The Athenian people, recalling these and other traditions of the tyrants which had sunk deep1
into their minds, were suspicious and savage against the supposed profaners2
of the mysteries; the whole affair seemed to them to indicate some conspiracy aiming at oligarchy or tyranny.
Inflamed by these suspicions they had already imprisoned many men of high character. There was no sign of returning quiet, but day by day the movement became more furious and the number of arrests increased. At-last one of the prisoners, who was believed to be deeply implicated, was induced by a fellow-prisoner to make a confession—whether true or false I cannot say; opinions are divided, and no one knew at the time, or to this day knows, who the offenders were. His companion argued that even if he were not guilty he ought to confess and claim a pardon3
he would thus save his own life, and at the same time deliver Athens from the prevailing state of suspicion. His chance of escaping would be better if he confessed his guilt in the hope of a pardon, than if he denied it and stood his trial.
So he gave evidence both against himself and others in the matter of the Hermae. The Athenians were delighted at finding out what they supposed to be the truth; they had been in despair at the thought that the conspirators against the democracy would never be known, and they immediately liberated the informer and all whom he had not denounced. The accused they brought to trial, and executed such of them as could be found. Those who had fled they condemned to death, and promised a reward to any one who would kill them.
No one could say whether the sufferers were justly punished; but the beneficial effect on the city at the time was undeniable.