41. Isocrates’ doctrine as evidenced in his own speeches. (See Blass, Att. Ber. II2 107f.; Brandstätter, De notiοnum πολιτικὸς et σοφιστής usu rhetorico, Stud. Lips. XV 134f.; M. Pantatzes Ἡ Ἰσοκράτειος ῥητορική p. I ἐν Ἀθήναις 1904, p. II 1907; N. Wersdorfer, Die φιλοσοφία des Is. im Spiegel ihrer Terminologie, Lips. 1940.)
Table of contents
I. on the art
Praise of the art: 3, 4. 8, 39. 9, 73
Whether it is an art at all: 15, 180 (181)
What it is: 3, 8. (how it differs from poetics) 9, 8. 11, 40. (how it differs from grammar) 13, 12
Whether it is aided more by nature or by training: 13, 17. 15, 180 (187)
Whether it is useful: 3, 2. 3, 4f. 5, 76. 8, 39. 9, 76. 15, 75
Its goal: 2, 48. 4, 4. 5, 16. 5, 25. 5, 76. 8, 39. 11, 47. 15, 15. 15, 276 (278)
The relationship between subject-matter and form: see under Elocution
Its virtues: 5, 4. Novelty 2, 41. 4, 8. 15, 83. Measuredness 2, 33. 4, 11. Ambiguity 12, 240. Timing 2, 33. 4, 11. 12, 33. Appropriateness 5, 94. 12, 266. 15, 74. 27. 321
Genres of the art: 3, 8. 4, 130. 5, 25 sq. 10, 14. 12, 1. 12, 245. 12, 271. 13, 16. 15, 45 Ep. 1, 2
The judicial genre: 10, 15. 11, 44. 15, 17.15, 52. 15, 91
The deliberative genre: 12, 1. Ep. 1, 2
The epideictic genre: 5, 17. 5, 25. 9, 8.10, 8 (12). 10, 14. 11, 4. 11, 44. 11, 47. 12, 271. Ep. 7, 1
The subject-matter of the art: 2, 48. 3, 2. 3, 8. 4, 4. 4, 8. 5, 17. 10, 8. 15, 3. 15, 276. Of the deliberative genre: 2, 6. 2, 51. 4, 130. 5, 155. 6, 34. 8, 1. 8, 8. 8, 35. 12, 86. 12, 111. 12, 245. Ep. 1, 2. Of the epideictic genre: 4, 11. 5, 109. 8, 89. 9, 76. 11, 4. 11, 31. 11, 33 (lying). 12, 39. 12, 123
Study of eloquence: 2, 51. 18, 16. 15, 41. 15, 180. 15, 295.
The teacher: 18, 17. 15, 180 (188)
The listeners: 8, 11. 9, 10. 12, 271
II. on a speech
Invention: 11, 44. 12, 240. 13, 12 Ep. 6, 8
The individual parts of the speech:
The introduction: 4, 13. 12, 33
The narration: 12, 24
The digression: 12, 74 12, 1
The argumentation: 15, 276 (280). The topoi of the arguments 6, 34. 8, 35. 12, 111. 18, 68. examples 1, 34. 3, 25. 9, 77. 11, 45. 12, 24. 12, 39 (comparison). The plausible 15, 53. 15, 217 18, 16. Oaths 1, 23.
The epilogue: 5, 154. 12, 24. 12, 266. 15, 321
The affects: (character) 4, 130. 5, 26. 12, 1 (3) (Decοrum) 5, 155. 12, 1 (3). (symmetry) 12, 33
(Pathοs) (increase-diminution) 4, 8. 12, 36. (slander) 15, 17 (18)
The disposition: 12, 24
Elocution: 4, 8. 4, 11. 5, 4. 5, 27. 9, 10. 12, 1 (2). (the relationship between subject-matter and elocution) 5, 94. 12, 1. (4). 13, 12. 16. 15, 45 (47). (framing) 5, 16. 12, 244
Pronunciation: 5, 26
Aids to the speech: 5, 2615, 321
III. on the practitioner
What he is like: 2, 41. 5, 26. 6, 4. 15, 41. 15, 180 (183. 187. 189). 15, 197. 15, 253 (256). 15, 271. 15, 276.
He is a man of honour: 15, 276 (278)
(1) (Demon.) 23 Never allow yourself to be put under oath save for one of two reasons—in order to clear yourself of disgraceful charges or to save your friends from great dangers. In matters of money, swear by none of the gods, not even when you intend to swear a true oath; for you will be suspected on the one hand of perjury, on the other of greed.
(1) 34 In your deliberations, let the past be an exemplar for the future; for the unknown may be soonest discerned by reference to the known.
2 (against Nicocles) 6 Now as to each particular course of action, it is the business of those who are at the time associated with a king to advise him how he may handle it in the best way possible, and how he may both preserve what is good and prevent disaster.
2, 33 Keep watch always on your words and actions, that you may fall into as few mistakes as possible. For while it is best to grasp your opportunities at exactly the right moment, yet, since they are difficult to discern, choose to fall short rather than to overreach them;1 for the happy mean is to be found in defect rather than in excess.
Cf. 2, 52. 4, 5. 9. 83. 5, 26. 110. 143. 155. 9,34. 10, 29. 12, 86 f. 135. 13, 13. 16. 15, 184. Ep. 2, 13 (Scheel p. 15 f.; Sheehan 24 f.). See also note on 12, 33.
2, 41 But the truth is that in discourses of this sort we should not seek novelties, for in these discourses it is not possible to say what is paradoxical or incredible or outside the circle of accepted belief; but, rather, we should regard that man as the most accomplished in this field who can collect the greatest number of ideas scattered among the thoughts of all the rest and present them in the best form.
Cf. 15, 243 f.; 251 f.; 15, 7. 9, 73. Gorgias in Plato’s Gοrgias 456. Cicero On Invention 1.2.2; On the Orator 1.8.30 f.; Aristides 45, II 134 f.; Di. Euripides Suppl. 201 f.; Xen. mem. 4.3.12. On 3.8 cf. Thiele, Herm. 27, 13.
2, 48-9 This much, however, is clear, that those who aim to write anything in verse or prose which will make a popular appeal should seek out, not the most profitable discourses, but those which most abound in fictions; for the ear delights in these just as the eye delights in games and contests. [Cites Homer and Hesiod as examples.] With such models, then, before us, it is evident that those who desire to command the attention of their hearers must abstain from admonition and advice, and must say the kind of things which they see are most pleasing to the crowd.
2, 51 … especially since the teachers of philosophy, however much they debate about the proper discipline of the soul （some contending that it is through disputation, others that it is through political discussion, others that it is through other means that their disciples are to attain to greater wisdom）, yet are all agreed on this, that the well-educated man must, as the result of this training in whatever discipline, show ability to deliberate and decide.
3 (Nicocles) 2-10 Moreover, it is passing strange if the fact has escaped them that we reverence the gods and practice justice, and cultivate the other virtues, not that we may be worse off than our fellows, but that we may pass our days in the enjoyment of as many good things as possible. They should not, therefore, condemn these means by which one may gain advantage without sacrifice of virtue, but rather those men who do wrong in their actions or who deceive by their speech and put their eloquence to unjust uses. I am astonished that those who hold the view to which I have just referred do not rail also against wealth and strength and courage; for if they are really hostile to eloquence because there are men who do wrong and speak falsehood, they ought to disparage as well all other good things; for there will be found also among men who possess these some who do wrong and use these advantages to the injury of many.  Nevertheless, it is not fair to decry strength because there are persons who assault people whom they encounter, nor to traduce courage because there are those who slay men wantonly, nor in general to transfer to things the depravity of men, but rather to put the blame on the men themselves who misuse the good things, and who, by the very powers which might help their fellow-countrymen, endeavor to do them harm.  But the fact is that since they have not taken the trouble to make distinctions after this manner in each instance, they are ill-disposed to all eloquence; and they have gone so far astray as not to perceive that they are hostile to that power which of all the faculties that belong to the nature of man is the source of most of our blessings. For in the other powers which we possess we are in no respect superior to other living creatures; nay, we are inferior to many in swiftness and in strength and in other resources;  but, because there has been implanted in us the power to persuade each other and to make clear to each other whatever we desire, not only have we escaped the life of wild beasts, but we have come together and founded cities and made laws and invented arts; and, generally speaking, there is no institution devised by man which the power of speech has not helped us to establish.  For this it is which has laid down laws concerning things just and unjust, and things base and honorable; and if it were not for these ordinances we should not be able to live with one another. It is by this also that we confute the bad and extol the good. Through this we educate the ignorant and appraise the wise; for the power to speak well is taken as the surest index of a sound understanding, and discourse which is true and lawful and just is the outward image of a good and faithful soul.  With this faculty we both contend against others on matters which are open to dispute and seek light for ourselves on things which are unknown; for the same arguments which we use in persuading others when we speak in public, we employ also when we deliberate in our own thoughts; and, while we call eloquent those who are able to speak before a crowd, we regard as sage those who most skillfully debate their problems in their own minds.  And, if there is need to speak in brief summary of this power, we shall find that none of the things which are done with intelligence take place without the help of speech, but that in all our actions as well as in all our thoughts speech is our guide, and is most employed by those who have the most wisdom. Therefore, those who dare to speak with disrespect of educators and teachers of philosophy deserve our opprobrium no less than those who profane the sanctuaries of the gods.  I, myself, welcome all forms of discourse which are capable of benefiting us even in a small degree; however, I regard those as the best and most worthy of a king, and most appropriate to me, which give directions on good morals and good government; and especially those which teach how men in power should deal with the people, and how the rank and file should be disposed to their rulers.
3, 25 And, indeed, how could anyone show more convincingly than through these instances that monarchy is the most excellent of governments?
4 (Panegyr.) 4 I have singled out as the highest kind of oratory that which deals with the greatest affairs and, while best displaying the ability of those who speak, brings most profit to those who hear.
Cf. ibid. 12 and 188 f.; 8.145; 12.2. Ep. 9.7.
4, 8-10 Since speeches are such that it is possible to discourse on the same subject matter in many different ways—to represent the great as lowly or invest the little with grandeur, to recount the things of old in a new manner or set forth events of recent date in an old fashion—it follows that one must not shun the subjects upon which others have spoken before, but must try to speak better than they.  For the deeds of the past are, indeed, an inheritance common to us all; but the ability to make proper use of them at the appropriate time, to conceive the right sentiments about them in each instance, and to set them forth in finished phrase, is the peculiar gift of the wise.  And it is my opinion that the study of oratory as well as the other arts would make the greatest advance if we should admire and honor, not those who make the first beginnings in their crafts, but those who are the most finished craftsmen in each, and not those who seek to speak on subjects on which no one has spoken before, but those who know how to speak as no one else could.
W. Suess (Ethos 19 sq.) points out the traces of Gorgias’ doctrine. Cf. Plato Phaedr. 267 A; Aristoph. Frogs 906; 1105-1108; above p. 45. What Isocrates ascribes to the orator (cf. 10.13) Philodemus ascribes to the poet, fr. 47.8 Hausr: ‘A poet’s task is not to say what nobody else says, but to say it in a way that another would not phrase it.’ As far as the art of exaggerating and downplaying is concerted, see also 12.36. From this source seems to stem what is reported in Hermogenes On Ideas 2 p. 396.8 S.: ‘Isocrates says that it is typical of an orator to be able to say little things magnificently and big things in a lowly fashion,’ which Pseudo-Plutarch (Lives if the Ten Orators 838 f.) cites as an Isocratean apophthegm in the following version: ‘to make [sic] small things big and big things small.’ One finds a fuller rendition of the citation from the Panegyric in Syrianus On Hermogenes I p. 19.23 R. and from there Maximus Planudes W V p. 455 (‘to say small things magnificently and big ones in a lowly manner, also new ones in an old fashion and conversely old ones in a new fashion’), John of Sicily W VI p. 132, 133, 459; the excerpts called after Longinus Rhet. gr. I 328 Sp. Spengel is wrong to think that these passages stem from a treatise by Isocrates, although in the Letters of the Socratics 30.9 we read ‘he professed to teach old things in a new fashion and a new things in an old fashion.’
4, 11 Yet there are some who carp at discourses which are beyond the powers of ordinary men and have been elaborated with extreme care, and who have gone so far astray that they judge the most ambitious oratory by the standard of the pleas made in the petty actions of the courts;1 as if both kinds should be alike and should not be distinguished, the one by plainness of style, the other by display; or as if they themselves saw clearly the happy mean, while the man who knows how to speak elegantly could not speak simply and plainly if he chose.
4, 13 For I observe that the other orators in their introductions seek to conciliate their hearers and make excuses for the speeches which they are about to deliver, sometimes alleging that their preparation has been on the spur of the moment, sometimes urging that it is difficult to find words to match the greatness of their theme.
4, 130 It is not, however, possible to turn men from their errors, or to inspire in them the desire for a different course of action without first roundly condemning their present conduct; and a distinction must be made between accusation, when one denounces with intent to injure, and admonition,1 when one uses like words with intent to benefit; for the same words are not to be interpreted in the same way unless they are spoken in the same spirit.
5 (Philipp.) 4 Yes, and I so impressed my hearers by my statement of the case that not one of them thought of applauding my oratory or the finish and the purity of my style, as some are wont to do, but instead they marveled at the truth of my arguments…
5, 16 And as persuasion will be helpful in dealing with the Hellenes, so compulsion will be useful in dealing with the barbarians. This, then, is the general scope of my discourse.
In line 1 the manuscripts read: ‘Persuading to wage war brings you honor privately, but against the barbarians brings us advantages collectively.’ Cf. 12.244: ‘You seem to me to have delineated the general scope of your discourse with such an intention.’ Pantatzes I p. 28. 29.
5, 17 When I disclosed to them my intention of sending you an address whose aim was, not to make a display, nor to extol the wars which you have carried on—for others will do this—but to attempt to urge you to a course of action which is more in keeping with your nature.
The first to write about the difference between the words ‘display’, ‘extolling’, ‘urging’, ‘encouragement’, ‘incitation’ and their cognates is Sheehan p. 14 f.
5, 25-7 And yet I do not fail to realize what a great difference there is in persuasiveness between discourses which are spoken and those which are to be read, and that all men have assumed that the former are delivered on subjects which are important and urgent, while the latter are composed for display and personal gain. And this is a natural conclusion; for when a discourse is robbed of the prestige of the speaker, the tones of his voice, the variations which are made in the delivery, and, besides, of the advantages of timeliness and keen interest in the subject matter; when it has not a single accessory to support its contentions and enforce its plea, but is deserted and stripped of all the aids which I have mentioned; and when someone reads it aloud without persuasiveness and without putting any personal feeling into it, but as though he were repeating a table of figures – in these circumstances it is natural, I think, that it should make an indifferent impression upon its hearers. And these are the very circumstances which may detract most seriously also from the discourse which is now presented to you and cause it to impress you as a very indifferent performance; the more so since I have not adorned it with the rhythmic flow and manifold graces of style which I myself employed when I was younger and taught by example to others as a means by which they might make their oratory more pleasing and at the same time more convincing.
See also W. Kroll, Rh. M. 62, 90.
5, 76 For these latter are so far divorced from intelligence that they do not realize that one may apply the same words in some cases to a man's injury, in others to his advantage.
5, 94 But now that I am urging my views upon you, I should have been foolish if I had spent more time on the style than on the subject matter, and if, furthermore, seeing that the other orators make free with my writings, I alone had abstained from what I have said in the past. So, then, I may perhaps be allowed to use what is my own, if at any time I am greatly pressed and find it suitable, although I would not now any more than in times past appropriate anything from the writings of other men.
5, 109 Coming now to Heracles, all others who praise him harp endlessly on his valor or recount his labors; and not one, either of the poets or of the historians, will be found to have commemorated his other excellences—I mean those which pertain to the spirit. I, on the other hand, see here a field set apart and entirely unworked—a field not small nor barren, but teeming with many a theme for praise and with glorious deeds, yet demanding a speaker with ability to do them justice.
5, 154 It remains, then, to summarize what I have said in this discourse, in order that you may see in the smallest compass the substance of my counsels.
5, 155 How well this discourse has been composed with respect to appropriateness and finish of style is a question which it is fair to ask my hearers to answer; but that no one could give you better advice than this, or advice more suited to the present situation—of this I believe that I am well assured.
6 (Archid.) 4 For if it were established that older men always know what is best, while the younger are never correct in their views, it would be right to exclude us from giving counsel; but since it is not by the number of our years that we differ in wisdom from one another, but by our natural endowments and by our cultivation of them, why should you not make trial of both the young and the old, in order that you may be in a position to choose from all courses which are proposed that which is the most expedient?
6, 34-5 Those who advise us to make peace declare that prudent men ought not to take the same view of things in fortunate as in unfortunate circumstances, but rather that they should always consult their immediate situation and accommodate themselves to their fortunes, and should never entertain ambitions beyond their power, but should at such times seek, not their just rights but their best interests. In all else I agree with them, but no man could ever persuade me that one should ever deem anything to be of greater consequence than justice.
Anaximenes p. 13.9 H.: ‘The person who urges needs to show that those things to which he is urging are just, legal, advantageous, honorable, pleasant and easy to accomplish or, that failing, possible; […] and that it is necessary to do them.’
8 (On the Peace), 1 All those who come before you on this platform are accustomed to assert that the subjects upon which they are themselves about to advise you are most important and most worthy of serious consideration by the state.
8, 8 But people of intelligence, when dealing with matters about which they have knowledge, ought not to take counsel—for this is superfluous—but to act as men who are already resolved what to do, whereas, in dealing with matters about which they take counsel, they ought not to think that they have exact knowledge of what the result will be, but to be minded towards these contingencies as men who indeed exercise their best judgement, but are not sure what the future may hold in store.
Aristot. Rhetoric 1359 a 30: ‘One must ascertain on which good or bad things the adviser is advising, since he does not do so about everything but only about things that may or may not come about.’
8, 11 But, apart from these considerations, how can men wisely pass judgement on the past or take counsel for the future unless they examine and compare the arguments of opposing speakers, themselves giving an unbiased hearing to both sides?
8, 35 And it behooves intelligent men, since they cannot see clearly what will always be to their advantage, to show to the world that they prefer that which is generally beneficial.
8, 39-40 It is, therefore, my duty and the duty of all who care about the welfare of the state to choose, not those discourses which are agreeable to you, but those which are profitable for you to hear. And you, for your part, ought to realize, in the first place, that while many treatments of all kinds have been discovered by physicians for the ills of our bodies, there exists no remedy for souls which are ignorant of the truth and filled with base desires other than the kind of discourse1 which boldly rebukes the sins which they commit, and, in the second place, that it is absurd to submit to the cauteries and cuttings of physicians in order that we may be relieved of greater pains and yet refuse to hear discourses before knowing clearly whether or not they have the power to benefit their hearers.
Cf. Epist. 9.3.7; 9.5.12; Aristot. Rhetoric 1356 a 38; Plato Gorg. 480; B VII 39, 14.
8, 89 And yet we must not count that state happy which without discrimination recruits from all parts of the world a large number of citizens but rather that state which more than all others preserves the stock of those who in the beginning founded it.
9 (Euagoras) 8-11 I am fully aware that what I propose to do is difficult—to eulogize in prose the virtues of a man. The best proof is this: Those who devote themselves to philosophy1 venture to speak on many subjects of every kind, but no one of them has ever attempted to compose a discourse on such a theme. And I can make much allowance for them. For to the poets is granted the use of many embellishments of language, since they can represent the gods as associating with men, conversing with and aiding in battle whomsoever they please, and they can treat of these subjects not only in conventional expressions, but in words now exotic, now newly coined, and now in figures of speech, neglecting none, but using every kind with which to embroider their poesy. Orators, on the contrary, are not permitted the use of such devices; they must use with precision only words in current use and only such ideas as bear upon the actual facts. Besides, the poets compose all their works with meter and rhythm, while the orators do not share in any of these advantages; and these lend such charm that even though the poets may be deficient in style and thoughts, yet by the very spell of their rhythm and harmony they bewitch their listeners. The power of poetry may be understood from this consideration: if one should retain the words and ideas of poems which are held in high esteem, but do away with the meter, they will appear far inferior to the opinion we now have of them. Nevertheless, although poetry has advantages so great, we must not shrink from the task, but must make the effort and see if it will be possible in prose to eulogize good men in no worse fashion than their encomiasts do who employ song and verse.
As far as psychagogein is concerned, see also 2.49. On the value of poetry cf. Plato Republic 601, Gorg. 502 C.
9, 73 For my part, I think that while effigies of the body are fine memorials, yet likenesses of deeds and of the character are of far greater value, and these are to be observed only in discourses composed according to the rules of art.
9, 77-7 For these reasons especially I have undertaken to write this discourse because I believed that for you, for your children, and for all the other descendants of Evagoras, it would be by far the best incentive, if someone should assemble his achievements, give them verbal adornment, and submit them to you for your contemplation and study. For we exhort young men to the study of philosophy1 by praising others in order that they, emulating those who are eulogized, may desire to adopt the same pursuits, but I appeal to you and yours, using as examples not aliens, but members of your own family, and I counsel you to devote your attention to this, that you may not be surpassed in either word or deed by any of the Hellenes.
10 (Helen) 8-13 And they have caused mendacity to increase to such a degree that now certain men, seeing these persons prospering from such practices, have the effrontery to write that the life of beggars and exiles is more enviable than that of the rest of mankind, and they use this as a proof that, if they can speak ably on ignoble subjects, it follows that in dealing with subjects of real worth they would easily find abundance of arguments.  The most ridiculous thing of all, in my opinion, is this, that by these arguments they seek to convince us that they possess knowledge of the science of government, when they might be demonstrating it by actual work in their professed subject; for it is fitting that those who lay claim to learning and profess to be wise men should excel laymen and be better than they, not in fields neglected by everybody else, but where all are rivals.  But as it is, their conduct resembles that of an athlete who, although pretending to be the best of all athletes, enters a contest in which no one would condescend to meet him. For what sensible man would undertake to praise misfortunes? No, it is obvious that they take refuge in such topics because of weakness.  Such compositions follow one set road and this road is neither difficult to find, nor to learn, nor to imitate. On the other hand, discourses that are of general import, those that are trustworthy, and all of similar nature, are devised and expressed through the medium of a variety of forms and occasions of discourse whose opportune use is hard to learn, and their composition is more difficult as it is more arduous to practise dignity than buffoonery and seriousness than levity. The strongest proof is this:  no one who has chosen to praise bumble-bees and salt and kindred topics has never been at a loss for words, yet those who have essayed to speak on subjects recognized as good or noble, or of superior moral worth have all fallen far short of the possibilities which these subjects offer.  For it does not belong to the same mentality to do justice to both kinds of subjects; on the contrary, while it is easy by eloquence to overdo the trivial themes, it is difficult to reach the heights of greatness of the others; and while on famous subjects one rarely finds thoughts which no one has previously uttered, yet on trifling and insignificant topics whatever the speaker may chance to say is entirely original.
Cf. Alcidamas On Wisdom 6; Isocr. Letters 9.1.2. On the use of the word ‘idea’ see 13.16. On the subject see Muenscher, Rh. Mus. 54, 254 f.
10, 14-5 This is the reason why, of those who have wished to discuss a subject with eloquence, I praise especially him who chose to write of Helen, because he has recalled to memory so remarkable a woman, one who in birth, and in beauty, and in renown far surpassed all others. Nevertheless, even he committed a slight inadvertence—for although he asserts that he has written an encomium of Helen, it turns out that he has actually spoken a defense of her conduct!  But the composition in defense does not draw upon the same topics as the encomium, nor indeed does it deal with actions of the same kind, but quite the contrary; for a plea in defense is appropriate only when the defendant is charged with a crime, whereas we praise those who excel in some good quality.
11 (Busiris) 4 For everyone knows that those who wish to praise a person must attribute to him a larger number of good qualities than he really possesses, and accusers must do the contrary.
Cf. 9.48; 12.36; 123; Anaximenes 3 p. 28 H.; Aristot. Rhetoric 1368 a 27; Plato Menex. 234 C; Sympos. 198 D; Isocr. 6.100.
11, 31 For, when you wished to praise Busiris, […] you gave no proof that he did these things.
‘Praise,’ that is, ‘for the works he has accomplished.’
11, 33 Further, even if both of us, perchance, are wrong, I, at any rate, have used only such arguments as authors of eulogies must use; you, on the contrary, have employed those which are appropriate to revilers. Consequently, it is obvious that you have gone astray, not only from the truth, but also from the entire pattern which must be employed in eulogy.
11, 40 Therefore if we are wise we shall not imitate their tales, nor while passing laws for the punishment of libels against each other, shall we disregard loose-tongued vilification of the gods; on the contrary, we shall be on our guard and consider equally guilty of impiety those who recite and those who believe such lies.
11.44-5 Although the subject admits of many arguments for the amplification of my theme of eulogy and defense, I believe it unnecessary to speak at greater length; for my aim in this discourse is not to make a display to impress others, but to show for your benefit how each of these topics should be treated, since the composition which you wrote may justly be considered by anyone to be, not a defense of Busiris, but an admission of all the crimes charged against him. For you do not exonerate him from the charges, but only declare that some others have done the same things, inventing thus a very easy refuge for all criminals. Why, if it is not easy to find a crime which has not yet been committed, and if we should consider that those who have been found guilty of one or another of these crimes have done nothing so very wrong, whenever others are found to have perpetrated the same offences, should we not be providing ready-made pleas in exculpation of all criminals and be granting complete licence for those who are bent on villainy?
11, 47 Again, consider this, and meditate upon it. If one of your pupils should be induced to do those things which you praise, would he not be the most wretched of men who are now alive and, in truth, of all who ever have lived? Is it right, therefore, to compose discourses such that they will do the most good if they succeed in convincing no one among those who hear them?
12 (Panath.) 1-4 When I was younger, I elected not to write the kind of discourse which deals with myths nor that which abounds in marvels and fictions, although the majority of people are more delighted with this literature than with that which is devoted to their welfare and safety; nor did I choose the kind which recounts the ancient deeds and wars of the Hellenes, although I am aware that this is deservedly praised, nor, again, that which gives the impression of having been composed in a plain and simple manner and is lacking in all the refinements of style, which those who are clever at conducting law-suits urge our young men to cultivate,  especially if they wish to have the advantage over their adversaries. No, I left all these to others and devoted my own efforts to giving advice on the true interests of Athens and of the rest of the Hellenes, writing in a style rich in many telling points, in contrasted and balanced phrases not a few, and in the other figures of speech which give brilliance to oratory and compel the approbation and applause of the audience. Now, however, I have completely given up these devices of rhetoric. For I do not think it is becoming to the ninety-four years which I have lived nor, in general, to men whose hair has at length turned to grey to continue to speak in this fashion, but rather in the manner which every man, should he so desire, would hope to command, although no man can easily attain it without hard work and close application. I have said this at the beginning in order that if the discourse which is now about to be presented to the public should appear to some to be more feeble than those which have been published in former years, they may not compare it in the matter of rhetorical variety and finish to my former compositions but may judge it in relation to the subject matter which I have deemed appropriate to the present occasion.
Pfister, Herm. 68, 457 f.
12, 24 But neither would anyone, I am sure, advise me to neglect this subject and, breaking off in the midst of it, to go on and finish the discourse which I elected to write in my desire to prove that our city had been the cause of more blessings to the Hellenes than the city of the Lacedaemonians. For if I should now proceed to do this without bringing what I have written to any conclusion and without joining the beginning of what is to be said to the end of what has been spoken, I should be thought to be no better than those who speak in a random, slovenly, and scattering manner whatever comes into their heads to say. And this I must guard against.
Cf. 74; 88; 15.140; 292.
12, 33-4 I perceive that I am being carried beyond the due limits which have been assigned to an introduction; and it behooves a man of taste not to indulge his resourcefulness, when he has more to say on a given subject than the other speakers, but to preserve always the element of timeliness no matter on what subject he may have occasion to speak.
Consequently, part of the ‘right time’ is ‘symmetry’, whose opposite is ‘wrong time’; cf. 12.135; 15.10; 311; 12.84; 13.13; Letters 2.6.13; 4.3.13; Anaximenes 22.
12, 36 while it is easy to magnify little things by means of discourse, it is difficult to find terms of praise to match deeds of surpassing magnitude and excellence.
12, 39-40 But I think that those who wish to be exact and just in praising any given state ought not to confine themselves alone to the state which they single out, but even as we examine purple and gold and test them by placing them side by side with articles of similar appearance and of the same estimated value, so also in the case of states one should compare, not those which are small with those which are great, nor those which are always subject to others with those which are wont to dominate others, nor those which stand in need of succor with those which are able to give it, but rather those which have similar powers, and have engaged in the same deeds and enjoyed a like freedom of action. For thus one may best arrive at the truth.
Plöbst p. 28; Aristot. Rhetoric 1368 a 20.
12, 74 I am ashamed, after having said so much about the virtue of Agamemnon, to make no mention of the things which he accomplished and so to seem to my hearers no different from men who make empty boasts and say whatever comes into their heads. But I observe, on the other hand, that the discussion of things which lie outside the scope of the subject1 is not approved but is thought rather to be confusing, and that while many misuse these digressions there are many more who condemn them.
12, 86 Nevertheless I bade farewell to expediency and chose justice instead.
See C 62.
12, 111 These men, when they perceive that all the topics have been covered and find themselves unable to gainsay a single point which I have made, will, I think, turn their attention to the question of polities.
12, 123 Those who undertake to praise any people in superlative terms must show, not only that they were not depraved, but that they excelled in all the virtues both those who lived at that time and those who are now living.
12, 240 Seeking such an effect, you found without difficulty arguments of double meaning, which lend themselves no more to the purpose of those who praise than of those who blame, but are capable of being turned both ways and leave room for much disputation—arguments the employment of which, when one contends in court over contracts for his own advantage, is shameful and no slight token of depravity but, when one discourses on the nature of man and of things, is honorable and bespeaks a cultivated mind.
12, 245-6 As it is, however, I do not suppose that you will feel disturbed in the least because I did not speak out my opinion on the question about which I was called in to advise you, for even at the time when you called us together you did not seem to me to be really concerned about it. I suppose rather that you will object that, whereas you have deliberately chosen to compose a discourse which is not at all like any other, but which to those who read it casually will appear to be ingenuous and easy to comprehend, though to those who scan it thoroughly and endeavor to see in it what has escaped all others it will reveal itself as difficult and hard to understand, packed with history and philosophy, and filled with all manner of devices and fictions—not the kind of fictions which, used with evil intent, are wont to injure one's fellow-citizens, but the kind which, used by the cultivated mind, are able to benefit or to delight one's audience.
12, 266 Now as to the subject which I undertook to discuss, I think that I have said enough; for to review in detail the points which have been made1 not in keeping with discourses such as this. But I do wish to relate my personal experiences in relation to its composition.
12, 271-2 I desire both to relate my personal experiences and to commend those among my hearers who not only applaud this speech but prefer, as more weighty and more worthy of serious study, discourses which are composed for instruction and, at the same time, with finished art1 to others which are written for display or for the law-courts,2 and who prefer for the same reason discourses which aim at the truth to those which seek to lead astray the opinions of their auditors, and discourses which rebuke our faults and admonish3 us to those which are spoken for our pleasure and gratification. I desire, on the other hand, to warn those of my hearers who are of a mind contrary to these, in the first place, not to trust in their own opinions nor to regard as true the judgements which are pronounced by the lazy-minded and, in the second place, not to publish hastily their views on things which they do not understand, but to wait until they can find themselves in accord with men who have much experience of matters submitted to them for judgement;1 for if they will so govern their thoughts, no one can fail to approve their discretion.
13 (Against the Sophists) 12-13 But I marvel when I observe these men setting themselves up as instructors of youth who cannot see that they are applying the analogy of an art with hard and fast rules to a creative process. For, excepting these teachers, who does not know that the art of using letters remains fixed and unchanged, so that we continually and invariably use the same letters for the same purposes, while exactly the reverse is true of the art of discourse?1 For what has been said by one speaker is not equally useful for the speaker who comes after him; on the contrary, he is accounted most skilled in this art who speaks in a manner worthy of his subject and yet is able to discover in it topics which are nowise the same as those used by others. But the greatest proof of the difference between these two arts is that oratory is good only if it has the qualities of fitness for the occasion,1 propriety of style, and originality of treatment, while in the case of letters there is no such need whatsoever. So that those who make use of such analogies ought more justly to pay out than to accept fees, since they attempt to teach others when they are themselves in great need of instruction.
Usener, Quaest. Anaxim. p. 26 (with the Addenda Kl. Schriften 1.21). Cf. Reinhardt, De Isocratis aemulis, Diss. Bonn 1873, 12 f.; Χen. mem. 4.4.6 sq.; above, A V 31.
13, 16-7 I hold that to obtain a knowledge of the elements out of which we make and compose all discourses is not so very difficult if anyone entrusts himself, not to those who make rash promises, but to those who have some knowledge of these things. But to choose from these elements those which should be employed for each subject, to join them together, to arrange them properly, and also, not to miss what the occasion demands but appropriately to adorn the whole speech with striking thoughts and to clothe it in flowing and melodious phrase—these things, I hold, require much study and are the task of a vigorous and imaginative mind:1 for this, the student must not only have the requisite aptitude but he must learn the different kinds of discourse and practice himself in their use; and the teacher, for his part, must so expound the principles of the art with the utmost possible exactness as to leave out nothing that can be taught, and, for the rest, he must in himself set such an example of oratory.
Cf. Plato Phaedrus 272 A; W. Suess, Ethos 20 f. On the use of ‘form’ see Sheehan 31; Scheel 17 f.; Barwick, Herm. 57, 29.1. On the mixing precept (16) see Anaximenes c. 5 p. 34, 21 f. H.
15 (Antidosis) 3 I had, myself, made it manifest to all that I had elected to speak and write, not on petty disputes, but on subjects so important and so elevated1 that no one would attempt them except those who had studied with me, and their would-be imitators.
15, 15 But now, although he alleges that I am able to make the weaker cause appear the stronger, he has, in fact, so low an opinion of my powers that he is confident that he with his lies will win against me and the truth.
15, 17-8 At this stage of the case no one here present is in any doubt whether the accuser has spoken well or badly, but it is not yet easy for the jury to decide from what the first speaker has said whether he has based his arguments on the truth; nay, they will be fortunate if they are able to draw a just conclusion from the arguments of both sides. I do not wonder that men spend more time in denouncing those who attempt to deceive the jury than upon their own defense, nor that they complain that calumny is our greatest bane. What, indeed, could work greater mischief? It causes liars to be looked on with respect, innocent men to be regarded as criminals, and judges to violate their oaths; in a word, it smothers truth, and pouring false ideas into our ears, it leaves no man among our citizens secure from an unjust death.
The last part has to do with ‘speaking outside the matter,’ cf. Aristot. Rhetoric 1354 a 15 with Spengel’s comment and below, C 38.
15, 41 Nay, everyone is aware of this also, that there is a superabundance of men who produce speeches for litigants in the courts. Nevertheless you will not find that any one of them, numerous as they are, has ever been thought worthy to have pupils, while I, as my accuser states, have had more than all the rest together who are occupied with philosophy. Yet how can anyone think that people who are so far apart in their ways of life are engaged in the same occupations?
15, 45-6 First of all, then, you should know that there are no fewer branches of composition in prose than in verse. For some men have devoted their lives to researches in the genealogies of the demi-gods; others have made studies in the poets; others have elected to compose histories of wars; while still others have occupied themselves with dialogue, and are called dialecticians. It would, however, be no slight task to attempt to enumerate all the forms of prose, and I shall take up only that which is pertinent to me, and ignore the rest. For there are men who, albeit they are not strangers to the branches which I have mentioned, have chosen rather to write discourses, not for private disputes, but which deal with the world of Hellas, with affairs of state, and are appropriate to be delivered at the Pan-Hellenic assemblies—discourses which, as everyone will agree, are more akin to works composed in rhythm and set to music than to the speeches which are made in court.
15, 52 For it is this way: the best and fairest defense, in my opinion, is that which enables the judges to know the facts, so far as this is possible, in regard to the issues on which they are to vote, and which leaves no room for them to go astray in their judgement or to be in doubt as to which party speaks the truth.
15, 53 If, however, I were being tried for some criminal act, I should not have been able to produce the act itself before your eyes but you would have had to conjecture the facts from what I said and pass judgement as best you might. But since I am charged with offending by my words, I think that I shall be in a better position to make you see the truth.
15, 74 Now this is the last selection which I shall have the clerk read to you—and the last of such length which I shall use; since I am not going to refrain from quoting, at any rate briefly, from my earlier writings, but shall use whatever I may think appropriate to the present occasion.
The doctrine of appropriateness was developed by ancient philosophers on the basis of ethical reasoning. This subject matter has been dealt with at great length and excellently by M. Pohlenz. However, when sophistic rhetoricians laid the foundation of the art of speaking, they were thinking not so much about virtue but rather about the characters’ condition or the times or the things (‘to speak in a manner adequate to the things,’ Is. 13.12, cf. B VII 24): they look at such ‘circumstances’ and they cater to the occasion (cf. 15.277) and think they must approve of whatever is appropriate to it. As a consequence, even Isocrates often speaks ‘about the right time’; however, he doesn’t grow fond of the word ‘to be appropriate’, nor does he use it as a special term. On this point I disagree with Wersdörfer. Apart from that, Plato (Republic 399 A, Laws 669 B f.) already know of the musicians’ doctrine of ‘appropriateness.’
15, 75 I said, I think, before these selections were read, that I asked not only to be adjudged guilty if my discourses are harmful but to be visited with the heaviest of punishments if they are not incomparable.
15, 83 If they repeat the same things which have been said in the past, they will be regarded as shameless babblers, and if they seek for what is new, they will have great difficulty in finding it. That is why I stated that, while both are entitled to your praise, they are the more entitled to it who are able to execute the harder task.
Cf. 10, 1 f.
15, 91 I, however, believe that even the most simple-minded of people recognize that an accusation, to be convincing and to carry great weight, must not be one which may be employed equally well against the innocent, but one which can be applied only to the guilty. My accuser has made light of this fact, and has made a speech which is in no respect pertinent to the indictment.
15, 180-92 In my treatment of the art of discourse, I desire, like the genealogists, to start at the beginning. It is acknowledged that the nature of man is compounded of two parts, the physical and the mental, and no one would deny that of these two the mind comes first and is of greater worth; for it is the function of the mind to decide both on personal and on public questions, and of the body to be servant to the judgements of the mind.  Since this is so, certain of our ancestors, long before our time, seeing that many arts had been devised for other things, while none had been prescribed for the body and for the mind, invented and bequeathed to us two disciplines, physical training for the body, of which gymnastics is a part, and, for the mind, philosophy, which I am going to explain.  These are twin arts—parallel and complementary—by which their masters prepare the mind to become more intelligent and the body to become more serviceable, not separating sharply the two kinds of education, but using similar methods of instruction, exercise, and other forms of discipline.  For when they take their pupils in hand, the physical trainers instruct their followers in the postures which have been devised for bodily contests, while the teachers of philosophy impart all the forms of discourse in which the mind expresses itself.  Then, when they have made them familiar and thoroughly conversant with these lessons, they set them at exercises, habituate them to work, and require them to combine in practice the particular things which they have learned, in order that they may grasp them more firmly and bring their theories into closer touch with the occasions for applying them—I say “theories,” for no system of knowledge can possibly cover these occasions, since in all cases they elude our science. Yet those who most apply their minds to them and are able to discern the consequences which for the most part grow out of them, will most often meet these occasions in the right way.  Watching over them and training them in this manner, both the teachers of gymnastic and the teachers of discourse are able to advance their pupils to a point where they are better men and where they are stronger in their thinking or in the use of their bodies. However, neither class of teachers is in possession of a science by which they can make capable athletes or capable orators out of whomsoever they please. They can contribute in some degree to these results, but these powers are never found in their perfection save in those who excel by virtue both of talent and of training.  I have given you now some impression of what philosophy is. But I think that you will get a still clearer idea of its powers if I tell you what professions I make to those who want to become my pupils.  I say to them that if they are to excel in oratory or in managing affairs or in any line of work, they must, first of all, have a natural aptitude for that which they have elected to do; secondly, they must submit to training and master the knowledge of their particular subject, whatever it may be in each case; and, finally, they must become versed and practised in the use and application of their art; for only on these conditions can they become fully competent and pre-eminent in any line of endeavor.  In this process, master and pupil each has his place; no one but the pupil can furnish the necessary capacity; no one but the master, the ability to impart knowledge while both have a part in the exercises of practical application: for the master must painstakingly direct his pupil, and the latter must rigidly follow the master's instructions.  Now these observations apply to any and all the arts. If anyone, ignoring the other arts, were to ask me which of these factors has the greatest power in the education of an orator I should answer that natural ability is paramount and comes before all else. For given a man with a mind which is capable of finding out and learning the truth and of working hard and remembering what it learns, and also with a voice and a clarity of utterance which are able to captivate the audience, not only by what he says, but by the music of his words,  and, finally, with an assurance which is not an expression of bravado, but which, tempered by sobriety, so fortifies the spirit that he is no less at ease in addressing all his fellow-citizens than in reflecting to himself—who does not know that such a man might, without the advantage of an elaborate education and with only a superficial and common training, be an orator such as has never, perhaps, been seen among the Hellenes?  Again, we know that men who are less generously endowed by nature but excel in experience and practice, not only improve upon themselves, but surpass others who, though highly gifted, have been too negligent of their talents. It follows, therefore, that either one of these factors may produce an able speaker or an able man of affairs, but both of them combined in the same person might produce a man incomparable among his fellows.  These, then, are my views as to the relative importance of native ability and practice. I cannot, however, make a like claim for education; its powers are not equal nor comparable to theirs. For if one should take lessons in all the principles of oratory and master them with the greatest thoroughness, he might, perhaps, become a more pleasing speaker than most, but let him stand up before the crowd and lack one thing only, namely, assurance, and he would not be able to utter a word.
Cf. Thucyd. 1.121.4 (where ‘the plausible’ is mentioned too); Isocrates 13.14 f.; 15.291; Plato Gorg. 463 E f.; Phaedr. 269 D f.; Cic. Pro Archia 15; de orat. 2.7.30; Anon. Segueri 30 p. 358, 20 f. H.
15, 197-8 Accordingly I must not leave off expounding and speaking until I shall accomplish one of two things—until I have persuaded them to change their views or have proved that the slanders and charges which they repeat against me are false. These charges are of two kinds. Some of them say that the profession of the sophist is nothing but sham and chicane, maintaining that no kind of education has ever been discovered which can improve a man's ability to speak or his capacity for handling affairs, and that those who excel in these respects owe their superiority to natural gifts; while others acknowledge that men who take this training are more able, but complain that they are corrupted and demoralized by it, alleging that when they gain the power to do so, they scheme to get other people's property. Now there is not a sound or true word in either complaint, as I am very confident that I can prove to everyone.
Cf. 15, 240 f.
15, 217 In the first place, then, we must determine what are the objects which make people venture to do evil; for if we define these correctly, you will be better able to make up your minds whether the charges which have been made against us are true or false. Well then, I maintain that everyone does everything which he does for the sake of pleasure or gain or honor; for I observe that no desire springs up in men save for these objects.
Cf. 21.6; Aristot. On Rhetoric 1398 a 30 and 1399 b 31; Ad Herennium 2.2.3; Wendland Quaest. rhet. (Göttingen 1914) p. 18 n.
15, 271 My view of this question is, as it happens, very simple. For since it is not in the nature of man to attain a science by the possession of which we can know positively what we should do or what we should say, in the next resort I hold that man to be wise who is able by his powers of conjecture to arrive generally at the best course, and I hold that man to be a philosopher who occupies himself with the studies from which he will most quickly gain that kind of insight.
Cf. also Letters 5.4.
15, 276-80 For, in the first place, when anyone elects to speak or write discourses which are worthy of praise and honor, it is not conceivable that he will support causes which are unjust or petty or devoted to private quarrels, and not rather those which are great and honorable, devoted to the welfare of man and our common good; for if he fails to find causes of this character, he will accomplish nothing to the purpose.  In the second place, he will select from all the actions of men which bear upon his subject those examples which are the most illustrious and the most edifying; and, habituating himself to contemplate and appraise such examples, he will feel their influence not only in the preparation of a given discourse but in all the actions of his life. It follows, then, that the power to speak well and think right will reward the man who approaches the art of discourse with love of wisdom and love of honor.  Furthermore, mark you, the man who wishes to persuade people will not be negligent as to the matter of character; no, on the contrary, he will apply himself above all to establish a most honorable name among his fellow-citizens; for who does not know that words carry greater conviction when spoken by men of good repute than when spoken by men who live under a cloud, and that the argument which is made by a man's life is of more weight than that which is furnished by words? Therefore, the stronger a man’s desire to persuade his hearers, the more zealously will he strive to be honorable and to have the esteem of his fellow-citizens.  And let no one of you suppose that while all other people realize how much the scales of persuasion incline in favor of one who has the approval of his judges, the devotees of philosophy alone are blind to the power of good will. In fact, they appreciate this even more thoroughly than others, and they know, furthermore,  that probabilities and proofs and all forms of persuasion support only the points in a case to which they are severally applied, whereas an honorable reputation not only lends greater persuasiveness to the words of the man who possesses it, but adds greater lustre to his deeds, and is, therefore, more zealously to be sought after by men of intelligence than anything else in the world.
Cf. 4.14; 4.130. On that which is ‘appropriate’ see also 15.74; Letters 6.7. One should also consult Anaximenes p. 99, 16 H.; Aristot. Rhetoric 1356 a 10. See also Peters p. 61 f.
15, 295-6 For you must not lose sight of the fact that Athens is looked upon as having become a school for the education of all able orators and teachers of oratory. And naturally so; for people observe that she holds forth the greatest prizes for those who have this ability, that she offers the greatest number and variety of fields of exercise to those who have chosen to enter contests of this character and want to train for them,  and that, furthermore, everyone obtains here that practical experience which more than any other thing imparts ability to speak; and, in addition to these advantages, they consider that the catholicity and moderation of our speech, as well as our flexibility of mind and love of letters, contribute in no small degree to the education of the orator. Therefore they suppose, and not without just reason, that all clever speakers are the disciples of Athens.
15, 321 I observe that when others who are placed in jeopardy here come to the end of their defense, they supplicate, they implore, they bring their children and their friends before the jury. I, however, consider that such expedients are unbecoming to one of my age; and, apart from this feeling, I should be ashamed to owe my life to any other plea than to the words which you have just heard. For I know that I have spoken with so just and clear a conscience both towards the city and our ancestors, and above all towards the gods, that if it be true that the gods concern themselves at all with human affairs I am sure that they are not indifferent to my present situation.
18 (Against Callimachus) 16 I think, however, that even if there had been neither arbitration nor witnesses to the actual facts and you were under the necessity of considering the case in the light of the probabilities, not even in this event would you have difficulty in arriving at a just verdict.
Cf. Aristot. Rhetoric 1376 a 18: ‘If one has no witnesses, it is necessary to judge from what is likely,’ where Spengel cites many parallels from Isocrates.
18, 68 So you, keeping these considerations in mind, should cast your votes for that which is at the same time just and also expedient.
Cf. 35. Sheehan p. 21 f.
21 (Against Euthynos) 4 For Nicias, both when he was depositing the money and when he tried to get it back, had no one with him, either freeman or slave; thus it is impossible either by torture of slaves or by testimony to get at the facts, but it is by circumstantial evidence that we must plead and you must judge which side speaks the truth.
Letter 1.2-3 I know, to be sure, that when men essay to give advice, it is far preferable that they should come in person rather than send a letter, not only because it is easier to discuss the same matters face to face than to give their views by letter, nor yet because all men give greater credence to the spoken rather than to the written word, since they listen to the former as to practical advice and to the latter as to an artistic composition; but also, in addition to these reasons, in personal converse, if anything that is said is either not understood or not believed, the one who is presenting the arguments, being present, can come to the rescue in either case; but when written missives are used and any such misconception arises, there is no one to correct it, for since the writer is not at hand, the defender is lacking.
Letter 6.8 I am wont to tell those who practice my philosophy that the first thing they have to think about is what id to be achieved through the speech and its parts. Once we have found this out and attained a clear idea of it, we must, I say, look for the forms through which we can put these things into practice and reach the goal we have set to ourselves.
Letter 7.1 If you stick to what has just been said about you, you will not run out of people willing to praise your wisdom and this discipline.