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If, men of Athens, at the time of the plaint the people, after hearing the facts, had acquitted Meidias, it would not be so hard to bear: one might console oneself with the fancy that the assault had never been made, or that it was not a profanation of the festival, and so on.
Furthermore, it was not I alone, men of Athens, that he then, in his intention, struck and insulted, when he acted as he did, but all who may be supposed less able than I am to obtain satisfaction for themselves. If you were not all beaten, if you were not all insulted while acting as choir-masters, you realize of course that you cannot all be choir-masters at the same time, and that no one could possibly assault all of you at once with a single fist.
If I could see any straightforward defence that he could offer to these charges, I would not make any reference to them; but I am quite certain that he cannot have any simple and honest plea to put forward, but will try to hoodwink you, inventing malicious answers to each charge and so leading you astray. For he is a skillful rhetorician, men of Athens, and has devoted all his life to that one study. Therefore, that you may not be deceived and persuaded to vote contrary to the spirit of your oath and to acquit a man whom you have every reason to punish, pray attend to what I shall say, so that when you have heard me, you may have the right reply to every argument that he will advance.
For the law, that the Council should not ask for the reward if they have not built the war ships, was framed in that way, men of Athens, to prevent the possibility of the people being influenced or misled. The legislator held that the question should not depend on the abilities of the speakers, but that whatever he could devise that was at once just and expedient for the people, should be fixed by law. “You have not built the ships? Then don't ask for the reward.” Where the law does not permit the asking, does it not absolutely forbid the givi
Now there is another question, men of Athens, which is worth going into. Why is it that when the Council have performed all their other duties satisfactorily, and no one has any complaint to make, yet, if they have not built the ships, they are not allowed to ask for the reward? You will find that this stringent enactment is in the interests of the people. For I suppose no one would deny that all that has happened to our city, in the past or in the present, whether good or otherwise—I avoid an unpleasant term—has resulted in the one case from the possession, and in the other from the want, of warships.
Therefore, men of Athens, seeing that warships have such weight in either scale, you nave done rightly to set this strict limit to the Council's claim to the reward. For if they should discharge all their other duties satisfactorily, but fail to build these ships, by which we gained our power at the first and by which we retain it today, all their other services are of no avail, for it is the safety of the whole State that must be ensured for the people before every thing. Now the defendant is so obsessed with the idea that he can make any speech or proposal he wishes, that though the Council has discharged its other duties in the way that you have heard, but has not built the warships, he moved to grant them their reward.
But if, as the law says and as your oath enjoins, you sternly and absolutely reject their excuses, and make it clear that you have withheld the reward because they have not built the ships, then every Council, men of Athens, will deliver to you the ships duly built, because they will see that in your eyes everything else is of less consequence than the law. Now I shall show you clearly that no other human being is responsible for the shortage of ships; for the Council, having made the law null and void, elected this treasurer themselves.The treasurer should have been elected by the people; the Council, by appointing him illegally, made themselves responsible for his defalcations. The corruption of this passage is as old as Harpocration. Mss. have a(uth=| or a(uth/n . With the
Now it is worth your while, men of Athens, to study too the character of Solon, who framed this law, and to observe what care he took of the constitution in all the laws, how much more zealous indeed he was for the constitution than for the matter on which he was legislating. This may be seen in many ways, but especially from this law, which forbids persons guilty of prostitution to make speeches or to propose measures. For he saw that the majority of you do not avail yourselves of your right to speak, so that the prohibition seemed no great hardship, and he could have laid down many harsher penalties, if his object had been the chastisement of these offenders.
And yet, even if we grant freely that the whole Council is on its trial, reflect how much more advantage you will gain if you condemn Androtion, than if you do not. If you acquit him, the talkers will rule in the Council chamber, but if you convict him, the ordinary members. For when the majority see that they have lost the crown through the misconduct of the orators, they will not leave the transaction of business in their hands, but will depend on themselves for the best advice. If this comes to pass, and if you are once rid of the old gang of orators, then, men of Athens, you will see everything done as it ought to be. For this, if for no other, reason you ought to convict.
But I must first ask you, men of Athens, to reflect that the question you are sworn to decide is not this, but whether his proposal was in accordance with the laws. Next reflect that it is outrageous in one who charges others with violating the constitution to claim exemption from punishment for his own more serious violations; because it is obviously more serious to propose an unconstitutional decree than to fail to pay the property-tax.