BMCR 2002.03.10

Hypereides The Forensic Speeches: Introduction, Translation and Commentary

, , Hypereides : the forensic speeches. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. xvii, 523 pages ; 24 cm. ISBN 0198152183. $125.

1 Responses

[[For a response to this review, see BMCR 2002.03.35.]]

Until now there has been no major commentary in English on the surviving speeches of Hypereides. It is a welcome relief that such a commentary now exists (at least on the five forensic speeches if not on Hypereides’ Epitaphios) and by such a reputable scholar as David Whitehead. For the most part Professor Whitehead does not disappoint. His commentary would have been most welcome when I was preparing my own translation of Hypereides, helping me avoid certain imprecisions: for instance, Whitehead’s “written reply” for antigraphein ( Eux. 4, p. 181) is more accurate than my generic “indictment”; “such a hero” for outos andreios ( Eux. 9: p. 190) captures better the intended sarcasm than my “so audacious”; “organizing into claque” for istanai choron ( Phil. 2) reproduces the Greek idiom better than my “stands in their chorus”, particularly when one considers the Platonic models that Whitehead cites ( p. 47); and filling up my own lack of knowledge of certain historical details (Alexander Oion whom we are told in Eux. 12 prosecuted Polyeuktos, is perhaps the same Alexander of Oion who is mentioned in a fragment of a speech by Deinarchos Against Polyeuktos ( P. Oxy. 2744) which is possibly the same trial mentioned in Dein. 1.58). This, to my embarrassment, emphasizes the care and detail that has gone into the translation and the commentary.

The general introduction (1-23), however, is somewhat uneven; although there is a good overview of Hypereides’ ability as an orator and his reputation in antiquity, there is no real account of his political career. Given his importance as a political figure in the late fourth century, but relative obscurity next to more famous contemporaries like Demosthenes, such an account is most desirable and would round off the introduction in a more satisfying way.

Each section of the commentary begins with an introduction to the particular speech in question and each introduction is divided under the following five rubrics: the identification of the speech, the defendant, the date, the issue, and finally the aims and methods of the speech. Where there is a need, Whitehead will devote more space to one question. Hence, in the introduction to Lykophron there is a lengthy discussion of the date of the trial. Here Whitehead reviews past scholarship on the question and accepts, with some reservation, the orthodoxy of 333, but he notes the weaknesses in two central foundations of this orthodoxy. Moreover, he appends an endnote to this introduction in which he provides a good discussion of P. Oxy. 1607 and the certainty of it being a genuine defence speech delivered by Theophilos but written by Hypereides for the trial of Lykophron. In the introduction to Demosthenes, Whitehead discusses Hypereides’ rhetorical strategies, something neglected by past scholars, and how the orator, as the possible third speaker at the trial, assumed the role of advocate-at-large, and in this context notes the individual rhetorical thrusts or recurrent themes of the speech, a speech which seems also to have deliberately echoed Demosthenes’ own rhetorical language. After each introduction comes the translation followed by commentary

The translation of the speeches follows the Greek closely but for the most part is not stilted. Where Professor Whitehead differs from other translators, he provides a full justification in the commentary for his own interpretation, conceding where necessary that his interpretation is not the only one. Here are a few illustrative examples: Skepsis ( Eux. 7, p.186): against Colin and Burtt, Whitehead argues that it means “procedural delay” not “excuse.” Ta men ano, “above parts” ( Eux. 8, p.188): though Whitehead concedes that it could mean the “opening provisions” as is translated by Burtt, Colin, Oikonomides, Marzi, “all we can be sure of, though, is that H is drawing a contrast between two sections of the law that he has just quoted”. Psephisma pros to enupnion, “a decree based on the dream” ( Eux. 15, pp. 201-203): as Whitehead rightly notes, “all hinges on the sense of the preposition pros“. It can be understood in three ways 1) “in accordance with” (Babington), 2) in an adversative sense (Burtt, Oikonomides, Marzi) or 3) ambiguously. Whitehead’s own translation leans toward options one or three but he notes that two comments by the speaker (both in this section 15) appear to favour option two. These few examples illustrate well the care that has gone into the translation.

The commentary itself is thorough and balanced. There are full citations both to modern works and to ancient texts, a good review of past scholarship, and numerous comments on the text itself. The major difficulty with the commentary, if we should call it a difficulty, is certainly not with Whitehead’s scholarship which is impressive to say the least but arises from his attempt (which I do not think is altogether successful) “to cater in a wholly satisfactory way for the Greekless” (viii). The commentary, it seems to me, stands uneasily between two worlds, a world inhabited by those who know Greek and can appreciate, along with everything else, his comments on the text and reconstructions of the text, and a world inhabited by those who do not know Greek and will have difficulty following some of the commentary, particularly the discussion on the fragments and fragmentary text, where it is essential to have Jensen’s text before you. It is not easy to bridge this divide. It is not clear to me that the Greekless person would appreciate that in Phil. fr. 2a (p. 40) the surviving letters dika could be as easily construed as dikaiosyne or dikastai; that allos te de kai (p. 134) is rare in Classical Greek or that the adversative sense of kaitoi (p. 181) predominates in Hypereides over the purely connective sense; that all’ egoge (p. 170) appears in none of the other orators and may in fact be a trademark of Hypereides; or that doxa chreste (p. 426) finds parallels only in Demosthenes and suggests that Hypereides is echoing Demosthenes’ own language. But such comments I find important and the numerous parallels from Hypereides and other prose texts that Whitehead provides extremely useful. To Whitehead’s credit, wherever he provides Greek text in the commentary, he provides a translation, which will aid both the Greek and Greekless student and narrow the divide between the two intended audiences of the commentary. But the real shame is that there is no new text of the speeches provided, and given the fragmentary state of the speeches and the amount of commentary devoted to textual matters a new text would have been most welcome.

The weaknesses which I have identified, do not, however, detract from the commentary’s value for anyone working on the Attic orators or on fourth century Greek history. The one major weakness, targeting the right audience, I suspect, is not of Professor Whitehead’s own choosing, but a fault of the publisher.