The Orations of Lysias/Alcibiades

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Published By David McKay, 1898.

1 I presume, gentlemen of the jury, that you need to hear no reason from those who wish to prosecute Alcibiades, for from the start he so conducted himself in the public that it is every one's duty, even if he happen not to be privately injured by him, to consider him an enemy from his other actions. 2 For his sins were not trivial, nor do they deserve pardon, nor offer any hope of his becoming better in future, but his deeds have come to such a pitch of evil, his enemies are ashamed of those deeds in which he glories. As for a long time, ever since a dispute arose between our fathers, I have considered him my enemy, and now again since he has treated me wrongly, I, gentlemen of the jury, will try to punish him by your aid for all which he has done. 3 Archestratides has arraigned him sufficiently about other matters, for he declared the laws and brought evidence; but what he omitted, I will go over point by point with you.

4 Now it is reasonable, gentlemen of the jury, for those who serve as jurors in regard to these subjects for the first time since we made peace to be not only jurors but lawgivers, knowing well that, as you decide about these matters now, the city will manage in future. And it seems to me to be the part of a good citizen and impartial juror to define the laws as is most likely to benefit the state in future. 5 For some go so far as to say that no one is liable (to a charge) of desertion or cowardice; for there has been no battle and the law bids the soldiers to try "any one who goes to the rear through cowardice while the others are fighting." And the law does not provide for this case alone, but "whoever is not in the ranks." Now read the law.


6 You hear, gentlemen of the jury, that there are two provisions, for those who go to the rear during a battle, and those who fail to appear in the ranks. Now consider who ought to appear. Are they not those of military age? And those whom the Strategi enroll? 7 And I think, gentlemen of the jury, that he alone of the citizens is liable by the whole law. For he would be convicted of not being in the ranks, as when he was enrolled as a hoplite he did not go out with you in camp, and he did not let himself be placed in ranks, and of cowardice, for although he ought to have met danger with the hoplites, he chose to go with the cavalry. 8 But they say he will offer this defense, that in going with the cavalry, he did no harm to the state. But I consider you have just cause of anger against him on this account, that although the law imposes a fine on any one in the cavalry who is not examined, he dared to enter the cavalry without examination. Now read the law.


9 He reached such a degree of depravity, and he had so little respect for you and so much fear of the enemy, and he had so great a wish to join the cavalry and cared so little for the laws that he disregarded the risk, and was willed to be fined and have his property confiscated and be liable to all these existing penalties, rather than to take up his position in the ranks with the citizens and be a hoplite. 10 And others who never served in the infantry and who were formerly in the cavalry and did great damage to the enemy never dared mount their horses through fear of you and the law; for they laid their plans, not as if the state would perish, but would be secure and prosperous, and would exact punishment of wrong-doers. But Alcibiades dared mount, neither through goodwill to the state, nor because he had been a knight, nor understanding (cavalry drill), nor having passed your examinations, (supposing) that the state would be unable to exact penalty of offenders.

11 It is necessary to remember that, if it is possible to do whatever one wishes, there is no use in having laws, nor for you to be impaneled, nor for Strategi to be chosen. And I wonder, gentlemen of the jury, if any one claims if a man, enrolled in the first rank, on the approach of the enemy, is found in the second, that he should be condemned for cowardice, but that if one, enrolled among the hoplites, appears among the cavalry, he should be pardoned. 12 Now, gentlemen of the jury, I think you are drawn, not only for punishing offenders, but that you may make other offenders more discreet. If now you punish, only obscure persons, no one will become better, for none will know whom you have condemned; but if you punish conspicuous offenders, all will hear of it, and in consequence of their examples the citizens will become better. 13 If now you condemn this fellow, not only will those in the city hear of it, but your allies and enemies will learn of it, and they will more highly esteem the state, if they see you are aroused against such offenses, and that those who offend against discipline in war have no pardon. 14 Remember too, gentlemen of the jury, that there are some soldiers who chance to be exhausted, and some who lack resources, and some who would gladly serve (if they could) remain in towns, and others who wish to look out for their own affairs at home, others who would have liked to serve as light-armed soldiers and others in the cavalry; (15) and yet you do not venture to leave the ranks nor choose what pleases yourselves, but you fear the laws of the state more than the risk before the enemy. Bearing these things in mind, it is now necessary to cast your vote, and make it evident to all, that those Athenians who are unwilling to fight with the enemy will be punished by you.

16 I am convinced, gentlemen of the jury, that the defendants will have nothing to say about the laws or the deed itself; but they will get up and ask and entreat you, demanding that you should not condemn the cowardice of the son of Alcibiades on the ground that he did great good and not much harm; for (in reality) if you had put him to death at the same age (that his son now is), when you first discovered his offenses against you, such misfortunes had never befallen the state. 17 It seems to me, gentlemen of the jury, a dreadful thing for you to have passed sentence of death upon the father, and when the son commits a crime, you acquit him for this very reason, that he himself did not dare to fight on your side, and that his father took part with the enemy. And when as a child he did not yet show what he was going to be, he was almost delivered to the Eleven for his father's offenses; and as you know not only the deeds of the father, but the son's cowardice, will you think it right to pity him for his father's sake? 18 Is it not terrible, gentlemen of the jury, that these are so fortunate as to be acquitted on account of their noble birth when they are caught in crime, while we, if we lose by their lawlessness, could not gain any concession from the enemy on account of the valiant deeds of our ancestors? 19 These were many and important, and (were done) for all Greece, and were not at all like theirs in relation to the state. And if they think they are noble for aiding their friends, they are evidently all the better for punishing their enemies. 20 And I think, gentlemen of the jury, one ought to be angry if his relatives try to beg him off, that they did not (rather) induce him, or if they tried to induce him, but could not obtain their end, to comply with the demands of the state. In fact, they are trying to persuade you that you need not exact a penalty from wrong-doers. 21 And if some of those in authority aid him, making a display of their power and pluming themselves that they can get off even those who are evidently criminal, you must suppose in the first place that if all were like Alcibiades there would be no need of generals, for there would be none to lead, and secondly, that it is far more for their interests to accuse those who leave the ranks than to make a defense for such. For what hope is there that others would wish to obey their generals' commands, when these very men try to screen offenders against discipline? 22 I beg you then to acquit him, if those who speak and make claims for Alcibiades proved that he served with the hoplites or with the cavalry after an examination; but if, without a just plea, they demand you to favor them, you are to remember that they are teaching you to break your oath, and disobey the laws, and that by too great zeal for offenders they make many desirous (of emulating) their deeds.

23 And I especially wonder, gentlemen of the jury, if any of you shall claim that Alcibiades be acquitted through his friend and not be condemned for his own baseness. It is right that you should hear of this (conduct), that you may know that you would not do right to acquit him on the plea that he has merely committed this wrong, but in other respects has been an exemplary citizen. For from other deeds of his you would justly condemn him to death. 24 It is for your interest to know about these things, for when you allow defendants to speak of their own good deeds, and the noble actions of their ancestors, you ought also to listen to the accusers, if they prove that the defendants have committed many crimes against you, and their ancestors did much harm. 25 For this man, when a youth, at the house of Archedemus the blear-eyed, who had stolen much of your money, while many eyes were upon him, drank, lying at full length under the same rug, and caroused at midday, having a mistress while a mere boy, imitating his ancestors, and thinking he could not be an illustrious man, unless he were a wild youth. 26 He was summoned by Alcibiades when his conduct became notorious. And what sort of a fellow should you think him, when he shocked that man who used to teach others such practices! Having conspired with Theotimus against his father, he betrayed Oreus to him. And Theotimus, taking the fortified place, first maltreated the youth and finally bound him and exacted a ransom for him. 27 And his father hated him so that he used to say he would not even care for his body if he died. And when his father died, Archebiades, a favorite of his, ransomed him. Not long after, having gambled away his property, setting sail from Leuke Akte he tried to drown his friends. 28 It would be a long story, gentlemen of the jury, to tell all his crimes against the state, his relative s, friends and others; but Hipponicus, having called many to witness, divorced his own wife, declaring that Alcibiades entered her house not as brother but as husband. 29 And though he has committed such crimes and done such horrible things, he neither repents of what he has done nor cares for what he will do, but he who should be a most illustrious citizen, making his life a shield for his father's misdeeds, tries to bring insult upon others, as if being able to transfer to others the smallest share of the disgraces which belong to himself, (30) and that too being a son of that Alcibiades who persuaded the Spartans to fortify Decelea, and sailed off to the islands, and incited many in the city to crime, and oftener fought against his country with its enemies than with his fellow-citizens against them. For all this, it is for the interest of yourselves and posterity to punish any one you find of this family. 31 He has been accustomed to say it was not right for his father to return from exile and be favored by the state, and (yet) that he should suffer unjustly in reputation on account of his father's exile. But it seems wrong, if you take away his privileges on the ground that you gave (them) without just reason, and when this one commits a wrong acquit him on the ground that his father was an ornament to the state. 32 And there are many other reasons, gentlemen of the jury, for you to condemn him, and for this reason especially, that he quotes as a precedent in support of his own baseness your acts of valor. For he dares say that Alcibiades did nothing so terrible in leading war against his country. 33 For while you were in exile you took Phyle and cut the trees and 'made assaults upon the walls, and though so doing left no reproach for your descendants, but gained honor from all men, as if those were on a par who in exile joined with the enemy against the country, and those wh o established themselves when the Spartans were in possession of the city. 34 I believe it is clear to all that these fellows sought to establish themselves; but you returned and expelled the enemy and freed even those citizens who wished to be slaves. So he uses like words about the two parties while the facts were not at all similar. 35 And yet, with such great misfortune coming upon him, he glories in his father's baseness, and said that he had great power, to bring evil upon the state. But who is so ignorant of his country as not to be able, if he wishes to be a traitor, to tell the enemy what fortified places to seize, to show what forts are ill-guarded, to teach them his country's weak points, and to declare which allies are ready to revolt? 36 Surely it was not through his power in exile he was able to work evil to the state when he returned deceiving you, and took command of many triremes, but was able neither to dislodge the enemy from the country nor make the Chians friendly again whom he had caused to revolt, nor do a particle of good to you. 37 So it is not difficult to realize that Alcibiades did not differ from other men in power, but was first of the citizens in villainy. Whatever he knew to be your weak points, he informed the Spartans, and when he had to act as general, he could do them no harm, but promising that the king would furnish money at his request, he took more than two hundred talents from the city. 38 And so he realized that he had done you much harm, and though being able to speak, and while he had friends, and having acquired the money, he never dared return and render his accounts, but exiling himself preferred to be a citizen of Thrace or of any other city rather than his own. And finally, gentlemen of the jury, to cap all his former baseness, he dared with Adeimantus to betray the ships to Lysander. 39 So if any one of you pities those who perished in the naval battle, or feels disgrace on account of those enslaved by the enemy, or is angry at the demolishment of the walls, or hates the Spartans, or is angry at the Thirty, he should consider that this man's father was the cause of all this, and remember that Alcibiades, his great-grandfather, and his great-great-grandfather on his mother's side were ostracized twice by your ancestors, and that the older men among you condemned his father to death; so you must consider him as an hereditary enemy of the state and as such condemn him, and care less for pitying and pardoning him than for the existing laws and the oaths which you have sworn. 41 But you must consider, gentlemen of the jury, on what ground you should spare such men. Is it on the ground that in relation to the state they have been unfortunate, but otherwise have lived with moderation and in an orderly fashion? Have they not been unchaste, and lived with their sisters, and some have had children by their daughters, (42) others have performed the mysteries, mutilated the Hermae, been impious before the gods, wronged the state, have lived without regard to justice or law in relation to others or to their fellow-citizens, have refrained from no deed of daring, nor left untried any crime? They have experienced and done everything. For such is their disposition as to be ashamed of good deeds, and to glory in crime. 43 Now it is true, gentlemen of the jury, that before now you have acquitted some, although knowing they were in the wrong, believing that in the future they would be useful to you. But what hope is there that the state will be benefited by this fellow, whom you will know to be worthless as soon as he begins his defense, and understand to be a coward from the rest of his disposition. 44 If he were banished, he could not work you any evil, being a coward and poor and unable to effect anything, at variance with his kinsmen and hated by other men. So for this reason he should not be cared for, (45) but much rather should he furnish an example to other men, especially to his associates, who are not willing to obey commands and desire such a course of action as his, and while mismanaging their own affairs attempt to dictate about yours.

46 I have made my accusation as best I could, and I know that there are some of my audience who wonder how I was able to ferret out so accurately their misdeeds, while the defendant is laughing to himself because I have mentioned (only) the smallest part of their sins. 47 So taking into account what has been omitted as well as what has been said, condemn him by your votes, remembering that he is liable to the charge, and that the state would gain much if relieved of such citizens. Read now to them the laws and the oaths and the writ, and with these in mind they will vote justly.