In the opening chapter of the Iudicium de Dinarcho Dionysius quotes a passage from the Περì ὁμωνὐμων of Demetrius Magnes, mat the end of which come the words ἧ δέ λὲξις ἐςτί τοῦ Δεινάρχου κυρὶως ἠθική πάθος κινοῦσα σχεδòν τῇ πικρíᾳ μóνον καì τῷ τóνῶ τοὖ Δημοσθθενικοὖ χαρακτῆρος λειπομὲνη τοῦ δέ πιθανοὖ καì κυρíιυ μηδὲν ἐνδέονσα. [I have deliberately omitted all punctuation marks, because the punctuation of this sentence is still doubtful, though I hope to suggest a possible interpretation of its meaning at the end of this article.] Now there is nothing in this sentence or in the words preceding it to indicate beyond all possibility of doubt the precise meaning ofκυρíως ἠθικὴ. And in such circumstances, to allow free play to personal (or perhaps natural) prejudices regarding the significance of thephrase is more than dangerous. The whole problem of ἠθική λὲξις has been treated too cursorily. If one mentions the phrase to a non-professional student of Greek, who, however, has some acquaintance with the Attic orators, he immediately replies: ‘I suppose you mean the sort of thing you meet in Lysias.’ And he is to beexcused, because, after all, that is the predominant meaning of the term. But it has other senses, and therefore one must fight shy of vague statements like that of Finke, who, after quoting the above lines, comment: ‘Demetrius Magnus attribuit ei (sc. Dinarcho)τἡν κυρíαν λὲξιν qua non sit Demosthene inferior’(the last few words of which are possibly not even a correct translation of the text); or of Burgess, who enumerates qualities, ideas, and topics ‘of special value to the epideictic and court orators, ’ among which appears ἠθοποιἷα which he merely translates ‘impersonation or delineation of character, ’ without offering any further comment. Sandys talks of ‘the ethical warmth of colouring, by which the dullest details are lit up with a fresh life and interest.’ Gromska is even more vague (and seems almost to confuse ἦθ∨ς and χαρακτὴρ: ‘Grammatici antiqui, qui de Hyperide tractabant, de eloquentiae eius genere disputabant, orationum Hyperidearum compositionem et ἦθ∨ς respicientes, i.e. quantum in arte rhetorica et oratoria valeret, examinantes.’ In the hope, therefore, of being able to represent the difficulty inherent in these lines, and of attempting to remove it, or at any rate to shed a broader beam of light upon it than has been shed hitherto, I propose to review very briefly the fluctuations of meaning in the life of this phrase and its equivalents, as we find them used in the critical writings of the Greek philosophers and rhetoricians.
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