Monday, June 08, 2015


A Passage in Isocrates' Philip

Isocrates 5.139 (tr. George Norlin):
While it is in all cases difficult to construct a thing, to destroy it is, comparatively, an easy task.

συστῆσαι μέν ἐστιν ἅπαντα χαλεπόν, διαστῆσαι δὲ ῥᾴδιον.
A minor quibble about the translation—do these compounds of ἵστημι really mean "construct" and "destroy" here? In Liddell-Scott-Jones (s.vv. συνίστημι and διίστημι), the primary definitions are "unite" and "separate". Perhaps the Latin translation (by Wolf, rev. Ahrens) in Müller's Oratores Attici influenced Norlin:
constituere omnia quam sit difficile, quam facile vero dissolvere.
The English translation by J.H. Freese seems more accurate:
In all things it is difficult to join, but easy to put asunder.
There is no comment on this passage in Isocrates, De Pace and Philippus. Edited with a Historical Introduction and Commentary by M.L.W. Laistner (New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1927 = Cornell Studies in Classical Philology, XXII).

The jingle of the aorist active infinitives συστῆσαι...διαστῆσαι is characteristic. Hermogenes, On Types of Style, tr. Cecil W. Wooten (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), p. 57 (1.12), mentions Isocrates' fondness for "rhyming syllables at the end," i.e. for homoioteleuton, one of the so-called Gorgianic figures. According to tradition (Cicero, Orator 176; Quintilian 3.1.13; etc.), Isocrates was a pupil of Gorgias. Yun Lee Too, The Rhetoric of Identity in Isocrates (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), pp. 236-239, casts doubt on the tradition.

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