BMCR 2000.09.10

Greek Orators II: Dinarchus, Hyperides

, , , Dinarchus. And, Hyperides. Greek orators ; 2. Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1999. xii, 228 pages ; 22 cm.. ISBN 085668306X.

This volume follows the standard Aris & Phillips format for their series of Classical Texts, which are intended in large part to make works available with commentaries for readers who may not know Greek or Latin. Each has an introduction, a Greek (or Latin) text with translation, and a commentary keyed mostly to the translation. When the Classical Texts series began, volumes were attractively priced and unattractively produced; now their appearance has improved substantially, while the price has increased correspondingly. So it goes. At any rate, the publishers are to be commended for making available many texts, including volumes of fragments, and providing generally high-quality commentaries on them.

Greek Orators II, which is actually the sixth and last of the planned volumes on the orators, was originally planned to include Hyperides alone, but W includes Dinarchus 1, leaving room only for Hyperides 5 ( Against Demosthenes) and 6 ( Funeral Oration). Personally, I would have preferred to have all of Hyperides, who has not been edited in English since Burtt’s Loeb (1954); I especially miss 3 ( Against Athenogenes) with its vivid picture of a pair of scoundrels who (allegedly) swindle the speaker by playing on his personal feelings for a slave boy. But W has his own special interest in Dinarchus and understandably wanted him included, and others will probably welcome this choice, which will make the book more useful for courses on fourth-century history; but the Dinarchus section will be less interesting for scholars, for whom W’s earlier, more substantial work (henceforth W 1)1 will remain the standard treatment. The presence of a Greek text of Dinarchus 1, however, is welcome; its absence was a serious drawback to using W 1.

W’s Introduction begins with a Historical Background, covering the period from the mid-340s to 322 with special attention to the Harpalus affair (for Din. 1 and Hyp. 5) and the Lamian War (for Hyp. 6). The result is a detailed account of the 320s that anyone studying this period will welcome. Next come discussions of Dinarchus’ Life and Works, and of his Style; both sections are condensed versions of the more thorough discussion in W 1. On Dinarchus’ style W repeats his theory of the elaborate ring-composition structure of Din. 1 and reproduces his chart of the “primary level” verbatim (with two typos). Like many who have commented on this theory, I am willing to accept that there is a general pattern in the speech, but (a) the ring composition is not so elaborate or precise in its details as W maintains; (b) even if present, ring composition would not necessarily mean that the speech was revised for later distribution; and (c) ring composition does little to alter one’s assessment of the quality of Dinarchus’ style.

W next treats Hyperides’ Life and Works, and his Style. The account of Hyperides’ private life seems unduly negative, and I see no justification for concluding that he “was also ruthless in whom he chose to prosecute, such as his ex-mistress Aristagora, and cared little about his clients’ morals or the validity of their cases.” Hyperides may have had good reason to prosecute Aristagora (cf. e.g., Neaira’s treatment of Epainetus, Dem. 59.64-71), and the rest of W’s judgment is simply speculation, fueled (I suspect) by his general antipathy to rhetoric. The treatment of Hyperides’ public career is more even-handed and is generally sound. On style W accurately reports the high opinion of ancient and modern critics and then illustrates it with examples from the two speeches translated here. The absence of any private speech limits the discussion of style, but W does a good job with the material he has. He also includes a useful survey of Funeral Orations as background to Hyperides 6.

The next section on “Oratory and History” discusses the orators’ reliability as historical sources. Again, W largely summarizes his earlier treatments of the issue,2 reaffirming his general skepticism of the orators’ historical accuracy, particularly (he argues) in view of the revision of their speeches for publication. This conclusion relies on earlier arguments that after being delivered the speeches were substantially revised for publication and that this revision involved making the composition and structure, in particular the ring composition, more complex and elaborate. Even if one accepts these arguments, it does not follow that the revision was done at the expense of historical accuracy. Perhaps more troubling is the prominence given to historical accuracy. W recognizes that these speeches are not history, but he nonetheless tends to emphasize the question of accuracy, to the extent of ignoring other features of these works.

The Introduction concludes with a section on the texts. The discussion of Dinarchus’ manuscripts and papyri is drawn from the fuller treatment in W 1; the thorough account of the discovery and publication of Hyperides’ speeches on papyrus is interesting and useful.

The Greek texts of the three speeches are based on the Teubner texts of Conomis for Dinarchus and Jensen for Hyperides (though for the latter W follows the OCT numbering of the speeches, not Jensen’s). W is apparently unaware of the most recent edition of Hyperides by Mario Marzi, with (Italian) translation and extensive notes.3 In an apparatus at the end of the texts, some three dozen changes are noted for Dinarchus and some two dozen for each of Hyperides’ speeches. Most of these are minor, but a few supplement lacunae or replace daggers, appropriately producing a more readable text for the volume’s intended audience. W also sensibly rearranges Jensen’s text into normal paragraphs, and some of the papyrological notations have been removed where the reading is reasonably certain. But he does not follow Jensen in substantially reordering 5.4.16-18, and he also avoids the sort of large-scale supplementation done by Colin. All in all it seems to me just the right approach for this series.

The translation of Dinarchus follows closely the quite literal version of W 1.4 For example, in the first four sections (29 lines) only about a dozen words or short phrases are altered, some of them correcting earlier errors. The translation of Hyperides 5 is less literal; indeed in some places it is rather too loose. In 3.5, for example, “quite the reverse” is an overtranslation of ouk esti tauta; so is “they have shown a staggeringly democratic attitude in the way they have handled the matter” for “(they have handled the matter) malista dêmokratikôtata.” And “they handed this over to you, as is your right” does not convey the force of humin tois kuriois (cf. Burtt’s “to you, with whom the final authority rests”). Hyperides 6 is a different matter. As a funeral oration, its style is highly rhetorical, and, perhaps because high rhetoric is now thoroughly out of favor, W often has difficulty conveying the tone and thus sometimes even the meaning of the original. Here is his rendering of one of the most rhetorical passages, 6.30:

“For on what occasion shall we forget the courage of these men? In what place shall we not see them receiving admiration and the highest of praise? Will it be in the good times of the city? No! Whom else, other than these men, will the results of their actions cause to be praised and remembered? Will it be in our private prosperity? No again; for in the courage of these men we will enjoy those times with confidence.”

The translation is not strictly inaccurate, but this kind of Greek cannot be conveyed with a literal translation, and I suspect many readers will have difficulty understanding what is being said. Burtt, who was closer to the great English tradition of rhetoric, does better by departing farther from the Greek:

“On what occasion shall we fail to recollect the prowess of these men, in what place fail to see them win their due of emulation and the highest praise? What if the city prospers? Surely the successes, which they have earned, will bring their praises, and none other’s, to our lips and to our memories. Shall we then forget them in times of personal satisfaction? We cannot; for it is through their valour that we shall have the safe enjoyment of those moments.”

In small ways too W sometimes misses the tone. To translate hoi hêmitheoi kaloumenoi (6.35, used of the heroes at Troy) as “those alleged demi-gods” (instead of “those we call demi-gods”) adds an unwanted sense of skeptical legalese. And “racial purity” is an unfortunate rendering of eugeneia (6.7); the phrase cannot help but evoke twentieth-century atrocities, even if unintentionally, and, say what you will about Athenian ethnic chauvinism, it does not justify this analogy.

The commentary on Dinarchus 1 is a condensed version of W 1, which generally drew praise for its sound and thorough treatment of historical issues. The notes are primarily historical, though legal, stylistic, and occasionally grammatical issues are also treated. Little has been done to update the discussion or the scholarship cited in W 1. Sealey’s book on Demosthenes,5 for example, makes it into W’s brief Bibliography and into one footnote in the Introduction but is not mentioned in the commentary, which regularly cites Schaefer (1885), Pickard-Cambridge (1914), Cloché (1937) and others. On legal issues W most often cites Harrison; Todd’s recent study is not mentioned.6 These older works are not necessarily wrong, but students especially ought to be made aware of more recent treatments too.

The commentary on Hyperides 5 has the same virtue as W’s work on Dinarchus: a thorough grasp of the historical material with clearly argued and judicious conclusions. As a historian W probably knows the Harpalus affair better than any other living scholar, and he gives the reader as clear an account as possible (given the complex and problematic nature of our sources). W argues plausibly that the case against Demosthenes was weak and that Hyperides’ rhetoric, like Dinarchus’, exaggerates and distorts. But here W’s strength as a historian proves also a weakness, as he seems unable to understand oratory in any terms except as bad history. Despite frequent acknowledgment that this is oratory not history, W never asks whether it might be good oratory despite being bad history.

The historical approach is particularly frustrating in the commentary on Hyperides 6. W understands that an epitaphios does not aim at historical accuracy, but his commentary continually implies just this goal and makes little attempt to understand the speaker’s rhetorical strategies. For instance, when Hyperides compares Leosthenes’ treatment of certain allies favorably with the treatment they received from Philip and Alexander (6.13), W comments, “history shows a somewhat different picture”, and then takes two pages to refute the orator’s claim. It might be more relevant to ask how effective Hyperides’ account would have been at the time. Even more futile is W’s reaction to the comparison of Leosthenes to the men who fought at Troy (“they, with the whole of Greece, took one city, but he, with only his own city, brought down completely the power which controlled Europe and Asia”, 6.35). Few in the audience could have taken this seriously as a historical account, but W comments that “Hyperides’ analogy does not withstand historical scrutiny” and proceeds to explain what is wrong with it. It reminds me of the pundits who used to point out factual errors in Ronald Reagan’s stories; their criticisms were accurate, but somehow they were missing the point.

In sum, those with an interest in oratory as rhetoric may be disappointed, but historically minded readers will profit from a convenient summary version of W 1 (with the welcome benefit of a Greek text for Dinarchus 1) and especially from the only available commentaries on Hyperides 5 and 6. W’s clear and thorough analyses of the Harpalus affair and related events provides a most welcome finale to this extremely useful series of Greek Orators.


1. Ian Worthington, A Historical Commentary on Dinarchus: Rhetoric and Conspiracy in Late Fourth-Century Athens. Ann Arbor 1992 (reviewed in BMCR 5.2 [1994] 174-78).

2. Classica et Mediaevalia 42 (1991) 55-74, and Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action (ed. Worthington, London 1994) 109-29.

3. In Oratori Attici Minori, vol. 1 (general editor, Italo Lana), Turin 1977.

4. W will provide a less literal version in a volume in the series “The Oratory of Classical Greece” (University of Texas Press, forthcoming); this volume will also contain a translation of all of Hyperides by Craig Cooper.

5. Raphael Sealey, Demosthenes and His Time: A Study in Defeat (New York 1993).

6. Stephen C. Todd, The Shape of Athenian Law (Oxford 1993).