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Antiphon (480-411 BC)
The earliest of the ten great Attic orators, born B.C. 480 in Attica,
son of the sophist Sophilus, to whom he owed his training. He was the founder
of political eloquence as an art, which he taught with great applause in his own
school of rhetoric; and he was the first who wrote out speeches for others to
deliver in court, though he afterwards published them under his own name. He also
played an active part in the politics of his time as a leading member of the oligarchical
party, and the real author of the death-blow which was dealt to democracy in B.C.
411 by the establishment of the Council of Four Hundred. He then went as ambassador
to Sparta, to purchase peace at any price in the interest of the oligarchy. On
the fall of the Four Hundred he was accused of high treason, and, in spite of
a masterly defence --the first speech he had ever made in public-- was condemned
to death B.C. 411. Of the sixty orations attributed to him, only fifteen are preserved--all
on trials for murder; but only three of them are about real cases. The rest (named
tetralogies because every four are the first and second speeches of both plaintiff
and defendant on the same subject) are mere exercises. Antiphon's speeches exhibit
the art of oratory in its rudimentary stage as regards both substance and form.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
Antiphon (c. 480-411 B.C.), senior of the ten orators of Attic canon, was
a man of strong aristocratic prejudices who rarely, if ever, appeared in court
or spoke in public; he gained fits great reputation by speeches coposed for others.
His involvement in political life was brief: he came suddenly to the forth in
411 B.C. as the brain of the oligarchic conspiracy. After the fall of the Four
Hundred, Antiphon was tried, con- demned and executed. His extant works, 15 speeches,
deal mainly with murder cases, and give valuable information about the Criminal
Law of the lime. His style, though crude at times, is always vigorous and precise.
He was the first who paid attention to 'periodic' expression, while he made use
of an- tithesis both of word and of thought, and was able to join together clauses
so neatly balanced that they correspond even in the number of syllables, in vocabulary,
he avoids colloquialisms, and has some partiality tor poetical words
This text is cited Aug 2002 from the Cactus Editions URL bellow.
Antiphon. The most ancient among the ten Attic orators contained in the Alexandrine
canon, was a son of Sophilus the Sophist, and born at Rhamnus in Attica in B.
C. 480 (Plut. Vit. X. Orat.; Philostrat. Vit. Soph. i. 15. 1; Phot. Cod.; Suid.
s. v.; Eudoc..) He was a man of eminent talent and a firm character (Thucyd. viii.
68; Plut. Nic. 6), and is said to have been educated partly by his father and
partly by Pythodorus, while according to others he owed his education to none
but himself. When he was a young mall, the fame of Gorgias was at its height.
The object of Gorgias' sophistical school of oratory was more to dazzle and captivate
the hearer by brilliancy of diction and rhetorical artifices than to produce a
solid conviction based upon sound arguments; it was, in short, a school for show-speeches,
and the practical purposes of oratory in the courts of justice and the popular
assembly lay beyond its sphere. Antiphon perceived this deficiency, and formed
a higher and more practical view of the art to which he devoted himself; that
is, he wished to produce conviction in the minds of the hearers by means of a
thorough examination of the subjects proposed, and this not with a view to the
narrow limits of the school, but to the courts and the assembly. Hence the ancients
call Antiphon the inventor of public oratory, or state that he raised it to a
higher position (Philostr. Vit. Soph. i. 15. ; Hermog. de Form. Orat. ii.; comp.
Quintil. iii. 1.1; Diod. ap. Clem. Alex. Strom. i.). Antiphon was thus the first
who regulated practical eloquence by certain theoretical laws, and he opened a
school in which he taught rhetoric. Thucydides, the historian, a pupil
of Antiphon, speaks of his master with the highest esteem, and many of the excellencies
of his style are ascribed by the ancients to the influence of Antiphon (Schol.
ad Thuc. iv.; comp. Dionys. Hal. de Comp. Verb. 10). At the same time, Antiphon
occupied himself with writing speeches for others, who delivered them in the courts
of justice; and as he was the first who received money for such orations -a practice
which subsequently became quite general- he was severely attacked and ridiculed,
especially by the comic writers, Plato and Peisander (Philostr. l. c.; Plut. Vit.
X. Orat.). These attacks, however, may also have been owing to his political opinions,
for he belonged to the oligarchical party. This unpopularity, together with his
own reserved character, prevented his ever appearing as a speaker either in the
courts or the assembly; and the only time he spoke in public was in B. C. 411,
when he defended himself against the charge of treachery (Thuc. viii. 68 ; Lys.
c. Eratosth.; Cic. Brut. 12).
The history of Antiphon's career as a politician is for the most part
involved in great obscurity, which is in a great measure owing to the fact, that
Antiphon the orator is frequently confounded by ancient writers with Antiphon
the interpreter of signs, and Antiphon the tragic poet. Plutarch (l. c.) and Philostratus
(Vit. Soph. i. 15.1) mention some events in which he was engaged, but Thucydides
seems to have known nothing about them. The only part of his public life of which
the detail is known, is that connected with the revolution of B. C. 411, and the
establishment of the oligarchical government of the Four Hundred. The person chiefly
instrumental in bringing it about was Peisander; but, according to the express
testimony of Thucydides, Antiphon was the man who had done everything to prepare
the change, and had drawn up the plan of it (Comp. Philostr. l. c.; Plut. Vit.
X. Orat.). On the overthrow of the oligarchical government six months after its
establishment, Antiphon was brought to trial for having attempted to negotiate
peace with Sparta, and was condemned to death. His speech in defence of himself
is stated by Thucydides (viii. 68; comp. Cic. Brut. 12) to have been the ablest
that was ever made by any man in similar circumstances. It is now lost, but was
known to the ancients, and is referred to by Harpocration (s. v. stasiotes), who
calls it logos peri metastaseos. His property was confiscated, his house razed
to the ground, and on the site of it a tablet was erected with the inscription
"Antiphon the traitor". His remains were not allowed to be buried in Attic ground,
his children, as well as any one who should adopt them, were punished with atimia
As an orator, Antiphon was highly esteemed by the ancients. Hermogenes
(de Form. Orat.) says of his orations, that they were clear, true in the expression
of feeling, and faithful to nature, and consequently convincing. Others say, that
his orations were beautiful but not graceful, or that they had something austere
or antique about them (Dionys. de Verb. Comp. 10, de Isaeo, 20). The want of freshness
and gracefulness is very obvious in the orations still extant, but more especially
in those actually spoken by Antiphon's clients (No. 1, 14, and 15). His language
is pure and correct, and in the three orations mentioned above, of remarkable
clearness. The treatment and solution of the point at issue are always striking
and interesting (Dionys. Jud. de Thucyd. 51, Demosth. 8; Phot.).
The ancients possessed sixty orations of different kinds which went
by the name of Antiphon, but Caecilius, a rhetorician of the Augustan age, declared
twenty-five to be spurious (Plut. Vit. X. Orat.; Phot. l. c.). We now possess
only fifteen orations of Antiphon, three of which were written by him for others,
viz. No. 1. Kategoria pharmakeias kata tes metruias; No. 14. Peri tou Herodou
phonou, and No. 15. Peri tou choreutou. The remaining twelve were written as specimens
for his school or exercises on fictitious cases. They are a peculiar phenomenon
in the history of ancient oratory, for they are divided into three tetralogies,
each of which consists of four orations, two accusations and two defences on the
same subject. The subject of the first tetralogy is a murder, the perpetrator
of which is yet unknown; that of the second an unpremeditated murder; and that
of the third a murder committed in self-defence. The clearness which distinguishes
his other three orations is not perceptible in these tetralogies, which arises
in part from the corrupt and mutilated state in which they have come down to us.
A great number of the orations of Antiphon, and in fact all those which are extant,
have for their subject the commission of a murder, whence they are sometimes referred
to under the name of logoi phouikoi (Hermog. de Form. Orat.; Ammon. s. v. enthumema).
The genuineness of the extant orations has been the subject of much discussion,
but the best critics are at present pretty nearly agreed that all are really the
works of Antiphon. As to the historical or antiquarian value of the three real
speeches -the tetralogies must be left out of the question here- it must be remarked,
that they contain more information than any other ancient work respecting the
mode of proceeding in the criminal courts of Athens. All the orations of Antiphon
are printed in the collections of the Attic orators edited by Aldus, H. Stephens,
Reiske, Bekker, Dobson, and others. The best separate editions are those of Baiter
and Sauppe, Zurich, 1838, 16mo., and of E. Matzner, Berlin, 1838, 8vo.
Besides these orations, the ancients ascribe to Antiphon, 1. A Rhetoric
(techne rhetorike) in three books (Plut. Vit. X. Orat.; Phot. l. c. ; Quintil.
iii. 1.10). When it is said, that he was the first who wrote a work on rhetoric,
this statement must be limited to the theory of oratory in the courts of justice
and in the assembly; for treatises on the art of composing show-speeches had been
written by several sophists before him. The work is occasionally referred to by
ancient rhetoricians and grammarians, but it is now lost. 2. Prooimia kai epilogoi,
seem to have been model speeches or exercises for the use of himself or his scholars,
and it is not improbable that his tetralogies may have belonged to them (Suid.
s. vv. hama, aithesthai, mochtheros; Phot. Lex. s. v. mochtheros).
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited June 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)
In describing the Revolution of the Four Hundred at Athens, Thucydides
lays stress upon the fact that the measures which had effected it owed their unity
and their success to the control of a single mind. The figure of Peisandros is
most conspicuous in the foreground. 'But he who contrived the whole matter, and
the means by which it was brought to pass, and who had given his mind to it longest,
was Antiphon; a man second to no Athenian of his day in virtue; a proved master
of device and of expression; who did not come forward in the assembly, nor, by
choice, in any scene of debate, since he lay under the suspicion of the people
through a repute for cleverness; but who was better able than any other individual
to assist, when consulted, those who were fighting a cause in a law-court or in
the assembly. In his own case, too--when the Four Hundred in their later reverses
were being roughly used by the people, and he was accused of having aided in setting
up this same government--he is known to have delivered the greatest defence made
in the memory of my age by a man on trial for his life.' (Thuc. VIII. 68.)
This passage gives in outline nearly all that is known of the life
of Antiphon. Other sources supply details, and make it possible to work up the
sketch into something like a picture; but they add nothing which enlarges its
framework. The Revolution of the Four Hundred is still the one great scene presented
to our view.
Birth of Antiphon.
Antiphon was born about the year 480 B. C., being thus rather younger
than Gorgias, and some eight or nine years older than the historian Thucydides.
He was of the tribe of Aiantis and of the deme of Rhamnus(1);
of a family which cannot have been altogether obscure, since it was made a reproach
to him on his trial that his grandfather had been a partisan of the Peisistratidae.
The tradition that his father Sophilos was a sophist antedates by a generation
the appearance of that class of teachers, and may have been suggested simply by
the jingle of the words. Antiphon himself, as the style of his composition indicates,
must have felt the sophistic influence; but there is no evidence for his having
been the pupil of any particular sophist. He is allowed by general consent to
have been the first representative at Athens of a profession for which the new
conditions of the time had just begun to make a place, -- the first logographos,
or writer of speeches for money. With the recent growth of Rhetoric as a definite
art, the inequality, for purposes of pleading or debating, between men who had
and who had not mastered the newly-invented weapons of speech had become seriously
felt. A rogue skilled in the latest subtleties of argument and graces of style
was now more than ever formidable to the plain man whom he chose to drag before
a court or to attack in the ekklesia: and those who had no leisure or taste to
become rhetoricians now began to find it worth while to buy their rhetoric ready-made.
Forensic speeches were, no doubt, those with which Antiphon most frequently supplied
his clients. But Hermogenes describes him as 'he inventor and founder of the political
style',--a phrase including deliberative as well as forensic oratory: and this
exactly agrees with the statement of Thucydides that Antiphon was practised in
aiding, not only those who had lawsuits, but debaters in the ekklesia. Besides
being a speech-writer, he was also a teacher of rhetoric, and, as the allusion
in the Menexenos implies, the most fashionable master of Plato's time Antiphon
and Thucydides. at Athens. The tradition that Thucydides was the pupil of Antiphon
may have been suggested by the warmth and emphasis of the passage in which the
orator is mentioned by the historian; a passage which, in its sudden glow of a
personal admiration, recalls two others in the History--the tribute to the genius
of Themistokles, and the character of Perikles. In the tradition itself there
is nothing improbable, but it wants the support of evidence. The special relation
of master to pupil need not be assumed to account for a tone which congeniality
of literary taste, common sufferings at the hands of the democracy, or perhaps
personal friendship, would sufficiently explain.
Antiphon's life to 411 B.C.
Nothing is directly known of Antiphon's political relations before
the year 411 B. C.; but there are slight indications which agree well with his
later hostility to the democracy. Harpokration has preserved the names of two
speeches written by him, one for the people of Samothrace, on the subject of the
tribute which they paid to Athens; another, on the same subject, for the people
of Lindos in Rhodes. The oppression of the subject-allies by the demagogues, who
extorted from them large sums on any pretence or threat, was a commonplace of
complaint with oligarchs. The employment of Antiphon, afterwards so staunch an
oligarch, by aggrieved allies, preparing to represent their grievances at the
imperial city, was perhaps more than an accident of professional routine. The
hostility of Antiphon to Alkibiades, again, need not have had any political meaning;
but it would have been especially natural in one who had shared the views, and
who mourned the fate, of Nikias. At all events, the words of Thucydides give a
vivid idea of the position held at Athens by Antiphon just before the Revolution
of the Four Hundred. His abilities were acknowledged, but they were exerted only
for others; he himself came forward neither in the assembly, nor--'when he could
help it'?--in the law-courts; he lay under the suspicion of the people for 'cleverness'.
The nature of the 'cleverness' (deinotes) for which Antiphon was distrusted and
disliked is sufficiently illustrated by his Tetralogies. It was the art of fighting
a cause which could hardly be defended on any broad ground by raising in succession
a number of more or less fine points. The indignant bewilderment expressed by
the imaginary prosecutor in the Second Tetralogy on finding the common-sense view
of the case turned upside-down represents what many a citizen of the old school
must have felt when he encountered, in the ekklesia or the law-court, a client
of the ingenious 'speech-writer'. Antiphon was a cautious, patient man. The comic
poets could ridicule him for his poverty or his avarice; they could say that the
speeches which he sold for great sums were 'framed to defeat justice'; but a carefully
obscure life probably offered no hold to any more definite attack. Meanwhile he
was quietly at work with the oligarchic clubs. According to Thucydides he was
not merely the arch-plotter of the Revolution. He was the man who 'had thought
about it longest'.
In the spring of 411 B. C. the opportunity for which Antiphon had
been waiting at last came. Alkibiades, by promises of Persian aid, induced the
oligarchs in the army at Samos to commence a movement for the overthrow of the
Athenian democracy. Peisandros, as their representative, came to Athens, and,
by insisting on the hopelessness of the war without such help as Alkibiades covenanted
to bring, extorted from the ekklesia a vote for that change of constitution which
the exile demanded. Having visited the various oligarchical clubs in the city
and urged them to combine in favour of the project, Peisandros went back to confer
with Alkibiades. When he presently returned to Athens,--with the knowledge that
his hopes from Persia were idle, but that, on the other hand, the Revolution must
go on,-- he found a state of things very different from that which he had left.
He had left the people just conscious that an oligarchy was proposed, and consenting,
in sheer despair, to entertain the idea; but, at the same time, openly and strongly
averse to it, and in a temper which showed that the real difficulties of the undertaking
were to come. He now finds that, in the brief interval of his absence, every difficulty
has already vanished. Not a trace of open opposition remains in the senate or
in the ekklesia; not a murmur is heard in the conversation of the citizens (Thuc.
VIII. 65, 66.). It is a fair inference from the words of Thucydides that the principal
agent in producing this rapid and wonderful change had been Antiphon. A brief
consideration of the task which he had to do, and of the manner in which it was
done, will supply the best criterion of his capacity. He had, first, to bring
into united and disciplined action those oligarchical clubs to which Peisandros
had appealed. These are described as 'leagues with a view to lawsuits and to offices';
that is, associations of which the members were pledged by oath to support, personally
and with funds, any one of their body who brought, or defended, a civil action,
or who sought one of the offices of the State. When, with the steady advance of
democracy from the Persian wars onwards, the oligarchs found themselves more and
more in a minority, such associations became their means of concentrating and
economising their one great power--wealth. The tone of such clubs would always
be, in a general way, antipopular. But they were unaccustomed to systematic action
for great ends; and, in regard to those smaller ends which they ordinarily pursued,
their interests would, from the nature of the case, frequently conflict. Antiphon
need not have had much difficulty in proving to them that, on this occasion, they
had a common interest. But to make them effective as well as unanimous; to restrain,
without discouraging, the zeal of novices in a political campaign, and to make
of these a compact and temperate force, loyally taking the word from the best
men among them, and so executing the prescribed manoeuvres that in a short time
they were completely ascendant over an enormous and hostile, but ill-organised
majority,--this, assuredly, was the achievement of no ordinary leader. The absence
of overt, and the skilful use of secret, violence was the characteristic of the
Revolution. Adverse speakers were not menaced, but they disappeared; until apparent
unanimity, and real terror, had silenced every objection. Antiphon had seen clearly
how the Athenian instinct of reverence for constitutional forms might be used
against the constitution. His too, on the showing of Thucydides, must have been
that clever invention, the imaginary body of Five Thousand to whom the franchise
was to be left; a fiction which, to the end, did service to the oligarchs by giving
them a vague prestige for strength.
The two parties in the Council.
The Council of the Four Hundred comprised two distinct elements, --
those thorough oligarchs who had been the core of the conspiracy; and a number
of other men, more or less indifferent to the ideas of oligarchy, who had accepted
the Revolution because they believed that it alone could save Athens. Had the
new Government been able to conciliate or to frighten the army at Samos, both
sorts of men would have been satisfied, and the Council would have gone on working,
for a time at least, as a seemingly harmonious whole. But the resolute hostility
of the army, which at once made the case of the Four Hundred really hopeless,
brought the discord to light forthwith. The Council was thenceforth divided into
an Extreme and a Moderate party. Among the leaders of the Extreme party were Peisandros,
Phrynichos, Aristarchos, Archeptolemos, Onomakles and Antiphon. The Moderates
were led by Theramenes and Aristokrates. Two chief questions were in dispute between
the parties. The Moderates wished to call into political life the nominal civic
body of Five Thousand; the ultra-oligarchs objected that it was better, at such
a crisis, to avoid all chance of a popular rising. The ultra-oligarchs were fortifying
Eetioneia, alleging the danger of an attack from Samos; the Moderates accused
them of wishing to receive Peloponnesian troops.
The Extreme party was soon driven, in May 411 B. C., to the last resource
of an embassy to Sparta. Phrynichos, Antiphon, Archeptolemos, Onomakles and eight
others were sent 'to make terms with the Lacedaemonians in any way that could
at all be borne'. Thucydides does not say what the envoys offered at Sparta or
what answer they got; but he states plainly the length which he conceives that
their party was ready to go. 'They wished, if possible, having their oligarchy,
at the same time to rule the allies; if that could not be, to keep their ships,
their walls, and their independence; or, if shut out even from this, at all events
not to have their own lives taken first and foremost by the people on its restoration;
sooner would they bring in the enemy and covenant to keep the city on any terms,
without wall or ships, if only their persons should be safe'. (Thuc. VIII. 91)
Fall of the Four Hundred.
This embassy brought the unpopularity of the Extreme party to a crisis.
Immediately upon his return Phrynichos was assassinated. The revolt of the citizens
employed in fortifying Eetioneia quickly followed. The assembly in the Anakeion,
broken up by the sudden appearance of the Peloponnesian fleet, met again on the
Pnyx soon after the Peloponnesian victory at Oropos; and the Four Hundred, who
had taken office in March, were deposed about the middle of June.
The leading ultra-oligarchs hastened to save themselves by flight.
Peisandros, Alexikles and others went to Dekeleia; Aristarchos, taking with him
a body of bowmen, contrived to betray Oenoe on the Athenian frontier into the
hands of the Boeotians who were besieging it. But, of the twelve who had formed
the embassy, and who now, before all others, were in peril, three remained at
Athens--Antiphon, Archeptolemos and Onomakles. An information against these three
men was laid before the ekklesia by the Generals. The eisangelia charged them
with having gone on an embassy to Sparta for mischief to Athens, sailing, on their
way thither, in an enemy's ship, and traversing the enemy's camp at Dekeleia.
A psephism was passed by the ekklesia directing the arrest of the accused that
they might be tried by a dikastery, and instructing the Thesmothetae to serve
each of them, on the day following the issue of the decree, with a formal summons.
On the day fixed by the summons the Thesmothetae were to bring the cases into
court; and the Generals, assisted by such Synegori, not more than ten in number,
as they might choose from the Council of the Five Hundred, were to prosecute for
Trial and condemnation of Antiphon.
Onomakles seems to have escaped or died before the day. Archeptolemos
and Antiphon were brought to trial. The scanty fragments of the speech made by
Antiphon in his own defence reveal only one item of its contents. One of the prosecutors,
Apolexis, having asserted that Antiphon's grandfather had been a partisan of the
Peisistratidae, Antiphon replied that his grandfather had not been punished after
the expulsion of the tyrants, and could scarcely, therefore, have been one of
their 'body-guard'(2). The other special topics are unknown;
but their range, at least, is shown by the title under which the speech was extant.
It was inscribed peri metastaseos, On the Change of Government. It dealt, then,
not merely with the matter specified in the eisangelia--the embassy to Sparta--but
with the whole question of the Revolution. It is described by Thucydides as the
greatest defence made in the memory of that age by a man on trial for his life.
The story in the Eudemian Ethics, whether true or not, seems at any rate characteristic.
Agathon, the tragic poet, praised the speech; and Antiphon--on whom sentence of
death had passed--answered that a man who respects himself must care more what
one good man thinks than what is thought by many nobodies.
The sentence ran thus:
'Found guilty of treason--Archeptolemos son of Hippodamos, of Agryle,
being present: Antiphon son of Sophilos, of Rhamnus, being present. The award
on these two men was--That they be delivered to the Eleven: that their property
be confiscated and the goddess have the tithe: that their houses be razed and
boundary-stones put on the sites, with the inscription, 'the houses of Archeptolemos
and Antiphon the traitors': that the two demarchs [of Agryle and Rhamnus] shall
point out their houses. That it shall not be lawful to bury Archeptolemos and
Antiphon at Athens or in any land of which the Athenians are masters. That Archeptolemos
and Antiphon and their descendants, bastard or true-born, shall be infamous; and
if a man adopt any one of the race of Archeptolemos or Antiphon, let the adopter
be infamous. That this decree be written on a brazen column and put in the same
place where the decrees about Phrynichos are set up'.
Character of Antiphon's political life.
The distinctive feature in the life of Antiphon is the suddenness
of his appearance, at an advanced age, in the very front of Athenian politics.
Unlike nearly all the men associated with him, he had neither made his mark in
the public service nor come forward in the ekklesia; yet all at once he becomes
the chief, though not the most conspicuous, organiser of an enterprise requiring
in the highest degree trained political tact; does more than any other individual
to set up a new government; and acts to the last as one of its foremost members.
The reputation and the power which enabled him to take this part were mainly literary.
Yet it would not probably be accurate to conceive Antiphon as a merely literary
man who suddenly emerged and succeeded as a politician. It would have been a marvel,
indeed, if any one had become a leader on the popular side in Athenian politics
who had not already been prominent in the ekklesia. But the accomplishments most
needed in a leader of the oligarchic party might be learned elsewhere than in
the ekklesia. The member of a hetaireia, though a stranger to the bema, might
gain practice in the working of those secret and rapid combinations upon which
his party had come to rely most in its unequal struggle with democracy. As fame
and years by degrees brought Antiphon more and more weight in the internal management
of the oligarchic clubs, he would acquire more and more insight into the tactics
of which at last he proved himself a master(3). He need not,
then, be taken as an example of instinct supplying the want of training: he had
probably had precisely the training which could serve him best. The real significance
of his late and sudden prominence lies in its suggestion of previous self-control.
No desire of place, no consciousness of growing power, had tempted him to stir
until in his old age he knew that the time had come and that all the threads were
in his hand.
Character of his ability.
The ability which Antiphon brought to the service of his party is
defined as the power enthumethenai kai ha gnoie eipein. It was the power of a
subtle and quick mind backed by a thorough command of the new rhetoric. He was
masterly in device and in utterance. Fertility of expedient, ingenuity in making
points in debate, were the qualities which the oligarchs most needed; and it was
in these that the strength of Antiphon lay. In promptness of invention where difficulties
were to be met on the instant he probably bore some likeness to Themistokles;
but there is no reason for crediting him with that largeness of view, or with
any share of that wonderful foresight, which made Themistokles a statesman as
well as a diplomatist.
Thucydides praises Antiphon not only for his ability but, with equal
emphasis, for his arete, his virtue. The praise may be interpreted by what Thucydides
himself says elsewhere about the moral results of the intense conflicts between
oligarchy and democracy (Thuc. III. 82.). The arete, precious as rare, of a public
man was to be a loyal partisan; to postpone personal selfishness to the selfishness
of party; to be proof against bribes; and at the worst not to flinch, or at least
not to desert. Thucydides means that of the men who brought about the Revolution
Antiphon was perhaps the most disinterested and the most constant. He had taken
previously no active part in public affairs, and was therefore less involved than
such men as Peisandros and Phrynichos in personal relations: his life had been
to some extent that of a student: he had never put himself forward for office:
he seems, to judge from his writings, to have really believed and felt that old
Attic religion which at least the older school of oligarchs professed to cherish:
and thus altogether might be considered as the most unselfishly earnest member
of his party, the man who cared most for its ideas. In this measure he was disinterested:
he was also constant. When the Council fell, he could, no doubt, have escaped
with Peisandros and the rest. Considering his long unpopularity, and the fact
that he would be assumed to have been the chief spokesman of the odious embassy
to Sparta, his condemnation was perhaps more certain than that of any other person.
But he stood his ground: and for the last time put out all his strength in a great
defence of the fallen Government.
The new power of Rhetoric.
In a general view of Antiphon's career there is one aspect which ought
not to be missed--that aspect in which it bears striking evidence to the growing
importance in Athenian public life of the newly-developed art of Rhetoric. Antiphon's
first and strongest claim to eminence was his mastery over the weapons now indispensable
in the ekklesia and the law-courts; it was this accomplishment, no less fashionable
than useful, which recommended him to the young men of his party whom he had no
other pretension to influence; it was this rhetorical deinotes to which he owed
his efficiency in the Revolution. In his person the practical branch of the new
culture for the first time takes a distinct place among the qualifications for
political rank. The Art of Words had its definite share in bringing in the Four
Hundred: it was a curious nemesis when seven years later it was banished from
Athens by the Thirty.
1. He is often distinguished as the 'Rhamnusian' from namesakes.
Of these there are especially three with whom his ancient biographers --the pseudo-Plutarch,
Philostratos, Photios (cod. 259), and the anonymous author of the genos Antiphontos--frequently
I. The Antiphon who was put to death by the Thirty Tyrants, seven
years after the orator's death: Xen. Hellen. III. 40. He had furnished two triremes
at his own cost during the war: and of him Philostratos is probably thinking when
he says of the orator, estrategese pleista, enikese pleista, hexekonta trieresi
pepleromenais euxesen Athenaiois to nautikon. The speech of Lysias peri tes Antiphontos
thugatros (pseudo-Plut. Vitt. X. Oratt.) referred to his daughter.
II. Antiphon the tragedian, put to death by Dionysios the elder, towards
the end of his reign, i.e. about 370 B. C.: Arist. Rhet. II. 6. The anonymous
biographer says of the orator, tragoidias epoiei: and Philostratos describes him
as put to death by Dionysios for criticising his tragedies.
III. Antiphon the Sophist, introduced by Xenophon as disputing with
Sokrates, Memor. I. 6. 1. Diogenes calls him teratoskopos (soothsayer), Suidas,
oneirokrites -- by which title he is often referred to. Hermogenes expressly distinguishes
him from the orator (peri ideon, II. 497); but they are confused by the pseudo-Plut.
and by Photios.
2. Harpokr. s.v. stasiotes (Sauppe, Or. Att. II. p. 138.) Antiphon
en toi peri tes metastaseos: peri toinun hon Apolexis kategoreken hos stasiotes
en ego kai ho pappos ho emos: eoike nun ho rhetor idios epi tou doruphorou kechresthai
toi onomati: en goun tois hexes phesin hoti: ouk an tous men turannountas edunethesan
hoi progonoi kolasai, tous de doruphorous edunatesan. Curtius (Hist. Gr. Vol.
III. p. 460, transl. Ward) infers from this fragment that Antiphon in his speech
argued ?that the Four Hundred had acted as one equally responsible body, and that,
therefore, either all ought to be punished or all acquitted.? He observes that
?reference seems to be made to an unjustifiable separation of the parties involved:
this is indicated by the distinction drawn between the turannoi and the doruphoroi.?
It is very likely that Antiphon may have used this argument: but I do not see
how it is to be inferred from the fragments of the speech peri tes metastaseos
that he used it. The distinction between the turannoi and the doruphoroi is made,
as a perusal of the fragment will show, solely in reference to the Peisistratidae.
3. 'By far the larger number of the members of the party belonged
to the sophistically-trained younger generation...who greedily imbibed the political
teaching communicated to them at the meetings of the party by Antiphon, the Nestor
of his party, as it was the fashion to call him'. (Curtius, Hist. Gr. III. p.
435, transl Ward)The only authority for this fashion which I have been able to
find is [Plut.] Vitt. X. Oratt.: protos de kai rhetorikas technas exenenke, genomenos
anchinous: dio kai Nestor epekaleito. As this notice makes the name 'Nestor' refer
simply to rhetorical skill, not to political sagacity, I have hesitated to follow
Curtius in his picturesque application of it.
This text is cited June 2005 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Sir Richard C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos
Antiphon the most antique of the orators.
Antiphon stands first among the orators of the Attic canon; and he
claims this place not merely because he was born a few years earlier than any
one of the rest. A broad difference separates him from those who were nearly his
contemporaries hardly less than from men of the next century, from Andokides and
Lysias as well as from Demosthenes and Hypereides. He represents older ideas and
an older conception of the manner in which these ideas are to find expression.
His successors, taken collectively, are moderns; compared with them, he is ancient
The beginnings of Greek Prose.
The outburst of intellectual life in Hellas during the fifth century
before Christ had for one of its results the creation of Greek prose. Before that
age no Greek had conceived artistic composition except in the form of poetry.
The Ionians who had already recorded myths or stated philosophies in prose had
either made no effort to rise above the ease of daily talk, or had clothed their
meaning in a poetical diction of the most ambitious kind. As the mental horizon
of Greece was widened, as subtler ideas and more various combinations began to
ask for closer and more flexible expression, the desire grew for something more
precise than poetry, firmer and more compact than the idiom of conversation. Two
special causes aided this general tendency. The development of democratic life,
making the faculty of speech before popular assemblies and popular lawcourts a
necessity, hastened the formation of an oratorical prose. The Persian Wars, by
changing Hellenic unity from a sentiment into a fact, and reminding men that there
was a corporate life, higher and grander than that of the individual city, of
which the story might be told, supplied a new motive to historical prose. Athens
under Perikles became the focus of all the feelings which demanded this new utterance,
and of all the capabilities which could make the utterance artistic. The Athenian
mind, with its vigour, its sense of measure, its desire for clearness, was fitted
to achieve the special excellences of prose, and moulded that Attic dialect in
which the prose-writer at last found his most perfect instrument. But the process
of maturing the new kind of composition was necessarily slow; for it required,
as its first condition, little less than the creation of a new language, of an
idiom neither poetical nor mean. Herodotos, at the middle point of the fifth century,
shows the poetical element still preponderant. The close of that century may be
taken as the end of the first great stage in the growth of a prose literature.
If a line is drawn there, Lysias will be perhaps the first representative name
below it: Antiphon and Thucydides will be among the last names above it.
Character of the early Prose.
The leading characteristic of the earlier prose is dignity. The newly
created art has the continual consciousness of being an art. It is always on its
guard against sliding into the levity of a conversational style. The composer
feels above all things that his written language must be so chosen as to produce
a greater effect than would be produced by an equivalent amount of extemporary
speaking. Every word is to be pointed and pregnant; every phrase is to be the
condensed expression of his thought in its ultimate shape, however difficult this
may be to the reader or hearer who meets it in that shape for the first time;
the movement of the whole is to be slow and majestic, impressing by its weight
and grandeur, not charming by its life and flow. The prose-writer of this epoch
instinctively compares himself with the poet. The poet is a craftsman, the possessor
of a mystery revealed to the many only in the spell which it exerts over their
fancies; just so, in the beginnings of a literary prose, its shaper likes to think
that he belongs to a guild. He does not care to be simply right and clear: rather
he desires to have the whole advantage which his skill gives him over ordinary
men; he is eager to bring his thoughts down upon them with a splendid and irresistible
force. In Greece this character, natural to immature prose, was intensified by
a special cause --the influence of the Sophists. In so far as these teachers dealt
with the form of language, they tended to confirm that view of the prose-writer
in which he is a professional expert dazzling and overawing laymen. The Sophists
of Hellas Proper dwelt especially on the minute proprieties of language, as Protagoras
on correct grammatical forms and Prodikos on the accurate use of synonyms; the
Sophists of Sicily taught its technical graces. In this last respect the teaching
of Gorgias was thoroughly reactionary, and was calculated to hinder the growth
of a good prose just at the critical point. At the moment when prose was striving
to disengage itself from the diction of poetry, Gorgias gave currency to the notion
that poetical ornament of the most florid type was its true charm. When, indeed,
he went further, and sought to imitate the rhythm as well as the phrase of poetry,
this very extravagance had a useful result. Prose has a rhythm, though not of
the kind at which Gorgias aimed; and the mere fact of the Greek ear becoming accustomed
to look for a certain proportion between the parts of a sentence hastened the
transition from the old running style to the periodic.
Dionysios on the 'austere' style.
Dionysios has described vividly the characteristics of that elder
school of composition to which Antiphon belonged. He distinguishes three principal
styles, the austere, the smooth and the middle. He cites poets, historians and
orators who are examples of each. Among orators Antiphon is his representative
of the austere style, Isokrates of the smooth, Demosthenes of the middle. The
austere style is thus described:
' It wishes its separate words to be planted firmly and to have strong
positions, so that each word may be seen conspicuously; it wishes its several
clauses to be well divided from each other by sensible pauses. It is willing to
admit frequently rough and direct clashings of sounds, meeting like the bases
of stones in loose wall-work, which have not been squared or smoothed to fit each
other, but which show a certain negligence and absence of forethought. It loves,
as a rule, to prolong itself by large words of portly breadth. Compression by
short syllables is a thing which it shuns when not absolutely driven to it.
'As regards separate words, these are the objects of its pursuit and
craving. In whole clauses it shows these tendencies no less strongly; especially
it chooses the most dignified and majestic rhythms. It does not wish the clauses
to be like each other in length of structure, or enslaved to a severe syntax,
but noble, simple, free. It wishes them to bear the stamp of nature rather than
that of art, and to stir feeling rather than to reflect character. It does not
usually aim at composing periods as a compact framework for its thought; but,
if it should ever drift undesignedly into the periodic style, it desires to set
on this the mark of spontaneity and plainness. It does not employ, in order to
round a sentence, supplementary words which do not help the sense; it does not
care that the march of its phrase should have stage-glitter or an artificial smoothness;
nor that the clauses should be separately adapted to the length of the speaker's
breath. No indeed. Of all such industry it is innocent... It is fanciful in imagery,
sparing of copulas, anything but florid; it is haughty, straightforward, disdainful
of prettiness, with its antique air and its negligence for its beauty'.
It is important to remember that this description is applied to a
certain kind of poetry as well as of prose, to Pindar and Aeschylos as well as
to Thucydides and Antiphon; and that, taken in reference to prose alone, it needs
modification. It is not true, for instance, of the older prose that it always
shrank from the display of artificialism. Negligent it often was; but at other
times it was consciously, ostentatiously artificial. Its general characteristics,
however, are admirably given by Dionysios. It is dignified; it relies much on
the weight of single words; it is bold but not florid; it aims at moving the hearer
rather than at reflecting the character of the speaker. Antiphon, his representative
orator, exemplifies these points clearly,--as will be seen better if he is compared
from time to time with the critic's representative historian, Thucydides.
Antiphon's style--its dignity.
In the first place, then, Antiphon is preeminently dignified and noble.
He is to his successors generally as Aeschylos to Euripides. The elder tragedy
held its gods and heroes above the level of men by a colossal majesty of repose,
by the passionless utterance of kingly thoughts; and the same feeling to which
these things seemed divine conceived its ideal orator as one who controls a restless
crowd by the royalty of his calm power, by a temperate and stately eloquence.
The speaker who wins his hearers by blandishments, who surprises them by adroit
turns, who hurries them away on a torrent of declamation, belonged to a generation
for which gods also and heroes declaimed or quibbled on the stage. Plutarch has
described, not without a tinge of sarcasm, the language and demeanour by which
Perikles commanded the veneration of his age. 'His thoughts were awe-inspiring,
his language lofty, untainted by the ribaldry of the rascal crowd. His calm features,
never breaking into laughter; his measured step; the ample robe which flowed around
him and which nothing deranged; his moving eloquence; the tranquil modulation
of his voice; these things, and such as these, had over all men a marvellous spell'.
The biographer goes on to relate how Perikles was once abused by a coarse fellow
in the market-place, bore it in silence until he had finished his business there,
and when his persecutor followed him home, merely desired a slave to take a lantern
and see the man home. It is not probable that the receiver of the escort felt
all the severity of the moral defeat which he had sustained; and he is perhaps
no bad representative of the Athenian democracy in its relations to the superb
decorum of the old school. Much of this decorum survives in Antiphon, who, in
a literary as in a political sense, clung to traditions which were fading. Yet
even in him the influence of the age is seen. The Tetralogies, written for practice,
and in which he had to please no one but himself, are the most stately of his
compositions. The speech On the Murder of Herodes is less so, even in its elaborate
proem; while part of the speech On the Choreutes, doubtless the latest of his
extant works, shows a marked advance towards the freedom and vivacity of a newer
style. It was in the hands of Antiphon that rhetoric first became thoroughly practical;
and for this very reason, conservative as he was, he could not maintain a rigid
conservatism. The public position which he had taken for his art could be held
only by concessions to the public taste.
Reliance on single words.
Antiphon relies much on the full, intense significance of single words.
This is, indeed, a cardinal point in the older prose. Its movement was slow; each
word was dropped with deliberation; and now and then some important word, heavy
with concentrated meaning, came down like a sledge-hammer. Take, for instance,
the chapter in which Thucydides shows how party strife, like that in Corcyra,
had the effect of confusing moral distinctions. Blow on blow the nicely-balanced
terms beat out the contrasts, until the ear is weary as with the clangour of an
anvil. 'Reckless daring was esteemed loyal courage,--prudent delay, specious cowardice;
temperance seemed a cloak for pusillanimity; comprehensive sagacity was called
universal indifference'. 'Remonstrance is for friends who err; accusation for
enemies who have done wrong'. In Antiphon's speech On the Murder of Herodes, the
accused says (reminding the court that his case ought not to be decided until
it has been heard before the Areiopagos): 'Be now, therefore, surveyors of the
cause, but then, judges of the evidence,--now surmisers, but then deciders, of
the truth'. And in the Second Tetralogy: 'Those who fail to do what they mean
are agents of a mischance; those who hurt, or are hurt, voluntarily, are authors
of suffering'. Examples of this eagerness to press the exact meaning of words
are frequent in Antiphon, though far less frequent than in Thucydides. It is evidently
natural to that early phase of prose composition in which, newly conscious of
itself as an art, it struggles to wring out of language a force strange to the
ordinary idiom; and in Greece this tendency must have been further strengthened
by the stress which Gorgias laid on antithesis, and Prodikos on the discriminating
of terms nearly synonymous. Only so long as slow and measured declamation remained
in fashion could the orator attempt thus to put a whole train of thought into
a single weighty word. What the old school sought to effect by one powerful word,
the later school did by the free, rapid, brilliant development of a thought in
all its fulness and with all the variety of contrasts which it pressed upon the
Antiphon is imaginative but not florid.
A further characteristic of the older style--that it is 'fanciful
in imagery, but by no means florid'-- is exemplified in Antiphon. The meaning
of the antithesis is sufficiently clear in reference to Aeschylos and Pindar,
the poets chosen by Dionysios as his instances. In reference to prose also it
means a choice of images like theirs, bold, rugged, grand; and a scorn, on the
other hand, for small prettinesses, for showy colouring, for maudlin sentiment.
The great representative in oratory of this special trait must have been Perikles.
A few of his recorded expressions bear just this stamp of a vigorous and daring
fancy;--his description of Aegina as the 'eyesore' of the Peiraeus; his saying
that, in the slain youth of Athens, the year had lost its spring; his declaration,
over the bodies of those who fell at Samos, that they had become even as the gods;
'for the gods themselves we see not, but infer their immortality from the honours
paid to them and from the blessings which they bestow'. The same imaginative boldness
is found in Antiphon, though but rarely, and under severe control. 'Adversity
herself is wronged by the accused', he makes a prosecutor exclaim, 'when he puts
her forward to screen a crime and to withdraw his own villainy from view'. A father,
threatened with the condemnation of his son, cries to the judges: 'I shall be
buried with my son -in the living tomb of my childlessness'. But in Antiphon,
as in Thucydides, the haughty, careless freedom of the old style is shown oftener
in the employment of new or unusual words or phrases. The orator could not, indeed,
go so far as the historian, who is expressly censured on this score by his Greek
critic; but they have some expressions of the same character in common. While
Antiphon is sparing of imagery, he is equally moderate in the use of the technical
figures of rhetoric. These have been well distinguished as 'figures of language'
(schemata lexeos) and 'figures of thought' (schemata dianoias) --the first class
including various forms of assonance and of artificial symmetry between clauses;
the second including irony, abrupt pauses, feigned perplexity, rhetorical question
and so forth. Caecilius of Calacte, the author of this distinction, was a student
of Antiphon, and observed that the 'figures of thought' are seldom or never used
by him. The figures of language all occur, but rarely. Blass and K. O. Muller
agree in referring this marked difference between the older and later schools
of oratory--the absence, in the former, of those lively figures so abundant in
the latter--to an essential change which passed upon Greek character in the interval.
It was only when fierce passion and dishonesty had become strong traits of a degenerate
national character that vehemence and trickiness came into oratory. This seems
a harsh and scarcely accurate judgment. It appears simpler to suppose that the
conventional stateliness of the old eloquence altogether precluded such vivacity
as marked the later; and that the mainspring of this new vivacity was merely the
natural impulse, set free from the restraints of the older style, to give arguments
their most spirited and effective form.
Pathos and Ethos in Antiphon.
Nothing in the criticism of Dionysios on the 'austere' style is more
appreciative than his remark, that it aims rather at pathos than at ethos. That
is, it addresses itself directly to the feelings; but does not care to give a
subtle persuasiveness to its words by artistically adjusting them to the character
and position of the person who is supposed to speak them. It is tragic; yet it
is not dramatic. There has never, perhaps, been a greater master of stern and
solemn pathos than Thucydides. The pleading of the Plataeans before their Theban
judges, the dialogue between the Athenians and the Melians, the whole history
of the Sicilian Expedition and especially its terrible closing scene, have a wonderful
power over the feelings; and this power is in a great degree due to a certain
irony. The reader feels throughout the restrained emotion of the historian; he
is conscious that the crisis described was an agonising one, and that he is hearing
the least that could be said of it from one who felt, and could have said, far
more. On the other hand, a characteristic colouring, in the literary sense, is
scarcely attempted by Thucydides. No writer is more consummate in making personal
or national character appear in the history of actions. And when his characters
speak, they always speak from the general point of view which he conceived to
be appropriate to them. But in the form and language of their speeches there is
little discrimination. Athenians and Lacedaemonians, Perikles and Brasidas, Kleon
and Diodotos speak much in the same style; it is the ideas which they represent
by which alone they are broadly distinguished. The case is nearly the same with
Antiphon. His extant works present no subject so great as those of Thucydides,
and his pathos is necessarily inferior in degree to that of the historian; but
it resembles it in its stern solemnity, and also in this, that it owes much of
its impressiveness to its self-control. The second and fourth speeches of the
First Tetralogy, and the second and third of the Second, furnish perhaps the best
examples. In ethos, on the contrary, Antiphon is weak; and this, in a writer of
speeches for persons of all ages and conditions, must be considered a defect.
In the Herodes case the defendant is a young Mytilenean, who frequently pleads
his inexperience of affairs and his want of practice as a speaker. The speech
On the Choreutes is delivered by an Athenian citizen of mature age and eminent
public services. But the two persons speak nearly in the same strain and with
the same measure of self-confidence. Had Lysias been the composer, greater deference
to the judges and a more decided avoidance of rhetoric would have distinguished
the appeal of the young alien to an unfriendly court from the address of the statesman
to his fellow citizens.
The style of Antiphon: how far periodic.
The place of Antiphon in the history of his art is further marked
by the degree in which he had attained a periodic style. It is perhaps impossible
to find English terms which shall give all the clearness of the Greek contrast
between periodike and eiromene lexis. The 'running' style, as eiromene expresses,
is that in which the ideas are merely strung together, like beads, in the order
in which they naturally present themselves to the mind. Its characteristic is
simple continuity. The characteristic of the 'periodic' style is that each sentence
'comes round' upon itself, so as to form a separate, symmetrical whole. The running
style may be represented by a straight line which may be cut short at any point
or prolonged to any point: the periodic style is a system of independent circles.
The period may be formed either, so to say, in one piece, or of several members
(kola, membra), as a hoop may be made either of a single lath bent round, or of
segments fitted together. It was a maxim of the later Greek rhetoric that, for
the sake of simplicity and strength, a period should not consist of more than
four of these members or segments; Roman rhetoric allowed a greater number.
Aristotle takes as his example of the 'running' style the opening
words of the History of Herodotos; and, speaking generally, it may be said that
this was the style in which Herodotos and the earlier Ionian logographers wrote.
But it ought to be remembered that neither Herodotos, nor any writer in a language
which has passed beyond the rudest stage, exhibits the ?running? style in an ideal
simplicity. In its purest and simplest form, the running style is incompatible
with the very idea of a literature. Wherever a literature exists, it contains
the germ, however immature, of the periodic style; which, if the literature is
developed, is necessarily developed along with it. For every effort to grasp and
limit an idea naturally finds expression more or less in the periodic manner,
the very nature of a period being to comprehend and define. In Herodotos, the
running style, so congenial to his direct narrative, is dominant; but when he
pauses and braces himself to state some theory, some general result of his observations,
he tends to become periodic just because he is striving to be precise . From the
time of Herodotos onward the periodic style is seen gradually more and more natured,
according as men felt more and more the stimulus to find vigorous utterance for
clear conceptions. Antiphon represents a moment at which this stimulus had become
stronger than it had ever before been in the Greek world. His activity as a writer
of speeches may be placed between the years 421 and 411 B.C.8 . The effects of
the Peloponnesian war in sharpening political animosities had made themselves
fully felt; that phase of Athenian democracy in which the contests of the ekklesia
and of the lawcourts were keenest and most frequent had set in; the teaching of
the Sophists had thrown a new light upon language considered as a weapon. Every
man felt the desire, the urgent necessity, of being able in all cases to express
his opinions with the most trenchant force; at any moment his life might depend
upon it. The new intensity of the age is reflected in the speeches of Antiphon.
Wherever the feeling rises highest, as in the appeals to the judges, he strives
to use a language which shall 'pack the thoughts closely and bring them out roundly'.
But it is striking to observe how far this periodic style still is from the ease
of Lysias or the smooth completeness of Isokrates. The harshness of the old rugged
writing refuses to blend with it harmoniously,--either taking it up with marked
transitions, or suddenly breaking out in the midst of the most elaborate passages.
It is everywhere plain that the desire to be compact is greater than the power.
Antitheses and parallelisms are abundantly employed, giving a rigid and monotonous
effect to the periods which they form. That more artistic period of which the
several parts resemble the mutually-supporting stones of a vaulted roof, and which
leads the ear by a smooth curve to a happy finish, has not yet been found. An
imperfect sense of rhythm, or a habit of composition to which rhythmical restraint
is intolerable except for a very short space, is everywhere manifest. The vinegar
and the oil refuse to mingle. Thucydides presents the same phenomenon, but with
some curious differences. It may perhaps be said that, while Antiphon has more
technical skill (incomplete as that skill is) in periodic writing, Thucydides
has infinitely more of its spirit. He is always at high pressure, always nervous,
intense. He struggles to bring a large, complex idea into a framework in which
the whole can be seen at once. Aristotle says that a period must be of 'a size
to be taken in at a glance'; and this is what Thucydides wishes the thought of
each sentence to be, though he is sometimes clumsy in the mechanism of the sentence
itself. Dionysios mentions among the excellences which Demosthenes borrowed from
the historian, 'his rapid movement, his terseness, his intensity, his sting';
excellences, he adds, which neither Antiphon nor Lysias nor Isokrates possessed.
This intensity, due primarily to genius, next to the absorbing interest of a great
subject, does, in truth, place Thucydides, with all his roughness, far nearer
than Antiphon to the ideal of a compact and masterly prose. Technically speaking,
Thucydides as well as Antiphon must be placed in the border-land between the old
running style and finished periodic writing. But the essential merits of the latter,
though in a rude shape, have already been reached by the native vigour of the
historian; while to the orator a period is still something which must be constructed
with painful effort, and on a model admitting of little variety.
Antiphon's treatment of subject-matter.
These seem to be the leading characteristics of Antiphon as regards
form: it remains to consider his treatment of subject-matter. The arrangement
of his speeches, so far as the extant specimens warrant a judgment, was usually
simple. First a proem (prooimion) explanatory or appealing; next an introduction
(technically prokataskeue) dealing with the circumstances under which the case
had been brought into court, and noticing any informalities of procedure: then
a narrative of the facts (diegesis): the arguments and proofs (pisteis), the strongest
first, finally an epilogue or peroration (epilogos). The Tetralogies, being merely
sketches for practice, have only proem, arguments and epilogue, not the ?introduction?
or the narrative. The speech On the Murder of Herodes and the speech On the Choreutes
(in the latter of which the epilogue seems to have been lost) are the best examples
of Antiphon's method. It is noticeable that in neither of these are the facts
of the particular case dealt with closely or searchingly; and consequently in
both instances the narrative of the facts falls into the background. Narrative
was the forte of Andokides and Lysias; it appears to have been the weak side of
Antiphon, who was strongest in general argument. General presumptions,--those
afforded, for instance, by the refusal of the prosecutors to give up their slaves
for examination, or by the respective characters of prosecutor and prisoner and
by their former relations--are most insisted upon. The First Tetralogy is a good
example of Antiphon's ingenuity in dealing with abstract probabilities (eikota);
and the same preference for proofs external to the immediate circumstances of
the case is traceable in all his extant work. The adroitness of the sophistical
rhetoric shows itself, not merely in the variety of forms given to the same argument,
but sometimes in sophistry of a more glaring kind.
The rhetorician of the school is further seen in the great number
of commonplaces, evidently elaborated beforehand and without reference to any
special occasion, which are brought in as opportunity offers. The same panegyric
on the laws for homicide occurs, in the same words, both in the speech On the
Choreutes and in that On the Murder of Herodes. In the last-named speech the reflections
on the strength of a good conscience, and the defendant's contention that he deserves
pity, not punishment, are palpably commonplaces prepared for general use. Such
patches, unless introduced with consummate skill, are doubly a blemish; they break
the coherence of the argument and they destroy everything like fresh and uniform
colouring; the speech becomes, as an old critic says, uneven. But the crudities
inseparable from a new art do not affect Antiphon's claim to be considered, for
his day, a great and powerful orator. In two things, says Thucydides, he was masterly,--in
power of conception and in power of expression. These were the two supreme qualifications
for a speaker at a time when the mere faculty of lucid and continuous exposition
was rare, and when the refinements of literary eloquence were as yet unknown.
If the speaker could invent a sufficient number of telling points, and could put
them clearly, this was everything. Antiphon, with his ingenuity in hypothesis
and his stately rhetoric, fulfilled both requirements. Remembering the style of
his oratory and his place in the history of the art, no one need be perplexed
to reconcile the high praise of Thucydides with what is at first sight the startling
judgment of Dionysios. That critic, speaking of the eloquence which aims at close
reasoning and at victory in discussion, gives the foremost place in it to Lysias.
He then mentions others who have practised it,--Antiphon among the rest.'?Antiphon
however', he says, 'has nothing but his antique and stern dignity; a fighter of
causes (agonistes) he is not, either in debate or in lawsuits'. If, as Thucydides
tells us, no one could help so well as Antiphon those who were fighting causes
(agonizomenous) in the ekklesia or the lawcourts; if, on his own trial, he delivered
a defence of unprecedented brilliancy; in what sense is Dionysios to be understood?
The explanation lies probably in the notion which the critic attached to the word
'agonist'. He had before his mind the finished pleader or debater of a time when
combative oratory considered as an art had reached its acme; when every discussion
was a conflict in which the liveliest and supplest energy must be put forth in
support of practised skill; when the successful speaker must grapple at close
quarters with his adversary, and be in truth an 'agonist', an athlete straining
every nerve for victory. Already Kleon could describe the 'agonistic' eloquence
which was becoming the fashion in the ekklesia as characterized by swift surprises,
by rapid thrust and parry; already Strepsiades conceives the 'agonist' of the
lawcourts as 'bold, glib, audacious, headlong'. This was not the character of
Antiphon. He was a subtle reasoner, a master of expression, and furnished others
with arguments and words; but he was not himself a man of the arena. He never
descended into it when he could help; he had nothing of its spirit. He did not
grapple with his adversary, but in the statelier manner of the old orators attacked
him (as it were) from an opposite platform. Opposed in court to such a speaker
as Isaeos, he would have had as little chance with the judges as Burke with one
of those juries which Curran used to take by storm. Perhaps it was precisely because
he was not in this sense an 'agonist' that he found his most congenial sphere
in the calm and grave procedure of the Areiopagos.
Religious feeling of Antiphon.
Nor was it by the stamp of his eloquence alone that he was fitted
to command the attention of that Court. In politics Antiphon was aristocratic;
in religion, an upholder of those ancient ideas and conceptions, bound up with
the primitive traditions of Attica, of which the Areiopagos was the embodiment
and the guardian. For most minds of his day these ideas were losing their awful
prestige,--fading, in the light of science, before newer beliefs, as obligarchy
had yielded to democracy, as Kronos to the dynasty of Zeus. But, as Athene, speaking
in the name of that dynasty, had reserved to the Eumenides a perpetual altar in
her land (Aesch. Eum. 804), so Antiphon had embraced the new culture without parting
from a belief in gods who visit national defilement, in spirits who hear the curse
of dying men and avenge blood crying from the ground. In the recent history of
his own city he had seen a great impiety followed by a tremendous disaster. The
prominence which he always gives to the theological view of homicide means more
than that this was the tone of the Court to which his speeches were most frequently
addressed: it points to a real and earnest feeling in his own mind. There is no
better instance of this feeling than the opening of the Third Tetralogy--a mere
exercise, in which the elaborate simulation of a religious sentiment would have
had no motive:
'The god, when it was his will to create mankind, begat the earliest
of our race and gave us for nourishers the earth and sea, that we might not die,
for want of needful sustenance, before the term of old age. Whoever, then, having
been deemed worthy of these things by the god, lawlessly robs any one among us
of life, is impious towards heaven and confounds the ordinances of men. The dead
man, robbed of the god's gift, necessarily bequeaths, as that god's punishment,
the anger of avenging spirits --anger which unjust judges or false witnesses,
becoming partners in the impiety of the murderer, bring, as a self-sought defilement,
into their own houses. We, the champions of the murdered, if for any collateral
enmity we prosecute innocent persons, shall find, by our failure to vindicate
the dead, dread avengers in the spirits which hear his curse; while, by putting
the pure to a wrongful death, we become liable to the penalties of murder, and,
in persuading you to violate the law, responsible for your sin also.
Aeschylean tone in Antiphon.
The analogy of Antiphon to Aeschylos in regard to general style has
once already been noticed; it forces itself upon the mind in a special aspect
here, where the threat of judgment from the grave on blood is wrapt round with
the very terror and darkness of the Eumenides. In another place, where Antiphon
is speaking of the signs by which the gods point out the guilty, the Aeschylean
tone is still more striking. No passage, perhaps, in Aeschylos is more expressive
of the poet's deepest feeling about life than that in which Eteokles forebodes
that the personal goodness of Amphiaraos will not deliver him:
Alas that doom which mingles in the world
A just man with the scorners of the gods! ...
Aye, for a pure man going on the sea
With men fierce-blooded and their secret sin
Dies in a moment with the loathed of heaven (Aesch.
Theb. 593 ff.)
In the Herodes trial the defendant appeals to the silent witness which
the gods have borne in his behalf: 'You know doubtless that often ere now men
red-handed or otherwise polluted have, by entering the same ship, destroyed with
themselves those who were pure towards the gods; and that others, escaping death,
have incurred the extremity of danger through such men. Many again, on standing
beside the sacrifice, have been discovered to be impure and hinderers of the solemn
rites. Now in all such cases an opposite fortune has been mine. First, all who
have sailed with me have had excellent voyages: then, whenever I have assisted
at a sacrifice it has in every instance been most favourable. These facts I claim
as strong evidence touching the present charge and the falsity of the prosecutor's
Coincidences of thought and tone such as these deserve notice just
because they are general coincidences. There is no warrant for assuming a resemblance
in any special features between the mind of Antiphon and the mind of Aeschylos:
all the more that which the two minds have in common illustrates the broadest
aspect of each. By pursuits and calling Antiphon belonged to a new Athenian democracy
antagonistic to the old ideas and beliefs: by the bent of his intellect and of
his sympathies he belonged, like Aeschylos, to the elder democracy. It is this
which gives to his extant work a special interest over and above its strictly
literary interest. All the other men whose writings remain to show the development
of oratorical Attic prose have around them the atmosphere of eager debate or litigation;
Antiphon, in language and in thought alike, stands apart from them as the representative
of a graver public life. Theirs is the spirit of the ekklesia or the dikastery;
his is the spirit of the Areiopagos.
This text is cited June 2005 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Sir Richard C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos
Sixty speeches ascribed to Antiphon were known in the reign of Augustus; but of
these Caecilius pronounced twenty-five spurious. Fifteen, including the twelve
speeches of the Tetralogies, are now extant. All these relate to causes of homicide.
The titles of lost speeches prove that Antiphon's activity was not confined to
this province; but it was in this province that he excelled; and as the orations
of Isaeos are now represented by one class only, the klerikoi, so the orations
of Antiphon are represented by one class only, the phonikoi.
The Tetralogies have this special interest, that they represent rhetoric in its
transition from the technical to the practical stage, from the schools to the
law-courts and the ekklesia. Antiphon stood between the sophists who preceded
and the orators who followed him as the first Athenian who was at once a theorist
of rhetoric and a master of practical eloquence. The Tetralogies hold a corresponding
place between merely ornamental exercises and real orations. Each of them forms
a set of four speeches, supposed to be spoken in a trial for homicide. The accuser
states his charge, and the defendant replies; the accuser then speaks again, and
the defendant follows with a second reply. The imaginary case is in each instance
sketched as lightly as possible; details are dispensed with; only the essential
framework for discussion is supplied. Hence, in these skeleton-speeches, the structure
and anatomy of the argument stand forth in naked clearness, stripped of everything
accidental, and showing in bold relief the organic lines of a rhetorical pleader's
thought. It was the essence of the technical rhetoric that it taught a man to
be equally ready to defend either side of a question. Here we have the same man
-Antiphon himself- arguing both sides, with tolerably well-balanced force; and
it must be allowed that much of the reasoning -especially in the Second Tetralogy-
is, in the modern sense, sophistical. In reference, however, to this general characteristic
one thing ought to be borne in mind. The Athenian law of homicide was precise,
but it was not scientific. The distinctions which it drew between various degrees
of guilt in various sets of circumstances depended rather on minute tradition
than on clear principle. A captious or even frivolous style of argument was invited
by a code which employed vague conceptions in the elaborate classification of
accidental details. Thus far the Tetralogies bear the necessary mark of the age
which produced them. But in all else they are distinguished as widely as possible
from the essays of a merely artificial rhetoric; not less from the ?displays?
of the elder sophists than from the ?declamations? of the Augustan age2 . They
are not only thoroughly real and practical, but they show Antiphon, in one sense,
at his best. He argues in them with more than the subtlety of the speeches which
he composed for others, for here he has no less an antagonist than himself: he
speaks with more than the elevation of his ordinary style, -for in the privacy
of the school he owed less concession to an altered public taste.
The First Tetralogy supposes the following case. A citizen, coming home at night
from a dinner-party, has been murdered. His slave, found mortally wounded on the
same spot, deposes that he recognised one of the assassins. This was an old enemy
of his master, against whom the latter was about to bring a lawsuit which might
be ruinous. The accused denies the charge: the case comes before the court of
the Areiopagos. The speeches of accuser and defendant comprise a number of separate
arguments, each of which is carefully, though very briefly, stated, but which
are not systematised or woven into a whole. An enumeration of the points raised
on either side in this case will give a fair general idea of the scope of the
Tetralogies generally. Analysis.
I. First Speech of Accuser.
1. § 1--3. (Proem.) The accused is so crafty that even an imperfect proof against
him ought to be accepted: a proof complete in all its parts is hardly to be looked
for. -It is not to be supposed that the accuser would have deliberately incurred
the guilt of prosecuting an innocent person.
[Here a narrative of the facts would naturally follow; but as this is a mere practice-speech,
it is left out, and the speaker comes at once to the proofs--first, those derived
from argument on the circumstances themselves (the entechnoi pisteis) -then, the
testimony of the slave (which represents the atechnoi.)]
2. § 4. The deceased cannot have been murdered by robbers; for he was not plundered.
3. Nor in a drunken brawl; for the time and place are against it.
4. Nor by mistake for some one else; for, in that case the slave would not have been attacked too.
5. § 5--8. It was therefore a premeditated crime and this must have been prompted
by a motive of reveng or fear.
6. Now the accused had both motives. He had lost much property in actions brought by the deceased, and was threatened with the loss of more. The murder was the only means by which he could evade the lawsuit hanging over him. [Here follows a curious argument in a circle.] And he must have felt that he was going to lose the lawsuit, or he would not have braved a trial for murder.
7. § 9. The slave identifies him.
8. § 9--11. (Epilogue.) If such proofs do not suffice no murderer can ever be
brought to justice, and the State will be left to bear the wrath of the gods for
an unexpiated pollution.
II. First Speech of the Defendant.
1. § 1--4. (Proem.) The accuser deserves the pity of the judge, for he is the
most unlucky of men. In death, as [p. 49] in life, his enemy hurts him still.
It is not enough if he can prove his own innocence; he is expected to point out
the real culprit. The accuser credits him with craft. If he was so crafty, is
it likely that he would have exposed himself to such obvious suspicion?
2. § 5--6. The deceased may have been murdered by robbers, who were scared off
by people coming up before they had stripped him.
3. Or he may have been murdered because he had been witness of some crime.
4. Or by some other of his numerous enemies; who would have felt safe, knowing that the suspicion was sure to fall on the accused, his great enemy.
5. § 7. The testimony of the slave is untrustworthy, since, in the terror of the moment, he may have been mistaken; or he may have been ordered by his present masters to speak against the accused. Generally, the evidence of slaves is held untrustworthy; else they would not be racked.
6. § 8. Even if mere probabilities are to decide the case, it is more probable that the accused should have employed some one else to do the murder, than that the slave should, at such a time, have been accurate in his recognition.
7. § 9. The danger of losing money in the impending lawsuit could not have seemed more serious to the accused than the danger, which he runs in the present trial, of losing his life.
8. § 10--13. (Epilogue.) Though he be deemed the probable murderer, he ought not
to be condemned unless he is proved to be the actual murderer. -It is his adversary
who, by accusing the innocent, is really answerable for the consequences of a
crime remaining unexpiated. -The whole life and character of the accused are in
his favour, as much as those of the accuser are against him. -The judges must
succour the ill fortune of a slandered man.
III. Second Speech of the Accuser.
1. § 1. (Proem.) The defendant has no right to speak of his ?misfortune:? it is
his fault. The first speech for the prosecutor proved his guilt; this shall overthrow
2. § 2. Had the robbers been scared off by people coming up, these persons would have questioned the slave about the assassins, and given information which would have exculpated the accused.
3. Had the deceased been murdered because he had been witness of a crime, this crime itself would have been heard of.
4. § 3. His other enemies, being in less danger from him than the accused was, had so much less motive for the crime.
5. § 4. It is contended that the slave's testimony is untrustworthy because it was wrung from him by the rack. But, in such cases as these, the rack is not used at all. [Nothing is said about the hypothesis that the slave may have been suborned by his masters.]
6. § 5. The accused is not likely to have got the deed done by other hands, since
he would have been suspected all the same, and could not have been so sure of
the work being done thoroughly.
7. § 6. The lawsuit hanging over him -a certainty- would have seemed more formidable
to him than the doubtful chance of a trial for murder.
8. § 7--8. (Notice of a few topics touched on by the defendant at the beginning
and end of his speech.) -The fear of discovery is not likely to have deterred
such a man from crime: whereas the prospect of losing his wealth -the instrument
of his boasted services to the State -is very likely to have driven him to it.
-When the certain murderer cannot be found, the presumptive must be punished.
9. § 9--11. (Epilogue.) The judges must not acquit the accused--condemned alike
by probabilities and by proofs--and thereby bring bloodguiltiness on themselves.
By punishing him, they can take the stain of murder off the State.
IV. Second Speech of the Defendant.
1. § 1--3. (Proem.) He is the victim of cruel malignity. Though bound only to
clear himself, it is demanded of him that he shall account for the crime.
2. § 4--5. Suppose that robbers did the murder, but were scared, before they had
taken their booty, by people coming up. Would these persons, as it is contended,
have remained to make inquiries? Coming on a bloody corpse and a dying man at
dead of night, would they not rather have fled in terror from the spot?
3. § 6. Suppose that the deceased was slain because he had been witness of a crime:
-the fact of such crime not having been heard of, does not prove that it did not
4. § 7. The slave, with death from his wounds close at hand, had nothing to fear
if he bore false testimony.
5. § 8. But the accused can prove a distinct alibi. All his own slaves can testify
that on the night in question - the night of the Diipolia-he did not leave his
[The assertion of the alibi has been reserved till this point, because now the prosecutor cannot reply.]
6. § 9. It is suggested that he may have committed the crime to protect his wealth.
But desperate deeds, such as this, are not done by prosperous men. They are more
natural to men who have nothing to lose.
7. § 10. Even if he were the presumptive murderer, he would not have been proved
the actual: but, as it is, the probabilities also are for him. On all grounds,
therefore, he must be acquitted, or there is no more safety for any accused man.
8. § 11--12. (Epilogue.) The judges are entreated not to condemn him wrongfully,
and so leave the murder unatoned for, while they bring a new stain of bloodguiltiness
on the State.
A tolerably full analysis of this First Tetralogy has been given, because it is
curious as showing the general line of argument which a clever Athenian reasoner,
accustomed to writing for the courts, thought most likely to succeed on either
side of such a case. It will be seen that, though other kinds of evidence come
into discussion, the contest turns largely on general probabilities (eikota)--a
province for which Antiphon had the relish of a trained rhetorician, and on which
he enlarges in the speech On the Murder of Herodes . As regards style, in this
as in the other Tetralogies the language is noble throughout, rising, in parts
of the speeches of the accused, to an austere pathos; it is always concise without
baldness, but somewhat over-stiff and antique. There is also too little of oratorical
life; at which, however, in short speeches written for practice, the author perhaps
did not aim.
The subject of the Second Tetralogy is the death of a boy accidentally
struck by a javelin while watching a youth practising at the gymnasium. The boy's
father accuses the youth -whose father defends him- of accidental homicide; and
the case comes before the court of the Palladion. In order to understand the issues
raised, it is necessary to keep in mind the Greek view of accidental homicide.
This view was mainly a religious one. The death was a pollution. Some person,
or thing, must be answerable for that pollution, and must be banished from the
State, which would else remain defiled. In a case like the supposed one, three
hypotheses were possible: that the cause of the impurity had been the thrower,
the person struck, or the missile. Perikles and Protagoras spent a whole day in
discussing a similar question. Epitimos, an athlete, had chanced to hit and kill
a certain Pharsalian: did the guilt lie, they inquired, with Epitimos, with the
man killed, or with the javelin? There was a special court -that held at the Prutaneion-
for the trial of inanimate things which had caused death. Here, however, the question
is only of living agents. The judges have nothing whatever to do with the question
as to how far either was morally to blame. The question is simply which of them
is to be considered as, in fact, the author or cause of the death.
The accused, in his first speech, assumes that the case admits of
no doubt; states it briefly; and concludes with an appeal to the judges (A. §
1--2). The father of the accused, after bespeaking patience for an apparently
strange defence (B. § 1--2) -argues that the error, the hamartia, was all on the
boy's side (§ 3--5). The thrower was standing in his appointed place; the boy
was not obliged to place himself where he did. The thrower knew what he was about;
the boy did not -he chose the wrong moment for running across. He was struck;
and so punished himself for his own fault (§ 6--8). The accuser answers in the
tone of a plain man bewildered by the shamelessness of the defence, (G. § 1--4).
It is absured, he says, to pretend that the boy killed himself with a weapon which
he had not touched. On the showing of the defence itself, the blame is divided:
if the boy ran, the youth threw: neither was passive (§ 5-- 10). The youth's father
answers that his meaning has been perverted (A. § 1--2): he did not mean, of course,
that the boy pierced himself, but that he became the first cause of his own death
(§ 3--5). The youth did no more than the other throwers, who did not hit the boy
only because he did not cross their aim (§ 6--8). Involuntary homicide is, doubtless,
punishable by law; but, in this instance, the involuntary slayer -the deceased
himself- has been punished already. To condemn the accused would be only to incur
a new pollution (§ 9--10). The striking point of the whole Tetralogy is the ingenuity
with which the defender inverts the natural view of the case. The guilt of blood
is, he says, with the deceased alone, who has taken satisfaction for it from himself.
'Destroyed by his own errors, he was punished by himself in the same instant that
he sinned'. (D. § 8.)
Another peculiarity of the Athenian law of homicide is illustrated
by the third and last Tetralogy. An elderly man had been beaten by a younger man
so severely that in a few days he died. The young man is tried for murder before
The accuser, in a short speech, appeals chiefly to the indignation
of the judges, dwelling, in a striking passage on the sin of robbing a fellow-mortal
of the god's gift (A. § 1--4). The defendant argues in reply that, if the homicide
is to be regarded as accidental, then it rests with the surgeon, under whose unskilful
treatment the man died; but, if it is to be regarded as deliberate, then the murderer
is the deceased himself, since he struck the first blow, which set the train of
events in motion (B. § 3--5). The accuser answers that the elder man is not likely
to have first struck the younger (G. § 2); and that to blame the surgeon is idle;
it would not be more absurd to inculpate the persons who called in his aid (§
5). [Here the second speech of the accused could naturally follow. But the accused
has, in the meantime, taken advantage of the Athenian law by withdrawing into
voluntary exile. The judges have no longer any power to punish him. A friend,
however, who was a bystander of the quarrel, comes forward to defend the innocence
of the accused]. The guilt, he maintains, lies with the old man; he, as can be
proved, gave the first blow (D. § 2--5); he is at once the murdered and the murderer
The line thus taken by the defence is remarkable. It relies chiefly
on the provocation alleged to have been given by the deceased. But it does not
insist upon this provocation as mitigating the guilt of the accused. It insists
upon it as transferring the whole guilt from the accused to the dead man. Athenian
law recognised only two kinds of homicide; that which was purely accidental, and
that which resulted from some deliberate act. In the latter case, whether there
had been an intent to kill or not, some one must be a murderer. Thus, here, it
would not have been enough for the defence to show that the accused had, without
intent to kill, and under provocation, done a fatal injury. It is necessary to
go on to argue that the deceased was guilty of his own murder.
The literary form of the Third Tetralogy deserves notice in two respects;
for the solemnity and majesty of the language in the accuser's first address;
and for the vivacity lent by rhetorical question and answer to part of the first
speech of the defendant -a vivacity which distinguishes it, as regards style,
from everything else in these studies.
Speech On the Murder of Herodes.
Of extant speeches written by Antiphon for real causes, by far the
most important is that On the Murder of Herodes. The facts of the case were as
follows. Herodes, an Athenian citizen, had settled at Mytilene in 427 B.C. after
the revolt and reduction of that town. He was one of the kleruchs among whom its
territory was apportioned, but not otherwise wealthy. Having occasion to make
a voyage to Aenos on the coast of Thrace, to receive the ransom of some Thracian
captives who were in his hands, he sailed from Mytilene with the accused, -a young
man whose father, a citizen of Mytilene, lived chiefly at Aenos. Herodes and his
companion were driven by a storm to put in at Methymna on the north-west coast
of Lesbos; and there, as the weather was wet, exchanged their open vessel for
another which was decked. After they had been drinking on board together, Herodes
went ashore at night, and was never seen again. The accused, after making every
inquiry for him, went on to Aenos in the open vessel; while the decked vessel,
into which they had moved at Methymna, returned to Mytilene. On reaching the latter
place again, the defendant was charged by the relatives of Herodes with having
murdered him at the instigation of Lykinos, an Athenian living at Mytilene, who
had been on bad terms with the deceased. They rested their charge principally
on three grounds. First, that the sole companion of the missing man must naturally
be considered accountable for his disappearance. Secondly, that a slave had confessed
under torture to having assisted the defendant in the murder. Thirdly, that on
board the vessel which returned from Methymna had been found a letter in which
the defendant announced to Lykinos the accomplishment of the murder.
It was necessary that the trial should take place at Athens, whither
all subject-allies were compelled to bring their criminal causes. The ordinary
course would have been to have laid an indictment for murder (graphe phonou) before
the Areiopagos. Instead, however, of doing this the relatives of Herodes laid
an information against the accused as a 'malefactor'. He was accordingly to be
tried by an ordinary dikastery under the presidency of the Eleven. 'Malefactor',
at Athens, ordinarily meant a thief, a housebreaker, a kidnapper, or criminal
of the like class; but the term was, of course, applicable to murder, especially
if accompanied by robbery. Instances of persons accused of murder being proceeded
against, not by an indictment, but by an information, and being summarily arrested
without previous inquiry, occur only a few years later than the probable date
of this speech6 . When, therefore, the accused contends that the form of the procedure
was unprecedented and illegal, this is probably to be understood as an exaggeration
of the fact that it was unusual. In two ways it must have been distasteful to
the prisoner; first, as an indignity; secondly, as a positive disadvantage. Trial
before the Areiopagos left to the prisoner the option of withdrawing from the
country before sentences; and imposed upon the accuser a peculiarly solemn oath.
In this case, moreover, the unusual (though not illegal) procedure was accompanied
by unjust rigours. When the accused arrived in Athens, although he offered the
three sureties required by law, his bail was refused; he was imprisoned. This
treatment, of which he reasonably complains, may have been due in part to the
unpopularity of Mytileneans at Athens, and to the fact that Herodes had been an
The date of the speech must lie between the capture of Mytilene in
427 B. C. and the revolt of Lesbos in 412 B. C. The accused says that in 427 B.C.
he was too young to understand the events which were passing, and that he knows
them only by hearsay. On the other hand, he can hardly have been less than twenty
at the time of the trial. Kirchner and Blass are inclined to place the speech
about 421 B. C.; it would perhaps be better to put it three or four years later,
about 417 or 416 B. C. On the other hand, a slight indication -which seems to
have escaped notice- appears to show that it was at least earlier than the spring
of 415 B. C. The accused brings together several instances in which great crimes
had never been explained . If the mutilation of the Hermae had then taken place,
he could scarcely have failed to notice so striking an example.
The speech opens with a proem in which the defendant pleads his youth
and inexperience (§ 1--7); and which is followed by a preliminary argument (prokataskeue)
on the informality of the procedure (§ 8--18). The defendant then gives a narrative
of the facts up to his arrival at Aenos (§ 19--24); and shows that the probabilities,
as depending upon the facts thus far stated, are against the story of the prosecutors
(§ 25--28). The second part of the narrative describes how the vessel into which
Herodes and the defendant had moved at Methymna returned to Mytilene; how the
slave was tortured, and under torture accused the defendant of murder (§ 29--30).
The defendant now concentrates his force upon proving the testimony
of the slave to be worthless (§ 31--51). He next discusses the statement of the
prosecutors that a letter, in which he announced the murder to Lykinos, had been
found on board the returning vessel (§ 52--56). He shows that he could have had
no motive for the murder (§ 57--63). He maintains that he cannot justly be required
to suggest a solution of the mystery. It is enough if he establishes his own innocence.
Many crimes have finally baffled investigation (§ 64--73). He notices the reproaches
brought against his father as having taken part in the revolt of Mytilene and
having been generally disloyal to Athens (§ 74--80).
Besides all the other proofs, the innocence of the prisoner is vindicated
by the absence of signs of the divine anger. Voyages and sacrifices in which he
has taken part have always been prosperous (§ 81--84). In a concluding appeal
the judges are reminded that, in any case, justice cannot be frustrated by his
acquittal, since it will still be possible to bring him before the Areiopagos
In reviewing the whole speech as an argument, the first thing which
strikes us is the notable contrast between the line of defence taken here and
that traced for a case essentially similar in the modelspeeches of the First Tetralogy.
There, the defendant employs all his ingenuity in suggesting explanations of the
mysterious crime which shall make the hypothesis of his own guilt unnecessary.
Here, the defendant pointedly refuses to do any thing of the kind. It is enough
if he can show that he was not the murderer; it is not his business to show who
was or might have been. On this broad, plain ground the defence takes a firm stand.
The arguments are presented in a natural order, as they arise out of the facts
narrated, and are drawn out at a length proportionate to their consequence, -by
far the greatest stress being laid on the worthlessness of the slave's evidence;
in discussing which, indeed, the speaker is not very consistent. One apparent
omission is curious. The prisoner incidentally says that he never left the vessel
on the night when Herodes went on shore and disappeared; but he does not dwell
upon, or attempt to prove, this allessential alibi. If the numerous commonplaces
and general sentiments seem to us a source of weakness rather than strength, allowance
must be made for the taste and fashion of the time; and every one must recognise
the effectiveness of the appeal to divine signs in which the argument finds its
As a composition, the speech has great merits. The ethos, indeed,
is not artistic; a style so dignified and so sententious is scarcely suitable
to a speaker who is continually apologising for his youth and inexperience. Nor,
except in the passage which touches on the ruin of Mytilene, is there even an
attempt at pathos. But there is variety and versatility; the opening passage is
artistically elaborate, the concluding, impressive in a higher way; while the
purely argumentative part of the speech is not encumbered with any stiff dignity,
but is clear, simple, and sufficiently animated. Altogether the style has less
sustained elevation, but shows more flexibility, greater maturity and mastery,
than that of the Tetralogies.
Speech On the Choreutes.
The speech On the Choreutes relates to the death of Diodotos, a boy
who was in training as member of a chorus to be produced at the Thargelia, and
who was poisoned by a draught given to him to improve his voice1 . The accused
is the choregus, an Athenian citizen, who discharged that office for his own and
another tribe, and at whose house the chorus received their lessons. The accuser,
Philokrates, brother of the deceased Diodotos, laid an information for poisoning
before the Archon Basileus; and after some delay, the case came before the Areiopagos(1).
It was not contended that the accused had intended to murder the boy, but only
that he had ordered to be administered to him the draught which caused his death.
According to Athenian law this was, however, a capital offence. The present speech
is the second made by the defendant, and the last, therefore, of the trial. Its
date may probably be placed soon after the Sicilian disaster(2).
In a long proem, the accused dwells on the advantage of a good conscience
-on the excellence of the court of the Areiopagos- and on the weight of a judicial
decision in such a case (§ 1--6). He goes on to complain of the manner in which
the adversaries have mixed up irrelevant charges with the true issue; he will
address himself to the latter, and then refute the former (§ 7--10). A narrative
of the facts is then begun; but he breaks it off with the remark that it would
be easy to expose the falsehoods contained in the adversary's second speech, and
that he will now bring proofs (§ 11--15). The testimony of witnesses is adduced
and commented upon (§ 16--19). The defendant goes on to contrast his own conduct
in the matter with that of the accuser; dwells on the refusal of his challenge
to an examination of slaves; and urges the strength in all points of his case
(§ 20--32). The evidence closed, he digresses into a full review of the adversaries'
conduct from the first, in order to illustrate their malice and dishonesty. 'What
judges', he asks in conclusion, 'would they not deceive, if they have dared to
trifle with the awful oath under which they came before this court'? (§ 33--51).
It seems probable that the end of the speech has been lost. Standing
last in the MSS. of Antiphon, it would thus be the more liable to mutilation;
and in the concluding speech of a trial the orator would scarcely have broken
the rule, which he observes in every other instance, of finishing with an appeal
to the judges. The fact that a rhetorical promise made in the speech is not literally
fulfilled need not be insisted upon to strengthen this view.
In the speech On the Murder of Herodes, Antiphon had to rely mainly
on his skill in argument; here, witnesses were available, the case against the
accusers was strong, and little was needed but a judicious marshalling of proofs.
This is ably managed; but, as a display of power, the speech is necessarily of
inferior interest. The Mytilenean defendant in the Herodes case and the choregus
here speak in the same general tone -with a certain directness and earnestness;
but the common ethos is more strongly marked here, as the personality of the speaker
comes more decidedly forward. In other points of style there is a striking contrast
between the earlier and the later oration. The proem here is, indeed, as measured
and as elaborate as any thing in the earlier work. But it stands alone; in the
rest of the speech there is no stiffness. The language is that of ordinary life;
the sentences are more flowing, if not always clear; the style is enlivened by
question and exclamation, instead of being ornamented with antitheses and parallelisms;
and already the beginning of a transition to the easier, more practical style
of the later eloquence is well-marked.
Speech Against a Stepmother.
The short speech entitled 'Against a Step-mother, on a Charge of Poisoning',
treats of a case which, like the preceding, belonged to the jurisdiction of the
Areiopagos. The speaker, a young man, is the son of the deceased. He charges his
step-mother with having poisoned his father several years before, by the instrumentality
of a woman who was her dupe. The deceased and a friend, Philoneos, the woman's
lover, had been dining together; and she was persuaded to administer a philtre
to both, in hope of recovering her lover's affection. Both the men died; and the
woman -a slave- was put to death forthwith. The accuser now asks that the real
criminal, -the true Klytaemnestra of this tragedy- shall suffer punishment.
After deprecating in a proem (§ 1--4) the odium to which his position
exposes him, and commenting on the refusal of the adversaries to give up their
slaves for examination (§ 5--13), the speaker states the facts of the case (§
14--20). He goes on to contrast his own part as his father's avenger with that
of his brother, the champion of the murderess (§ 21--25); appeals for sympathy
and retribution (§ 26--27); denies that his brother's oath to the innocence of
the accused can have any good ground, whereas his own oath to the justice of his
cause is supported by his father's dying declaration (§ 28--30); and concludes
by saying that he has discharged his solemn duty, and that it now remains for
the judges to do theirs (§ 31).
Two questions have been raised in connexion with this speech; whether
it was written merely for practice; and whether it was the work of Antiphon.
I. It has been urged that stories of this kind were often chosen as subjects by
the rhetoricians of the schools; that the designation of the accused as Klytaemnestra
is melodramatic; that the name Philoneos (Philoneos) seems fictitious; that the
address to the Areiopagites as o dikazontes in § 7 is strange; and that the speech
stands in the mss. before the Tetralogies. The last objection alone requires notice.
The place of the speech in the mss. is, as Blass observes, due to the fact that
it is the only accusatory speech; the Tetralogies comprise both accusation and
defence; then come the defensive orations. On the other hand the prominence of
narrative and the entire absence of argument in this speech -in direct contrast
to the Tetralogies, which are all argument and no narrative- and the unfitness
of the subject for practising the ingenuity of an advocate, seem conclusive against
the view that this was a mere exercise.
II. The question of authenticity is more difficult. As regards matter, nothing
can be weaker than the speech. There is no argument. An unsupported assertion
that the accused had attempted the same crime before; the belief of the deceased
that his wife was guilty; the refusal of the adversaries to give up their slaves;
these are the only proofs. As regards style, there is much clumsy verbiage. On
the other hand, the narrative (§ 14--20) shows real tragic power, especially in
the contrast drawn between the unconsciousness of the miserable dupe and the craft
of the instigator; throughout there is a pathos of the same kind as that of the
Tetralogies, but higher; and lastly there is a strong resemblance to a particular
passage in the speech On the Choreutes6 . The conclusion to which Blass comes
appears sensible. Our knowledge of Antiphon's style is not so complete as to justify
this rejection of the speech; but it must in any case be assigned to a period
when both his argumentative skill and his power as a composer were still in a
rude stage of their development.
1. That the Areiopagos was the court which tried the case appears
certain (1) because that court alone had jurisdiction in graphai pharmakon: (2)
because the special compliment to the court as 'the most conscientious and upright
in Greece' (§ 51) points to the Areiopagos Some have supposed that this case came
before court at the Palladion, because, in § 16, the accused is spoken of as bouleusas
ton thanaton, and, according to Harpokration, cases of bouleusis were tried at
the Palladion by the Ephetae. But the bouleusis of Harpokration is a technical
term,=epibouleusis, and denotes the intent to kill in cases in which death had
not actually followed. On the other hand, the accused here is said bouleusai ton
thanaton merely in the sense that it was by his order that the draught was given
to the boy, though he did not hand the cup to him. No intent to murder was imputed
to him: see § 19 hoi kategoroi homologousi me ek pronoias med' ek paraskoues genesthai
2. In § 12, 21, 55 the choregus speaks of having brought an action
for embezzlement of public monies against Philinos and two other persons. Now
Antiphon wrote a speech kata Philinou, -very probably, as Sauppe conjectures,
against this same Philinos when prosecuted by the choregus: and from the speech
kata Philinou are quoted the words, tous te thetas hapantas hoplitas poiesai.
Sauppe thinks this points to a time just after the Sicilian disaster: 'in illis
enim rerum angustiis videntur A thenienses thetes ad arma vocasse'. (Or. Att.
vol. II. p. 144.) This is quite possible: but Sauppe's other argument that the
fact of the choregus representing two tribes (§ 11) points to a contraction of
public expenses in a time of distress, is not worth much, since we do not know
that this may not have been the usual custom at the Thargelia. At any rate the
decidedly modern character of the speech as compared with the De caed. Herodis
warrants us in placing it some years after the latter, which (as has been said
above) was probably spoken between 421 and 416 B. C.
This text is cited June 2005 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Sir Richard C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos
Antiphon: Lost works.
Besides the extant compositions, twenty-four others, bearing the name
of Antiphon, are known by their titles. Among these three deserve especial notice,
because their titles have occasioned different inferences as to their contents,
and because it is now tolerably certain that they belong, not to Antiphon the
orator, but to Antiphon the sophist. These are the 'speeches' (or rather essays)
On Truth, On Concord, On Statesmanship. As regards the first of these, indeed,
the testimony of Hermogenes that it was the work of the Sophist has scarcely been
questioned. But the treatise On Concord has often been given to the orator on
the assumption that it was a speech, enforcing the importance of harmony, which
he delivered in some political crisis, perhaps at the moment when the Four Hundred
were threatened with ruin by internal dissensions. The treatise on Statesmanship,
again, might, as far as the title witnesses, have been a practical exposition
of oligarchical principles by the eloquent colleague of Peisandros. An examination
of the fragments leads, however, to the almost certain conclusion that all these
three works must be ascribed to the Sophist. The essay On Truth was a physical
treatise, in which cosmic phenomena were explained mechanically in the fashion
of the Ionic School. The essay On Concord was an ethical treatise, exhorting all
men to live in harmony and friendship, instead of embittering their short lives
by strife. The essay on Statesmanship was no party-pamphlet, but a discussion
of the training required to produce a capable citizen. Besides the speeches known
to the ancients, a work on the Art The Rhetoric. of Rhetoric, and a collection
of Proems and Epilogues, were current under Antiphon's name. The collectwn of
Proems and Epilogues. Sauppe and Spengel believe the Tetralogies to be examples
taken from the Rhetoric; the latter, however, is expressly condemned as spurious
by Pollux. The collection of Proems and Epilogues may, as Blass suggests, have
furnished the opening and concluding passages of the Speech On the Murder of Herodes,
and the opening passage of that On the Choreutes. In the latter case the difference
of style between the proem and all that follows it is certainly striking.
This text is cited June 2005 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Sir Richard C. Jebb, The Attic Orators from Antiphon to Isaeos