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Reply to the Same Charge

I am not far wrong, I think, in regarding myself as the most unlucky man alive. Others meet with misfortune. They may be buffeted by a tempest; but calm weather returns and they are buffeted no longer. They may fall ill; but they recover their health and are saved. Or some other mishap may overtake them; but it is followed by its opposite which brings relief. [2] With me this is not so. Not only did this man make havoc of my house during his lifetime; but he has caused me distress and anxiety in plenty since his death, even if I escape sentence; for so luckless is my lot that a godfearing and an honest life is not enough to save me. Unless I also find and convict the murderer, whom the dead man's avengers cannot find, I shall myself be deemed guilty of murder and suffer an outrageous sentence of death. [3] Now the prosecution allege that it is very difficult to prove my guilt because of my astuteness. Yet in maintaining that my actions themselves prove me to be the criminal, they are assuming me to be a simpleton. For if the bitterness of my feud is a natural ground for your deeming me guilty today, it was still more natural for me to foresee before committing the crime that suspicion would settle upon me as it has done. I was more likely to go to the length of stopping anyone else whom I knew to be plotting the murder than deliberately to incur certain suspicion by committing it myself; for if, on the one hand, the crime in itself showed that I was the murderer,1 I was doomed; while if, on the other hand, I escaped detection, I knew very well that suspicion would fall on me as it has done. [4] My plight is indeed hapless; I am forced not only to defend myself, but to reveal the criminals as well. Still, I must attempt this further task; nothing, it seems, is more relentless than necessity. I can expose the criminals, I may say, only by following the principle used by my accuser, who establishes the innocence of every one else and then asserts that the circumstances of death in themselves show the murderer to be me.2 If the apparent innocence of every one else is to fasten the crime upon me, it is only logical for me to be held guiltless, should others be brought under suspicion. [5] It is not, as the prosecution maintain, unlikely that a man wandering about at the dead of night should be murdered for his clothing; nothing is more likely. The fact that he was not stripped indicates nothing. If the approach of passers-by startled his assailants into quitting him before they had had time to strip him, they showed sense, not madness, in preferring their lives to their spoils. [6] Further, he may not in fact have been murdered for his clothing; he may have seen others engaged in some quite different outrage and have been killed by them to prevent his giving information of the crime; who knows? Again, were not those who hated him almost as much as I did—and there were a great many—more likely to have murdered him than I? It was plain to them that suspicion would fall on me; while I knew very well that I should bear the blame for them. [7] Why, moreover, should the evidence of the attendant be allowed any weight? In his terror at the peril in which he stood, there was no likelihood of his recognizing the murderers. On the other hand, it was likely enough that he would obediently confirm any suggestions made by his masters.3 We distrust the evidence of slaves in general, or we should not torture them; so what justification have you for putting me to death on the evidence of this one? [8] Further, whoever allows probability the force of fact when it testifies to my guilt must on the same principle bear the following in mind as evidence of my innocence; it was more likely that, with an eye to carrying out my plot in safety, I should take the precaution of not being present at the scene of the crime than that the slave should recognize me distinctly just as his throat was being cut. [9] I will now show that, unless I was mad, I must have thought the danger in which I now stand far greater, instead of less, than the danger to be expected from the indictment. If I was convicted on the indictment, I knew that I should be stripped of my property; but I did not lose my life or civic rights. I should still have been alive, still left to enjoy those rights and even though I should have had to obtain a loan of money from my friends,4 my fate would not have been the worst possible. On the other hand, if I am found guilty today and put to death, my children will inherit from me an insufferable disgrace; if instead I go into exile, I shall become a beggar in a strange land, an old man without a country. [10] Thus not one of the charges brought against me has any foundation. But even if the probabilities, as distinct from the facts, point to me as the murderer, it is acquittal that I deserve from you far more than anything else; since first, it is clear that if I struck back, it was only because I was being deeply wronged; had that not been so, it would never have been thought likely that I was the murderer; and secondly, it is the murderers, not those accused of the murder, whom it is your duty to convict.5 [11] As I am completely cleared of the charge, it is not I who will profane the sanctity of the gods when I set foot within their precincts, any more than it is I who am sinning against them in urging you to acquit me. It is those who are prosecuting an innocent man like myself, while they let the criminal escape, to whom dearth is due; it is they who deserve in full the penalty which they say should he inflicted upon me, for urging you to become guilty of impiety. [12] If this is the treatment which the prosecution deserve, you must put no faith in them. I myself, on the other hand, as you will see by examining my past life, do not form plots or covet what does not belong to me. On the contrary, I have made several substantial payments to the Treasury,6 I have more than once served as Trierarch,7 I have furnished a brilliant chorus,8 I have often advanced money to friends, and I have frequently paid large sums under guarantees given for others; my wealth has come not from litigation, but from hard work;9 and I have been a religious and law-abiding man. If my character is such as this, you must not deem me guilty of anything sinful or dishonorable. [13] Were my enemy alive and prosecuting me, I should not be resting content with a defense; I should have shown what a scoundrel he was himself and what scoundrels are those who, while professedly his champions, seek in fact to enrich themselves at my expense over the charge which I am facing.10 However, more out of decency than in fairness to myself, I shall refrain. Instead, I entreat you, gentlemen, you who are empowered to decide the most critical of issues; take pity on my misfortune and remedy it; do not join my opponents in their attack; do not allow them to make an end of me without regard to justice or the powers above.

1 Or possibly: “If on the one hand I was detected in the act of committing the crime. . . ” The speaker is endeavoring to prove that he did not commit the murder by showing that his knowledge of the consequences to himself, even in the event of his escaping detection, must necessarily have deterred him. The sentence must therefore be regarded as explaining not the whole of that preceding, but only αὐτὸν . . . ἐμπεσεῖν.

2 An exceedingly difficult sentence to render clearly in English. The speaker means that he too is obliged from the nature of the case to resort to proof by elimination. The prosecution had argued (Antiph. 2.1.4-5) that death could not have been due to footpads, a drunken quarrel, or a mistaken assault, i.e. it cannot have been unpremeditated; therefore, since the circumstances showed it to have been violent, not natural (this is the point of αὐτὸς θάνατος in Antiph. 2.1.5, it was premeditated; and the defendant was alone likely to have planned such a crime. Here the defendant recapitulates this, actually quoting the words αὐτὸς θάνατος, which had formed part of the argument of the prosecution.

3 ἀναγιγνώσκειν in the sense of “persuade,” which it must bear here, is found elsewhere only in Herodotus. “Masters” implies that the passers-by who found the slave were members of the dead man's own family, although this fact is nowhere explicitly mentioned by the prosecution.

4 ἔρανον συλλέγειν. Cf. infra 12, ἐρανίζειν. The reference in both cases is to a sum of money advanced without interest by friends who each contributed a portion. ἔρανος later came to have the more specialized sense of a club formed for the purpose of lending money without interest to any of its members. Each member paid a subscription (also called ἔρανος); and such clubs often acquired landed property. They grew political in character as time went on.

5 i.e. (1) Even if he can he proved guilty, there are extenuating circumstances which will make it impossible to condemn him. (2) But he cannot be proved guilty in any case.

6 The εἰσφορά was an extraordinary property-tax levied on citizens and metics in time of war.

7 One of the most important liturgies or public services which the richer members of the community were obliged to undertake from tine to time. The τριήραρχος served for a year as the commander of a trireme; and although the State furnished rigging etc., and pay for the crew, the trierach was to expend large sums on repairs and to make up shortages in the payment of his men from his own pocket. The average cost of a Trierarchy was 50 minae.

8 i.e. as Choregus he had paid for the training and equipment of a chorus at one of the dramatic or choral festivals so frequent at Athens and throughout Greece in general.

9 The Greek is a deliberate jingle, which cannot be rendered convincingly in English. Perhaps “. . . not from litigation, but from application” might serve.

10 Implying that the defendant's property would be confiscated upon his conviction and a percentage given to the prosecution. See Antiphon 5.79, On the Murder of Herodes, for a similar complaint.

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    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus, 513-862
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