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HYBRIS, HYBREOS GRAPHE (ὕβρις, ὕβρεως γραφή). The fine instinct of the Greeks for civilisation is nowhere more conspicuous than in the early repression of wanton violence [p. 1.983]ὕβρις) in all its forms; and this, notwithstanding a singular disregard of human life. In modern Europe, for example, only a few of the most advanced nations have discontinued the use of arms; among these the wearing of the sword remained a distinction of the upper classes long after it had been dropped by the common people; and the growing practice of carrying revolvers shows that we are still liable to relapse. The Greeks, on the contrary, had abandoned the habit of going armed (σιδηροφορεῖν) at a very early, almost a pre-historic, period ; and the Athenians were the first to set the example (Thuc. 1.5, 6). Aristotle couples together the wearing of arms and the buying of wives as proofs of the barbarism of early Greek custom (Pol. 2.8 = p. 1268 b, 40). In the absence both of wild beasts and roving criminals, the stick [BACTERIA], which no one was without, was regarded as sufficient protection to the lonely traveller. In strict keeping with this sentiment, all approaches to violence were guarded both by law and public opinion. In so backward a community as the Locrians of Italy, where the laws of Zaleucus prescribed mutilations unknown in Greece proper (Dem. c. Timocr. p. 744.140), there was yet a provision against abusive language (Stob. Flor. 44.21). “In the case of personal quarrels, it is noted that the Attic law allowed an action for every step in the quarrel, from the use of language ‘calculated to provoke a breach of the peace,’ through common and aggravated assault, up to grievous bodily harm and manslaughter. . . . Even more marked than this abandonment of arms was the strong feeling about ὕβρις, as they called it; about personal violence, which they would not allow even towards slaves.” (Mahaffy, Social Life in Greece, ed. 3, pp. 388, 390.)

In Attic law, abusive words (λοιδορία) made the speaker liable to a small summary fine (ἐπιβολή), especially if uttered in a court of law or a sacred precinct; if they extended to certain definite charges against a man's character, the remedy was a κακηγορίας δίκη [KAKEGORIAS DIKÉ; cf. APORRHETA]: it was a legal defence, as in the recent (though not the old) English law of libel, to prove that the charge was true (Dem. c. Aristocr. p. 635.50). For an assault, whether common or aggravated, the plaintiff had his choice between a private action for damages [AIKIAS DIKÉ] and a public and criminal prosecution (ὕβρεως γραφή), in which, as a τιμητὸς ἀγών, any penalty might be demanded, and in extreme cases death. The former involved fewer risks, and was more commonly chosen, especially by diffident plaintiffs (Dem. c. Conon. p. 1256.1 ; cf. c. Everg. et Mnes. p. 1158.64). But, as has been seen under AIKIAS DIKÉ, αἰκία and ὕβρις might be intentionally confounded with the object of exciting greater odium against the defendant (cf. Dem. c. Mid. p. 526.38; Aristot. Rh. 1.13.10; Att. Process, p. 647 Lips.).

In the use of the term ὕβρις there was a further distinction between indecent (δι᾽ αισχρουογίας and other assaults (διὰ πληγῶν: see the Second Argument to the Midias, p. 513, 10). If the offence were of the former kind, it would always be available when the sufferer was a minor of either sex (for the consent of the infant was immaterial), or when an adult female was forcibly violated: and this protection was extended to all conditions of life, whether bond or free (Dem. c. Mid. p. 529.46; Aeschin. c. Timarch. § 17; Hyperid. ap. Ath. vi. p. 267 a). It is a moot point whether the γραφὴ ὕβρεως protected slaves in other cases than attempts upon their chastity: Meier and Schömann, in the original Att. Process, upheld the limitation to ὕβρις δι᾽ αἰσχρουργίας: the best recent criticism denies it (Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 114, n. 7; Becker-Göll, Charikles, p. 29 f.; Lipsius, Att. Process, p. 399 f. ; Thalheim, Rechtsalterth. p. 33 f.). [The case, however, in Dem. c. Nicostr. p. 1251.16, proves nothing either way; cf. Sandys ad loc.] Aeschines is careful to state that it was not because the slave had any rights that he was thus protected, but for the good of the citizens, that they might learn to repress the habit of personal violence ; his expression οὐ γὰρ ὑπὲρ τῶν οἰκετῶν ἐσπούδασεν νομοθέτης (c. Timarch. § 17) affords a curious parallel to the language of St. Paul (μὴ τῶν βοῶν μέλει τῷ Θεῷ, δι_ ἡμᾶς πάντως λέγει: 1 Cor. 9.9). The legal representative (κύριος) of a female or a minor might, if he pleased, consider the injury as a private rather than a public wrong, and sue for damages in a civil action [BIAION DIKÉ]. To justify an action for ὕβρις διὰ πληγῶν, it was of course necessary to prove that the defendant struck the first blow (ὅταν ἄρχῃ χειρῶν ἀδίκων, Aristot. Rh. 2.24.9; cf. [Dem.] c. Everg. et Mnes. p. 1151.40). Injury to a slave, if slight, might entitle the master to recover damages for the battery (αἰκία), or if serious for the loss of his services by a δίκη βλαβῆς (BLABES DIKÉ ; Lips. Att. Process, p. 401, where it is maintained against Meier that there was an αἰκίας δίκη also in the case of slaves).

The ὕβρεως γραφή, as has been already stated, does not seem to have been frequent; there are no speeches extant upon an action of this kind, and the allusions to lost speeches (e. g. Athen. l.c.) tell the same tale. Besides the more serious character of the γραφὴ or public prosecution, it was more profitable to obtain compensation for the wrong than the mere punishment of the wrong-doer; the penalty in the latter case accrued to the state and not to the plaintiff. He had also to forfeit 1000 drachmas (ὀφλεῖν χιλίας) if he either relinquished the suit or failed to obtain a fifth of the votes. If, however, the case for the prosecution was both strong and clear, the redress afforded by the public action was prompt and efficient. Besides the legal protectors of women and children, any Athenian citizen in the enjoyment of his full franchise might volunteer an accusation; he had to pay no deposit (πρυτανεῖα) beforehand (Lipsius, Att. Process, p. 814): the declaration was laid before the thesmothetae, who, unless hindered by extraordinary public business, were bound to bring it for trial within a month before a Heliastic court. The severity of the sentence extended to confiscation or death ; and if the latter were awarded, the criminal was executed on the same day: if a fine were imposed upon him, he was allowed but eleven days for its payment, and he was imprisoned until the claim of the state was liquidated. The law in Demosthenes (c. Mid. p. 529.47) mentions [p. 1.984]imprisonment only ἐὰν ἐλεύθερόν τις ὑβρίσῃ: that in Aeschines (c. Timarch. § 16) draws no such distinction. Notwithstanding the strong presumption against the genuineness of documents inserted in the text of the Orators, there are some exceptions: and these particular laws have been defended on good grounds (Lipsius, p. 395, n. 565; Thalheim, p. 33, n. 5).

[The speech of Isocrates against Lochites (Or. 20), and that of Demosthenes against Conon (Or. 54), each technically an αἰκίας δίκη, abound with illustrations of the whole subject of ὕβρις. Cf. Att. Process, pp. 392-402, Lipsius; Thalheim, Rechtsalterth. § 6 = Hermann, Staatsalterth. § 61.]

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  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 2.24.9
    • Aristotle, Rhetoric, 1.13.10
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.6
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