Concerning the Team of Horses.
Concerning the Team of Horses
(περὶ τοῦ ζεύγους
). [Or. XVI.]—The speaker is the younger Alkibiades1
. Tisias, an Athenian citizen, alleges that the elder
Alkibiades had robbed him of a team of four horses2
, and sues the son for their value.
The charge has a close likeness to another
mentioned elsewhere. Alkibiades had entered seven four-horse chariots at the Olympic festival3
. One of these chariots had originally belonged to the city of Argos. Diomedes, an Athenian, had commissioned Alkibiades to buy it for him from the Argives; Alkibiades had done so, and had then entered it as his own. Plutarch identifies the case of Diomedes with this case of Tisias4
. From § 49 of our speech it appears that the horses had won a victory for Alkibiades at Olympia, and in § 1 he is said to have bought them from Argos5
Tisias could not charge Alkibiades the son with
complicity in a fraud committed before he was born; he must therefore have brought against him simply an action for damage6
. The damages were
laid at five talents (§ 46). The defendant says (ib.
) that, if cast in the suit, he will be disfranchised. This means that, as he was unable to pay, an action of ejectment (ἐξούλης
) would be brought against him: if cast in this, he would have to pay to the Treasury a sum equal to the original damages; and, failing to do this, he would be disfranchised (ἄτιμος
) as a state-debtor.
In § 45 the speaker says that he was born just
before his father's banishment (in 415 B. C.); that is, at the end of 416 or early in 415 B. C. The action could not have been brought against him until he was eighteen years old; i.e. until the end of 398 or the beginning of 397 B. C. On the other hand, not much time would have been lost in bringing it. The date, then, is probably 397 B.C.7
,—about two years earlier than that of the Lysian speeches ‘Against Alkibiades’8
The speech, as extant, appears to be mutilated at the beginning,—the lost part having contained the statement of the facts, followed by the citation of evidence9
. The speaker now passes to a general defence of his father's life.
The specific charge against him, the defendant says, has
now been disproved. It has been shown on the evidence of the ambassadors from Argos, and of others acquainted with the facts, that his father had bought the yoke of horses in question from the city of Argos, and had not taken them by force from Tisias the plaintiff. But, as usual, the defendant's appearance in a private lawsuit has been made an opportunity for slandering his father's political career. No vindication of that conduct will be required by the older men present. For the sake of the younger, however, the facts shall be briefly stated. (§§ 1—4.)
Alkibiades was the victim of the men who concerted the Revolution of the Four Hundred. Finding that he would not come into their schemes, they brought against him the two most odious charges which they could devise,—that of profaning the Mysteries, and that of undermining the democracy. Their accusations broke down; and he was appointed commander of the expedition to Sicily. In his absence, they again caballed against him. Sentenced to an unjust banishment, he still respected the welfare of Athens. He went to Argos and lived quietly there, until the persecution kept up by his enemies at home at last drove him to Sparta. The acts imputed to him—his having caused Dekeleia to be fortified, having thrown the islands into revolt, having guided the tactics of Sparta—admit either of denial or of justification. Athenian citizens, who tasted the bitterness of banishment under the Thirty, ought to sympathise with an exile who was eager to return. Let them remember, too, what Alkibiades was before his banishment—how, with 200 hoplites, he gained for Athens the greatest cities of the Peloponnesus,—and how he commanded in Sicily. Again, let them remember what was the position of affairs at the moment when they received him back. The democracy had fallen; the democratic army at Samos regarded the oligarchic rulers of Athens as worse enemies than the Spartans; and the
oligarchs were seeking help from the Spartan garrison at Dekeleia. The Persian king was paying the Spartan fleet; and 90 Phoenician ships were at Aspendos. Then it was that the generals sent for Alkibiades. Instead of disdaining them, he came at their call, and restored the prosperity of Athens at home and abroad. (§§ 5—22.)
It remains to speak of his private life—after a word as to his descent. On the paternal side, he sprang from the Eupatridac,—on the maternal, from the Alkmaeonidae—a family, one of whose members, Alkmaeon, was the first winner of a chariot-race at Olympia,—a family which was true to the people throughout the forty years of the Peisistratid tyranny, and which produced the leaders under whom the tyrants were overthrown. Alkibiades, whose father fell at Koroneia (great-grandson of him just named), became the ward of Perikles. On reaching the age for military service, he distinguished himself as one of 1000 picked hoplites whom Phormio led into Thrace. He afterwards married the daughter of Hipponikos,—whose hand was another prize won by him from many competitors. About the same time he conducted a sacred embassy to Olympia; and scorning to excel as a common athlete, sought a more splendid triumph in the chariot race. He entered more and better teams than the greatest State could have afforded; and gained the first, second, and third places. As regards his other public services, they might have been less brilliantly performed, and yet have formed the glory of other men: but to praise him for them would be trivial. (§§ 23—35.)
His loyalty to the democracy was proved by his sufferings. His banishment was the first preparation for the oligarchy of the Four Hundred, and the first consequence of the oligarchy of the Thirty. His interests were, indeed, closely bound up with yours. The Tyrants knew this; and while they drove others from Athens, drove Alkibiades from Hellas; thinking that it would be vain to level the walls, unless they removed him who could restore them. Among those Tyrants was Charikles, brother-in-law of Tisias. Tisias himself was a senator under the Thirty, and yet dares, in this instance, to violate an amnesty which alone protects his own life. (§§ 36—44.)
The defendant appeals to the pity of the judges. He has had experience enough of troubles. He was not four years old when his father was banished,—his mother being already dead—and was then in danger of his life. He was still a boy when he was driven from Athens by the Thirty; and at the restoration of the democracy, was prevented by his enemies from benefiting by the grant of land made to those whose property had been confiscated. The damages are now laid at five talents. He is too poor to pay this, and will therefore be disfranchised. The father's victory at Olympia ought not to have for a result the son's disgrace,— a citizen who has ere now lost his privileges in the cause of the people ought not again to lose them by the people's vote. (§§ 45—49.)
Isokrates marks elsewhere his admiration for the
genius of the elder Alkibiades10
; and the praise given to him here, one-sided though it is, was probably not due merely to the partiality of an advocate. It has been suggested that so strong an eulogy of so unpopular a man can hardly have been written for delivery in court, and that the speech, as it stands, must have been retouched11
. Rather in this very offence against forensic persuasion, and in the thoroughly epideictic character of the whole, we may recognise the first, and not the second, thoughts of Isokrates. Lysias took some verbal hints from this speech when (in 396 or 395) he wrote for the nephews of Nikias12
. It is interesting to contrast our speech with that Against Alkibiades of the pseudo-Andokides13
and with the two speeches of Lysias14
. In all four there is much wild misrepresentation; but together they are aids to estimating a man whom neither enemies nor friends could describe with moderation.