Speech ‘On his Return.’
Four speeches ascribed to Andokides are extant, bearing the titles ‘On the Mysteries:’ ‘On his Return:’ ‘On the Peace with the Lacedaemonians:’ ‘Against Alkibiades.’ The speech On the Mysteries, as the chief extant work of its author, stands first in the manuscripts and the editions. But the second oration relates to an earlier passage in the life of Andokides, and may conveniently be considered first.
The speech of Andokides ‘On his Return’ affords no further internal evidence of its own date than that it was spoken later than 411 and earlier than 405 B. C.1
Blass places it in 4092
. But a circumstance which he has not noticed seems to us to make it almost certain that the speech cannot have been delivered later than the summer of 410. Andokides lays stress upon the service which he has rendered to Athens by securing a supply of corn from Cyprus.
There had been a disappointment about this supply; but he states that he has overcome the difficulty,— that fourteen corn ships will be in the Peiraeus almost immediately, and that others are to follow3
. Now the event which had made this supply a matter of anxiety to Athens was the stoppage of the usual importations from the south coast of the Euxine. In 411 she had lost the command of the Bosphorus by the revolt of Chalkedon, and the command of the Hellespont by the revolt of Abydos4
. But, in 410, the battle of Kyzikos was followed by the reestablishment of Athenian power in the Propontis and in its adjacent straits. The corn-trade of the Euxine once more flowed towards Athens; and, in the autumn of 410, Agis, from his station at Dekeleia, saw with despair the multitude of corn-ships which were running into the Peiraeus5
. The benefit, therefore, for which Andokides claims so much credit; would have been no great benefit, had it been conferred later than the middle of the year 410. The Four Hundred were deposed about the middle of June, 411; and it would have been natural that Andokides should have endeavoured to return at least in the course of the following year.
As a speech on a private matter before the public assembly, this oration belongs to the same class as that which Demosthenes is said to have written for Diphilos in support of his claim to be
rewarded by the State6
. Andokides is charged, in the speech of the pseudo-Lysias, with having gained admittance to the ekklesia by bribing its presidents7
. It is unnecessary to believe this story. But the emphasis which he himself lays on the valuable information which he had previously given to the Senate8
suggests that, without some such recommendation, he would have found it difficult to obtain a hearing from the people.
The object of the speech is to procure the removal of certain disabilities under which he was alleged to lie. His disclosures in 415 were made under a guarantee of immunity from all consequences. But the decree of Isotimides, passed soon afterwards, excluded from the marketplace and from temples all ‘who had committed impiety and who had confessed it;’ and his enemies maintained that this decree applied to him.
In the proem he points out the malice or stupidity of
the men who persist in rejecting the good offices which he is anxious to render to Athens; and refers to the importance
of the communications which he has made in confidence to the Senate. (§§ 1—4.) His so-called crimes—committed in ‘youth’ and ‘folly’—are, he contends, his misfortunes. For the disclosures which he was driven to make five years before he deserves pity—nay, gratitude—rather than hatred (§§ 5—9).
He then speaks of his life in exile; of his services to the army at Samos in 411; of his return to Athens in the time of the Four Hundred; and of his imprisonment at the instance of Peisandros, who denounced him as the friend of the democracy (§§ 10—16). Statesmen and generals serve the State at the State's expense; he has served it at his own charge. Nor has the end of these services been yet seen. The people will be soon in possession of the secrets which he has imparted to the Senate; and will soon see supplies of corn, procured by his intercession, enter the Peiraeus. (§§ 17—21.) In return for so much, he asks but one small boon—the observance of the promise of impunity under which he originally laid his information, but which was afterwards withdrawn through the influence of his enemies. (§§ 22—23.)
The peroration opens with a singular argument. When a man makes a mistake, it is not his body's fault: the blame rests with his mind. But he, since he made his mistake, has got a new mind. All that remains, therefore, of the old Andokides is his unoffending body. (§ 24.) As he was condemned on account of his former deeds, he ought now to be welcomed for his recent deeds. His family has ever been patriotic; his great-grandfather fought against the Peisistratidae; he, too, is a friend of the people. The people, he well knows, are not to blame for the breach of faith with him; they were persuaded to it by the same advisers who persuaded them to tolerate an oligarchy. They have repented of the oligarchy; let them repent also of the unjust sentence. (§§ 25—28.)
There is a striking contrast between this defence before the ekklesia and that which Andokides made on the same charges, some eleven years later, before a
law-court. There he flatly denies that he is in any degree guilty; he turns upon his adversaries with invective and ridicule; he carries the whole matter with a high hand, speaking in a thoroughly confident tone, and giving free play to his lively powers of narration. Here it is quite otherwise. He speaks with humility and remorse of the ‘folly’—the ‘madness’ of his youth; he complains feelingly of the persecution which he has suffered; he implores, in return for constant devotion to the interests of Athens, just one favour—a little favour, which will give his countrymen no trouble, but which will be to him a great joy. In 399 he is defiant; in 410 he is almost abject. In 410 the traces of guilt to which his enemies pointed were still fresh. Before his next speech was spoken, they had been dimmed, not by lapse of time only, but by that great wave of trouble which swept over Athens in 405, and which left all older memories faint in comparison with the memory of the Thirty Tyrants. Andokides the wealthy choregus, the president of the sacred mission, the steward of the sacred treasure, supported on his trial by popular politicians and by advocates chosen from his tribe, was a different person from the anxious suitor who, in the speech On his Return, implored, but could not obtain tolerance.
In the style of the speech there is little to remark except that its difference from that of the speech On the Mysteries exactly corresponds with the difference of tone. There the orator is diffuse, careless, lively; here he is more compact—for he
dared not treat a hostile assembly to long stories— more artificial—and decidedly more dull. Once only does the dramatic force of his natural style flash out—where he describes his appearance before the Council of the Four Hundred. ‘Some of the Four Hundred learned that I had arrived; sought me at once; seized me; and brought me before the Council. In an instant Peisandros was at my side:—‘Senators, I impeach this man for bringing corn and oar-spars to the enemy’’ (§ 14.)