Against the Corndealers, Or. XXII
6. Against the Corndealers.
[Or. XXII.].—The Guild of Corndealers (σιτοπῶλαι
) was composed of aliens (§ 5) resident in the Peiraeus, who bought corn as it came into port and sold it in small quantities to the citizens. The trade was a good one, and was watched with jealousy both by citizens and by wholesale importers (ἔμποροι
, § 27). Stringent laws, administered by a board of Corn-Inspectors (σιτοφύλακες
, § 8), were framed to limit the gains of the retaildealers. One of these laws forbade them to charge more than one obol a bushel over cost-price (§ 8); another, in order to check monopoly, provided that no one should buy more than 50 phormoi (about 50 bushels) of corn at one time (§ 6).
It is this second law which is here alleged to have been broken by the guild or by some of its members. The case is tried before an ordinary court under the presidency of the Thesmothetae: the penalty is death.
The date of the speech cannot be fixed. All that
can be said is that it was certainly later than the beginning of the Corinthian War in 394 B. C.; possibly later than the Peace of Antalkidas in 387 B. C.1
The speaker begins by deprecating the notion that the charge preferred by him is vexatious or spiteful. On the contrary, he says, he was at the beginning of the business suspected of unduly favouring the Guild. An impeachment was first laid before the Senate, who were inclined to deliver the Corndealers then and there to the Eleven. It was he who then counselled moderation and the observance of the usual legal course. Accordingly the case was heard before the Senate (which was itself the preliminary court in cases of impeachment). No one came forward as accuser; and the speaker then made the accusation himself. The case was sent by the Senate for trial by an ordinary court (§§ 1—4).
One of the Corndealers is then questioned, and admits having bought more than fifty bushels at once, but says that he did so by the recommendation of the Corn-Inspectors. The speaker shows, first, that this is no defence; next, that the statement is false (§§ 5—10). The dealers plead that their object in buying large quantities was to be able to sell cheap; but their claim to public spirit can be refuted (§§ 11—16). They have acknowledged their combination against the wholesale importers. Their death is the satisfaction due to these and to the officials who have so often been punished for inability to check such frauds (§§ 17—22).
Compact and clear, without any attempt at ornament, this short speech is at least good of its kind,—a specimen of the strictly business-like style of Lysias.