The speech on the Mysteries.
First—Does the speech On the Mysteries give the story which he really told before the Council at Athens in 415? In that speech, he represents himself as having stated that the mutilation of the Hermae had been proposed by Euphiletos at a convivial meeting of their club; that he had strenuously opposed it; and that, while he was confined to his house by illness, Euphiletos had seized the opportunity of executing the scheme, telling the others that Andokides had become favourable to it. Now it is a suspicious fact that in the speech On his Return, spoken in 410—that is, eleven years before the speech On the Mysteries—Andokides distinctly pleads guilty to certain offences committed in 415, and excuses them by his youth, his folly, his madness at the time1
. It is suspicious, also, that not merely the author of the speech against him2
, but also Thucydides in terms which can hardly be explained away3
, and Plutarch still more explicitly4
, represent him as having accused
himself along with the rest. It can hardly be doubted that, in 415, he told the Council that the mutilation of the Hermae had been a mad freak committed by the club of young men to which he belonged, and by himself among the number. Probably he felt that it would be useless to make a reservation of his own innocence. No one would believe him; and at the same time it would seriously damage the plausibility of his alleged acquaintance with the plans of the conspirators. It is very likely, however, that he did make excuses for himself, such as that his active part in the affair had been small, or that he had been drawn into it against his will, or in a moment of excitement. At the distance of sixteen years such excuses might easily grow into a denial of his having been concerned at all.
It is a further question whether, supposing that the story which he told at the time inculpated himself, this story was true. Was he really guilty? It ought to be remembered that the eighth book of Thucydides was probably written before the speech On the Mysteries had been delivered, or the exiles of 415 had returned; and that, therefore, we have perhaps larger materials than Thucydides himself had for forming a judgment on an affair which (as he says) had never been cleared up5
. Great weight ought surely to be allowed to the circumstance that
the Hermes before the house of Andokides was one of the very few6
which had not been mutilated. The explanation of this given by Andokides himself in 399 is at least plausible. Euphiletos, he says, had told the other conspirators that Andokides had himself undertaken the mutilation of this particular image; and so it escaped, Andokides being ill and ignorant of the whole matter. Now if Euphiletos had a spite against Andokides for having condemned his proposal, he could not, in fact, have taken a more effectual revenge. The sparing of this Hermes was just the circumstance, which, in the event, turned suspicion most strongly upon Andokides. Had he been out himself that night and engaged in the sacrilege, he could scarcely have failed to think of a danger so evident, and would have taken care that his own house should not be marked out by its immunity. If the number of mutilators was as small as he states, the neglect of such a precaution is altogether inconceivable. The conjecture to which we should incline is that the Hermae were mutilated by the small club of young men to which Andokides belonged, but that, for some reason or other, he had no hand in it; that, however, when he gave his evidence at the time, he accused himself of having been actively concerned, thinking that otherwise the rest of his story would be disbelieved. It would follow that the version of the matter given in his speech
On the Mysteries is, on the whole, true in itself, but is untrue as a representation of what he stated in 415.