BMCR 2001.02.11


, , Aeschines. The oratory of classical Greece ; v. 3. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000. xxxi, 261 pages ; 23 cm.. ISBN 0292712227 $19.95.

This volume is the third in a series which aims, in the words of the series editor, Michael Gagarin, “to make available primarily for those who do not read Greek up-to-date, accurate, and readable translations with introductions and explanatory notes of all the surviving works and major fragments of the Attic orators of the classical period (ca. 420-320 B.C.)…” (ix).

In his introduction, “The Life and Times of Aeschines” (3-17), Carey surveys the rise of Macedonia, the Peace of Philocrates, and the period subsequent to the Peace and Athenian attitudes toward its terms. The period covered ends in 322 BCE. This is followed by a sketch of Aeschines’ life (8-14), which is, of course, based on the information found in his three speeches and in the two speeches of Demosthenes connected with Aeschines’ second and third orations. The introduction is suited to the general reader and gives us just enough background to make the issues in the speeches intelligible. There is also a brief textual note identifying the Greek text used as the Teubner of Mervin R. Dilts (1997), with which Carey agrees except in a few instances.1 This section ends with two pages of suggestions for further reading, including even the 1890 edition of Against Ctesiphon by Gwatkin and Shuckburgh.2

Each of the three speeches has a brief introduction. The notes to all the speeches are numerous but concise. Each of the names mentioned receives a prosopographical note, and there are many cross-references to other speeches of Aeschines and Demosthenes. Where points of Athenian legal procedure need explanation there are notes which are helpful to the reader without introducing unnecessary complexity or controversy. The notes in this volume are more extensive than in the other published volumes in the series. This Carey justifies by stating that readers of Aeschines “lack even the limited support available for the other orators, since the most recent published commentary material (where there is any) dates to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries”(xi). This is correct, strictly speaking, but recent dissertations have provided commentaries for all three speeches, with a new commentary on On the Embassy 3 forthcoming from one of Carey’s doctoral students (xii). Moreover, the older commentaries, especially that of Bremi,4 can offer useful information of a rhetorical nature and should not be neglected. For example, Bremi’s comments on On the Embassy 1 help illuminate the negative connotations of τέχνη by cross-reference to other occurrences of the word in speeches of both Aeschines and Demosthenes. In addition, the Aeschinean scholia, also edited by Dilts,5 occasionally offer rhetorical analysis with a different perspective from that of a modern reader. It would be good to have such material more widely available in English, at least in edited form, so that it would be accessible to a wider audience who may not read Greek or Latin.6

The translations in this volume are very readable and sometimes more accurate than those of Adams,7 and couched in more colloquial, contemporary English.8 But the relationship of accuracy to readability is a problem. If a translator wishes to preserve the otherness of Greek idiom, it is usually possible to render the text into comprehensible English, but such a translation will often not satisfy the standards of stylistic elegance which generally prevail among classicists writing in English. For example, at Against Timarchus 86 (p. 53) Carey translates the beginning of the section as follows: “Since I have mentioned the deme ballots and the policies of Demophilus, I want to offer another example in this connection. For this same man made a similar maneuver before.” In these two sentences in the Greek the following words occur in close proximity: πολιτευμάτων and πολίτευμα ἐπολιτεύσατο. Carey avoids repeating the word for policies or political acts ( πολιτεύματα) and does not try to render the etymological figure πολίτευμα ἐπολιτεύσατο at the end. The sense is clear in Carey’s English rendering, so clear it is unremarkable, whereas the Greek is repetitive and emphatic. Carey has skillfully used the word “maneuver” to capture some of the emphasis on the craftiness of politicians which Aeschines underlined instead, I think, by the repetitions of the stem πολιτευ in the Greek. Carey refrains from trying to reproduce the triple repetition of the stem, and there is no note on the figure of speech in the original, nor any discussion here of the redundancy and pleonasm characteristic of Aeschines’ style. But Greekless scholars who study ancient rhetoric, as many rhetoric/composition and speech/communication scholars do, might find such rhetorical features of great interest. This example illustrates how skillful Carey is in balancing accuracy and readability and he deserves high praise for this. Yet one can imagine a more literal translation which carries over more of the flavor of the original. For example, suppose we translate the quoted passage “did similar political deeds,” and provide a note on the Greek with a cross reference to Against Timarchus 5, where we find φυλακτέον δὴ τοῖς μὲν ὀλιγαρχικοῖς καὶ τοῖς τὴν ἄνισον πολιτείαν πολιτευομένοῖς, which Carey translates “Oligarchs and all who run a constitution based on inequality must be on guard, etc.” (25, emphasis added). Here a similar etymological figure in the Greek is lost in translation, as well as the connection with the other passage cited above. Were this translation intended for the reader I am imagining, a note on this parallel would be more useful than, say, one of the prosopographical notes he provides on even minor figures mentioned in the speech. To cite just one other example, I will note that Carey’s translation of On the Embassy 26-27, while clear and accurate, only partially reflects the remarkable instance of πλαγιασμός —which I would loosely define as obliqueness and suspense arising from the accumulation of phrases in the genitive absolute—which spans the two sections. Since his edition is not rhetorical in focus there is no mention of the figure, although his translation of the latter part of the sentence (in section 27) which he renders in a series of semicolons, retains some of the effect of the Greek. His translation of a similar instance of the same device at 140-141 of the same speech is rendered completely in semicolons, while a less extensive instance of this figure at Against Ctesiphon 125 shows no trace of the Greek sentence structure, and there are no notes relating the three passages.

But to require the degree of literal accuracy I am suggesting may be unreasonable, and Carey is usually very successful in rendering the sense of the original without such literalness. What is lost in his translation are the details of the rhetoric of the original. One assumes that Carey’s translation aims—as most translations do—to be the words Aeschines would use if he were speaking English, and for a reader interested in the content and not the formal details of the text this is a satisfactory translation. Less attention to the rhetorical nuts and bolts of Athenian oratory is a corollary of a contemporary shift toward interpretation of Attic speeches as historical, sociological, and legal documents “for the broader study of Athenian culture and society,” as Michael Gagarin remarks in his excellent and concise series introduction (xxi). As part of this series this volume does its work well, filling in all the gaps left by the thinly annotated Loeb translation of Adams.


1. At On the Embassy 171 (page 153, note 226) Carey sides with Reiske against Dilts in adopting a reading with less manuscript authority because it works nicely as an allusion to D.19.16. His note reveals a very careful reading of the text and apparatus, but his objections to Dilts’ text can be overcome, I think, if we take the statement as unironic and construe it with the accompanying dig about Demosthenes’ lack of ancestors.

2. T. Gwatkin and E. S. Shuckburgh , Aeschines in Ctesiphonta (London and New York: 1890).

3. My own 1992 dissertation, under the direction of Mervin R. Dilts, is a commentary on On the Embassy (De falsa legatione).

4. J.H. Bremi, Aeschinis oratoris opera graece [sic], 2 vols. Zürich, 1823-24. Bremi frequently cites or quotes—sometimes at length—from the ancient historians and lexicographers, as well as citing parallel passages in Aeschines, Demosthenes, and the other orators. Bremi also notes the readings of earlier commentators such as Wolf, Taylor, and Reiske, pointing out the deficiency of their evidence where appropriate. Bremi is especially useful on rhetorical topics because of his citations from Hermogenes and other rhetoricians and also because he is alert to the occurrence of rhetorical devices and commonplaces.

5. Scholia in Aeschinem ed. M. R. Dilts, Stutgardiae et Lipsiae 1992.

6. This reviewer is currently at work on a translation of Aeschines’ On the Embassy with notes and commentary of a rhetorical nature and aimed at the kind of readership I have mentioned, rather than at the more general audience addressed by the University of Texas series.

7. Charles Darwin Adams, trans., The Speeches of Aeschines (Loeb Classical Library), Cambridge and London, 1919; repr. 1988.

8. Carey’s translation is also more to contemporary tastes of classicists, who do not approve of unnecessary departures from literal translation. For example, at Against Ctesiphon 22 (p. 173) Carey makes a point of translating πόλις as “city” in each of its occurences, whereas Adams seems to prefer the word “state,” or, when πόλις modifies another word, “public.” The translation of Aeschines by Adams is over eighty years old, but it is accurate and clear and not noticeably archaic. Carey himself describes it as a “fluent English translation,” but remarks, rightly, that the notes to Adams’ edition are “sparse” (15).