Mode of legal procedure.
Some obscurity hangs over the form of the accusation; we will give the account of it which appears most probable. When, in 415 B. C., Andokides made his disclosures, he did so on the guarantee of impunity (ἄδεια
) which a special decree of the ekklesia had given to all who should inform. Subsequently, however, Isotimides proposed and carried a decree that all who had committed impiety and had confessed it
should be excluded from the marketplace and from the temples. The enemies of Andokides
maintained that he came under this decree. This was the immediate cause of his quitting Athens in 415. In 409 he was unsuccessful in applying to have the sentence of disfranchisement cancelled. On his return in 402, however, nothing had been said at first about his disabilities.
His accusers now contended that he had broken the decree of Isotimides by attending the Mysteries and entering the Eleusinian Temple. To attend the festival or enter the temple unlawfully would, of course, be an impiety. The information which they laid against him charged him, therefore, on this ground, with impiety. It was an ἔνδειξις ἀσεβείας
. But, in order to prove it, it was necessary to show that he came under the decree of Isotimides. It was necessary to show that he had committed impiety, as well as given information, in 415 B. C.
His defence is therefore directed to showing, in the first place, that he had not committed impiety at that time either by profaning the Mysteries or by mutilating the Hermae. The speech takes its ordinary title from the fact that the Mysteries form one of its prominent topics. But a more general title would have better described the range of its contents. It might have been more fitly called a Defence on a Charge of Impiety.
This view of the matter explains some difficulties. Andokides says (de Myst.
§ 71), ‘Kephisios has informed against me according to the existing law, but bases his accusation on the decree of Isotimides.’ That is, Kephisios laid against Andokides an ordinary ἔνδειξις ἀσεβείας
. But the charge of ἀσέβεια
rested on the assumption that he had broken the decree of Isotimides. He was not directly
charged either with profaning the Mysteries or with mutilating the Hermae; his guilt in one or both of these matters was assumed. He proceeds to prove that this assumption is groundless; and that, therefore, the decree does not apply to him1
The charge, like all connected with religion, was brought into court by the Archon Basileus. Since details connected with the Mysteries might be put in evidence, the judges were chosen exclusively from the initiated of the higher grade2
. Kephisios, the chief accuser3
, was assisted by Melêtos, who had been implicated in the murder of Leon under the Thirty4
, and by Epichares, who had been a member of their government5
. On the same side were Kallias6
, each of whom had a private quarrel with the accused. Andokides was supported by Anytos and Kephalos, both politicians of mark, and both popular for the part which they had taken
in the restoration of the democracy8
. Advocates chosen for him by his tribesmen were also in court. It is remarkable if, as there is reason to believe, two men engaged on different sides in this trial were, in the same year, united in preferring a more famous charge of impiety. Anytos undoubtedly, Meletos9
probably, was the accuser of Sokrates.
The speech On the Mysteries falls into three main divisions. In the first, Andokides shows his innocence in regard to the events of 415 B. C. In the second he shows that, in any case, the decree of Isotimides is now obsolete. In the third he deals with a number of minor topics.