to the second of the hopes of Isokrates— only it was on a much grander scale. The new settlements were made; but then all Hellenism moved eastward; Pergamus, Antioch, Alexandria became the Athens, Thebes, Sparta, of the future40
Relations of Isokrates with Philip.
But next—how far was Isokrates deceived by Philip? Or is he to be called false to Athens or Greece?
Isokrates had despaired of Athens and of Greece
unless some strong State or some strong man could unite the discordant cities, by the spell of a national enthusiasm, under a leadership which must be military. He pictured this man as another Agamemnon. There had been a time when his hope was that Greece should be saved by Athens. He could hope that no longer. The best type of the individual State had been found wanting. He turned from the ambition, though not from the patriotism, of an Athenian to the ambition of a Greek; he looked for the deliverance of Greece by all the Greeks, united under one who could command them.
The whole thought of that age was setting in
Tendency of the age towards Monarchy.
the same general direction. Nothing is more characteristic of it than the new tendency in favour of monarchy. In the dialogue, attributed to Xenophon, between Hieron of Syracuse and Simonides, the despot fails to convince the poet that the estate of the absolute ruler is not enviable or that he may not be a public benefactor41
. So far as a speculative thinker may be supposed likely to be influenced, in the way of attraction as well as of repulsion, by the actual political tone around him, Plato is a witness to this bent42
. Where Aristotle is describing that unique combination of gifts which belongs to the Greek race—warlike, like the continental Europeans, but of greater subtlety, keen, like the Asiatics, but with a higher
spirit—here, he says, is a race, which, if brought under one polity, might rule the world43
. It was under the presidency of Macedonia that Aristotle foresaw a possible renewal and a larger future for the outworn life of the Greek republics. He is said to have advised Alexander to treat the Greeks in the spirit of a leader (ἡγεμονικῶς
), and the barbarians in the spirit of a master (δεσποτικῶς
. The same kind of leadership which in old times had been exercised by Argos, by Athens, by Sparta, or by Thebes, was now to be vested in the person of a Macedonian King. There is nothing to show whether Aristotle had considered any probable difference between the old hegemony of a city and the new hegemony of a strong dynasty except the obvious difference that the latter was likely to be steadier. But in one sense, at all events, his dream of a boundless sway for the Greek race, when ‘brought under one polity,’ came to pass. It has been too much the custom to speak of Chaeroneia as if it were something by which Grecian history was brought to an abrupt end. A crushing blow to the spirit of political freedom in the old Greek sense Chaeroneia indeed was. But it was also the beginning of a new life to replace the life so hopelessly decayed—of that new empire for Greek thought and
Greek art which opened in Macedonian times, an empire which made Greece to Asia and Europe what Athens had been to Greece, and by which Aristotle's prophecy was at last fulfilled in the world-wide and immortal dominion of which he was himself a founder45
Isokrates held with Aristotle that the first
The view of Isokrates compared with that of Aristotle.
condition of greatness for Greece was unity. Seeing that the old civic life was thoroughly corrupted, he did not believe that this unity could be attained under the hegemony of a State. But he believed that it could be attained under the hegemony of a chief who should draw together the sympathies of all the States. The difference between the view of Aristotle and the view of Isokrates seems to have been this. Aristotle conceived such a personal hegemony as political and permanent, without perhaps having formed to himself a definite idea of the manner in which it would affect the individual city. Isokrates conceived it as primarily military, and as assumed for the special purpose of an expedition to Asia. Absorbed in this scheme, and believing in it as a cure for all evils, he does not seem to have contemplated the probable permanency of such a leadership. But if he had been told that such permanency was a condition of the enterprise, he would unquestionably have consented. Only he would have insisted, as Aristotle did, on the distinction between leader and master. Isokrates idealized his Agamemnon of Pella; he could not read
Philip's mind. Had he been able to read it, however, what would have grieved him would not have been the idea of an established Macedonian hegemony, but the discovery that Philip desired this more for its own sake than for the sake of the expedition to Asia. On the other hand, assuredly Greece and Athens had no more loyal citizen than Isokrates, no one prouder of their glories, no one to whom their welfare was dearer; and, before he is judged, let it be remembered that his notion of the largest good possible for them differed only by lesser clearness from that of the greatest thinker in practical politics who then lived46
Isokrates and Athens.
The first concern of Isokrates was with Greece. But two of his speeches relate specially to Athens; the De Pace
to her foreign policy, the Areopagitikos
to home affairs.
The root of all the troubles which beset Athenian
Foreign Affairs of Athens.
action abroad was this, that few citizens performed military service. Campaigns were longer than they used to be; war had become a profession in which amateurs were at a disadvantage; and the spirit of sacrifice for the State was extinct. A General, representing the city, commanded mercenaries. When things went wrong, the citizens at home avenged themselves directly on their representative. Hence the standing strife between the orators and the
Generals. On the other hand, the General could keep his mercenaries together only by payment. He was obliged to turn the war, now and then, to some lucrative quarter. Burdened with this necessity, he could neither obey definite orders from home nor form any large plan for himself. His situation forced him to become more and more independent of the other States. It was natural that he should often form connexions with foreign princes on his own account. Timotheos was in alliance with Jason of Pherae, with Alketas the Molossian and with Amyntas of Macedonia. He is said to have received the towns of Sestos and Krithôtê as a gift from Ariobarzanes. Iphikrates was the ally of Kotys, whose sister he married and from whom he received the town of Drys in Thrace. Charidemos was the ally and brother-in-law of Kersobleptes; Chares was in alliance with Artabazos and had his residence at Sigeion; Chabrias did almost as he pleased in Egypt47
. Home affairs were in no better condition.
Politics had ceased to have a living interest for the best men; such men held aloof; while in the ekklesia ‘one went and another came, and there was no one to care for the common good48
.’ There was an active and intelligent public opinion, but it had no organised or effective expression; there were cliques but there were no parties. While the higher aspects of the festivals were vanishing, the Theôrikon, or money given by the Treasury to the citizens to pay for their places at the theatre—
already doubled and trebled since the time of Perikles—had become the most important item of the budget. It must never be forgotten that the Theôric fund meant essentially a provision for public worship and only accidentally a provision for public amusement. When Eubulos took office as Treasurer in 354, he brought in a law making it capital to propose any diversion of the Theôrikon to other purposes. It was the sacred character of the fund which made it possible for him to do this and so hard for Demosthenes to get it undone49
. On the other hand, in a religion which identified worship with festivity the merely festal spirit was sure to prevail more and more over the devotional as the general tone of the community became lower. The policy of Eubulos found favour with the people mainly because it provided them with shows. This was the true significance of the phrase used by Demâdes when he called the Theôrikon the ‘cement of the democracy50
.’ Eubulos was further supported by that party of commercial interests which the Essay ‘On the Revenues of Athens’—ascribed, but no doubt wrongly, to Xenophon51
—represents with an
almost grotesque candour. The social life which
this political life implies hardly needs to be described. On the one hand there was an intellectual world apart; on the other, there was the people, consoled for what was unsatisfactory abroad and at home by a certain provincial joviality. Philip is said to have offered the sum of a talent for a report of the proceedings at the meetings of an Athenian club called the Sixty who dined together at the Herakleion52
Isokrates on Foreign and Domestic Policy.
Such was the Athens to which Isokrates had to address his counsels. The Speech On the Peace was written probably in 355, just before the conclusion of the treaty which closed the Social War and broke up the Naval Confederacy of 378. Athens is urged to resign the dream of supremacy, and to treat allies as friends, not slaves. In his fervour the orator personifies that Empire which, like a false mistress, has allured and betrayed the two foremost Republics of Greece. ‘Is she not worthy to be hated?’53
Let Athens turn from her and prize, next to the favour of the gods, the esteem of Greece. It is substantially the policy of Eubulos which is advocated; but it is advocated on higher grounds than those of the holiday-makers or the merchants. Isokrates held that hegemony passes into empire, and that empire begets an insolence which at last
ruins the imperial State. The experience of Athens and of Sparta bore him out: and, as he conceived the interests of Greece, there was nothing to be gained by Athens striving at all hazards to keep the League together. The Areopagitikos
(also 355 B.C.) supplements the De Pace
with his view of what
Isokrates on Home Policy.
is wanted in home politics and in private life. ‘We sit in the taverns abusing the state of affairs; we say that never under a democracy were we worse governed; yet in practice and in our policy we prefer this to the democracy handed down by our fathers.’54
His ideal is the elder democracy of Solon and Kleisthenes. Under it, citizens were not to be seen casting lots for their daily bread outside the law courts, while they paid mercenaries to fight their battles—nor choregi, splendid in golden robes, who were destined to shiver through the winter in rags55
. Let us return to the elder democracy of Solon and Kleisthenes, when equality meant honour where honour is due, and magistrates were not chosen by lot. Above all, let us restore to the Areiopagos its control over the education of the young and its general censorship of morals. When habits of industry are enforced, there will be no more pauperism; and when public men are forced to be respectable, the affairs of the city will go on well. Isokrates was certainly right in holding that a great need of the day was a sense of shame; though he was probably mistaken in thinking that the vices of a society such as that of the new Athens were within the reach of a censorship. To govern Athens
by the Areiopagos would indeed have been like governing Greece by the Amphictyonic Council56
Private Life of Isokrates.
The private life of Isokrates was too evenly prosperous to have a history. He is said to have taught his Athenian pupils gratis, and to have taken fees only from foreigners57
. However this may be, the wealth derived from his school appears to have excited the envy of his rivals; and he says that they exaggerated it58
. He was one of the 1200 richest citizens59
who, after the financial reform of 378 B.C., formed the twenty unions (or ‘symmories’) for the assessment of the war-tax; he had thrice been trierarch; and had besides discharged other public services in a liberal manner. On marrying Plathanê, the widow of Hippias of Elis, he adopted Aphareus, one of her three sons,—afterwards a rhetorician and a tragic poet of some mark. It was a somewhat rare distinction for an eminent Athenian to have had only one lawsuit60
; and in this—a challenge
to take the trierarchy, or exchange properties, offered to him in 345 by one Megakleides—Isokrates, who was ill at the time, was represented in court by Aphareus. The verdict seems to have gone against him61
In 338 B.C. Isokrates was in his 98th year; his health, which had been strong throughout his long life, had broken down under an illness which had attacked him three years before. According to the
Difficulties in the ordinary account of it.
usual account, he was in the palaestra of Hippokrates when he heard the news of Chaeroneia. He repeated three verses from Euripides—verses commemorating three aliens who had been conquerors of Greeks—Danaos,—Pelops,—Kadmos62
; and four days afterwards, on the burial-day of those who fell at Chaeroneia, he died of voluntary starvation. This dramatic picture of a violent disenchantment and a mortal despair—a picture consecrated by tradition and by poetry—is hard to reconcile with the repeated testimony of Isokrates himself to his own views and hopes. There is no good reason for doubting the genuineness of his Third Letter —a Letter which was evidently written just after Chaeroneia, and which ends with these words:— ‘For this only do I thank old age, that of those
early aspirations which I sought to express in my Panegyrikos
and in my Address to you, I see part already coming to pass by your agency, and the rest, I hope, soon to come’63
. That is to say, there was now an established leader for Greece; and there would soon be a war with Persia. Suppose, however, that the Third Letter is spurious. Still, how is the motive of the suicide to be explained? Undoubtedly Isokrates regretted the struggle between Athens and Philip; it had been brought on by a policy which he disapproved. But the result of the struggle was that the idea of his life—the idea on which depended, as he thought, the welfare of Athens and of Greece—had become practicable. Isokrates cannot have destroyed himself because Philip had won. The conduct of Philip to Athens after Chaeroneia was studiously temperate and conciliatory; there was nothing in it to estrange Isokrates from his ideal Panhellenic chief, who, having struck one necessary blow, was now bent on healing the discords of Greece. It is more conceivable that Isokrates should have destroyed himself because he saw Athens still resolved to resist, and because he dreaded the conflict, when Philip should be at the walls, between his duty to Athens and his duty to Greece. If the tradition of the suicide is considered too strong to be set aside, this seems the most reasonable account of it64
Isokrates was buried on a piece of rising ground near the Kynosarges,—a sanctuary of Herakles, with a gymnasium, just outside the Diomeian Gate on the east side of Athens65
. The tombs of his kindred were there,—covered once by six tablets of stone, which had disappeared, however, before the Plutarchic Life was written. On the tomb of Isokrates himself was a column about forty-five feet high, crowned with the image of a siren,— a symbol of winning eloquence in which only a thoroughly modern ingenuity could discover an unconscious irony. Near this column was a pictorial stone tablet representing Isokrates with his teachers and with some of the poets. It is significant that Gorgias, looking at an astrological sphere, was the
central figure, with his pupil standing at his side. A bronze statue of Isokrates, on a column near the Olympieion, bore a votive inscription by his adopted son; another, the work of Leôchares, in the temple of Eleusis, recorded the admiring friendship of Timotheos66
Character of Isokrates.
In his strength, as in much of his weakness, Isokrates may be compared with Cicero. He was a master of expression, with few ideas, but with much ingenuity in combining and varying these; a politician between whom and the power of seeing facts as they were, over any wide field, there usually floated the haze of some literary theory which vanity made golden; a man of warm, if somewhat exacting, benevolence, always ready to do his best for those who believed in him; industrious, earnest, with that simplicity which has been called an element of nobleness, and with the capacity for a generous enthusiasm which was never kindled to a brighter flame than by the glories of his city or his race. Cicero's powers, naturally more various, were more thoroughly brought out and far better disciplined by a life in which studious retirement alternated with public cares. Isokrates missed those lessons of the world which are proverbially useful to a successful teacher; but in an unbroken privacy he kept his ardour for work unchilled and the purity
of his ideal hopes unstained. His chief efforts were given to promoting what he believed to be the interests of Athens and of Greece; and it has been the misfortune of his fame that his conception of these interests set him in contrast with a loftier genius and a more heroic nature than his own. In his school he did a service peculiarly valuable to that age by raising the tone and widening the circle of the popular education, by bringing high aims and large sympathies into the preparation for active life, and by making good citizens of many who perhaps would not have aspired to become philosophers.