Genos Dikanikon: Amateur and Professional Speech in the Courtrooms of Classical Athens

  Bers, Victor. 2009. Genos Dikanikon: Amateur and Professional Speech in the Courtrooms of Classical Athens. Hellenic Studies Series 33. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 7: Tactics, Amateur and Professional

In remarking on the style of classical Greek authors, moderns usually leave denigration to the ancients. [1] Criticisms such as MacDowell’s remarks on Andocides’ stylistic lapses (1962:20–22) are exceptional. [2] And there is an obvious reason for us to be slow to censure: we have very little poorly written literature from the fifth and fourth centuries. In their choice of diction in the strict sense of lexicon, we rarely have grounds to suspect authors of confusions of register. No poet could compose without a mastery of prosody, and Attic prose writers were soon mindful, at least to some degree, of rhythm. We can infer that this is very largely a matter of conscious procedure from the fact that all these aspects of writing receive explicit attention in surviving texts, starting with Gorgias’ remarks on diction in the Encomium of Helen (55). But it should go without saying that no one should draw lines of demarcation between conscious and unconscious stylistic choice with any great confidence. Surviving ancient sources tell us nothing about some phenomena discovered by moderns, such as “Porson’s bridge” and many other prosodic restrictions in verse; but there are texts that show that a skilled Greek author did not need to wait for Denniston to be aware of another author’s individual preference: Plato almost certainly noticed Lysias’ love of καὶ μὲν δή and saw its value in his mock-Lysianic (or so I am convinced) Erotikos in the Phaedrus (Dimock 1952:392, with references to earlier work; Denniston 1954: lxxx). This brings me to the subject of the next few pages, the use of particles.


The particles hold a special benefit for the stylistic analysis of Greek authors as the “small change” of language (I owe the expression to Benedict Einarson), a medley of nearly all short words with little or no lexical meaning per se, and hence the sort of detail that a professional writer is far more likely to notice than a layman.

In his Sather lectures, K. J. Dover (1968b:83) demonstrates that “in the Lysian period a certain distance between forensic language and colloquial language was maintained.” [3] Specifically, “the outstanding difference between comic and forensic narrative is that ἔπειτα, ἔπειτα δέ, κἄπειτα, εἶτα, and κᾆτα [to introduce successive events, rather than as logical connectives] occur 23 times in Aristophanes,” whereas “in forensic oratory these words are the rarest of all simple connectives”; moreover, a counterexample at Lysias 1.14 occurs within a short stretch of speech reported in oratio recta (Dover 1968b:84–85; cf. Bers 1997:183). Conversely, the orators in Dover’s sample quite often use a sentence-initial participle or subordinate clause followed by δέ in narration, whereas there is only one such example in comic narrative. “In this respect, even the plainest-seeming forensic narrative is close to historiography and far distant from the lively narrative of comedy” (Dover 1968b:85–86). (A demurral I must not omit: for the reasons I present in chapter 2 and in this chapter, I am in this monograph arguing that the “plainest-seeming narrative” available for our inspection is by no means the plainest narrative pronounced before an Athenian court.) Dover returned to these signals of temporal sequence in The Evolution of Greek Prose Style (1997:73–77), broadening his survey to include early prose narrative (Pherecydes and Acusilaus) and historiography (Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon). He concludes (1997:77), “It thus appears that a phenomenon shared by rehearsed and unrehearsed oral narrative and so portrayed in comedy affected the earliest written historical narrative but was used very sparingly by historians from Herodotus onward and by orators.” I would reject the term “unrehearsed,” which must refer to the quoted “live speech” in Lysias, [4] but the evidence en masse does quite certainly point to a linguistic feature relevant to forensic speech performed without professional assistance. It seems highly probable that amateurs required to speak in court would spend proportionally more of their time on the bêma simply telling the jury what they claimed had happened than those speakers who could afford the help of a man like Lysias, and would automatically use the same linguistic means to demarcate stages in the narrative that they used in routine speech. As Dover points out, the logographers place a subordinate clause or participle at the head of sentences and introduce the next event with a connective δέ; not so characters who recite long narratives in Aristophanes in a diction assumed to reflect colloquial speech. In this particular matter of narrative connectives a comparison to English usage might be useful. A chain of “and then”s is characteristic of children’s speech; only with increasing age and sophistication do the tellers of narrative begin to emphasize instead the logical connections they see among events and use other devices to link the stages in their story. For logographers, the value of having the story under control, as it were, had the important advantage of suggesting that the speaker himself was under control. A ride on the shoulders of Denniston’s Greek Particles reveals a large number of similar trends and a number of strictly observed rules. I have looked especially for affective qualities and patterns that help locate professional forensic speech in relation to “formal prose” on the one hand and colloquial speech on the other. [5] I discuss first some particle usages largely or entirely avoided in the surviving speeches. Not all examples in this category are truly germane, though for a variety of reasons. Some particles were excluded from oratory for reasons of dialect. For instance, what Denniston calls “ancillary” uses of οὖν in the combinations εἴτ᾽ οὖν andοὔτ᾽ οὖν in tragedy, Herodotus, and Plato (that is, what he terms the “semi-Ionic group”) never appear in oratory or comedy (lxxi). Similarly, connective καὶ δή (lxxi–lxxii). This being a usage in the semi-Ionic group, it is not relevant to the present study. Or in some cases the distributional facts are irrelevant to the professional/amateur distinctions I am tracking, as in the case of ἦ. The particle is “affirmative, mostly with adjectives and adverbs. This is mainly a verse idiom, and is hardly found at all in oratory, except for ἦ μήν … , and the common use of ἦ που in a fortiori argument” (280). For the latter, Denniston gives only a single comic example (Aristophanes Thesmophoriazusae 63), which suggests either that the usage was not colloquial or, more likely, that it was too intellectual for most comic repartee. Similarly, ταῦτ᾽ ἄρα, a particle combination never found in oratory. Denniston (37) translates it “I see: that’s why …” This might have been a common feature of colloquial Attic: I find 14 examples in Aristophanes (none of them in the two fourth-century plays). Discovery of some truth in the course of speech is likely only if a man was (or could pretend to be) startled by something an opponent said in his speech, and the published version of the text reproduced an ex tempore modification of what the speaker had intended to say.

ἄρα “express[es] a lively feeling of interest … Its character is quite foreign to the more formal style of Thucydides and the orators” (33). Denniston shows only two examples of this specific usage in orators. The phrasing in both is worth a look. At Antiphon 6.35 ἄρα punctuates an interjection: αὐτοῖς ἐκ μὲν τῶν πεπραγμένων οὐδεμία ἦν ἐλπὶς ἀποφεύξεσθαι – τοιαῦτα ἄρ᾽ ἦν τὰ ἠδικημένα – (“Considering what they had done – so serious were their crimes – ” [my translation]).

The analysis of δῆτα, which occurs nearly 95 times in Aristophanes, also involves questions and answers. The particle is “not common in the orators, but frequent in Plato, and exceedingly frequent in drama. There are only 9 examples in Demosthenes …” (269). I find a total of 19 examples in the TLG orators, all with οὐ or μή. The scarcity of this particle in orators is most probably an epiphenomenon of its affinity for questions and answers (“δῆτα is a lively particle, far more at home in question and answer than elsewhere” [269]). Plato uses the word twice in the Apology in the course of the interrogation of Meletus (284d), once with οὐ, once after τί. We might conclude that δῆτα is unlikely to have been heard in amateur court speech, but the frequency with which it appears in Aristophanes and the possibility that amateurs questioned their opponents more often than professionals cloud the issue.

In his introduction to The Greek Particles, Denniston (lxxviii–lxxxii) surveys a number of particle usages that appear peculiar to individual authors. Antiphon’s use of τοι and Lysias’ predilection for καὶ μὲν δή have already been mentioned. In the course of the book Denniston offers some remarks on preferences shown by groups of orators, for example in choosing between τοιγαροῦν and τοιγάρτοι (567). Most often it is Demosthenes who stands apart from all the other canonical orators. Part of the explanation for his evidently idiosyncratic and sometimes inconsistent taste in particles is certainly the size of the Demosthenic corpus and the number of speeches possibly or certainly written by others, in particular Apollodorus. [19] In some instances, however, Denniston can attribute the stylistic turn to general features of Demosthenes’ style (lxxiv). For instance, connective ἄρα, which in Demosthenes always “has … a colloquial tone” (41), a fact that I suppose was enough to frighten off logographoi with a narrower range of colors on their palette. Demosthenes’ pervasive liveliness of style explains why he favored the insertion of μέντοι with potential optatives “expressing lively surprise or indignation,” a frequent usage in Aristophanes and Plato (402). I would guess that these two phenomena might, in fact, have been heard in amateur speech, at least when the speakers were accustomed to use phraseology more restrained than a flat-out indicative. In the case of corrective μὲν οὖν, which appear nowhere else in attested oratory, Denniston sees the usage as “characteristic of the dramatic vigour of Demosthenes’ style that he, alone of the orators (except the authors of xxv and xliii, if he did not write those speeches), uses corrective μὲν οὖν” (479). [20] He gives five examples. We can be more specific: the dramatic quality is created by the orator (or an imitator whose work has intruded into the corpus) stopping in mid-sentence, as if interrupting himself with a thought that came to him just as he spoke. Indeed, that is the touch conveyed by Denniston’s translation of 42.19, where the literal command to stop (“No, stop”) is addressed to the clerk of the court, a transparent bit of simulated spontaneity. [21] Demosthenes’ avoidance of three successive short syllables, in accordance with “Blass’s law,” is evidently the cause for his postponement of γε after disyllabic prepositions (148–149). Denniston makes it clear that he searched Demosthenes with particular attention for γε, but I think we would be on safe ground in assuming that it is very rare or nonexistent in the other attested orators. In this matter an idiôtês would have nothing to fear, since the word order that came naturally would set him apart only from Demosthenes. [22]

Denniston (383) offers a very interesting conjecture on stylistic pedagogy in the matter of one specific particle usage:

The mock speeches in Aristophanes, modeled on the style of the assembly or the law-courts, almost always begin with μέν … It is difficult to resist the impression that the budding speaker, at the turn of the fifth and fourth centuries, was recommended, as a kind of stylistic convention, to start off with a μέν, and to trust more or less to luck that he would find an answer to it, and not to care greatly if he did not. And this impression is strengthened by the prevalence of the μέν opening in contemporary oratory, Antiphon and Andocides.

Someone who was not a “budding speaker” might or might not have picked up this verbal tic. We have, then, a usage that an idiôtês might miss, and thereby demonstrate his lack of training; or he might try to imitate this feature in too obvious a manner, say by wearing a smug expression and looking around for his supporters to signal their admiration. Denniston’s way of putting it suggests that the sequel to that opening particle was not of much importance, but the stylistic choices made by logographoi suggest they strove in particular to avoid uses with so strong a smell of the emotional, the diffident, or the colloquial as to mark the speaker as disrespectful of the state’s judicial process. These evitanda are, I am arguing, precisely the pitfalls awaiting an idiôtês coming before an Athenian jury without the armor of a professionally written speech in his head or in his hands or, at a minimum, friends and relatives able to help him meet the challenge.

Oaths and Exclamations

No one who has read Old or New Comedy, satyr drama, Xenophon’s Memorabilia, or even the austere language of Plato’s Laws can doubt that Attic speakers, including those who might be thought to pride themselves on the “urbanity” of their speech, made frequent use of oaths and apostrophes, nearly all directed to a named or generic god or gods, [23] not for the practical purpose of binding themselves in a formal speech act, but to emphasize their words: νὴ Δία, μὰ τὸν Δία, πρὸς τῶν θεῶν, μὰ τοὺς θεούς, νὴ τὸν Ἡρακλέα καὶ πάντας θεός (“Yes, by Zeus!” “No, by Zeus!” “By the god!” “Yes, by Heracles and all the gods!”), and so on. [24] In tragedy there are few expressions that take this form (see below); remarkably enough, dicanic speech also generally abstained from this expressive element until Demosthenes and Aeschines. According to the statistics in Kühnlein 1882, Dover 1997:62, and my own searches, there are only a handful of examples in the first generation, and almost none are to be understood as the speaker’s own declaration couched in the language he was using in court or even in the Assembly. One of the instances in Antiphon (fragment 70 Blass-Thalheim, quoted in the Suda) is interesting for its prominent position, evidently at the very opening of a speech written for a graphê:

ἐγραψάμην ταύτην τὴν γραφὴν ἠδικημένος ὑπὸ τούτου νὴ Δία πολλά, ἔτι δὲ καὶ πλείω ὑμᾶς ᾐσθημένος ἠδικημένους καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους πολίτας.

It may be significant that Antiphon relaxed his normal prosecutorial practice in a case that by category involved more than a single individual, and that he makes his claim that many others in the city were also victims: the wholesale change seen in Demosthenes might be a symptom of the same phenomenon.

The comparison with tragic usage is problematic. Dover’s very low numbers seem to me an epiphenomenon of the worldview presupposed in the plays. The immanence, or even direct representation, of gods makes a crucial difference. It is one thing to swear by an Olympian while buying or selling fish (“By Poseidon, you won’t get an obol out of me for these stinking mullets!”); it is another if the conceptual world of the speaker conventionally portrays those gods and anthropomorphized abstractions as potential or actualized players in the unfolding action. Obviously Clytemnestra cannot be said to be using a “casual” oath, one merely “serving as intensification,” when she solemnizes her claim of fearfulness by invoking the very powers she claims to have propitiated by murdering her husband. [29] Even the specific utterance in Euripides that Dover singles out as “the nearest thing in tragedy to the casual oath of prose dialogue” (1997:62) fails to meet his specification: an oath by “my lady,” that is, Hera. This deity is one most Greek women would think emotionally and intellectually connected to the very subject of discussion, protecting a marriage from disruption, and tragic playwrights routinely present the gods as interested in the unfolding action. [30] Moreover, tragic characters inhabit a world of great deeds and great sufferings, and they express themselves in a highly artificial, largely traditional language, into which colloquialisms were introduced sparingly (even by Euripides). Strong affect is, as it were, the assumed background of a language – spoken and sung – likely to resist a quotidian means of signaling affect. Tragic language was formal and affective.

Though neither father or son is a litigant in the mock trial of Labes the dog in the Wasps, both men are excited. Philocleon interrupts the dog-prosecutor’s speech to express his wholehearted confirmation of the charge of cheese-stealing (912–914):

νὴ τὸν Δί᾽, ἀλλὰ δῆλός ἐστ᾽· ἔμοιγέ τοι
τυροῦ κάκιστον ἀρτίως ἐνήρυγεν
ὁ βδελυρὸς οὗτος.
By Zeus, he did it, plain as day. This filthy dog just let rip the most awful cheesy belch at me!

Bdelycleon remonstrates with his father (919–920):

πρὸς τῶν θεῶν, μὴ προκαταγίγνωσκ᾽, ὦ πάτερ,
πρὶν ἄν γ᾽ ἀκούσῃς ἀμφοτέρων.
By the gods, Dad, don’t convict him before you’ve heard both sides!
And just as the prosecuting dog sums up and takes his seat, Philocleon is quite beside himself (931–934):
ἰοὺ ἰού.
ὅσας κατηγόρησε τὰς πανουργίας.
κλέπτον τὸ χρῆμα τἀνδρός. οὐ καὶ σοὶ δοκεῖ,
ὦ ᾽λεκτρυών; νὴ τὸν Δί᾽ ἐπιμύει γέ τοι.
Wow! What a pile of crimes he’s denounced! Here’s a lump of larceny don’t you think, Rooster? By Zeus, the rooster’s winking “Yes”!

The prosecutor knows to avoid these exclamations; the defendant can, in any event, only say “Bow!” and hope the parade of his pups will mollify the one-man jury played by Philocleon. Real speakers – impatient, indignant, frightened – probably were not always so restrained. Even logographoi might break out with an utterance, not even a word in the standard sense, suggesting triumph or despair, but only Demosthenes dared leave one in a published text, and even he identified the cry as not precisely his alone. Once it is a sort of moan (in translation I use the inadequate “Oh!”) [
33] his enemies’ politics inspire in brave men (23.210):

καίτοι πηλίκον τί ποτ᾽ ἂν στενάξειαν οἱ ἄνδρες ἐκεῖνοι, οἱ ὑπὲρ δόξης καὶ ἐλευθερίας τελευτήσαντες, καὶ πολλῶν καὶ καλῶν ἔργων ὑπομνήματα καταλιπόντες, εἰ ἄρ᾽ αἴσθοινθ᾽ ὅτι νῦν ἡ πόλις εἰς ὑπηρέτου σχῆμα καὶ τάξιν προελήλυθεν, καὶ Χαρίδημον εἰ χρὴ φρουρεῖν βουλεύεται; Χαρίδημον; οἴμοι.

But how loudly would those men who died for the city’s good name and freedom and left memorials of their many brave acts cry out if they saw that our city has now sunk to the crouching posture and station of a slave, and that we deliberate whether we must guard Charidemus? Charidemus? Oh!

In Isaeus things begin to change: there are 15 instances according to Kühnlein, 14 by Dover’s count. Dionysius of Halicarnassus remarks that Isaeus was a transitional figure in the history of oratory, [
34] and although Dionysius does not say so, I believe that the transition he effected was, in part, the introduction into the genos dikanikon of the more flamboyant style of the rhêtores who made frequent appearances in the Ecclesia. We then have comparatively large numbers for Aeschines (39 according to Kühnlein) and some 300 in Demosthenes. But even then, most of these oaths are not interjections that manifest the speaker’s emotion, but rather occur within the introductions that frame stretches of hypothetical speech attributed to persons other than the speaker (see Dover 1997:62–63). And there are only a few instances of oaths starting μά or νή in the latest orators of the Canon (Dinarchus, Hyperides, and Lycurgus).

What I believe is missing from Dover’s treatment of oaths is precisely what he has pretty much excluded by his definition – an acknowledgment of their fundamentally affective flavor. When used in the circumstances of a speech that, at the very least, dictated a particular physical situation, an order of speakers, and signals to start (if not also to stop), even a mode of emphasizing words could – I believe often did – suggest an overly excitable, hence contemptible, personality.

What needs to be added, then, is that oaths, like curses and name-calling, are at the same time blatantly affective and exceedingly vulgar, in the literal meaning of the word. They are instruments of verbal aggression or expressions of strong emotion that issue naturally from a man under duress expressing himself without regard to the circumstances in which he is speaking. I believe the professionals understood that such language did not on its own persuade those who – an important qualification – did not already stand with the man who mouthed them. On the contrary, they suggested a character likely to look exclusively to his own interests, the sort of man Athenians assembled in juries were not prone to favor. On the other hand, starting at least with Antiphon, an oath might be acceptable in a context where the emotion was not exclusively the speaker’s own, but attributed to others or shared with the dêmos – or so the speaker hoped.

οὐ μή

We meet many examples of the construction in tragedy and comedy, but also in speeches in historiography and in Plato. The tone is unquestionably emphatic. These few examples are characteristic:

Aristophanes Birds 460–462:

Come, tell what’s the purpose for which you’ve come to win us over to your opinion. Don’t be scared; tell us. Understand, we will not be the first to break the truce.

Two battlefield exhortations in Thucydides involve vehement denials that there will be invasions. The first is direct speech (4.95.2), the second is a clause within oratio obliqua (5.69.2):

… ὑπὲρ τῆς ἡμετέρας ὁ ἀγὼν ἔσται· καὶ ἢν νικήσωμεν, οὐ μή ποτε ὑμῖν Πελοποννήσιοι ἐς τὴν χώραν ἄνευ τῆς τῶνδε ἵππου ἐσβάλωσιν.

Plato uses the construction for Socrates’ manifesto (Apology 29d4–5):

ἕωσπερ ἂν ἐμπνέω καὶ οἷός τε ὦ, οὐ μὴ παύσωμαι φιλοσοφῶν …

As long as I breathe and it is in my power, I will not stop doing philosophy …

Most striking is an appearance of the construction in the generally bloodless speech of the Laws. At 942c5–d3 the Athenian stranger speaks of the necessity for group obedience in military organizations:

τούτου γὰρ οὔτ᾽ ἔστιν οὔτε ποτὲ μὴ γένηται κρεῖττον οὔτε ἄμεινον οὔτε τεχνικώτερον εἰς σωτηρίαν τὴν κατὰ πόλεμον καὶ νίκην – τοῦτο ἐν εἰρήνῃ μελετητέον εὐθὺς ἐκ τῶν παίδων, ἄρχειν τε ἄλλων ἄρχεσθαί θ᾽ ὑφ᾽ ἑτέρων·

A wiser and better rule than this man neither has discovered, nor ever will, nor a truer art of military salvation and victory. ’Tis this lesson of commanding our fellows and being commanded by them we should rehearse in the times of peace, from our very cradles.

The construction persists into New Comedy, as at Menander Samia 428, where an impatient character complains οὐ μὴ δύῃ ποθ᾽ ἥλιος· (“The sun will never go down!”).

All of the other examples I am aware of come from the corpora of Aeschines and Demosthenes. At [Demosthenes] 53.8 Against Nicostratus, a speech pretty certainly written by the prosecutor, Apollodorus, for his own use, he says that he had once pitied Nicostratus, having seen the scars he carried from fetters he wore when captured and held in slavery:

καὶ ἅμα ὁρῶν κακῶς διακείμενον καὶ δεικνύοντα ἕλκη ἐν ταῖς κνήμαις ὑπὸ δεσμῶν, ὧν ἔτι τὰς οὐλὰς ἔχει, καὶ ἐὰν κελεύσητε αὐτὸν δεῖξαι, οὐ μὴ ᾽θελήσῃ …

I felt pity for him when I heard this and saw the wounds left by the chains on his shanks, where I saw there were still scars – though if you ask him to show you the scars, he certainly will refuse to do it.

It is very much in the speaker’s interests to present the defendant as pitiable in a bad sense. Part of that strategy – or perhaps simple exploitation of the facts – involves mentioning that Nicostratus was lachrymose during their meeting (§7: κλάων) and bears disfiguring marks that he will refuse to display, even if the jury asks him to, presumably from fear that the sight will trigger the jurors’ instinctive contempt for a body made ugly by servile labor. We might say that Apollodorus wants the jury to imagine the fierce obstinacy with which the defendant would refuse the request he is, in effect, trying to incite.

The οὐ μή construction is more restrained than curses, but shares their excessively affective quality. On οὐ μή I adduce a piece of characteristically pungent Gildersleeve (1902:137–138):

Given the pattern of usage, which includes tragic language and even presocratic poetry (Parmenides: see Collard 2005:378), Gildersleeve cannot be correct in characterizing the construction as a “vulgarity”; and the moralizing peroration tells us more about his social and ethnic views than about Greek. Still, he does seem to have caught the flavor of οὐ μή accurately enough: it is an expression that suggests the speaker raises his voice, or even stamps his foot, and that suggests a level of affect the skilled forensic speaker would work to avoid.


Genre-conditioning may apply not only to lexicon, but to word order. The adverb σφόδρα, found in virtually every genre of Greek literature, [48] appears to be used in a position relative to pause – roughly, the spots punctuated in our texts – that vary with stylistic level. It has long been noticed that the adverb σφόδρα tends to gravitate to verse-final position in comedy: even LSJ, a work that usually takes no notice of word order, remarks on that fact (s.v.). [49] Plato has some thirty examples of σφόδρα immediately before a strong pause, most in a few set phrases like πάνυ σφόδρα. [50] In the orators, however, in whom the word occurs about 140 times, there are only two examples of the word so placed, both in Lysias, both in prosecution speeches:

13.13: … καὶ ἄλλοι τινὲς τῶν πολιτῶν εὐνοοῦντες ὑμῖν, ὥς γ᾽ ἐδήλωσεν ὕστερον, ἠγανάκτουν σφόδρα.

… and several other citizens who supported you, as they later showed – went to see him and protested vigorously.

… his father hated him so much that he declared he would not even collect his bones if he died.

The rarity of σφόδρα before a pause does not look like an accident. My guess is that σφόδρα in that position was fairly common in excited colloquial speech and became an evitandum in professional writing because its rhythm was associated with overwrought vehemence, something like a speaker tacking on a “No, really!” after each of his assertions because he feels very little confidence in his rhetoric.


Hypocoristic (endearing) and pejorative or deteriorative (condemning) diminutives are affective by their very nature. Compared to many other languages, contemporary English is impoverished in this part of lexicon, but Italian (among others) is rich in productive suffixes in this category: Topolino (Mickey Mouse’s Italian name) is an example of the former, Vittoriaccio (bad Victor) of the latter. (As they are not similarly affective, the “faded” diminutives, like Latin puella, from puer, are irrelevant.) [52] Aristotle discusses diminutives at Rhetoric 1405b28–34:

ἔστιν αὖ τὸ ὑποκορίζεσθαι· ἔστιν δὲ ὁ ὑποκορισμὸς ὃ ἔλαττονποιεῖ καὶ τὸ κακὸν καὶ τὸ ἀγαθόν, ὥσπερ καὶ Ἀριστοφάνης σκώπτει ἐν τοῖς Βαβυλωνίοις, ἀντὶ μὲν χρυσίου χρυσιδάριον, ἀντὶ δ᾽ ἱματίου ἱματιδάριον, ἀντὶ δὲ λοιδορίας λοιδορημάτιον καὶ ἀντὶ νοσήματος νοσημάτιον. εὐλαβεῖσθαι δὲ δεῖ καὶ παρατηρεῖν ἐν ἀμφοῖν τὸ μέτριον.

The same effect [of attributing goodness or badness, beauty or ugliness] can be achieved by diminution. A diminutive [hypokorismos] makes both bad and good less so, as Aristophanes does sarcastically in the Babylonians when he substitutes goldlet for gold, cloaklet for cloak, insultlet for insult, and diseaselet [for disease]. But one should be careful and observe moderation in both [epithets and diminutives].

(Translation by Kennedy 1991)

It is not surprising that Aristotle’s examples are all taken from Old Comedy, for it is the only genre of Greek literature in which diminutives can be found with any frequency. In this stylistic feature the canonical Attic orators certainly did observe Aristotle’s strictures: there are a handful in those preserved forensic speeches with an obvious political agenda, but elsewhere the speechwriters’ moderation amounts very nearly to total abstinence.

In the court speeches involving political figures, however, we meet some colorful diminutives. Andocides 1.130 has diminutive forms for ‘children’ and ‘women’ (paidaria, gunaia) but as generic terms only the second can count as intrinsically contemptuous, since a very small child (the diminutive is strengthened by the adjective mikrotata) cannot be expected to understand the matter at hand. [53] Aristogeiton, the butt of Demosthenes 25, is an active public speaker (his supporters, the speaker says, style him the “watchdog of the democracy” [§40]). At §57 the speaker applies gunaion to an alien woman with whom Aristogeiton has consorted (and then abused). She is introduced into his narrative by name (Zobia), which is in itself a mark of disrespect (Schaps 1977). The narrative makes it clear that she is to be taken as possessing shameful qualities no juror would want attributed to his own mother or sister. Another pejorative in -ιον is practically swallowed up in the dense barrage of abuse (see Usher 1993 and Yunis 2001 for analysis) that Demosthenes fires at Aeschines in On the Crown 242:

πονηρόν, ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πονηρὸν ὁ συκοφάντης ἀεὶ καὶ πανταχόθεν βάσκανον καὶ φιλαίτιον· τοῦτο δὲ καὶ φύσει κίναδος τἀνθρώπιόν ἐστιν, οὐδὲν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ὑγιὲς πεποιηκὸς οὐδ᾽ ἐλεύθερον, αὐτοτραγικὸς πίθηκος, ἀρουραῖος Οἰνόμαος, παράσημος ῥήτωρ.

Every sycophant is a depraved character, depraved as well as backstabbing and faultfinding at every opportunity; and this puny fellow is by nature a rogue. From the beginning he’s done nothing useful or generous. He’s a real ape on the tragic stage, an Oenomaus of the countryside, a counterfeit politician.

Wankel 1976 remarks that this is the sole instance of the word ἀνθρώπιον securely attested within a speech. [
54] In On the Crown Demosthenes uses the word graidion (“old hag”) at §260 and at§261 arkhidion for a contemptibly low public office once discharged by Aeschines. In Against the Sophists, a work normally categorized as a sort of pamphlet, Isocrates uses λογίδια to refer to the theories of competitors who have claimed to offer instruction useful for the composition of lawcourt speeches, but to my knowledge there are no diminutives in any of Isocrates’ few actual forensic compositions (13.20).

Petersen is certainly right to insist that one cannot be certain a priori that a word that by morphology could be taken as a diminutive carried any positive or negative connotations in a particular passage. [55] Still, we can sometimes be all but certain. No one will be surprised that orators abstain from dikastêridion, a word used by Aristophanes at Wasps 803 to refer to the literally miniature court Philocleon imagines could be established in front of every Athenian’s house. Even if the meaning were free of condescending or dismissive connotations, a speaker who possessed even a minimum degree of tact would understand that anything that could be construed as insulting the body charged with judging his case had to be avoided. At Knights 347 Aristophanes has the diminutive dikidion, “trifling law case.” A speaker might use the word to refer contemptuously to a case other than the one at hand, say a suit his opponent had initiated on some other occasion. But dikidion could, I imagine, offend some jurors who regarded the adjudication of even the smallest disputes that came before the dikastêria as intrinsic to the democracy. But it is not obvious why Lysias decided against having his client speaking in a dokimasia before the Council (Lysias 24) use the word arguridion (“a bit of money,” in older English perhaps “a farthing” or “ha’penny”), a diminutive attested in Aristophanes (Wealth 240, fragment 547 K-A). Lysias’ client is arguing that he is entitled by virtue of his disability to receive the city’s indeed very small one-obol daily welfare payment, and his tone is plainly jocular at times, for instance when he complains that the prosecutor is treating the case as if the estate of an heiress was at stake (§14).

Given that affective diminutives are attested in reasonably large numbers only in comedy, we cannot be sure that they played an important role in the routine speech, even of Athenians in the grip of emotion. Nevertheless, I hazard the guess that they would not be so rare in professional speech if they were not at the very least an affective resource perceived by logographoi as the sort of thing an amateur had to be advised to leave behind when he stepped up to the bêma. Demosthenes did use deterioratives in some memorable passages, but as we have seen in the discussion of several other linguistic features, his own de facto political speeches deviated markedly from the forensic norm.



[ back ] 1. One thinks of Pratinas fragment 3 Snell on his competitors’ noise, Aeschylus deriding Euripides and vice versa in the Frogs, Aristotle Rhetoric 1504a on inept use of poetic vocabulary, Plutarch Moralia 350e on Isocrates’ dread of hiatus, Dionysius of Halicarnassus On Thucydides 21–49.

[ back ] 2. “Andokides sometimes tries to impose antithetical form on his matter and fails … [He] gets the contrasts muddled … Lysianic simplicity is hard to achieve, and Andokides often fails to achieve it … He often interrupts the flow of a sentence by inserting a clumsy parenthesis, or even breaks off altogether and begins a fresh sentence without ever completing the construction of the previous one.”

[ back ] 3. Dover does not here let us into his workshop, but presumably he does not reject Fraenkel’s characterization of the connectives found in narratives in comedy (see Dover 1968b:83n33, a reference to Fraenkel 1962:126–127) as “primitive.” An autobiographical irrelevance: more than anything else, Dover’s analysis gave me the initial shove that has culminated in this monograph.

[ back ] 4. This is not to say that every logographos would be as skilled as Lysias in reproducing or simulating a subtle feature of everyday speech with the intent of giving his client a mark of authenticity in reporting speech.

[ back ] 5. In what follows, quotations in English and parenthetical page references are to Denniston 1954.

[ back ] 6. Carey ad loc. cites Denniston 38–39, but the category there presented is “in reported speech, and after verbs of thinking and seeming,” and of the many rhetorical examples Denniston lists, only one (Demosthenes 19.160) has the particle unsupported by ὡς.

[ back ] 7. Thereby violating the lawyers’ maxim: never ask a witness a question to which you do not know the answer.

[ back ] 8. Most prominently ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ and ἦ δ᾽ ὅς for “I said” and “he said.”

[ back ] 9. One of the Demosthenic favorites (Denniston 1954:267–268); others are discussed later in the chapter.

[ back ] 10. In a footnote at this point, Denniston compares “the narrow range of vocal inflexions used by an average speaker in the House of Commons with the numerous and subtle nuances employed on the Shakespearean stage and in everyday conversation.” By comparison with the contemporary Reichstag, “average” speech in Commons might seem to resemble the most raucous bits of Shakespeare. My claim is that we cannot calibrate the style of the genos dikanikon by reference to professional speech alone, and that amateurs often went beyond even the looser and more dramatic parts of Demosthenes.

[ back ] 11. Denniston dismisses ἤτοι at Lysias fragment 284 in Baiter and Sauppe’s Oratores Attici as probably not part of Tzetzes’ quotation.

[ back ] 12. Cf. López Eire 1996:131.

[ back ] 13. Rough statistics: Andocides 2, Lysias 8, Isaeus 16, Isocrates 20, Demosthenes almost 90, Hyperides 5, Lycurgus 2.

[ back ] 14. Whitehead ad Hyperides Against Philippides 5 (p. 56) nicely translates “It occurs to me.”

[ back ] 15. It would not be misleading to raise the heat of the translation to “Have you really …” Xenophon’s text recalls Aristophanes Clouds 719.

[ back ] 16. Cf. Bers 1984:73 on the rarity of the terminal accusative in paratragedy.

[ back ] 17. My translation strengthens the implicit reference to swearing.

[ back ] 18. Think of the constantly interjected profanities and obscenities in English that many people have difficulty in suppressing in contexts where they do the speaker harm.

[ back ] 19. See Trevett 1992. Also, the corpus that has come to us under Demosthenes’ name involves an especially rich variety of rhetorical genres: no other corpus has the same wide-ranging mix of forensic and ceremonial speeches. We cannot, for instance, contrast Aeschines’ style addressing the Ecclesia with his style addressing a dikastêrion hearing a routine, non-political case, or Isaeus’ epideictic manner with his forensic style. And it should be pointed out that Denniston, a model of candor and careful exposition, admits his perplexity at some of his findings. For instance, he observes that καὶ γάρ τοι is a combination “almost confined to the Attic orators,” whereas he lists no instances in attested oratory (and I can find none either) of καὶ γὰρ οὖν; and he finds the semantics mysterious (113–114: but cf. MacDowell ad Demosthenes 19.56, who is skeptical about the distinction Denniston sees between connective and consequential meanings). Perhaps we are dealing with something of what might be called a “Lieblingskombination” beloved by a few authors (I find seven examples in Lysias, ten in Isocrates, twenty-three in Demosthenes, and one in Aeschines).

[ back ] 20. Ever mindful of other hands at work in the Demosthenic corpus, Denniston notes that this use of the particle appears only in 25 and 43, both of uncertain authorship.

[ back ] 21. On a similar allied phenomenon, Demosthenes’ aversion to symmetry, and his occasional toleration of an Isocratean mannerism in μέν … δέ … constructions, see Denniston 1954:371. Also relevant: the collocation πῶς γὰρ οὔ; for “of course” (see Collard 2005:368), possibly a colloquialism. It is used a number of times by tragedians, and attested a few times in fourth-century comedy (Anaxandrides fragment 9 K-A, Antidotus fragment 3 K-A, and twice in Menander (Dyscolus 905, fragment 274 K-A). Demosthenes uses it three times in speeches he delivered himself (18.139, 299; 19.67).

[ back ] 22. At Aeschines 3.117, the reported speech of a man described as disgusting and lacking cultivation includes the combination δέ γε in continuous speech, avoided by Isocrates as “too colloquial” (Denniston 1954:155): … ἀναβοήσας τις τῶν Ἀμφισσέων, ἄνθρωπος ἀσελγέστατος καὶ ὡς ἐμοὶ ἐφαίνετο οὐδεμιᾶς παιδείας μετεσχηκώς, ἴσως δὲ καὶ δαιμονίου τινὸς ἐξαμαρτάνειν προαγομένου, “ἀρχὴν δέ γε” ἔφη, “ὦ ἄνδρες Ἕλληνες, εἰ ἐσωφρονεῖτε, οὐδ᾽ ἂν ὠνομάζετο τοὔνομα τοῦ δήμου τοῦ Ἀθηναίων ἐν ταῖσδε ταῖς ἡμέραις, ἀλλ᾽ ὡς ἐναγεῖς ἐξείργετ᾽ ἂν ἐκ τοῦ ἱερου.” (One of the Amphissaeans cried out. He was a thoroughly gross individual and, it seemed to me, a man with no education; perhaps, too, he was led into error by some superhuman force. He said: “Fellow Greeks, if you had any sense you would not mention the Athenian people at all during these days, but bar them from the temple as people under a curse.”)

[ back ] 23. Aeschines concludes his prosecution of Ctesiphon by calling on a mixture of heavenly bodies and abstractions (3.260): ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν, ὦ γῆ καὶ ἥλιε καὶ ἀρετὴ καὶ σύνεσις καὶ παιδεία, ᾗ διαγιγνώσκομεν τὰ καλὰ καὶ τὰ αἰσχρά … (“O earth and sun, virtue, intelligence, and education through which we distinguish what is noble and shameful …”; this is mocked by Demosthenes at 18.127). Demosthenes himself several times bursts out with “Oh, earth and gods!,” a formula nowhere else attested (Kühnlein 1882:60).

[ back ] 24. A locus classicus for oaths filling the air at marketplaces: Cyrus quoted at Herodotus 1.153.

[ back ] 25. Dover 1997:62 overlooks the oath at Antiphon 6.40, ὦ Ζεῦ καὶ θεοὶ πάντες, which Blass 1887–98:1.203 calls an instance of a lively figure “in the manner of Demosthenes.” There may be another oath at fr. 1b1, μὰ τοὺς θεοὺς τοὺς Ὀλυμπίους, but the text is too wretched to allow certainty.

[ back ] 26. For oaths in hypophorai see Bers 1997:195–196.

[ back ] 27. There are three examples in Against Andocides, an amateurish job that nearly all agree was not written by Lysias himself (see Dover 1968b passim, and the introduction to Todd 2000).

[ back ] 28. His earlier statement on the question: Dover 1985:328 (reprinted in 1987:48).

[ back ] 29. Aeschylus Agamemnon 1431–1434: [ back ] καὶ τήνδ᾽ ἀκούεις ὁρκίων ἐμῶν θέμιν· | μὰ τὴν τέλειον τῆς ἐμῆς παιδὸς Δίκην, | Ἄτην Ἐρινύν θ᾽, αἷσι τόνδ᾽ ἔσφαξ᾽ ἐγώ, | οὔ μοι Φόβου μέλαθρον ἐλπὶς ἐμπατεῖ … [ back ] (You hear also the rightness of my oath: By my daughter’s Justice that brings fulfillment, and by her Atê [agent of ruin] and Erinys, for whom I slaughtered this man, no fearful expectation walks in this palace.)

[ back ] 30. Euripides Andromache 934. The oath is in fact nested within a piece of oratio recta, but tragedy almost never uses this device to introduce linguistic features excluded from the basic language of the genre: see Bers 1997:50, 63n73, 71.

[ back ] 31. Two famous instances: the herald stunned by the calamity at 4.101 (Stahl 1966:134–136; Stahl 2003:133–135), and the swaying of Athenians’ bodies as they looked out on the confusing and changing battle in the harbor at Syracuse, 7.71.3. Thucydides’ reporting of dialogue, where he might have allowed an oath, is exceedingly spare (Bers 1997:222n10). And readers will not need to be reminded that the fidelity of his speeches to the original, or even whether all of the speeches he reports took place, is a matter of perennial controversy.

[ back ] 32. Dover identifies only two that serve as Xenophon’s “intensification of his own statement” (1997:62).”

[ back ] 33. If it were not an archaism, I would have used “Woe is me!” And it did not risk provoking an out-of-place laugh at an apparent Yiddishism, I would have used a word that exactly duplicates the sound of the Greek word: “Oy!”

[ back ] 34. Isaeus 3.3.13: πηγή τις ὄντως ἐστὶ τῆς Δημοσθένους δυνάμεως (“the real spring from which the rhetorical power of Demosthenes flows”) and 3.24–25: μεταβολαῖς ἐναγωνίων καὶ παθητικῶν ποικίλλει τοὺς λόγους (“he carries the development of his arguments to great length and gives variety to his speeches by alternating devices of debate with emotional appeal”; both in Usher’s translation).

[ back ] 35. Blass on the same page compares Demosthenes’ restraint to the strict ban on mentioning aspects of daily life observed by French poets of his own era. Cf. Kühnlein 1882:60–61.

[ back ] 36. The same syntactical form is used by tragic and comic poets for prohibitions in the second-person singular, but there are to my knowledge no prose attestations whatsoever (Kühner-Gerth 1898–1904:2.222–223; Goodwin 1890: §297). Exclusion from prose suggests a construction with a very strong flavor indeed, even granted the rarity of addresses in that person and number. Chronological pride of place apparently belongs to Parmenides 2.7.1 DK: οὐ γὰρ μήποτε τοῦτο δαμῆι εἶναι μὴ ἐόντα.

[ back ] 37. I have seen no attestations of the construction in Aristophanes’ fourth-century plays.

[ back ] 38. In a speech at Xenophon Anabasis 6.2.4, the construction occurs at a tense moment: ἀναστὰς δὲ Λύκων Ἀχαιὸς εἶπε· Θαυμάζω μέν, ὦ ἄνδρες, τῶν στρατηγῶν ὅτι οὐ πειρῶνται ἡμῖν ἐκπορίζειν σιτηρέσιον· τὰ μὲν γαρ ξένια οὐ μὴ γένηται τῇ στρατιᾷ τριῶν ἡμερῶν σιτία …

[ back ] 39. It seems appropriate in this instance to use an archaic-sounding translation to suggest the gravity of the pronouncement.

[ back ] 40. A confession: the list I give at Bers 1997:141 with n38 misses a few examples with compounded negatives, falsely lists Aeschines 3.177 as 1.177, and should not have referred to Demosthenes 44.7.

[ back ] 41. Bekker reads the future indicative, εἴσει, an emendation not germane to the question of provenance.

[ back ] 42. 1.44–45: ἤρετό τις. εὑρήσει τὰ σαθρά, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, τῶν ἐκείνου πραγμάτων αὐτὸς ὁ πόλεμος, ἂν ἐπιχειρῶμεν· ἂν μέντοι καθώμεθ᾽ οἴκοι, λοιδορουμένων ἀκούοντες καὶ αἰτιωμένων ἀλλήλους τῶν λεγόντων, οὐδέποτ᾽ οὐδὲν ἡμῖν μὴ γένηται τῶν δεόντων.

[ back ] 43. 3.75: εἰ δ᾽ ὃ βούλεται ζητῶν ἕκαστος καθεδεῖται, καὶ ὅπως μηδὲν αὐτὸς ποιήσει σκοπῶν, πρῶτον μὲν οὐδὲ μήποθ᾽ εὕρῃ τοὺς ποιήσοντας, ἔπειτα δέδοιχ᾽ ὅπως μὴ πάνθ᾽ ἅμ᾽ ὅσ᾽ οὐ βουλόμεθα ποιεῖν ἡμῖν ἀνάγκη γενήσεται.

[ back ] 44. 6.24, grammatically a denial, but rhetorically closer to an assertion: ταύτην [ἀπιστίαν] φυλάττετε, ταύτης ἀντέχεσθε· ἂν ταύτην σῴζητε, οὐδὲν μὴ δεινὸν πάθητε.

[ back ] 45. τοὺς μὲν γὰρ πονηροὺς οὐ μή ποτε βελτίους ποιήσετε, τοὺς δὲ χρηστοὺς εἰς τὴν ἐσχάτην ἀθυμίαν ἐμβαλεῖτε.

[ back ] 46. 18.246: οὐδεὶς μήποθ᾽ εὕρῃ κατ᾽ ἔμ᾽ οὐδὲν ἐλλειφθέν.

[ back ] 47. Gildersleeve’s reference is to one of only two pieces of oratio recta in Isaeus (Bers 1997:141).

[ back ] 48. Though only rarely in tragedy. Dover 1985:335n41 reports only two attestations in Sophocles, one in the tragic adespota, and one in a satyr play.

[ back ] 49. Dover offers a more refined analysis. He observes that “[i]n positive clauses in which it intensifies an adjacent M [mobile] comedy has a certain preference for putting the intensified M … first and σφόδρα … second” (1985:335), a fact that would on its own favor a concentration of the word at verse-final position (σφόδρα postponed to the next line would require overcoming a general resistance to enjambment). In prose, on the other hand, σφόδρα has an even stronger tendency to precede the mobile, and in some instances the word seems “to impart an oath-like affirmative charge to the whole sentence”; he gives Lysias 12.63 as an example (1985:336).

[ back ] 50. Of these, the only ones attributed to Socrates are: after a full stop one (out of a total of nine) at Alcibiades I 124d3, a dialogue of controversial authenticity; two after a comma (out of a total of nineteen, including four in the Laws and one each in the presumably spurious Letters and the Eryxias) at Phaedrus 254c1 and Lysis 212a4; one after a question mark (out of a total of one) at Theaetetus 152a9; and none (out of a total of zero) after a half-stop. Perhaps Plato gave Socrates a fastidious reluctance to placing σφόδρα in a “vulgar” position. Of course, it is mostly Socrates’ interlocutors who respond with πάνυ σφόδρα or πάνυ γε σφόδρα, and Socrates is not present in the Laws.

[ back ] 51. This speech against the son of Alcidiades was delivered to a jury of soldiers.

[ back ] 52. Petersen 1910:125 (cf. 131, tentatively extending the claim to ἱμάτιον) categorizes as deteriorative ληκύθιον at Demosthenes 24.114, translating it as “worthless bottle.” The sentence runs: καὶ εἴ τίς γ᾽ ἐκ Λυκείου ἢ ἐξ Ἀκαδημείας ἢ ἐκ Κυνοσάργους ἱμάτιον ἢ ληκύθιον ἢ ἄλλο τι φαυλότατον, ἢ εἰ τῶν σκευῶν τι τῶν ἐκ τῶν γυμνασίων ὑφέλοιτο ἢ ἐκ τῶν λιμένων, ὑπὲρ δέκα δραχμάς, καὶ τούτοις θάνατον ἐνομοθέτησεν εἶναι τὴν ζημίαν. Though the repeated ending -ιον might play an acoustic part in the contemptuous description of petty crimes that would merit execution, it is very unlikely that the jurors would think of ληκύθιον as anything but an oil-flask.

[ back ] 53. Pace MacDowell 1962 and Edwards 1995 ad loc. MacDowell 1998 translates: “… you all know that tiny children and silly [Edwards has “weak”] women all through the city used to tell a tale that Hipponicus kept a devil inside his house, who upturned his table [trapedza, the word also used for ‘bank’].”

[ back ] 54. It occurs in the description of Demosthenes himself attributed to Demades fragment 89 de Falco: συγκείμενον ἀνθρώπιον [if we follow the text found in Tzetzes, instead of ἀνθρωπάριον] ἐκ συλλαβῶν καὶ γλώττης, but as Wankel notes, this “is not from a speech, or at least not from an authentic speech”; and in Tzetzes there is a variant (ἀνθρώπιον).

[ back ] 55. Petersen 1910:128–129, with reference specifically to possible deteriorative meaning in words ending in -ιον.

[ back ] 56. For preliterary manifestations, not all of them affective, see Fehling 1969:90–95.

[ back ] 57. The repetition is, however, not exact insofar as the first syllable is long, then short; and the addition of βροτολοιγέ can place it in the category of “extension of the second member by an epithet” (so Fehling 1969:175).

[ back ] 58. The extensive treatment in Fehling 1969, as the title indicates, is devoted almost entirely to the period before Gorgias.

[ back ] 59. Odyssey 9.65 is the earliest literary reference to the practice of calling out the name of the dead three times.

[ back ] 60. Compact statements on exact repetition of words: Schwyzer 1966:699–700 and Wankel 1976 ad Demosthenes On the Crown 23. For a discussion of the aesthetic properties of repetition see Stanford 1967:86–93. Rehdantz, commenting ad Demosthenes 2.10, οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν, οὐκ ἔστιν, calls epanadiplosis (or epizeuxis) a means of expressing especially profound emotions; the orator has made his point, but still needs to give vent to his rage.

[ back ] 61. For instance, at Demosthenes 18.48.3 the thrice-repeated clause opening (μέχρι τούτου), the main verb unit (φίλος ὠνομάζετο) stated once and then to be “supplied” in the next two clauses with different names, and three temporal clauses starting ἕως but with different subjects and verbs.

[ back ] 62. Worthington 1992:14–39 is far more complimentary.

[ back ] 63. Dover ad Aristophanes Clouds 1288, πλέον πλέον, compares Frogs 1001, μᾶλλον μᾶλλον, and remarks that “the idiom sounds colloquial, and perhaps usually was, but cf. Eur[ipides] IT 1406 μᾶλλον δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς πέτρας ἤιει σκάφος.” These expressions, “more and more” and “closer and closer,” resemble epanadiplosis, but do not suggest affect.