ElAnt v3n2 - [Plutarch], X.Or. 848e: A Loeb Mistranslation and Its Effect on Hyperides' Entry Into Athenian Political Life

Volume 3, Number 2
September 1995


Ian Worthington,
Department of Classics,
University of Tasmania,
GPO Box 252C,
Tasmania 7001,
e-mail: ian.worthington@classics.utas.edu.au 

[Hyperides] epoliteusato Athenesi, kath on chronon Alexandros ton Ellenikon epteto pragmaton ([Plutarch], X.Or. 848e).

Hyperides ( PA 13912; H. Berve, Das Alexanderreich auf prosopographischer Grundlage [Munich, 1926], ii no. 762; J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families [Oxford, 1971], pp. 517- 20; M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Ecclesia ii [Copenhagen, 1989], pp. 60-1) played a significant role in Athenian politics, especially in the 330s and 320s. The Loeb translation of this section of the life of Hyperides would appear to create some controversy concerning the date Hyperides became politically influential in Athens, and his age at the time, unless the translation is incorrect. If so, then this well illustrates the danger of relying on translations of ancient texts and thus the need, amongst students and scholars alike, for reading ancient sources in the original.

Fowler, in the Loeb edition of Pseudo-Plutarch, translates the above passage as:

'Hypereides entered upon political life at Athens at the time when Alexander was interfering ( epteto ) in the affairs of Greece.'

Now, 'interfering in the affairs of Greece' implies that Alexander was king and actually meddling in Greek affairs, as he did in the early years of his reign or, perhaps even more obviously, in his so- called exiles decree of 324. Following on, then, it seems that Pseudo-Plutarch fixes Hyperides' entry into active political life after Alexander III had come to the throne in 336. Since Hyperides was born in about 389/8 (Davies, Athenian Propertied Families , p. 518), Pseudo-Plutarch's dating makes him in his late fifties in 336, which is rather old for a political debut.

However, Hyperides was politically influential before 336 (Alexander's accession). In 343 he had prosecuted Philocrates for the Peace of Philocrates (Hyperides 4. 29), a prosecution which smacked of political intrigue. He was responsible for equipping forty triremes when Philip II sailed against Euboea in 340, and of these forty Hyperides donated the first two himself in his own name and that of his son, Glaucippus ([Plutarch], X.Or. 849f). After the battle of Chaeronea in 338, fearing that Philip II would march on the city, he had made the radical proposal of enfranchising the atimoi and metics, together with manumitting the slaves, so that they could fight, as well as sending the women, children, and sacred objects to the Piraeus for safety (Lycurgus 1. 16, 41, [Demosthenes] 26. 11, [Plutarch], X.Or. 849a).

Indeed, it appears clear that Hyperides had entered political life in his middle to late twenties, well before 336, since sources indicate that he had brought a graphe paranomon against Aristophon in 363/2 (Schol. Aeschines 1. 64), an eisangelia against Aristophon in the period from 361 to 343 (Hyperides 3. 28), and an eisangelia against Diopeithes of Sphettus in the period from 361 to 343 (Hyperides 3. 29). He also acted as a synegoros for Apollodorus in an eisangelia in 361 (Hyperides, fr. x). Finally, he is thought to have served as an ambassador to Thasos, tentatively dated in 361 (Hyperides, fr. xxiii), and to Delos in 343 (Demosthenes 18. 134). And it is usually a senior statesman who is chosen to deliver an epitaphios : we note that Hyperides gave the epitaphios (Speech 6) over the dead at the battle of Crannon in 322 (Lycurgus 1. 16, 41, [Demosthenes] 26. 11, [Plutarch], X.Or. 849a)

What, then, of the apparent statement in Pseudo-Plutarch? If it is accurate in linking Hyperides' entry into political life with some actions of Alexander III, then perhaps Pseudo-Plutarch refers not to 336 (Alexander's accession) but say to 340 (thus making Hyperides about fifty). In that year Alexander was marked as clear heir to the throne by his father Philip II, who had appointed Alexander, then aged sixteen, regent of Macedon while he was besieging Perinthus and Byzantium. Thus Alexander was drawn into contact with Greek affairs. Also in 340/39 we can fit the only three liturgies we know that were performed by Hyperides, all in the same year: (1) a trierarchia , (2) responsibility for equipping forty triremes when Philip II sailed against Euboea, and (3) a choregia ([Plutarch], X.Or. 848e). As Davies remarks ( Athenian Propertied Families , p. 519), three liturgies such as these falling within the same year suggest that Hyperides was exploiting them for his own political ends.

However, such a scenario would still make Hyperides about fifty, too old in my opinion, and it certainly discounts too many of his earlier activities. More likely is that there has been a serious error in the Loeb translation of this section concerning the verb epoliteusato . The translation does not faithfully reproduce the Greek, and can lead to some dangerous and quite wrong conclusions, as is the case here. Had Pseudo-Plutarch meant to say '[Hyperides] entered upon political life', we should have expected him to have used the imperfect epoliteueto (the inchoative imperfect). In fact, epoliteusato is aorist, which ought to mean '[Hyperides] played a role in politics'. In other words, Hyperides was already playing an active part in the political arena regardless of whether the passage in question is meant to refer to Alexander's actions in 340, 336 or even 324. Assuming that to be the case, then the problem which arises from the current translation no longer exists.

Ian Worthington
e-mail: ian.worthington@classics.utas.edu.au

COPYRIGHT NOTE: Copyright remains with authors, but due reference should be made to this journal if any part of the above is later published elsewhere.

Electronic Antiquity Vol. 3 Issue 2 - September 1995
edited by Peter Toohey and Ian Worthington
ISSN 1320-3606