IV. 4. Defence on a Charge of seeking to abolish the Democracy, Or. XXV
4. Defence on a Charge of seeking to abolish the Democracy.
[Or. XXV.]—This title, given to the speech in the MSS., is clearly wrong. The speaker is, indeed, chiefly concerned to prove that he is guiltless of any share in the crimes of the Thirty Tyrants; but it is clear that he was not upon his trial for high treason. There is no reference to any penalties which threatened him. The question is whether he shall, or shall not, be admitted to certain privileges. Thus in § 3 he insists on his claim to participation in the advantages of citizenship; in § 4 he speaks of rights which citizens who have done no evil ought to share with positive benefactors of the State; in § 14 he says to the judges:—‘If, when I might have had
office, I declined it, I have a right to receive honour from you now.
’ Clearly this speech was delivered on
The Speech really connected with a Dokimasia.
the occasion of a dokimasia for some office to which the speaker had been designated, but his admission to which was opposed. The cause is heard by an ordinary court—probably under the presidency of the Thesmothetae1
—and on appeal from a decision for the speaker already given by the Senate. The date
must be placed between 402 and 400 B. C.; probably nearer to the lower limit2
. The accusers were Epigenes, Diophanes and Kleisthenes (§ 25). The defendant is not named.
It would not be strange, he says, if the speeches made
against him had excited the indignation of the judges against all, without distinction, who had remained at Athens under the Thirty. Much more might, indeed, have been said about the crimes of the Tyrants. But it is unmeaning to charge those crimes upon men who had no share in them. If he
can prove that he is innocent, he may surely claim at least the ordinary privileges of citizenship in common with men of more distinguished services (§§ 1—6). No man is born an oligarch or a democrat. He becomes one or the other according to his private interest (τῶν ἰδίᾳ συμφερόντων
, § 10). This is proved by history. Phrynichos and Peisandros were demagogues before they became oligarchs. Men who helped to overthrow the Four Hundred were afterwards numbered with the Thirty: many of the Four Hundred themselves were with the democrats at the Peiraeus; some of those who had expelled the Four Hundred were afterwards among the Thirty; and some of the men who gave in their names for the march against Eleusis, after going forth with the people, were besieged along with the Tyrants3
The explanation is simply that their interests varied at different times. Now, the interest of the speaker lay wholly with the democracy. He had been five times trierarch and had been in four sea-fights (§ 12). The establishment of the Thirty destroyed his chance of reward for these services. Neither under the First Oligarchy nor under the Second did he hold office (§§ 7—14). If he did no wrong in the Anarchy, much more will he be a good citizen under the restored Democracy. The victims of the Tyrants must not be confounded with their agents. It was the error of the Thirty that they visited the sins of a few corrupt demagogues on
all the citizens: let not the people so err now (§§ 15—20). Dissensions among the Thirty gave the exiles their first hopes of success; let not disunion in the democracy now give occasion to the enemies of Athens, but let the oaths of amnesty be kept towards all (§§ 21—24). After the fall of the Four Hundred, the rigours which bad advisers caused to be adopted against their political opponents brought the city to ruin. And now sycophants, counselling a revengeful policy, oppose themselves to the views of those who were really active in restoring the democracy. Such men show what they would have been had they shared the power of the Thirty. The friends of the city advise differently. Let the Amnesty hold good for all. When those who are really answerable for the past troubles are brought to account, severity is excusable; but innocent men must not be mixed up with them (§§ 25—35).
The speaker had evidently been closely connected with the party of the Tyrants; for though he states his services to the democracy before 405 B. C., of his political character since that time he has nothing better to say than that it has been harmless; indeed, he implies a contrast between himself and those who had been true to the democracy at its need (§ 4). It is hard to understand the high praise which
has been given to this speech by some critics of Lysias4
; it is barely conceivable that one of the ablest of them should count it his best work5
. The speaker's interpretation of the Amnesty is, indeed, larger and truer than the opposite view taken by the accuser of Evandros6
; and his elaborate exposition of the doctrine that political creed is purely an affair of self
interest may claim the praise of candour. The style has vigour, but neither brilliancy nor dignity; and the êthos of the speaker, as a moderately intelligent and thoroughly practical man, can scarcely be accounted persuasive7