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After the disaster of Chaeronea the Athenian people passed a decree forbidding persons to leave the city or to remove their wives or children. Now a certain Leocrates left the city and, after going to Rhodes and later Megara, returned to Athens. He made no secret of his story and so was accused of treason by Lycurgus. The case must be classified as an instance of contradictory definition, since Leocrates admits that he left the city but denies that he betrayed it. Others class it as an instance of conjecture as to intention, since it is admitted that the accused left the city, while his purpose in leaving it is doubtful: did he wish to be a traitor or only to trade? Others think it an instance of counterplea, since he claims that he left the city not with treasonable intentions but for commerce. The subject matter resembles that of the speech against Autolycus.
To resume then, gentlemen. After this, time passed, merchant ships from Athens continued to arrive at Rhodes, and it was clear that no disaster had overtaken the city. So Leocrates grew alarmed, and embarking again, left Rhodes for Megara. He stayed at Megara for over five years with a Megarian as his patron, unashamed at living on the boundaries of Attica, an alien on the borders of the land that nurtured him. To resume then, gentlemen. After this, time passed, merchant ships from Athens continued to arrive at Rhodes, and it was clear that no disaster had overtaken the city. So Leocrates grew alarmed, and embarking again, left Rhodes for Megara. He stayed at Megara for over five years with a Megarian as his patron, unashamed at living on the boundaries of Attica, an alien on the borders of the land that nurtured him.
Besides, what need had this Athenian to stay five years in Megara as a merchant? What need had he to send for the sacred images of his family or to sell his house in Athens? The answer is that he had condemned himself as a traitor to his country, as a criminal who had greatly wronged us all. It would be incongruous indeed if you, with the decision in your power, were to dismiss this charge on which he was himself expecting punishment. But quite apart from these objections, we need not, I think, admit this line of defence.
Personally I know no help to equal this. He deserves your anger for this conduct and for his explanation too, since he has not hesitated to tell a blatant lie. For he never previously carried on this trade, being in fact a master smith; and subsequently, after his departure, he imported nothing to us from Megara, though he was away for six years without a break. Besides, he had, as it happens, an interest in the two per cent tax,For the two per cent tax see Lyc. 1.19 and note. which he would never have left to live abroad on business. So if he says a word about these matters, I do not doubt that you will stop him.
Yet he contended （and perhaps he will say this to you now also） that he would not have faced this trial if he had been conscious of committing a crime like this. As if all thieves and temple-robbers did not use this argument! It is an argument which goes to prove their shamelessness rather than the fact of their innocence. That is not the point at issue; we need the assurance that he did not sail, that he did not leave the city or settle at Megara
By such means you will grant to all who wish it the power to injure the state and yourselves whether by word or deed. This is no simple matter of an exile's coming back; the deserter of his city, who condemned himself to banishment and lived for more than five or six years in Megara with a sponsor, is now at large in Attica and in the city. It means that one who openly gave his vote for abandoning Attica to be a sheep-walk is in this country resident among you.