Andocides, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Andoc.].
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On His Return

2.1Had some other matter been at issue, gentlemen, I should have felt no surprise at finding a difference of opinion among the speakers who addressed you. But when the question is whether or not I, or anyone less worthy who so desires, should do this state a service, nothing seems to me more extraordinary than that contrary views should be held, instead of there being complete unanimity; for if the state is common to all who enjoy civic rights, the benefits which the state receives are likewise, I presume, common benefits.

2.2Such disagreement is a matter for alarm and astonishment; yet, as you can see, it has already been expressed by some, and will shortly be expressed by others. Indeed, I am completely at a loss to understand why the question of your receiving a benefit from me should cause such excitement among our friends here. They must either be the most stupid of mankind or the worst of public enemies. If they hold that when the state is prospering they are better off individually, they are showing extreme stupidity in advocating today a policy which directly conflicts with their own interests; 2.3while if they do not identify their interests as individuals with yours as a community, they can only be public enemies. Indeed when I secretly communicated to the Council a proposal which would be of the very greatest service to this city if carried into effect, and proved as much clearly and conclusively to the members present, such of my present critics as were among my audience found it as impossible as anyone else to show by argument that any of my statements was incorrect; yet they are now trying to impugn those statements. 2.4This proves, then, that they are acting not on their own initiative—or they would have had no hesitation in opposing me originally—but on the instigation of others, of men such as are to be found in this city, who would not allow you to receive a benefit from me for all the money in the world. These others have not the courage to come into the open and make good their assertions in person, as they are afraid of letting their own possible shortcomings as patriots be examined too closely. Instead, they send substitutes to address you, men to whom effrontery is second nature, men who will utter or face the bitterest abuse with complete indifference. 2.5The entire strength of their case against me, one finds, lies in their taunting me at every turn with my misfortunes; and that too when their listeners know better than they, so that not a word which they have uttered can bring them any true credit.

To my mind, gentlemen, he was a wise man who first said that every human being is born to meet with good fortune and with bad; that to make a mistake is to meet with great ill fortune: 2.6and that while those who make the fewest mistakes are the luckiest, those who repent of them soonest show most good sense. Nor is this the peculiar lot of some men only; it is the common fate of humanity to make mistakes and suffer misfortune. So do but remember the frailty of man in passing judgement upon me, gentlemen, and your feelings for me will be more kindly. Indeed I do not deserve ill-will so much as sympathy for the past. 2.7Owing to—shall I say my own youthful folly, or the influence of others who persuaded me into such a piece of madness? note—I was luckless enough to be forced to choose between two of the most painful alternatives imaginable. On the one hand, I could refuse to disclose the authors of the outrage. In that case I not only trembled for my own fate, but caused the death of my father, who was entirely innocent, as well as my own—he was inevitably doomed, if I refused to speak. On the other hand, I could purchase my own life and liberty and avoid becoming my father's murderer—and what would a man not bring himself to do to escape that?—but only by turning informer.

2.8Of the alternatives before me, then, I chose that which meant years of sorrow for myself, but immediate release for you from the distress of the moment. Remember your peril: remember your helplessness: remember how you stood in such fear of one another that you ceased going abroad even into the Agora, because you each expected arrest. note That such a state of things should have occurred at all proved to be due only in small part to me; that it ended, on the other hand, proved to be due to me alone. 2.9Notwithstanding, I have never succeeded in being anything save the unluckiest man alive; for when Athens was heading for this disaster, no one came near suffering the sorrows which I suffered: and when she was once more regaining her security, I was of all men the most to be pitied. The desperate distress of Athens could be remedied only at the cost of my good name: so that your deliverance meant my own ruin. It is your gratitude, therefore, not your scorn that I deserve for my sufferings.

2.10At the time I needed none to remind me of my plight—partly through my own folly, partly through the force of circumstances, nothing was wanting to complete my misery and my disgrace—and I saw that you would be best pleased were I to adopt that mode of life and that place of residence which would enable me to remain furthest from your sight. note Eventually, however, as was only natural, I was seized with a longing for the old life as a citizen among you which I had abandoned for my present place of exile; and I decided that I should be best advised either to have done with life or to render this city such a service as would dispose you to let me at last resume my rights as your fellow.

2.11From that moment I have been reckless of both life and goods when called upon for a perilous venture. In fact, I at once proceeded to supply your forces in Samos with oar-spars—this was after the Four Hundred had seized power at Athens note—since Archelaus note had hereditary connexions with my family and offered me the right of cutting and exporting as many as I wished. note And not only did I supply the spars; I refused to charge more for them than they had cost me, although I might have obtained a price of five drachmae apiece. In addition, I supplied corn and bronze. 2.12Thus equipped, the forces in Samos went on to defeat the Peloponnesians at sea note; and it was they, and they alone who saved Athens at the time. Now if those heroes rendered you true service by their deed, I may fairly claim that that service was in no small degree due to me. Had that army not been furnished with supplies just then, they would have been fighting not so much to save Athens as to save their own lives.

2.13In these circumstances, I was not a little surprised at the situation which I found at Athens. I returned thither fully expecting the congratulations of the city on the active way in which I had displayed my devotion to your interests. Instead, directly they learned of my arrival, certain of the Four Hundred sought me out, arrested me, and brought me before the Council. note 2.14Whereupon Peisander note at once came up, took his stand beside me, and cried: “Gentlemen, I hereby denounce this man as having supplied corn and oar-spars to the enemy.” Then he went on to tell the whole story. By this time, of course, it was clear that there had been a complete estrangement between the men on service and the Four Hundred.

2.15I saw the uproar into which the meeting was breaking, and knew that I was lost; so I sprang at once to the hearth and laid hold of the sacred emblems. That act, and that alone, was my salvation at the time; for although I stood disgraced in the eyes of the gods, note they, it seems, had more pity on me than did men; when men were desirous of putting to death, it was the gods who saved my life. My subsequent imprisonment and the extent and nature of the bodily suffering to which I was subjected would take too long to describe. 2.16It was then that I bewailed my lucklessness more bitterly than ever. When the people appeared to be hardly used, it was I who suffered in their stead; on the other hand, when they had been manifestly benefited by me, that act of service likewise threatened me with ruin. note Indeed I no longer had either ways or means of sustaining my hopes; everywhere I turned I saw woe in store for me. However, disheartening though my reception had been, I was no sooner a free man than my every thought was again directed to the service of this city.

2.17You must understand, gentlemen, how far such services as mine surpass ordinary services. When citizens who hold public office add to your revenues, are they not in fact giving you what is yours already? And when those who hold military command benefit their country by some fine exploit, is it not by exposing your persons to fatigue and danger and by spending public money in addition that they render you such service as they do? Again, if they make a mistake at some point, it is not they themselves who pay for their mistake; it is you who pay for the error which was due to them. 2.18Yet you bestow crowns on such persons and publicly proclaim them as heroes. And I will not deny that they deserve it; it is proof of signal merit to be able to render one's country a service in any way whatsoever. But you must see that that man is far the worthiest who has the courage to expose his own life and his own goods to danger in order to confer a benefit on his fellow-countrymen.

2.19My past services must be known to almost all of you. But the services which I am about to render, which I have, in fact, already begun to render, have been revealed in secret to only five hundred of you [,to the Council, that is to say note]; they, I think, are likely to make far fewer mistakes than you would be, had you to debate the matter here and now immediately after listening to my explanations. Those five hundred are considering at leisure the proposal placed before them, and they are liable to be called to account and censured by the rest of you for any mistake which they may make; 2.20whereas you have none to hold you to blame, as you very rightly have the power of ordering your affairs wisely or foolishly at will. However, I will disclose to you such services as I can, such services as are not a secret, because they have already been performed.

I need not remind you, I imagine, how you received news that no grain was to be exported to Athens from Cyprus. Now I was able to handle the situation with such effect that the persons who had formed the plot and put it into execution were frustrated. 2.21It is of no importance that you should know how this was done; what I do wish you to know is that the ships on the point of putting in to the Peiraeus at this moment with a cargo of grain number no less than fourteen; while the remainder of the convoy which sailed from Cyprus will arrive in a body shortly after them.

I would have given all the money in the world to be able to reveal to you with safety the secret proposal which I have placed before the Council, so that you might know at once what to expect. 2.22Instead, you will only learn what it is when you begin to benefit by it, and that will not be until it is put into effect. However, if you would consent even as it is, gentlemen, to bestow on me what is only a small token of gratitude, and one which is both easily granted and just, nothing would give me more delight. That I am entitled to it you will see at once. I am asking of you only what you yourselves gave me in fulfilment of a solemn promise, but were afterwards persuaded to withdraw. If you are prepared to restore it, I ask it as a favour; if you are not, I claim it as my due. 2.23I often see you bestowing civic rights and substantial grants of money upon both slaves and foreigners from every part of the world, if they prove to have done you some service. And you are acting wisely in making such gifts; they engender the greatest possible willingness to serve you. Now my own request is merely this. You decreed on the motion of Menippus that I should be granted immunity; restore me my rights under that decree. The herald shall read it to you, as it is lying even now among the records in the Council-chamber. Decree

2.24This decree to which you have been listening, gentlemen, was passed by you in my favour, but afterwards revoked to oblige another. note Be advised by me, then. If any of you feels prejudiced against me, let him rid himself of that prejudice. You will admit that men's persons are not to blame for the mistakes which spring from their opinions. Now my own person is still unchanged, and is free from guilt; whereas different opinions have replaced the old. Thus you are left without any just ground for prejudice. note 2.25In the case of my old blunder you maintained that you had to treat the indications furnished by conduct as decisive, and that therefore you were obliged to regard me as a criminal. Be consistent, then; use only the indications furnished by my present conduct to prove the genuineness of my present desire to serve you.

2.26Furthermore, my behaviour today is much more in keeping with my character than my behaviour then, just as it accords far more with the traditions of my family. I am not lying — no lie of this sort could deceive my older listeners — when I say that my father's grandfather, Leogoras, led a revolt of the people against the tyrants, note and in spite of the opportunity of coming to terms with them, marrying into their house, and ruling the people of Athens at their side, chose to share the exile of the democrats and suffer the hardships of banishment rather than turn traitor to them. Thus the behaviour of my forefathers should be an additional inspiration to me to show affection for the people, if I have indeed regained my senses at last; and it also gives you a natural reason for accepting my services the more readily, if you see me to have your interests at heart.

2.27The fact that you deprived me of the pardon which you had given me has never, I assure you, caused me to feel aggrieved. After those scoundrels had induced you to wrong your own selves so grossly as to change empire for slavery, and to replace democracy by despotism, note why should it surprise any of you that you were induced to wrong me likewise? 2.28However, I could wish that after reversing the policy of those who duped you in those matters which concern yourselves—as you did as soon as you were able—you would similarly render their purposes ineffective in the matter of that unfortunate measure which you were persuaded to pass with regard to me. Refuse, in fact, to side, on this or any other question, with those who are your worst enemies.

Andocides, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Andoc.].
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