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date: 13 June 2024

Hyperides, free

Athenian orator and politician, 389–322 bce

Hyperides, free

Athenian orator and politician, 389–322 bce
  • Judson Herrman


Hyperides (Ὑπερείδης), son of Glaucippus of the deme Collytus, was one of the ten canonical Attic orators and was esteemed by ancient critics as a versatile speechwriter; as a politician, he was a prominent opponent of Macedon in the period before and after the battle of Chaeronea.


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Greek Law
  • Greek Literature

Updated in this version

Text and bibliography updated to reflect current scholarship. Keywords and summary added.

Early Life and Career

Hyperides' biographical details can be gathered from the pseudo-Plutarchan Lives of the Ten Orators ([Plut.] X Orat. 848d–850b), and from references in contemporary speeches and inscriptions.1 Apparently, he was born to a wealthy family, as he is reported to have studied with Plato and Isocrates ([Plut.] X Orat. 848d, Hermippus frr. 67–68 Wehrli).2 He refers (Hyp. Eux. 28–29) to three prosecutions as his first political cases, beginning with actions against Aristophon and Diopeithes of Sphettus, and culminating in an impeachment (see eisangelia) in 343 of Philocrates for his role as leader of the delegation that negotiated the notorious peace treaty with Philip II in 346; Hyperides achieved a conspicuous victory in this last case as Philocrates fled Athens and was convicted in absentia.3 In another early political case, he acted as a logographer or as a supporting speaker (synēgoros) in the eisangelia prosecution of the general Autocles in 360, who had ties to Aristophon.4 If indeed these cases were partisan in motivation, they can be viewed as a precedent for Hyperides’ later partnership with Demosthenes and other opponents of Macedon. Outside of the courts, Hyperides would subsequently serve regularly as an Athenian ambassador abroad, and he may possibly have been active already on a mission to Thasos in 361/360.5

In the early years of his rhetorical career, he worked as a speechwriter for others, and he was ridiculed in 4th-century comedy for his lack of principle ([Plut.] X Orat. 848e; Timocles fr. 17 KA). It is likely that a number of the undatable fragmentary courtroom speeches represent this early period in his career.6 Perhaps unusually, he continued to sell speeches to others long after he rose to prominence as a politician.7 Two speeches that survive in extensive fragments attest to this activity: the defense of Lycophron, delivered between the mid-330s and the mid-320s, and the prosecution of Athenogenes, from the period 330–324. Neither speech appears to have any partisan motivation: in the former, Hyperides writes for a certain Lycophron, who was charged (in an eisangelia proceeding) with seduction (moicheia, see adultery); in the latter, he writes for a plaintiff who claims to have been tricked into buying three slaves and a perfumery encumbered with significant undisclosed debt.8 A third example of a surviving courtroom speech without any apparent political motive is the Against Timandrus (date unknown), in which the speaker accuses a guardian of four orphans of mismanaging the estate and maltreating the children.9 Hyperides’ work as a speechwriter was lucrative: he owned real estate in Athens and Eleusis ([Plut.] X Orat. 849e; Idomeneus FGrH 338 F 14a), and invested in leases of sacred land at Eleusis, and in silver mines (see mines and mining) in Attica; he also used his wealth for political ends, funding two trierarchies (see trierarchy) and a chorēgia, all in 340/339.10

Opposition to Macedon and Association with Demosthenes

Hyperides' trierarchies in 340/339 supported Athenian efforts to oppose Philip in Byzantium and on Euboea, and by the late 340s, Hyperides emerged as a prominent politician urging the Athenians to resist Philip and to oppose politicians who advocated a policy of accommodation or concession to the Macedonians. Much of this activity shows signs of a broad informal connection with the better-known policies of Demosthenes.11 Hyperides’ prosecution of Philocrates in 343 may share the same partisan motivation as Demosthenes’ indictment of Aeschines later that year, and his alliance with Demosthenes in opposition to Macedon may also have played a role in his appointment as an envoy to Rhodes and possibly Chios in 341/340 ([Plut.] X Orat. 850a; cf. Dem. 9.71).12 A similar partisan preference may explain the Areopagus’ decision to send Hyperides in place of Aeschines for an official appointment at Delphi in 342 or 341.13 Also around the same time, Hyperides co-sponsored a motion to award Demosthenes a crown in recognition of his political leadership (Dem. 18.222). That proposal was challenged by Diondas but was successfully defended by Hyperides in 334 ([Plut.] X Orat. 848f); a lengthy extract of the speech shows Hyperides advancing specific arguments that Demosthenes would later employ, sometimes with verbatim repetition, in his famous speech On the Crown in 330.14 In the immediate aftermath of the defeat at Chaeronea in 338, when Demosthenes passed decrees to fortify Athenian defenses (Dem. 18.248, Din. 1.78), Hyperides proposed emergency measures to give amnesty to exiles, to enfranchise and enlist metics and slaves (see slavery, greek), and to relocate women and children.15 Later, in 335, after the destruction of Thebes, both Hyperides and Demosthenes opposed Alexander’s request for an Athenian fleet (Plut. Phoc. 21.1; [Plut.] X Orat. 847c, 848e; cf. Hyp. Against Diondas 7.23–24), and Hyperides denounced Alexander’s demand for the surrender of Athenian leaders, including Demosthenes ([Plut.] X Orat. 848e).16

Aside from his work with Demosthenes, Hyperides pursued his anti-Macedon policies in court-speeches that he delivered himself in the years after the battle of Chaeronea. Prior to the death of Philip in 336, he indicted Demades, the most prominent Athenian advocating some sort of agreement with Philip and Alexander, for an unconstitutional proposal of honors for Euthycrates, who had surrendered his native city of Olynthus to Philip in 348.17 Another speech from this same period shows Hyperides taking a similar position: in the partially preserved Against Philippides, a supporting speaker, possibly Hyperides himself, charged that the defendant made an unconstitutional proposal to recognize the officers who presided in the Ekklēsia when it granted awards to Philip or other Macedonians or their partisans in Athens in the aftermath of Chaeronea.18 A later speech, from the period 330–324, in defense of Euxenippus, is the only one of Hyperides that survives complete.19 Here he responded to impeachment charges against Euxenippus, who had been appointed to sleep (see incubation) in the sanctuary of Amphiaraus near Oropus, so as to receive communication from the god regarding a political dispute concerning land near the shrine. The defense responds to charges that Euxenippus had been bribed by denying any corruption and by arguing that the law for impeachment applies only to active politicians (ῥήτορες‎), and that Euxenippus is not one (Eux. 27–30). It shows the continued currency of the Macedonian question in a section answering charges that Euxenippus was sympathetic to the Macedonians (Eux. 19–26).

In the years leading up to the Lamian War of 323–322, Hyperides took on a greater role as a leader in the movement to rid Greece of Macedonian control.20 When Demosthenes, among others, became implicated in the scandal arising from Harpalus’ escape from Athens in 324, Hyperides was one of the appointed prosecutors for the state ([Plut.] X Orat. 848f); in the surviving fragments of his speech he attacked Demosthenes for abandoning his political friends and betraying the Athenian cause (Dem. 20–21). Demosthenes went into exile (Plut. Dem. 26.4; [Plut.] X Orat. 846c), while Hyperides assumed a leading political role in directing policy toward the impending war. Prior to Alexander’s death in 323, an Athenian general, Leosthenes, was maintaining an army of mercenaries in Taenarum and was also recruiting Greek allies; the death of Alexander sparked the Greek revolt, and Hyperides, acting in concert with Leosthenes, convinced the Athenians to lead the revolt and dispatch forces.21 This urgent cause led to a reconciliation with Demosthenes, and he and Hyperides collaborated in the recruitment of allies in the Peloponnese in 323 (Plut. Dem. 27.2–4; Just. 13.5.10). The first encounters of the war were a success for the Greeks, but Leosthenes was killed during a siege at Lamia, and Hyperides was chosen to deliver the state funeral oration for the dead in early 322 (Diod. Sic. 18.13.5).

The speech is one of the only examples of an Athenian epitaphios logos that survives much as it was actually delivered and is thus crucial to our understanding of the genre. Unlike other surviving Athenian funeral orations, Hyperides’ focused almost exclusively on the recent campaign and presented an individual eulogy for the fallen general. He replaced the standard account of the Persian Wars with a contemporary focus on Athenian rule of law in opposition to Macedonian tyranny, and the speech closed with an unparalleled scene of Leosthenes in the underworld, where he is greeted as a hero by earlier Athenians and others who protected the Greeks from tyranny (Epit. 35–40).22 The Funeral Oration was Hyperides’ swan song, and indeed it is the last example of oratory from Athens as an independent democracy. After defeating Athens in the Lamian War, the Macedonians imposed a garrison on the city, and Demades persuaded the Ekklēsia to sentence Demosthenes and Hyperides to death.23 Both fled Athens; Hyperides was arrested by agents of Antipater, who reportedly cut out his tongue before killing him (Plut. Dem. 28.2–4).

Hyperides’ Reputation, Style, and Works

Contemporary accounts of Hyperides mainly focus on his role as a politician, but the comic poet Timocles anticipated the Lives of the Ten Orators in characterizing him as a gourmand (Timocles fr. 4 KA); the later biographical account linked this trait with his association with well-known hetairai ([Plut.] X Orat. 848a-49e). The most famous of those was Phryne (said to be the model for Praxiteles’ statue of Aphrodite at Cnidus; Athen. 13.591a), whom Hyperides defended on a charge of impiety.24 According to a later, probably apocryphal tradition, Hyperides won the case when the judges were overwhelmed by Phryne’s appearance after he asked her to disrobe in the courtroom. That legend probably arose from a later tradition based on Hyperides’ speech, which was admired enough to be translated into Latin (by M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus; Quint. 1.5.61; cf. 2.15.9, 10.5.2) and which ‘Longinus’ linked with the Against Athenogenes as the sort of colorful short speech (λογίδιον‎) that Demosthenes could not write ([Longinus], Subl. 34.3; cf. Quint. 10.1.77).25 Critics often linked Hyperides and Demosthenes as the premier orators of their generation (Cic. Brut. 138; Tac. Dial. 16.5), though Hyperides was distinguished for his simple style (reminiscent of Lysias; Cic. Brut. 67–69, Tac. Dial. 12.5), his wit and sharpness (Cic. Brut. 67, Orat. 110), and his unusual and colloquial vocabulary (Hermog. Id. 396–397). In an extended analysis, ‘Longinus’ compared Hyperides to a pentathlete, who is highly skilled in a wide range of activities, as opposed to Demosthenes, whose expertise was more specialized ([Longinus], Subl. 34.1–3).

The Life reports that the corpus of Hyperides comprised seventy-seven speeches, and that fifty-two of them were authentic ([Plut.] X Orat. 849d); in the Byzantine world Hyperides does not appear to have circulated widely, and until the discovery of some pages from a 10th- or 11th-century manuscript, it was believed that his works had been lost by then.26 His speeches were largely unknown to moderns, until a series of substantial fragments from ancient papyrus rolls were discovered and edited between 1847 and 1892.27 These were among the most substantial finds of lost literary texts in the early history of the modern discipline of papyrology (see papyrology, greek), comprising a corpus of six speeches: the Against Demosthenes, For Lycophron, For Euxenippus, Against Philippides, Against Athenogenes, and the Funeral Oration. Two more speeches recovered from the Archimedes Palimpsest were published between 2005 and 2008, and these too are among the most substantial new discoveries of classical material in Byzantine palimpsests (see palimpsest): the Against Timandrus and the Against Diondas.28 In addition to these eight speeches that survive more or less intact, short quotations by other authors, ranging in length from a single word (many quoted by lexicographers, who found much material of interest thanks to Hyperides’ penchant for unusual vocabulary) to several sentences, provide some sparse information for approximately fifty-five further speeches.29

Primary Texts

  • Burtt, J. O. Minor Attic orators II. Loeb classical library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954.
  • Carey, Chris, Mike Edwards, Zoltán Farkas, Judson Herrman, László Horváth, Gyula Mayer, Tamás Mészáros, P. J. Rhodes, and Natalie Tchernetska. “Fragments of Hyperides’ Against Diondas from the Archimedes Palimpsest.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 165 (2008): 1–19.
  • Colin, Gaston. Hypéride. Discours. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1946.
  • Cooper, Craig. “Hyperides.” In Dinarchus, Hyperides, and Lycurgus. Edited by Ian Worthington, Craig Cooper, and Edward M. Harris. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001.
  • Herrman, Judson. Hyperides. Funeral Oration. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
  • Horvath, László. Der “Neue Hypereides”: Textedition, Studien und Erläuterungen. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014.
  • Jensen, Christian. Hyperidis orationes sex cum ceterarum fragmentis. Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1917.
  • Kenyon, Frederic G. Hyperidis orationes et fragmenta. Oxford Classical Texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906.
  • Petruzziello, Luisa. Iperide: Epitafio per i caduti del primo anno della guerra lamiaca. (PLit. Lond. 133v). Rome: Fabrizio Serra, 2009.
  • Tchernetska, Natalie, Eric Handley, Colin Austin, and László Horváth. “New Readings in the Fragments of Hyperides’ Against Timandros from the Archimedes Palimpsest.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 162 (2005): 1–4.
  • Tchernetska, Natalie. “New Fragments of Hyperides from the Archimedes Palimpsest.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 154 (2005): 1–6.
  • Whitehead, David. Hypereides. The Forensic Speeches. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.


  • Bartolini, Gianfranco. Iperide: rassegna di problemi e di studi (1912–1972). Padua, Italy: Editrice Antenora, 1977.
  • Bernhardt, Jan. “Rhetorische Strategie und politischer Standpunkt bei Hypereides.” Hermes 140 (2012): 263–283.
  • Brun, Patrice. “Y avait-il vraiment des anti-Macédoniens à Athènes entre 338 et 323? A propos d’un nouveau fragment d’Hypéride ‘Contre Diondas’.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 187 (2013): 87–92.
  • Cooper, Craig. “Hyperides and the Trial of Phryne.” Phoenix 49 (1995): 303–318.
  • Engels, Johannes. Studien zur politischen Biographie des Hypereides: Athen in der Epoche der lykurgischen Reformen und des makedonischen Universalreiches (2nd ed.). Munich: Tuduv, 1993.
  • Herrman, Judson. “Hyperides’ Against Diondas and the Rhetoric of Revolt.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 175–185.
  • Horváth, László. “The Lost Medieval Manuscript of Hyperides.” Acta antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 38 (1998): 165–173.
  • Horváth, László. “Hyperidea.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 187–222.
  • O’Connell, Peter. “Hyperides and Epopteia: A New Fragment of the Defense of Phryne.” Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies 53 (2013): 90–116.
  • Rhodes, P. J. “Hyperides’ Against Diondas: Two Problems.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 223–228.
  • Rubinstein, Lene. “Legal Argumentation in Hypereides Against Timandros.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 149–159.
  • Todd, S. C. “Hypereides Against Diondas, Demosthenes On the Crown, and the Rhetoric of Political Failure.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 161–174.
  • Ucciardello, Giuseppe. “Hyperides in the Archimedes Palimpsest: Palaeography and Textual Transmission.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 229–252.
  • Whitehead, David. “Hypereides’ Timandros: Observations and Suggestions.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 52 (2009): 135–148.