II. Action by a ward against a guardian (δίκη ἐπιτροπῆς), Or. XXXII
[Or. XXXII.]—After describing
in detail the characteristics of Lysias, Dionysios illustrates his criticism by giving extracts from a Forensic, an Epideictic and a Deliberative Speech. The Olympiakos and the Defence of the Constitution (Or. XXXIV.) supply his examples of the two latter classes. The speech Against Diogeiton is chosen by him to
Special prestige of this Speech.
represent the distinctive excellences of Lysias in the forensic style1
. Photios, too, says expressly that it was among the most admired of all its author's works2
. It belongs to a class of private speeches to which Dionysios gives a special title—the ἐπιτροπικοί
, or those made in actions brought by wards against their guardians3
Diodotos, an Athenian citizen, went to the coast
of Asia as a hoplite under the command of Thrasyllos in 410 B.C.4
,—the year of the battle at Kyzikos. In 408 he was killed at Ephesos, when the troops under Thrasyllos were defeated by the allies of Sparta5
. Before leaving Athens he had entrusted his two sons
and his daughter to the care of Diogeiton, who was at once their uncle and their grandfather, since Diodotos had married his own niece, the daughter of Diogeiton. Eight years (§ 9) after his father's death—that is, in 400 B.C.—the eldest son attained his majority. Thereupon he was informed by Diogeiton that the property left by Diodotos was exhausted, and that he and his brother must shift for themselves.
This action was brought—probably in 400 B. C.— by the eldest son. It is contended that Diodotos had left altogether 15 talents and 26 minae. Diogeiton had at first represented the sum left as only 20 minae 30 staters, i.e. 26 minae altogether. But he had since confessed to 7 talents and 40 minae additional, i.e. 8 talents 6 minae in all. His accounts, however, made him out to have spent 8 talents 10 minae on his wards in eight years; so that, instead of having a balance to hand over to them, he was 4 minae out of pocket.
The speech is directed to showing, first, that the property left by Diodotos was about double of that to which Diogeiton owned; secondly, that his alleged outlay was incredible.
The speaker is husband of the daughter of Diodotos and brother-in-law of the plaintiff. An action of this kind was τιμητή
,—that is, the plaintiff named the sum which he claimed; as Demosthenes, for instance, claimed ten talents from his guardians.
It does not appear what precise sum was claimed from Diogeiton. The case would come before an ordinary court; and, as a ward was suing his guardian, the president of the court would be the first Archon.
The speaker begins by explaining the necessity which
forces him to appear against a relative. His brothers-in-law, cruelly wronged, have besought his aid. Their grandfather Diogeiton had rejected all attempts at mediation; they were therefore driven to seek a legal remedy for his flagrant abuse of his trust (§§ 1—3).
The narrative of facts falls into two parts:—(i) The circumstances under which Diogeiton was appointed guardian, and his assumption of the office on the death of Diodotos: §§ 4—8. (ii) The disclosure made by him to his eldest ward on the latter coming of age, and the interview which followed between the young man's mother and her father Diogeiton: §§ 9—18.
These facts having been proved by witnesses, the speaker turns to the case set up by the defence. The defendant (i) has denied receiving part of the property; and (ii) professes to account for the rest:—§ 20. This account is scrutinised in detail, and shown to be absurd. On the most liberal reckoning, a balance of six talents should have been forthcoming (§§ 19—29).
Here the extract given by Dionysios ends. The statement of the defendant as to the amount which he had originally received must have been the next topic; followed, probably, by the peroration.
This speech—or fragment—is admirable for two
The twofold merit of the Speech.
things; the compact marshalling of a mass of intricate details, so that the broad result is made triumphantly clear; and the artistic treatment of character. Nothing could be better fitted to disarm prejudice, or even to create one favourable to the speaker, than the simple opening words. They show
no bitterness against Diogeiton,—on the contrary, annoyance at having to appear against him—a necessity for which no one but himself is to blame. But the rhetorical skill is highest in the dramatic passage where the plaintiff's mother is brought in upbraiding her father Diogeiton with his purpose of disinheriting her sons, and the effect of the pleading on those who heard it is described (§§ 12—18).