VII. 3. On the Sacred Olive, Or. VII
3. On the Sacred Olive.
[Or. VII.]—The man (VII. 2) for whom this defence was written—a rich Athenian citizen (§§ 21, 31)—had originally been charged with destroying a moria,
or sacred olive, on a farm which belonged to him. As to do this was a fraud upon the public Treasury, the form of the original accusation had been an apographê (ἀπεγράφην
, § 2). But the charge was not supported by the persons who had rented from the State the produce of the moriae on this farm (οἱ ἐωνημένοι τοὺς καρποὺς τῶν μοριῶν
, § 2). The accusers had therefore changed their ground. They now charge the defendant merely with uprooting the fenced-in stump
) of a moria; and they lay against him an indictment for impiety. The chief accuser is one Nikomachos1
Throughout Attica, besides the olives which were private property (ἴδιαι ἐλαῖαι
, § 10), there were others which, whether growing on public or on private lands, were considered as the property of the State. These were called moriae
）—the legend being that they had been propagated (μεμορημέναι
) from the original olive which Athene herself had caused to spring up on the Acropolis2
. This theory was convenient for their conservation as State property; since, by giving them a sacred character, it placed them directly
under the care of the Areiopagos, which caused them to be visited once a month by Inspectors (ἐπιμεληταί
, § 29) and once a year by special Commissioners (γνώμονες
, § 25). To uproot a moria
was an offence punishable by banishment and confiscation of goods (§ 41)3
The technical terms used in this speech need definition: see especially §§ 20, 24. Ἐλαία
was the generic term. Common olive-trees were called, either ἐλαῖαι
simply, or ἴδιαι ἐλαῖαι
; sacred, either μορίαι ἐλαῖαι
, or μορίαι
properly meant the enclosure or fence intended to guard the stump (στέλεχος
) of a moria which had been cut down or burnt down (πυρκαιΐα
, § 24)—as often happened in the raids of the enemy during the Peloponnesian War4
(§ 6). Then σηκός
came to denote the fence with the stump itself; and this is the sense which it bears in this speech: see § 11, σηκὸν ἐκκεκόφθαι5
. In §§ 2, 5 ἐλαία as opposed to σηκός
means a full-grown moria.
The case is tried by the Areiopagos under the presidency of the Archon Basileus. The offence was alleged to have been committed in the archonship
of Suniades (§ 11), Ol. 95. 4, 397 B. C. To judge from
§ 42 (τοσούτῳ χρόνῳ ὕστερον
) the trial took place not earlier than 395; probably later.
A quiet life, the defendant had thought, was its own
protection; but he has been taught that hired informers have a power which the unborn might dread (§§ 1—3). He will have done enough if he can show that there has been neither moria nor stump of moria on the farm since it came into his possession. This he proves by the evidence of tenants who had rented it from him (§§ 4—11).
After commenting on the unlikelihood of his having done a deed which could hardly have escaped detection (§§ 12— 18), he observes that the accuser has failed to bring any witnesses (§§ 19—23). The defendant has several other farms, on which olive-trees abound; but, notwithstanding the strict watch kept by the Areiopagos, he has never been accused of any such offence as this. And here the risk would have been peculiarly great. It is strange if Nikomachos has discovered what escaped the regular Inspectors (§§ 24—29).
He then speaks of his own public services; of the accuser's refusal to give up his slaves for torture, and of the absence of witnesses for the prosecution. He describes the malice of his enemies who had bribed Nikomachos to bring this charge; and refers to the cruel sentence which hangs over him (§§ 30—41). He then concludes with a short review of the whole case. It depends upon an unproved assertion, which the accuser has refused to bring to the test (§§ 42, 43).
One attraction, which elsewhere seldom fails Lysias, is wanting in this speech;—there is no narrative, for there is no story to tell, except the former history of the farm. In this, one rather curious point may be noticed. The farm had belonged, it seems, to Peisandros; had been confiscated; and had then been given as a public gift to Apollodôros of Megara. Now Apollodôros, as is known from the speech Against Agoratos (§ 71), was
one of the two men who planned the assassination of Phrynichos; and so it appears that he had been rewarded for destroying one leader of the Four Hundred by receiving the property of another. As
regards the character of the defendant, Lysias has described with a few touches the quiet citizen who shrinks from publicity (§ 1), but with whom, at the same time, it is a point of honour to discharge his public duties in the best way (§ 34); a man who, in Greek phrase, is at once ἀπράγμων
. Photios says that some critics doubted the authenticity of this speech: and that the rhetorician Paulos of Mysia, in particular, absolutely denied its genuineness, for the unconvincing reason that he
could not understand a word of it6