The Augustan Atticism.
IN the reign of Augustus, when Rome had become the intellectual no less than the political centre of the earth, a controversy was drawing to a close for which the legionaries cared less than their master, but which for at least fifty years had been of some practical interest for the Forum and the Senate, and which for nearly three centuries had divided the schools of Athens, of Pergamos, of Antioch, of Alexandria, of all places where men spoke and wrote a language which, though changed from the glory of its prime, was still the idiom of philosophy and of art. This controversy involved principles by which every artistic creation must be judged; but, as it then came forward, it referred to the standard of merit in prose literature, and, first of all, in oratory. Are the true models those Attic writers of the fifth and fourth centuries, from Thucydides to Demosthenes, whose most general characteristics are, the subordination of the form to the thought, and the avoidance of such faults as come from a misuse of ornament? Or have these been surpassed in brilliancy, in freshness of fancy, in effective force by those writers,
belonging sometimes to the schools or cities of Asia Minor, sometimes to Athens itself or to Sicily, but collectively called ‘Asiatics,’ who flourished between Demosthenes and Cicero? This was the question of Atticism against Asianism. For a long time Asianism had been predominant. But, in the last century of the Republic, the contest had centred at Rome, at Rome it was fought out, and the voice that decided the strife of the schools was the same that commanded the nations. If the Roman genius for art had little in common with the Greek, if it was ill-fitted to apprehend the Greek subtleties, it had preeminently that sound instinct in large art-questions which goes with directness of character, with the faculty of creating and maintaining order and with reverence for the majesty of law. A ruling race may not always produce the greatest artists or the finest critics. But in a broad issue between a pure and a false taste its collective opinion is almost sure to be found on the right side. Rome pronounced for Atticism.
Caecilius and Dionysios.
Among the Greeks then living in the Imperial City were two men, united by friendship, by community of labours and by zeal for the Atticist revival; symbols, by birth-place, of influences which in the past had converged upon the Athens of Perikles from Sicily and the Ionian East,—Caecilius of Calacte and Dionysios of Halikarnassos, now met in that new capital of civilised mankind to which the arts, too, of Athens were passing. Both were scholars of manifold industry, in history, in archæology, in literary criticism, in technical rhetoric,
and in a field which the catalogues of the libraries had left almost untouched—discrimination between the genuine and the spurious works of Attic writers. Both wrote upon the Attic orators, but with a difference of plan which is instructive.
The lost work of Caecilius was entitled
περὶ χαρακτῆρος τῶν δέκα ῥητόρων
Caecilius on the Attic Orators.
, On the Style of the Ten Orators.
These ten were Antiphon, Andokides, Lysias,
Isokrates, Isaeos, Lykurgos, Aeschines, Demosthenes, Deinarchos. Now, Caecilius, and his contemporary Didymos, the grammarian and critic of Alexandria, are the earliest writers who know this decade. Dionysios takes no notice whatever of the canon thus adopted by his friend. He seems never to have heard of the number ‘ten’ in connexion with the Attic orators. But from the first century A.D. onwards the decade is established. It is attested, for instance, by the Lives of the Ten Orators, wrongly ascribed to Plutarch, but probably composed about 80 A.D.; by Quintilian; by the neoplatonist Proklos, about 450 A.D.; and by Suidas, about 1100 A.D.— from whom it appears that, in his time, the grammarians had added a second list of ten to the first. The origin of the canon is unknown. It has been ascribed to Caecilius himself, mainly on the ground that it is not heard of before his time. It has been referred to Aristophanes the Byzantine, librarian at Alexandria about 200 B. C., or to his successor Aristarchos, about 156 B. C.,—by whom a canon of the poets, at least, was certainly framed. Another view is that it arose simply from the general tendency to reduce the number of distinguished names in any field to
a definite number,—the tendency that gives the Seven Sages of Greece, the Seven Champions of Christendom, and the like. This last theory may safely be rejected. The decade includes at least three names which this kind of halo can never have surrounded—Andokides, Isaeos and Deinarchos. It excludes other orators who, though inferior as artists, would have had a stronger popular claim, such as Kallistratos of Aphidnae, the chief organiser of the Athenian Confederacy in 378, of whom Demosthenes said, when asked whether he or Kallistratos were the better speaker, ‘I, on paper—Kallistratos on the platform’,—his opponents, Leodamas of Acharnae, Aristophon of Azenia, Thrasybulos and Kephalos of Kollytos,—or that vigorous member of the anti-Macedonian party, Polyeuktos of Sphettos. Clearly, this canon was framed once for all by a critic or a school from whose decree contemporary opinion allowed no appeal, was adopted by successive generations, and ultimately secured the preservation of the writings which it contained, while others, not so privileged, were neglected, and at last suffered to perish. The decade was probably drawn up by Alexandrian grammarians in the course of the last two centuries before our era: but there is no warrant for connecting it with any particular name1
Dionysios on the Attic Orators.
Dionysios, as has been said, altogether ignores the decade. If we supposed that Caecilius was its
author, and that, when Dionysios wrote, Caecilius had not yet made his selection, the fact would be explained. But the double supposition involves the strongest improbability. Even if Caecilius had been the framer of the decade, it can hardly be doubted that at least the idea must have been known through him to his intimate friend Dionysios before the latter had completed the series of works which we possess, and that we should find some trace of it in those long lists of orators which Dionysios frequently gives. The truth probably is that Dionysios was perfectly aware of this arbitrary canon, but disregarded it, because it was not a help, but a hindrance, to the purpose with which he studied the Attic orators.
Nothing is more characteristic of Dionysios as a critic than his resolution not to accept tradition as such, but to bring it to the test of reason. This comes out strikingly, for instance, in his distrust of merely prescriptive or titular authenticity when he is going through the list of an ancient writer's works. Now, his object in handling the Attic orators was
His object in handling them.
not to complete a set of biographies or essays, but to establish a standard for Greek prose, applicable alike to oratory and to every other branch of composition. He considers the orators, accordingly, less as individual writers than as representatives of tendencies. He seeks to determine their mutual relations, and, with the aid of the results thus obtained, to trace a historical development. The orators whom he chose as, in this sense, representative were six in number —Lysias, Isokrates, Isaeos, Demosthenes, Hypereides, Aeschines. We have his treatises on Lysias, Isokrates,
and Isaeos. We have also the first part of his treatise on Demosthenes—that part in which he discusses expression as managed by Demosthenes; the second part, in which he discussed the Demosthenic handling of subject-matter, has perished with his discourses on Hypereides and Aeschines. The treatise on Deinarchos, it need hardly be said, is bibliographical, and has nothing to do with the other series.
Dionysios considers his six orators as forming two classes. Between these classes the line is clearly drawn. Lysias, Isokrates, Isaeos are εὑρεταί
, inventors,—differing indeed, in degree of originality, but alike in this, that each struck out a new line, each has a distinctive character of which the conception was his own. Demosthenes, Hypereides, Aeschines, are τελειωταί
, perfecters,—men who, having regard to the historical growth of Attic prose, cannot be said to have revealed secrets of its capability, but who, using all that their predecessors had provided, wrought up the several elements in a richer synthesis or with a subtler finish2
Plan of this book.
The task which I have set before me is to consider the lives, the styles and the writings of Antiphon, Andokides, Lysias, Isokrates and Isaeos, with a view to showing how Greek oratory was developed, and thereby how Greek prose was moulded, from the outset of its existence as an art down to the point at which the organic forces of Attic speech were matured, its leading tendencies determined, and its destinies committed, no longer to discoverers, but to those who should crown its perfection or
initiate its decay. The men and the writings that mark this progress will need to be studied systematically and closely. It is hoped that much which is of historical, literary or social interest will be found by the way. But the great reward of the labour will be to get, if it may be, a more complete and accurate notion of the way in which Greek prose grew. It will not be enough, then, if we break off when the study of Isaeos has been finished. It will be necessary to look at the general characteristics of the mature political oratory built on those foundations at which Isaeos was the latest worker. It will be necessary to conceive distinctly how Isaeos and those before him were related to Lykurgos, Hypereides, Aeschines, Demosthenes. Nor must we stop here. The tendencies set in movement during the fifth and fourth centuries B. C. were not spent before they had passed into that life of the Empire which sent them on into the modern world. The inquiry which starts from the Athens of Perikles has no proper goal but in the Rome of Augustus.
The English word ‘orator’ compared with Latin and with Greek ῥήτωρ
At the outset, it is well to clear away a verbal hindrance to the comprehension of this subject in its right bearings. The English term ‘orator,’ when it is not used ironically, is reserved for one who, in relation to speaking, has genius of an order analogous to that which entitles a man to be seriously called a poet. The term ‘oratory,’ though the exigencies of the language lead to its often being used as a mere synonym for ‘set speaking,’ is yet always inconveniently coloured with the same suggestion either of
irony or of superlative praise. The Roman term orator, ‘pleader,’ had this advantage over ours, that it related, not to a faculty, but to a professional or official attitude. It could therefore be applied to any one who stood in that attitude, whether effectively or otherwise. Thus the Romans could legitimately say ‘mediocris’ or ‘malus orator,’ whereas, in English, the corresponding phrases are either incorrect or sarcastic. Even the Romans, however, seem to have felt that their word was unsatisfactory, and to have confessed this sense by using ‘dicere,’ ‘ars dicendi,’ as much as possible. But the Greeks had a word which presented the man of eloquence, not, like the English word, as a man of genius, nor like the Roman word, as an official person, but simply as a speaker, ῥήτωρ
. This designation was claimed by those Sicilian masters who taught men how to speak: at Athens it was given especially to the habitual speakers in the public assembly: in later times it was applied to students or theorists of Rhetoric. What, then, is the fact signified by this double phenomenon—that the Greeks had the word rhetor,
Significance of the term ‘rhetor’.
and that they did not apply it to everybody? It is this: that, in the Greek view, a man who speaks may, without necessarily having first-rate natural gifts for eloquence, or being invested with office, yet deserve to be distinguished from his fellows by the name of a speaker. It attests the conception that speaking is potentially an art,
and that one who speaks may, in speaking, be an artist.
This is the fundamental conception on which rests, first, the relation between ancient oratory and
ancient prose; secondly, the relation between ancient and modern oratory.
Relations between ancient Oratory and ancient Prose
The relation between ancient oratory and ancient prose, philosophical, historical or literary, is necessarily of the closest kind. Here our unfortunate word ‘oratory,’ with its arbitrary and perplexing associations, is a standing impediment to clearness of view. The proposition will be more evident if it is stated thus:—In Greek and Roman antiquity, that prose which was written with a view to being spoken
stood in the closest relation with that prose which was written with a view to being read.
Hence the historical study of ancient oratory has an interest wider and deeper than that which belongs to the study of modern oratory. It is that study by which the practical politics of antiquity are brought into immediate connexion with ancient literature.
The affinities between ancient and modern oratory
Relation between Ancient and Modern Oratory.
have been more often assumed than examined. To discuss and illustrate them with any approach to completeness would be matter for a separate work. We must try, however, to apprehend the chief points. These shall be stated as concisely as possible, with such illustrations only as are indispensable for clearness.
Ancient Oratory a fine art.
Ancient oratory is a fine art, an art regarded by its cultivators, and by the public, as analogous to sculpture, to poetry, to painting, to music and to acting. This character is common to Greek and Roman oratory; but it originated with the Greeks, and was only acquired by the Romans. The evidence for this character may be
considered as internal and external3
. The internal
evidence is that which is afforded by the ancient orations themselves. First, we find in these, considered universally, a fastidious nicety of diction, of composition and of arrangement, which shows that the attention bestowed on their form, as distinguished from their matter, was both disciplined
and minute. Secondly, we find the orator occasionally repeating shorter or longer passages—not always striking passages—from some other speech of his own, with or without verbal amendments; or we find him borrowing such passages from another orator. Thus Isokrates, in his Panegyrikos,
borrowed from the Olympiakos
of Lysias, and from the so-called Lysian Epitaphios. Demosthenes, in the speech against Meidias, borrowed from speeches of Lysias, of Isaeos and of Lykurgos, in like cases of outrage. In many places Demosthenes borrowed from himself. This was done on the principle that τὸ καλῶς εἰπεῖν ἅπαξ περιγίγνεται, δὶς δὲ οὐκ ἐνδέχεται
: A thing can be well said once, but cannot be well said twice4
. That is, if a thought, however trivial, has once been perfectly expressed, it has, by that expression, become a morsel of the world's wealth of beauty. The doctrine might sometimes justify an artist in repeating himself;
as an excuse for appropriation, it omits to distinguish the nature of the individual's property in a sunset and in a gem; but, among Greeks, at least, it was probably not so much indolence
as solicitude for the highest beauty, even in the least details, that prompted such occasional plagiarisms.
Thirdly, we find that the orators, in addressing
Speakers criticise each other's style.
juries or assemblies, criticise each other's style. Aeschines, in a trial on which all his fortunes depended, quotes certain harsh or unpleasant figures of speech which, as he alleges, Demosthenes had used. ‘How,’ he cries to the jurors, ‘how, men of iron, can you have supported them?’ And then, turning in triumph to his rival, ‘What are these, knave? ῥήματα ἢ θαύματα
; metaphors or monsters?’ (Aesch. In Ctes. §§ 166 f.
) When a poet, a painter or a musician thus scrutinises a brother artist's work, the modern world is not surprised. But a modern advocate or statesman would not expect to make a favourable impression by exposing in detail the stylistic shortcomings of an opponent.
The external evidence is supplied by what we
know of the orators, of their hearers and of their critics. Already, before the art of Rhetoric had
become an elaborate system, the orators were accustomed to prepare themselves for their task by laborious training, first in composition, then in delivery. They make no secret of this. They are not ashamed of it. On the contrary, they avow it and insist upon it. Demosthenes would never speak extemporarily when he could help it; he was unwilling to put his faculty at the mercy of fortune5
. ‘Great is the labour of oratory,’ says Cicero,
2 Appreciation shown by hearers.
‘as is its field, its dignity and its reward.’ Nor were the audiences less exacting than the speakers were painstaking. The hearers were attentive, not merely to the general drift or to the total effect, but to the particular elegance. Isokrates speaks of ‘the antitheses, the symmetrical clauses and other figures which lend brilliancy to oratorical displays, compelling the listeners to give clamorous applause’ Isokr. Panath. (Or. XII.) § 2.
). Sentences, not especially striking or important in relation to the ideas which they convey, are praised by the ancient critics for their artistic excellence6
3. Pamphlets in the oratorical form.
Further, when an orator, or a master of oratorical prose, wished to publish what we should now call a pamphlet, the form which he chose for it, as most likely to be effective, was that, not of an essay, but of a speech purporting to be delivered in certain circumstances which he imagined. Such are the Archidamos,
and the Symmachikos
of Isokrates in the Deliberative form, and his speech On the Antidosis
in the Forensic. Such again is the
famous Second Philippic of Cicero. Then we know
4 Collections of commonplaces.
that orators compiled, for their own use, collections of exordia or of commonplaces, to be used as occasion might serve. Such was that volumen prooemiorum
of Cicero's which betrayed him into a mistake which he has chronicled. He had sent Atticus his treatise ‘De Gloria’ with the wrong exordium prefixed to it—one, namely, which he had already prefixed to the Third Book of the Academics. On discovering his mistake, he sends Atticus a new exordium, begging him to ‘cut out the other, and substitute this7
.’ Lastly, the ancient critics habitually compare the
5. Ancient critics compare Oratory with Sculpture or Painting.
pains needful to produce a good speech with the pains needful to produce a good statue or picture. When Plato wishes to describe the finished smoothness of Lysias, he borrows his image from the sculptor, and says ἀποτετόρνευται
. Theon says:—‘Even as for him who would be a painter, it is unavailing to observe the works of Apelles and Protogenes and Antiphilos, unless he tries to paint with his own hand, so for him who would become a speaker there is no help in the speeches of the ancients, or in the copiousness of their thoughts, or in the purity of their diction, or in their harmonious composition, no, nor in lectures upon elegance, unless he disciplines himself by writing
from day to day8
.’ Lucilius, from
whom Cicero borrows the simile, compares the phrases, lexeis,
each fitted with nicety to its setting in a finished sentence, with the pieces, tesserulae,
laid in a mosaic9
. But among the passages, and they are innumerable, which express this view there is one in Dionysios that can never be too attentively
considered by those who wish to understand the real nature of ancient, and especially of Attic, oratory. He is explaining and defending—partly with a polemical purpose at which we shall have to glance by and by—that minute and incessant diligence which Demosthenes devoted to the perfecting of his orations. It is not strange, says the critic, ‘if a man who has won more glory for eloquence than any of those that were renowned before him, who is shaping works for all the future, who is offering himself to the scrutiny of all-testing Envy and Time, adopts no thought, no word, at random, but takes much care of both things, the arrangement of his ideas and the graciousness of his language: seeing, too, that the men of that day produced discourses which resembled no common scribblings, but rather were like to carved and chiselled forms,— I mean Isokrates and Plato, the Sophists. For Isokrates spent on the Panegyrikos,
to take the lowest traditional estimate, ten years; and Plato ceased not to smooth the locks, and adjust the
tresses, or vary the braids, of his comely creations, even till he was eighty years old10
. All lovers of literature are familiar, I suppose, with the stories of Plato's industry, especially the story about the tablet which, they say, was found after his death, with the first words of the Republic
—κατέβην χθὲς εἰς Πειραιᾶ μετὰ Γλαύκωνος τοῦ Ἀρίστωνος
—arranged in several different orders. What wonder, then, if Demosthenes also took pains to achieve euphony and harmony, and to avoid employing a single word, or a single thought, which he had not weighed? It seems to me far more natural that a man engaged in composing political discourses, imperishable memorials of his power, should neglect not even the smallest detail, than that the generation of painters and sculptors, who are darkly showing forth their manual tact and toil in a corruptible material, should exhaust the refinements of their art on the veins, on the feathers, on the down of the lip and the like niceties11
.’ Repeating this passage, slightly altered, in the essay on Demosthenes, Dionysios adds that we might indeed marvel if, while sculptors and painters are thus conscientious, ‘the artist in civil eloquence (πολιτικὸς δημιουργός
) neglected the smallest aids to speaking well—if indeed these be the smallest12
This conception is originally Greek.
It has already been observed that this feeling about speaking is originally Greek; and it is worth
while to consider how it arose. That artistic sense
Its basis— the idealisation of man.
which distinguished the Greeks above all races that the world has known was concentrated, in the happy pause of development to which we owe their supreme works, on the idealisation of man. Now, λόγος
, speech, was recognised by the Greeks as the distinctive attribute of man13
. It was necessary, therefore, that, at this stage, they should require in speech a clear-cut and typical beauty analogous to that of the idealised human form. This was the central and primary motive, relatively to which all others were subsidiary or accidental.
But, of these secondary motives, two at least
(1) the oral tradition of poetry:
demand a passing notice. First, the oral tradition of poetry and the habit of listening to poetical recitation furnished an analogy which was present to people's minds when they saw a man get up to make a set speech; they expected his words to have something like the coherence, something like the plastic outline, something even like the music of the verses which they were wont to hear flow from the lips of
(2) The civil importance of speech
his counterpart, the rhapsode. Secondly, in the Greek cities, and especially at Athens, public speaking had, by 450 B. C., become so enormously important, opened so much to ambition, constituted a safeguard so essential for security of property and person, that not only was there the most various
inducement to cultivate it, but it was positively dangerous to neglect it. Further, since in a law-court
it was unavailing for the citizen that he could speak well unless the judges thought that he spoke better than his opponent, the art of persuasion was studied with a competitive zeal which wrought together with the whole bent of the Greek genius in securing attention to detail.
Characteristics of Modern Oratory
It will now be useful to look at some of the broad characteristics of modern oratory and of the modern feeling towards it; but only in so far as these will help our present purpose—namely, to elucidate the nature of ancient oratory. The first thing that strikes one is how completely modern life has redressed the complaint made by the earliest philosophical theorist of rhetoric. Aristotle opens his treatise with the
Aristotle on the three instruments of Rhetorical Proof:
observation that, whereas there are three instruments of rhetorical persuasion—the ethical, the pathetic and the logical—his predecessors have paid by far the most attention to the second, and have almost totally neglected the third, though this third is incomparably the most important,—indeed, the only one of the three which is truly scientific. The logical proof is the very body, σῶμα
, of rhetorical persuasion,—everything else, appeal to feeling, attractive portrayal of character, and so forth, is, from the scientific point of view, only προσθήκη
, appendage. This is essentially
His estimate is that of the Modern World.
the modern, especially the modern Teutonic, theory of oratory, and the modern practice is in harmony with it. The broadest characteristic of modern oratory,
as compared with ancient, is the predominance of a sustained appeal to the understanding. Hume,
with general truth, declares the attributes of Greek oratory to be ‘rapid harmony, exactly adjusted to the sense’, ‘vehement reasoning, without any appearance of art’, ‘disdain, anger, boldness, freedom, involved in a continual stream of argument14
’—a description, it must be observed, which should at all events be limited to the deliberative and forensic orators contemporary with Demosthenes. Brougham, however, states the case both more accurately and in terms of wider application, when he observes that in ancient oratory there are scarcely any long chains of elaborate reasoning; what was wanted to move, to rouse, and to please the hearers, was rather a copious stream of plain, intelligible observations upon their interests, appeals to their feelings, reminiscences from the history, especially the recent history, of their city, expositions of the evils to be apprehended from inaction or from impolicy, vindications of the orator's own conduct, demonstrations of the folly which disobeys, or of the malice which assails him15
. Aristotle himself, it may be observed, the very champion of the enthymeme, is the strongest witness to the truth of this. He impresses upon the student of Rhetoric that a speaker must ever remember that he is addressing the vulgar; he must not expect them to be capable of a far-reaching ratiocination, he must not string syllogism to syllogism, he must administer his logic temperately and discreetly16
. Now, in contrast with this, long and elaborate chains of reasoning,
or expositions of complicated facts, have been the very essence of the great efforts and triumphs of modern oratory; the imagery and the pathos heighten the effect, but would go only a very little way if the understandings of the hearers had not, in the first place, been convinced. We are here again reminded of the basis on which ancient oratory rested. The
The modern speaker has no distinct acceptance as an artist.
modern speaker comes before his audience with no a priori
claim to be regarded as an artist whose display of his art may be commendable and interesting in itself. Cicero's speech for Archias, which is
The ancients less strict about logical relevance.
exquisitely composed, but of which not more than one-sixth is to the purpose, or his speech for Publius Sextus, in which the relevant part bears a yet smaller proportion to the whole, could not have been delivered in a British court of justice17
. There is usually, however, an important difference, which will be noticed by and by, between the nature of Greek and that of Roman irrelevance. On the other hand, the modern exaction of consecutive and intelligible reasoning becomes, of course, less severe the more nearly the discourse approaches to the nature of a display. Still, this logical vigilance, with a comparative indifference to form, is, on the whole, the first great characteristic of modern oratory, and has, of course, become more pronounced since the system of reporting for the Press has been perfected, as it is
Influence of neutral reporting.
now, in many cases, far more important for the speaker to convince readers than to fascinate hearers. The characteristic which comes next in degree of significance for our present object is the habitual
Modern feeling that a great speech must be extemporary
presumption that the speech is extemporary. Even where there has been the most laborious preparation, even where the fact of such preparation is notorious, it is generally felt to be essential to impressiveness that the fact of verbal
premeditation should be kept out of sight, and on the part of the hearers it is considered more courteous to ignore it. A certain ridicule attaches to a speech which, not having been delivered, is published,—the sense of something ludicrous arising partly from the feeling, ‘What an absurd disappointment’, but also from the feeling, ‘Here are the bursts which would have
Sources of this feeling: 1 The failures of Premeditation.
electrified the audience’. One thing which has helped to establish this feeling is the frequent failure of those who have attempted verbal premeditation; a failure probably due less often to defective memory or nerve than to neglect of a department in which the ancient orators were most diligent, and in which, moreover, they were greatly assisted by the plastic forms among which they lived, by the share of musical training which they ordinarily possessed, and by the draping of the himation or the toga—delivery, in respect both of voice and of action. When a premeditated speech is rendered lifeless or ludicrous by the manner in which it is pronounced, the modern mind at once recurs to its prejudice against Rhetoric—that is, against the Rhetoric of the later schools—and a contempt is generated for those who deign to labour beforehand on words that should come straight from the heart. There
2 The Hebraic basis of Christian education.
is, however, a much deeper cause than this for the populai modern notion that the greatest oratory
must be extemporary, and it is one which, for the modern world, is analogous to the origin of the Greek requirement that speech should be artistic. This cause is the Hebraic basis of education in modern Christendom, especially in those countries which have been most influenced by the Reformation. It becomes a prepossession that the true adviser, the true warner, in all the gravest situations, on all the most momentous subjects, is one to whom it will in that hour be given what he shall speak, and whose inspiration, when it is loftiest, must be communicated to him at the moment by a Power external to himself. The ancient world compared the orator with the poet. The modern world compares the orator with the prophet.
Modern approximations to the theory of Ancient Oratory.
It is true, indeed, that the ancient theory has often been partially applied in modern times, sometimes with great industry and with much success; but modern conditions place necessary limits to the application, and the great difference is this:—The ancients required the speech to be an artistic whole; the modern orator who composes, or verbally premeditates, trusts chiefly, as a rule, to particular passages and is less solicitous for a total symmetry. Debate, in our sense, is a modern institution; its
unforeseen exigencies claim a large margin in the most careful premeditation; and hence, in the principal field of oratory, an insurmountable barrier is at once placed to any real assimilation between the ancient and the modern modes. Just so much the more, if only for contrast, is it interesting to contemplate those modern orators who have approximated
to the classical theory in such measure as their genius and their opportunities allowed. In an inquiry of the present scope, it might be presumptuous to select living illustrations of the Pulpit, the Senate, or the Bar. It would not, indeed, be needful to go far back; but it may be better, for our purpose, to seek examples where the natural partialities of a recent memory no longer refract the steady rays of
Finished Rhetorical Prose:
fame. In respect of finished rhetorical prose, which is not, either in the ancient or in the modern sense, great oratory, but which bears to it the same kind of relation that the Panegyrikos of Isokrates bears to the speech On the Crown, no one, perhaps, has
Canning's Plymouth speech.
excelled Canning. The well-known passage of his speech at Plymouth in 1823 will serve as an illustration:—
‘The resources created by peace are means of war. In cherishing those resources, we but accumulate those means. Our present repose is no more a proof of inability to act, than the state of inertness and inactivity in which I see those mighty masses that float in the waters above your town is a proof that they are devoid of strength and incapable of being fitted out for action. You well know, gentlemen, how soon one of those stupendous masses now reposing on their shadows in perfect stillness—how soon, upon any call of patriotism or of necessity, it would assume the likeness of an animated thing, instinct with life and motion—how soon would it ruffle, as it were, its swelling plumage—how quickly it would put forth all its beauty and its bravery, collect its scattered elements of strength, and awaken its dormant thunder. Such as is one of those magnificent machines when springing from inaction into a display of its might—such is England herself, while, apparently passive and motionless, she silently concentrates the power to be put forth on an adequate occasion.’
The ancient parallel for this is such a passage
as that in the Panegyrikos, describing the irresistible and awe-inspiring might in which the Panhellenic invasion will move through Asia — “θεωρίᾳ μᾶλλον ἢ στρατείᾳ προσεοικώς
” (Isokr. Or. IV. § 182)
. But a nearer
Union of rhythmical finish with passion:
resemblance to the classical union of rhythmical finish with living passion is afforded, in deliberative oratory, by Grattan, in forensic, by Erskine. Take the peroration of Grattan's speech in the Irish
Parliament on the Declaration of Irish Rights18
‘Do not suffer the arrogance of England to imagine a surviving hope in the fears of Ireland; do not send the people to their own resolves for liberty, passing by the tribunals of justice and the high court of Parliament; neither imagine that, by any formation of apology, you can palliate such a commission to your hearts, still less to your children, who will sting you with their curses in your graves, for having interposed between them and their Maker, robbing them of an immense occasion, and losing an opportunity which you did not create and never can restore.
‘Hereafter, when these things shall be history, your age of thraldom and poverty, your sudden resurrection, commercial redress, and miraculous armament, shall the historian stop at liberty, and observe—that here the principal men among us fell into mimic trances of gratitude; that they were awed by a weak ministry, and bribed by an empty treasury; and, when liberty was within their grasp, and the temple opened her folding doors, and the arms of the people clanged, and the zeal of the nation urged and encouraged them on,—that they fell down and were prostituted at the threshold.
‘I might, as a constituent, come to your bar and demand my liberty,—I do call upon you, by the laws of the land and their violation, by the instruction of eighteen counties,
by the arms, inspiration, and providence of the present moment, tell us the rule by which we shall go—assert the law of Ireland—declare the liberty of the land.
‘I will not be answered by a public lie in the shape of an amendment; neither, speaking for the subject's freedom, am I to hear of faction. I wish for nothing but to breathe, in this our island, in common with my fellow-subjects, the air of liberty. I have no ambition, unless it be the ambition to break your chain and contemplate your glory. I never will be satisfied so long as the meanest cottager in Ireland has a link of the British chain clanking to his rags; he may be naked, he shall not be in iron; and I do see the time is at hand, the spirit is gone forth, the declaration is planted; and though great men should apostatize, yet the cause will live; and though the public speaker should die, yet the immortal fire shall outlast the organ which conveyed it, and the breath of liberty, like the word of the holy man, will not die with the prophet, but survive him.’
Erskine's defence of Stockdale, the publisher of a pamphlet in defence of Warren Hastings, containing certain reflections on the Managers which the House of Commons pronounced libellous, contains a passage of which the ingenuity, no less than the finished art, recalls the best efforts of ancient forensic oratory; though this ingenuity cannot be fully appreciated without the context. At first, Erskine studiously keeps his defence of Stockdale separate from his defence of Hastings; then he gradually suggests that Hastings is entitled to indulgence on account (1) of his instructions, (2) of his situation, (3) of English and European policy abroad, (4) of the depravity to which, universally, men are liable who have vast power over a subject race,—and the last topic is illustrated thus:—
‘Gentlemen, I think that I can observe that you are touched by this way of considering the subject; and I can account for it. I have not been considering it through the cold medium of books, but have been speaking of man and his nature, and of human dominion, from what I have seen of them myself among reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I know what they feel, and how such feelings can alone be repressed. I have heard them in my youth from a naked savage, in the indignant character of a prince surrounded by his subjects, addressing the governor of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hand as the notes of his unlettered eloquence; ‘Who is it,’ said the jealous ruler over the desert encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure—‘who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains and to empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and that calms them again in summer? Who is it that rears up the shade of those lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave ours to us; and by this title we will defend it!’ said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk on the ground, and raising the war-sound of his nation. These are the feelings of subjugated men all round the globe; and, depend upon it, nothing but fear will control where it is vain to look for affection19
But no speaker, probably, of modern times has
come nearer to the classical type than Burke; and this because his reasonings, his passion, his imagery, are sustained by a consummate and unfailing beauty of language. The passage in which he describes the descent of Hyder Ali upon the Carnatic is supposed to owe the suggestion of its great image, not to
Demosthenes, but to Livy's picture of Fabius hovering over Hannibal; the whole passage is infinitely more Roman, more Verrine, if the phrase may be permitted, than Greek; but it is anything rather than diffuse:—
‘Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, who buried their mutual animosities in their common detestation against the creditors of the Nabob of Arcot, he drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction; and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivity of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on this menacing meteor, which darkened all their horizon, it suddenly burst, and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants, flying from their flaming villages, in part were slaughtered; others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities. But escaping from fire, sword and exile they fell into the jaws of famine. For months together these creatures of sufferance, whose very excess and luxury in their most plenteous days had fallen short of the allowance of our austerest fasts, silent, patient, resigned, without sedition or disturbance, almost without complaint, perished by a hundred a day in the streets of Madras or on the glacis of Tangore, and expired of famine in the granary of India.’
contrasts this passage with that in
Brougham on Burke compared with Demosthenes.
which Demosthenes says that a danger ‘went by like a cloud’, with that where he says, ‘If the Thebans had not joined us, all this trouble would have rushed like a mountain-torrent on the city’, and with that where he asks, ‘If the thunder-bolt which has fallen has overpowered, not us alone, but all the Greeks, what is to be done21
?’ Brougham contends that Burke has marred the sublimity of the ‘black cloud’ and ‘the whirlwind of cavalry’ by developing and amplifying both. This, surely, is to confound the plastic with the picturesque—a point which will presently claim our attention. Demosthenes is a sculptor, Burke a painter.
It might, however, have been anticipated that
Modern Eloquence of the Pulpit.
modern oratory would have most resembled the ancient in that branch where the conditions are most nearly similar. If Isokrates could have foreseen the splendid, the unique opportunities which in later ages would be enjoyed by the Christian preacher, what expectations would he not have formed, not merely of the heights that would be attained—past and living instances remind us that, in this respect, no estimate could well have been too sanguine—but of the average abundance in which compositions of merit would be produced! It will, of course, be recollected that no quality is here in question except that of an eloquence which, regarded as literary prose, has the finish which deserves to be called artistic. If the test, thus defined, be applied, it
will be found to afford a striking confirmation of what has already been observed in regard to the effect upon oratory of that especially Protestant conception according to which the orator's function is prophetic. In the combination of argumentative power with lofty earnestness and with eloquence of the Hebraic type22
, none have surpassed, or perhaps equalled, those divines whose discourses are among the chief glories of the English language. In respect, however, of complete artistic form, of classical finish, a nearer resemblance to the antique has been presented by the great preachers of Catholic France23
Modern Oratory— its greatest triumphs won by sudden bursts.
The most memorable triumphs of modern oratory are connected with the tradition of thrills, of electrical shocks, given to the hearers at the moment by bursts which were extemporary, not necessarily as regards the thought, but necessarily as regards the form. It was for such bursts that the eloquence of the elder Pitt was famous; that of Mirabeau, and of Patrick Henry, owed its highest renown to the same cause. Sheil's retort, in the debate on the Irish Municipal Bill in 1837, to Lord Lyndhurst's description of the Irish (in a phrase borrowed from O'Connell), as ‘aliens in blood, language and religion’, was of this kind24
. Erskine, in his defence of Lord George
Gordon, produced an astonishing effect by a protestation,—which would have been violent if it had not been solemn,—of personal belief in his client's innocence; a daring transgression of the advocate's province which was paralleled, with some momentary success, in a celebrated criminal case about twenty years ago. Now these sudden bursts, and the shock or the transport which they may cause, were forbidden to ancient oratory by the principal law of its being. In nothing is the contrast more striking than in this— that the greatest oratorical reputations of the ancient world were chiefly made, and those of the modern world have sometimes been endangered, by prepared works of art. Perikles and Hypereides were renowned for no efforts of their eloquence more than for their funeral orations. Fox's carefully composed speech in honour of the Duke of Bedford, Chatham's elaborate eulogy of Wolfe, were accounted among the least happy of their respective performances. There is, however, at least one instrument of
sudden effect which Greek oratory and British Parliamentary oratory once had in common, but which the latter has now almost abandoned—poetical quotation. A quotation may, of course, be highly effective even for those to whom it is new. But the genuine oratorical force of quotation depends on the hearers knowing the context, having previous associations with the passage, and thus feeling the whole felicity of the application as, at the instant, it is flashed upon the mind. In this respect, the opportunities of the Greek orator were perfect. His hearers were universally and thoroughly familiar with the great
poets. When Aeschines applies the lines from Hesiod to Demosthenes, it is as if Digby, addressing Puritans, had attempted to sum up Strafford in a verse of Isaiah. In the days when all educated Englishmen knew a good deal of Virgil and Horace, and something of the best English poets, quotation was not merely a keen, but, in skilful hands, a really powerful weapon of parliamentary debate; and its almost total disuse, however unavoidable, is perhaps a more serious deduction than is generally perceived from the rather slender resources of modern English oratory for creating a glow. Pitt's speech on the Slave Trade concluded with the expression of this hope—that ‘Africa, though last of all the quarters of the globe, shall enjoy at length, in the evening of her days, those blessings which have descended so plentifully upon us in a much earlier period of the world’: the first beams of the rising sun were just entering the windows of the House, and he looked upward as he said—
“Nos......primus equis Oriens affiavit anhelis;
Illic sera rubens accendit lumina Vesper.
Special characteristics of Greek oratory
Hitherto we have been seeking to bring into relief, against the modern conception, that character which is common to Greek and to Roman oratory. But Greek oratory, as compared with Roman, has a stamp of its own. It is separated from the Roman, not, indeed, by so wide an interval, yet by a line as firm as that which separates both from the modern.
all Greek art hus the plastic character.
That character which, with special modifications, belongs to every artistic creation of the Greek mind,
whether this be a statue, a temple, a poem, a speech, or an individual's conception of his own place in life, is usually, and rightly, called the plastic. When it is desired to describe the primary artistic aspect of Greek Tragedy, this is commonly and justly done by a comparison with Sculpture. But it is certain that
Popular misconception of what is meant by ‘plastic’.
comparatively few understand the real meaning of ‘plastic’, ‘sculpturesque’, in these relations; and that to a vast majority of even cultivated persons, the statement of this affinity conveys an altogether erroneous notion. The reason of this is that the place held in antiquity by Sculpture is now held jointly by Painting, Music and certain forms of Poetry; that the modern mind instinctively refers the sculptural to the standard of the picturesque; and that, consequently, while the positive and essential characteristics of Sculpture are lost sight of, its negative qualities, relatively to Painting, become most prominent. These are, the absence of colour and the exclusion of tumultuous or complex action. Hence to the popular modern conception of Sculpture there usually attaches the notion of coldness and of rigidity. When people are told that Greek Tragedy (for example) is sculpturesque, they form this idea of it—that it has grandeur, but that it is cold and rather stiff. Then, if they are convinced that somehow the Greeks really were a race with the very highest genius for art, they begin to feel a secret wish that this alleged analogy between Greek Tragedy and sculpture might turn out to be a mistake. Here is an opportunity. The ingenious step in and
A result of this misconception.
say, ‘It is
a mistake. It is pedantry and sentiment.
For our part, we have always felt that Sophokles was frigid, and that Euripides, with his pathetic humanity, his tender women, his heroes who are not ashamed to display their emotions, was the better artist; now, dismiss the prepossessions created by students who are in no sympathy with nature or men, look at the facts as they are, deign to take homely views, and say, Is it not so?’
Conscquent danger to the whole study of the antique.
The question at issue here happens to be vital to the immediate subject of these pages, viz., the development, through Attic oratory, of Attic prose. It is, however, just as vital for every other department whatsoever in the study of ancient art, literature and thought, for it involves nothing less than our fundamental conception of the antique. Unless that conception is true, everything will be seen in a distorted light, and the best things that the ancient world has to teach will be neglected for the secondbest.
Character of Greek thought in the best days of Greek art;
Let us take a moment of the period when, as a matter of fact, the creative activity of Greek art was abundant—say 440 B.C.—and consider what, at that moment, was the principal characteristic of Greek reflection25
. This will be best understood by a comparison with two other characters of thought; that which has belonged, though in a multitude of special shapes, to the East, and that of mediæval Europe. Oriental thought, as interpreted by Oriental
art, fails to define humanity or to give a clear-cut
compare with the Oriental
form to any material which the senses offer to it. Life is conceived only generally, as pervading men, animals and vegetables, but the distinctive attributes of human life, physical or spiritual, are not pondered or appreciated. The human form, the human soul, are not, to this Eastern thought, the objects of an absorbing and analysing contemplation. To European
mediævalism, they are so; but the body is regarded as the prison and the shame of the soul; and mediæval art expresses the burning eagerness of the soul to escape from this prison to a higher communion. The three marks of mediæval art are individualism, desire and ecstasy; individualism, since the artist is struggling to interpret a personal intensity, and goes to grotesqueness in the effort; desire, since the perpetual longing of the Church on earth for her Master is the type of the artist's passion; ecstasy, since this passion demands the surrender of reason and has its climax in the adoration of a mystery revealed26
. Between the Oriental and the Mediæval art stands the Greek. Greek art defines humanity, the body and the soul of man. But it has not reached the mediæval point; it has not learned to feel that the body is the prison and the shame of the soul. Rather, it regards the soul as reflecting its own divinity upon the body. ‘What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in
apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!’ If Hamlet could have stopped there, he would have been a Greek; but he could not, he was sick with a modern distemper, abandonment to the brooding thought
Greek reflection was at a happy pause:
that sapped his will27
. The Greek of the days when art was supreme could and did stop there; he was Narcissus, standing on the river bank, looking into the deep, clear waters where the mirror of his image shows the soul, too, through the eyes, Narcissus in love with the image that he beholds,—but Narcissus as yet master of himself,—as yet with a firm foot-hold upon the bank, not as yet possessed by the delirious impulse to plunge into the depths. Here, then, was the first condition for the possibility of a great art. Reflection had taken the right direction, had got far enough, but had not got too far; it was a pause. But, in order that this pause should be joyous, and that the mind should not, from weariness or disappointment, hasten forward, another thing was
and the Greeks were beautiful
necessary—that men and women should be beautiful. By some divine chance, the pause in reflection coincided with the physical perfection of a race; and the result was Greek art.
Why Greek art became plastic rather than picturesque.
Why, however, should this art have expressed itself in Sculpture rather than, for instance, in Painting? Art gives pleasure by form, by colour, by sound, or, as in poetry, by the reminiscence of all these combined with the delight of motion. But the mind has had a history; and the very degree in
which the resources of a particular art are limited or
ample may give it a special affinity with an earlier or a later stage of the mind. Architecture corresponds
with the phase when man's thoughts about himself are still indistinct; the building may hint, but it cannot express, the artist's personality: Egyptian art has been called a Memnon waiting for the day.
Painting, Music and Poetry are the modern and romantic arts, with a range of expression adequate to every subtlety and intricacy of self-analysis. Between this group and Architecture comes Sculpture, the art
kindred with that phase in the mind's history when man has just attained to recognition of himself and is observing his own typical characteristics of form and spirit with wonder and with joy, but, as yet, without the impulse towards analysis. In all the greatest sculpture there breathes the unshamed and innocent surprise of a child just waked from sleep. But this of itself implies renouncement; the limits
The limit of expression in Sculpture not irksome, but congenial, to the Greek.
of possible expression in Sculpture are severe. If, then, the Greek was contemplating his own soul as well as his own body, why, it might be asked, had he recourse to a medium of interpretation for which the spiritual subtleties of painting and poetry are impossible? The answer is,—Because he was not observing the soul apart from the body, but as one with the body in a godlike union; and because, to him, any expression of spiritual subtleties was not a gain but a loss, if it was effected at the expense of that in which he was absorbed—the contemplation of man as man, in his totality, as the paragon of animals. Sculpture cannot express a complex or refined situation; but its very limitations on that
side make it the clearest interpretation of a character or a type. The Greek's attention was fixed on the typical, unchanging, divine lineaments of man, as he stood forth under the blue heaven, his outlines clear against the sunlit sea; and, for the Greek's purpose, sculpture was the more fitting just because it
The best soulpture is not cold nor vague.
eliminates what is restless or accidental. But he did not mean sculpture to be cold or rigid; he did not mean it to be blank or vague; and assuredly he made it none of these things. The ‘Adorante’ lifting up his hands in praise for victory, the cousinship of Love with Death hinted in the Genius of Eternal Slumber,—let these works and such as these be witnesses.
Mistake of conceiving Greek Tragedy as the daughter of Sculpture
This character of Sculpture belongs also to Greek Tragedy. But this is not, as seems sometimes to be imagined, because the Greeks sought to make
They are sister forms of one tendency,
Tragedy like Sculpture. It is because that tendency of intellect and feeling, for which Sculpture happened to be a peculiarly apt expression, set its necessary stamp equally on every thing else that the Greek
mind created. In naming this stamp ‘plastic’ we borrow our term from the arts of modelling; but to conceive the form of Greek Tragedy as derived from Sculpture is like conceiving the Greek language to be derived from Sanskrit. It is true that, in reference
Greek Tragedy has an alloy of trouble,
to the history of Greek thought, Tragedy is a later manifestation than Sculpture; the perfect repose is already troubled, an element of conflict has entered, man is in the presence of Nemesis, and the δράσαντι παθεῖν
, the law that sin shall entail suffering, is
the theme. But the typical character is not lost; those unchanging attributes which, on the one hand,
bring man near to the gods or, on the other, mark his brotherhood with the dust and the limits of his mortal destiny are presented in emphatic, untroubled lines; and, when Retributive Justice has done its work, that blitheness out of which the passions rose into a storm returns subdued to the graver and deeper calm that follows a transcendant contemplation. All honour to those sublime voices of Titanic pain or victory that roll, like dirges or paeans, along the spacious music of Aeschylos; all honour to Euripides also, for no one is capable of feeling that Sophokles is supreme who does not feel that Euripides is admirable. Euripides
The true greatness of Euripides.
is a great emotional dramatist; a master of the picturesque; the only Greek, except Aristophanes, who set foot in the charmed woodlands of fancy28
. That special claim, however, which has in recent times been made for Euripides, and on the strength of which he has by some been preferred to his predecessors, involves a fallacy which it is important to observe, since what is at issue is much more than our judgment on the relative merits of two poets, it is the principle of appreciation relatively to all the best Greek work in every kind. Euripides has been regarded as distinctively
Fallacy involved in calling Euripides the most ‘human’ of the Greek Tragedians.
the human. Now if by this were meant only that he is great in dramatising the accidents of life, in portraying the more obvious phenomena of character,
in exciting compassion for such troubles, or sympathy with such joys, as come home to us all, in establishing between the poet and the spectator not merely a vivid intelligence but something like a personal friendship, then the epithet would be perfectly just. If, however—and this is the popular notion— Euripides is to be called the ‘human’ poet in contrast with, for instance, Sophokles; if it is meant that Sophokles is comparatively cold, pompous, stiff, while Euripides is in a warm, flexible, fruitful sympathy with humanity—then the epithet involves a confusion of ideas than which nothing could be more fatal.
Sophokles is the most human, because he is the most Greek.
Euripides is human, but Sophokles is more human; Sophokles is so in the only way in which a Greek could be so, by being more Greek. When the best Greek mind was truest to the law of its own nature, it looked at man and man's life in the manner of Sophokles—fixing its regard on the permanent, divine characteristics of the human type, and not suffering minor accidents or unrulinesses or griefs so to thrust themselves forward as to mar the symmetry of the larger view. True simplicity is not the avoidance, but the control, of detail. In Sophokles, as in great sculpture, a thousand fine touches go to that which, as the greatest living creator in fiction has proved, he can still help to teach—the delineation of
Sophokles the most perfect type of the Greek intellect.
the great primary emotions. Sophokles is the purest type of the Greek intellect at its best. Euripides is a very different thing, a highly gifted son of his day. Rhetorical Dialectic has broken into Tragedy, and the religious basis, the doctrine of Nemesis, has been abandoned in favour of such other interests as the
poet can devise. Euripides was brilliantly fertile in plots. This is what Aristotle means by τραγικώτατος
, alluding especially to sudden and pathetic reversals of situation; for, before Alexander's time, ‘tragic’ had already come near to ‘sensational’29
. No woman in Greek Tragedy is either so human, or so true a woman, as the Antigone of Sophokles30
The plastic character as manifested in Greek oratory.
Since, as has been seen, Oratory was for the Greeks a fine art, it follows that Greek Oratory must have, after its own kind, that same typical character which belongs to Greek Sculpture and to Greek Tragedy. Wherein, then, does it manifest this character? We must here be on our guard against the great stumblingblock of such inquiries, the attempt to find the analogy in the particulars and not in the whole. It might be possible to take a speech of Demosthenes and to work out the details of a correspondence with a tragedy of Sophokles or a work of Pheidias; but such refinements have usually a perilous neighbourhood to fantasy, and, even when they are legitimate, are apt to be more curious than instructive. How truly and universally Greek Oratory bears the plastic stamp, can be seen only when it is regarded in its largest aspects. The
A series of types is developed by a series of artists.
first point to be observed is that, in Greek Oratory, we have a series of types developed by a series of artists, each of whom seeks to give to his own type the utmost clearness and distinction that he is capable of reaching. The same thing is true of Tragedy, but not in the same degree; for, in Tragedy, the element of consecrated convention was more persistent; and, besides, Oratory stood in such manifold and intimate relations with the practical life that the artist, in expressing his oratorical theory, could express his entire civic personality. Hence the men who moulded Attic Oratory, whether statesmen or not, are good examples of conscious obedience to that law of Greek nature which constrained every man to make himself a living work of art. ‘In its poets and orators’, says Hegel31
, ‘its historians and philosophers, Greece cannot be conceived from a central point unless one brings, as a key to the understanding of it, an insight into the ideal forms of sculpture, and regards the images of statesmen and philosophers as well as epic and dramatic heroes from the artistic point of view; for those who act, as well as those who create and think, have, in those beautiful days of Greece, this plastic character. They are great and free, and have grown up on the soil of their own individuality, creating themselves out of themselves, and moulding themselves to what they were and willed to be. The age of Perikles was rich in such characters: Perikles himself, Pheidias, Plato, above all Sophokles, Thucydides also, Xenophon and Sokrates, each in his own order, without the perfection
of one being diminished by that of the others. They are ideal artists of themselves, cast each in one flawless mould—works of art which stand before us as an immortal presentment of the gods.’
The plastic character of Greek oratory,—thus seen, first of all, in the finished distinction of successive types, clearly modelled as the nature that wrought them,—is further seen in the individual oration. Take it whence we will, from the age of
In the individual oration,
Antiphon or of Demosthenes, from the forensic, from the deliberative or from the epideictic class, two great characteristics will be found. First, however little
the main lines of the theme are unperplexed,
of sustained reasoning there may be, however much the argument may be mingled with appeals, reminiscences or invectives, everything bears on the matter in hand. It is an exertion of art, but of art strictly pertinent to its scope. No Greek orator could have written such a speech as that of Cicero For Archias or For Publius Sextus. In a Greek speech the main lines of the subject are ever firm; they are never lost amid the flowers of a picturesque luxuriance. Secondly, wherever pity, terror, anger,
and the unity is sealed by a final calm.
or any passionate feeling is uttered or invited, this tumult is resolved in a final calm; and where such tumult has place in the peroration, it subsides before the last sentences of all. The ending of the speech On the Crown—which will be noticed hereafter32
—is exceptional and unique. As a rule, the very end is calm; not so much because the speaker feels this to be necessary if he is to leave an impression of personal dignity, but rather because the sense of an ideal
beauty in humanity and in human speech governs his effort as a whole, and makes him desire that, where this effort is most distinctly viewed as a whole —namely, at the close—it should have the serenity
Attic perorations in Cicero and Erskine.
of a completed harmony. Cicero has now and then an Attic peroration, as in the Second Philippic and the Pro Milone; more often he breaks off in a burst of eloquence—as in the First Catilinarian, the Pro Flacco and the Pro Cluentio. Erskine's concluding sentences in his defence of Lord George Gordon are Attic:—‘Such topics might be useful in the balance of a doubtful case; yet, even then, I should have trusted to the honest hearts of Englishmen to have felt them without excitation. At present the plain and rigid rules of justice are sufficient to entitle me to your verdict33
The personalities of ancient oratory.
This seems the fitting place to touch for a moment on a trait of ancient forensic oratory which has sometimes been noticed with rather exaggerated emphasis, and which, it might be objected, is strangely discordant with the character just described—the disposition of Greek as well as Roman orators to indulge in personalities of a nature which would be deemed highly indecorous in modern times. Their case is scarcely, perhaps, mended by the observation that
the point of honour did not then exist. A more important circumstance to observe is that the language in question, however strong, is seldom redundant. It finds its place; but it does not overflow; nor does it destroy that self-mastery in the speaker on which the unity of his utterance depends. From the artistic point of view—and from this alone it is now being regarded—it is a distressing blemish; yet not, even here, of the order to which it is referred by those whose estimate of it is purely modern, since it is not permitted to disturb the symmetry or the repose of the whole. Unquestionably, the scale of life in the Greek republics, and the dialect of the aristocracy at Rome, often imparted to the mutual criticisms of their orators a parochial character which is comparatively rare in the public discussions of the present day. Apart from this accident, however, modern analogies are, unfortunately, not wanting34
. The speech against Ktesiphon and the speech against Piso certainly contain exceedingly strong phrases. Catullus, who used the ordinary language of society in his day35
, is less euphemistic than Byron. But scurrility is not the measure of vituperation. Ancient invective concentrated the former. Modern invective prefers to diffuse, without diluting, the latter.
Superiority of Greek to Roman oratory.
The superiority of Greek oratory to Roman, in the deliberative and forensic branches alike, has been recognised by the best critics as well as by the most
competent practical judges. Brougham, who speaks with the authority of both characters, brings this out with great force and clearness. He says:— ‘In all his (Cicero's) orations that were spoken (for, singular as it may seem, the remark applies less to those which were only written, as all the Verrine, except the first, all the Philippics, except the first and ninth, and the Pro Milone), hardly two pages can be found which a modern assembly would bear. Some admirable arguments on evidence, and the credit of witnesses, might be urged to a jury; several passages, given by him on the merits of the case, and in defence against the charge, might be spoken in mitigation of punishment after a conviction or confession of guilt; but, whether we regard the political or forensic orations, the style, both in respect
Cicero's orations utterly unfit for the modern Senate or Bar: whereas almost all the Greek orations could be adapted.
of the reasoning and the ornaments, is wholly unfit for the more severe and less trifling nature of modern affairs in the senate or at the bar. Now, it is altogether otherwise with the Greek masters; changing a few phrases, which the difference of religion and of manners might render objectionable,—moderating, in some degree, the virulence of invective, especially against private character, to suit the chivalrous courtesy of modern hostility,—there is hardly one of the political or forensic orations of the Greeks that might not be delivered in similar circumstances before our senate or tribunals36
The main reason of this decided advantage on the
Reasons of this superiority: Greek oratory is always to the point:
part of Greek practical oratory—and the epideictic oratory has a corresponding excellence relatively to that of the French Pulpit—is the business-like character already noticed. If everything is not logical, everything is at least relevant. Cicero, with all his ingenuity, brilliancy and wit, is so apt to wander into mere display, and this display is so openly artificial, that, as Brougham says, ‘nothing can be less adapted to the genius of modern elocution’. The style of modern debate comes far nearer to the Greek than to the Latin. But there are two other causes which should be remarked, one especially influential in Deliberative, the other in Forensic, oratory. The first is that, in the days of
the political inspirations of Greek oratory are nobler:
the great Roman eloquence, Rome had no political rival. Her discipline and her manners contributed with her civic security to exempt her citizens from sudden or violent emotion. What Claudian37
afterwards happily called the vitae Romana quies
already prevailed. If the paradox of Quintilian (X. 1 § 106
) be true, that Demosthenes has plus curae,
Cicero plus naturae,
it is true in this sense alone, that Cicero is an inferior artist, and indulges more freely the taste of the natural man for ornament. But that Roman oratory should be on the whole more artificial than the Greek, and more limited in its range of subjects, was inevitable. Athens, the antagonist of Sparta or
Thebes, Athens vigilant against Persia or threatened by Macedon, was a city in which the inspirations of eloquence were not only personal but national.
and the forensic motive is more genuine.
Secondly: the Roman patronus,
who pleaded his client's cause gratuitously, rewarded by the fact that all the higher paths of ambition opened directly from the forum, had, doubtless, an incentive to eloquent declamation which his Attic brother, the professional logographos, did not possess. But he had not anything like the same inducement to handle his case scientifically. He was a political aspirant, not a man settled to a calling; and, from a forensic point of view, the element of unreality in his position had a strong tendency to vitiate his performance by making it, before all things, a display.
Early History of Greek Oratory.
The least gifted people, in the earliest stage of intellectual or political growth, will always or usually have the idea, however rude, of a natural
Two conditions for the possibility of any such history.
oratory. But oratory first begins to have a history, of which the development can be traced, when two conditions have been fulfilled. First, that oratory should be conceived, no longer subjectively, but objectively also, and from having been a mere faculty, should have become an art. Secondly, that an oration should have been written in accordance with the theory of that art. The history of Greek oratory begins with Gorgias. The history of Attic oratory, properly so called, begins with Antiphon.
The special attributes and endowments of the
Greeks would lead us to expect, before the beginnings of an oratorical art, a singularly rich and various manifestation of natural eloquence, and also an early moment of origin for the art itself. Now, as a
Late appearance of Greek oratory as an Art.
matter of fact, the origin of the art was singularly late, relatively to the gifts and to the general artistic tendency of the race; but the causes of this delay were external and political. On the other hand,
Extraordinary brilliancy of the pre theoretic Oratory.
no documents of any early society can show an exuberance, a brilliancy, a diversified perfection of natural eloquence comparable to that which makes one of the chief glories of the Homeric poems. By ‘natural’ is meant, not necessarily unstudied, but unsystematic, or antecedent to a theory of Rhetoric. The man to whom the gods had given
Homeric estimate of Eloquence.
, the power of discourse,—that which, with beautiful strength, φυή
, and good sense, φρένες
, makes the Homeric triad of human excellences,— might cultivate it; but so long as this cultivation is empirical, not theoretic, the eloquence which it achieves is still natural. From Achilles to Thersites, the orators of the Iliad and the Odyssey are
Homeric illustrations of Eloquence.
individual. If Achilles alone is a Demosthenes, who had no defects to conquer and no mysteries to learn, Nestor is an Isokrates unaided or unembarrassed by his system, Telemachos an ingenuous youth who has no need of prompting by a Lysias, Odysseus a speaker in whom the logical terseness of Isaeos is joined to something like the unscrupulous smartness, though to nothing like the theatrical splendour, of
Modern character of the great Homeric speeches:
Aeschines. Nor does any oratory that the ancient world has left approach so nearly as the Homeric to
the modern ideal. The reason of this is that the great orations of the Iliad are made in debate, and the greatest of all are replies,—as the answer of Achilles to the envoys in the First Book. Condensed statement, lucid argument, repartee, sarcasm, irony, overwhelming invective, profound and irresistible pathos,—all these resources are absolutely commanded by the orators of the Iliad, and all these must have belonged to him, or to those, by whom
Their historical significance.
the Iliad was created. As Mr Gladstone has said38
, ‘Paradise Lost’ does not represent the time of Charles the Second, nor the ‘Excursion’ the first decades of this century, but ‘as, when we find these speeches in Homer, we know that there must have been men who could speak them, so, from the existence of units who could speak them, we know that there must have been crowds who could feel them.’
The Homeric eloquence is still aristocratic, not civil.
The Homeric ideal, to shine in eloquence as in action, to be at once ‘a speaker of words and a doer of deeds,’ ‘good in counsel, and mighty in war,’ had ample scope, as far as kings and nobles were concerned, in the council and the agora. But the eloquence of the commons does not appear to have been particularly encouraged by the chiefs, and the consummate individuality of an Achilles or an Odysseus was no real step towards the development of a popular oratory based upon a theory communicable to all. In the presence of these great debaters of the Iliad, the Homeric τις
, when present at all, is essentially a layman, confined strictly to the critical function and uttering his criticisms, when
they find utterance, in the fewest and plainest words. Democracy, with its principle of ἰσηγορία
First conditions of civil eloquence — ἰσηγορία,
the principle that every citizen has an equal right to speak his mind about the concerns of the city,— was necessary before a truly civil eloquence could be even possible. But, after Democracy had arisen, a further condition was needed,—the cultivation of
the popular intelligence. What is so strikingly characteristic of Greek Democracy in the period
The faculty of speech— its place in early Greek Democracy.
before an artistic oratory is this,—that the power of public speaking now exists, indeed, as a political weapon, but, instead of being the great organ by which the people wield the commonwealth, is constantly used by designing individuals against the people. It is employed as a lever for changing the democracy into a tyranny. Such names as Aristagoras, Evagoras, Protagoras, Peisistratos, frequent especially in the Ionian colonies, indicate, not the growth of a popular oratory, but the ascendancy which exceptionally gifted speakers were able to acquire, especially in democracies, before oratory was yet an accomplishment studied according to a method.
The intellectual turning-point— first conception of a literary Prose.
The intellectual turning-point came when Poetry ceased to have a sway of which the exclusiveness rested on the presumption that no thought can be expressed artistically which is not expressed metrically. So soon as it had been apprehended that to forsake poetical form was not necessarily to renounce beauty of expression, an obstacle to clear reflection had been overcome. Mythology and cosmical speculation began to have a rival,—a
curiosity withdrawn from the cloud-regions of the past or of the infinite to the things of practical life. And this life itself was growing more complex. The present, with its problems which must be solved under penalties, was becoming ever more importunate, and would no longer suffer men's thoughts to wander in mazes where they could find no end:—
“The riddling Sphinx put dim things from our minds,
And set us to the questions at our doors.
Political turning-point— opening of secure intercourse between the cities
The political turning-point came with the Persian Wars. Greek freedom was secured against the barbarian. A maritime career was opened to commerce. The Greek cities everywhere came into more
and the new primacy of Athens
active intercourse; and the centre of the Greek world was Athens. The Dorian States, Sparta and Argos, had never been favourable to the artistic treatment of language. This, like all art and science, was especially the province of the Ionians; and, for the future of oratory, it was of the highest importance that the central city of Hellas should be Ionian. But, though Athens perfected the art, and soon became almost its sole possessor, the first elements
External influences which prepared Attic Oratory.
were prepared elsewhere. The two principal forces which moulded Attic oratory came from the East and the West. One was the Practical Culture of Ionia; the other was the Rhetoric of Sicily.
External influences: The Practical culture of Ionia
The theories of the Ionian physicists had not been able to interest more than a few, still less had they been able to draw away the mass of the people from the old poetical faith; nor had the Ionian chroniclers made any but the rudest approaches to a
written prose. But the national Wars of Liberation had quickened all the pulses of civic life. Freedom once secured, the new intellectual tendency took a definite shape. Men arose who, in contrast with the speculative philosophers, undertook to give a practical culture. This culture had representatives in every part of Greece. But, while in Sicily and Magna Graecia it was engrossed with Rhetoric, in Asiatic, and especially Ionian, Hellas it was more comprehensive. There, its essence was Dialectic, in connexion with a training sometimes encyclopaedic, sometimes directed especially to grammar or to literary criticism. These more comprehensive teachers were known by the general name of Sophists39
. Those who, like the Sicilians, had a narrower scope were sometimes called Sophists, but were especially and properly called Rhetors.
Protagoras of Abdera, the earliest of the Sophists
proper, was born about 485 B. C., and travelled throughout Greece, teaching, for about 40 years, from 455 to 415. The two things by which he is significant for artistic oratory are, his Dialectic, and the
Commonplaces which he made his pupils commit to memory. His Dialectic is famous for its undertaking to make the weaker cause the stronger. One of the uses of Rhetoric, as Aristotle says, is to succour truth when truth is imperilled by the weakness of its champion; but this is not the place to inquire whether Protagoras intended, or how far he was bound to foresee, an immoral application. As a mental discipline, his Dialectic was important to oratory, not merely by its subtlety, but by its treatment of the rhetorical syllogism. The prepared topics which his pupils learned seem to mark a stage when public speaking in general was no longer purely extemporary, but when, on the other hand, the speech was not, as in Antiphon's time, wholly written. In regard to language, Protagoras insisted on ὀρθοέπεια
—i.e. a correct accidence: but there is no proof that he sought to make a style; both the Ionic fragment in Plutarch40
and the myth in Plato (Protag. pp. 320 D—328 C
) are, for the prose of the time, simple, and they are free from the Gorgian figures.
Prodikos of Keos—the junior by many years of Protagoras—was neither, like the latter, a dialectician nor a rhetor of the Siceliot type, but rather, like Hippias, the teacher of an encyclopaedic culture. There is no reason to think that he, any more than Protagoras or Hippias, concerned himself with the artistic oratory of Gorgias. Xenophon gives in the Memorabilia
(II. i. §§ 21—33
a paraphrase of the ‘Choice of Herakles’
as related by Prodikos in his fable called Ὧραι
. When Philostratos42
says that he need not describe the style of Prodikos because Xenophon has sketched it, he is refuted by Xenophon himself, who observes that the diction of Prodikos was more ambitious than that of his paraphrase43
. There are certainly confusions of synonyms which the Platonic Prodikos distinguishes44
; and the only safe inference appears to be that, however faithful Xenophon may have been to the matter of the fable, he is a witness of no authority for its form. The true point of contact between Prodikos and the early Rhetoric is his effort to discriminate words which express slight modifications of the same idea, and which, therefore, were not ordinarily distinguished by poets or in the idiom of daily life. However unscientific his effort may have been, it at least represented a scientific tendency, which soon set its mark on literature as well as on thought. Two men who are said to have been pupils of Prodikos— Euripides and Isokrates—show clear traces of it; but, for reasons which will appear further on, it is especially distinct in the earliest phase of artistic oratory—in Antiphon, and above all in Thucydides.
Hippias of Elis is of no immediate significance
for our subject. Neither Dialectic nor Rhetoric was included, or at least prominent, in the large circle of arts and sciences which he professed to teach. Economics, Ethics and Politics—‘the faculty of managing public affairs along with his own45
’— formed his especial province. Like all the other Sophists, he touched, of course, the domain of grammar and prosody; his Τρωικὸς λόγος46
, a dialogue between Nestor and Neoptolemos, made pretensions to elegance of style, but probably not of a poetical or Gorgian cast47
; and, in Plato, Hippias assigns, not his oratory, but his political insight, as the ground of his selection as an ambassador by the Eleans48
Thrasymachos of Chalkedon stands in a far riper and more definite relation to Attic rhetorical prose, and will more properly be noticed in connexion with the progress from Antiphon to Lysias, when we come to look back on the development as a whole49
Summary: influence of the Ionian Practical culture.
These, then, were the two things by which the Eastern or Ionian school of practical culture prepared the ground for Attic oratory: first and chiefly, popular Dialectic; secondly, in the phrase of Protagoras, orthoepy—attention to correctness in speaking or writing. In contrast with the Eastern
Dialectic stands the Western Rhetoric. In contrast with the Ionian study of correct diction, ὀρθοέπεια
, stands the Sicilian study of beautiful diction, εὐέπεια
External influences: The Sicilian Rhetoric.
Deeper causes than a political crisis fitted Sicily to become the birthplace of Rhetoric. The first cause was the general character of the Sicilian Greeks. Thucydides remarks that the quick and adventurous
Character of the Sicilian Greeks.
Athenians, who were often benefited by Lacedaemonian slowness or caution, found most formidable adversaries in the Syracusans just because the Syracusans were so like themselves50
; and this resemblance, we have good reason to suppose, included the taste for lively controversy and the passion for lawsuits described by Aristophanes in the Wasps.
‘An acute people, with an inborn love of disputation’, is the description of the Sicilians which Cicero quotes from Aristotle (Brut. xii. § 46.
): ‘Sicilians are never so miserable’, he says in one of the Verrine speeches, ‘that they cannot make a happy joke51
Political development of the Sicilian cities.
population thus gifted had, further, gone through the same political phases as Athens; through aristocracy they had arrived at tyranny, and through tyranny at a democracy. The flourishing age of the Sicilian
The Age of the Sicilian Tyrants.
Tyrants—the early part of the fifth century B. C.— was illustrated by art and literature, by the lyric poetry which, native to Ionia, found its most splendid theme in the glory of these Dorian princes of the West, and by a home-growth of Comedy, the creation of Phormis and Epicharmos. It was in 466
The Democratic Revolution.
that Thrasybulos, last of the Gelonian dynasty, was expelled and that a democracy was established at Syracuse. Somewhat later, a democracy arose at
Character of Sicilian Democracy.
Agrigentum also. Popular life was now as exuberant in Sicily as it was at Athens after the Persian Wars; but, with its mixture of races, it was less fortunately tempered; its vigour, instead of glowing with the sense of national welfare secured against aliens, had the feverish vehemence of a domestic reaction; and hence we should be prepared to find these younger democracies showing almost at once some features which do not appear in the elder Athenian democracy until the time of the Peloponnesian War. But it was neither by the turbulent rivalries of the popular assembly, nor by
Circumstances under which Rhetoric became an Art.
the natural growth of συκοφαντική
or pettifogging, that the formulation of Rhetoric as an Art was immediately caused. The absolute princes of Sicily had done as they listed. They had banished, they
Derangement of civil life by the Tyrants.
had confiscated,—like Dionysios I. in later times, they had effaced towns and transferred populations,— they had turned all things upside-down. When they were driven out, and when governments arose based on the equality of citizens before the law, a
crowd of aggrieved claimants presented themselves wherever that law had a seat. ‘Ten years ago’, this one would say, ‘Hieron banished me from Syracuse because I was too much a democrat, and gave my house on the Epipolae to Agathokles, who still lives among you; I ask the people to restore it to me.’ ‘When Gelon razed our city’, another would say, ‘and divided the lands among
his friends, we were commanded to dwell at Selinus, where I have lived many years; my father's land was given to a favourite of the tyrant's, whose first cousin still holds it; I ask you to insist on this man making restitution.’ Claims of this kind would be innumerable. And, besides those which were founded in justice, a vast number of false claims would be encouraged by the general presumption that the rights of property had been universally deranged. If, twenty years after the Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, a government had arisen of such a nature as to make it worth people's while to dispute every possession taken under that settlement in the Ten Counties, the state of things which would have ensued would have borne some resemblance to that which prevailed throughout Sicily, but especially at Syracuse, in 466 B.C.52
Now, if we consider what would be, as a rule,
General features of such claims.
the characteristics of claims to property made under such conditions, we shall find that they throw a significant light on the little which is expressly recorded in regard to the first artists of Rhetoric. First, such claims would, as a rule, go several years back, and would often require for their elucidation that a complicated mass of details should be stated or arranged. Secondly, such claims would often lack documentary support; the tablets proving a purchase, a sale, or a contract, would, in many or most cases, have been lost or destroyed, and the
claimant would have to rely chiefly on inferences from other facts which he could substantiate.
Best aids for such claimants:
If, then, we imagine a man conceiving the idea that these innumerable claimants want help, and that the occupation of helping them may be a way to notoriety or gain, in what particular forms is it probable that he would have tried to render
1. Skill in marshalling facts:
this help? He would have seen, first, that people must be assisted to deal with an array of complex facts; they must be taught method. He would have seen, secondly, that they must be assisted to dispense with documentary or circumstantial
2 Skill in arguing probabilities.
evidence; they must be given hints as to the best mode of arguing from general probabilities.
Diogenes Laertios quotes a statement of Aristotle that Empedokles was the inventor of Rhetoric, as Zenon of Dialectic53
. The more cautious phrase of Sextus Empiricus54
(also from Aristotle), which Quintilian translates, is that Empedokles broke ground
”, aliqua movisse
) in Rhetoric. Assuredly the poet and philosopher of Agrigentum created, at least, no rhetorical system. His oratory— which, after the fall of Thrasydaeos in 472, found political scope in resistance to a restoration of the tyranny—however brilliant, was practical only; and his analogy—so far as the wanderings of his later
years and the union of care for studied expression with a doctrine give the semblance of such—is, at least, more with the Sophists of proper Greece than with the Sicilian Rhetors.
The founder of Rhetoric as an Art was Korax of Syracuse. He had enjoyed some political consideration in the reign of Hieron (478—467 B.C.), and was probably several years older than Empedokles. The law-suits which followed the establishment of the democracy are said to have given him the idea of drawing up, and committing to writing, a system of rules for forensic speaking. This was his τέχνη
or Art of Rhetoric—the earliest theoretical Greek book, not merely on Rhetoric, but in any branch of art. There is no mention of speeches composed by him either for himself or for others. Nor, except the story of his law-suit with Tisias, is there any evidence that he taught Rhetoric for pay. In regard to the contents of his ‘Art’ two facts
Treatise of Korax on Rhetoric.
are known which are of interest. They are precisely those which, as has been shown, we should have expected to find. First, he gave rules for arrangement—dividing the speech into five parts—
proem, narrative, arguments (ἀγῶνες
), subsidiary remarks (παρέκβασις
) and peroration55
. Secondly, he
illustrated the topic of general probability, bringing out its two-edged application: e.g. if a physically weak man is accused of an assault, he is to ask, ‘Is it probable that I
should have attacked him?
’; if a strong man is accused, he is to ask, ‘Is it
probable that I should have committed an assault in a case where there was sure to be a presumption against me?’. Nothing could be more suggestive of the special circumstances in which the art of Rhetoric had its birth. The same topic of Probability holds its place in the Tetralogies of Antiphon56
. But its original prominence was, in truth, a Sicilian accident57
Tisias, the pupil of Korax, must have been born about 485 B.C. We hear that he was the master of Lysias at the colony of Thurii (founded in 443 B.C.), and of the young Isokrates at Athens—about 418 B.C.; Pausanias makes him accompany Gorgias to Athens in 427 B. C.; and speaks of him as having been banished from Syracuse (VI. 17 § 8
). Whatever may be the worth of these details, the main facts about Tisias are clear. He led the wandering life of a Sophist.
The ‘Rhetoric’ of Tisias The topic of εἰκός further developed.
And in his Art of Rhetoric—the only work of his which antiquity possessed—he followed his master in further developing the topic of Probability (Plat. Phaedr. 267 A
, 273 A—C
Those who bring a scientific spirit to the study of Attic oratory need not be cautioned against allowing what is ignoble, puerile, or even immoral in the earliest Greek Rhetoric to prejudice their
estimate of the real services afterwards rendered both to language and to thought by the conception of expression as an art. Popular sentiment is universally against new subtleties. To gauge the morality of the early Rhetoric by the feeling of the people would be as unreasonable as to judge Sokrates on the testimony of the Clouds.
The real meaning of
Real meaning of the lawsuit story.
the story about the lawsuit between Korax and Tisias lies in its illustration of the people's feeling. Korax, suing Tisias for a fee, argued that it must be paid whether he gained or lost his cause; if he gained, under the verdict; if he lost, because the success of his pupil proved the fee to have been earned; Tisias inverted the dilemma; and the judges dismissed them both with the comment, ‘bad crow, bad eggs.’ What this really expresses is not the character of the earliest Rhetoric, but its grotesque unpopularity.
Gorgias is a man of whose powers and merits it is extremely difficult for us now to form a clear or impartial notion. This is not, however, because the portrait of him in Plato is so vivid. Nothing more distinguishes Plato from later satirists of like keenness than his manner of hinting the redeeming points of the person under dissection; and, whenever Gorgias comes in—whether in the dialogue that bears his name or elsewhere—it may be discerned (I venture to think) that Plato's purpose was to bring out an aspect of the man—that aspect which he considered most important—but that he allowed, and was writing for those who knew, that there was another side to the picture.
This other side is suggested by the fact that Gorgias had at least some influence on a man of such intellectual power as Thucydides, on one so highly cultivated as the tragic poet Agathon, and on so shrewd a judge of practical ability as Jason of Pherae. The difficulty of now estimating Gorgias comes from this,—that he was an inventor whose originality it is hard for us to realise, but an artist whose faults are to us peculiarly glaring. Gorgias of Leontini was born about 485 B. C. Tradition made him the pupil of Empedokles; but their nearness in age makes this unlikely. That they knew each other is probable enough. Gorgias, like Protagoras, began with natural philosophy; and, after employing Eleatic methods to combat Eleatic conclusions, turned from a field of which he held himself to have
The province of Gorgias, neither Dialectic nor Rhetoric,
proved the barrenness. The practical culture to which he next addressed himself differed both from that of the Eastern Sophists and from that of the Sicilian Rhetors. It was founded neither upon
Dialectic nor upon a systematic Rhetoric. Its basis was Oratory considered as a faculty to be developed empirically. Whether Gorgias left a written Art or not, is doubtful; it seems more probable that he did not58
; and his method of teaching—which reappears a century and a half later with the beginnings of Asianism59
—rested on the commission to memory of prepared passages. These passages were especially such as might serve to magnify the speaker's theme (αὔξησις
) or to bring out the enormity of a wrong (δείνωσις
). Beautiful and effective expression (λέξις
was the one great object. Gorgias seems to have given little or no heed to the treatment of subjectmatter,—to invention or management; or even to that special topic of Probability which was already engaging so much of the attention of Rhetoric. He was himself a man with a brilliant gift for language. His general conception was simple enough, but, for his own day and world, both bold and original. If the faculty of expression is cultivated to the right point, and is combined with a certain amount of general information, it will carry all before it. Just in the spirit in which Vivian Grey is described as saying to himself ‘knowledge is power’, Gorgias said to himself, ‘expression is power.’ He considered the gift in its relation to victory, and this victory not to be such narrow and painful success as was prepared by the pedantries of the rhetors, but dazzling and world-wide. Everything recorded of the man suggests his immense self-confidence, his capacity for sustained work, his exuberant vitality, and, above all, his power of doing what a new style would not have done without other gifts—setting the fashion to the ambitious among the rising generation, or even exciting a popular enthusiasm. In
His first visit to Athens.
427 B. C. the Leontines sent an embassy to Athens, praying for help in their war with Syracuse. ‘At the head of the envoys,’ says Diodoros60
, ‘was Gorgias the rhetor, a man who far surpassed all his
contemporaries in oratorical force. He astonished the Athenians, with their quick minds and their
love of eloquence, by the foreign fashion (τῷ ξενίζοντι
) of his language’—and by figures which the historian proceeds to enumerate. Now Gorgias appears to have always spoken and written in the Attic dialect—not in the ordinary Sicilian Doric, nor in the Ionic of Leontini61
. The τὸ ξενίζον
of Diodoros is that ‘foreign’ air which Aristotle in his Rhetoric calls τὸ ξενικόν62
, and which, for Athenians at least, was capable, when rightly used, of being a charm in oratory. There is no word which will exactly translate it, but it is nearly akin to what we mean by ‘distinction.’ That which was, to the Athenians, τὸ ξενίζον
, or the element of distinction,
in the Sicilian's speaking, was its poetical character; and this depended on two things—the use of poetical words, and the use of symmetry or assonance between clauses in such a way as to give a strongly marked prose-rhythm and to reproduce, as far as possible, the metres of verse. The only considerable fragment of Gorgias extant is that from the Funeral Oration—for the Palamedes
and the Helen
are now generally admitted to be later imitations. A few
Specimen from his Epitaphios.
sentences from this will give the best idea of his manner:—
μαρτυρίας δὲ τούτων τρόπαια ἐστήσαντο τῶν πολεμίων, Διὸς μὲν ἀγάλματα, τούτων δὲ ἀναθήματα, οὐκ
ἄπειροι οὔτε ἐμφύτου Ἄρεος οὔτε νομίμων ἐρώτων οὔτε ἐνοπλίου ἔριδος οὔτε φιλοκάλου εἰρήνης, σεμνοὶ μὲν πρὸς τοὺς θεοὺς τῷ δικαίῳ, ὅσιοι δὲ πρὸς τοὺς τοκέας τῇ θεραπείᾳ, δίκαιοι πρὸς τοὺς ἀστοὺς τῷ ἴσῳ, εὐσεβεῖς δὲ πρὸς τοὺς φίλους τῇ πίστει. τοιγαροῦν αὐτῶν ἀποθανόντων ὁ πόθος οὐ συναπέθανεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἀθάνατος ἐν οὐκ ἀσωμάτοις σώμασι ζῇ οὐ ζώντων63
It may be hard now to understand how such
His great popularity at Athens— how it is to be understood.
a style can have moved to transports of delight men who lived among the works of Pheidias and Iktinos, who knew the prose of Herodotos, and whose ears were familiar with Homer, with Aeschylos and with Sophokles. It is more difficult still, perhaps, to realize that the invention of this style was a proof of genius. Gorgias was the first man who definitely conceived how literary prose might be artistic. That he should instinctively compare it with the only other form of literature which was already artistic, namely poetry, was inevitable. Early prose necessarily begins by comparing itself with poetry. Gorgias was a man of glowing and eager power; he carried the assimilation to a length which seems incredibly tasteless now. But let it be remembered that the interval between Gorgias and Thucydides, in some passages of the historian's speeches, is not so very wide. And if the enthusiasm of the Ekklesia still seems incomprehensible, let it be remembered that they felt vividly the whole originality of the man, and did not at all see that his particular tendency was mistaken. It was only by and by, and after several compromises, that men found out
the difference between τὸ ἔρρυθμον
and τὸ εὔρυθμον
, between verse and rhythmical prose; namely, that rhythm is the framework of the former but only the fluent outline of the latter. If a style is new and forcible, extravagances will not hinder it from being received with immense applause at its first appearance. Then it is imitated until its originality is forgotten and its defects brought into relief. In the maturity of his genius, Lord Macaulay pronounced the Essay on Milton to be ‘disfigured by much gaudy and ungraceful ornament.’ Gorgias was the founder of artistic prose; and his faults are the more excusable because they were extravagant. Granting the natural assumption that prose was to be a kind of poetry, then Gorgias was brilliantly logical; and, as the event proved, his excesses did good service by calling earlier attention to the fallacy in his theory.
Allowing, however, all that has been advanced above, it might still seem strange that Gorgias should have had this reception from the Assembly which, within three years, had been listening to Perikles. But the true question is whether
Was his oratory artistic in form?
Perikles had aimed at giving to his eloquence the finish of a literary form. Suidas says that Perikles was the first who composed a forensic speech before delivering it; his predecessors had extemporised64
. Cicero says that Perikles and Alkibiades are the most ancient authors who have left authentic writings65
. Quintilian, however, thinks that the
compositions extant under the name of Perikles are not worthy of his reputation, and that, as others had conjectured, they were spurious66
. Plutarch says
positively that Perikles has left nothing written (ἔγγραφον
) except decrees67
. The antithesis meant by ἔγγραφον
is with those sayings of Perikles which tradition had preserved; especially those bold similes from nature and life to which reference will be made in considering the style of Antiphon68
. The speeches
Thucydidean Speeches of Perikles.
in Thucydides doubtless give the general ideas of Perikles with essential fidelity; it is possible, further, that they may contain recorded sayings of his like those in Aristotle: but it is certain that they cannot be taken as giving the form of the statesman's oratory. Like the other speeches, they bear the stamp of a manner which was not so fully developed until after his death. Perikles as an orator is best
known to us from the brief but emphatic notices of the impression which he made. ‘This man,’ says Eupolis, ‘whenever he came forward, proved himself the greatest orator among men: like a good runner, he could give the other speakers ten feet start, and win.......Rapid you call him; but, besides his swiftness, a certain persuasion sat upon his lips —such was his spell: and, alone of the speakers,
he ever left his sting in the hearers69
.’ When Aristophanes is describing the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War, ‘Perikles the Olympian,’ he says, ‘was thundering and lightening and putting Greece in a
Its distinctive conditions.
tumult.’ (Ar. Ach. 530.
) Unique as an Athenian statesman, Perikles must have been in two respects unique also as an Athenian orator;—first, because he occupied such a position of personal ascendancy as no man before or after him attained; secondly, because his thoughts and his moral force won him such renown for eloquence as no one else ever got from Athenians without the further aid of artistic expression. His manner of speaking seems to have been tranquil, stately to a degree which Plutarch seems inclined to satirize (Plut. Per. c. 5.
), but varied by occasional bursts having the character of lofty poetry70
History of Athenian oratory begins with Antiphon
The earliest of those Athenian orators who have left writings is not the disciple of him who most represented the new art of oratory. Antiphon was chiefly formed, not by the new Oratory, but by the
a disciple, not of Gorgias, but of the Sicilian Rhetoric.
new Rhetoric, not by Gorgias but by Tisias. The influence of Gorgias meets us somewhat, of course, even in Antiphon, but far more decidedly in Thucydides, and then, chastened to a form of which its beginnings had little promise, in Isokrates. The
Rhetoric and Popular Dialectic at Athens from 450 B.C.
second half of the fifth century at Athens had already given a place in the popular life to the new culture. While Comedy set itself against that culture, Tragedy had been more compliant. No
contrast could be more significant than that between the singular barrenness of the trial-scene in the Eumenides,
or the measured controversies of the Ajax,
and the truly forensic subtleties of the Orestes.
Nor was the exercise only mimic. Already the public advocates (συνηγόροι
) formed a class. The
private advocate was forbidden to take money. Hence he usually begins by defining the personal interest which has led him to appear. In the next century, at least, the law was not strictly observed71
; private advocacy was often paid; and it is not rash
to suppose that this practice was as old as the frequency of litigation.
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 law72
. 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 Persuasion73
. 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 established74
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.’
Political aspect of Athenian Oratory.
Athenian oratory has two great aspects, the artistic and the political. The artistic aspect will necessarily be most prominent in the following pages, since their special object is to trace the development of Attic oratory in relation to the development of Attic prose. When, however, Attic oratory is considered, not relatively to Attic prose, but in itself, the artistic aspect is not more important than the political; and, if even the literary value of the Attic orations is to be fully understood, their political significance must not for a moment be left out of sight. This significance resides not merely in the
matter or form of each discourse, but also in the
Political training of the Greek citizen,
training which had been received by the public to which it is addressed. We must ask ourselves, not merely, ‘Is this subject well treated?’ but also, ‘What manner of a multitude can it have been for which the speaker thought this treatment adapted?’ The common life of every Greek city, not suppressed by tyranny or too much warped by oligarchy, was a political education for the citizens. The reason is manifest from the very fact that the society was
a city, and neither a village nor a nation. On the one hand there was the instinct which demanded the highest attainable organisation under laws. On the other, there was the inability to conceive parliament except as a primary assembly. At Athens this political education of the citizens
and especially of the Athenian.
was more thorough than elsewhere, because at Athens the tendency of a commonwealth to deposit all power in an assembly was worked out with most logical completeness75
. All the powers of the State, legislative, executive and judicial were concentrated in the absolute Demos: the law-courts were committees of the Ekklesia, as the archons or generals were its officers. The world has seen nothing like this. The Italian Republics of the middle age were
Civic sentiment in the Greek and in the Italian Republics.
fragments of the Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Italy. It was from their prosperity as municipalities that they had derived their independence as States. They grew up among traditions of feudal privilege, represented here and there by a noble who
could openly violate the order of the city within
whose walls he lived76
. A Florentine, like an Athenian, was a citizen with his share in the government of the city: Florence, like Athens, recognised the right of the assembled People to decide questions of State. But Florence, until its latest days, had nothing truly corresponding to the Ekklesia. The citizens were occasionally called together, but there was no popular Assembly with an organised and continual superintendence of all affairs. Nor was the civic sentiment so vivid or so direct for the Florentine as for the Athenían. The Florentíne acted in politics primarily as member of a commercial guild77
and only secondarily as a citizen. The Greek Republics far more than the Italian, Athens far more than Florence, afforded the proper atmosphere for such an oratory as alone, in strictness, can take the
lofty name of Civil; that is, which is addressed by a citizen, educated both in ruling and in obeying, to the whole body of fellow-citizens who have had the
Attic Oratory fulfils this definition.
same twofold training as himself. The glory of Attic oratory, as such, consists not solely in its intrinsic excellence, but also in its revelation of the corporate political intelligence to which it appealed: for it spoke sometimes to an Assembly debating an issue of peace or war, sometimes to a law-court occupied
with a private plaint, sometimes to Athenians mingled with strangers at a festival, but everywhere and always to the Athenian Demos, everywhere and always to a paramount People, taught by life itself to reason and to judge.