I. 2. Defence on a Charge of Taking Bribes, Or. XXI
2. Defence on a Charge of Taking Bribes.
[Or. XXI.]—The first part of this speech, in which the accused met the specific charges against him, has been lost; the part which remains contains only his appeal to his previous character generally. The precise nature of the charge is therefore doubtful. In § 21 the speaker asks that he may not be adjudged guilty of taking bribes; hence the title given to the fragment. The accused had probably held some office, and was charged, when he gave account of it, with corrupt practices.
A clue to the date is given by the fact that the
speaker became of full age (i.e. eighteen) in the archonship of Theopompos (§ 1), 411 B. C.; and had performed leiturgies yearly to the archonship of Eukleides (§ 4), 403 B. C. No reason appears why his
public services should have ceased abruptly in that year. On the other hand, if he had performed leiturgies later than 403 B.C., he would probably have mentioned them. The year of the speech may therefore be conjectured to be 402, and the age of the speaker 261
Having already answered the accusers in detail, he goes on, in the extant fragment, to enumerate his public services. As choregus and trierarch he has spent upwards of ten talents in eight years—more than four times the amount which would have satisfied legal requirements (§§ 1—5). His trireme, when he was trierarch, was so good that Alkibiades, as admiral, had done him the unwelcome honour of sailing in it (§ 7); and it was one of the twelve which made good their escape from Aegospotami (§ 10).
He might fairly claim some substantial recognition of these costly services; but he asks only not to be deprived of his own property (§§ 11—19). In conclusion he reminds the judges that one who had risked his life and whole fortune for the State was not likely to have taken bribes to defraud it (§§ 21, 22). Beggary had often enough hung over his wife and children when he was fighting for Athens; it would be hard if it should at last actually befall them by the sentence of an Athenian court (§§ 24—52).
Lysias shows here strikingly his power of adapting language to character; the êthos is the merit of the speech. It expresses the strong, honest feeling of a man who has made sacrifices for his country, who is conscious of his desert, and who claims, rather than begs, acquittal. ‘I think, judges, that it would be much fairer for you to be indicted by the revenueofficers for keeping my property, than for me to be
now in peril on a charge of keeping the property of the Treasury...I am not proud of what is left to me, but of what I have spent upon you. My fortune came to me from others—the credit for its use is my own.’ (§§ 16, 17.)