XXIV. Isocrates

1. Dionysius of Halicarnassos, On Isocrates p. 55.10: He took over the discipline of speeches, which had been defiled by sophists such as Gorgias and Protagoras, and was the first to move away from the adversarial and natural-science related rhetoric toward the political, and being serious about this discipline brought it to perfection, out of which, as he himself says, whoever learns it gains the ability to counsel, speak and do what is favorable.

Cf. Isocr. ep. 5.4; οr. 15.175; 255; 276.

2. Pseudo-Plutarch, Lives of the Ten Orators: He would deal with anyone who wanted, and was the first to separate adversarial speeches from political ones, about which he was serious.

3. Philodemus, On Rhetoric: Isocrates, who also left behind treatises, and many other sophists show that rhetoric is an amazing discipline.

Cf. Diοnys. Hal. To Ammaeus p. 259, 2 Us.-R. (above XXII 3).

4. Quintilian 3.1.14: Aristotle began to teach rhetoric in afternoon schools, making frequent use of that famous (as they say) verse from Philoctetes, that it was dishonourable to stay silent and let Isocrates speak. Both have left behind a treatise.

5. Plutarch, Demosthenes 5.7: (Hermippus) mentions Ctesibius saying that Demosthenes secretly took Isocrates’ and Alcidamas’ treatises from Callias of Syracuse and a few others and learned them thoroughly.

There can be nothing underlying this story other than what has been believed to be Isocrates’ treatise containing ‘esoteric teachings.’ Alcidamas says that it was typical for Isocrates to ‘profess “arts” of speeches’, which does not refer to a written treatise. See the following.

6. Diogenes Laertius: [Speusippos] was the first to make public the so-called secrets from Isocrates, as Kaeneus says.

7. Cicero, On Invention 2.2.7: At the same time as Aristotle lived the great and noble rhetor Isocrates. We were unable to find the treatise he is alleged to have written; however, we have discovered a great deal of precepts on the art by his students and those who are further down the line from his school.

Cf. A V 9 f., Philod. On Rhetoric I 147 Col. II S.: ‘They believe that their own ability and discipline can never be philosophy also. And if they wanted it to be a discipline and at the same time either the only one or the most useful, they would have called it with the same name as that of the Isocrateans and the likes of them.’ The ‘Isocrateans’ are elsewhere referred to as ‘Isocrates’ successors.’ To illustrate the situation, it is useful to point to the fact that Philod. On Rhetoric II 252, 28 lists orators ‘who lacked manuals brought along from the schools and transmitted,’ provided that we can trust the reconstruction of this fragmentary passage..

8. Cicero, Letters to Atticus 2.1.1: While those words of yours (for I read them with pleasure) seemed to me coarse and unadorned, they were embellished by the very fact that they refused all ornaments; much as women used to be regarded as having a good odor when they did not smell of anything. However, my book (the commentary on my consulate) has consumed Isocrates’ entire perfume box and all the chests of his students and also some of Arsitotle’s makeup.

9. Pseudo-Plutarch, Lives of the Ten Orators: Some say that he also wrote treatises; others, that he used no method but only practice.

10. Photius, Library: They say he also wrote a treatise on rhetoric, about which I myself know that it bears the name of the man as its author. Others claims that he used practice rather than a proper discipline in composing speeches.

11. Life of Isocrates: It is also said that he wrote a rhetorical treatise but later on he happened to lose it. Somebody will say: How can we know that this is the truth? Our answer is that the philosopher Aristotle, while gathering treatises on rhetoric, mentioned that one, too.

12. Excerpt of P [?]: Gorgias […] and Isocrates wrote a treatise.

13. Sopater on Hermogenes: After him, Antiphon of Rhamnus, the teacher of Thucydides, is said to have written a treatise, and after that Isocrates the orator. And all of these are treatises on public speaking.

On Sopater see above, p. 76.

14. Cicero, Brutus 12.48: (Aristotle says that) Isocrates at first claimed that there was no such thing as an art of speaking, but on the other hand, he used to write speeches for others […]; however, since he […] was often dragged to court, he quit writing speeches for others and dedicated himself completely to writing treatises.

See the full text above, A V 9. By artes (Greek technai) he seems here to mean speeches polished according to a set of rules.

15. Letters of the Socratics (Speusippos), 30.4: [Isocrates], the one referred to in the treatises, says that one must make the audience favorable.

Perhaps (with a couple of textual emendations) ‘one must make the listeners favourable by praising the ancestors.’ At any rate, these words refer to Isocrates 5.77.

16. Ibid., 30.10: And on the one hand he says in his treatises that one should use examples that are familiar and well-known; but then he neglects the rules of the discipline and makes use of examples that are unfamiliar, the ugliest of all and totally contrary to the meaning of the speech.

This passage seems to belong with Euagoras 12 f. and 77, from which it follows that such speeches were called technai. They are hardly evidence that Isocrates wrote any written treatise.

17. Pseudo-Plutarch, Lives of the Ten Orators: He says that he himself collaborated on some treatises by Theramenes […], which bear the name ‘Boton’ in the title as their author.

18. Quintilian 2.15.4: This view (that rhetoric is a force [dunamis]) originated with Isocrates, provided that the treatise that circulates under his name is actually his. This author, though being far from agreeing with those who want to denigrate the duties of an orator, gave the art an imprudently broad compass by writing that “rhetoric is the manufacturer of persuasion,” that is, peithous demiourgos.

Ibid. 33: ‘Some even call philosophy a part of rhetoric, Isocrates among them.’ This conclusion can easily have been drawn from his speeches. On peithous demiourgos see Antid. 249, 275, 276 f.; Sheehan p. 12 compares other passages; Pantatzes I p. 23 f. compares many more.

19. Sextus Empiricus, Against the Mathematicians: Isocrates says that orators are concerned with nothing other than the science of persuasion.

Thiele, Herm. 27, 12.

20. Philodemus, On Rhetoric: Now we must analyze that other issue, that some of the premises are forensic, others are deliberative, yet others about praise and blame. [The sophistic rhetoricians] said that the first form encompasses the relations of individuals to one another, the second outlines what is favorable for everybody, and the third encourages to practice virtue and discourages from vice.

This seems to refer to Isocrates’ ‘political philosophy’, see e.g. 2.8; 3.1 f.; 5.17; 8, 39; 9.5; 12.246; 271; 15.255.

21. John of Sardis,  On Aphthonius, Progymnasmata [?]: According to Isocrates, the speaker must on the one hand learn about the differences, on the other be judge of their employment and compose speeches that fit the times, persons and facts at hand.

The same is written in the Scholia Parisina on Aphthonius (from the Prog. of Nicolaus the Sophist, cf. Rhet. gr. XI ed. Felten p. 58) W II 632, 25 f. (Scholia W, 4 read ‘judgemnt’ instead of ‘employment’; Nic. drops ‘that fit’).

22. Syrianus on Hermogenes and Maximus Planudes in Hermogenes: From Isocrates’ treatise we are taught which ones of the expressions are called pure. For so much thought has the man given to purity that in his own treatise he claims the following about expression: ‘In the expression the vowels must not be identical (for such is lame), nor must one end and start with the same syllable, as in εἰποῦσα σαφῆ, ἡλίκα καλά, ἔνθα Θαλῆς. Also, one must not use the same connective particles close by, and one must have the clause prepared for follow the one preparing for it without delay. One needs to use either the most beautiful word or the least artificial or the most widely known. In general, the speech should not be simply a speech (this would be dry), but it should be comprised of mixed rhythms, especially iambs and trochees. Further, one should expound what comes first, second and so on in order and avoid moving on to the following thing before finishing the first, then coming back to the first from the end.’

Cf. Dionys. Hal. On Isaeus p. 57.9 Us.-R., Anaximenes 2 p. 63, 1 H.: ‘Do not put vowels side by side, unless it would otherwise be impossible to achieve clarity or there is some pause or some other kind of diaeresis.’ Cf. ibid. p. 61.24. Hence Cicero Brut. 8.32: ‘There was Isocrates… and he both wrote very good works himself and taught others; he was better than his predecessors in general, and also in that he was the first to understand that even in prose, although you should steer clear of versification, you still have to maintain some sort of measure and rhythm.’ Cf. Or. 52.175 f.; Aristot. Rhetoric 1408 b 21: ‘The appearance of the diction must be neither in verse nor fully without rhythm.’ Cic. Orat. 57.195: ‘A speech must neither be in verse, like a poem, nor fully eschew rhythm, like everyday language.’ Cf. On the Orator 3.44.175; Dionys. Hal. de comp. verb. p. 124, 21 f. Us.-R.; Quintil. 9.4.45 f. – p. 158, 4; in the same way Anaximenes 30, p. 72.9; 38, p. 100, 12 H. Cf. Peters p. 58. Philodemus seems to refer to Isocrates’ teachings when he writes, On Rhetoric I p. 160, 11 S.: ‘In addition, as some of the writers of treatises have described, they amass the hyperbatons without need, thinking that will be helpful, and if there is the need to use a hyperbaton, they fail to keep the distance as short as possible and to insert the connecting particle in a timely fashion… (p. 161, 6) (One must?) use the commonly used phrases appropriately and not put them out improperly or generically or in a commonplace way but on proper terms.’ Cf. the following and Philod. I p. 185, 16 f. S., where in l. 22 f. it appears we must read: ‘and to insert the connected connecting particles.’ Cf. below 24; Isocr. 12.24.

23. Maximus Planudes: The Atticists totally prohibit coining new words and enjoin that one use only the expressions already in use and the words already in place, as Isocrates puts it.

Cf. Euagoras 9.10.

24. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1407 a30: The first rule therefore is to make a proper use of connecting particles; the second, to employ special, not generic terms.

One can see that the order of the precepts is the same as it is in Isocrates according to Syrianus. The inverse order in Anaximenes 25, p. 61.23: ‘First, give things their proper names,’ and then he deals with ‘connecting particles.’ Also, it seems likely that the three precepts that follow in Aristotle’s text, namely ‘do not use ambiguous words,’ ‘distinguish the genders of the nouns’ and ‘correctly name the many, the few and the singular’, are drawn from older treatises, in particular those by Isocrates’ students; on this topic see p. 44 f., Peters 58.

25. Aristotle, Rhetoric 1407 a19: Purity, which is the foundation of style, depends upon five rules. First, connecting particles should be introduced in their natural order, before or after, as they require; thus, μέν and ἐγὼ μέν require to be followed by δέ and ὁ δέ. Further, they should be made to correspond whilst the hearer still recollects; they should not be put too far apart, nor should a clause be introduced before the necessary connection; for this is rarely appropriate.

Cf.  Anaximenes 25 p. 62, 5 H.: ‘After those connecting particles that you speak first you ought to insert those that respond to them. Inserting the responding connecting particles looks as follows: “I for my part” etc.’ But Demetrius On Eloquence 53 writes on the subject of the magniloquent kind of speech: ‘One should not insert the corresponding connective particles too precisely, for instance by making every men be followed by a de: such exactness looks petty…’ Cf. ibid. 58: ‘(Praxiphanes writes that) those who complete a pair of connective particles without any matching content are like those actors who say “this and that” without it referring to any noun.’ On the Sublime 21: ‘Go ahead, add the connective particle, if you will, as the Isocrateans do.’ Epicurus quoted in Philodemus On Rhetoric II 259.28 S.: ‘This precept is left to them on this subject as well as that in speaking one must properly follow up both on the connective particles and on the cases of the nouns.’

26. Menander, [?]: The expression […] shall be conducted with less liberty: it shall maintain the ornaments of declamatory speaking, but stay far away from the dithyramb. It will become that way if we follow Isocrates’ insight and pursue beauty not so much through particular words, old-fashioned ways of speaking and magniloquence, but through harmony and figures.

27. Longinus, On Rhetoric: It is also not useless to heed Isocrates’ precepts and not make one’s speech harsh by adding and combining the so-called vowels.

Cf. Ioannes Sic. W VI 102, 22 f.; Dion. Hal. On Isocrates p. 57, 9 Us.-R.

28. Scholion on Hermogenes: But the first to envision using these words (kolon and komma) in the study of speeches unbound by meter seem to have been, among the philosophers, Aristotle in his Rhetoric and, among the sophists, Isocrates. What each of them says and how Aristotle defines the period as completing the kommata and cola, and how on the other hand Isocrates does it, has been written down adequately by Lacharnes in his speech about them: he compares many definitions by the ancient. He also speaks of ‘Isocrates’ definition’, which he does not accept, since Aristoteles did not treat it seriously.

Here we have very important testimony, which shows that Isocrates ‘in the study of speeches unbound by meter’ already used the words ‘comma’, ‘colon’ and ‘period’. Hence it follows that those who edited poems, too, made use of the term ‘period.’ Cf. Longinus, On Rhetoric p. 193, 28 H.: ‘It is called “period” metaphorically… from those dancing around altars.’ If this is true, it appears that periodos and strophe had the same meaning.

29. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, On Lysias: I shall define […] as Isocrates and those trained in his method liked, starting with the prologues. […] After exhausting this topic he moves on to the introduction, in which, by foreshadowing what will be said in the descriptive part and making the audience more receptive for the discourse to come, he prepares the exposition. […] In the expounding of the facts […], and in providing proofs […]. I shall begin with the so-called artful proofs […]. These are divided into three categories: on the matter, on the character and on the injustice suffered. Lysias is second to no one in coming up with proofs on the matter and arguing them. For that man was the best in portraying what is likely and the most capable of turning the signs of a general pattern into full-fledged credibility of evidence. […] And in the epilogues he recounts the most summary-worthy part of what he has said adequately and pleasantly, but renders the well-known pathos, to which belong apostrophe and the rousing of pity and requests and the like, in a less than adequate way.

Each of the observations, not printed above, that Dionysius makes on the functions of proems, on how to construct the narrative, on arguments, and on epilogues are repeated a great deal by later authors (on the uninterrupted later tradition see Peters 24 f.). Please also compare with his disquisitions on proems what Demosthenes writes in Against Timocrates (24) 4: ‘Most of those who undertake some public action are wont to say that this and that is the most important thing for you gentlemen and you should pay the most attention to what they happen to be talking about.’ Such teachings, which Aristotle called ‘remedies and common’ (Rhetoric 1416 a 24), while they are very old, may have been spelled out in full for the first time in Isocrates’ school, a conclusion to which scholars have come mainly from the consensus found between Dionysius, Aristotle, Anaximenes and the anonymous of Seguerus [?] (‘Cornutus’ in Graevenus [?]). Cf. Marx 315 f., Wendland 39 f., Peters 22 f., Suess 193 f. F. Solmsen (Herm. 67, 144 f.) attributes them to Theodectes, a student of Isocrates, a claim that can hardly be maintained. It seems that the Isocrateans separated ‘premise’ and ‘readiness in learning’ from the proem (Peters 29).

30. Syrianus on Hermogenes: In the pleadings we lay down our own matters and slander those of the opponents, thus setting up the pleadings to our advantage, as Isocrates taught.

From the same source Maximus Planudes and the anonymous on Hermogenes W V 551, 10 f.

31. Ibid.: For Isocrates, teaching in his treatise on rhetoric how to narrate, writes: ‘One must narrate the fact and what happened before the fact and after the fact and the intentions with which either one of the parties to the dispute did something.

This subject and is touched upon by Aristotle Rhetoric 1417 a 28, 36 (Marx 321).

32. Ibid.: For Isocrates says in his treatise that in the narration one must describe the fact, what happened before it, what happened after it and the intentions with which either one of the parties to the dispute did something.

33. Ibid.: In particular, we must remember what Isocrates says very well in his techne, that in the pleading part we need to examine the fact, what happened before it, what happened after it, and the intentions with which either one of the parties to the dispute did or is going to do something, and of these things we must use the ones that suit our case.

Syrianus is inconsistent, but the third form is mentioned by Sopater W IV 712, 23; the second by Anon. W VII 721, 17; the first by the other Anonymus W VII 917, 16, all drawing on Syrianus.  

34. Quintilian 4.2.31: Most authors, especially those from Isocrates’ school, want it (narration) to be lucid, short, and plausible. It does not matter whether instead of ‘lucid’ we say ‘perspicuous’ or instead of ‘plausible’ ‘probable’ or ‘credible’.

That is, ‘clear, brief, persuasive.’ Compare the anonymous On Rhetoric l. p. 365, 6 H. (this is Graevenus’ Cornutus): ‘We say that the virtues of exposition are brevity, clarity and persuasiveness;’ Rufinus On Rhetoric p. 402, 14 H.; Dion. Hal. On Lysias p. 30, 2 Us.-R., who on p. 27, 13 (v. supra 29) claims to hand down ‘what pleases Isocrates and those educated in his doctrine.’ Anaximenes 30 p. 72, 1 H. openly follows Isocrates: ‘One has to do each of these things briefly, clearly and not unpersuasively…’ On the propagation of his doctrine see Spengel on Anaximenes p. 214 f.; Schol. ABT Il. E 9. Aristot. Rhetoric 1416 b 30 criticizes Isocrates, which Quintilian observes in the abovementioned passage and adds: ‘I like this subdivision, even though Aristotle disagrees with Isocrates on one point, making fun of the precept of brevity. See B XXII 6; Isocrates himself 21.2; 7.19; 19.4. Also cf. Marx p. 320 f.; Wendland 39 f.; Peters 57 f.?

35. Georgius Plotho: In the expression of a speech – at least of an instructional or investigative one – there are four virtues, clarity, brevity, persuasiveness and magnificence, as is the opinion of Isocrates, Empedocles, Dionysius, Philostratus, Iamblichus and all of the ancient writers and the wiser of the modern ones.

Cf. B XXII 6. To the three Isocratean virtues Anon. Seg. p. 369, 19 H. adds ‘sweetness’ (‘pleasantness’), as does Dionysius Hal. On Lysias p. 30, 3 U.-R.; the latter does so after speaking of ‘Isocrates and his followers’. Cf. On Demosthenes p. 167.1.

36. Theon, Preliminary Exercises to Rhetoric: To weave together a narration with another means that we try to deliver two or more narrations at the same time. Isocrates’ students have practiced this extensively and so does he himself in the Panegyric: ‘The children of Heracles came and so did, not long before that, Adrastus, son of Talaos and king of Argos, the latter after being defeated in the campaign against Thebes’ and so on. And again: ‘When Greece was still modest, there came to our land the Thracians with Eumolpos, Poseidon’s son, and the Scythes with the Amazons, the daughters of Ares, not at the same time’ and so on.

The precept is something different from what precedes.

37. Quintilian 3.4.11: Isocrates thought that each genre included both praise and invective.

This means that he did not recognize praise as its own genre. Cf. Antidosis 15.45 f.

38. Iohannes Sic. [?], Scholion on the second book On Forms: Isocrates was the first to innovate by writing encomia.

Cf. Maximus Plan. V 554.4 W; Diogenes Laert. 2.55.

39. Quintilian 3.5.18: Isocrates writes that “a lawsuit is a well-delimited inquiry in private things,” or “a controversial thing encompassing specific people.”

‘Socrates’ in cod. Ambrosianus. See Thiele, Herm. 27.13 f.

40. Catalogue of the library of an unknown rhetorician from Rhodes: [Isocrates’] invective against the […] school.

The author of the Life of Isocrates (Or. Att. II 5 a 24; Westermann, Biogr. gr. 257.26): ‘If someone introduces some other speeches as being his, one should not accept them but stick to the established list.’ There follows a catalogue of unauthentic speeches; the last title is Invective against the Sophists.