THUCYDIDES CONSTRUCTS HIS SPEAKERS: THE CASE OF DIODOTUS
Daniel P. Tompkins (Department of Classics,Temple University)
ELECTRONIC ANTIQUITY: COMMUNICATING THE CLASSICS, Volume 1, Number 1, June (1993)
In 428 BC Lesbos seceded from the Delian League. Recapturing the island in the summer of 427, the Athenians deliberated on a suitable punishment of the rebels, deciding first to kill all the adult males, then reconsidering. Here I concentrate on the speech of Diodotus. My main goal is to interpret his speech by attending as closely as possible to its language, treating it with the respect we might accord, say, a chorus in Sophocles or Euripides. In the course of developing this interpretation, I will comment on some issues that have resonated through the tradition of Thucydidean scholarship. First, I’ll provide some evidence that Thucydidean speakers are stylistically differentiated, that is, that they speak differently from each other. Second, I’ll show that one stylistic ‘marker’ of this speech is the speaker’s use of general or ‘gnomic’ sentences.
Third, I’ll respond to critics who say that general statements, here and elsewhere, are intrusive insertions that upset the balance of the speech. My response will be that the gnomes are essential, not incidental, and that without them the speech would not mean what it does. Fourth, I’ll argue that the sort of ‘meaning’ this speech creates sheds important light on Thucydides’ methodological statement at 1.22.1 about how he wrote speeches.