On the Estate of Nikostratos [Or. IV.]
grandfather of Nikostratos
HagnonThese brothers are the defendants, for whom a friend perorates, against one Chariades.
Nikostratos, an Athenian citizen, had died abroad, after an absence from Athens of eleven years (§ 8), during part of which he seems to have been doing
military service (§§ 18—26.) His first cousins, Hagnon and Hagnotheos, claimed his property as next of kin (κατὰ γένος
). Their claim is disputed by one Chariades, who says that it is his under an express bequest (κατὰ δόσιν
). Chariades had been absent from Athens for seventeen years before the death of Nikostratos (§ 29), and professed to have been intimate with him abroad.
In this speech, a friend (§ 7) of Hagnon and Hagnotheos recapitulates the points of their case. Hagnon (or, as he and his brother were boys, νεανίσκοι
§ 26, some one for them) had, probably, already spoken. That this speech is the second (ἐπίλογος
) for the defence is clear from the fact that no witnesses are called. There is no ground for supposing, with the author of the Argument, that the speaker was Isaeos1
. The date is uncertain.
‘Witnesses cannot be brought, nor false statements easily
refuted, in regard to transactions abroad. But the case of Hagnon and his brother can be proved from what has occurred at Athens. First,—Chariades calls Nikostratos the son of Smikros. Hagnon and his brother claim the property of Nikostratos, son of Thrasymachos. But for this discrepancy, the judges would have had to ask merely, Did or did not Nikostratos leave a will? Clearly Chariades wanted to
perplex an issue, otherwise simple, by raising a question of identity (§§ 1—6).
‘Six other persons besides Chariades have put forward, and withdrawn, claims to the inheritance2
. Chariades himself in the first instance claimed it on the ground of kinship. Then, shifting his ground, he claimed it under a will (§§ — 10). Such claimants, when defeated, ought to be fined, not merely in proportion to their assessed property (κατὰ τὸ τέλος
), but in the whole amount of the estate claimed. A claim under a will which sets aside the natural succession requires scrutiny. Witnesses can prove only the fact of a will, not the identity of one will with another. Then the law requires that the testator should have been of sound mind.
‘Universally the presumption is strong in favour of claimants by kinship as against claimants under a will (κατὰ δόσιν
, §§ 11—18). In this case Chariades was not on such terms with Nikostratos as make the bequest probable. Chariades was not the messmate (σύσσιτος
) of Nikostratos. He
was not even in the same company (τάξις
) with him. He did not pay him the last offices (§§ 18—20). The property of persons dying abroad has often been claimed by strangers. On grounds both general and particular the probabilities are in favour of the defendants.
‘Certain supporters of Chariades pretend that they are themselves the next of kin to Nikostratos. In that case it is their interest to claim the estate on their own account. If defeated they will be able to try again: whereas, if Chariades once obtains the estate under an alleged will, no claim founded on kinship can afterwards be entertained (§§ 21—26).
‘Lastly:—contrast the antecedents of the parties to the cause. Thrasippos, father of the defendants, was a patriotic citizen, and his sons have always borne a good name. Chariades—who has been absent from Athens for 17 years—has been imprisoned for theft and indicted as a malefactor. Let the judges decide as the evidence and their oaths enjoin’ (§§ 27—31).