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A day was appointed for the solemn decision of the matter, and in the mean time Harpalus, sensible how much his success depended on gaining over “ the Prince of Orators” to his side, sought and obtained an opportunity of showing Demosthenes the precious store of goodly things of which he had robbed his royal master. The orator was particularly struck with the sight of a massy golden cup, and poising it in his hand, he asked Harpalus,
" What was its
ght?” Harpalus replied, “ To you it shall weigh twenty talents.” When Demosthenes had departed, the cup was accordingly sent after him to his house, along with twenty talents in money. Next day, when the case of Harpalus came on for consideration, Demosthenes appeared in the assembly with his throat mufled up, and when called on to speak, he made signs that he had lost his voice !
To the honour of Athens, this act of abominable venality was not allowed to pass unpunished. It was the cause of a fine of fifty talents being imposed on the orator, to avoid the payment of which he fled to Ægina, where he remained in exile, until an emergency in the affairs of the republic produced his recal.
Demosthenes once observed to Phocion, who was at the head of a party of orators whom Philip had bribed over to his interest, that “the Athenians would one day murder him in a mad fit.” “ Take care," replied Phocion, " that they do not murder you in a sober one.”
The warning was prophetical. The Athenians, as the price of their reconciliation with Antipater, were obliged to pass a decree condemning Demosthenes to death. The oralør fled for refuge to the temple of
Neptune at Celaura ; but inwardly convinced that no place could afford him a sanctuary from such vengeance as pursued him, he drank of. poison, and died.
ISOCRATES. The character of Isocrates presents the rare combination of a man, who, devoid of fear, is recorded to have passed through a long life, without having made an enemy of a single individual, by the boldness of his eloquence. When Theramenes, proscribed by the thirty tyrants, took refuge at the altar, Isocrates generously volunteered to plead in his defence at the hazard of his own life ; and after the death of Socrates, when all his disciples, struck with dismay, fled into distant parts, Isocrates alone had the courage to appear in mourning in the public streets of Athens.
PERICLES. The eloquence of Pericles, which his countrymen were wont to designate by the attribute of “thunder and lightning,” must have mingled a wonderous share of the persuasive in its power over the passions. When Thucydides, the Milesian, one of his great opponents in state matters, was asked by Archidamus, King of Sparta, which was the better wrestler, Pericles or himself?” “ It is vain," replied Thucydides, “ to wrestle with that man. As often as I have cast him to the ground, he has as stoutly denied it; and when I would maintain that he had got the fall, he would as obstinately maintain the reverse; and so efficaciously withal, that he has made all who heard him, nay, the very spectators, believe him.”
EXTEMPORANEOUS ORATORY. Gorgias of Leontium is the first orator we read of who possessed the gift so much prized in modern times, and so distinctly characteristic of modern eloquencethe gift of extemporaneous speaking. He made it his boast, that in a public assembly, he could on the instant declaim as fuently on any subject which might be proposed to him, as persons who had pondered over the subject ever so long, in gloomy caves, or by the wild sea-shore. This faculty of the Leontine orator exposed him, however, to great disadvantage in the race of immortality with his contemporaries ; a disadvantage from which the more recent of his successors in the same path have been happily exempted. There were no reporters in those days; and of the first of extempore speeches, not one is now extant.
That the world has lost something by their passing into oblivion, we may fairly conclude from the effects which some of them are recorded to have produced. In the war between his native city, Leontium, and Syracuse, the citizens of the former sent Gorgias and Tesias as ambassadors to the Athenians, to supplicate their assistance. On their arrival at Athens, about the year 427, B. C., Gorgias made such an artful address to the passions of the Athenian people, on the grievances which he made them suppose they had suffered from the Syracusans, and on the advantages which they might reap from an alliance with his countrymen, that he prevailed op them to rush headlong into a war, that proved in the end more fatal to them, than any war in which they had ever engaged.
PLATO. The eloquence of Plato is said by Tully to have been thus beautifully prefigured in his youth. When yet an infant, his father, Aristo, went to Hymettus with his wife and child to sacrifice to the muses; and while they were busied in the divine rites, a swarm of bees came and distilled their honey on his lips.
Apuleius relates, that Socrates, the night before Plato was recommended to him, dreamed that a young swan fled from Cupid's altar to the academy, and settled in his lap! thence soared to heaven, and delighted the gods with its music; and when Aristo the next day presented Plato to him, “ Friends," said Socrates, “this is the swan of Cupid's academy.”
PUBLIC CRIERS OF GREECE. The Greeks were so nice in point of eloquence, and so offended with a vicious pronunciation, that they would not suffer even the public crier to proclaim their laws, unless he was accompanied by a musician, who, in case of a vicious tone, might be ready to give him the proper pitch and expression. It would seem that the town criers of classic story could boast of a degree of oratorical propriety, from which their modern successors must have sadly degenerated; since to speak as a town crier, is now become a bye-word of shame among the people.
“I'd as lieve the town crier spoke the lines.” We find from Quintilian, that even Gracchus, one of the greatest orators of his time, thought it necessary to have a futenist to stand by while he was speaking, in order to give him the proper pitch to regulate his elevation and cadences, and to assist him with a proper tone in case he made a false inflexion of the voice.
Cicero, however, thought it beneath an orator (as it certainly is) to have occasion for such an assistance. “Leave,” says he, “the pipe at home, but carry the custom with you.”
PROLIXITY MADE PENAL. It appears from several of the ancient Royal Ordi. nances of France, and particularly from one of Charles VII. of France, that lawyers in that country (would to heaven it were so in all countries !) were subjected to heavy penalties, when guilty of prolixity in their pleadings. The Roman advocates used to make a sort of agreement with the court, how long they might have liberty to speak in defence of their client. Martial alludes to this practice in the following epigram.
“Septem clepsydras magnâ tibi voce petenti
Jam de clepsydra, Cæciliane bibas.”