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SYCOPHANTES

SYCOPHANTES (συκοφάντης). Plutarch (Plut. Sol. 24) explains συκοφαντεῖν as the informing against a man for exporting figs, and refers to an ancient law forbidding the export. [Different [p. 2.731]reasons have been suggested for this prohibition: some say that the Athenians wished to keep this fruit to themselves (Ister fr. 35=Athen. 3.74 e); others that the law was passed at the time when the fruit had only just been discovered (Schol. Plat. de Rep. i. p. 340 D; Photius and Suid. s. v. συκοφαντεῖν: cf. Schol. Aristoph. Pl. 874), probably in order to increase its cultivation in Attica.] Boeckh (Sthh. i.3 p. 55) prefers to connect συκοφαντεῖν with information against the stealing, not the exporting of figs, and suggests that the term may either have arisen out of charges brought by informers against persons who in some time of famine had robbed the sacred fig-trees, or that, since the theft of fruit in general was punished with great severity at Athens (Alciphr. Epist. 3.40), it was in time applied to all those who brought such charges, which came to be looked upon as vexatious and harsh. Lancelot Shad-well (in a commentary on Luke 3.14) rejects these explanations: “The first and obvious meaning of συκοφάντης is not one who shows up them that export figs or steal figs, but one who discovers figs.” Starting from Photius' explanation of σεῖσαι as συκοφαντῆσαι,--ἀπὸ τῶν τὰ ἀκρόδυα σειόντων. Τηλεκλείδης Ἀμφικτύοσιν: ἀλλ̓ ὡς πάντων ἀστῶν λῷστοι σεῖσαι καὶ προσκαλέσαντες παύσασθε δικῶν ἀλληλοφάγων (Mein. Fr. Comic. ii. p. 364). Ἀριστοφάνης Δαιταλεῦσιν: ἔσειον: ᾔτουν χρήματ̓ ἠπείλουν πάλιν ἐσυκοφάντουν (ii. p. 1040, fr. 20),--he supposes “that the usage of σείειν in the sense of extorting money was derived from the notion of shaking fruit trees, and that the common notion of συκοφαντεῖν was also derived from the same source. Σείειν καὶ συκοφαντεῖν (Antiph. de Saltat. § 43) describes the operation of one who shakes a fig-tree in order to discover the fruit; for by his shaking the fig-tree, all the ripe figs are made to fall off. When these words are transferred to the business of an.informer, σείειν means to agitate a man. by threatening to inform against him, and ουκοφαντεῖν means to discover his money; i. e., to make him pay a large sum of money in order to escape from the vexation of a lawsuit. Thus' a man's money is called his ‘figs,’ a rich man is said to be ‘full of fruit,’ one: who bleeds easily is said ‘to be ripe,’ and to extort money from a man is called plucking his ‘figs’: e. g. Aristoph. Equ. 324, 259, etc.” 1

Whatever the term may have signified originally, it came to be applied to all ill-natured, malicious, groundless, and vexatious accusations it is defined by Suidas, Τὸ ψευδῶς τινὸς κατηγορεῖν.

Sycophantes, in the time of Aristophanes and Demosthenes, designated a person of a peculiar class, not capable of being described by any single word in our language, but well understood and appreciated by an Athenian. He had not much in common with our sycophant, but was a happy compound of the common barretor, informer, pettifogger, busybody, rogue, liar, and slanderer. The Athenian law permitted any citizen (τὸν βουλόμενον) to give information against public offenders, and prosecute them in courts of justice (Plut. Sol. 18). This was done to encourage the detection of crime, and a reward (e. g. τὰ ἡμίση τῶν φανθέντων, [Dem.] c. Theocr. p. 1325.13; C. I. A. ii. No. 203 b, etc.;--τὰ τρία μέρη ἐκ τῶν νόμων τῷ ἰδιώτῃ τῷ ἀπογράψαντι γίγνεται, Dem. c. Nicostr. p. 1247.2, etc.) was frequently given to the successful accuser. Such a power, with such a temptation, was likely to be abused, unless checked by the force of public opinion, or the vigilance of the judicial tribunals. Unfortunately, the character of the Athenian democracy--and we may say of any democracy, Plut. Tim. 37--and the temper of the judges, furnished additional incentives to the informer (Isocr. c. Callim. § § 9, 10; Xenoph. Mem. 4.8, 5; see, however, Hyper. pro Eux. 100.45). Eminent statesmen, orators, generals, magistrates, and all persons, of wealth and influence, were regarded with jealousy by the people. The more causes came into court, the more fees accrued to the judges, and fines and confiscations enriched the public treasury. The prosecutor therefore in public causes, as well as the plaintiff in civil, was looked on with a more favourable eye than the defendant, and the chances of success made the employment a lucrative one (ἐγγλωττογαστόρων γένος, Aristoph. Birds 1695 ff.; ζῆν ἐκ τοῦ συκοφαντεῖν, Isocr. de Permut. § 164; Xenoph. Hell. 2.3, 12, etc.). It was not always necessary to go to trial, or even to commence legal proceedings. The timid defendant was glad to compromise the cause, to escape the annoyance and anxiety of a public trial, or to save his reputation, for not to have prosecuted nor to have been prosecuted was a much-coveted distinction (Lys. de Affect. Tyran. Apol. § 3; Isocr. c. Euthyn. § § 5, 8; Plut. Comp. Nic. c. Crasso, 1; Lys. c. Eratosth. § 4, pro Mantith. § 12; Isae. Cleon. § 1; Hyperid. pro Lycophr. 100.14, etc.). When Lycurgus bought off an information for a talent, and was charged with this, he said he was much pleased that, after having administered the affairs of the state for so long a time, he was accused rather of giving than of receiving ([Plut.] Vitt. X. Oratt. p. 842 B). Rich people who were especially the prey of these informers tried to be on good terms with them (θεραπεύειν, Xenoph. Symp. 4, 29 f.). When Crito complained to Socrates, that for a man who wished to mind his own business it was difficult to live at Athens,--that at this very time people were bringing actions against him, not because they had suffered any wrong from him, but because they thought that he would rather pay them a sum of money than have the trouble of law proceedings,--Socrates advised him to secure the services of a man skilled in the law, to defend him against them; Crito did so and lived henceforth in peace (Xenoph. Mem. 2.9). There was another source of income for these sycophants: they laid informations against people for money, e. g. Cephisius received 1000 drachmas from Callias for laying an information against Andocides (Andoc. de Myst. § 121). Thriving informers found it not very difficult to procure [p. 2.732]witnesses: according to Theopompus ( Athen.6.254 b), Athens was full of διονυσοκολάκων . . . ἔτι δὲ ψευδομαρτύρων καὶ συκοφαντῶν καὶ ψευδοκλητήρων. The character of the συκοφάνται will be best understood by the examples and descriptions found in the Attic writers. Aristophanes directs the keenest edge of his satire a1gainst them. (See particularly Acharn. 818 ff.; Av. 1410 ff.; Plut. 850 ff.) Demosthenes says: πονηρὸν συκοφάντης ἀεὶ καὶ πανταχόθεν καὶ βάσκανον καὶ φιλαίτιον (de Cor. p. 307.242; cf. c. Eubul. p. 1309.34). Συκοφαντεῖν τριάκοντα μνᾶς in Lysias (c. Evand. § 24) signifies “to extort thirty minas by sycophant-like practices.” (See further Aeschin. de F. L. § 145; Dem. de Cor. p. 291.189, etc.) That the increase of litigation and perjury was in some measure owing to the establishment of clubs and political associations, and the violence of party spirit, may be gathered from various passages of the Attic writers (Thuc. 8.54, ξυνωμοσίαι ἐπὶ δίκαις καὶ ἀρχαῖς; Dem. c. Boeot. i. p. 995.2 = ii. p. 1010.9, ἐργαστήριον συκοφαντῶν; cf. c. Zenoth. p. 885.10; c. Pantaen. p. 978.39; c. Theocr. p. 1335.42).

The Athenian law did indeed provide a remedy against this mischievous class of men. There was a γραφὴ συκοφαντίας tried before the Thesmothetae (Poll. 8.88, 46; the title of Lysias' speech against Aeschines was not περὶ συκοφαντίας, as D. L. 2.63 says, but περὶ χρέως: cf. Sauppe, Oratt. Att. ii. p. 251). Any person who brought a false charge against another, or extorted money by threat of legal proceedings, or suborned false witnesses to give evidence that a summons had been served (Boeckh, Kleine Schriften, iv. p. 4), was liable to this γραφή. He might also be proceeded against by εἰσαγγελία, προβολή, or φάσις (Isocr. de Perm. § 314; Poll. 8.47). The trial was an ἀγὼν τιμητός (Lys. c. Agorat. § 65, a fine of 10,000 drachmas: cf. Harpocr. s. v. παλιναίρετος; ἄτιμοι ἐκ συκοφαντίας, Aeschin. de F. L. § 177, cf. Hyper. pro Eux. 100.44--according to Heraldus, Anim. p. 555, capital punishment was the rule, but Andoc. de Myst. § 20 applies to a false μήνυσις, not to a γραφὴ συκοφαντίας).2 Besides this, if any man brought a criminal charge against another, and neglected to prosecute it (ἐπεξελθεῖν), he was liable to a penalty of 1000 drachmas, and lost the privilege of instituting a similar proceeding in future, which was considered to be a species of ἀτιμία ([Dem.] c. Theocr. p. 1323.5 f.; Lex. Rhet. Cantabr. p. 669, 20 f.; Dem. c. Mid. p. 548.103: when a φάσις against a merchant was not prosecuted, the punishment of the accuser was specially severe, [Dem.] c. Theocr. p. 1324.10 f., cf. Heffter, Ath. Gerichtsverf. p. 199). The same consequence followed if he failed to obtain a fifth part of the votes at the trial (Dem. c. Androt. p. 601.26; p. 647.80, etc.) except in an εἰσαγγελία κακώσεως (Isae. Pyrrh. § 47; Dem. c. Pantaen. p. 980.46), in a charge for destroying a sacred olive (Lys. pro Sacra Olea, § 37), and in an εἰσαγγελία for political offences up to a certain time, after which the unsuccessful accuser was made liable to a fine of 1000 drachmas without incurring ἀτιμία (Poll. 8.53). The time when this change took place can only be approximately fixed. The accuser was ἀκίνδυνος at the date of Hyperides' speech pro Lycop/hr. (100.7, 10); but when Demosthenes was assailed in the period following the disaster of Chaeronea by every kind of legal engine that could be brought to bear upon him, the accuser became liable to a penalty (and this was most likely the one mentioned by Pollux and Harpocration, viz. 1000 drachmas), or Demosthenes' prominent mention of the fact of his accusers having not received τὸ μέρος τῶν ψήφων would be pointless (de Cor. p. 310.250, οὐκοῦν ἐν μὲν εἷς εἰσηγγελόμην ὅτε ἀπεψηφίζεσθέ μου καὶ τὸ μέρος τῶν ψήφων τοῖς διώκουσιν οὐ μετεδίδοτε, etc.). The same fine was incurred if any man denounced a scrutiny against an orator and failed to obtain one-fifth of the votes (Dem. c. Androt. p. 599.21; p. 600.23). The ἐπωβελία in civil actions was a penalty of the same kind and having the same object: viz. to prevent the abuse of legal process, and check frivolous and unjust actions. Such were the remedies provided by law, but they were found inefficacious in practice; and the words of Aristophanes (Aristoph. Pl. 885) were not more severe than true: “There is no charm against the bite of a sycophantes” (Drumann, d. Arbeiter u. Communisten in Griechenl. pp. 96-105; Büchsenschütz Besitz u. Erwerb, p. 568 f.; Att. Process, ed. Lipsius, p. 297 n. 285, pp. 413 ff., 914 f., 952 f., 245).

[C.R.K] [H.H]

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