II. 1 On the Confiscation of the Property of the Brother of Nikias, Or. XVIII
On the Confiscation of the Property of the Brother of Nikias.
[Or. XVIII.]—Eukrates, brother of the General Nikias, was put to death by the Thirty Tyrants in 404 B. C. Several years afterwards a certain Poliochos1
proposed and carried in the ekklesia a decree for confiscating the estate left by Eukrates. In this speech the elder of the two sons of Eukrates pleads against the execution of the decree.
The legal form of the cause is doubtful. Two
views are possible. (1) The sons of Eukrates may have indicated Poliochos under the Graphê Paranomôn for proposing an unconstitutional measure. In this case the speech is an Accusation. (2) Poliochos may have indicted the sons of Eukrates for withholding property due to the State under the decree; the action being in form an apographê, or claim for moneys withheld from the Treasury. In this case the speech is a Defence2
One point is in favour of the latter view. The speaker appeals in his peroration, first, to the judges
generally, then to the Syndici (§ 26). Now these fiscal officers would have had the presidency of the court in a cause affecting the treasury. But it is not clear why they should have had jurisdiction in a trial under the Graphê Paranomôn.
On the other hand, a passage in § 14 supports the first view. ‘All men will know’ [i. e. if Poliochos gains the cause] ‘that on the former occasion you fined3
in 1000 drachmas the man who wished to confiscate our land, whereas on this occasion he has carried his proposal; and that, therefore, in these two cases Athenian judges gave two opposite verdicts, the same man being on his trial for a breach of the Constitution.
The last words—παρανόμων φεύγοντος τοῦ αὐτοῦ ἀνδρός
—may possibly be corrupt4
. But if they are right, then they prove that this trial, like the former, was a Graphê Paranomôn against Poliochos. And this is confirmed by the fact that ‘Against Poliochos’ is the title under which the speech is cited by Galen5
. On the whole, the probabilities appear to lean to this side. But the evidence does not suffice to decide the question.
The date may be inferred from two circumstances. (1) The speaker and his brothers were children in
404 (§ 10), but are now adults, holding the office of trierarchs (§ 21). (2) On the other hand, Athens and Sparta are at peace (§ 15). The Corinthian War (394—387 B. C.), therefore, either has not begun or is over. And as the son of Nikêratos (§ 10), the first cousin of the speaker, is not mentioned as having yet taken any part in public affairs, the earlier date is more likely—396 or 395 B. C., approximately.
The following stemma shows the relationship of the persons with whom the speech is concerned:—
Stemma of the family of Nikias
Diognêtosreturned from exile in 403, but is now dead, § 9
Eukratesdied 404 (§ 5 of speech)
Nikiasthe General, died 413
Eldest son, the speaker
Second son, § 21
NikêratosXenoph. Sympos. 1.2, etc.
The speaker begins by dwelling on the public services
of his uncles Nikias and Diognêtos and his father Eukrates (§§ 1—12). He next argues that a confiscation is never in any true sense a gain to the State. First, it endangers the most precious of all the city's treasures—concord among citizens. In the next place, property thus confiscated is always sold below its true value, and part even of the sum which it fetches is made away with by the proposer of the measure. Left in the hands of patriotic owners—like the speaker, his brother, and his cousin, who, all three, are trierarchs—it is far more profitable to the State (§§ 13—23).
They can produce no relatives to weep and pray for them; they are the last of their house; they can only appeal to the judges to protect the kinsmen of those who suffered for the democracy. Let the judges remember the time when, in exile and poverty, they prayed to the gods for a day when they might be able to show their gratitude to the children of their champions. This gratitude is claimed now. The
danger which threatens the accused is nothing less than utter ruin (§§ 24—27).
This fragment is interesting as giving a sequel, in the history of his family, to the personal fortunes
Distinctive quality of the Speech.
of Nikias; it is interesting, too, as being distinguished by a quality somewhat rare in the works of Lysias. Few of his speeches have so much pathos. The address is emphatically an appeal to pity; and excites it less by direct appeals than by its simplicity and a tone of manly self-restraint. One passage is especially striking—the description of Diognêtos bringing the orphan children of his brothers to Pausanias, and imploring the Spartan king to remember all that their fathers had suffered (§ 10).