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‘Another is, the appeal to a previous decision; an instance of which is Euripides’ reply to Hygiaenon, in the exchange case, in which the latter accused him of impiety for the verse that he wrote in recommendation of perjury, “the tongue hath sworn; but the mind is unsworn”. His reply was that the other had no right to bring cases (decisions) out of the Dionysiac contest into the courts of law: for he had already given an account (stood his trial) of them (his words, αὐτῶν, included in the verse), or was prepared to do so, if the other chose to accuse him’. This celebrated verse, Hippol. 608, probably owes a good deal of its notoriety to Aristophanes' parody of it near the end of the Frogs. Seldom has so “much ado about nothing” been made as about this unlucky line. The charge of recommending perjury is at any rate a gross exaggeration. Nor does it necessarily imply even mental reservation. Cicero, de Off. III 29. 107 (quoted by Monk ad loc.), puts the case very clearly. Quod ita iuratum est ut mens conciperet fieri oportere, id servandum est: quod aliter, id si non feceris nullum est periurium. Non enim falsum iurare periurare est; sed quod ex animi tui sententia iuraris, sicut verbis concipitur more nostro, id non facere periurium est. Scite enim Euripides, Iuravi lingua, mentem iniuratam gero. See the whole of Monk's note. Paley in his note follows Cicero. Of course the deceit, if there be any, lies in the intention and not in the word; and this is all that Hippolytus seems to say. He never intended that his oath should be kept in that sense: and his ignorance of the circumstances absolves him from the responsibility, or obligation of the oath. See above in note on § 31. We learn from this passage that Euripides (the tragic poet) was capable of pleading a cause in public. Another public speech, in an embassy to Syracuse, is attributed to him in II 6. 20 ult., where see note. On the ἀντίδοσις, the compulsory ‘exchange of property’, in the case of an unfair assignment of a liturgy at Athens, see Böckh Publ. Econ. Bk. IV. ch. 16. It does not appear from the text which of the two parties it was that proposed the exchange. Valckenaer ad Hippol. 612, p. 232, would change the name in the text to Ὑγιαίνετον, as more agreeable to the analogy of Greek proper names. The name is right. Harpocr. quotes twice the speech of Hyperides πρὸς Ὑγιαίνοντα, sub vv. ἔνη καὶ νέα et θέσθαι.
1 I find this note in one of my copies of the Hippolytus. “I don't think the principle implied in this (the verse of Eurip.) can be defended. Hippolytus says that he swore to keep the secret in ignorance of the nature of it: now that he knows that, he is freed from the obligation of keeping it. Has a man a right to lay himself under an obligation, of the nature of which he is ignorant?” However the question still remains, if the oath has been taken in ignorance, is he still bound to keep it? The last sentence was added when this Commentary was written.
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