previous next

I. 5. Against Nikomachos, Or. XXX

5. Against Nikomachos. [Or. XXX.].—Soon after the fall of the First Oligarchy in 411 B.C., a decree of the ekklesia (probably in 410) appointed a board of special Commissioners (Nomothetae1) for the revision of the laws; especially for the recension of those old laws of Solon, written on the sides of the wooden prisms called Kurbeis or Axones, which now needed to be freed from corruptions and interpolations. Nikomachos2 was a member of the Commission. Four months were assigned for the work3; but Nikomachos contrived to extend his share of it over six years—i.e. until the overthrow of the democracy in 404—without rendering an account.

After the fall of the Second Oligarchy in 403, a second Revising Commission was appointed by the Senate. These special Nomothetae were to report within one month to the Senate and the 500 ordinary Nomothetae selected by the demes4. Nikomachos was again employed; his special duty on this occasion being to revise the laws which concerned the public sacrifices5. Again he failed to discharge his task within the prescribed term. At the date of this speech he had held office for four years. The speech probably belongs, therefore, to 399 B. C. Nikomachos is accused before the Board of Auditors (the ten Logistae) of having failed to render an account of his office (ἀλογίου δίκη6.

The speaker is one of several accusers (§ 34), probably not the principal; the penalty demanded is death (§§ 23, 27.)


The first part of the speech sets forth the antecedents of Nikomachos. His father was a public slave; he himself, after late enrolment in a phratria, became an under-scribe to a magistrate. His present offence was not the first of the kind which he had committed. After the First Oligarchy, as after the Second, commissioners for the revision of the laws were appointed. Nikomachos had been one of these also; and had retained the appointment for six years (§ 2)— (that is, till 404 B.C.)—(§§ 1—6).

He will perhaps try to cast upon his accuser the suspicion of oligarchical sympathies. It ought not to be forgotten that it was he himself who, by a forged law, enabled the oligarchs to destroy Kleophon7 in 405. His sufferings under the Thirty were involuntary, and cannot be set against an action which was deliberate (§§ 7—16). The speaker will be taunted by Nikomachos with impiety because he complained in the ekklesia of the number of public sacrifices which this self-authorised legislator had ordered. But the truth is that, by ordering a number of new sacrifices, Nikomachos has caused those prescribed by the laws of Solon (τὰ ἐκ τῶν κύρβεων, § 17) to be neglected; and has in two years spent twelve talents more than was necessary (§ 21). Hence the city, from want of funds, has been driven to confiscations (§ 22). Nikomachos ought to suffer the extreme penalty, as a warning to the corrupt officials who, confident in their powers of speech, are reckless of public or private misery (§§ 17—25).

Neither service in war, nor liberality at home, nor the merit of ancestors, nor the hope of his own gratitude, can be pleaded as a reason for acquitting him. The people themselves might well be denounced for entrusting to such as he the powers once held by a Solon, a Themistokles, a Perikles (§ 28). Nikomachos has sought in vain to bribe his accusers; let his judges do their duty as firmly (§§ 26—35).

Unsparing and rather coarse sarcasm is the strength of this attach. Throughout, Nikomachos is treated, not as the recorder of laws, but as the son of the public slave, as the ex-under-scribe. ‘Are we to acquit him for his ancestors?’ asks the accuser. ‘Nay, for his own sake he deserves death; and for theirs—the slave-market’ (§ 27).

1 Nikomachos is called in §§ 2 and 27 νομοθέτης. This was probably the ordmary official designation of the special Commissioners both in 411 and 403: the title ἀναγραφεὺς τῶν νόμων, ‘Recorder’ of the laws, also applied to Nikomachos in § 2, being sometimes used, perhaps, to distinguish the special from the ordinary Nomothetae — Rauchenstein notices in Demosth. Olynth. III. § 10 another trace of the occasional appointment of special Nomothetae: see his Introduction to this speech, Ausgewahlte Reden des Lysias, p. 130, n.

2 In § 11, as once in a quotation by Harpokration (s. v. ἐπιβολή), Nikomachos is called Nikomachides:—πείθουσι Νικομαχίδην νόμον ἀποδεῖξαι ὡς χρὴ καὶ τὴν βουλὴν συνδικάζειν. Rauchenstein (ad loc.) thinks that is merely an instance of the patronymic used convertibly with the simple name, as Eubulides for Eubulos in Or. XIX. § 29; cf. Androkleides for Androkles in Isae. Or. VI. 46. Blass, with more likelihood, suspects a mere blunder. Is it possible that in § 11 we ought to insert τοῦτον after πείθουσι, and understand:—‘they persuade the defendant to enuntiate a law of which he was himself the parent’ (Νικομαχίδην νόμον) —a law invented by Nikomachos for the occasion? This would be quite in keeping with the sarcastic tone of the speech.

3 § 2 προσταχθὲν γὰρ αὐτῷ τεσσάρων μηνῶν ἀναγράψαι...ἑξέτη τὴν ἀρχὴν ἐποιήσατο.

4 The psephisma of 403 for the revision of the laws is given in full by Andokides in the speech On the Mysteries, § 83.

5 See § 25, καὶ τῶν ὁσίων καὶ τῶν ἱερῶν ἀναγραφεὺς γενόμενος εἰς ἀμφότερα ταῦτα ἡμάρτηκεν. Here τῶν ὁσίων refers to the first Commission of 410 B. C., when the laws entrusted to the revision of Nikomachos were only secular; τῶν ἱερῶν to the second Commission of 403 B. C., when the laws which came under his revision were those relating to public worship.

6 The description in the MSS. heading of the speech—εὐθυνῶν κατηγορία—is inaccurate, as Rauchenstein points out (Introd. p. 131). This would mean that Nikomachos had rendered an account, and that, when he rendered it, an accusation was brought against him by some citizen; which would then have been heard by the εὔθυνοι. The charge against Nikomachos was that he had never rendered any account to the Logistae. The points of law connected with this speech are discussed in an essay entitled Diatribe in Lysae orationem in Nikomachum, by F. V. Weijers, Leyden, 1839.

7 Kleophon, λυροποιός, the demagogue: Ar. Ran. 677: Arist. Rhet. I. 15, etc. Cf. Lys. de bonis Aristoph. (Or. XIX) § 48: Κλεοφῶντα πάντες ἴστε ὅτι πολλὰ ἔτη διεχείρισε τὰ τῆς πόλεως πάντα.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: