VI. 2. Against Agoratos, Or. XIII
2. Against Agoratos.
[Or. XIII.]—Agoratos, son of a slave, had gained the Athenian citizenship by pretending to have had a hand in the assassination of Phrynichos in 411; a merit to which, according to his accuser, he had no claim. (§ 76.) For six years afterwards he had lived at Athens, exercising the trade of informer, and laying ‘all conceivable indictments’ (τὰς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων γραφάς
§ 73) before the law-courts. He is now charged with having slandered away the lives of several distinguished citizens just before the establishment of the Thirty.
It was in the spring of 404 that Theramenes came back from Sparta with the hard conditions of peace.
Athens had been suffering for months the extreme of famine and misery; the mass of citizens were thankful for relief on any terms. But there were still a few men, influential by their position and service, who stood out against the bargain which the oligarchical party were about to strike with Sparta. The oligarchs, impatient to get rid of their opponents, had recourse to the aid of Agoratos. It was arranged that he should himself be charged with plotting to defeat the peace, and should then denounce a certain number of other persons as his accomplices. One Theokritos accused him before the Senate. A party of senators went to the Peiraeus to arrest him. Agoratos, feigning alarm, took sanctuary at the altar in the temple of Artemis at Munychia. Certain citizens who suspected him to be the victim, or the agent, of a plot, gave bail for him, and offered to take him out of Attica to await quieter times. He declined this proposal, and appeared before the Senate to give information. He denounced, first, the men who had bailed him; then several of the Generals and taxiarchs (§ 13), among whom were the General Strombichides, Dionysiodôros (kinsman of the accuser in this case), and probably Eukrates1
the brother of Nikias; also a number of other citizens. These, with Agoratos himself, were imprisoned; and it was decreed that they should be tried both by the Senate and by a special court of Two Thousand. Immediately afterwards the peace with Sparta was ratified2
The government of the Thirty having been established, the prisoners were tried; but not by the Two Thousand; only by a new oligarchical Senate. They were all condemned to death, except Agoratos, who was banished. In 404 he joined the democratic exiles at Phylê, and afterwards returned to Athens
with them; but appears to have been ill received (§ 77). He is now accused of murder by Dionysios, cousin and brother-in-law to Dionysiodôros.
The procedure was not by an indictment before the Areiopagos or the Delphinion, but by an information (endeixis) laid before the archon, followed by a summary arrest (apagogê）—precisely as in the case of the Mitylenean charged with the murder of Herodes, for whom Antiphon wrote a defence; the case was therefore heard by an ordinary court under the presidency of the Eleven. There had, however, been a slight informality. Strictly speaking, endeixis and apagogê were applicable only in cases where the accused had been taken in the act; though, as appears from this and from the Herodes case, the limitation was not always observed. Here the accuser had left out the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτοφώρῳ
in drawing up the indictment; but had been compelled to add them by the Eleven, although in this instance they had no real meaning (§§ 84, 86).
The trial took place ‘long after’ the events to which it referred (§ 83); and the condemnation of Menestratos, who himself suffered on the same account ‘long after’ his offence (§ 56), is mentioned as if it was not very recent. At least five or six years, then, must have elapsed since 404 B. C. The speech cannot be placed earlier than 400; probably it may be placed as late as 3983
The speaker begins by explaining that both on private and on public grounds he is entitled to be the accuser of
Agoratos. On private grounds, since Dionysiodôros was his cousin and brother-in-law; on public, because the crime of Agoratos affects the whole State (§§ 1—4).
The narrative of the facts (§§ 5—48) falls into four parts. (i) From the defeat at Aegospotami in 405 to the moment when Agoratos made his accusations, in the spring of 404: §§ 5—34. (ii) The trial and condemnation of the accused: §§ 35—38. (iii) Their last injunctions to their relatives: §§ 39—42. (iv) The sequel of their deaths—the reign of terror, which they had foreseen and endeavoured to avert: §§ 43—48.
The pleas which Agoratos may set up in his defence are next considered. He may deny the fact of having informed; but the decrees of the Senate and of the ekklesia will confute him. He may pretend that he informed in the interest of the State: but the events disprove that. He may say that he was forced to inform; but the circumstances of his arrest show that he did so willingly. He may throw the blame on Menestratos, who also informed. Nay, Menestratos was afterwards a victim of Agoratos, whose turn it is now to suffer himself. Compare the conduct of Agoratos with that of Aristophanes, who died rather than turn accuser (§§ 49—61).
The eminent men whom Agoratos destroyed may be contrasted with himself and with his family. His three brothers have all suffered death for base crimes; he himself obtained the citizenship by pretending to have assassinated Phrynichos. It is a dilemma; let him suffer for the murder or for the fraud (§§ 62—76).
He will perhaps claim sympathy as having joined the exiles at Phylê and returned with them. The fact was that, when he appeared at Phylê, they would have put him to death, had not the general Anytos interfered; and when, at the entry into Athens, he presumed to bear arms in the procession, Aesimos, its leader, came and snatched away his shield (§§ 77—82).
Or he will raise technical objections. He will say that the time which has elapsed ought to exempt him from penalties; but there is no statute of limitations (προθεσμία
, § 83)
here. Or he will say that the words ἐπ᾽ αὐτοφώρῳ
were omitted in the indictment; which is much the same thing as arguing that he is guilty, indeed, but was not caught in guilt. Or he will plead the Amnesty. This is in itself a confession. Moreover, the Amnesty was a covenant between the oligarchs in the city (§§ 83—90) and the democrats of the Peiraeus: it has no force as between two democrats.
The judges, the whole people, are bound by the solemn injunctions of the dead. To acquit Agoratos would be to confirm the sentence by which they perished. A democratic court must not be in unison with the courts of the Tyrants. By condemning Agoratos, the judges will mark the difference between them; will avenge their friends; and will have done right in the sight of all men (§§ 91—97).
In historical interest the speech Against Agoratos stands next, perhaps, to the speech Against Eratosthenes; but it is conceived in a totally different
Character of the Speech as compared with Or. XII.
spirit. No transition from a private to a public character, like that which is so marked in the other case, occurs here. From beginning to end the accuser of Agoratos confines himself to his special task, that of demanding vengeance for the death of his kinsman. Much of the general history of the time is necessarily introduced, and the speaker of course avails himself of the great advantage which he possesses in being able to represent the slander of Agoratos as treason to the State. But there is no such large view of a whole period as is given in the speech Against Eratosthenes. The historical references are scattered, not concentrated, and, instead of forming pictures, are only picturesque; individual interests are in the foreground throughout. Lysias accusing Eratosthenes hardly attempts to excite a personal
sympathy; he relies rather on the hatefulness of that system of crime to which this particular crime belonged; Dionysios accusing Agoratos describes the wives, mothers, sisters of the condemned visiting them in prison, and receiving their last messages of vengeance—a passage which strikingly resembles in conception and tone the prison-scene in the speech of Andokides On the Mysteries. The arrangement of the topics here, as usually with Lysias when he takes pains, is clear and good; though perhaps the speaker tries to make too many distinct points towards the end, and thereby rather impairs the breadth and strength of his argument. This is particularly the case in §§ 70—90; where the sophism about the Amnesty—that it was not meant to hold good between two men of the same party—is a curious exception to the usual tact of Lysias in argument.