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VI. 1. Against Eratosthenes, Or. XII

1. Against Eratosthenes. [Or. XII.]—Polemarchos, brother of Lysias, had been put to death by the Thirty Tyrants. Eratosthenes, one of their number, was the man who had arrested him and taken him to prison. In this speech Lysias, himself the speaker, charges Eratosthenes with the murder of Polemarchos, and, generally, with his share in the Tyranny.

A question has to be considered in regard to the

Form of procedure.
form of the accusation. Was Eratosthenes prosecuted under an ordinary indictment for murder? Or was he accused on the occasion of his coming forward to render account of his office as one of the Thirty?

On the former supposition it is hard to say before what court the trial took place. Clearly it was not the Areiopagos. If it was the Delphinion, then Eratosthenes must have pleaded some justification of the homicide; but he admits its guilt, and lays the blame on his colleagues (§ 24). If it was an ordinary heliastic court under the presidency of the Eleven, then there must have been an arrest (ἀπαγωγή) by the Eleven; but this does not seem to have taken place1.

The other supposition offers less difficulty. A special clause in the Amnesty of 403 B. C. excluded the Thirty Tyrants, the Ten who had succeeded them, and the Eleven who had served them. But any one even of these might enjoy the Amnesty if he chose to stand a public inquiry, and was acquitted2. When the oligarchy was finally overthrown, Pheidon and Eratosthenes were the only members3 of it who stayed at Athens. As they dared to do this, they must have availed themselves of the permission to give account of their office. And Lysias could have had no better opportunity for preferring his accusation than that which would be given by the public inquiry into the conduct of Eratosthenes. Two things in the speech itself tend to show that it was spoken on this occasion. First, its general scope. It has a wider range, and deals more generally with the history of the Anarchy, than would be natural if it was concerned exclusively with an ordinary indictment for murder. Only the first third of the speech relates to Polemarchos; thenceforth to the end his name is not mentioned, even in the peroration; the political offences of Eratosthenes are exclusively dwelt upon. It may be noticed, too, that at the commencement Lysias speaks in the plural of ‘the defendants’ and their hostility to Athens, as if Eratosthenes was only in the same predicament with several other persons. Secondly, an expression in § 37 should be noticed. The speaker there says that he has done enough in having shown that the guilt of the accused reaches the point at which death is deserved. He would not have said this if death had been the necessary penalty in case of conviction. But he might well say it if his charge was preferred, among many others, when Eratosthenes was giving his account, and when the question was what degree of punishment, if any, he was to suffer4.


The date must be 403 B. C., the year of Eukleides. After their flight from Athens the Thirty maintained themselves for a short time at Eleusis. Soon after the restoration of the democracy, an expedition was made against Eleusis; the generals of the Thirty, who came out to ask for a parley, were seized and put to death; and the Tyrants, with their chief adherents, fled from Attica (Xen. Hellen. II. iv. 43). But it is clear from § 80 of the speech that this expedition had not yet taken place.

Again, in §§ 92 f. Lysias addresses successively two distinct parties—the ‘men of the city’ who remained in Athens under the Thirty, and the ‘men of the Peiraeus.’ The line of demarcation could have been drawn so sharply only while the war of parties was quite recent; not two or three years later, when exiles and oligarchs had long been fused once more into one civic body. It was, no doubt, remembered for years who had been on one side and who on the other. But in a speech made (say) in 400 B. C., we should not find the ‘men of the city’ and the ‘men of Peiraeus’ addressed separately as if they still formed two distinct camps.

The speech falls into two divisions. The first and shorter (§§ 1—36) deals with the special charge against Eratosthenes; the second, with his political character and with the crimes of the Tyrants generally.

I. §§ 1—36.

The difficulty here is not how to begin, but where to stop. Ordinarily the accuser is expected to show that he has some motive for hostility to the accused. Here it would be more natural to ask the accused what motive he and his fellows have had for their hostility to Athens (§§ 1—3).

Lysias then enters on his narrative of the facts. His father had been invited by Perikles to settle at Athens as a resident-alien, and had lived there peaceably for thirty years. His family had never been involved in any troubles until the time of the Thirty Tyrants. Theognis and Peison, members of that body, suggested the policy of plundering the residentaliens. These two men first paid a visit to the shield-manufactory of Lysias and his brother, and took an inventory of the slaves. They next came to the dwelling-house of Lysias, and got all his ready money, about three talents. He managed to slip away from them, and took refuge with a friend in the Peiraeus; then, hearing that his brother Polemarchos had been met in the street by Eratosthenes and taken to prison, he escaped by night to Megara. Polemarchos received the usual mandate of the Thirty—to drink the hemlock; and had a beggar's burial. Though he and Lysias had yielded such rich plunder, the very earrings were taken from the ears of his wife (§ 19). Now the murderer of Polemarchos was Eratosthenes (§§ 4—23). Here he is briefly cross-examined:—

‘Did you arrest Polemarchos or not?’ ‘Terrified by the orders of the authorities—I proceeded to do so.’ ‘And were you in the council chamber when we were being talked about?’ ‘I was.’ ‘Did you support, or oppose, those who advised our execution?’ ‘Opposed them.’ ‘Opposed our being put to death?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Considering such treatment of us to be unjust—or just?’ ‘Unjust.’

Lysias comments indignantly on these answers. If Eratosthenes had really protested against the sentence, he would not have been selected to make the arrest. He was one of the Thirty themselves and had nothing to fear. All the circumstances disprove his pretence of good-will; instead of contenting himself with a visit to the house of Polemarchos, he seized him in the street; he gave him no friendly hint beforehand. If it is true that he opposed the sentence, he must at least prove that he did not make the arrest, or did not make it in a harsh manner. The judges are then reminded of the importance which their decision will have as an example for both citizens and foreigners. The fate of the generals who conquered at Arginusae is contrasted with the deserts of those who profited by the defeat at Aegospotami. If those suffered death, what is due to these? (§§ 24—36.)

II. §§ 37—100.

To say more is superfluous: the guilt of Eratosthenes has already been shown to be capital. But lest he should appeal to his past life, this must be exposed. In the first oligarchy [411 B. C.] he had to fly from the Hellespont after an unsuccessful attempt to corrupt the democratic crews of Athenian vessels there. After the defeat of Athens [405 B. C.] he and Kritias were first among the Five Ephori and afterwards among the Thirty Tyrants. Perhaps he will say that he obeyed the Thirty through fear. No, in the cause of Theramenes he dared to oppose them. But this opposition was not patriotic; all the quarrels among the Thirty were selfish. The so-called moderate party to which Theramenes belonged was represented by the later Board of Ten. And the Ten, instead of promoting peace, waged war with the exiles more bitterly than the Thirty (§§ 37—61).

Theramenes is the man whom Eratosthenes takes credit for having defended. It can be fancied how eagerly he would have claimed friendship with Themistokles, who built the walls of Athens, if he is proud of friendship with Theramenes —who pulled them down. Theramenes, when a member of the first oligarchy, betrayed his own closest friends, Antiphon and Archeptolemos; after Aegospotami, he undertook to make peace without loss of honour, and yet it was he who proposed at Sparta that Athens should lose her walls and her fleet; it was he who advocated the proposal of Drakontides for the establishment of the Thirty; and it is this man— twice the enslaver of Athens—whom Eratosthenes glories in having defended! (§§ 62—78.)

This is no season for mercy. The man who condemned, untried, the fathers, sons, brothers of those who now judge him, does not deserve even a trial. His advocates can urge no merits either of his or of their own. His witnesses are mistaken if they think that they can shield from peril of death the men who made it dangerous to attend a burial. They will say that Eratosthenes was the least criminal of the Thirty. Is he to escape because there are twenty-nine greater villains in Greece? (§§ 79—91.)

Lysias now addresses himself, first, to those who remained in Athens during the Anarchy, then to the exiles who returned from the Peiraeus—speaking as if he had before him two definite bodies of men. He reminds each party of their peculiar reasons for hating the Thirty. The ‘men of the city’ should hate that despotism; for it shared with them nothing but its shame, and forced upon them an unholy strife. The ‘men of Peiraeus’ should hate it: it proscribed them, persecuted them, severed them from country and kinsfolk. Had it triumphed, no sanctuary would have protected them, nothing could have saved their children from outrage at home or slavery abroad. But it is needless to speak of what might have been: what has been is too great for words. It can only be felt—felt, with boundless resentment for the shrines which these men desecrated, for the city which they humbled, —for the dead, who are listening now to mark if the judges will avenge them.

‘I will cease to accuse. You have heard, seen, suffered:— you have them:—judge.’ (§§ 92—100.)

The result is unknown. But as the accused had

Result of the Trial.
evidently strong support, and as Lysias complains of the difficulty which he had experienced in finding witnesses to some of the principal facts, it is probable that the penalty of death, at least, was not inflicted5.

The Speech Against Eratosthenes must take the

Character of the Speech.
first place among the extant orations of Lysias. In the two parts into which it naturally falls the speech presents, in perhaps unique combination, two distinct styles of eloquence,—first, the plain earnestness of a private demand for redress—then the lofty vehemence of a political impeachment. The compass of the power shown may best be measured by the two passages which mark its limits —on the one hand, the account of the arrest of Polemarchos, which has almost the flow of Herodotean narrative;—on the other hand, the passionate appeal to the two classes of men who had suffered from the Thirty—worked up with all the resources of a finished rhetoric. As regards the first, what may be called the private, division of the speech, it is very noticeable how little attempt Lysias makes to excite compassion; he contents himself with a bare recital of facts. He relies less on the atrocity of the wrong itself than on its significance as part of that system of organised crime which he sees personified in Eratosthenes. He therefore throws his whole weight upon the second, the public, division of his subject; and here he gives us, first, two political biographies, the lives of Eratosthenes and Theramenes—then, a retrospect of the government to which they belonged. In one sense this speech of Lysias may be compared with that of Demosthenes On the Crown. The question at issue involves a whole chapter of Athenian history, in which both the parties to the case were actors. But there is a difference. Demosthenes, the statesman, reviews the train of events with which he deals from the level of one who has helped to determine their course. Lysias stands on the lower ground of a private person; he sees the events of the Anarchy as they were seen by the masses who suffered, but were powerless to control; he does not discuss two rival lines of policy, but recalls, as a common man, experiences familiar to thousands. It is just because he speaks from among the crowd that he is so successful in denouncing Eratosthenes, and leaves the impression that in his attack upon the worst of close oligarchies he was the spokesman of an entire people6.

1 The arguments against the hypothesis of an ordinary γραφὴ φόνου are well given by Blass (Att. Ber. pp. 540—1) Scheibe (ib) thinks that the trial was ‘fortasse apud heliastas ad Delphinium;’ Rauchenstein apparently (Introd p. 16) before an ordinary heliastic court. Francken also (Comment. Lys. p. 79) seems to reject the idea of an accusation at the εὐθῦναι.

2 Xenophon (Hellen. II. iv. 38) mentions the exclusion from the Amnesty of the Thirty, the Eleven, and ‘the Ten who had ruled in the Peiraeus.’ Andokides (De Myst. § 90) gives the words of the Amnesty: καὶ οὐ μνησικακήσω τῶν πολιτῶν οὐδενί, πλὴν τῶν τριάκοντα καὶ τῶν ἕνδεκα [καὶ τῶν δέκα]: οὐδὲ τούτων ὃς ἂν ἐθέλῃ εὐθύνας διδόναι τῆς ἀρχῆς ἧς ἦρξεν. Francken cannot be right in referring τούτων here to τῶν ἕνδεκα only (Comment. Lys. p. 79). The words τῶν δέκα are added by Sauppe and Baiter with Schneider and others.

3 Pheidon had been one of the Thirty and also one of the Ten. Eratosthenes had been one of the Thirty, but not one of the Ten. This is clear from §§ 54, 55.

4 The view that Lysias accused Eratosthenes at his εὐθῦναι is taken by Blass (Att. Ber. p. 540) and by Grote (vol. VIII. p. 402). I have purposely abstained from bringing into the question the fact that Lysias was only an isoteles. On the one hand, as Rauchenstein says, a resident-alien was probably allowed to prosecute personally, instead of being represented by his προστάτης, when the duty of avenging blood came upon him as the nearest relative. On the other hand, it can hardly be doubtful that a resident-alien would, as Blass thinks, have been allowed to prefer an accusation at the euthunae of any official whose acts had touched him: it certainly is not doubtful that such a man as Lysias would have been allowed, under the democracy which he had just helped to restore, to impeach one of the Thirty Tyrants.

5 Grote vol. VIII. p. 402: Rauchenstein Introd. p. 16: Blass Att. Ber. p. 542. As to the number of men who supported Eratosthenes, see §§ 51, 56, 65, 87, 88, 91. As to the difficulty about witnesses, §§ 46, 47. See Or. x (Against Theomnêstos) § 31, and the remarks on it below.

6 Perhaps sceptical criticism has produced no greater marvel than an essay De oratione in Eratosthenem Trigintavirum Lysiae falso tributa, by A. Hecker (progr. Gymn. Leid. a. 1847—8). After proving to his own satisfaction the spuriousness of this speech, the author ends by regretting that he has spent some time in emending the speech Against Agoratos; “quam suppositam esse a Graeculo ludimagistro idoneis argumenti sevincam. Antiphonteae omnes et omnes pariter Andocideae orationes spuriae sunt. Quae brevi singula persecuturus sum.” Literature has lost a curiosity by the non-fulfilment of this promise.

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