Homicide trials formed a distinct category in terms of legal procedure. The Constitution of Athens (7.l) maintains that the only laws of Drakon retained by Solon were those dealing with homicide. Antiphon (6.2) emphasizes the antiquity of the homicide laws and insists that they have remained unchanged. It is conceivable that the laws had been subjected to adjustments between Drakon and the end of the fifth century, when they were reinscribed as part of a general revision of the laws, but there is no good cause to doubt the general impression we have of conservatism in this area of the law. The reluctance to change reflects the Greek conservatism in matters of religion, for homicide pollutes the perpetrator and anyone who comes into contact with him or her. The antiquity of the laws and the Athenian reluctance to meddle with them probably explains the fact that this, the most serious of crimes, was covered by a private action (though for obvious reasons the right to prosecute lay with the victim’s family, whereas in ordinary private cases the victim alone had the right to sue) rather than by public action, as one would expect. The concept of public action (of prosecution by ho boulomenos) was created by Solon after Drakon’s day. For the reader who wishes to explore homicide law in depth, D.M. MacDowell’s Athenian Homicide Law in the Age of the Orators (Manchester 1963), E.M. Carawan’s Rhetoric and the law of Draco (Oxford 2001) and D. Phillips’ Avengers of Blood: Homicide in Athenian Law and Custom from Draco to Demosthenes (Stuttgart 2008) may be consulted; for the present it will be sufficient to adumbrate some of the distinctive features. The prosecution began with a proclamation in the agora instructing the alleged perpetrator to abstain from a number of religious and social activities, as being unclean (Antiphon 6.35–6, [Demosthenes] 59.9). It proceeded more slowly than in other cases, with three preliminary hearings (prodikasiai) held in three separate months and the trial itself in the fourth. The trials made more extensive use of oaths than other cases, including (uniquely within the Athenian system) a compulsory oath from all witnesses to the effect that the accused had or had not committed the crime. They also had tight rules on relevance. Most strikingly perhaps, they were always held in the open air to prevent the judges from coming under the same roof as a polluted individual. The judicial panels were also distinctive. The most important homicide court, the Areiopagos, consisted of ex-Archons, individuals with administrative and legal experience, and since the panel remained unchanged this effectively constituted an expert panel. The other courts were manned by the ephetai, fifty-one in number; these may have been selected from within the Areiopagos, though this is far from certain. Another distinctive feature is the number of courts trying the same offence. The allocation of cases to courts depended on a number of factors; the status of the victim, the nature of the accusation and the nature of the defence.


This speech was written for the defence of a man named Euphiletos (§16), who is accused of the deliberate killing of a young man named Eratosthenes. Both are otherwise unknown. He argues in his defence that he caught Eratosthenes in the act of sex with his wife. The killing was therefore legal. The case will have been heard by the Delphinion, the court which tried homicide cases in which the accused admitted the act but maintained that the killing was allowed by law. The date of the trial cannot be fixed with confidence. It could fall at any point between the probable start of Lysias’ speech-writing career after 403 BC and his retirement or death some time around 380. It has been suggested that the characters and situation in this speech are fictive, i.e. that what we have is an exercise/sample speech of the kind we have in the tetralogies of Antiphon rather than a defence spoken in a real trial. The names might lend credence to this hypothesis (Eratosthenes means something like ‘power of desire’ and Euphiletos means ‘wellbeloved’, an ironic name under the circumstances). But this speech is quite unlike the bare manner of the tetralogies, and there is nothing that is incompatible with delivery in a real action. Even the names are of limited significance in a culture where almost all names have a meaning, though we cannot rule out the possibility that the names have been changed for publication, given the implications of seduction for family honour and legitimacy of children. There are commentaries on this speech in C. Carey, Lysias: Selected Speeches (Cambridge 1989), S.C. Todd, A Commentary on Lysias, Speeches 1–11 (Oxford 2007) and M.J. Edwards, Lysias: Five Speeches (London 1999).

[1] I should value it greatly, gentlemen, if you would adopt the same attitude as my judges in this matter, as you would toward yourselves if you had been subjected to such treatment. For I am sure that if you were to have the same attitude to others as you do toward yourselves there would be nobody who would not feel indignant at what has taken place, but all of you would consider the penalties for those who behave in this way trifling. [2] And this would be the considered opinion not only here but in the whole of Greece. For this is the only wrong for which both in democracy and in oligarchy the same redress has been given to the weakest against the most powerful, so that the lowest has the same rights as the highest; so firmly, gentlemen, do all mankind believe that this outrage is the most terrible. [3] Well, on the magnitude of the penalty I think you all are of the same mind, and that nobody is so lax as to think that those who are responsible for actions of this sort should obtain pardon or deserve light penalties; [4] but I think that what I must prove is that Eratosthenes seduced my wife and both corrupted her and disgraced my sons and insulted me by entering my house; and that there was neither any hostility between me and him apart from this, nor did I commit this act for money, to rise from rags to riches, nor for any other profit beyond the redress granted by the laws. [5] So then, I shall disclose to you the whole of my story from the beginning, leaving nothing out but telling the truth. For I see this as my only means of salvation, if I am able to tell you everything that happened.

[6] When I decided to marry, men of Athens, and I brought a wife into my house, during the early period my attitude was neither to annoy her nor to allow her too much freedom to do as she wished; I protected her to the best of my ability and kept watch as was proper. But when my child was born, from then on I trusted her and I placed all my property in her care, believing that this was the strongest bond of affection. [7] And to begin with, men of Athens, she was the best of all women; she was a skilled and thrifty housekeeper who kept careful control over everything. But when my mother died – [8] and her death has been the cause of all my troubles, for it was when my wife attended her funeral that she was seen by this man and eventually corrupted; he kept watch for the serving girl who used to go to market and passed messages and seduced her.

[9] Now first, gentlemen (this too I must tell you), I have a small house with two floors, with the upstairs and downstairs equal in size as far as the men’s and women’s quarters are concerned. When our baby was born, its mother nursed it. So that my wife would not run any risk going downstairs when she had to bathe him, I lived upstairs and the women below. [10] And this had become so normal that often my wife would go off downstairs to sleep with the baby, to give him the breast so that he wouldn’t cry. And this went on for a long time, and I never once suspected, but was so gullible that I thought my own wife was the most decent woman in the city.

[11] After a time, gentlemen, I came home unexpectedly from the country. After dinner the baby cried and howled; he was being tormented by the maid on purpose to make him, because the man was in the house – afterwards I discovered all of this. [12] And I told my wife to go off and give the baby the breast to stop him crying. To start with she refused, as if she were pleased to see me back after a long absence. When I grew angry and told her to go she said: ‘Oh yes, so that you can have a go at the serving girl here! You’ve groped her before too when you were drunk!’ [13] I for my part laughed, while she stood up, went out and closed the door, pretending she was joking, and then turned the key. And I thought nothing of all this and suspected nothing, but went to sleep gladly, having come from the country. [14] When it was almost daylight, she came and opened the door. When I asked why the doors banged in the night, she said that the lamp by the baby had gone out and so she had got a light from the neighbours. I said nothing, and believed that this was true. But I thought, gentlemen, that she was wearing make-up, though her brother was not yet dead thirty days. Still, even so I said nothing about the matter but went off without a word.

[15] After this, gentlemen, time passed, and I remained in complete ignorance of my misfortunes. Then an elderly female slave came up to me; she had been sent secretly by a woman with whom Eratosthenes was having an affair – so I heard later. This woman was resentful and thought herself hard done by, because he no longer visited her frequently as before; so she kept watch until she found out the cause. [16] This female approached me near my house, where she was looking out for me. ‘Euphiletos,’ she said, ‘don’t think I’ve approached you through any desire to meddle. For the man who is insulting you and your wife is actually an enemy of ours. If you seize the girl who goes to market and works for you and put her to the test, you will discover everything. It is,’ she said, ‘Eratosthenes of Oe who is doing this. Not only has he corrupted your wife but also many others; he makes a profession of it.’

[17] With these words, gentlemen, she went off, while I was immediately thrown into confusion; everything came into my mind and I was filled with suspicion. I reflected how I was locked up in my room, and recollected that the courtyard door and outside door banged that night, something which had never happened before, and that I thought my wife was wearing make-up. All this came into my mind and I was filled with suspicion. [18] I went home and told the serving girl to come to the market with me. I took her to the house of one of my friends and told her that I had found out everything that was going on in the house. ‘So,’ I said, ‘you have two choices, either to be whipped and thrown into a mill and never have any release from miseries of this sort, or to tell the whole truth and suffer no harm but obtain pardon from me for your offences. Tell me no lies. Speak the whole truth.’

[19] As for her, to begin with she denied it and told me to do as I wished, since she knew nothing. But when I mentioned Eratosthenes to her and said that he was the man who was visiting my wife, she was amazed, supposing that I had detailed knowledge. At that point she threw herself at my knees, [20] and having received an assurance from me that she would suffer no harm she turned accuser, telling first of all how he approached her after the funeral, and then how she had finally served as his messenger and my wife was won over eventually, and the means by which his entry was arranged, and how at the Thesmophoria while I was in the country my wife went to the temple with his mother. And she gave me a detailed account of everything else which had taken place.

[21] When her whole story was told, I said: ‘See that nobody in the world hears of this. Otherwise nothing I have agreed with you will stand. And I expect you to give me manifest proof of this. I don’t need words, I want the action exposed, if it is as you say.’ [22] She agreed to do this.

After this there was an interval of four or five days, as I shall demonstrate with convincing evidence. But first of all I want to give you an account of what took place on the last day. I had a close friend, Sostratos, whom I met on his way from the country after sunset. I knew that having arrived so late he would find nothing he needed at home, and so I invited him to dinner. We reached my house and went upstairs and dined. [23] When he had eaten his fill, he went off while I went to sleep. Eratosthenes, gentlemen, came in, and the serving girl woke me at once and told me that he was in the house. Telling her to watch the door, I went downstairs in silence and left the house. I called on one man after another; some I didn’t catch at home, while others, I found, were not even in town. [24] But I took as many as I could of those who were available and made my way back. We obtained torches from the nearest shop and went indoors – the door had been kept open by the serving girl. We pushed open the door of the bedroom. The first of us to enter saw him still lying beside my wife; those who entered after saw him standing naked on the bed.

[25] I knocked him down with a blow, gentlemen; I forced his hands behind his back and tied them, and asked him why he was insulting me by entering my house. He admitted his guilt, but begged and pleaded with me not to kill him but to exact money. [26] For my part I answered: ‘It is not I who shall kill you but the city’s law, which you broke, because you considered it less important than your pleasures. You preferred to commit a crime such as this against my wife and my children rather than obey the laws and behave decently.’

[27] So, gentlemen, that man paid the penalty which the law prescribes for those who commit such wrongs. He was not dragged in off the street, nor did he take refuge at the hearth, as these people maintain. How could he, when he fell down at once in the bedroom where he was struck, and I had bound his hands, when there were so many people in the room whom he could not slip past, and he had neither blade nor wood nor any other weapon with which to resist those who had entered the room? [28] No, gentlemen, I think you too are aware that people engaged in unjust plots do not accept that their enemies are telling the truth. By telling lies themselves and by such devices they stir up the hearers’ anger against men who are acting justly. [To the clerk] Now first of all read out the law.


[29] He did not dispute his guilt, gentlemen, but confessed it, and begged and pleaded not to die but offered to pay money. For my part I did not agree to his assessment. I considered that the law’s authority was greater, and exacted the penalty which you believed most just when you imposed it for men guilty of such offences. Will my witnesses to these statements please step up.


[30] Please read out this law too from the column on the Areiopagos.


You hear, gentlemen, that it is explicitly decreed by the court on the Areiopagos itself, which both by our ancestors and in our own day has been granted the right to try cases of murder, that a man is not to be convicted of murder if he exacts this punishment after catching a seducer with his spouse. [31] And the lawgiver was so convinced of the justice of this in the case of married women that he imposed the same penalty in the case of concubines, who are of less importance. Yet clearly, if he had had a harsher penalty in the case of married women, he would have employed it. As it is, unable to find a more severe penalty in their case, he determined that the punishment should be the same as in the case of concubines. Please read out this law too.


[32] You hear, gentlemen, that he bids that if anyone forcibly shames a free man or boy, he is to pay double the damage, if a woman, in cases where killing is permitted, he is liable to the same penalty. So true is it that he considered that those who use force deserve a lesser penalty than those who use persuasion. For he condemned the latter to death, while for the former he doubled the damages, [33] in the belief that those who get their way by force are hated by their victims, while those who have used persuasion corrupt the women’s minds to such an extent that they make other people’s wives more loyal to themselves than to their husbands, so that the whole household is in their power and it is uncertain whose the children are, the husbands’ or the seducers’. And so the lawgiver made death the penalty for them.

[34] So in my case, gentlemen, the laws have not only acquitted me of wrongdoing but have actually ordered me to exact this penalty. And it is up to you whether the laws are to have authority or to be of no account. [35] For in my opinion the reason all cities make their laws is so that on any issue on which we are in doubt we may go to them and determine what must be done. It is the laws which urge the victims in cases such as this to exact this penalty. [36] I urge you to show your agreement with them. If not, you will provide so much security for seducers as to encourage thieves too to claim that they are seducers. They will know well that if they offer this excuse and claim that this is their purpose in entering other people’s houses, nobody will lay a finger on them. Everyone will know that the laws on seduction can be ignored, that it is your vote they need to fear. For this is the supreme authority in the city.

[37] And consider, gentlemen. They allege that I told the serving girl to fetch the young man that day. Personally, gentlemen, I should consider myself justified in using any means available to catch the man who had corrupted my wife. [38] For if words had been exchanged but no act had taken place and I told her to fetch him, I would have been in the wrong; but if the affair had been fully consummated and he had entered my house many times, and I used any means available to catch him, I should consider my action reasonable. [39] But note that this too is a lie. You will recognize this easily from the following facts. As I said before, gentlemen, my close friend Sostratos met me on his way from the country around sunset and dined with me, and when he had eaten his fill he went off. [40] Yet consider first of all, gentlemen, whether, if I was plotting against Eratosthenes that night it was better for me to dine elsewhere myself or to bring a dinner guest home. For in the latter case Eratosthenes would have been less likely to venture into the house. Then again, do you think I would have let my dinner guest go and leave me alone and unsupported, or ask him to stay, so that he could join me in taking revenge on the seducer? [41] Furthermore, gentlemen, don’t you think I would have sent word to my associates during the day and instructed them to gather in the nearest of my friends’ houses, instead of running around during the night as soon as I found out, without knowing whom I would find at home and who would be out? I went to Harmodios’ house, and another’s, who were out of town (I had no idea), and found that others were not at home, and made my way back taking all those I could. [42] Yet if I had known beforehand, don’t you think I would have had servants ready and sent word to my friends, so that I could go in with the utmost safety myself (how could I know whether he had a blade too?), and take my revenge with the maximum number of witnesses? As it is, knowing nothing of what was to happen that night, I took along those I could. Will my witnesses to these statements please step up.


[43] You have heard the witnesses, gentlemen. Now consider the matter in your own minds, and ask if there has ever been any quarrel between Eratosthenes and me, apart from this. You will find none. [44] He did not persecute me with public charges; nor did he try to exile me from the city; nor did he bring private suits against me; nor did he know any secret about me which I was so afraid someone would discover that I wanted to kill him; nor did I have any hope of receiving money from some source if I were to commit this act. For people sometimes plot each other’s deaths for motives such as these. [45] Now, not only had no insult or drunken quarrel or any other dispute taken place; I had never even seen the man except that night. What conceivable reason could I have had to risk such a danger, if I had not received the most terrible wrong from him? [46] Then again, did I voluntarily summon witnesses to my impiety, when I could have ensured, if I was plotting wrongfully to kill him, that none of them would share my secret?

[47] In my opinion, gentlemen, this was not a private punishment for my own sake but for the whole city. For people who act in this way, once they see the prizes set up for such offences, will be less likely to commit them against others, if they see that you are of the same mind. [48] Otherwise, it is far better to expunge the established laws and make others which will impose the punishments on men who protect their own wives and grant full immunity to men who wish to offend against them. [49] This is far more just than for the citizens to be ambushed by the laws; these bid anyone who catches a seducer to treat him as he chooses, but it turns out that the trials are far more dangerous for the victims than for those who disgrace other men’s wives contrary to the laws. [50] For I now find my person, my property, everything else, in danger, because I obeyed the city’s laws.

The individual right to self-help – that is to take legally sanctioned action without recourse to the courts – persisted in certain contexts in the classical period. Among them was the punishment of the seducer (Greek moichos). Where a free male found another male having illicit sex with a woman under his protection and control, he had a range of options: he could prosecute by graphe; he could hold the guilty party prisoner and extract a ransom; he could subject him to physical degradation; he could even (where certain close female relatives at least were concerned) kill. The defence under Athenian law is to be distinguished from modern concepts such as diminished responsibility or crime passionnel. The defence is not that the killer lost control but that he carried out a lawful execution. From Euphiletos’ understandably sketchy account of the prosecution case, it seems that the dead man’s relatives argue that Eratosthenes was not taken in illicit sex but was enticed to the house by the serving girl (and perhaps dragged in at the last moment), and therefore presumably that there was some other motive for the killing than that advanced by Euphiletos. From Euphiletos’ strenuous denial that he sent for Eratosthenes, it would appear that his right to take action was, if not negated, at least compromised if he had in any way connived in the seduction. The prosecution also claims that Eratosthenes had taken refuge at the hearth before he was killed. Since the hearth was sacred, the killing in these circumstances would be sacrilege. Though irrelevant to the question of the validity of Euphiletos’ defence, the allegation if accepted by the judges could prejudice them against Euphiletos.

In factual terms, in order to secure his acquittal, Euphiletos needs to demonstrate that he killed Eratosthenes in the circumstances and for the reasons he claimed. That the dead man was a seducer and was taken in the act seems to be proved conclusively by the many witnesses whom Euphiletos took with him on the night in question. He also attacks the notion that there could have been any other reason for killing Eratosthenes. From his confidence on this score we may perhaps conclude that the prosecutors are hard pressed to find a plausible motive for homicide. They may however be closer to the truth with their allegation that Eratosthenes was enticed into the house. Euphiletos produces a body of testimony from people whom he visited on the night in question, and who were unavailable, and an argument from probability that this lack of preparation refutes the claim that Eratosthenes was tricked. However, one is struck both by the convenient neatness of this evidence for unpreparedness and by the striking disparity between, on the one hand, his advance instructions to the maidservant to give him visible proof and the efficiency with which he set about his activities on the fateful night and, on the other, his avowed failure to ascertain in advance the movements of his friends against the likely need for their assistance.

However, the most significant means of gaining credence for his account is the characterization of Euphiletos by Lysias. This was a technique in which Lysias excelled. Here the speechwriter creates for his client a personality whose accuracy we cannot assess with confidence but which is so convenient for Euphiletos’ line of defence that one suspects that it is determined more by strategic considerations than by any resemblance to the historical Euphiletos. Lysias presents us with a trusting, even naive, individual (an archetypal cuckold), who seems incapable of the kind of deception alleged by his accusers. As well as bolstering Euphiletos’ version of events, this characterization also commands the sympathy of the hearer. Eratosthenes in contrast, though he never emerges as a distinct personality, is presented as the arch-seducer, a threat to society. In order to strengthen the defence, Lysias also obscures the range of procedures available against seducers. He creates the illusion that killing Eratosthenes was an inevitable course of action; in fact, as was observed above, the aggrieved male had a number of options, not all violent.


The present speech was written for the prosecution of a woman accused of causing the death of her husband by poisoning. The allegation is that she tricked another female (probably a slave) into administering the poison. The dead man had been married twice. The prosecutor is his son by his first marriage; the accused is the second wife, and her defence is presented by her son by the dead man, half-brother to the accuser. Although the issue is contentious, it is likely that the charge is bouleusis of homicide. Bouleusis, literally ‘planning’, is used more broadly in the Athenian system to mean ‘encompassing’, including perhaps incitement, and accordingly can be applied both to intentional and to unintentional homicide. The accuser in the present case alleges bouleusis of intentional homicide. Cases of bouleusis were tried at the Palladion. The date cannot be determined for certain. There is a commentary on this and the following two speeches in M. Gagarin, Antiphon: The Speeches (Cambridge 1997).

[1] Young as I am and inexperienced still in lawsuits, I am in a terrible dilemma in this matter, gentlemen; I must either fail to proceed against his killers despite my father’s injunction or if I do proceed I must start a quarrel with those I least should, my paternal half-brothers and their mother. [2] The course of events and my opponents themselves have compelled me to undertake this action against the very people who would by rights have acted as both the dead man’s avengers and as the prosecutor’s allies. As it is the reverse has happened. For these very people turn out to be the adversaries and the killers, as I and my written indictment state. [3] I urge you, gentlemen, if I demonstrate that their mother by design and forethought is our father’s killer, and has been caught before now in the act of contriving his death, not just once but on several occasions, first of all avenge your laws – these you have received from the gods and from your ancestors, and you apply the same standards as they when voting for conviction; second, avenge the dead man; and at the same time rescue me, for I am left all alone. [4] For you are my nearest kin. The ones who should by rights have acted as the dead man’s avengers and as my allies have proved to be the dead man’s killers and have become my adversaries. What allies is a man to seek, where else will he go for refuge, except to you and to justice?

[5] I am amazed at my brother. Whatever does he mean in appearing as my opponent? Does he think that piety consists in not abandoning his mother? Personally, I think it far more impious to abandon the vengeance due to the dead man, especially as his death was unplanned and unintentional on his part, while the murder was deliberate and intentional on hers. [6] And he cannot claim that he knows for certain that his mother did not kill our father. For he refused the one source of sure knowledge, from torture, while he welcomed sources which could not provide information. Yet he should have been eager, and this was the substance of my challenge, to investigate what really happened. [7] For if the slaves did not support me, he could have offered a vigorous defence against me based on certain knowledge and his mother would have been rid of this charge. But where he refused to put the facts to the test, how can he possibly have knowledge of matters he refused to ascertain?

[8] What defence will he offer, I ask myself. For he was well aware that torture meant she could not be saved; he thought her salvation lay in refusing the torture. They believed that the facts could be suppressed by this means. So surely his oath that he knows for certain cannot be true, if he refused to obtain sure information when I was willing to use the fairest test, the torture, in this matter? [9] For to start with I offered to put to the torture his slaves, who knew that this woman, their mother, had also plotted earlier to kill my father with drugs, that my father had caught her in the act and that she made no denial beyond claiming that she was administering them not to kill him but as a love potion. [10] This was my reason for wishing to put them to the test in this way. I put accusations against this woman in writing and invited my opponents themselves to act as questioners in my presence, so that the slaves would not be forced to answer questions put by me; instead I was satisfied if the questions in my document were used. (And it is right that this should count as evidence for me, that I am pursuing my father’s killer properly and justly.) And if they gave negative or contradictory answers, the torture was to compel them to expose what had been done; for torture will make even people suborned to tell lies speak the truth.

[11] Yet I am certain that if they had come to me and offered to hand over their slaves as soon as they were informed that I was proceeding against my father’s killer, and it was I who refused to accept, they would be advancing this very fact as their strongest evidence that they are innocent of the murder. As it stands, as I am the one who though willing to act as questioner myself invited them to carry out the torture in my place, it is surely right that this same fact should count as evidence that they are guilty of the murder. [12] For if my opponents had offered to hand them over for torture and I had refused, they would have counted it as evidence. So this same fact should count for me, since I offered to put the matter to the test and they refused to hand them over. I think it appalling that they are trying to induce you not to convict them when they did not see fit to judge their own case by handing their slaves over for torture.

[13] So on this issue it is quite clear that they shrank from obtaining certain knowledge of the facts. They knew that the crime which would come to light would be laid at their door, and so they wanted to leave it in silence, untested. I am certain you will not, gentlemen. You will expose it.

So much for this point. However, I shall try to give you an account of what really took place. May justice be my guide.

[14] Our house had an upstairs room, which Philoneos used to occupy whenever he was in town. He was a decent man, a friend of my father. He had a concubine, whom he intended to put in a brothel. My brother’s mother discovered this and befriended her. [15] Having ascertained that Philoneos intended to treat the woman badly, she sent for her and on her arrival told her that she too was being badly treated by our father. If the woman was ready to follow her instructions, she claimed that she was able to regain both Philoneos’ affection for the woman and my father’s for herself. She would devise, the other would obey. [16] Then she asked her if she was willing to carry out her instructions, and the woman promised, straight away, I imagine.

Subsequently, as it happened, Philoneos had a religious ceremony to Zeus of Possessions to perform in Peiraieus, while my father was on the point of sailing to Naxos. Philoneos thought it an excellent idea both to accompany my father to Peiraieus, as a friend of his, and to entertain him after making the sacrifice. [17] Philoneos’ concubine went along for the sacrifice. When they were in Peiraieus, Philoneos sacrificed, of course. And when he had completed the sacrifice, the female wondered how to administer the drug to them, before or after dinner. And as she considered the matter she concluded that after dinner was better; she was also acting on the instructions of this Klytaimestra, my brother’s mother. [18] The full account of the dinner would be too longwinded for me to tell and for you to hear. I shall try to give as brief an account as I can of the rest, of how the poison was administered. After dinner, naturally, since one was sacrificing to Zeus of Possessions and entertaining the other, and one was about to go on a voyage and was dining with a close friend, they made a libation and offered incense for their future. [19] And while Philoneos’ concubine was pouring the libation for them – as they offered prayers which would never be fulfilled, gentlemen – she poured in the poison. Thinking she was being clever, she gave more to Philoneos in the belief perhaps that if she gave him more she would win more affection from him – she had no idea that she was my stepmother’s dupe until disaster struck – while she poured less in our father’s drink. [20] They for their part after pouring their libations took their final drink, holding in their hands their own killer. Philoneos died at once on the spot; our father was afflicted with a sickness from which he died after twenty days. For this the assistant who carried out the act has the reward she deserved, though she was not to blame – she was put on the wheel and then handed over to the public executioner; the guilty party, the one who planned it, will soon have hers, if you and the gods will it.

[21] Note how much more just my plea is than my brother’s. I urge you to avenge the dead man, who is the victim of an irreparable wrong. For the dead man my brother will offer no request, though he deserves your pity and support and vengeance for having his life taken in a godless and inglorious manner before his time by the last people who should have done this. [22] His plea will be for the murderess, a plea which is unprincipled, unholy, which deserves neither fulfilment nor attention either from the gods or from you; he will seek with his plea (to induce you not to convict her for her crimes) though she could not induce herself not to devise them. But you must give your support not to those who kill but to the victims of deliberate murder, especially at the hands of the last people who should have killed them. It is now up to you to come to the right verdict on this case; you must do so.

[23] He will plead with you for his mother, who is still alive, who killed the dead man in such a reckless and godless manner, to prevent her from paying the penalty for her crimes – if he can persuade you. But I plead with you for my dead father, to ensure that at all costs she will pay it. It was precisely to ensure that wrongdoers pay the penalty that you became judges and were given this title. [24] My purpose in speaking for the prosecution is to ensure that she pays the penalty for her crimes and I avenge our father and your laws; for this reason it is proper that you should all support me, if I am speaking the truth. His purpose in acting as her supporter is the opposite, to ensure that the woman who ignored the laws does not pay the penalty for her crimes. [25] Yet which is more just, that someone who has murdered intentionally should pay the penalty or not? Who is more deserving of pity, the dead man or the woman who killed him? Personally, I think it is the dead man. This would be more just and more pious of you in the sight of gods and men. I urge now that just as she destroyed him without remorse and without pity, so she should be destroyed by you and by justice. [26] For she deliberately inflicted death of her own free will, while he suffered it unwillingly and by force. Certainly by force, gentlemen; he was about to set sail from this territory, and was being entertained by a friend of his. She however in sending the drug and ordering it to be given to him to drink killed our father. How can you or anyone else see fit to show her pity or consideration, when she did not see fit to pity her own husband but destroyed him ruthlessly and shamefully?

[27] So then, it is more proper to feel pity for involuntary suffering than for intentional and deliberate wrongs and offences. She killed him without respect or fear for gods or heroes or men; by the same token, if she were destroyed by you and by justice, if you were to show her no consideration or pity or respect, her punishment would be completely just.

[28] I am amazed at the impudence of my brother’s attitude, in swearing in his mother’s defence that he knows for certain that she has not committed this act. How can he know for certain when he was not present? People plotting to kill those around them do not devise their plans in front of witnesses but as furtively as they can so that no-one in the world knows. [29] The victims of their plots are completely ignorant until disaster strikes and they recognize the ruin which has befallen them. Then if they are able, if they have time before they die, they summon their friends and relatives and call them to witness; they tell them the identity of the killers and solemnly instruct them to take vengeance for the crime against them – [30] as my father instructed me, his son, during his last pitiable illness. If they cannot reach them, they write down a statement and call their servants to witness and reveal the identity of the killers. This is what my father did; he revealed all this and gave his instructions to me, young as I still was, not to his slaves.

[31] For my part, I have told my tale and given my support to the dead man and the law. It is for you to consider the rest for yourselves and to vote in accordance with justice. I think that the gods below also take an interest in the victims of wrongdoing.

The central facts are straightforward enough. The speaker’s father died not long after a friend, Philoneos, with whom he had dined. According to the speaker, he believed himself to have been poisoned. Philoneos’ mistress, who was probably a slave, confessed under torture to administering poison, apparently in the belief that she was giving Philoneos a drug which would restore his desire for her. The speaker claims that his father imposed a solemn injunction (Greek episkepsis) on him, stating that he was the victim of murder and instructing him to pursue the killer. §30 seems to suggest that the speaker was very young at the time, and it may be that a substantial interval has intervened since the father’s death, perhaps the interval needed for the speaker to reach the age of majority and so be able to prosecute (there was no time limit, prothesmia, in homicide cases).

There is no real reason to doubt the broad outline of ascertainable events provided by the speaker, and one can readily see why the son of the first marriage might welcome the chance to prosecute his stepmother. The problem resides in the imputation of guilt to the stepmother; there is in fact a striking lack of evidence to incriminate her. Even if we accept that Philoneos and the speaker’s father were poisoned (and not merely the victims of food-poisoning or some other natural cause) and that Philoneos’ mistress had administered a fatal drug (and did not simply confess to a non-existent crime to be rid of the torture), the speaker’s father could do nothing more than express his suspicions. Whether he even suspected his second wife is not made explicit by the speaker; this may be a deliberate evasion of a weak point. The woman who was tortured evidently did not incriminate the stepmother, or we should have expected to hear more of her confession; as it stands the narrative takes us to her death and then the speech abruptly changes tack, moving from narration to argumentation. With such a lack of solid evidence, the speaker is forced to rely on emotional appeal (sympathy for himself, forced to take such an action while so young, pity for his dead father, abhorrence for the monstrous woman who killed him, likened to Klytaimestra §17) and especially on the inference to be drawn from his stepbrother’s refusal to agree to the torture of slaves who might have helped determine what actually happened. The general difficulty in obtaining any evidence may explain the surprising absence of witnesses in this speech, though one would have expected at least to have heard from the doctor who attended the dead man.


The present case arises out of the death of an Athenian named Herodes. He and the speaker, Euxitheos, a native of Mytilene in Lesbos, were sailing from Mytilene to Thrace when they were compelled by bad weather to put in on the coast of Lesbos. To pass the time more comfortably, they boarded another boat, which offered cover from the rain, and engaged in a drinking bout. During the night Herodes left the boat (one would imagine, though we are not told, to answer a call of nature) and never returned. After a fruitless search, Euxitheos continued his voyage. Relatives of Herodes then conducted their own investigation. They tortured two men, one of whom (who was certainly a slave) incriminated both himself and Euxitheos in the killing of Herodes, the other (alleged by Euxitheos to be free) exculpated Euxitheos. A further search of the vessel where the drinking party took place revealed a note incriminating Euxitheos. Blood was found, but proved to be animal blood from a sacrifice. Herodes’ relatives then killed the slave. Euxitheos has now been summoned to face prosecution in Athens. However, the case is not a regular homicide trial; instead of charging Euxitheos with intentional killing, the accusers have subjected him to the procedure of endeixis (denunciation) as a kakourgos. Kakourgos, literally ‘wrongdoer’ (translated in the present volume by ‘felon’), was not as one might suppose a generic term for lawbreakers but referred to a class of criminals whose crimes were mainly against property; they included burglars (toichorychoi), muggers (lopodytai, literally ‘clothes-strippers’) and thieves (kleptai), and were liable to summary arrest and (if they confessed) execution by the officials known as the Eleven. The trial is therefore heard not by the Areiopagos but by an ordinary judicial panel. The date cannot be fixed with precision; certainly it is later than 428, the date of the revolt of Lesbos from the Athenian Empire, when the speaker was still a boy (§75), but not too long after, since he is still a young man. But since Lesbos is still subject to Athenian control, the speech must predate 412, when the island joined the general revolt of Athenian subject-states which flared up after the destruction of the Athenian expeditionary force in Sicily. A date between 420 and 412 would serve. Detailed commentaries on this important speech can be found in M. Edwards and S. Usher, Greek Orators I. Antiphon and Lysias (Warminster 1985) and Gagarin, Antiphon.

[1] I could have wished, gentlemen, that my powers of speaking and experience of affairs were equal to my misfortune and the evils which have befallen me. As it is I have more experience of the latter than is fair, while in the former I am more deficient than is safe. [2] For when I had to suffer physical mistreatment along with this unjust charge I had no experience to aid me, while now that I have to secure my safety with a truthful account of what happened, my lack of ability as a speaker damages my case. [3] Many people before now who were inadequate as speakers have failed to win credence with the truth and have been ruined by it through their inability to prove it, while many able speakers have won credence with falsehood and have been saved by it, because they lied successfully. As a result, of necessity anyone who lacks experience of litigation is at the mercy of the arguments of his accusers rather than the facts and the reality of what took place.

[4] So my request to you, gentlemen, will not be that made by the majority of defendants, that you give them a hearing, a sign that they distrust themselves and have judged you guilty in advance of bias. For it is proper that before a jury of good men, people on trial should be granted even without asking the same hearing which the prosecutors received without asking. [5] My request to you is this; that you bear with me if I make some mistake in speaking and conclude that it is an error of inexperience rather than injustice, and if I make an effective point that my success is due to truth rather than cleverness. It is not right either that someone whose actions are wrong should be saved by words or that someone whose actions are right should be ruined by words. For a word is a fault of the tongue, while an act is a fault of the mind. [6] And it’s inevitable that a man whose life is in danger will make some errors. Of necessity he will have his mind not only on his words but also on his fate; for anything that is still uncertain depends more on chance than on foresight. It’s inevitable that this will cause considerable anxiety for the individual at risk. [7] Personally I observe that even experienced litigants speak much worse than usual whenever they are in jeopardy, but are more successful when they are involved in an issue which brings no risk. My request, gentlemen, which accords both with law and with piety, is fair both to you and to me. As to the charges, I shall answer them point by point.

[8] First of all I shall demonstrate to you that I have been brought to trial here in a highly unlawful and violent way. Not because I would try to evade the democratic court – since I should entrust my life to your vote even if you were not bound by oath and there was no law on the matter, such is my confidence that I have done no wrong in this matter and that you will reach a just verdict – but so that the prosecutors’ violent and unlawful conduct may count as an indication of their general case against me. [9] To begin with, though I have been denounced as a felon I am on trial for murder, an experience without precedent in this country. That I am not a felon and am not subject to the law on felons my opponents themselves have attested. For the law deals with thieves and muggers, but they have not shown that any of this applies to me. So as far as concerns my arrest they have made my acquittal by you the most lawful and just decision. [10] They maintain that murder itself is a great felony, and I agree that it is one of the greatest, as is sacrilege and betrayal of the city. But there is a separate law laid down for each of them. To begin with, they have ensured that my trial is held in the very place from which other defendants in trials for homicide are barred by public proclamation, in the agora. Again, they made a penalty proposal, when the law is laid down that the killer pays with his life; this is not for my benefit but for their own convenience, and in the process they have allowed the dead man less than the penalty established in the law. Their motive you will discover later in my speech. [11] Furthermore, as I think you all know, all the courts try cases of homicide in the open air, with the specific aim of ensuring that the judges do not come into the same building as men whose hands are unclean and the prosecutor does not share a roof with the killer. But you have disregarded this law and done the opposite of the rest. And you should have sworn the most serious and solemn oath, calling down destruction on yourself and your kin and your household, that your accusation would concern itself solely with my guilt on the actual charge of homicide; as a result even if I were guilty of many crimes I would not have been convicted except on the charge itself, nor if I were responsible for many good deeds would I have been saved by them. [12] But you disregarded this and invented laws for yourself. You accuse me without oath; your witnesses give evidence without oath, when they should have taken the same oath as you and should testify against me with their hands on the sacrificial victims. And then you ask the judges to convict on a charge of murder, putting their trust in witnesses who are not under oath, whose credibility you have removed by disregarding the established laws; you think that they should hold your contempt for law more important than the laws themselves.

[13] You say that I would not have stayed if I had been set free, but would have absconded, as though you had forced me to enter this country against my will. Yet if it had been of no concern to me to be barred from this city, it would have been all the same to me to refuse to come when summoned and let the case go by default, or to have the right to leave the country after making my first defence speech; that right is open to everyone. But on your own initiative you are striving to deny me alone the right which is available to every other Greek, making a law to suit yourself.

[14] Yet I think everyone would agree that the laws which have been enacted to deal with these matters are the most noble and sacred of all. The fact is that they are the oldest in this land; moreover, their content and application have remained the same, the surest sign that laws are well made; for time and experience reveal imperfections to mankind. So you should not determine whether or not your laws are good according to the prosecutors’ statements but decide on the basis of the laws whether or not the prosecutors’ speeches present the case to you in an honest and lawful way. [15] So then, the laws on homicide are excellent, and nobody has ever dared to interfere with them. You alone have had the audacity to make yourself legislator in order to debase them; you have disregarded the laws and seek to destroy me unjustly. Your illegal behaviour is my best testimony; you were well aware that there would be no-one who would testify against me having taken that oath.

[16] Then again, you did not arrange for a single and conclusive trial on the issue, like someone confident in his case, but you left room for dispute and further argument, as though you would not trust even these judges. So I gain no advantage even if I am acquitted in this court, but you can claim that I was acquitted as a felon but not on the charge of murder, while if you convict you will demand my death as one found guilty of murder. What more monstrous scheme could there be than this, if you have achieved your ends by convincing the judges once, while if I am acquitted once the same danger awaits me? [17] In addition, gentlemen, I was imprisoned with a disregard for the law without parallel. Though I was ready to provide three guarantors in accordance with the law, they contrived to deprive me of the opportunity. No other foreigner who offered to provide guarantors has ever been imprisoned, though the officials responsible for felons are bound by this same law. And so I alone was deprived of the protection of this law, which is open to everyone else. [18] For it was to their advantage first that I should be as badly prepared as possible by being unable to handle my own affairs, and second to have me suffer physically, so that my physical suffering would make my friends more ready to testify falsely for my opponents than to tell the truth for me. They have inflicted, both on me personally and on my family, a disgrace which will last my whole life long.

[l9] So I face this trial sorely deprived both of your laws and of justice. Nonetheless, as far as this situation allows I shall attempt to prove my innocence, though it is difficult to disprove all at once false accusations which have been devised over so long a period. For one cannot protect oneself against attacks which one has not foreseen.

[20] I set sail from Mytilene, gentlemen, in the same boat as this man Herodes, whom they say I killed. We were sailing to Ainos, I to visit my father (who happened to be there at that time), Herodes to arrange the ransom of slaves with some Thracians. The slaves he was due to release were on board, and the Thracians who were to pay the ransom. I shall present you with the witnesses to these facts.


[21] Such was the motive for his voyage and mine. As it happened, we encountered a storm, which forced us to put in at a part of the territory of Methymna. There the boat was moored to which Herodes moved, the one in which they claim he was killed. First of all note this, that what happened was due more to chance than to any choice of mine. There is nothing to indicate that I persuaded the man to sail with me; rather, he made the voyage on his own initiative for his own business. [22] Nor can it be shown that I sailed to Ainos without good reason, or that we put in at this spot deliberately; we were forced to. Nor again was the move to the other boat due to any scheme or trick; rather, this too was through necessity. The boat in which we were sailing was undecked, the one to which we moved had a deck; we moved because of the rain. I shall present you with witnesses to these facts.


[23] After we moved to the other boat, we had a drinking session. It is certain that Herodes left the boat and did not return, while I did not leave the boat at all during that night. The next day, when the man did not appear, I was as active as the others in searching for him, and I as much as any of the others thought it a strange business. And it was I who was responsible for a messenger being sent to Mytilene; he was sent on my suggestion. [24] When nobody else was willing to go, none of the others on board nor any of those who were sailing with Herodes, I was ready to send my own servant; yet I would surely not knowingly send someone who could inform against me. And when the man, despite being searched for, was not found either in Mytilene or anywhere else, and all the other ships were setting sail, I too sailed away. I shall present you with witnesses to these facts.


[25] These are the facts. Consider now the probabilities. First, before I set sail for Ainos, while the man was missing, nobody at all accused me, though my opponents had already heard the news; otherwise I would not have sailed off. But for the time being the truth of what had happened was too strong for an accusation from them; besides, I was still around. It was when I sailed off and they had carefully conspired to lay this plot against me that they brought their accusation.

[26] They allege that the man was killed on shore and that I struck him on the head with a stone, I who never left the boat at all. And though their knowledge is precise on this point, they can offer no plausible explanation of the manner of his disappearance. It’s likely, obviously, that it would have happened near the harbour, since the man was drunk and he had left the boat at night; for probably he would not have been in control of himself, nor would there have been a plausible pretext for anyone trying to lead him a long way away at night. [27] But though a search was held for Herodes for two days both in the harbour and away from the harbour no eyewitness was found nor blood nor any other sign. Still, I shall accept my opponents’ version, even though I offer the witnesses to show that I did not leave the boat; but even if I really did leave the boat, it was inconceivable that the victim could have been disposed of unobserved, unless he had gone a long way from the seashore. [28] But he was thrown into the sea, they say. In what boat? Evidently the boat was from the harbour itself. Then how is it that it wasn’t found? And it was to be expected that there would be some trace in the boat of a man killed and thrown overboard at night. As it stands, they claim to have found traces in the boat in which he was drinking, the one he left, though they accept that the victim was not killed there. As to the one from which he was thrown into the sea, they did not find either the boat or any trace. I shall present you with the witnesses to these facts.


[29] When I had sailed off to Ainos and the boat in which Herodes and I had been drinking arrived at Mytilene, first of all they came on board the boat and searched it, and when they found the blood they claimed that this was the spot where Herodes was killed. But when this proved impossible and it was clear that the blood belonged to the sheep, they abandoned this version and seized the men and put them to the test. [30] And the one whom they put to the test on the spot said nothing incriminating about me; it was the one whom they put to the test days later, whom they had kept in their own custody for the intervening time, who was won over by them and told lies against me. I shall present witnesses to these facts.


[31] The testimony has shown how much later the man was tortured. Observe now the way in which the torture has been carried out. As to the slave, probably my opponents promised him freedom, and it was in their power to end his suffering; he was doubtless induced to lie by both these reasons, in the hope that he would win his freedom and the desire to be rid of his immediate torture. [32] I think you are aware that people undergoing torture tend to favour those who have the most control over the torture, and say whatever is likely to gratify them. Their release lies with these people, especially if the victims of their falsehoods happen to be absent. If it was I who ordered him to be racked for failing to tell the truth, perhaps this in itself would have deterred him from telling lies against me. As it is, the prosecution were both torturers and assessors of what was to their advantage.

[33] Well, as long as he thought he had some hope of getting something by lying about me, he maintained the same story. But when he realized he was going to be killed he told the truth and said that he had been induced by my opponents to lie against me. [34] Though he had tried falsehood and subsequently told the truth, neither course helped him; they took the man and killed him, the informer on whom they rely in prosecuting me. Their behaviour is the opposite of others. Other men give money to informers if they are free men and free them if they are slaves; these men rewarded the informer with death, though my friends forbade them to kill him before my return. [35] Evidently they had no use for his person, only his words. Alive the man would have exposed their plot when put through the same torture by me; dead he deprives me, through the destruction of his person, of the chance to prove the truth, while I am being destroyed by his lying words as though they were true. Please call the witnesses to these facts.


[36] In my opinion they should have provided the informer in person here and convicted me. This is how they should have conducted their case, by presenting the man here and inviting me to put him to the test rather than kill him. Come now, which of his statements will they use, the earlier or the later? Which of them is true, his statement that I did the deed or his denial? [37] If one is to decide the matter on the basis of probability, the later statement is clearly more true. For he lied with a view to his own advantage, but when his lies were destroying him he thought that by telling the truth he might be saved. He had nobody to defend the truth; I, for whom the truth of his second statement was an ally, was not actually present; but there were people to obscure the facts to prevent his earlier lying statement from being converted to the truth. [38] Other men who are informed against abduct the informers and do away with them; my prosecutors, the very ones who seized the man and were investigating the case, have done away with the man who informed against me. Now if it was I who had done away with the man or refused to hand him over to them or sought to evade any other test, they would have relied on this as their most convincing proof in the matter and this would have been their most telling evidence against me. As it is, since they were the ones guilty of evasion when my friends challenged them, this should be evidence on my side against them that the accusation they made is untrue.

[39] Furthermore, they also claim that under torture the man admitted to being my accomplice in the killing of Herodes. I for my part declare that this is not what he said; he said that he led me and Herodes from the boat, and that once I had killed Herodes he helped to lift him and put him into the boat and then threw him into the sea. [40] But bear in mind that to start with, before he was put on the wheel the man continued to tell the truth and exonerate me until extreme pressure was applied. But when he was put on the wheel, at that point he yielded to the pressure and falsely accused me in his desire to escape the torture. [41] And when the torture stopped he no longer maintained that I had done anything, but with his last words expressed pity for me and for himself as men being destroyed unjustly, not to curry favour with me (how could that be, when he had falsely accused me?) but confirming under pressure from the truth that his original statement was correct.

[42] Then again, the other person, who was sailing on the same boat and was present throughout and in my company, when subjected to the same torture confirmed the truth of the first and the later statements of the other (he exonerated me from first to last), but contradicted the statement which the other made on the wheel under pressure rather than for its truth. For the slave said that I left the boat and killed Herodes and that he helped me to remove the dead body, while this man denied outright that I left the boat. [43] Probability too is on my side. Surely I am not so pathetic as to plan to murder Herodes alone, to prevent anyone knowing – for this was where all the risk lay – but arrange witnesses and accomplices once the deed was done. [44] And according to the prosecution account the man was killed near the seashore and the boats. But can it be that though being killed by just one man he neither cried out nor attracted any attention either from the people on shore or from those on the boat? And indeed sound can be heard over a greater distance at night than by day, on a shore than in a city; moreover, they state that people were awake when the man left the boat. [45] Furthermore, though he was killed on shore and put into the boat, there was no trace of blood or anything else in the boat; yet he was murdered by night and put in the boat by night. Do you think that a person engaged in such an act could have scraped off the traces on the shore and washed away those on the boat, when he would have found it impossible by day, in full control of himself and unafraid, to obliterate them completely? How can this be plausible, gentlemen?

[46] What you should bear in mind especially – and do not be angry with me if I make the same point repeatedly; I am in great danger, and any point which you grasp correctly is my salvation, while any point on which you are cheated of the truth is my ruin. Let nobody remove from your minds the fact that they killed the informer and made absolutely sure that he did not come to court and that I had no opportunity on my arrival to take the man and put him to the test, [47] though this would have been to their advantage. Instead they bought the man and on their own initiative they killed him, the informer, without any decree from the city, though he was not the dead man’s murderer. They should have kept him in custody or given him up on surety to my friends or handed him over to your officials, and his fate should have been put to a vote. Instead you yourselves condemned the man to death and killed him, though no city even has the right to put anyone to death without the permission of the Athenians. You expected this jury to be judges of his statements but appointed yourselves judges of his actions. [48] Yet even slaves who kill their masters, if they are caught in the act, are not put to death by the actual relatives; the relatives hand them over to the officials according to your ancestral laws. For if it is possible to give evidence for a slave against a free man for his murder and for the master, if he sees fit, to prosecute for murder on behalf of his slave, and the jury’s vote has equal authority over the killer of a slave and the killer of a free man, there should have been a vote on his fate too; he should not have been put to death without trial by you. So it would be far more just if you were on trial rather than myself being prosecuted unjustly by you as now.

[49] You should also use the statements of the two men, gentlemen, to determine where justice and probability lie. The one who was a slave made two statements; at one point he said that I had committed the crime, at another he denied it. The free man however has not yet to this day said anything incriminating against me, though he was subjected to the same torture. [50] It was not open to them to influence him like the other by offering him freedom. And he preferred to take his chance with the truth and suffer whatever he had to; he too recognized his own advantage, that he would be spared the rack once he said what they wanted. So who is more deserving of belief, the man who maintained the same story throughout or the one whose story changed from one moment to another? But even without torture of this sort people who maintain the same story about the same events are more reliable than those who contradict themselves. [51] And the two statements of the slave favour both parties equally; his assertion of my guilt favours the prosecution, his denial favours me. Likewise the statements of the two individuals, for one affirmed my guilt while the other denied it throughout. Assuredly an equal balance counts for the defendant rather than the prosecutor, just as when the votes are equal in number the advantage is with the defendant rather than the prosecutor.

[52] Such was the outcome of the torture, gentlemen, on which the prosecution relies when they claim that they know full well that the man was killed by me. Yet if I were conscious of guilt and had actually committed such a crime, I would quite simply have done away with the two persons, since I had the power to take them off to Ainos with me or to send them across to the mainland instead of leaving behind potential informers against me who were aware of my guilt.

[53] They claim they found a note on the boat which I intended to send to Lykinos, informing him that I had killed Herodes. Yet what need was there to send a letter when its bearer knew the secret? So the accomplice could have given more reliable information in person, and there was no need to conceal the facts from him; for one would be most likely to send in writing information which the bearer could not know. [54] Then again, in the case of a lengthy matter one would out of necessity put it in writing because the messenger could not remember the message due to its length. But this was a short message: ‘the man is dead’. Bear in mind furthermore that the note contradicted the slave under torture and the slave contradicted the note. Under torture he said that he personally killed Herodes, though the letter when opened revealed me as the killer. [55] Which should one believe? Initially they did not find the note when searching the boat; they found it later. They had not yet fabricated this scheme. It was only when the first of the two to be tortured had nothing to say against me that they dropped the note in the boat to give them ground to impute the blame to me. [56] But once the note had been read out and the second man to be tortured failed to corroborate the note it was no longer possible to suppress what had been read out. If they had expected to induce the man to lie against me at the start they would not have fabricated the contents of the note. Please call witnesses to these facts.


[57] Now what motive did I have to kill the victim? There was no hostility between us. The prosecution have the audacity to allege that I killed the victim as a favour. And who has ever committed such a crime as a favour? No-one, in my opinion. Anyone contemplating such an act must feel great hostility, and there must be many indications of the plan he is devising. But there was no enmity between Herodes and me. [58] Well then perhaps I was afraid of an attack like this from him? For a man might be driven to do this from some such cause. But I had no such fear of him. Did I then expect to gain money by killing him? But he had none. [59] No, I could more plausibly attribute this motive to you, and with truth, that you are trying to kill me for money, than you can ascribe it to me for killing him. And it would be more just for you to be prosecuted successfully for murder by my relatives for causing my death than I by you and Herodes’ relatives. I can give clear proof of your intent against me, while you are attempting to destroy me by an argument without foundation.

[60] So I say to you that I personally had no motive to kill the man. But I must also, it seems, offer a defence for Lykinos, not just for myself, to show their accusation against him is equally unreasonable. So I state before you that his position with reference to Herodes is the same as mine. He had no means of gaining money for killing Herodes; nor was there any danger to be escaped by Herodes’ death. [61] The most convincing indication that Lykinos did not desire his death is this. He had the opportunity to bring Herodes to trial on a very dangerous charge and use your laws to destroy him, if he had some grudge against him; he could have both achieved his private ends and won the gratitude of your city if he had proved his guilt. But he chose not to; he made no attack on Herodes. Though he would have been facing a more honourable risk. …


[62] But it seems on that occasion he let Herodes off, yet when there was inevitably a risk both for him and for me he plotted against him, despite the fact that his discovery would have deprived me of my homeland and deprived himself of religious and secular rights, and everything else which is most important for mankind. Yet again, even if Lykinos really did want him dead (to accept the prosecution’s argument), when he was reluctant to kill with his own hand, could I ever have been induced to commit this act in his place? [63] Why? Because I was more fitted to face physical danger and he to pay for the risk I ran with money? Not a bit of it. He had no money, but I did. Quite the reverse: he would more readily have been induced by me in all probability than I by him, since he could not even secure his own release when he was late paying a debt of seven mnai; it was his friends who had him released. Indeed, this is the strongest indication of my relationship with Lykinos, that he was not such a close friend that I would have obeyed his every order. It cannot be supposed that, while I did not pay seven mnai for him when he was in prison and in discomfort, I took on such a dangerous enterprise and killed a man because of him.

[64] I have shown to the very best of my ability that I am not guilty of this charge and nor is he. But the prosecution make much of this point, that Herodes has disappeared. Perhaps you too are eager to hear more on this point. If I am to guess, the matter concerns you and me in equal measure. For you are no more guilty of the deed than I am. If they must have the truth, let them ask one of the perpetrators. He would be their best informant. [65] As one who did not do it, this is the fullest answer I can give: I did not do it. The man who did it can most easily give the facts, or, if he cannot give the facts, offer a plausible account. Those who commit crimes find an excuse for their villainy while committing it. The innocent man finds it difficult to offer a guess about the unknown. In my opinion each one of you, if he were asked something on which he is ignorant, could say no more than that he does not know. And if asked to speak at greater length I think you would be at a complete loss. [66] Do not then place me in a quandary in which you would yourselves be at a loss. And do not demand that my acquittal should depend on my ability to make a good guess; let it suffice that I have proved my innocence of the charge. My innocence consists not in discovering how he disappeared or has been killed but in my having no motive at all to kill him. [67] I know from hearsay that it has happened before now either that the victims or that the killers were not found. It would not be right if their associates were to be held to blame. Many people before now have been held to blame for the acts of others and have been killed before the truth of the matter was discovered.

[68] For instance, to this day the killers of Ephialtes, your fellow citizen, have not been found. If someone had insisted that his associates should guess who the killers of Ephialtes were, or failing that be liable for murder, it would not be fair on his associates. Moreover, the killers of Ephialtes did not attempt to dispose of the body; nor by so doing did they take the risk of exposing their crime, as the prosecution say I did in making no-one my accomplice to the killing, only to the disposal.

[69] Again, not long ago a slave less than twelve years old tried to kill his master. And if he had not taken fright when the master cried out and fled leaving the knife in the wound, but had had the nerve to stay, everyone in the house would have been killed. For nobody would have thought that the boy would ever have dared to do this. As it happened he was seized and subsequently incriminated himself.

Again, your Hellenotamiai, when accused falsely, as I am now, of theft, were put to death out of anger rather than reason, all but one; and the truth was discovered subsequently. [70] This one man – they say his name was Sosias – had been condemned to death but had not yet been executed. Meanwhile it was revealed how the money was lost and the man was set free by your Assembly, though he had already been handed over to the Eleven; but the others had all been killed, though they were completely innocent. [71] The older among you know this from memory, I think, the younger men from hearsay, like me.

So it’s a good thing to rely on time to test the truth of a matter. It may be that the way Herodes died will also become clear in time. So do not discover the facts afterward, when you have killed an innocent man. Decide carefully in advance, and not in anger and prejudice; for there could be no worse advisers than these. [72] It’s inconceivable that an angry man could reach a sound judgment. Anger corrupts the organ of deliberation itself, the mind. The succession of day on day is a great force for turning a mind from anger and discovering the true course of events.

[73] Rest assured that I deserve more to be pitied by you than punished. Punishment is appropriate for the unjust, pity for those who are unjustly placed in danger. Your power to save me justly should always prevail over the desire of my enemies to destroy me unjustly. For delay still allows you to inflict the awful fate which they are urging, while haste does not allow sound judgment from the outset.

[74] I must also offer a defence of my father. Though more properly he should offer a defence for me, as my father. He is much older, old enough to know my affairs; I am much younger, too young to know of his actions. If my opponent were on trial and I were giving evidence against him on matters of which I had no firm knowledge but knew of from hearsay, he would complain that I was harming him. [75] As things stand, he is forcing me to offer a defence about events before my time which I know from hearsay; but he sees no harm in this. Still, as far as my knowledge allows, I shall not betray my father when he is being criticized unjustly in your court. Though I may go wrong and fail to give a sound account of matters where his actions were sound. Nonetheless, the risk must be run.

[76] Before the revolt of Mytilene, he always demonstrated his loyalty to you by his actions. And when the city as a whole made the unwise decision to revolt and misjudged your resolve, he was forced to join the whole city in folly. Now, his attitude to you remained the same, but he was no longer free to demonstrate his loyalty towards you. It was not easy for him to leave the city; he had sufficient pledges there to keep him, in the form of his children and his property. But in remaining he had no power to oppose the city. [77] But since you punished those responsible for this act (and my father was not found to be one of these) and granted the rest of the people of Mytilene the right to live in their own city, there has been absolutely no misconduct from him, no failure in any of his duties; neither city, yours and Mytilene, has lacked any public service, but he serves as chorus producer and pays his taxes. [78] And if he prefers to live in Ainos, it is not in an attempt to withhold any of his duties toward the state nor because he has become a citizen of another state (though I observe that others sometimes move to the mainland while others reside among your enemies and bring suits against you under treaty regulations), nor in an attempt to avoid you, the democracy, but because he hates the same people you do, the sykophants. [79] It is not right that my father should be punished individually for actions which he committed along with the city as a whole and from compulsion rather than choice. For all the people of Mytilene that mistake is a memory which will never fade. They exchanged great prosperity for great adversity, and saw their fatherland overthrown. As to their calumnies against my father as an individual, do not believe them. The whole conspiracy against me and him has been motivated by money. There are many factors which assist the sort who covet the property of others. My father is too old to help me, and I am far too young to be able to defend myself adequately. [80] So you must rescue me and not encourage sykophants to exercise greater power than yourselves. For if they come before you and get their way, it will be a demonstration that people must persuade them and avoid you, the democratic court. But if they come before you and are held to be crooks and get no profit, the credit and the power will be yours, as is right. So you must give aid both to me and to justice.

[81] All that could be shown by human proof and testimony you have now heard. But not least on issues like this you should also base your verdict on conclusions drawn from signs from the gods. Indeed, you place your faith above all in these for the safe conduct of the city’s business, both in matters involving danger and those without danger. [82] In private matters likewise one should attach the greatest importance and trust to them. For I think you know that often before now men with unclean hands or some other pollution have embarked on a ship and destroyed along with themselves men who are pure in relation to the gods. Other people though not destroyed have faced the most extreme dangers because of such men. And often when attending a sacrifice men have been exposed as impure by preventing the sacrifice from taking place in the customary way. [83] In my case the opposite has happened in all these circumstances. All with whom I sailed have had excellent voyages. Whenever I attended a sacrifice, there is no single case where the sacrifice was not entirely auspicious. I urge that these events should be accounted strong indications that the charge brought by the prosecution is not true. (I shall present you with) witnesses to these facts.


[84] This too I know, judges, that if the witnesses testified against me, to the effect that some unholy event had resulted when I was present on board ship or at a sacrifice, the prosecution would have used these facts as conclusive evidence and presented the signs from the gods as the clearest proof of their charge. As it stands, since the signs contradict their statements and the witnesses depose that my account is correct and their accusation untrue, they urge you to distrust the witnesses and say that you should trust their statements. And while the rest of mankind test words with facts, the prosecution try to discredit facts with words.

[85] I have answered all of the prosecution charges which I remember, gentlemen. I think it is also in your interest to acquit me. For the same verdict which saves me also accords with the laws and your oath. You have sworn to vote according to the laws, and I am not liable to the laws under which I was arrested, while a lawful trial is still possible for the acts of which I am accused. If one trial has become two, the prosecution are to blame, not I. But I’m sure that, when my fiercest enemies have contrived two trials of my case, you who are unbiased arbiters of justice will not prejudge me guilty of murder in this trial. [86] You must not, gentlemen. Leave some scope for time, with whose help those who seek the exact truth of events are most successful in finding it. For my part I would think it proper, gentlemen, that on such charges the case should be tried in accordance with the laws, but that in accordance with justice the issue should be tested as many times as possible. It would be judged all the better for this; for a plurality of trials is an ally of the truth but most inimical to prejudice. [87] Even a wrong verdict of homicide prevails over justice and truth. For if you convict me, I must abide by the verdict and the law even if I am not a killer and am not guilty of the deed. Nobody would dare to contravene the judgment, once passed, from confidence in his own innocence, or to refuse to abide by the law if conscious of his guilt. He must give way to the verdict in spite of the truth, or to the truth itself, especially if he has no-one to avenge him. [88] For this very reason the laws, the oaths, the sacrificial pieces and the proclamations and all the other procedures in cases of homicide are very different from those in other cases, because it is of the utmost importance that the issues which form the subject of the trial are judged correctly. A correct verdict amounts to vengeance for the victim, but to convict an innocent man of homicide is a wrong and an act of impiety against both the gods and the laws. [89] And it is not the same thing for the prosecutor to make an unsound accusation and for you the judges to reach an unsound verdict. The prosecution charge has no effect; that rests with you and the trial. Any unsound judgment of yours in the actual trial cannot be referred elsewhere to correct the error.

[90] How then can you arrive at a sound verdict on the issue? By allowing my opponents to bring a prosecution when they have sworn the customary oath and me to make a defence on the actual charge. How are you to allow this? By acquitting me now. I shall not evade your judgment by this means; there too you will be the ones who vote on my case. If you spare me now you will be able on that occasion to do with me as you please, but if you destroy me there is no further opportunity to decide my case. [91] And indeed, if one had to make a mistake, it would be more consistent with piety to acquit unjustly than to destroy without justice. The first of these is just an error, but the second is actually a sin. So there is need of caution, when an irreparable action is in prospect. In a case which allows of reparation, the wrong is less even when people are influenced by anger and swayed by calumny; for one might change one’s mind and still make a sound decision. But with irreparable actions the greater harm lies in changing one’s mind and realizing one has made a mistake. Before now some of you have actually put men to death and then regretted it. But where you, the victims of deception, have regretted it, assuredly those who deceived you deserved to be put to death.

[92] Furthermore, one can forgive involuntary misdeeds, but not voluntary ones. An involuntary misdeed is an act of chance, gentlemen, but a voluntary one is an act of will. What could be more voluntary than if someone were to carry out immediately an act that he was considering? Furthermore, it is all the same whether one kills unjustly with one’s hand or with a vote.

[93] Rest assured, I would never have come to your city if I were conscious of any such guilt. As it is, with my trust in justice, the most precious defence a man can have when he is sure he has committed no impure action or impiety against the gods – for in circumstances such as this before now the spirit has saved the body when the latter had already given up, a spirit ready to endure because conscious of its own innocence; in contrast for the man with a guilty conscience this is his greatest enemy, for though the body is strong the spirit gives up in advance, in the belief that this has come about as the punishment for its sins. But I have come to you because I have no such guilt on my conscience.

[94] It is no surprise that the prosecution indulge in slander. That is their role, while yours is to refuse to be persuaded to commit injustice. If you are influenced by me, it is possible for you to have second thoughts, and the remedy is to punish me later. If you are influenced by them and do what they wish, there is no cure. Nor is there a long interval before you reach lawfully the verdict, which the prosecution are trying to persuade you to reach unlawfully. The matter is not one for haste but for careful deliberation. For now act as surveyors of the case, later as judges; for now you can reach an opinion, later a decision, on the truth. [95] It is the easiest thing in the world to give false evidence against a man who is on trial for his life. If they can just persuade the jury for the moment to inflict the death penalty, vengeance is dead along with his life. For his friends will no longer incline to take vengeance for him once he is dead. And even if they want to, what profit is there for the dead man?

[96] So for now acquit me. In the trial for homicide my opponents will bring the case for the prosecution after swearing the customary oath, you will decide my case according to the established laws, and I shall have no ground to argue, if anything befalls me, that I was sentenced to death unlawfully. This is what I beg of you, without ignoring your pious duty or depriving myself of justice; in your oath lies my salvation. Respond to whichever of these arguments you choose, and acquit me.