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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hypereides (Greek Template:Polytonic, Hypereidēs; c. 390 BCE – 322 BCE) was a logographer (speech writer) in Ancient Greece. He was one of the ten Attic orators included in the "Alexandrian Canon" compiled by Aristophanes of Byzantium and Aristarchus of Samothrace in the third century BCE.


Rise to power

Little is known about his early life except that he was the son of Glaucippus, of the deme of Collytus and that he studied logography under Isocrates. In 360 BCE he prosecuted Autocles for treason.During the Social War (358–355 BCE) he accused Aristophon, then one of the most influential men at Athens, of malpractices, and impeached Philocrates (343 BCE) for high treason. Although Hypereides supported Demosthenes in the struggle against Phillip II of Macedon; that support was withdrawn after the Harpalus affair. After Demosthenes' exile Hypereides became the head of the patriotic party (324 BCE).


After the death of Alexander the Great, Hypereides was one of the chief promoters of war against Macedonian rule. His speeches are believed to have led to the outbreak of the Lamian war (323–322 BCE) in which Athens, Aetolia, and Thessaly revolted against Macedon rule. After the decisive defeat at Crannon (322 BCE) in which Athens and her allies lost their independence, Hypereides and the other orators, were condemned to death by the Athenian supporters of Macedonia.

Hypereides fled to Aegina only to be captured at the temple of Poseidon. After being put to death his body (according to others) was taken to Cleonae and shown to the Macedonian general Antipater before being returned to Athens for burial.

Personality and oration style

Hypereides was an ardent pursuer of "the beautiful," which in his time generally meant pleasure and luxury. His temper was easy-going and humorous. Though in his development of the periodic sentence he followed Isocrates, the essential tendencies of his style are those of Lysias. His diction was plain, though he occasionally indulged in long compound words probably borrowed from the Middle Comedy. His composition was simple. He was especially distinguished for subtlety of expression, grace and wit.

Surviving speeches

Seventy-seven speeches have been attributed to Hypereides, of which seventy-five were regarded as spurious by his contemporaries. It is said that a manuscript of most of the speeches survived as late as the 15th century in the library of Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, but was later destroyed after the capture of Buda by the Turks in the 16th century. Only a few fragments were known until relatively recent times. In 1847 large fragments of his speeches, Against Imosthenes and For Lycophron (incidentally interesting clarifying the order of marriage processions and other details of Athenian life, and the Athenian government of Lemnos) and the sole of the For Euxenippus (c. 330, a locus classicus on state prosecutions), were found in a tomb at Thebes in Egypt. In 1856 a considerable portion of a eulogy for Leosthenes and his comrades who had fallen in the Lamian war. Currently this is the best surviving example of epideictic oratory.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century further discoveries were made including the conclusion of the speech Against Philippides (dealing with an indictment for the proposal of unconstitutional measure, arising out of the disputes of the Macedonian and anti-Macedonian parties at Athens), and of the whole the Against Athenogenes (a perfumer accused of fraud in the sale his business).

New discoveries

In 2002 Natalie Tchernetska of Trinity College, Cambridge discovered fragments of two speeches of Hypereides that had been considered lost in the Archimedes Palimpsest. These were from the Against Timandros and Against Diondas. Tchernetska's discovery led to a publication on the subject in the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. This prompted the establishment of a working group under the auspices of the British Academy, which includes scholars from the UK, Hungary, and USA.

In 2006 the Archimedes Palimpsest project together with imagers at Stanford University used powerful X-ray fluorescence imaging to read the final pages of the Palimpsest, which contained the material by Hypereides. These were interpreted, transcribed and translated by the working group.

The new Hypereides revelations include two previously unknown speeches, effectively increasing the quantity of material known by this author by 20 percent. Previously most scholars believed only fragments of Hypereides survived beyond the Classical period.

Lost speeches

Among the speeches not yet recovered is the Deliacus in which the presidency of the Delian temple claimed by both Athens and Cos, which was adjudged by the Amphictyonic League to Athens. Also missing is the speech in which he defended the illustrious courtesan Phryne (said to have been his mistress) on a capital charge: according to Plutarch and Athenaeus the speech climaxed with Hypereides stripping off her clothing to reveal her naked breasts; in the face of which the judges found it impossible to condemn her.


William Noel, the curator of manuscripts and rare books at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland and the director of the Archimedes Palimpsest project, called Hypereides "one of the great foundational figures of Greek democracy and the golden age of Athenian democracy, the foundational democracy of all democracy.” This assessement is obviously overblown: Hyperides was in no way a foundational figure, and Noel himself writes that he had never heard of him before the discovery of the new fragments (The Archimedes Codex, 223). The discrepancy shows Hyperides for what he was: an important figure in late fourth-century Athens.

See also

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