previous next


Lykurgos is indeed a striking and a noble figure in the Athens of Philokrates. He came of a house that, after the Persian war, had given a colleague to Kimon in his Thracian campaigns, and, in the next generation, a distinguished victim to the Thirty Tyrants. The stock of the Eteobutadae, claiming to spring from Erechtheus, were hereditary priests of Poseidon Erechtheus; from their house, too, was chosen the priestess of Athena Polias; and their services to the State, recognised for generations by public honours in life and in death, were thus enhanced by the most sacred dignities that Athens could revere. The special work that Lykurgos did for the city was to serve it as a steward of the public treasury for a period of office which was thrice renewed1. During twelve difficult years, from 338 to 326, he so managed the finances as to make them suffice both for the armament and for the embellishment of Athens. But, besides this task, there was a yet graver one that he had made his own. In the ancestral spirit of the great Athenian houses, he raised the voice of a hereditary priest and statesman in fearless reproof of the selfish apathy or luxury which threatened to merge both patriotism and morality. As his biographer2 expressively says, Lykurgos was παρρησιαστὴς διὰ τὴν εὐγένειαν, outspoken because he was noble. Nor did he stop at words. By restoring the festivals of the gods, by cherishing a faithful tradition of the great poets3, by enacting sumptuary laws, and, above all, by facing the bitterly invidious task of prosecuting disloyal citizens, he made his name to be, like that of Drakon, a symbol for severity; probably with better reason, certainly in a more urgent cause4. His character is the best comment on his oratory. Of his fifteen speeches, only one is now extant. It was spoken, probably about 332 B.C., against Leokrates,
His speech Against Leokrates
an Athenian citizen. Lykurgos brought against this man an indictment for treason (εἰσαγγελία προδοσίας), because, in 338, he had fled from Athens on the day that brought the fatal news of Chaeroneia.

This speech is a solemn and earnest protest on behalf of public spirit. There is not a trace of personal feeling, there is no attempt to disparage the man's private life. But the tone throughout is that of a lofty and inexorable indignation. And the form of expression is not less distinctive. Lykurgos was scarcely a born orator. The ancient

Character of his Oratory.
critics were right in denying to him elegance or charm, in blaming the harshness of his diction or his metaphors and his tendency to repeat or to digress5. The structure of his sentences is, indeed clear-cut; he has a certain impressive majesty, due chiefly to his intense earnestness; and, as Dionysios says, he is powerful in denunciation6. But his peculiar interest for the history of Attic oratory depends on the union
Two elements of his style
of two elements.

Lykurgos had been the pupil of Isokrates; and the basis of his style is essentially Isokratic. But his moral and intellectual affinities with the elder Athens assert themselves. Engrafted on the smooth luxuriance of Isokrates, we meet once more the archaic, somewhat rigid stateliness of Antiphon: raised, however, above Antiphon's ordinary tone by the speaker's intimate sympathy with the elder poets, especially with the tragedians. The combination of these manners, the Isokratic and the archaic, has an effect which is not harmonious— Lykurgos lacked the force to fuse them—but which for that very reason is of much interest for a comparison between the elder and the later prose. In the following passages it has been attempted to keep something of the tone. The flight of Leokrates is thus described:—

‘After the battle of Chaeroneia, when you all rushed to

Extracts from the speech Against Leokrates: §§ 16—18.
the ekklesia, the people decreed that the children and women in the country should be brought within the walls, and that the generals should assign the duties of the defence to the Athenians and other residents as they pleased. Leokrates, however, without a thought for all this, packed up his property and put it, with his servants, on board the boat—the ship was already at moorings off-shore—and, late in the afternoon, passed with Eirenis through the gate to the public beach, rowed out to the ship, and was gone; neither pitying those harbours of Athens from which he was putting forth, nor ashamed before those walls of his native city which, for his part, he was leaving defenceless; nor was he afraid when he saw afar, as he forsook them, the temples of Zeus the saviour and Athena who saves, whom anon he will invoke to save him from his perils. And having come into port at Rhodes, as if he were bringing glad tidings of great blessings on his country, he began to announce how the town had been taken before he left, the Peiraeos blockaded —and he alone left to tell it; nor did he blush to name in one breath his country's fall and his own deliverance. So thoroughly did the Rhodians believe this, that they told off crews for their triremes, and set about launching the vessels; while the merchants or shipmasters who were ready to sail for Athens were led by this man to discharge their corn and other cargoes on the spot.’

Presently he describes the panic at Athens after Chaeroneia:—

‘In those days, Athenians, who would not have pitied

§§ 39—42.
the city—what citizen, aye, or what stranger that had visited it formerly? Who was then so bitter against the democracy or against Athens that he could have endured to find himself without a place in the ranks of the defenders, when the news came of the defeat and the disaster that had befallen the people, when the city was all excitement at the tidings, when the hopes of public safety had come to rest on the men past fifty, when you might see free-born women crouching in terror at the house-doors, asking if he is alive—the husband, the father, or the brother—a sight humiliating for the city and for her daughters; while men decrepit of frame, well-stricken in years, released by the laws from service under arms, men on the threshold that leads from age to death, might be seen hurrying helplessly through the city, with their mantles pinned in double folds around them? But, many as were the miseries in the city, great as was the ruin that had come on all the citizens, the keenest grief, the bitterest tears were due to the fortunes of the city itself— when the edict, declaring slaves to be free men, aliens to be Athenians, the disfranchised to be reinstated, was read by any man who once, perhaps, had prided himself on being a freeborn son of the Attic soil. The reverse that had befallen the city was even this; formerly she had vindicated the freedom of the Greeks—then she thought it enough if she could successfully defend her own existence; formerly she had ruled far and wide over the land of barbarians— then she was battling with Macedonians for her own; and the people whose aid was once invoked by Lacedaemonians, by Peloponnesians and by the Greeks of Asia was driven to seek succour for itself from the men of Andros, of Keos, of Troezen, of Epidauros.’

The peroration is, however, the most characteristic passage, not merely for its matter, but also for its form. While the resemblance to Antiphon is marked, there is a strain that surpasses him; but the speaker does not soar; he rises with effort, and shows at the end how his cultivated gift of speech laboured to utter his high enthusiasm:—

‘Be sure, judges, that each of you, by the vote which he

§§ 146—150.
now gives in secret, will lay his thought bare to the gods. And I deem that this day, judges, you are passing a collective sentence on all the greatest and most dreadful forms of crime, in all of which Leokrates is manifestly guilty; on treason, since he abandoned the city to its troubles and brought it under the hand of the enemy; on subversion of the democracy, since he did not stand the ordeal of the struggle for freedom; on impiety, since he has done what one man could to obliterate the sacred precincts and to demolish the temples; on illtreatment of parents,—for he sought to destroy the monuments, and to abolish the liturgy, of the dead; on a soldier's desertion of his post and avoidance of his duty—for he did not place his personal service at the disposal of the Generals. Who, then, will acquit this man,—who will condone misdeeds which were deliberate? Who is so foolish as, by saving this man, to place his own safety at the mercy of cowardly deserters,—who will show compassion to this man, and so elect to die unpitied at the hands of the enemy? Who will conciliate the gratitude of his country's betrayer, in order to make himself obnoxious to the vengeance of the gods?

‘In the cause of my country, of the temples and of the laws, I have fairly and justly set forth the issue, without disparaging or vilifying the defendant's private life or bringing any irrelevant accusation. You must reflect, every one of you, that to acquit Leokrates is to pass sentence of death and enslavement on your country. Two urns are before you; and the votes which you give are, in the one case, for the overthrow of your city, in the other, for its safety and its domestic welfare. If you absolve Leokrates, you will vote for betraying the city, the temples, and the ships—if you put him to death, you will exhort men to cherish and preserve their country, her revenues and her prosperity. Deem, then, Athenians, that a prayer goes up to you from the very land and all its groves, from the harbours, from the arsenals, from the walls of the city, deem that the shrines and holy places are summoning you to protect them, and, remembering the charges against him, make Leokrates a proof that compassion and tears do not prevail with you over solicitude for the laws and for the commonweal.’

Each urn was found to contain the same number

Significance of the result
of votes; and Leokrates benefited by the precedent of Orestes. But that the voices should have been equally divided when the prosecution could have been so easily represented as vexatious, and when the common temper of the city was with the accused, is a remarkable testimony to the character and to the eloquence of the accuser.

1 The ταμίας τῆς κοινῆς προσόδου was appointed for one πενταετηρίς only. The twelve years of Lykurgos have been differently placed; I follow Schäfer, Dem. u seine Zeit, chronol. table to Vol. III.: cf. ib. II. 298—304.

2 [Plut.] vitt. X. oratt.

3 The negligence or caprice of actors had already begun to deprave the works of the great tragedians. It was Lykurgos, as is well known, who sought to arrest this process by the formation of those authoritative texts which afterwards passed into the library of Alexandria. This reverence for the elder dramatists—shown further by statues raised to Aeschylos, Sophokles and Euripides (337 B.C.)—is most characteristic of the man.

4 [Plut.] vitt. X. oratt.: (Lykurgos was so severe) ‘that some of the sophists said that he dipped his pen, not in ink, but in death, when he drew laws against evil-doers.’ Demâdes had said of Drakon ὅτι δἰ αἵματος, οὐ διὰ μέλανος τοὺς νόμους ἔγραψεν, Plut. Sol. 17; cf. Tzetzes chil. 5. V. 348 in Sauppe O.A. II 316.

5 Dionys. vet. script. cens. V. 3 (after describing the power of Lykurgos), οὐ μὴν ἀστεῖος οὐδὲ ἡδύς, ἀλλ᾽ ἀναγκαῖος. The harshness of his diction, and his tendency to digress, Hermog. περὶ ἰδ. B. 11. Lykurgos was conscious of the last fault: κατὰ Αεωκρ. § 100.

6 Dionys. l.c., αὐξητικός...διῃρημένος...σεμνός...κατηγορικός...φιλαληθής...παρρησιαστικός.. τούτου χρὴ ζηλοῦν μάλιστα τὰς δεινώσεις. In Ep. I. ad Ammaeum 2 he names Lykurgos between Hypereides and Aeschines among the ἀγωνισταὶ λόγων ῥητορικῶν.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: