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Valentina Isayeva. Ancient Greece in the Mirror of Rhetoric. Isocrates. A student of antiquity is inescapably dazzled by the multitude of images of classical Greece he sees depending on the mirrors he holds up to it. This book looks into the mirror of rhetoric for an idea of the Greek polis, as expounded by Isocrates, one of the more fascinating and controversial political orators of antiqity. The author has set herself a two-fold objective of revealing Isocrates1 political and social views and, at the same time, showing the laws of rhetoric interpreting historical realities, criteria of the perception of facts typical of political eloquence, their selection and interpretation or, in other words, the art of interpreting life by the art of pursuasion.

Isocrates, with countless volumes devoted to him, is still a fairly shadowy figure due to his ambiguous and often contradictory statements. To untangle this problem, we might try to evaluate the role and place of rhetoric in the structure of the democratic state and compare its principle with the laws of history. In exploring the speeches by Isocrates we find a fusion of moral and political categories, with the immediate situation of those statements superimposed upon them. This fusion of rhetoric and political reality in Isocrates is most spectacular in his making use of the term καιρός, an auspicious moment, a fluke; it serves to psychologically adapt his speech to a particular situation and audience with appropriate arguments. Equally important is the term δόγματα των πολλών (majority opinion), transposed from the domain of eloquence to that of politics. An approval or otherwise of the foreign policy of the state by the majority of poleis becomes a sensitive instrument of its evaluation. The art of persuasion is closely linked with two conceptions typical of Isocrates1 political worldview — ενετγεσια, επιμέλεια or beneficence, solicitude, and еш/α, or benevolence. These terms are used for an appropriate and flexible adjustment of political propaganda to reality. Another postulate of oratory is constituted by the need in observing the proper rules (jtτεπουόέον). It is this postulate that determines Isocrates' interpretation of facts, which is most evident in his historical allusion method. Rhetorical techniques exerted a considerable influence on Isocrates' comments on social and economic developments in the 4th century B.C.: he magnifies destabilizing tendencies in these spheres, occasionally carrying them to an extreme, to draw a picture of doom and gloom as suiting his conception.

Although Isocrates describes many events from a common angle his interpretations of different problems possess a number of specific features of their own.

Isocrates’ idea of state administration reveals combination of views designated by the term πάτριο* πολιτεία, as is suggested by his speeches. This is closely related to the moralizing streak of the 4th century, political and social utopian conceptions typical of his time, political theories of democracy and oligarchy and their contention. Isocrates, the author of Areopagiticus, possessed an idea of the political structure of


the polis that does not allow its complete identification with the theory of democracy or that of oligarchy. A major barrier to clarifying his political views is constituted by the absence of data for comparing them with various political theories of the 4th century. Although this evaluation does not answer the question whether Isocrates was an exponent of democracy or oligarchy, it still suggests that in addition to the extremes of radical democracy and rigid oligarchy there also were moderate tendencies within them possessing some common ground. There might even be a third political grouping combining features of oligarchic and democratic theories. Anyway, Isocrates’ position provides an interesting material on the history of political theories of the first half of the 4th century.

Failure to identify Isocrates’ political credo going by commonly held criteria casts some doubt on their validity. One may thus take issue with identifying political orientation on the basis of political phraseology, the latter being almost similar in both the exponents of democracy and oligarchy, deriving to the same sources — the cosmogony of the pre-Socratics and the aristocracy’s system of values.

Isocrates’ statements on the relationship between the orator and his audience, compared with those by other orators of the day, point to their using a common array of cliches to win the confidence of their listeners and shaped by the latter’s system of values. This array tells a lot about the social psychology of that time but also obscures the speakers’ actual views, as they invariably spoke of the loyalty to the laws of the fathers, commitment to democracy, the exclusiveness of Athens, and its glorious past.

The social views of Isocrates describe him an inveterate advocate of the wealthy citizens. Anxious to combine economic and political considerations, he argued for direct relationship between the home and foreign policy of the state and the welfare of its citizens. He noted increasing social conflicts in Athens and attempted resolving them at the theoretical and practical levels.

He further espoused close alliance of citizens in a polis (ομόνοια) and concluded that each citizen should be content with his place in the established social-economic hierarchy. Conversely, he offered a military expedition to Asia to improve the plight of the poor, a problem demanding a concrete and immediate solution.

It is not easy to relate Isocrates’ social and political ideas as economic and political interests of his fellow citizens did not always agree. There is nothing to go by on the score in his speeches, and other sources of the time are not of much help either. What is obvious is a lacking identity between Isocrates’ social and political programmes. They only noticeably come close on the problem of domestic administration and the idea of an expedition to Asia.

Concerning the principles of relations between polises, the above relationship is set out indirectly: Isocrates blamed the professedly wrong foreign policy hegemony on the sway of a radical democracy bent on pandering to the needy, who were averse to working and were sponging on the state. In addition, he averred that flawed foreign policy espoused by the above group was ruinous for the citizens and escalated social conflicts. As concerns the relations between the Greek city-states and Macedon, Isocrates made no linkage between political and social issues and advocated collaboration between these two dissimilar state systems. What he looked for was the end to a concrete foreign policy conflict irrespective of whatever social groups might be involved in it.

He also forcefully pressed for the right of his hometown of Athens to domination in Greece. Quite often, however, he grappled with problems unconcerned with Athens


foreign policy, specifically those of principles of relations between city-states and principles of political supremacy in Greece.

The latter point reveals a tendency for modifying actual political alliances into some abstract conceptions standing for various types of political hegemony. Thus the variants of city-state unions ατχη την каш ΰάλατταν » ηγεμονία κατα γην (power at sea and hegemony on land) epitomizing for him the Athens and Sparta coalition, are viewed by him as two types of notions — concrete alliances and abstract principles embedded in such state alliances.

Isocrates never came up with suggestions regulating relations between the Greek sity-states; instead he offered the idea of settlement of all intra- and inter-polis conflicts by transplanting them to Asia. Championing an anti-Persian campaign, he felt, was to be the goal and means of uniting the Hellenes to fight the baibarians. He also put the finishing touches to the idea of pan-Hellenism launched in the writings of the 5th century.

One thing to remember about his pan-Hellenism is that it is not a new type of relations between city-states on the basis of sovereignty he frequently referred to, but a community of cultural, political, and social ideas, a lifestyle setting the Greeks apart from the barbarians and making it possible a unification of the city-states and conquering Asia.

Isocrates had an avowed dislike of Persia, hence his idea of a cnisade against the barbarians to resolve internal conflicts of the Greeks. He therefore concentrated on describing the economic and military aspects of the Persian state, vital in view of the intended military campaign against it. In describing other aspects of life in Persia he made use of speeches cliches of the barbarians' inferior political and moral standards which abounded in the Greek writings of the 5th and 4th centuries В. G

The intensive foreign policy of King Philip of Macedon prompted Isocrates to create one of his most dramatic standard known as Philipa. It was an exciting melange of all sorts of ideas. He was keen to involve Philip in an anti-Persian campaign and thus reach the twin objeotive of protecting Greece from the menace of Macedonian invasion and winning a robust ally in the Persian campaign. Thus he made a thorough elaboration of the principles of relations between the Greeks and the Macedonians and the subsequent exploitation of occupied Asian territory.

Isocrates' speeches reveal, more th/m any other sources, the roots of emerging opposition between East and West, Asia and Europe. His works illuminate a point in an evolving idea where ethnic and political friction modifies into a distinct social awareness idiom and at once a critical propaganda tool. The high accuracy of his predictions, as proved by subsequent historical developments, rank him among the theoreticians of Hellenism, particularly of its initial stage.

Подготовлено по изданию:

Исаева В.И.
Античная Греция в зеркале риторики: Исократ. — М.: Наука. Издательская фирма «Восточная литература». 1994. — 255 с.: ил.
ISBN 5-02-017391-6
© В. И. Исаева, 1994

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