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§§ 17 cont.—20. Compare the spirit of our laws with the course which Conon proposes to take. The laws. I understand, affix a penalty even to minor offences, to preclude the perpetration of graver crimes, to prevent men (forinstance) being gradually led from wrangling to blows, from blows to wounding, from wounding to murder. Conon, on the contrary, will make light of the whole affair and will raise a laugh to get himself acquitted. Why! none of you would have laughed had you seen me when I was being brutally maltreated, and when I was carried helpless to my home.

θαυμάζω γὰρ The English idiom requires us to leave γὰρ untranslated, or else to render it by the exclamation ‘why!’ —‘What has all this to do with me? Why! for my part, I am surprised if in your court they have discovered any plea or pretext, thanks to which a man, if convicted of outrage and assault, shall escape punishment.’

οἱ μὲν γὰρ νόμοι κ.τ.λ. The influence of μὲν extends over the whole of the two following sections, it is then caught up and reiterated in the clause εἶτ᾽ ἐν μὲν τοῖς νόμοις οὕτως. Thus the first μὲν has no δὲ corresponding to it, until we reach the words ἂν δ᾽ εἴπῃ Κόνων. ‘The laws say so and so...’ ‘Not so Conon.’

τὰς ἀναγκαίας προφάσεις κ.τ.λ. i.e. προείδοντο ὅπως μηδ᾽ αἱ ἀναγκαῖαι προφάσεις μείζους γίγνωνται. Thus, to use the illustration supplied below by Demosthenes himself, abusive language is a πρόφασις for dealing blows; blows again are a πρόφασις for inflicting wounds; lastly wounding, for homicide. The laws, by ordaining a legal remedy at each stage, (1) defamation, (2) assault, (3) unlawful wounding, interpose to prevent defamation, which is a pretext for assault, growing into actual assault; similarly assault developing into unlawful wounding, and ultimately into homicide. ‘The laws on their part have, on the very contrary, made provision, even in the case of pleas of necessity, against the development of those pleas into greater proportions.’

[The meaning is, that the law, by providing an action for every kind of insult, has made it unnecessary for the aggrieved to resort to extremes in avenging himself. By ἀναγκαία πρόφασις he means, for instance, the plea, that a man was insulted and he was obliged to resent it. The law says, ‘that obligation must not be pressed too far, so as to justify you in taking very violent revenge.’ P.] Wyse, on Isaeus 4 § 20, suggests that τὰς άναγκαίας προφάσεις may here mean ‘excuses that the courts are constrained to accept.’

ἀνάγκη γὰρ. γέγονεν The plaintiff, a quiet, common-place soldier, is here on the verge of displaying a familiarity with legal technicalities which would be not only out of keeping with his ordinary character, but would be resented by those of the jury who happened to be less versed in legal learning. The court would be apt to ascribe his acquaintance with the details of the law of defamation, assault, and homicide to that over-litigiousness of character which was as unpopular as it was common at Athens; or, at the very least, they would put him down as a pedant. Hence Demosthenes introduces a passing apology, explaining that the plaintiff, honest man, owes all his legal lore to the enquiries rendered imperative by the maltreatment he had received from the defendant. Hence, too, the skilful disclaimer of superior knowledge involved in the subsequent phrases; φασὶ... γίγνεσθαι and ἀκούω ..εἶναι. Cf. Lysias Or. 19 §§ 5, 53.

κακηγορίας δίκαι Isocr. κατὰ Λοχἰτου (an αἰκείας δίκη like the present case), § 3 (οἱ θέντες ἡμῖν τοὺς νόμους) οὕτω...ἡγήσαντοδεινὸν εἶναι τὸ τύπτειν ἀλλήλους, ὥστε καὶ περὶ κακηγορίας νόμον ἔθεσαν, ὃς κελεύει τοὺς λέγοντάς τι τῶν ἀπορρήτων πεντακοσίας δραχμὰς ὀφείλειν, Cf. Lysias, Or. 10 §§ 6—12, Dem. Or. 23 § 50, Or. 21 § 32.

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hide References (2 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (2):
    • Demosthenes, Against Midias, 32
    • Demosthenes, Against Aristocrates, 50
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