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*Lusi/as), an Attic orator, was born at Athens in B. C. 458; he was the son of Cephalus, who was a native of Syracuse, and had taken up his abode at Athens, on the invitation of Pericles. (Dionys. Lys. 1; Plut. Vit. X. Orat. p. 835 ; Phot. Bibl. Cod. 262, p. 488, &c.; Suid. s. v. Λυσίας; Lys. c. Eratosth. § 4; Cic. Brut. 16.) When he was little more than fifteen years old, in B. C. 443, Lysias and his two (some say three) brothers joined the Athenians who went as colonists to Thurii in Italy. He there completed his education under the instruction of two Syracusans, Tisias and Nicias, and afterwards enjoyed great esteem among the Thurians, and even seems to have taken part in the administration of the young republic. From a passage of Aristotle (ap. Cic. Brut. 12), we learn that he devoted some time to the teaching of rhetoric, though it is uncertain whether he entered upon this profession while yet at Thurii, or did not commence till after his return to Athens, where we know that Isaeus was one of his pupils. (Plut. l.c. p. 839; Phot. Bibl. Cod. p. 490a.) In B. C. 411, when he had attained the age of forty-seven, after the defeat of the Athenians in Sicily, all persons, both in Sicily and in the south of Italy, who were suspected of favouring the cause of the Athenians, were exposed to persecutions; and Lysias, together with 300 others, was expelled by the Spartan party from Thurii, as a partisan of the Athenians. He now returned to Athens; but there too great misfortunes awaited him, for during the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, after the battle of Aegospotami, he was looked upon as an enemy of the government, his large property was confiseated, and he was thrown into prison, with a view to be put to death. But he escaped from Athens, and took refuge at Megara. (Plut. Phot. ll. cc.) His attachment to Athens, however, was so great, that when Thrasybulus, at the head of the patriots, marched from Phyle to liberate their country, Lysias joyfully sacrificed all that yet remained of his fortune, for he sent the patriots 2000 drachmas and 200 shields, and engaged a band of 302 mercenaries. Thrasybulus procured him the Athenian franchise, as a reward for his generosity; but Archinus afterwards induced the people to declare it void, because it had been conferred without a probuleuma; and Lysias henceforth lived at Athens as an isoteles, occupying himself, as it appears, solely with writing judicial speeches for others, and died in B. C. 378, at the age of eighty. (Dionys. Lys. 12; Plut. l.c. p. 836; Phot. l.c. p. 490.)


Lysias was one of the most fertile writers of orations that Athens ever produced, for there were in antiquity no less than 425 orations which were current under his name, though the ancient critics were of opinion that only 230 of them were genuine productions of Lysias. (Dionys. Lys. 17; Plut. l.c. p. 836; Phot. l.c. p. 488; Cic. Brut. 16.) Of these orations 35 only are extant, and even among these some are incomplete, and others are probably spurious. Of 53 others we possess only a few fragments. Most of these orations, only one of which (that against Eratosthenes, B. C. 403) he delivered himself in court, were composed after his return from Thurii to Athens. There are, however, some among them which probably belong to an earlier period of his life, when Lysias treated his art more from a theoretical point of view, and they must therefore be regarded as rhetorical exercises. But from the commencement of the speech against Eratosthenes we must conclude that his real career as a writer of orations began about B. C. 403. Among the lost works of Lysias we may mention a manual of rhetoric (τέχνη ῥητορική), probably one of his early productions, which, however, is lost. How highly the orations of Lysias were valued in antiquity may be inferred from the great number of persons that wrote commentaries upon them, such as Caecilius Calactinus, Zosimus of Gaza, Zeno of Cittium, Harpocration, Paullus Germinus, and others. All the works of these critics have perished. The only criticism of any importance upon Lysias that has come down to us is that of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his Περι τῶν ἀρχαιων ῥητόρων ὑπομνηματισμοί, the τῶν ἀρχαιων κρισις, and in his account of Lysias, to which we may add the remarks of Photius. According to the judgment of Dionysius, and the accidental remarks of others, which are borne out by a careful examination of the orations still extant, the diction of Lysias is perfectly pure, and may be looked upon as the best canon of the Attic idiom; his language is natural and simple, but at the same time noble and dignified (Dionys. Lys. 2, 3, Demosth. 13; Cic. Brut. 32; Quint. Inst. 12.10.21, comp. 9.4.17); it is always clear and lucid; the copiousness of his style does not injure its precision; nor can his rhetorical embellishments be considered as impairing the charming simplicity of his style. (Dionys. Lys. 4, &c.) His delineations of character are always striking and true to life. (Dionys. Lys. 7; Quint. Inst. 3.8.51; Phot. l.c. p. 488.) But what characterises his orations above those of all other ancients, is the indescribable gracefulness and elegance which pervade all of them, without in the least impairing their power and energy; and this gracefulness was considered as so peculiar a feature in all Lysias' productions, that Dionysius thought it a fit criterion by which the genuine works of Lysias might be distinguished from the spurious works that went by his name. (Dionys. Lys. 10, &c., 3, Demosth. 13, Dinarch. 7; comp. Cic Brut. 9, 16; Quint. Inst. 9.4.17, 12.10.24.) The manner in which Lysias treats his subjects is equally deserving of high praise. (Dionys. Lys. 15-19; Hermogen. De Form. Orat. ii. p. 490.) It is, therefore, no matter of surprise to hear that among the many orations he wrote for others, two only are said to have been unsuccessful. (Plut. l.c. p. 836.)


The extant orations of Lysias are contained in the collections of Aldus, H. Stephens, Reiske, Dukas, Bekker, and Baiter and Sauppe.

Among the separate editions, we mention those of J. Taylor (London, 1739, 4to. with a full critical apparatus and emendations by Markland), C. Foertsch (Leipzig, 1829, 8vo.), J. Franz (Munich, 1831, 8vo., in which the orations are arranged in their chronological order); compare J. Franz, Dissertatio de Lysia Oratore Attico Graece script, Norimbergae, 1828, 8vo.; L. Hoelscher, De Lysiae Oratoris Vita et Dictione, Berlin, 1837, 8vo., and De Vita et Scriptis Lysiae Oratoris Commentatio, Berlin, 1837, 8vo.; Westermann, Gesch. der Griecch. Beredtsam-keit, 46, 47, and Beilage, iii. pp. 278-288.

Other people named Lysias

There are some other persons of the name of Lysias, who come under the head of literary characters. 1. Lysias of Tarsus, an epicurean philosopher, who usurped the tyrannis in his native place on the occasion of his being raised to the priesthood of Ieracles, and afterwards distinguished himself by his indulgence in luxuries and cruelty. (Athen. 5.215.) 2. A person who is one of the interlocutors in Plutarch's treatise de Musica. 3. A sophist, who was, according to Taylor, the author of the ἐρωτικά, which are attributed by some of the ancients to the orator Lysias. (Taylor, Vit. Lys. p. 154.) This sophist may be the one mentioned by Demosthenes (c. Neaer. p. 351.


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403 BC (2)
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hide References (6 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 3, 8.51
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 9, 4.17
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 12, 10.24
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria, Book 12, 10.21
    • Cicero, Brutus, 16
    • Cicero, Brutus, 32
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