The professional life of Lysias.
Stripped of a great part of his fortune by the Thirty Tyrants, and further straitened, probably, by his generosity to the exiles, Lysias seems now to have settled down to hard work at Athens. His activity as a writer of speeches for the law-courts falls—as far as we know—between the years 403 and 380 B. C. That it must have been great and constant is shown by the fact that Dionysios speaks of him as having written ‘not fewer than two hundred forensic speeches1
.’ No other of the Attic orators was credited with so many as a hundred compositions of all kinds2
. First in time and first, too, in importance among the extant orations of
Lysias is that Against Eratosthenes, in whom he
The impeachment of Eratosthenes.
saw not only one of the Thirty Tyrants but the murderer of his brother Polemarchos. It was probably in 403 that Eratosthenes was impeached. The speech of Lysias, memorable as a display of eloquence, valuable, too, as a sufferer's picture of a dreadful time, has this further interest, that it is the only forensic speech known to have been spoken by Lysias himself, and that it marks his only personal contact with the politics of Athens.
Lysias had probably been a professional speech-writer
for about four years when Sokrates was brought to trial in 399. According to the popular account, Lysias wrote a defence for Sokrates to speak in court, but Sokrates declined to use it3
. In the story itself there is nothing improbable; Kephalos and his son Lysias had been the intimate friends of Sokrates. But it may be suspected that the story arose from a confusion. At some time later than 392 B. C. the sophist Polykrates published an epideictic Accusation of Sokrates4
, and, in reply to it, Lysias wrote a speech In Defence of Sokrates5
. This was extant in antiquity; and some one who
had heard of it, but who knew nothing of the circumstances under which it was written, probably invented the story that it had been offered to, and declined by, the philosopher. The self-denial of Sokrates would be complete when, after rejecting the aid of money, he had rejected the aid of the best contemporary rhetoric6
Lysias is named in the ordinary text of his own speech On the Property of Aristophanes as taking part in an embassy to Dionysios the elder of Syracuse, an embassy of which the date cannot be put below 389 B. C. But there can be little doubt as to the correctness of the emendation which removes his name from that passage7
. There is better reason for believing another story in which the name of Lysias is associated with that of the elder
Dionysios. We have good authority8
for the statement that the Olympiakos,
of which a large fragment remains, was spoken by Lysias in person at the Olympic festival of 388 B.C., to which Dionysios had sent a splendid embassy. In that speech Lysias pointed out that two great enemies—the despot of Syracuse in the west, the king of Persia in the east— threatened Greece; and urged union among Greeks with all the eagerness and with more than the sagacity of Isokrates.