Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 1/Chapter 7

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1All the above-named generals, with the exception of Conon, were presently deposed by the home authorities. In addition to Conon two new generals were chosen, Adeimantus and Philocles.

2Of those concerned in the late victory two never returned to Athens: these were Protomachus and Aristogenes. The other six sailed home. Their names were Pericles, Diomedon, Lysias, Aristocrates, Thrasylus, and Erasinides. On their arrival Archidemus, the leader of the democracy at that date, who had charge of the two obol fund,[1] inflicted a fine on Erasinides, and accused him before the Dicastery[2] of having appropriated money derived from the Hellespont, which belonged to the people. He brought a further charge against him of misconduct while acting as general, and the court sentenced him to imprisonment.

3These proceedings in the law court were followed by the statement of the generals before the senate[3] touching the late victory and the magnitude of the storm. Timocrates then proposed that the other five generals should be put in custody and handed over to the public assembly.[4] Whereupon the senate committed them all to prison.

4Then came the meeting of the public assembly, in which others, and more particularly Theramenes, formally accused the generals. He insisted that they ought to show cause why they had not picked up the shipwrecked crews. To prove that there had been no attempt on their part to attach blame to others, he might point, as conclusive testimony, to the despatch sent by the generals themselves to the senate and the people, in which they attributed the whole disaster to the storm, and nothing else.

5After this the generals each in turn made a defence, which was necessarily limited to a few words, since no right of addressing the assembly at length was allowed by law. Their explanation of the occurrences was that, in order to be free to sail against the enemy themselves, they had devolved the duty of picking up the shipwrecked crews upon certain competent captains of men-of-war, who had themselves been generals in their time, to wit Theramenes and Tharysbulus, and others of like stamp.

6If blame could attach to any one at all with regard to the duty in question, those to whom their orders had been given were the sole persons they could hold responsible. "But," they went on to say, "we will not, because these very persons have denounced us, invent a lie, and say that Theramenes and Thrasybulus are to blame, when the truth of the matter is that the magnitude of the storm alone prevented the burial of the dead and the rescue of the living." In proof of their contention, they produced the pilots and numerous other witnesses from among those present at the engagement. By these arguments they were in a fair way to persuade the people of their innocence.

7Indeed many private citizens rose wishing to become bail for the accused, but it was resolved to defer decision till another meeting of the assembly. It was indeed already so late that it would have been impossible to see to count the show of hands. It was further resolved that the senate meanwhile should prepare a measure, to be introduced at the next assembly, as to the mode in which the accused should take their trial.

8Then came the festival of the Aparturia,[5] with its family gatherings of fathers and kinsfolk. Accordingly the party of Theramenes procured numbers of people clad in black apparel, and close-shaven,[6] who were to go in and present themselves before the public assembly in the middle of the festival, as relatives, presumably, of the men who had perished; and they persuaded Callixenus to accuse the generals in the senate.

9The next step was to convoke the assembly, when the senate laid before it the proposal just passed by their body, at the instance of Callixenus, which ran as follows: "Seeing that both the parties to this case, to wit, the prosecutors of the generals on the one hand, and the accused themselves in their defence on the other, have been heard in the late meeting of the assembly; we propose that the people of Athens now record their votes, one and all, by their tribes; that a couple of voting urns be placed for the convenience of each several tribe; and the public crier in the hearing of each several tribe proclaim the mode of voting as follows: 'Let every one who finds the generals guilty of not rescuing the heroes of the late sea fight deposit his vote in urn No. 1. Let him who is of the contrary opinion deposit his vote in urn No. 2.

10Further, in the event of the aforesaid generals being found guilty, let death be the penalty. Let the guilty persons be delivered over to the eleven. Let their property be confiscated to the State, with the exception of one tithe, which falls to the goddess.'"

11Now there came forward in the assembly a man, who said that he had escaped drowning by clinging to a meal tub. The poor fellows perishing around him had commissioned him, if he succeeded in saving himself, to tell the people of Athens how bravely they had fought for their fatherland, and how the generals had left them there to drown.

12Presently Euryptolemus, the son of Peisianax, and others served a notice of indictment on Callixenus, insisting that his proposal was unconstitutional, and this view of the case was applauded by some members of the assembly. But the majority kept crying out that it was monstrous if the people were to be hindered by any stray individual from doing what seemed to them right.

13And when Lysicus, embodying the spirit of those cries, formally proposed that if these persons would not abandon their action, they should be tried by the same vote along with the generals: a proposition to which the mob gave vociferous assent; and so these were compelled to abandon their summonses.

14Again, when some of the Prytanes[7] objected to put a resolution to the vote which was in itself unconstitutional, Callixenus again got up and accused them in the same terms, and the shouting began again. "Yes, summons all who refuse," until the Prytanes, in alarm, all agreed with one exception to permit the voting.

15This obstinate dissentient was Socrates, the son of Sophroniscus, who insisted that he would do nothing except in accordance with the law.[8]

16After this Euryptolemus rose and spoke in behalf of the generals. He said:--"I stand here, men of Athens, partly to accuse Pericles, though he is a close and intimate connection of my own, and Diomedon, who is my friend, and partly to urge certain considerations on their behalf, but chiefly to press upon you what seems to me the best course for the State collectively.

17I hold them to blame in that they dissuaded their colleagues from their intention to send a despatch to the senate and this assembly, which should have informed you of the orders given to Theramenes and Thrasybulus to take forty-seven ships of war and pick up the shipwrecked crews, and of the neglect of the two officers to carry out those orders.

18And it follows that though the offence was committed by one or two, the responsibility must be shared by all; and in return for kindness in the past, they are in danger at present of sacrificing their lives to the machinations of these very men, and others whom I could mention. In danger, do I say, of losing their lives?

19No, not so, if you will suffer me to persuade you to do what is just and right; if you will only adopt such a course as shall enable you best to discover the truth and shall save you from too late repentance, when you find you have transgressed irremediably against heaven and your own selves. In what I urge there is no trap nor plot whereby you can be deceived by me or any other man; it is a straightforward course which will enable you to discover and punish the offender by whatever process you like, collectively or individually. Let them have, if not more, at any rate one whole day to make what defence they can for themselves; and trust to your own unbiased judgment to guide you to the right conclusion.

20You know, men of Athens, the exceeding stringency of the decree of Cannonus,[9] which orders that man, whosoever he be, who is guilty of treason against the people of Athens, to be put in irons, and so to meet the charge against him before the people. If he be convicted, he is to be thrown into the Barathron and perish, and the property of such an one is to be confiscated, with the exception of the tithe which falls to the goddess.

21I call upon you to try these generals in accordance with this decree. Yes, and so help me God--if it please you, begin with my own kinsman Pericles for base would it be on my part to make him of more account than the whole of the State.

22Or, if you prefer, try them by that other law, which is directed against robbers of temples and betrayers of their country, which says: if a man betray his city or rob a sacred temple of the gods, he shall be tried before a law court, and if he be convicted, his body shall not be buried in Attica, and his goods shall be confiscated to the State.

23Take your choice as between these two laws, men of Athens, and let the prisoners be tried by one or other. Let three portions of a day be assigned to each respectively, one portion wherein they shall listen to their accusation, a second wherein they shall make their defence, and a third wherein you shall meet and give your votes in due order on the question of their guilt or innocence.

24By this procedure the malefactors will receive the desert of their misdeeds in full, and those who are innocent will owe you, men of Athens, the recovery of their liberty, in place of unmerited destruction.[10]

25"On your side, in trying the accused by recognised legal procedure, you will show that you obey the dictates of pious feeling, and can regard the sanctity of an oath, instead of joining hands with our enemies the Lacedaemonians and fighting their battles. For is it not to fight their battles, if you take their conquerors, the men who deprived them of seventy vessels, and at the moment of victory sent them to perdition untried and in the teeth of the law?

26What are you afraid of, that you press forward with such hot haste? Do you imagine that you may be robbed of the power of life and death over whom you please, should you condescend to a legal trial? but that you are safe if you take shelter behind an illegality, like the illegality of Callixenus, when he worked upon the senate to propose to this assembly to deal with the accused by a single vote?

27But consider, you may actually put to death an innocent man, and then repentance will one day visit you too late. Bethink you how painful and unavailing remorse will then be, and more particularly if your error has cost a fellow- creature his life.

28What a travesty of justice it would be if in the case of a man like Aristarchus,[11] who first tried to destroy the democracy and then betrayed Oenoe to our enemy the Thebans, you granted him a day for his defence, consulting his wishes, and conceded to him all the other benefits of the law; whereas now you are proposing to deprive of these same privileges your own generals, who in every way conformed to your views and defeated your enemies.

29Do not you, of all men, I implore you, men of Athens, act thus. Why, these laws are your own, to them, beyond all else you owe your greatness. Guard them jealously; in nothing, I implore you, act without their sanction. "But now, turn for a moment and consider with me the actual occurrences which have created the suspicion of misconduct on the part of our late generals. The sea-fight had been fought and won, and the ships had returned to land, when Diomedon urged that the whole squadron should sail out in line and pick up the wrecks and floating crews. Erasinides was in favour of all the vessels sailing as fast as possible to deal with the enemy's forces at Mitylene. And Thrasylus represented that both objects could be effected, by leaving one division of the fleet there, and with the rest sailing against the enemy;

30and if this resolution were agreed to, he advised that each of the eight generals should leave three ships of his own division with the ten vessels of the taxiarchs, the ten Samian vessels, and the three belonging to the navarchs. These added together make forty- seven, four for each of the lost vessels, twelve in number.

31Among the taxiarchs left behind, two were Thrasybulus and Theramenes, the men who in the late meeting of this assembly undertook to accuse the generals. With the remainder of the fleet they were to sail to attack the enemy's fleet. Everything, you must admit, was duly and admirably planned. It was only common justice, therefore, that those whose duty it was to attack the enemy should render an account for all miscarriages of operations against the enemy; while those who were commissioned to pick up the dead and dying should, if they failed to carry out the instructions of the generals, be put on trial to explain the reasons of the failure.

32This indeed I may say in behalf of both parties. It was really the storm which, in spite of what the generals had planned, prevented anything being done. There are witnesses ready to attest the truth of this: the men who escaped as by a miracle, and among these one of these very generals, who was on a sinking ship and was saved. And this man, who needed picking up as much as anybody at that moment, is, they insist, to be tried by one and the same vote as those who neglected to perform their orders!

33Once more, I beg you, men of Athens, to accept your victory and your good fortune, instead of behaving like the desperate victims of misfortune and defeat. Recognise the finger of divine necessity; do not incur the reproach of stony-heartedness by discovering treason where there was merely powerlessness, and condemning as guilty those who were prevented by the storm from carrying out their instructions. Nay! you will better satisfy the demands of justice by crowning these conquerors with wreaths of victory than by punishing them with death at the instigation of wicked men."

34At the conclusion of his speech Euryptolemus proposed, as an amendment, that the prisoners should, in accordance with the decree of Cannonus, be tried each separately, as against the proposal of the senate to try them all by a single vote. At the show of hands the tellers gave the majority in favour of Euryptolemus's amendment, but upon the application of Menecles, who took formal exception[12] to this decision, the show of hands was gone through again, and now the verdict was in favour of the resolution of the senate. At a later date the balloting was made, and by the votes recorded the eight generals were condemned, and the six who were in Athens were put to death.

35Not long after, repentance seized the Athenians, and they passed a decree authorising the public prosecution of those who had deceived the people, and the appointment of proper securities for their persons until the trial was over. Callixenus was one of those committed for trail. There were, besides Callixenus, four others against whom true bills were declared, and they were all five imprisoned by their sureties. But all subsequently effected their escape before the trial, at the time of the sedition in which Cleophon[13] was killed. Callixenus eventually came back when the party in Piraeus returned to the city, at the date of the amnesty,[14] but only to die of hunger, an object of universal detestation.


  1. Reading {tes diobelais}, a happy conjecture for the MSS. {tes diokelias}, which is inexplicable. See Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. viii. p. 244 note (2d ed.)
  2. I.e. a legal tribunal or court of law. At Athens the free citizens constitutionally sworn and impannelled sat as "dicasts" ("jurymen," or rather as a bench of judges) to hear cases ({dikai}). Any particular board of dicasts formed a "dicastery."
  3. This is the Senate or Council of Five Hundred. One of its chief duties was to prepare measures for discussion in the assembly. It had also a certain amount of judicial power, hearing complaints and inflicting fines up to fifty drachmas. It sat daily, a "prytany" of fifty members of each of the ten tribes in rotation holding office for a month in turn.
  4. This is the great Public Assembly (the Ecclesia), consisting of all genuine Athenian citizens of more than twenty years of age.
  5. An important festival held in October at Athens, and in nearly all Ionic cities. Its objects were (1) the recognition of a common descent from Ion, the son of Apollo Patrous; and (2) the maintenance of the ties of clanship. See Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. viii. p. 260 foll. (2d ed.); Jebb, "Theophr." xviii. 5.
  6. I.e. in sign of mourning.
  7. Prytanes--the technical term for the senators of the presiding tribe, who acted as presidents of the assembly. Their chairman for the day was called Epistates.
  8. For the part played by Socrates see further Xenophon's "Memorabilia," I. i. 18; IV. iv. 2.
  9. "There was a rule in Attic judicial procedure, called the psephism of Kannonus (originally adopted, we do not know when, on the proposition of a citizen of that name, as a psephism or decree for some particular case, but since generalised into common practice, and grown into great prescriptive reverence), which peremptorily forbade any such collective trial or sentence, and directed that a separate judicial vote should in all cases be taken for or against each accused party." Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. viii. p. 266 (2d ed.)
  10. Reading {adikos apolountai}.
  11. See below, II. iii; also cf. Thuc. viii. 90, 98.
  12. For this matter cf. Schomann, "De Comitiis Athen." p. 161 foll.; also Grote, "Hist. of Grece," vol. viii. p. 276 note (2d ed.)
  13. Cleophon, the well-known demagogue. For the occasion of his death see Grote, "Hist. of Greece," vol. viii. pp. 166, 310 (2d ed.); Prof. Jebb, "Attic Orators," i. 266, ii. 288. For his character, as popularly conceived, cf. Aristoph. "Frogs," 677.
  14. B.C. 403.