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PROFESSOR VOEMEL'S "DEFENCE OF THE GENUINENESS OF THE DOCUMENTS IN DEMOSTHENES'S
SPEECH ON THE CROWN, AGAINST PROFESSOR DROYSEN."1
THE fourth and last part of this Defence is at length arrived, and may demand some notice here, in pursuance of the discussion on the same subject, inserted in the second Number of the Classical Museum.
To mediate between scholars so full of erudition as the two professors here engaged, would be an arduous, and perhaps an unprofitable task; for if the umpire were competent to survey the strife from a position higher than that of the combatants, even so he might find it impossible to guarantee to his readers the value of his own decision. No attempt will here be made to cope with Professor Voemel on the field of learning, properly so called. Nevertheless, it is possible, on other grounds, to form a legitimate opinion concerning the success of Professor Voemel's attempt, and I intend here to assign reasons which seem to me to deprive his arguments of practical validity.
In strictness, perhaps, he might be said rather to have attacked Droysen than to have defended the documents. He taxes him, more than once, with a wilful desire to set aside their authenticity; while it is hard to deny that there is in Voemel at least an equal unwillingness to admit that Droysen's objections can ever be valid. As one illustration, I adduce the following (11. p. 9):
Although I believe that I have here set aside every objection alleged by Droysen against this decree, yet I do not think its general tone to be that of Demosthenes; and if any one regards as spurious this one document, which is the last of those in the oration for the Crown, I have nothing to say against it."
1 Professor Voemel's Die Echtheit der Urkunden in des Demosthenes Rede vom Kranze vertheidigt gegen den Herrn
Prof. Droysen, was published in four separate programs, Frankfort, 1841-4, 4to.
In his final summing up (Iv. p. 13), he distinctly admits that this decree is "perhaps fabricated" (vielleicht fingirt), yet with no more definite reason assigned than before. If Droysen had rejected the decree on the bare ground that the tone was not that of Demosthenes, Voemel might have replied, as elsewhere, "To this subjective judgment of improbability, I oppose my subjective judgment of probability." One might have expected, or even required, that when he agreed with Droysen in the conclusion that the decree was spurious, he would either have observed a respectful silence concerning Droysen's arguments, or have at least shewn more diffidence in rejecting them.
No one, on reading the title which Voemel has prefixed to his treatise, will easily guess what is the position for which he is actually contending. By the genuineness of the documents, all that he means is, that they are not fabricated wantonly, but are real transcripts (more or less corrupted) of what was once in the Athenian archives, though perhaps having nothing at all to do with the matter for which they are adduced in the speech. But on this important point the reader must hear his very words :
I. p. 7. "It must here be repeated, that these documents are not those which Demosthenes himself gave [to the notary] to be read aloud; but that, as Boeckh has made very probable, they have been introduced-in part at wrong places out of a collection of decrees and protocols, which was taken from the archives. This I here once more mention, because Droysen in many places, and especially upon this accusatory speech by Æschines, goes on the supposition that the present opinion is, that Demosthenes himself had searched out the documents, and had set them forth to the reader in the protocol-form in which we find them."
Concerning both of the decrees which now lie before us [§ 164], I believe that they, as well as that which is set in § 29, have been introduced at a wrong place, all three decrees extant relating to Athenian embassies to Philip. That of § 29 belongs, as Boeckb saw, to Olymp. 110, 2, when Philip, in difficulties before Byzantium, entered into treaty for peace, although the peace did not come to pass. The two others, however, as I suppose, refer to earlier affairs, perhaps when Philip made attempts upon Megara."
It is, then, admitted by Voemel that the documents were introduced by some unknown person, who has certainly done his work very clumsily, and has probably fabricated at least
one decree; and yet he will not allow that this throws the least discredit on them as a whole! This may be seen in the following comments on Droysen (IV. p. 13):
Nothing essential,' says Droysen, 'appears to apply against this decree, but the other documents must at least stir up suspicion.' What! also against this? Again: The suspicious character of the rest thereby so mounts up,' (thereby, i.e. that Droysen thinks he has pointed out the spuriousness of the majority), 'that we hold as decided the spuriousness of all the documents presented in this speech.' But why, then, does not a similar sentence fall on ALL the documents found in authors? [über alle bei den Schriftstellern vorkommende Urkunden]."
The last words, here denoted by italics, will be read by most persons, it is believed, with extreme surprise. It might seem too obvious to need insisting on, that until the opposite is proved, we must rest in the supposition that the documents of this speech come from one and the same hand, and have been liable to the same influences. So far as those influences reach, suspicion will extend, and no further. Voemel, however, assumes that, after all his admissions, the credit of the documents is so unimpaired, that hypothetical solutions of difficulties on his part suffice. When a gross contradiction is met, he insists that this goes to prove the simple-heartedness of the compiler, and rather accredits the documents (1. p. 10). On the contrary, it seems more reasonable to impute stupidity, especially if it be allowed that one document is convicted of forgery principally by its vapid nonsense; but that alternative does not seem to have occurred to Professor Voemel, though elsewhere he confesses that there has been great carelessness.
It is a peculiarly perverse kind of carelessness which he ascribes to the compiler, in so many places to have turned notaries into archons. Such a corruption would indeed have been malicious, if this man had foreseen how much trouble it would cause to commentators in these days. But, once more, the reader must listen to Voemel's own account of this unfortunate jumble:
III. p. 4. "No one any longer regards as archons these names which were a great while entitled pseudeponymi, but, with Boeckh, as notaries of the Prytaneum; and these were sometimes found with their fathers' name annexed."
I. p. 4. "To Mr. Droysen, Boeckh's hypothesis appears, how
* * *
ever subtly conceived and laboured out, yet to oppose all probability."' But why should not the collector of the decrees have set the superscription of the archon's name once only to the chapter which contained the documents of one year, without repeating it before each separate document; while he furnished these barely with the name of the notary of the Prytaneum, also without once repeating typaμμáreve or ypaμμárεws? Out of such a collection, not directly out of the archives, the missing documents in the speeches of Demosthenes were completed."
It may be hard to express an opinion of this argument, without seeming to despise the reasoning powers, not only of Professor Voemel, but also of Boeckh. Great men have their paradoxes, and as such perhaps we may regard this. A set of documents are found to have false names of archons. Boeckh acknowledges the blunder, but kindly volunteers to re-write the documents, as they certainly (or at least probably) were in the Athenian archives. We have but to change apxovros a dozen times over into ypaμμaтεÚOVTOÇ, and all will be right! Many things are possible, and, it must freely be admitted, so is Boeckh's hypothesis; but it remains, that its falsehood is at least as possible as its truth. It is one out of a hundred or a thousand conceivable contingencies; and we submit, that the entire burden of proof rests with him who espouses its defence. Voemel has convinced himself, on the contrary, that a man is unreasonable who does not adopt the possibility as a fact. For myself, I would by no means assert that every one of these documents is a pure scholastic fabrication; but, from the moment we are convinced that several of them have no place in Demosthenes's speech, and have false names and dates, the external authority of all is shaken. It is then necessary to begin the whole question anew, just as if now, for the first time, some scholar found them in manuscript, in the drawer of an old monastery, disconnected from the speeches of Demosthenes. If any of them bear severe examination, let them have the credit of it; yet, even so, should any of their companions be convicted of forgery, a deep suspicion will inevitably rest on all, and none can be quoted as an authority in proof of any doubtful point. On the other hand, to tamper with the text in order to save their credit, is contrary to every just principle of reasoning.
This, nevertheless, is what Voemel feels that he has a right
to do, not only in serious questions, as in this about the archons, but even in cases so gratuitous as to make the controversy one, not of erudition, but concerning the first principles of evidence. Thus, in the decree which he himself feels to be spurious, he is actually at the pains to suppose that five names of ambassadors have dropped out of the text (11. p. 9), in order to rebut Droysen's objection, that whereas Demosthenes had said there were ten ambassadors, the decree gives but five. This is a fair specimen of medicinam mortuo.
A striking example of Voemel's mode of defence is found in reference to Cottyphus the Pharsalian, who is wrongly called "Cottyphus the Arcadian," in one of these confessedly garbled pieces. To sustain the anonymous authority, Voemel unhesitatingly adopts Winiewsky's conjecture, that Papoáλiov, in the speech of Eschines, is to be altered to Пlappάotov (what more could he do, if these documents were indisputably genuine and authoritative?); and then he argues, that the Parrhasians were not only Arcadians, but also Argives; and, in the latter character, might possibly have been admitted into the Amphictyonic council.
Nor, indeed, is it possible, from Professor Voemel's treatise, to gain any clear idea how far he has fulfilled the limited object of refuting Professor Droysen. The latter had adopted an arrangement which, he said, "was most convenient for the examination;" words which Voemel sarcastically interprets, "convenient for proving the spuriousness of the records." From words of Droysen, quoted incidentally (IV. p. 13), it clearly appears that he does not lay equal stress on all his arguments, and that he thinks many of them to be valid in combination which are not decisive singly. Now, by dissolving this combination, and answering them one by one, Voemel has made it difficult or impossible to know what is the real value of his reply. Indeed the fallacy appears to me to pervade his whole dissertation, of supposing that it suffices to deal separately with every unusual phrase. It very often happens that words and phrases exist in a language long before they become the standard mode of speech. They are avoided by the earlier writers as vulgar—or as poetical-or as technical slang; or for some other reason, they are unusual, and do not readily offer themselves to the mind; yet perhaps they are to be found by searching. The later style, then, is distinguished from the