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VI 3. On the Death of Eratosthenes, Or. I

3. On the Death of Eratosthenes. [Or. I.]— Euphilêtos, an Athenian citizen of the humbler sort, had slain one Eratosthenes of Oea (“Οἴηθεν,§ 16), whom he had taken in adultery with his wife. He is now prosecuted for murder by the relatives of Eratosthenes; and pleads in his defence the law which allowed the husband, in such cases, to kill the adulterer1 (§§ 30, 31). As the law was clearly against them, the accusers were driven to allege that Euphilêtos had himself decoyed Eratosthenes into his house (§ 30); and that the real motive of the homicide was fear, enmity, or cupidity. This line of argument may have had some plausibility if Athenian husbands were in the habit of compromising such cases2. But the assertion of the accusers would be hard to prove; and Euphilêtos speaks throughout like a man confident of a verdict.

The cause would be tried, probably by heliastic judges3, at the Delphinion, the court for cases in which an admitted homicide was defended as justifiable. There is nothing to indicate the date.


The accused asks the judges to imagine themselves in his place: all Greece, he says, would recognise the justice of his act. He had no motive for it but the dishonour done to his wife, his children and himself (§§ 1—4). Then comes the narrative (§§ 5—28), followed by the citation of witnesses and laws (§§ 29—36). He meets the suggestions of the defendants; as (i) that Eratosthenes was decoyed into the house, §§ 37—42; (ii) that the homicide was prompted by a former enmity, or by cupidity, §§ 43—46. In any of these cases, he would not have slain him before witnesses. The decision of the judges will have a good effect if it accords with the laws; if it does not, then these laws should be annulled, since citizens are only entrapped (ἐνεδρεύονται) by them. His life and property are at risk because he trusted to the laws of the city (§§ 47—50).

The first part

Social interest of the Speech.
of this speech (§§ 5—28) is curious as a vivid picture—vivid with almost Aristophanic life—of a small Athenian household4; especially as illustrating the position of a married woman of the lower class. The husband says that, at first, his wife gave him entire satisfaction as a housekeeper; on his part, he ‘watched her as far as possible, and gave all reasonable attention to the subject;’ at length, however, at her mother's funeral, she for once left the house; and hence the intrigue. Lysias has been clever in making the defence homely and at the same time dignified; Euphilêtos, the plain citizen, feels strong in the law of the city.

1 Dem. in Aristocr. § 53 ἐάν τις ἀποκτείνῃ ἐν ἄθλοις ἑκών... ἐπὶ δάμαρτι, κ.τ.λ....τούτων ἕνεκα μὴ φεύγειν κτείναντα.

2 In one instance, at all events, we find that the injured husband λαμβάνει μοιχόν...καὶ εἰς φόβον καταστήσας πράττεται τριάκοντα μνᾶς—not an excessive sum: Dem. in Neaer. § 65. As Blass notices (Att. Ber. p. 577) this case of Eratosthenes happens to be the only recorded example of that extreme and summary vengeance which the law allowed.

3 After the year of Eukleides, heliastic judges sat at the Palladion: see Isokr. adv. Callim. § 54, Dem. in Neaer. § 90. Probably at the Delphinion also they had taken the place of the Ephetac.

4 The passage §§ 6—18 may be noted as a locus classicus on the architecture of Athenian houses.

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