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From The Greek Orators by J. F. Dobson, M. A., London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1919; pp. 74-102.


By J. F. Dobson




§ 1

THOUGH we attempt a chronological arrangement of the orators, such a treatment is apt to be misleading, for their lives and the period of their activity overlap considerably. Abut the year 390 B.C. Andocides was still composing speeches, Lysias was yet in his prime; Isocrates had already made himself a reputation, and Isaeus had at least begun to be known. It would be rash therefore to attempt to trace in the work of any one the influence of any of the others. Speaking and writing as contemporaries all may have had something to teach and something to learn, but we can hardly say that one is in the fullest sense the literary predecessor or the disciple of another.

Lysias was by descent a Syracusan; his father Cephalus, of whom Plato gives us a charming picture in the opening chapters of the Republic, was induced by Pericles to settle in Athens, and there Lysias was born. The Pseudo-Plutarch gives the date as 459 B.C., and Dionysius gives the same year; but this is founded on an assumption. He was known to have gone to Thurii at the age of fifteen, and Thurii was founded in 443 B.C. But there is no proof that Lysias went to 75 Thurii in the year of its foundation; we only know that he cannot have been born earlier than 459 B.C. Tradition, however, made him live to the age of eighty or eighty-three, and his latest known speech is dated, probably, in 380 B.C., so that if we assume his death to have occurred shortly after 380 B.C., we shall be consistent.1 The modern view, supported by Blass, that Lysias was born not earlier than 444 B.C., has little evidence to support it. It is based chiefly on the statement of the Pseudo-Plutarch that Lysias did not go to Thurii till after his father’s death, and the belief that Cephalus was alive in 430 B.C., the date in which the scene of the Republic is supposed to be laid. But Blass himself collected instances of Plato’s untrustworthiness about dates, and the biographer by himself is a poor authority.

Lysias, then, went to Thurii with his brothers Polemarchus and Euthydemus. He is said to have studied under the Syracusan rhetorician Tisias. After the loss of the Athenian armies in Sicily, 413 B.C., Lysias and his brothers were among three hundred persons accused of ‘Atticizing,’ and were expelled from Thurii. They returned to Athens in 412 B.C. From this year till 404 B.C., the brothers lived in prosperity and happiness, making a considerable fortune as proprietors of a shield-factory, where they employed 120 slaves.

They had many friends; they belonged to the highest class of aliens — the isoteleis — and the evidence of Plato and Dionysius makes it clear that they mixed 76 with the most cultivated society. They took pride in the performance of all public services which fell to their share.

Fortune changed for the sons of Cephalus when in 404 B.C. a successful revolution brought the Thirty into power; the orator himself gives a graphic description of the way in which their ruin was brought about.

The Thirty, he tells us, ‘avowed that they must purge the city of wrongdoers, and turn the rest of the citizens towards virtue and justice.’ Two of the leaders pointed out that some of the metoeci were discontented with the new constitution; these metoeci were rich, so that their execution was not only a moral duty but a sound financial move. They easily prevailed on their colleagues, who, as Lysias neatly puts it, ‘thought nothing of taking life but thought a lot of making money.’ The orator’s name was on the list, and he was arrested at a dinner-party in his own house. He describes what followed:

‘I asked Piso whether he would save my life for money; he said he would, if it was a large sum. So I said I was ready to pay a talent, and he agreed to the terms. I knew well enough that he regarded neither god nor man, but I thought my only chance lay in trusting him. So when he had sworn by his own and his children’s hope of salvation that he would save me if he got a talent for it, I went into my strong-room and opened the chest.’

The sight of its contents amounting to about six talents’ worth of gold and silver as well as a quantity of plate, was too much for Piso’s honesty. ‘I begged him to allow me enough for my journey, but he said I ought to be well satisfied if I saved my skin.’


The prisoner was handed over by Piso to the keeping of Damnippus and Theognis in the former’s house, and Damnippus, who seems to have been softer-hearted than the rest, agreed to speak with Theognis on Lysias’ behalf. He knew his man, and ‘thought he would do anything for money.’ While they were bargaining, Lysias managed to slip away unnoticed through the back-door, and on the following day escaped on ship-board to Megara; his brother Polemarchus was arrested by Eratosthenes and put to death.2

During his exile, which lasted something less than a year, Lysias showed himself a true friend of the democracy. He gave two hundred shields to the army and obtained recruits and gifts of money. When the oligarchy fell in 403 B.C. the ecclesia, on the motion of Thrasybulus, passed a vote conferring the citizenship on Lysias; but owing to some informality the decree was declared illegal, and he lost his privilege immediately. From this time till about 380 B.C. he was actively employed in writing speeches, very few of which he delivered himself. His industry must have been considerable, since Dionysius attributed to him not less than two hundred forensic speeches.

The prosecution of Eratosthenes in 403 B.C. marks, so far as we know, his only personal contact with Athenian politics. The occasion of the Olympiacus shows us Lysias appealing to a far wider audience at the Olympic festival of 388 B.C. He died, according to the computation of the ancients, soon after 380 B.C., at the age of about eighty years.


§ 2

In literature as in politics we grow tired of hearing Aristides called the Just, and so perfect writers are less admired than they should be. In Latin Terence, praised by all for the purity of his style, is less read than the ruder Plautus, and in Greek Lysias, accounted by ancient critics the standard writer of Attic prose,3 is less appreciated than Demosthenes.

Using the everyday language as a literary medium, Lysias, by his exceptional skill and mastery over its idiom, exalted it to a simplicity and accuracy of expression never surpassed by other writers. This simplicity is deceptive:


                                          ‘ut sibi quivis
Speret idem, sudet multum frustraque laboret
Ausus idem.’

It is not till we analyse a passage or try to imitate the style that we realize how great a part has been played by art in this structure which seems so natural.

The smoothness strikes us, after a time, as monotonous, and many readers will turn with relief from Lysias’ polish to the more telling ruggedness of Antiphon, or the varied magnificence of Plato. Lysias, in fact, provides us with an excellent example of the purest prose, but the comparative coarseness of the average taste prefers something less refined, less carefully purged of the natural impurities which prevent insipidity, less free from the colouring matter which gives character.

So far I have considered only the broad impression produced by the language, apart from more personal elements in style.


As an orator, Lysias is, on first acquaintance, disappointing. He seems to lack fire, and to subordinate vigour to precision.

For this apparent weakness we must make certain allowances. We must remember that he has to be judged chiefly by speeches written for others, and speeches dealing with cases which in their very nature are often unimportant, and in their details have little interest.

It would be unreasonable to ask for any other qualities than clear statement of fact in a speech for the prosecution relating to embezzlement by a trustee for a will (Against Diogiton), or in the indictment of Nichomachus, a magistrate who has not rendered his accounts in due course. Such speeches are of considerable importance indirectly: to the jurist, as bearing upon the peculiarities of Attic Law; to the general reader, because they help to fill in details of the picture of public and private life at Athens. We should not pass a hasty judgment on the writer because, considered as examples of oratory, they are less attractive and impressive than some of the more famous models.

I will reserve for future consideration the only speech in which the personal feelings of Lysias are deeply involved — the accusation of Eratosthenes. Of the other speeches there is none which, taken as a whole, is comparable to the finest of the public speeches or the harangues of Demosthenes. Though Lysias had often to deal with trials of public men, these trials were never really of public importance. It was not his business to lay down a definite line of policy for his city to follow; it was not for him to awake an apathetic nation to the need of instant and decisive 80 action. We cannot believe that any of his speeches would appeal, or were meant to appeal, to Athens as a whole.

Even when he is dealing with events that took place during the tyranny of the Thirty, though no doubt feeling still ran high, we have the impression that only that part of the community which had been directly concerned in promoting or thwarting the Revolution would be keenly interested in the process of punishing or rewarding those who had played minor parts: the majority had acquiesced, with greater or less unwillingness, at the time of the changes, and now that the trouble was past, were eager to make the best of the present; political memory at Athens was short.

The position of Demosthenes was very different; his chief activity was not after a crisis, but during a time of national danger. He found great opportunities and he rose to them.

A great enthusiasm is required to produce really great men, whether orators or statesmen. A gifted man under the influence of a great constructive idea may, with exceptional opportunities, become a Pericles; an extraordinarily favourable combination of such circumstances may give birth to an Alexander.

In modern times the greatest eloquence is usually on the side of the opposition, and in all ages a losing cause has tended to produce more conspicuous men.

Demosthenes owes his great reputation partly to his exceptional ability, but in very large part also to his opportunities, to the fact that he was fighting against national apathy and foreign aggression, for a noble ideal — his conception of Athenian Liberty. A lesser intellect might have shone under such circumstances; 81 and on the other hand Demosthenes, if had had no opportunity for the speeches against Philip, might have been ranked almost in the same class with such orators as Lysias.

§ 3

Lysias is no less simple in the arrangement of his subject-matter than in his language. Practically every speech which has come down to us in entirety may be analysed into four elements — preface, narrative, proof, and epilogue. The preface or epilogue may be very slight; the narrative may be so self-evident that proof is practically unnecessary, or on the other hand, there may be hardly any facts to narrate, so that beyond the words of the indictment only an accumulation of proofs is required; but the order of the parts seems to be invariable. We have seen that Andocides instinctively divided up his narrative, where there was a long story to tell, and interspersed the parts with proofs of the details. Isocrates, who states the necessity of the divisions which Lysias tacitly adopted, himself departs from his own rules at times, while Isaeus, by a judicious subdivision and shifting of the parts, contrives, as Dionysius says, to ‘outmanœuvre’ the judges.4

Within these limits Lysias aimed at elasticity; though the form of the speech was to be settled precisely, his artistic sense demanded a variety in the details. It is remarked by Dionysius that, though he composed two hundred speeches, he never used the same preface twice. Some orators were in the habit of using over again the opening sentences which had already served as introduction to an old speech, 82 and even borrowing such proems whole from the speeches of their predecessors or from rhetorical handbooks

Lysias, with a truer instinct for what was appropriate, composed for every speech a proem adapted to its requirements. His versatility in this small matter is much to be admired. It is to be noticed also that there is considerable variety in his ways of ending his speeches; though many of his epilogues practically say the same thing in different words, they nearly all succeed in saying it in a way more appropriate to the particular speech than to any other.

As there is diversity in these forms, so there is great variety in the details of expression. There are very few formal mannerisms on which we could seize if we wished to produce a parody of the style. There are indeed one or two common necessary phrases which he employed frequently, but even these are presented in different shape from time to time.5

§ 4

Lysias varies greatly in the structure of his sentences, at one time producing periods neatly turned, with clauses carefully balanced, at another time writing in a style by no means periodic; again varying his form by mingling the two methods, inserting in the middle of the period a parenthesis or relative clause which keeps us in suspense, or attaching to the end of the period an extra limb which, from a technical point of view, spoils its symmetry. It is impossible without 83 quoting a large number of examples to prove these statements in detail, but we may state broadly that in speeches dealing with serious matters of public interest the style is more periodic; in some of the private speeches on comparatively trivial subjects the style is simpler and more straightforward.

But there is often much variety within the limits of the same speech; as Blass and others have pointed out, the narrative is usually told in a simple style,6 while for arguments and proofs the greater elaboration of the period is employed. As I have pointed out in a previous chapter,7 narrative and argument seem naturally to evoke different styles, and it may be supposed further that the juries trying the more serious cases looked for a more finished style of speech than the colloquial simplicity which would be admissible in minor police-court cases. But even in the unimportant private speeches, Lysias has not one method only, and we feel that he varied his style of sentence-construction to suit the character of the speaker for whom he wrote. Thus the youth Mantitheus is nearly as simple in speech as he is ingenuous in thought, while the cripple, whom we feel to be a plausible rascal, glibly produces strings of neat antitheses, such as the following:

‘The rich with their money can buy exemption from danger, the poor are compelled by their indigence to practise moderation. The young claim indulgence from their elders, but both young and old are equally severe on the faults of the others.’


‘The strong have the opportunity, without risk to themselves, of ill-treating whom they will; the weak can neither defend themselves against an aggressor when they are ill-treated, nor overpower their intended victims when they wish to ill-treat others.’8

§ 5

The variation of sentence-construction is a minor help towards the delineation of character — a necessary part of the business of a professional speech-writer who tries to be realistic. But, in order that the speech may seem appropriate to the speaker, it is necessary that not only his words and phrases but his sentiments should be consonant with his character. This effect Lysias attempted to produce, and he is credited with having attained great success.

We may to some extent discover from the speeches what was the nature of the speakers, but not altogether, for we have no indication as to tone or manner of delivery.

However, from data of various kinds, we can form conceptions of many of the speakers. Thus the defendant on a charge of receiving bribes (Or. xxi.) gives a long and prosy catalogue of his services to the State, with an account of the moneys that he has spent on liturgies (§§ 1-10); all this leads up to his conclusion that he, who desired little for himself and expended all his fortune for his country’s good, had no inducement to take bribes to injure her.

From the Mantitheus we get a vivid and pleasing picture of a young Athenian of good birth and breeding, who ingenuously admits to having 85 some fashionable affectations and owns to an overpowering ambition to distinguish himself as a speaker in the ecclesia, as he has already done good service in the field.

The speech throughout is frank and self-confident, but not by any means boastful:

‘From such records as these you ought to judge a man who in his public life is guided by ambition combined with moderation; you ought not to detest a man because he does his hair in the fashionable way: such habits hurt nobody personally, and do no harm to the community; while all of you alike are benefited by those who willingly face your enemies. So it is not fair either to love or to hate any one on account of his looks; you should judge by his actions. Many people who talk little and dress quietly have been the authors of great harm, while others who do not affect such deportment have done you great services. . . .

‘I have observed, too, that some people are offended with me because I have ventured to speak in public when I am in their opinion too young: but in the first place I have been forced to speak publicly about matters which concern me, and besides, I think I am by nature somewhat excessively ambitious.

‘I reflect that my ancestors have never ceased to serve the State, and — to be candid — I observe that you think that such people alone deserve your notice.

‘Seeing that such is your opinion, who would not be encourage to act and speak on the State’s behalf? And why should you not be displeased with those who do so? No one else has a right to judge them; it is for you alone.’9

A very different picture is that of the cripple (Oration xxiv.) who defends himself on a charge of receiving a State pension under false pretences. He 86 seems to protest too much about his infirmity, his poverty, and his general helplessness, while he keeps a sneering tone throughout, and hardly troubles to conceal a malicious temper:

‘I am almost grateful to the prosecutor for instituting this trial. Hitherto I have had no pretext for giving you an account of my life: now I have obtained one — through him. In my speech I shall attempt to show that he is a liar, and that up to the present day my life has been one that should win praise rather than be exposed to jealousy, for I cannot think that he has brought me to trial from any other motive than jealousy. But if a man feels jealousy towards one whom all others pity, what baseness will he not sink to, do you suppose?

‘It is not to gain money that he has laid this information, and he is not trying to punish an enemy; he is a bad character with whom I have had no dealings either friendly or hostile. So it is clear, Gentlemen, that he is jealous of me because, though thus afflicted, I am a better citizen than he is. For I think that one should compensate for bodily misfortunes by good habits of mind; and if I show a disposition of mind to match my unfortunate body, and fashion my life accordingly, I shall be as bad as he. . . .’10

‘As to my riding, which he has had the audacity to mention, having no fear of fortune or respect for you, there is not much to say. I know that all who labour under any incapacity seek some such relief, and speculate how best they may alleviate their suffering. I am one of this class, and, being afflicted as you see, have found riding a great comfort for a journey of any length. . . .

‘If I had the means, I would ride in comfort on a mule, instead of a borrowed horse; but as I cannot afford a beast of my own, I am compelled often to use a borrowed horse. . . . I am surprised that he does not make it a ground for 87 accusation that I walk with two sticks, while others use one — on the plea that only the affluent can afford two.’11

‘Again, he says that I associate with numerous bad characters who have spent all their own money and are plotting against those who want to keep what belongs to them. But reflect that this accusation does not hit me more than anybody else who practises a trade; nor does it apply to my visitors more than those of the rest of the working-class. Every one of you pays visits to the perfumer, the barber, the shoemaker, or any tradesman, and most people go to the establishments nearest the market-place, and fewest to those farthest away. So if you condemn my visitors as scoundrels, it is clear that you must equally condemn those who spend their time in other people’s shops; and if they are guilty, all the inhabitants of Athens must be; for you are all in the habit of paying visits and spending your time somewhere or other.’12

Another good example of this realism in depicting character is the speech de Caede Eratosthenis. Lysias seems to have given us just the kind of speech that is appropriate to a rather stupid man of the lower middle classes who, by his own showing, is no better than his neighbours, though no worse. Incidentally the whole speech is an important contribution to our knowledge of domestic arrangements in an Athenian home:

‘So things went on, till one day I returned unexpectedly from the country. After dinner the baby was crying and fidgeting — the servant had been teasing it on purpose, to make it cry, for Eratosthenes was in the house: I heard all about that afterwards. — I told my wife to go and feed the baby, to stop it crying. She refused at first, pretending to be glad to have me back after so long; but when I grew annoyed and told her to go, “Yes,” said she, “and 88 leave you and the servant alone up here; I know how you behaved one night when you were drunk.” I laughed, but she got up and went way and shut the door, treating it as a joke, and drew the bolt outside. I thought nothing of it, and had no suspicion, and was glad to go to sleep after my day’s work in the country. Early in the morning she came back and opened the door, and when I asked why the doors had banged in the night, she told me that the lamp beside the child’s bed had gone out, and she had fetched a light from a neighbour. I made no remark, supposing that this was the truth. I had an idea that her face was powdered although her brother had died less than a month ago; but for all that I said nothing more about it, and left he house and went on my business without comment.’13

§ 6

Though Lysias shows dramatic instinct in the representation of character, he seldom employs theatrical effects for the purpose of overpowering the feelings of the court. He trusts more to logic than to the elements of pity and terror, and shows a moderation of language comparable to the self-restraint which characterizes his style in general. He avoids exaggeration of every kind; even when the story of his own arrest is told in a dispassionate, almost impersonal style.14 There can be no doubt that Lysias thus gains greatly in dignity. The prison scene described by Andocides15 may appeal more to our feelings, but certainly more impressive is the solemnity of a similar scene in Lysias:

‘When they were condemned to death, and their end was near, they sent for various kinswomen — sister, mother, wife, as the case may be — to visit them in prison, in order 89 that they might, before they died, bid them a last farewell. Dionysodorus sent for my sister, who was his wife. Receiving the message, she came dressed in mourning as a fit tribute to her husband’s condition.16

The prisoner then disposed of his property, and ‘solemnly warned his wife, if she should bear a son, to tell the child that Agoratus had killed his father, and bid him take vengeance on the murderer.’

There is no hint here of such weeping and wailing as Andocides describes; nothing but the quiet pathos of the story itself to work upon the feelings. To a certain class of audience this style would appeal more truly than any extravagance of grief, and passages of this kind should be enough to refute the common charge against Lysias that he lacks pathos.

§ 7

Lysias was not without a sense of humour, and sometimes employed sarcasm which could be delicate and playful or bitter to the point of brutality according to circumstances; thus in the Epitaphios he remarks how the Persians thought that their best chance of success would be to invade Greece ‘while Greece was still quarrelling as to the best means of defence against invasion.17

Other sentences may be found in the speech For the Cripple.18 Sometimes a sarcastic reference is introduced by a play on words — as βουλεύειν — δουλεύειν in Philo, § 26 — ‘He desires the position of a public servant; that of a public slave is what he deserves.’ Out of several instances in the Nichomachus 90 one may be quoted, in comparison with a rather similar passage in Andocides: ‘He has now become a citizen instead of a slave, a rich man instead of a poor man, a legislator instead of an under-clerk.’

This is far less effective than the unexpected turn which Andocides gives to a similar passage.19

Finally, the fragment of the speech against Aeschines the Socratic contains a long humorous passage. Aeschines has a mania for borrowing money which he never repays. ‘His neighbours are so badly treated by him that they all move as soon as they can and take houses at a distance. . . . The crowd of creditors round his doors at daybreak makes people think they are assembling for a funeral,’ and so on, in a comic vein, till the speaker ends with a spiteful remark about Aeschines’ mistress, that ‘you could count her teeth more easily than the fingers of her hand.’

§ 8

Lysias composed an extraordinary number of speeches; of the 425 attributed to him, Dionysius pronounced 233 to be genuine.20 There are now extant thirty-four, either complete, or, in some cases, with portions missing. A hundred and twenty-seven speeches are known by the preservation of their titles or of small fragments.

As we cannot trace with any certainty a chronological development in style, the most convenient classification of the speeches is according to their subject-matter.


Epideictic Speeches

The fragment of the ‘Olympiac’ speech, which is undoubtedly genuine, is an interesting specimen of compositions of this class.

The Sophists had early realized the opportunities which the great assembly of all Greek States gave for an expression of national feeling, and though perhaps the speech-making was instituted chiefly for the display of oratory, the custom had grown up of making it an occasion for discussing broad political questions. Thus Gorgias had preached the necessity of union among Greeks, and in later time Isocrates in his Panegyric was to urge again the need of putting aside petty disputes among cities for the good of the Greek nation.

In 388 B.C. Dionysius of Syracuse had sent a magnificent embassy to the Olympic festival. Lysias, realizing that this despot of the West, who had reduced important cities of Sicily, had defeated Carthage, and was now threatening the towns of Magna Graecia, might become, especially if allied with Persia, a serious menace to the independence of the cities of Greece proper, urged them to sink their private animosities for the good of all, and as a foretaste of their enmity he called upon them to tear down the royal pavilion at Olympia and scatter its treasures.

In the extant fragment the speaker warns his hearers that much of the Greek world is in the hands of tyrants, and much under barbarian sway. This is owing to the weakness caused by internal discord. Empire depends on command of the seas, and Dionysius and Artaxerxes are both strong in ships.


‘You ought therefore to lay aside your war with each other, and by harmonious action make a bid for safety; you should view the past with shame and the future with apprehension.’

He invites Sparta to take the lead. The substance of the end of the speech is known to us only from the ‘argument,’ but the fragment is long enough to be judged as a simple yet dignified composition.

The Epitaphios or Funeral Speech purports to relate to the Athenians who fell in the Corinthian war, c. 394 B.C., though it is impossible to determine the year precisely.

Such speeches were habitually delivered at Athens, a speaker of established reputation being generally chosen to perform the service. Now Lysias, not being a citizen, could not be so chosen, and, if the speech was really delivered, he can hardly have composed it; for a practised public speaker would probably not require the services of a professional logographos.21

An extract from the peroration will give a general idea of the style:

‘And so we may deem these men most happy, in that they faced and met their end on behalf of all that is great and noble, not committing themselves to chance, nor awaiting the death that comes in nature’s course, but choosing the noblest way of dying.

‘For their memory is ageless, and their honour is envied of all men; we mourn for them as mortal in their nature, but we celebrate them as immortal for their valour. They are receiving a public funeral, and in their honour we institute displays of strength and wisdom and wealth, holding them who have died in battle worthy to be honoured 93 with the same honour as the immortals. So I call them happy in their death, and envy them therefor, and think it should be said that life was worth the possessing only for those men who, endowed with mortal bodies, have left behind them through their valour a memorial that is immortal. Still, we must follow ancient custom, and, obeying the law of our fathers, make lamentation for those whom we are burying to-day.’22

There is nothing striking or original in this peroration, which recalls the fragment of the funeral speech of Gorgias, especially in the forced and repeated contrasts between ‘mortal’ and ‘immortal.’ In manner and in substance it is infinitely inferior to the famous speech of Pericles, which, with all its extravagances of style, has a note of true feeling. The Epitaphios of Lysias rings hollow; it is feeble in imagery, it contains very little reference to the dead, and holds out no hope of comfort to the living. The allusions to the Persian war are part of the rhetorical paraphernalia such as stirred the bile of Aristophanes, while the historical references to the supposed circumstances of the speech are so vague as not to be appropriate to any particular occasion.

On internal evidence, therefore, we may well believe that it is not a real speech, but a declamatory exercise.

There is the further question, whether it was composed by Lysias or not.

The composer of a ‘declamatio’ may allow himself liberties which he would not take in a real speech; yet it is hard to believe that Lysias would have committed such faults of taste as to drag the wars of the Amazons into discussion or to indulge in the exaggerations of the opening sections: ‘All time would not 94 be enough for all men to prepare a speech adequate to such deeds!’ and again, ‘Everywhere and among all men do those who mourn for their own sorrows proclaim the valour of these dead!’

This is not appropriate to the Corinthian war nor to any war in the lifetime of Lysias, and Lysias did not elsewhere say things so inappropriate.23

The speech is probably an exercise composed by a writer who had before him the speech of Pericles and other such compositions. It is actually quoted by Aristotle, who, however, does not assign it to Lysias.24 The general lack of restraint in tone is suspicious, and is, on the whole, the strongest argument against authenticity.

Only one fragment (Or. xxxiv.) remains of a speech composed for the ecclesia. According to its title, it was delivered in opposition to some proposals to abolish or limit the ancient constitution after the fall of the Thirty (403 B.C. ). Dionysius doubts whether it was actually delivered, but considers it to be written in a style suitable for debate.25 It is significant historically that the speaker dares to compare the position in relation to Sparta with that of Argos and Mantineia. The Athenians must have been broken in spirit to tolerate such a reference.

Public Causes

These γραφαί fall under various heads; they deal with all offences against the State, directly comprising treason, sacrilege, embezzlement, unconstitutional 95 procedure, evasion of military service, wrongful claims for admission to office; or against the State in the person of an individual e.g. charges of murder or attempted murder.

They range in importance from high treason (e.g. Ergocles) and deliberate murder (e.g. Eratosthenes) to the attempt of the Cripple (Or. xxiv.) to obtain an insignificant pension by alleged false pretences.

For Polystratus (Or. xx.), 411-405. B.C. This speech is entitled ‘For Polystratus; defence on a charge of attempting to subvert the democracy.’

Polystratus had held office under the Four Hundred, and had even been a member of that body. The nature of the charge brought against him is uncertain, but as the penalty proposed was only a fine, it cannot have been so serious as the title implies. Modern critics decide that the speech is spurious, entirely on grounds of style and method. The arrangement is at times confused, the argument obscure, and the style weak.

This kind of argument against genuineness must always be a subjective one; it I hard to prove the case. The speech Against Theomnestus (see below p. 100) has faults unworthy of Lysias, and yet, according to the same critics, it is undoubtedly genuine.

It should be remembered that the present speech is earlier by some years (c. 407 B.C.) than any of the orations accepted as genuine, and perhaps in the case of an orator’s earlier efforts we should look for less precision and finish.

Or. xxi., on a charge of taking bribes, is only the second half of the speech. The first part, dealing with 96 specific charges, is lost. The defendant points to his distinguished public services as a proof that he is not the sort of man to be bribed to betray his country. The date is probably 402 B.C.

Against Ergocles (Or. xxviii.), Against Epicrates (Or. xxvii.), and Against Philocrates (Or. xxix.) may be taken together as speeches delivered by a public prosecutor, all in the year 389 B.C.; they assume that the previous speakers have gone fully into the charges, so that they themselves need only recapitulate them. The speakers are vigorous and concise, but impersonal. There was no need in such formal orations for the kind of adaptation to the speaker’s character which we find elsewhere. Ergocles was prosecuted and put to death for betraying Greek cities in Asia and enriching himself by embezzlement. Philocrates had been his subordinate and confederate. Epicrates was also accused of embezzling public money when in a position of trust.

Against Nichomachus (Or. xxx.), date probably 399 B.C. — The only charges against Nicomachus are that, having been appointed to revise certain laws, he was dilatory in his work and did not finish it within the appointed time, and has caused an excessive expenditure of public money — not, be it noted, for his own advantage. Though Nichomachus at the worst was unbusinesslike and indiscreet, the accuser thinks fit to shower abuse on him, chiefly in connection with his humble origin, for his father was a freedman.26

Against the Corn-dealers (Or. xxii.) is a plain, unpretentious speech arising out of the laws relating to the 97 corn supply; the dealers were not allowed to make a profit of more than one obol a bushel, and monopoly was strictly guarded against. The date is uncertain; possibly about 390 B.C.

On the Confiscation of the Property of the Brother of Nicias (Or. xviii.), about 396-385 B.C. — Nicias’ brother Eucrates was put to death by the Thirty in 404 B.C., and at some time later a decree was passed for the confiscation of his estate. The sons and nephew of Eucrates plead against the enforcement of this sentence. Of the fragment which remains the greater part consists of an appeal to pity, which is very unusual in the speeches of Lysias.

For the Soldier (Or. ix.), 394-387 B.C.; a defence of Polyaenus, who is prosecuted for non-payment of a fine, is of doubtful authenticity, though the arguments concerning it are not conclusive.

On the Property of Aristophanes (Or. xix.), 387 B.C., is another case dealing with confiscation. The speech is very carefully constructed to meet what was evidently a difficult case.

Against Evandrus (Or. xxvi.), 382 B.C. — This is a considerable fragment of a speech relating to a scrutiny (δοκιμασία). Leodamas, the first man to be elected as archon for the year 381 B.C., having been rejected as unfit, the second choice, Evandrus, becomes archon if he can pass the scrutiny; but his enemies refer to his actions in the time of the oligarchy, and, while admitting that he has been blameless since the Restoration, refuse him all credit for this. The bitterness 98 and injustice of this speech are unusual in Lysias, but its genuineness is not suspected.

For Mantitheus (Or. xvi.),27 about 392 B.C.; Against Philo (Or. xxxi.), 405-395 B.C.; and the wrongly entitled Defence on a charge of subversion of the democracy (Or. xxv.), 402-400 B.C., are all concerned with δοκιμασία. There is more bitterness in the κατὰ  Φίλωνος than in the speech against Evandrus, but with more justification, for Philo, if the stories told of him are true, must have been a very objectionable scoundrel.

The speech For the Cripple (Or. xxiv.), about 400 B.C., is also concerned with a δοκιμασία, though of a different kind. A pension was given by the State to certain persons who could not, on account of bodily infirmity, support themselves, and had no other means of living. The defendant in this case is accused of claiming the pension, whereas he is comparatively well off.28

Against Eratosthenes (Or. xii.), 403 B.C. — This, the most famous of Lysias’ speeches, has been to some extent dealt with already.29 It is generally classed as a speech in a prosecution for murder, but it seems more probable that it was delivered on the occasion of the εὔθυνα of Eratosthenes; for the amnesty passed after the expulsion of the Thirty specially provided that any of them who chose to give an account of their actions should receive a fair trial.30 Eratosthenes and Pheidon were the only two who embraced this opportunity.

The latter view finds some support in the fact that only the first part of the speech (§§ 1-37) deals with 99 the murder of Polemarchus; the longer portion (§§ 37-100) deals more generally with the character of Eratosthenes and the crimes of the Thirty in general.

Against Agoratus (Or. xiii.), 400-398 B.C. — Agoratus, an informer, is prosecuted for having caused the death of the speaker’s cousin, Dionysodorus. There is much historical matter in the speech, but the accuser keeps definitely to the charge of murder, touching on political matters only incidentally.

On the Murder of Eratosthenes (Or. i.), date uncertain, is of interest chiefly as illustrating domestic life among the middle class at Athens.31

Defence against Simon (Or. iii.), after 394 B.C.; and On wounding with intent (Or. iv.), date uncertain, are both speeches in defence on the charge of wounding with intent to kill (τραύματος  ἐκ  προνοίας). The defendant in the latter, wishing to prove that he was formerly on good terms with the prosecutor, tells an extraordinary story of corruption. The prosecutor was nominated by the defendant as judge at the Dionysia, on the understanding that, if elected, he should award the prize to the latter’s tribe. He left a written note of this agreement; but unfortunately he was not elected, so that the prize went to a chorus which either sang better or organized its corrupt practices with more skill.32

For Callias (Or. v.), date uncertain, is a defence, apparently, on a charge of sacrilege. The precise charge is unknown.

On the Sacred Olive (Or. vii.), about 395 B.C., is in defence of a man charged with uprooting the stump of 100 a sacred olive — a sacrilege punishable by banishment and confiscation of property.

Against Alcibiades, I. and II. (Or. xiv. and Or. xv.), about 395 B.C. — The first is on a charge of desertion, the second of avoiding military service — two different aspects of the same offence. The defendant, a son of the great Alcibiades, had presumed to serve in the cavalry when he was only entitled to be a hoplite. The young Alcibiades evidently paid for the sins of his father, to whom half of the present indictment is devoted. On this point we may compare the subject-matter of the speech of Isocrates in defence of Alcibiades,33 and the speech against him which is attributed to Andocides, but is probably a later work.34

Private Speeches

Against Theomnestus (Or. x.), 384-383 B.C., is a speech for the prosecution in an action for defamation. The speaker deals at quite disproportionate length with a verbal quibble by which the defendant has tried to escape justice. The argument is ingenious, but owing to the slightness of the subject-matter the speech has no interest except to students of method.35

Against Diogiton (Or. xxxii.), 400 B.C., is a truly excellent statement of the case against a dishonest guardian. In addition to the skilful handling of financial details, there is much dramatic skill in description and suggestion of character.

On the Property of Eraton (Or. xvii.), 397 B.C. — this speech occurred in a διαδικασία between an individual 101 and the State. The speaker asserts a claim to the property of Eraton (which has been confiscated), for the repayment of a debt.

Against Pancleon (Or. xxiii.), date uncertain — Pancleon, accused on some unknown charge, and supposed by the prosecutor to be a metoecus, has put in a plea that he is a Plataean citizen and therefore not amenable to the law under which he was indicted. He turns out after all to be a runaway slave.

These last two speeches consist almost entirely of narrative.

Spurious or Doubtful Speeches

Against Andocides (Or. vi.), 399 B.C. — It is generally believed that this speech is not by Lysias, the most serious argument being that the writer of it is a blunderer. As Jebb points out, he makes at least three damaging admissions calculated seriously to injure his own case. It may, however, really be a speech delivered against Andocides. It contains some statements which do not agree with Andocides’ own admission, but, as we have seen, it cannot be proved that Andocides was always veracious. On the ground of general agreement with Andocides’ statements we may believe that it was composed by some contemporary orator, and not, as has been sometimes asserted, by a late Sophist. It may have been actually delivered at the trial of Andocides in 399 B.C.

Eroticus. — Phaedrus, in the dialogue of Plato which bears his name, reads aloud a speech of Lysias which Socrates criticizes.

If Plato could be taken literally, we should believe 102 that what is read was the authentic work of Lysias; but Plato is if anything too emphatic in his attempts to produce this illusion, and most readers will probably be left with the impression that Plato is following his usual custom; he tries to give his myths the solemnity of fact, and what he produces here is an imitation too close to be called a parody. We may compare Plato’s reproduction of Aspasia’s oration in the Menexenus.

The speech To his Companions (Or. viii.) cannot reasonably be attributed to Lysias, and indeed is so trivial that it can hardly be the work of any self-respecting forger. It is probably to be regarded as a declamatory exercise.

The speaker complains that his friends have slandered him by asserting that he forced his company on them; they have sold him an unsound horse and accused him of inducing others to slander them. He therefore abjures their friendship.

Extracts from six lost speeches are preserved by quotation in various writers:

Against Cinesias (Athenaeus xiii. 551 D); Against Tisis (Dion., de Demos., ch. xi.); For Pherenicus (Dion., de Isaeo, ch. vi.); Against the Sons of Hippocrates (ibid.); Against Archebiades (ibid, ch. x.); Against Aeschines (Athenaeus, xiii., 611 E-612 C).36

The fragments of other speeches, in Suidas, Harpocration, and others, are negligible.


 1  Two lost speeches for Iphicrates, 371 B.C. and 354 B.C., were pronounced spurious by Dionysius; but, as he accepted the date of Lysias’ birth as 459 B.C., he was bound to conclude that these speeches were not by him.

 2  Against Eratosthenes, §§ 5-17.

 3  Dion., de Lysia, ch. 2: τῆς  ττικῆς  γλώττης  ἄριστος  κανών.

 4  καταστρατηγεῖ.

 5  E.g. δεινὸν  δέ  μοι  δοκεῖ  εἶναι  εἰ  νῦν  μὲν . . . τότε δέ, etc., and ἄξιον  δ’  ἐνθυμηθῆναι  ὅτι  . . .

 6  Examples are numerous: e.g. the speech of Polyaenus (For the Soldier, §§ 4-5) shows a simplicity in narrative which Herodotus could not have surpassed.

 7  Ch. ii. pp. 26-7.

 8  For the Cripple, § 7.

 9  For Mantitheus, §§ 18-21.

10  For the Cripple, §§ 1-3.

11  For the Cripple, parts of §§ 10-12.

12  Ibid., §§ 19-20.

13  de Caede Eratosthenis, §§ 11-14.

14  Supra, p. 76.

15  Supra, p. 62.

16  Agoratus, §§ 39-40.

17  Vide infra, p. 92, on the question of authenticity.

18  Supra, p. 83 sqq.

19  Lysias, Nichomachus, § 27; Andocides, de Myst., § 93, quoted infra, p. 96.

20  Ps.-Plut., Lives of the Ten Orators, §§ 11; Dion., de Lys., ch. 17, διακοσίων  οὐκ  ἐλάσσους  δικανικοὺς  γράψας  λόγους.

21  However, Socrates, in Plato’s Menexenus, 236 B, suggests that Pericle’s famous funeral Speech was composed for him by Aspasia.

22  Epit., §§ 79-81

23  The reference to the Amazons and the general vagueness of the historical setting are closely paralleled by the Funeral Speech in Plato’s Menexenus, which is generally regarded as a parody.

24  Rhet., III. 10. 7.

25  de Lys., ch. 32.

26  Cf. supra, p. 90.

27  Vide supra, p. 85.

28  Supra, p. 85.

29  Vide supra, p. 76-7.

30  Andoc., de Myst., § 90.

31  Vide supra, p. 87.

32  § 3.

33  Vide infra, p. 150.

34  Vide supra, p. 72.

35  The second speech with the same title is only an epitome of the first.

36  Cf. supra, p. 90.

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