Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.03.14

S. C. Todd (trans.), Lysias. The Oratory of Classical Greece, volume 2.   Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2000.  Pp. xxx + 402.  ISBN 0-292-78165-2.  $55.00 (hb).  ISBN 0-292-78166-0.  $24.95 (pb).  

Reviewed by Rex Stem, Louisiana State University (
Word count: 2968 words

This highly readable and nicely produced translation of the corpus of Lysias is the second volume in Michael Gagarin's Oratory of Classical Greece series. When completed, the series seeks to provide a comprehensive and reliable English rendition of the entire corpus of Attic oratory. Such a series is a great idea long overdue, as can be demonstrated by the fact that this is the first complete English translation of Lysias since the Loeb appeared in 1930, and the first English translation of Lysias ever to include a selection of the more substantial fragments. The series is designed for a readership that is unfamiliar with the practices and historical conditions of Greek oratory, but it should also prove to be a handy reference for those already familiar with the canon of the ten Attic orators. Short but instructive introductions are written for each speech, and each volume includes a Series Introduction, as well as an introduction to the orator(s) featured in that volume. Gagarin's Series Introduction, which, except for the supplemental bibliography on Lysias, is here reprinted exactly from the first volume in the series (Antiphon and Andocides), very briefly and expertly surveys the history and importance of oratory at Athens as well as providing biographical blurbs on each orator in the canon. On page xx, one finds the provocative but quite possibly accurate assertion that "in the fourth century, oratory became the most important cultural institution in Athens, replacing drama as the forum where major ideological concerns were displayed and debated."

S. C. Todd, an excellent choice as translator of the Lysias volume, is best known for his comprehensive survey of Athenian law (The Shape of Athenian Law, Oxford, 1993), a book especially notable for the clarity of its methodological thinking and its readability. That study, like this translation (p. ix), grew out of Todd's long-term project of writing a historical commentary on the corpus of Lysias, and its final six chapters are introduced by case studies of Lysianic speeches. Todd thus has an abiding interest in Lysias, especially in the legal and social issues behind the speeches, as well as a healthy respect for the complexities of Greek life that these speeches reveal.

This volume contains the 34 orations traditionally attributed to Lysias (speech 35 in the OCT, the "Erotikos" from Plato's Phaedrus, is rightly considered to be more Platonic than Lysianic and so not included here [p. 4n4]), the 11 most substantial fragmentary speeches, and a 12 page index. For the text of the speeches, Todd has worked from the 1912 OCT of Karl Hude, though for the fragments he has had the benefit of the work Chris Carey has done in preparation for his new OCT edition of Lysias (see p. 11). Presumably because the series as a whole is geared to more introductory readers, Todd does not (except for the fragments) include discussions of textual matters in his notes, and the manuscript history of the corpus of Lysias is not even mentioned until it first becomes relevant as the reason for the incomplete state of speech 5 (p. 58n.1). But an awareness of Lysias' Greek is not absent: Todd's notes often explain where and why he deviates from a literal rendering of the Greek text or how he has chosen to translate an ambiguous passage.

Todd's translation possesses many of the virtues of Lysias' own style. It is consistently lucid in its language, appealing in its tone, and persuasive by the apparent effortlessness of its art. Thus it should be considered a success for its own merits, even before one compares it to its only real competition, the 1930 Loeb translation of W. R. M. Lamb. As one would expect, Todd's translation sounds much more contemporary than the Loeb, but Todd is also much more successful in rendering in English word order the desired effect of the orator's argument with clarity and power. Possible examples are numerous, but I will limit myself to one. At 3.42, Todd both rearranges the ordering of the Greek clauses and adopts a modern English idiom appropriate to the speaker and his argument:

"Clearly our lawgivers also did not think they should prescribe exile from the fatherland for people who happen to crack each other's heads while fighting--or else they would have exiled a considerable number. On the other hand, they did establish such severe penalties for those who plot to kill others, and wound but do not succeed in killing."

The Loeb translates this passage thus: "Why, it is clear that even the makers of our laws did not think well, when people happened in a fight to break each other's heads, to make it a case for banishment from their country; else they would have exiled a goodly number. But in the case of any persons who, designing to kill, wounded others without being able to kill them, they appointed the punishment in that degree of severity."

The point of the whole argument is much clearer in Todd's translation than in the Loeb, all the while being faithful to the spirit of Lysias' Greek. Moreover, Todd much more successfully captures the humor about the number of people who would have to have been exiled for fighting if that indeed were the intention of the law. The successful rendition of the joke also better brings out the character of the speaker, who, as Todd points out in his introduction to the speech (p. 44), employs "a comic flavor" in his account of the fighting that led to this trial. That joke then gives way to a serious point, a change in tone which Todd also manages to capture. Todd's success at rendering these nuances does a great service for the Greekless reader of Lysias, admirably fulfilling Gagarin's goals for this series.

Todd precedes his translation with an Introduction to Lysias and his corpus, a tight ten pages that supplement Gagarin's more general Series Introduction. His summary of the meager evidence for Lysias' life and career is sensible throughout, gently endorsing the later date of 445 for Lysias' birth and treating the Lysianic references in Plato's dialogues, troublesome in their dramatic dates, as evidence for Lysias' fame and social standing rather than as chronological markers for Lysias' biography. Todd then surveys the key features of Lysianic style, in particular what the term ethopoiia might mean, before turning to the questions of authorship and authenticity. He argues that almost all the speeches in the Lysianic corpus are viable as actual court speeches delivered in the circumstances which they relate (pp. 8-10; see also, e.g., p. 217 [speech 20] and p. 247n.6 [speech 23]). Thus they "can be used as evidence for attitudes and perceptions at the time of writing" (p. 9). The question of whether Lysias himself actually wrote these speeches is secondary, and, in Todd's mind, "ultimately unresolvable" (p. 10). Even Lysias' most famous speech, a first person attack against a member of the Thirty for the murder of his brother, cannot be proven to have been delivered under the circumstances it describes, and thus should perhaps be read only as what Lysias would have said if in fact he ever had the opportunity to speak at the trial of Eratosthenes (pp. 6, 114). Lysias 2, to take an epideictic example, is valuable because it is a plausible and appropriate speech for its apparent dramatic occasion, a funeral oration delivered during the Corinthian War. As such, it demonstrates what an early fourth-century Athenian thought a funeral oration should be, whether or not Lysias himself wrote it, and whether or not this speech was ever actually delivered (pp. 9, 26).

Todd thus seeks to present these speeches as historical documents of the fourth century that are open to interpretation, and he seeks to present them to an introductory or student audience without overly influencing how they are to be interpreted. His success with this approach is bolstered by his impressive fairness in introducing the speeches and explaining the contexts in which they were delivered. Exemplary is the introduction to the often neglected speech 13 (Against Agoratus), which provides a narrative of potentially important events in the troubled and murky year of 404. There are numerous difficulties with the timing and the strategy of the speech, all of which Todd presents in a clear and helpful way. And even though Todd himself dismisses the validity of many of the speaker's legal arguments, he does well to point out that the trial may have been conducted at a time of such high feeling against the Thirty that even weak legal arguments may have been enough to secure a conviction (pp. 137-40).

In general, the level of detail in Todd's introductions and notes is appropriate for an undergraduate student audience, and many of Lysias' speeches jump to life as a means of demonstrating via primary texts the importance of certain concepts of Athenian social history in the fourth century: liturgies and aristocratic values in speech 19, the expenses of daily life in speech 32, the scale of international commerce and the Athenian food supply in speech 22, the value of citizenship in speech 23. More advanced students of Lysias will also gain from a close reading of this translation, for Todd's skill at highlighting the interesting features of each speech also has the result of reinvigorating some of the more obscure speeches in the corpus (e.g., 6, 8, 20, 26-30). Moreover, individual speeches can be read in isolation, as Todd's notes do not assume the knowledge of previous speeches in the corpus (even terms like metic, sykophant, and liturgy are explained afresh each time), and there is generous cross-referencing to relevant material discussed more fully in the context of another speech.

The inclusion of eleven fragmentary speeches is one of the great virtues of the volume and will open up discussion of these speeches to a much wider audience for the first time. Of the eleven, the first six are preserved in other authors (Dionysius and Athenaeus), the remaining five on papyri. Each group is "arranged in descending order of the scale of what remains" (p. 11), and the original context for each fragment is responsibly recorded along with a listing of where to find each in other editions of the fragments. Todd again keenly points out whatever historically interesting information can be gleaned from each speech: fragment 3 relates to Theban problems in 382-379, fragment 4 offers insight into such acts as the mutilation of the Herms in 415, and fragment 10 attacks a proposed decree which must have eventually been passed, since a partial epigraphic record of it remains and can be compared to the arguments of the speech. Fragment 7 (Against Hippotherses) is perhaps the most interesting for students of Lysias since it involves Lysias himself and his attempt to recover his property after the amnesty of 403. Given the fragmentary nature of these speeches, less can be done with them in terms of teaching undergraduates, but their translation into English for the first time, along with their detailed notes and introductions and their cross-referencing with other interrelated points within the corpus of Lysias, is a real bonus for more advanced students of the corpus.

One result of Todd's historical emphasis in his discussion of the speeches of the Lysianic corpus is the comparative neglect of the rhetoric and strategy of their arguments. Todd does not include rhetorical outlines of the speeches, and he often does not even offer an opinion about the possible guilt or innocence of the speaker. In his even-handed introduction to speech 1, for example, Todd does not discuss possible holes in the speaker's argument, even though some can clearly be found (compare pp. 13-16 of Todd with pp. 59-64 of Chris Carey, Lysias: Selected Speeches [Cambridge, 1989]). Todd does not avoid such an analysis in all cases (see, e.g., the introduction to speech 7 [pp. 77-79]), but in general the student of Greek rhetoric will find less of interest here than the student of Greek history or Greek law. Given Todd's own interests, that is perhaps to be expected, but it is still somewhat regrettable, as these speeches were initially composed to be documents of persuasion, not as indirect reflections of the attitudes of their historical moment.

Another shortcoming is the uneven level of citation of modern bibliography. Questions about why certain things are or are not cited arise within the introduction to the very first speech. Note 5 on page p. 15 cites two rather advanced articles on the legal argument of whether adultery was considered more serious than rape, but nowhere mentioned is such a relevant article as Gareth Morgan, "Euphiletos' House," TAPA 112 (1982) 115-23, even though Todd himself acknowledges that "one of the main attractions of the speech is the extraordinarily vivid picture of Euphiletus' domestic circumstances" (p. 14). Another example is n. 1 on p. 13, in which Todd cites the discussion of David Cohen on the meaning of the word moichos (Law, Sexuality, and Society [Cambridge 1991], 98-132), but then invokes "other scholars" who maintain a different view, scholars who are neither named nor provided with any specific citation. If it is worth citing one side of the issue, it only seems fair to cite a counterpoint. Two pages later, as a final example, Todd himself discusses both sides of an issue (the question of whether the Eratosthenes of this speech and the one of speech 12 are the same person), but then cites bibliography for neither side. Todd should tell his readers, now that he has piqued their interest, how to find out more (e.g., see H. C. Avery in Hermes 119 [1991] 380-4, and the response of K. Kapparis, Hermes 121 [1993] 364-5). This translation is obviously not the place for the listing of extensive bibliography, but the principles behind the choice of what is included could have been better defined.

Turning now to some specifics, comments on Todd's presentation of particular aspects of individual speeches are here listed summarily in numerical order by speech. SPEECH 7. Todd implies (p. 79) that the speaker may well be guilty of removing the olive stump in the first five days he owned the property, but the charge the speaker faces is that the stump was removed in 397/6 (see 7.11). Thus the speaker may well be innocent of that charge regardless of whether he ever did remove the stump or not. SPEECH 10. Since so much of the speech depends on distinguishing between close synonyms, Todd does well to include in parentheses the Greek words being compared and referred to. Todd's discussion of the relationship of speech 11 to speech 10, however, gets confused by the introduction of difficult evidence about the possible date at which speech 11 was written (pp. 103-4). All Todd really needs to have said, to stay within the goals intended for this book, is that speech 11 is not an original speech of Lysianic date, but merely a derivative summary of speech 10 that somehow became included in the MSS tradition. SPEECH 16. The great confidence of Mantitheus throughout his speech (see 16.2, 8, 17-21) is not sufficiently stressed by Todd in his introduction to the speech (pp. 177-9). Such a tone, verging on arrogance, may be nothing more than a reflection of Mantitheus' own character, but it is a startling response to a dokimasia and would be worth discussing in terms of how freely a speaker could or would be expected to address his jury. SPEECH 18. In the first six sections of this speech, Todd fairly translates the word politeia in three different ways but indicates by parentheses that this is the word he is translating. This is but one notable example of a practice Todd utilizes throughout, a clear benefit for the Greekless reader. SPEECH 20. At 20.2, 5, and 16, Todd treats "the prosecution" as a plural noun (e.g., "the prosecution are..."), a usage I find jarring. The verbs Todd is translating are third person plural verbs, but it seems better to me to refer to "the prosecutors" or say "they accuse", as Todd does at 20.11 and 20.17. SPEECH 22. Todd overplays the anti-metic rhetoric in the speech (pp. 239, 243; see 22.16). Lysias does not attack the defendants primarily because they were metics, but because they were putting their own private gain before the city's welfare. Thus he need not be seen here as tarring all metics with the same brush he uses on these allegedly unscrupulous grain dealers. SPEECH 24. The translation "be inferior to" is slightly misleading for dioiso at the end of 24.3. SPEECH 28. In the middle of 28.9, a "that" should be added (i.e., "So it is right, now [that] you are punishing..."). SPEECH 34. The introduction to this speech (pp. 335-8) risks leading the introductory reader to believe that more can be said with confidence about Athenian politics in 403 than is prudent. Todd's usually admirable brevity in this case leads to an uneasy mixture of caution and speculation. More or less would have been better.

In sum, Todd's translation of Lysias very ably meets the intended goals of The Oratory of Classical Greece series. He provides a reliable and readable translation of the whole corpus of Lysias, with the necessary minimum of explanatory notes and introductions, for Greekless readers. Readers already familiar with these speeches may not find too much that is new, but they still gain a worthy modern translation which includes the most substantial fragments, some recent bibliography, and a wonderful tool with which to introduce others to Lysias. This volume should also form an important companion to Todd's forthcoming historical commentary on the corpus. For all students of Greek history and oratory, this volume, as well as this whole series, is a most welcome and well conceived project.

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