Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.02.13

Judson Herrman (ed.), Hyperides. Funeral Oration. American Philological Association. American Classical Studies 53.   Oxford/New York:  Oxford University Press, 2009.  Pp. xiv, 148.  ISBN 9780195388657.  $60.00.  

Reviewed by Dimos Spatharas, University of Crete (

Table of Contents

It is now an established fact that after a long period of neglect, the Attic orators have recently attracted due scholarly attention. Even so, until very recently Hyperides was living in the shadow of Demosthenes or other 'mainstream' orators, such as Lysias or Aeschines. But the recent discovery of Archimedes' palimpsest along with Whitehead's excellent commentary (BMCR 2002.03.10) on his forensic speeches have done much to arouse scholarly interest in an orator who was admired by ancient critics. Thus, the publication of Herrman's (henceforth H) commentary on the Funeral Speech,1 not only covers a desideratum, but is also marked by exceptional timeliness.

Herrman's commentary includes an economical but informative Introduction, the Greek text with a facing translation, the commentary itself, two Appendices including matters of textual criticism (presented below), bibliography and two useful indexes (a general one and an index of Greek words), but no index locorum.

Herrman's Introduction falls into four sections. In the first, Herrman addresses matters concerning the historical background of the speech and offers a useful overview of Athenian policy toward Macedon from the Peace of Philocrates (346) to the Lamian War (322). This is a dense but inclusive account of the events of this period of tumult that highlights the importance of the trials that shaped Athenian policy toward the Macedonian threat. Its originality lies in that, while he does not lose sight of other prominent figures such as Demosthenes and Aeschines (whose policies and enmity usually monopolize other treatments of this historical period), Herrman appropriately focuses his attention on Hypereides' activity. This presentation enhances our knowledge about his political career and prepares the ground for a more complete understanding of the contents and argument of his Funeral Speech.

In the second section, Herrman treats the rhetorical background of Hyperides' Epitaphios. He discusses briefly the main aspects of the state burials and the origins of the institution and offers an outline of the structural similarities that tie together all the surviving Epitaphioi. Herrman then goes on to compare Hyperides' Epitaphios to that of Demosthenes and other speeches from the 330's (Lycurgus' Against Leocrates, Demosthenes' On the crown and Hyperides' recently discovered Against Diondas). He argues that these speeches reflect pessimistic Athenian sentiments prompted by the disaster of the city at Chaeronea (338). For this reason, Herrman explains, their authors emphasize the glorious past of Athens and especially her achievements during the Persian invasion, while at the same time they attribute the defeat at Chaeronea to misfortune. By contrast, at the time of Hyperides' Epitaphios Alexander is dead and Athens has recovered from the traumatic experience of Chaeronea. This new situation offered to Athens the opportunity to struggle afresh for its freedom. This, according to Herrman, explains why Hyperides emphasizes the events of the past year and the positive prospects of the city in the present, a deviation from the normal practice in that it omits the usual praise for the achievements of the ancestors.

In the third section of his Introduction, Herrman adduces further arguments concerning Hyperides' choice to focus his attention on the recent history of Athens and discusses the rhetorical means that enable him to underscore the importance of Athenian success during the last year of the War. This section also includes a brief examination of matters of style and presentation of the structure of the speech. Hyperides' rhetoric, Herrman claims, is designed to show that Leosthenes' generalship and achievements during the Lamian War were superior to those of the Persian wars. As Herrman succinctly observes, the orator applies the language of the Persian Wars to the Lamian War, thereby emphasizing the importance of the present war for the cause of the freedom of the Greeks. Herrman's discussion of the style of the speech focuses mainly on the generic characteristics of the epideictic sentence and such devices as the symmetrical antitheses or paromoiosis.

In the fourth and final section of the Introduction, Herrman discusses matters of textual criticism. He offers a lucid presentation of the history of the existing editions of the speech since the discovery of the papyrus in 1856. He offers a technical description of the papyrus and extensive criticism of the previous editions of the speech. The text that he presents to modern readership is based (with a few exceptions) on Jensen's edition,2 while most of his divergences from Jensen spring from his own inspection of the papyrus and concern (a) places where he adds or removes dots or (b) some cases where Herrman believes that the text is less clear than Jensen thought. But Herrman's interventions do not affect the meaning of the text. Herrman's own contribution to Hyperides' text consists in the homogenous use of the Leiden system of sigla and inclusion of 19th and 20th century suggestions that do not appear in Jensen's edition. As he claims, 'after the subsequent improvements of Blass, Jensen and Colin there seems to be little fertile ground left for editorial inventiveness' (p. 31). He thus includes in the text only those readings that he finds plausible (and credits the editors in the apparatus), while he provides editorial speculations that he finds less felicitous in the apparatus criticus. All highly speculative restorations are recorded in Appendix B for scholarly inspection. Unimportant scribal mistakes are conveniently gathered together and listed in Appendix A.

Herrman's notes include sufficient examination of the rhetorical, stylistic or literary features of the speech, yet an overall assessment of his commentary would suggest that it (justifiably) gravitates towards textual criticism and clarification of the historical background of the Epitaphios. Herrman adduces many parallel texts (especially from other extant Funeral Speeches) that clarify his interpretation of individual points, while his use of the secondary literature is wide without being irksome. Another strong point of his commentary concerns the detailed explanation of pivotal Greek values or Athenian social norms (for example, his discussion of ἐπιείκια at 66 or ἀνδραγατηία at 106). Finally, Herrman provides an adequate treatment o f the use of topoi in Hyperides' speech, which he commonly compares with their use in other Epitaphioi (for example, his excellent note on κολάζουσα at section 5, referring to Athenian punishment of those who commit insolent acts or his note on Athenian autochtony at section 7).

Before I reach a final assessment of Herrman's work, I must indulge in some quibbling, even though I fully acknowledge that the major drawback of writing commentaries lies in that they offer valuable help to everyone, even as they commonly fail to meet the idiosyncratic demands of individual readers.

I fully recognize that Herrman has read widely, and his discussion and criticism of modern scholarship are thorough. But there are some cases where his references to modern scholars would have been more illuminating if they included a brief summary of their views. I adduce just two examples: at the end of his note on μεγαλοπρέπεια (p.60), Herrman says: 'Von Reden (1995, 85) discusses Aristotle's definition of μεγαλοπρέπεια as a democratic virtue, while Kurke (1991, 176-77) emphasizes the associations between private civic expenditures and tyranny', without further presentation of the pivotal theses of these scholars and their association with Hyperides' argument. At p. 87 Herrman discusses hybris and refers his readers to Fisher 1992 and MacDowell 1976,3 without any further comments. Yet on the basis of Aristotle's definition of hybris in the Rhetoric these scholars adopt diametrically opposed interpretations of this notion (and indeed in his commentary on Against Meidias MacDowell modifies his earlier view), while Cairns,4 who does not appear in Herrman's note, discusses critically both MacDowell's and Fisher's interpretations. Let me also mention in passing that I was surprised not to find a reference to North's book5 in Herrman's note on sophrosyne (section 5); I also suggest that Herrman would have benefited much from Pernot's book on the rhetoric of praise (a book that meticulously presents the history of prose encomia along with their generic and stylistic features).6 This applies especially to Herrman's note on section 3 discussing prose encomia that praise specific historical figures and also to other places of his commentary that fail to discuss such recurring encomiastic devices as comparatio or augmentatio).

Herrman's notes frequently touch on matters of style. However, readers would benefit much from a more detailed synthesis on Hyperides' style in the relevant section of the Introduction, which, as it stands, includes only a very selective presentation of stylistic devices.

To sum up. Herrman's commentary on Hyperides' Epitaphios is a piece of fine scholarship, presented in a well produced volume. Herrman aptly presents the history of the text and the relevant philological doxography. The Greek text is faultless, and readers with little or no Greek will find great help in Herrman's smooth translation. The discussion of the historical background of the speech is thorough and the presentation of the rhetorical qualities of the speech is subtle. Herrman's explanation of the social norms and values of Athenian society is sufficient and accurate and will serve as a useful guide to all those who wish to learn more about the fundamental ideological assumptions of classical Athens and their treatment in the Funeral Speeches. The same applies to his discussion of Athens after Charonea. Herrman has also succeeded in contextualizing Hyperides' Epitaphios, even as he frequently shows with remarkable ability the novelties of its author. Overall, Herrman's commentary will serve as a standard reference book in the years to come.


1.   The following book, which I was unable to consult, also appeared in 2009: Petruzziello, L (2009) Epitafio per i caduti del primo anno della guerra lamiaca: (Plit.Lond.133V) / Iperide; introduzione, testo critico, traduzione e commento, Pisa.
2.   Jensen, C. C. (1917) Hyperidis orations sex cum ceterarum fragmentis, Bibliotheca scriptorium Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, Leipzig.
3.   MacDowell, D. M. (1976) "Hybris in Athens," G&R 23: 14-31; Fisher, N. R. E. (1992) Hybris: A study in the values of honour and shame in ancient Greece, Warminster.
4.   Cairns, D. L. (1996) "Hybris and Thinking Big" JHS 116: 1-32.
5.   North, H. (1966) Sophrosyne: Self-Knowledge and Self-Restraint in Greek Literature, Ithaca, N.Y.
6.   Pernot, L. (1996) La rhétorique de l'éloge dans le monde grécoromain, Paris.

Comment on this review in the BMCR blog
Read Latest
Index for 2010
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review
Bryn Mawr Classical Commentaries

BMCR, Bryn Mawr College, 101 N. Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

HTML generated at 12:25:14, Friday, 05 February 2010