The Funeral Oration ascribed to Lysias purports to have been spoken, in the course of the Corinthian
War, over Athenians who had been sent to the support of Corinth. The precise date cannot be determined. In § 59 there is an allusion to the battle of Knidos in 394, and to the visit of the Persian fleet to Greece in 393; and in § 63 there is an allusion to the rebuilding of the walls of Athens in the latter year. If it were supposed that the speech was retouched after delivery, it might have been spoken over those who fell in the battle of Corinth in 394. Otherwise the fight in the Long Walls of Corinth in 392, or that in 391 when Agesilaos took Lechaeum, might be assumed as the occasion. To any one of these three hypotheses there is, indeed, the objection that the speaker seems to refer to the battle in question as one in which the deceased were on the winning side (§ 70).
The oration opens by contrasting the greatness of the
theme with the shortness of the time allowed to the speaker for preparation (§§ 1—3). It goes on, in the usual fashion of such discourses, to commemorate the exploits of Athens from the earliest times. It relates the war in which Theseus repelled the Amazons; the part taken by Athenians in obtaining burial for the Argives who fell before Thebes in the war of the Seven; the brave refusal of Athens to give up the children of Herakles to Eurystheus (§§ 4—16). Then a brief digression on the character of the Athenians as autochthones, and on the early growth of democracy (§§ 17—19). The Persian wars—the siege of Aegina in 458—and the expulsion of the Thirty Tyrants are successively noticed, with remarks on the contrast between the Athenian and the Spartan empire. (§§ 20—66.) Then comes a curiously short tribute to the departed (§§ 67—70), and a most gloomy address to their surviving relatives (§§ 71—76); followed by the usual commonplace about the immortal honours of the dead (§§ 77—81).