BMCR 1995.02.16

Demosthenes, On the Crown

, Demosthenes, On the Crown. Greek orators 5. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1993. vi, 282 pages. ISBN 9780856685333 $49.95.

The number of orators in the Aris and Phillips Greek Orators Classical Texts series is growing, and rightly so, but until now the greatest speech by the greatest orator was lacking. Happily, that gap has now been filled by Stephen Usher’s translation of, and commentary on, Demosthenes 18 On The Crown (= Volume 5). A useful introduction (pp.1-28) discusses aspects of Demosthenes’ life, the background to the famous Crown trial of 330, and Demosthenes’ literary style, but the bulk of the book is devoted to a translation of the speech (pp.34-165—the facing Greek text is Fuhr’s 1914 Teubner text) and a commentary on it (pp.169-277).

I must say at the outset that what Usher has given us seems inconsistent with the overall aim of Aris & Phillips. I thought that Aris & Phillips intended to make Greek (and Latin) authors available to those without the language or approaching ancient authors in the original for the first time, and thus in need of a good, recent, translation. The same goes for the commentary, which I thought was to provide background on the text, some discussion, and suggestions for further reading, but which essentially was aimed at non-specialists. In other words, a wide audience. Usher’s commentary is too scholarly on certain topics, especially Demosthenes’ rhetorical style; he gives the names of rhetorical devices etc. as used by Demosthenes in Greek, quotes from other Greek and Latin authors in the original without translation, and refers to specialist works which are not cited in the bibliography, and hence would only be known to those working in the field (some instances are given below). The end result is a somewhat uneven book: too detailed for the average undergraduate or interested persons, yet not detailed enough in some parts (the introduction and sections of the commentary) to be one of these so-called specialist books. It thus does not do justice to Usher himself, who is one of the more influential scholars working on Greek oratory these days.

The Introduction is in three sections: ‘Demosthenes’ life’ (pp.1-12—divided into four chronologically-arranged sub-sections), ‘Background to the Trial’ (pp.13-19) and ‘Demosthenes’ Style’ (pp.19-28).

‘Demosthenes’ life’ (pp.1-12) succinctly deals with the life and career of the orator, and is a good starting point for the reader who might be approaching Demosthenes for the first time. It is marred by some inaccuracies, and, more importantly, something which does not help readers who want to find out more about Demosthenes and the period, a lack of up-to-date works. (The same holds true for the Introduction in general.) The book was published in 1993, and since Usher refers to Christopher Carey’s 19 92 Aris & Phillips’Greek Orators Volume 6 on [Demosthenes] 59 (the most recent publication which he does cite), I am surprised that older and at times quite dated material is so often cited in the notes.

For example, in his discussion of the Meidias case (p.7) Usher merely states that the question of whether the trial took place and the speech was delivered cannot be decided, and he cites MacDowell’s 1990 commentary on Demosthenes 21 Against Meidias in n.17. However, there is no reference to the article by E.M. Harris ‘Demosthenes’ Speech Against Meidias’, HSCPh 92 (1989), pp.117-136 (which appeared too late for MacDowell to consider), which argues that the speech was indeed delivered. Also on p.7 (in his sub-section ‘Ascent and Decline’: pp.7-10), Usher merely alludes to the controversial Peace of Philocrates, so important in the political rise of Demosthenes, and cites in n.18 a one-page reference to it in Cawkwell’s 1978 biography of Philip II as further reading! In his discussion of the political situation of 324/3 (p.11), much has been published since Badian’s 1961 article on Harpalus, but Usher cites only this in his n. 27.

Some discussion needs to be made in the sub-section ‘Ascent and Decline’ (pp.7-10) about Demosthenes’On The Peace, which was a turning point in the emergence of that orator to centre-stage in Athenian politics, preparing the way for the influence Demosthenes would wield after Philippic 2. There are also some factual inaccuracies in the section—e.g., p.5: the Athenians ‘were technically at war with [Philip II] from 356’. In fact, the war over Amphipolis was declared in late 357 (cf. Commentary, p.177 sec. 20, where the year is correct). Also, Usher’s statement on p.11 that ‘Alexander demanded the Greek cities should acknowledge his divinity …’ is not only sweeping but also dangerously misleading (and I believe outdated: see now G. Cawkwell, ‘The Deification of Alexander the Great: A Note’, in my Ventures Into Greek History [Oxford: 1994], pp.293-306).

‘Background to the Trial’ (pp.13-19) is straightforward enough. The schematic breakdown of the speech on pp.17-18, which shows that Demosthenes used the Ordo Homericus in structuring it, is extremely useful. Usher follows Gwatkin and Wankel in believing that Aeschines had the law on his side and that Demosthenes’ attempts to counter Aeschines were weak (pp.14 ff.). Perhaps more scepticism is needed in thinking that Aeschines did have such a clear-cut case at 3.9 ff. (the illegality of crowning all officials before they had submitted their accounts), and thus that when Demosthenes searches for precedents (at 18.114) occasional ad hominem grants could be made.

What worries me in this section is the readiness to accept that the entire trial was heard in a single day (p.16). Some consideration of the revision of speeches after oral delivery, and the implications for length of trials and final content of speeches, is necessary in my opinion (not only in this section but also elsewhere—e.g., p.7, on the differences between Dem. 19 and Aes. 2). Demosthenes 18 is a very long speech (even Usher notes this, p.17), and so is the prosecution speech of Aeschines. I cannot see how these two speeches in their present length, to which must be added Ctesiphon’s introductory speech (however short it was), the quoting of a great deal of additional and often lengthy evidence, and then the business associated with the final verdict, can be fitted into a period of about 61/2 hours: see further my ‘The Duration of an Athenian Political Trial’, JHS 109 (1989), pp.204-207.

Usher is at his best in the Introduction for the way he so deftly and lucidly discusses Demosthenes’ style, and shows the influence which Lysias, Isaeus, Isocrates and Thucydides had on Demosthenes, in the section so titled (pp.19-28). It is a pity that much of this section will be lost on Greek-less readers (some of the longer quotations could have been translated), but this is an excellent discussion for anyone reading Demosthenes in the original.

On the text and translation (pp.34-165), Usher uses the 1914 Teubner text of Fuhr and lists his divergences from it (with which I agree), together with a brief apparatus criticus, on pp.166-168. It would have been more user-friendly to have set the app. crit. at the bottom of the relevant pages of the text, but perhaps the Publisher made the final decision here.

The translation is extremely good, and Usher does justice to a great orator, bringing not only the language but also some of the vitality of Demosthenes to life—no mean feat. It is not a literal translation, and thus parts might prove puzzling to students reading the speech in Greek and wanting a translation for help, however a literal translation would detract much from the power of this speech. One can quibble with anyone’s translations, and although I might have phrased some things differently I am not going to take on Dr. Usher at translating Greek oratory—I particularly liked his decision to translate neanias (sec. 136, referring to Aeschines), as ‘young wag’, and phusei kinados (sec. 242, again of Aeschines) as ‘foxy nature’!

The Commentary (pp.169-277) contains much information for ancient historians and especially literary critics—it is a better research tool for the latter than for the former. As well as notes on the background to the case and the period, Usher devote s extensive discussion to rhetorical matters and resources. He cites copious references to ancient sources, and his command of them is obvious.

Particularly good are the notes on the parentage of Aeschines (pp.214 ff.); on Demosthenes’ securing the alliance with Thebes in 339 (pp.228 ff. and 244 ff.)—the analysis of the famous section of the speech (169 ff.) dealing with Athenian reaction when Philip seized Elatea (on pp.230 ff.) is masterly, though in discussing the actual language used reference is needed in sec. 173 to the article by Slater cited later (p.235 sec. 180) on the epiphany of Demosthenes; and on the epilogue of the speech (pp .270 ff.).

There is much to learn from the commentary, and plenty to take issue with, as should be the case. For example, I do not believe that Demosthenes’ embassies to the Peloponnese in 343/2 and 341/0 were ‘more productive’ (p.197 sec. 79), and on p.220 sec. 138 I suspect that the oral nature of Greek society meant that people had far longer memories than Demosthenes, Thucydides or Usher allow. And I do not think that the Athenian fleet would ever have been ‘ready and willing’ to take part in Philip’s invasion of Persia (p.238 sec. 195)!

There are some factual errors (e.g. the League of Corinth was established in 337, not 336: p.200 sec. 89), but the greatest criticism I have against the content of the commentary is the omission of modern works, especially for the historical background , which does not make it a valuable research tool for historians. Again, this may well be the result of misgauging the book’s audience—specialist or not—in which case the fault lies with the Publisher. Usher relies far too heavily on Cawkwell’s biography of Philip II, and does not cite, e.g., J.R. Ellis’ far more thorough and critical Philip II and Macedonian Imperialism, published in 1976 (though it is included in the bibliography), or N.G.L. Hammond and G.T. Griffith, A History of Macedonia 2 (Oxford: 1979)—not even in the bibliography.

Further references are needed in several places—e.g. p.175 sec. 13 on eisangelia : Hansen replies to Rhodes in JHS 100 (1980), pp.89-95; p.205 sec. 102 on the symmories: MacDowell, ‘The Law of Periandros about Symmories’, CQ 36 (1986), pp.438-449 and V. Gabrielsen, ‘The Number of Athenian Trierarchs after ca. 340’, C&M 40 (1989), pp.145-159; p.218 sec. 133 on apophasis : R.W. Wallace, The Areopagos Council, to 307 b.c. (Baltimore and London: 1989), pp.113 ff.; p.250 sec. 234 on the Second Athenian League and its suntaxeis : J. Cargill, The Second Athenian League (Berkeley: 1981); p.252 sec. 240 on eulogising Demosthenes’ alliance with Thebes: Ellis’s criticisms, Philip II pp.191 ff., are needed as a ‘balance’; p.276 sec. 322 on the differing numbers of Athenian politicians to be surrendered to Alexander in 335: the discussion of, e.g., A.B. Bosworth, A Historical Commentary on Arrian’s History of Alexander 1 (Oxford: 1980), pp.92-96; and many of the prosopographical notes would benefit from J.K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families (included in the bibliography and even given an abbreviation, yet, if memory serves, I saw only three instances of this work in the commentary). Also, in various places modern references are lacking—e.g.: the corn shortage in the 320’s (p.200 sec. 89), and the Theban invasion of Sparta after Leuctra (p.203 sec. 98).

Above, I said that Usher refers to works which are not cited in the bibliography but without supplying full details, and hence would only be known to those working in the field (not the intended Aris & Phillips’ audience?). Examples include Rhodes’Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia, which appears cited by author’s name only (e.g. pp.206, 244, 260), as Comm. on [Aristot.] Ath. Pol. on p.209, and again on p.221 but without the Comm. (n.b. Rhodes does not use the square brackets), and Cope’s Introduction to Aristotle’s Rhetoric, which appears without publication details (pp.209, 247 and 263 [the last two by author’s name alone]). Elsewhere, we find a reference on p.240 sec. 201 to ‘[Longinus) [sic] Subl. 15′ followed merely by ‘(Russell’s notes 120 ff.)’; on p.253 sec. 243 we have ‘Dover LCL 170′; and on p.269 sec. 295 ‘Polybius 18 (17), 14 and Walbank, ad loc.’.

The quality of the finished book is very poor indeed: this has to be one of the worst I have come across for its myriad of spacing errors (especially involving commas), typos and inconsistencies. I counted errors in the triple figures, all testimony to extremely poor proof-reading. Just a few examples, aside from the many typos (too numerous to mention—e.g.: p.193 sec. 67: two indefinite articles; p.222: section number for 142 missing; p.267 last word: atttended; Index entry for Agis II should be III): complete sentences, or references, within parentheses but with the full stop outside the closing bracket; parentheses within parentheses but lacking a closing bracket; misplaced opening brackets before Greek (and Latin) words; misplaced punctuation before parentheses; apostrophes missing; some sentences with words missing (e.g. p.186 sec. 41: ‘Aeschines’ missing before ‘invites’; p.187 sec. 44: ‘of’ omitted in ‘full list Philip’s conquests’; p.257 sec. 253: ‘of’ again missing from ‘more distant the two major oracles’) or lacking closing punctuation; missing full stops in abbreviated names of ancient authors or works.

Inconsistencies abound—e.g.: titles of journal articles are sometimes given, sometimes not; publication details of books are sometimes given, sometimes not; quotations or translations (e.g. of some Greek words) are indiscriminately within single or double inverted commas, especially in the Commentary section; numbers of Demosthenic speeches are at times missing before their title; some numerals are elided, others not; Demosthenes is spelt in full in the text of the Introduction (as it should be) and as Dem. in the notes and commentary (though in full on p.196 last entry sec. 71, and p.223 sec. 144), but at times the abbreviated form also appears in the text (e.g. pp.21, 25, 26), and on p.267 last entry sec. 285, from the context Dem. must refer to Demades; ‘Peloponnesian War’ is written in full and then abbreviated to ‘Pel. War’ for no reason (e.g. pp.204, 271); perhaps also appears as ‘perh.’ (e.g. pp.233, 250); Thucydides crops up in full and as ‘Thuc.’ (p.254); and MacDowell’s commentary on Demosthenes 21 is variously abbreviated as Comm. Ag. Meidias, Comm. (e.g. pp.7, 16, 20, 257) and MacDowell (e.g. p.205)—all three might throw the reader unacquainted with this work since the word ‘Commentary’ does not appear in this book’s title in the Bibliography nor is an abbreviation used there—there is for his Law in Classical Athens (p.31).

Even the mere two pages of Bibliography (pp.29-31) are messy: on p.30, J.R. Ellis is not the author of the article on Philip’s strategy in 346 but M.M. Markle, whose article is correctly cited on p.31—which of Ellis’ articles is meant to be on p.30? There are several instances of punctuation before bracketed publication details in the case of books, and of journals without the comma after the bracketed year of publication (also missing after the title in Hansen 1987). Journal articles are given in full pagination, apart from Cawkwell 1978 which appears as ’93ff.’. The title of Andrew Dyck’s article is incorrect (not ‘… in the De Corona‘ but ‘… in the Speech On The Crown‘), and the volume number of Greece and Rome in which this article appears is 32, not 33. Also, an extra bracket appears in Jones’ entry.

I have gone on at some length, not only because of my own frustration at coming across so many errors (or puzzling over the odd and often faulty bracketing system), but also because those buying books today reasonably expect as professional and polished a final product as can be. In these respects, this book falls far short. With whom the fault lies I do not know, but a second printing, this time with some very careful proofing, would be an excellent idea.

Though I still think Usher, or more likely the Publisher, has misgauged the audience, it goes without saying that anyone working on the orators will need a copy of this book. It is particularly strong on rhetorical and literary matters, and for that will need to be consulted time and time again.