Bryn Mawr Classical Review 94.04.12


Ian Worthington, A Historical Commentary on Dinarchus: Rhetoric and Conspiracy in Late Fourth Century Athens. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992. Pp. xvi + 394. ISBN 0-472-06487-8.


Reviewed by Edward M. Harris, Brooklyn College and the Graduate School, City University of New York.

Dinarchus did not rank very high in the ancient canon of the Ten Attic Orators. Some in antiquity called him a "rustic Demosthenes." But Dionysius of Halicarnassus rated him as one of the best orators who sought to emulate Demosthenes, and his reputation was high enough to ensure that three out of several dozen speeches attributed to him were preserved. Antiquity's verdict has had some effect on modern scholarship for few aside from those historians interested in the Harpalus affair have paid much attention to Dinarchus.

To rescue Dinarchus from this comparative neglect, Ian Worthington has produced a very welcome historical commentary on Dinarchus' three surviving speeches: Against Demosthenes, Against Aristogeiton, and Against Philocles. The three speeches were delivered in 323 B.C. at trials arising from the Areopagus' investigation into the disappearance of the money confiscated from Harpalus after his arrest. The Harpalus incident, though one of the more ignominious episodes in the city's history, is nevertheless important for our understanding of Athenian politics in the reign of Alexander the Great, and Dinarchus' speeches are thus a vital source of information for this period of Greek history.

Since the main value of the speeches is historical, Worthington rightly devotes most of his commentary to historical and prosopographical matters. But W. also has provocative idea's about Dinarchus' style and the revision of speeches, and his commentary contains good observations about rhetorical devices and some original suggestions about the text. The commentary is preceded by a lengthy introduction and an English translation of the three speeches (the numerous fragments are omitted) without a facing Greek text, a decision that I suspect was imposed by the press for reasons of cost. The absence of a Greek text may have made the volume less expensive, but has also made it less easy to use since the lemmata in the commentary are in Greek, but the only text is an English translation. And it is difficult to evaluate W.'s translation of the speeches or his departures from Conomis' text without any Greek text and apparatus to consult. Nor can one understand why W. has added a discussion of "The Text" (79-82) when he does not print one. Did the deletion of a Greek text really save that much in production costs? There is plenty of Greek in the commentary; why could the University of Michigan Press not add a mere thirty pages of Greek text? To get the full value out of W.'s commentary, therefore, it is necessary to buy the Teubner text or the more accessible Minor Attic Orators II in the Loeb series.

The introduction contains sections on "The Life and Work of Dinarchus" (3-12), "The Style of Dinarchus" (13-39), "The Historical Background to the Speeches" (41-77), and "The Text" (79-82). For the Life and Works, W. relies heavily on the essay about Dinarchus by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, who was able to draw on the lost speech Against Proxenus and Philochorus' Atthis. Following Dionysius, W. places Dinarchus' birth at Corinth in 361/60, but, differing with Dionysius, places his arrival in Athens before 338/37. I have reservations. Dionysius (Din. 4) admits there was no evidence for Dinarchus' year of birth. His own dating rests on the observation that Dinarchus says he was old when he delivered his speech against Proxenus in 291/90 and on his assumption that this means he was seventy years old at the time. On the basis of this reasoning, Dionysius proceeds to declare many of the speeches attributed to Dinarchus spurious on chronological grounds (Din. 11, 13). Some of the speeches, such as the Demosthenic Against Boeotus, are rightly rejected by Dionysius, but one could just as easily argue that some of those dated to earlier than 340 must be by Dinarchus and conclude that the orator must have been eighty or older in 291/90. Anyone who is familiar with Dionysius' methods in his dating of Demosthenes' speeches realizes that the critic was not infallible. W. pushes the date for Dinarchus' arrival in Athens back before 338. I am inclined to agree but not for the reason W. gives. W. draws attention to a fragment (Rutilius Lupus 2.16), where Dinarchus states he took up arms to defend the city in his youth. W. identifies this campaign with Chaeronea and dates Dinarchus' arrival in Athens before 338, but nothing obliges us to accept the identification.

W.'s treatment of "The Style of Dinarchus" (13-39) contains a defense of the orator against his ancient and modern detractors. W. draws attention to Dinarchus' ability to integrate artistic and non-artistic proofs, to vary his subject matter, and to employ historical exempla effectively. W. is particularly good on Dinarchus' rhetorical devices and tricks for creating the illusion of spontaneity. His most striking suggestion is that Dinarchus employs an elaborate ring-composition in his speech Against Demosthenes. This is a very interesting idea, and one which deserves further study. We know that the Greek poets used ring-composition, and it is certainly plausible that the orators, who studied the poets as part of their training, borrowed the technique in constructing their speeches. The main problem with this kind of analysis is that each scholar tends to come up with a different structure. There does appear to be a definite pattern in the sequence of topics (Areopagus - defeat of Thebes - relations with Macedon - Areopagus - relations with Macedon - defeat of Thebes - Areopagus), but the precise boundaries between sections can be quite fluid. As a result, different analyses of the speech's structure are given by W., by Nouhaud and Dors-Meary, and by Burtt. W. goes further than other analyses and discovers the presence of ring-composition at five different levels (339-55). Even if one accepts W.'s findings about ring-composition, the conclusions he draws about the revision of speeches do not necessarily follow. W. argues that the intricate pattern of ring-composition "lends greater weight to the belief that speeches were revised after oral delivery" (36). Does the presence of ring-composition in an ode of Pindar indicate that it was revised after performance? And W. ignores the extensive evidence adduced by A. Schaefer (Demosthenes und seine Zeit: Beilagen [Leipzig 1858] 66-81) to demonstrate the very opposite of W.'s conclusion. But W. deserves praise for raising the issue of ring-composition in Attic oratory.

The section on "The Historical Background to the speeches" provides a good discussion of the various sources for the Harpalus affair. W. sensibly concludes that the available evidence does not permit us to resolve the issue of Demosthenes' guilt (58), but nevertheless believes that there was a conspiracy directed against him (64). W. believes that "there was no hard evidence" against Demosthenes, and hence "the verdict of Demosthenes' guilt was political" (65). W. is inclined to accept Demosthenes' claim (Hyp. 5.13) that he took Harpalus' money as a loan for the Theoric Fund, but rejects the idea that it was taken to "help support a proposed revolt against Alexander" (65-72), while admitting his argument is "of course speculation." He also makes the interesting suggestion that Harpalus arrived not with 700, but only 450 talents. In W.'s view the entire incident shows that "Greece appears to have been more cowed by the Macedonian domination than has been thought" (77).

The lengthy commentary (117-334) is quite valuable. W. is strongest on political institutions, legal procedure, and prosopography. He provides copious references to both ancient sources and modern scholarship, making the volume a very useful research tool. There are good notes on Agis' War (185-89), the citizenship of Taurosthenes and Callias (207-9), public entertainment (201-2), the panic after Chaeronea (246-48), and the logography of Demosthenes (279-80). W. is generally thorough in his citation of recent bibliography, but there are several dismaying omissions: there is no reference to Todd in JHS 10 (1990) on the social composition of the Athenian court (232), Garnsey's Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World on grain imports (206), R. Thomas' Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens and Nouhaud's L'Utilisation de l'histoire par les orateurs on history in the orators (20-24), Migeotte in Historia 32 (1983) on the epidosis (250), McCabe's The Prose Rhythm of Demosthenes on the authenticity of Demosthenes' speeches (12), Bugh's Horsemen of Athens on the Athenian cavalry (324-25), P. Krentz on the Thirty (171), and Hansen's The Sovereignty of the People's Court on the graphe paranomon (270). And W. (186) appears to be unaware that Potter's attempt to write "history from square brackets" in ABSA 79 (1984) has now been demolished by Badian in ZPE 79 (1989) 59-64 and Habicht in Chiron 19 (1989) 1-5. Most surprising of all is W.'s omission of Wankel's massive commentary on Demosthenes' De Corona. The commentary could have profited from careful editing by the press. Several articles are cited too often: Harvey on bribery (207, 273, 278 bis, 279, 331), Bers on thorubos (231 bis, 261, 298), Carawan on erotesis (138, 253, 260, 261). W. lets us know that he disagrees with Tritle about Harpalus' entry to Athens three times (note 12 on 44, 315, and 316-17).

W.'s translation is generally accurate and relies heavily on Burtt's in the Loeb Dinarchus (as W. readily admits on vi). Where W. departs from Burtt he tends to be more literal and less lively. There are some minor inaccuracies, and not all of W.'s proposals to alter the text are convincing.

1.6 W. translates the phrase ek pronoias as "premeditated," which is both inaccurate and anachronistic (see above all Hdt. 1.159.3). Premeditation did not emerge as a factor in differentiating degrees of homicide until 1794 (see G. Fletcher, Rethinking Criminal Law [Boston and Toronto 1978] 253 with the references cited there). Burtt's "wilful" is better.

1.7 W. is influenced by Burtt's translation and renders the phrase hyperbole tou pragmatos as "overriding argument in his defense," but the word denotes something excessive or exaggerated (Ar. Rhet. 3.11.1413a29). Dinarchus' point is that Demosthenes' argument that the Areopagus lied is outrageous.

1.1 W. changes the singular apophasis to plural here and the plural apophaseis to singular at 1.63, 3.5, and 3.7 on the grounds that "singular instances of apophasis refer to individuals and not to all of those charged collectively." But choice of singular vs. plural is not always dictated by strict logic in Classical Greek; Athenian poets and prose writers often substituted plural for singular and singular for plural because of stylistic reasons. See the good discussion in V. Bers Greek Poetic Syntax in the Classical Age (New Haven 1984) Chapter l.

l.25 Sauppe proposed to delete me and tes after choras while Blass kept me but changed perioran to horan. W. keeps the me, deletes the second tes and places Athenaion after tis, then translates "they would ignore any Athenian bearing arms passing through their territory" which takes no account of the me. But the text is fine as it stands -- the Thebans resolved "not to overlook (me perioran sc. an incursion) if anyone marches through Athenian territory in arms." The resolution was a pledge to stop foreign powers from intervening in the Athenian stasis, one which would accord with their refusal to join the Spartans against the democratic forces (X. Hell. 2.4.27-30).

1.42 Both W. and Burtt misunderstand the verb ebebaiou, which refers to the pledge of the seller to warrant title to the buyer. Dinarchus is accusing Demosthenes of failing to perform this duty. On the procedure see W. Wyse, The Speeches of Isaeus (Cambridge 1904) 435-38; cf. Harris CQ 38 (1988) 373.

1.73 W. translates aportheton nomizomenen einai as "thought to be unravaged" but Burtt rightly renders "which, it was thought, could not be ravaged." For verbal adjectives in -tos denoting possibility see H. W. Smyth, Greek Grammar rev. ed. (Cambridge, MA 1956) 157.

1.82 This is an old crux, which W. proposes to remedy by adding the phrase ten krisin peri duoin ton politon after lege de, thus filling the lacuna suspected by Maetzner. Dinarchus asks the court to compare two decrees (par' allela) of Demosthenes, but only identifies one in the main clause, which is not read out until 83. But there is no need to posit the existence of a lacuna. Dinarchus has been discussing the decree passed by Demosthenes after the battle of Chaeronea giving the Areopagus special powers (78-80). He wishes to compare this decree with the one passed by Demosthenes calling for the Areopagus to investigate the disappearance of Harpalus' money. He therefore asks the clerk to read that decree also (lege de kai), but first has another extract from the earlier decree read out at 82 before having the later decree read at 83. There is no need to mention the earlier decree explicitly once more since it is already the topic of discussion. The later decree is brought in not as a new topic, but only to compare with the earlier decree -- the kai makes this clear. The word palin at 83 does not mean "again," since the later decree is being read here for the first time, but expresses contradiction (see LSJ s.v. 2) and emphasizes the contrast between the two decrees. "By way of contrast" would be a better translation in this context than W.'s "again." One might object that the later decree ought have been read out when Dinarchus first calls for it to be read out, but an orator might call for the clerk to read a document, then add a few comments, and finally have the document actually read out a few sentences after his instruction to the clerk -- compare Demosthenes l9.213-14 and Lycurgus Leocr. 19-20. W.'s supplement is thus unnecessary.

1.108 W. translates ou kataplekteon as "you must not give up," but Burtt's "You must not be cowed" is more accurate.

3.5 W. retains the e and translates "or even confiscate his property." But Reiske was right to delete the second e, which gives only two alternatives matching the two infinitives, a fine (timesai) or death and confiscation (thanato zemiosantas ... demeusai). For confiscation accompanying the death penalty see Harrison, Law of Athens II: Procedure (Oxford 1971) 178-79.

3.1 W. translates the phrase hipparchekos andron kalon kagathon as "was appointed hipparchos ... from all good and noble men." Once again, Burtt's translation is preferable: "a cavalry command ... over reputable men." Since the cavalry was drawn from the richest segment of the citizenry, its members would always be kaloi kagathoi. Besides, the process of selection from a group is usually expressed by the verb haireisthai with the preposition ek (see for example Ath. Pol. 29.2,5).

But these minor errors do not significantly detract from the value of W.'s work. All in all, W. has produced a helpful guide to the speeches of Dinarchus. Everyone who is seriously interested in the Attic orators ought to have a copy on his or her shelf.