[Or. XIX].—Thrasylochos, a citizen of Siphnos, one of the Kyclades, had at his death left his property to the speaker, whom he had previously adopted as his son1
. The speaker's right to the inheritance is disputed by a daughter of the testator; and the speech is in answer to her claim (ἐπιδικασία
). The case is tried at Aegina, where the speaker had settled (κατοικισάμενος
, § 24) before his death.
The date is uncertain. In §§ 18—20, there is a
reference to the seizure of Paros by some exiles from that island and from Siphnos; who afterwards took Siphnos, and drove out the party to which the speaker belonged. Now, from what the speaker says about his family in § 36, it is probable that he belonged to the oligarchic party, and that the successful exiles were democratic. A democratic revolution would have had most chance of success just after the sudden blow dealt to the power of Sparta—the support, throughout Greece, of oligarchy —by the defeat at Knidos in August, 394 B.C. Probably, then, the speech may be put at the end of 394 or early in 393 B.C.2
The relationship of the persons chiefly concerned is shown by this stemma:—
daughter, the claimant against the speaker, § 6
Sôpoliswho died before Thrasylochos, § 11
daughter, wife of the speaker, § 9
The speaker is glad of the opportunity given him by this
trial of proving publicly how much better his right to the inheritance is than that of the female claimant (§§ 1—4). He then explains the relations between the family of Thrasylochos (the testator) and his own (§§ 5—9). From boyhood he had been intimate with Thrasylochos, and had nursed him in his last illness. His friend showed his gratitude by adopting the speaker as his son—the necessary legal preliminary to making him his heir, and securing him against the claim of the next of kin. This proceeding is shown to be in accordance with (1) the law of Aegina, in which island Thrasylochos and the speaker were resident when the will was made; (2) with the law of Keos, valid also in Siphnos, of which the parties were citizens; (3) with the law of the city to which the female claimant and her representatives in this action belonged. [The name of this city is nowhere stated] (§§ 10—15.)
The speaker next contrasts his own conduct towards Thrasylochos with that of the female claimant. In the first place he had saved the very property now in question. Thrasylochos and his brother Sôpolis, citizens of Siphnos, had, for security, placed the greater part of their fortune in the neighbouring island of Paros. Paros was suddenly seized by a party of democratic exiles, Parians and Siphnians, led by one Pasînos. At the risk of his life, the speaker sailed by night to Paros, and carried the endangered property back to Siphnos. Presently the democratic masters of Paros attacked and took Siphnos itself. The speaker—whose family belonged to the aristocracy of the island, and had even given it kings—was among those who were forced to fly. He took
with him, not only his own mother and sister, but Thrasylochos, who was then in weak health. The speaker and his family wished to remain at Melos. But Thrasylochos entreated them to accompany him to Troezen; and, though they knew the place to be unhealthy, they consented. The speaker's sister and mother died soon after their arrival. He afterwards nursed Thrasylochos through a long and distressing illness in Aegina. During that illness the half-sister of Thrasylochos, who now claims his property, never once visited him; nor, on his death, did she attend his funeral (§§ 16—33).
Her advocates do not question the genuineness of the will, but complain of it as unreasonable and unjust. It is, however, perfectly reasonable, since, by adopting the speaker as his son, Thrasylochos provided against his family being extinguished and his mother and sister left destitute. It is also just; for the speaker was in all respects best entitled to the inheritance. The choice of him as heir would have gratified Sôpolis, the late brother, and Thrasyllos, the late father, of the testator (§§ 34—46). The speaker claims a verdict on the ground of his benefits to the deceased; of the will; and of the law with which the will accords (§§ 47— 51).
This is perhaps the best of the extant forensic
speeches of Isokrates. It is almost free from the artificialism which injures more or less the effect of all the rest. The passage in which the speaker gives the proofs of his devotion to Thrasylochos (§§ 18—27) is powerful because it is clear and plain. Nowhere else does Isokrates come so near to the especial excellences of Lysias3