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Prosecution Of The Stepmother For Poisoning 1.1

Not only am I still too young to know anything of courts of law, gentlemen; but I am also faced with a terrible dilemma. On the one hand, how can I disregard my father's solemn injunction to bring his murderers to justice? On the other hand, if I obey it, I shall inevitably find myself ranged against the last persons with whom I should quarrel, my half-brothers and their mother. 1.2Circumstances for which the defence have only themselves to blame have made it necessary that my charge should be directed against them, and them alone. One would have expected them to seek vengeance for the dead and support the prosecution; but as it is, the opposite is the case; they are themselves my opponents and the murderers, as both I and my indictment note state. 1.3

Gentlemen, I have one request. If I prove that my opponents' mother murdered our father by malice aforethought, after being caught not merely once, but repeatedly, in the act of seeking his life, note then first avenge the outrage against your laws, that heritage from the gods and your forefathers which enables you to sentence the guilty even as they did; and secondly avenge the dead man, and in so doing give me, a lonely orphan, your aid. 1.4For you are my kin; those who should have avenged the dead and supported me are his murderers and my opponents. So where is help to be sought, where is a refuge to be found, save with you and with justice? 1.5

I am at a loss indeed to understand the feelings which have led my brother to range himself against me. Does he imagine that his duty as a son consists simply in loyalty to his mother? To my mind, it is a far greater sin to neglect the avenging of the dead man; and the more so since he met his doom as the involuntary victim of a plot, whereas she sent him to it by deliberately forming that plot. 1.6Further, it is not for my brother to say that he is quite sure his mother did not murder our father for when he had the chance of making sure, by torture, he refused it; he showed readiness only for those modes of inquiry which could yield no certainty. Yet he ought to have been ready to do what I in fact challenged him to do, so that an honest investigation of the facts might have been possible; 1.7because then, if the slaves had admitted nothing, he would have confronted me with a vigorous defence based on certainty, and his mother would have been cleared of the present charge. But after refusing to inquire into the facts, how can he possibly be certain of what he refused to find out? [How, then, is it to be expected, gentlemen of the jury, that he should be sure of facts about which he has not learned thetruth? note] 1.8

What reply does he mean to make to me? He was fully aware that once the slaves were examined under torture his mother was doomed; and he thought that her life depended upon the avoiding of such an examination, as he and his companions imagined that the truth would in that event be lost to sight. How, then, is he going to remain true to his oath as defendant, note if he claims to be in full possession of the facts after refusing to make certain of them by accepting my offer of a perfectly impartial investigation of the matter by torture? 1.9In the first place, I was ready to torture the defendants' slaves, who knew that this woman, my opponents' mother, had planned to poison our father on a previous occasion as well, that our father had caught her in the act, and that she had admitted everything— save that it was not to kill him, but to restore his love that she alleged herself to be giving him the potion. 1.10Owing, then, to the nature of the slaves' evidence, I proposed to have their story tested under torture after making a written note of my charges against this woman; and I told the defence to conduct the examination themselves in my presence, so that the slaves might not give forced answers to questions put by me. I was satisfied to have the written questions used; and that in itself should afford a presumption in my favour that my search for my father's murderer is honest and impartial. Should the slaves resort to denial or make inconsistent statements, my intention was that the torture should force from them the charges which the facts demanded: for torture will make even those prepared to lie confine their charges to the truth. 1.11

I am quite sure, though, that had the defence approached me with an offer of their slaves directly they learned that I intended to proceed against my father's murderer, only to meet with a refusal of the offer, they would have produced that refusal as affording the strongest presumption of their innocence of the murder. As it is, it was I who in the first place volunteered to conduct the examination personally, and in the second told the defence to conduct it themselves in my stead. Surely, then, it is only logical that this corresponding offer and refusal should afford a presumption in my favour that they are guilty of the murder. 1.12Had I refused an offer of theirs to hand over their slaves for torture, the refusal would have afforded a presumption in their favour. The presumption, then, should similarly be in my favour, if I was ready to discover the truth of the matter, while they refused to allow me to do so. In fact, it is amazing to me that they should try to persuade you not to find them guilty, after refusing to decide their case for themselves by handing over their slaves for torture. 1.13

In the matter of the slaves, then, it is quite clear that the defence were themselves anxious to avoid ascertaining the facts. The knowledge that the crime would prove to lie at their own door made them desirous of leaving it wrapped in silence and uninvestigated. But you will not do this, gentlemen, as I know full well; you will bring it into the light. Enough, though; I will now try to give you a true statement of the facts: and may justice guide me. 1.14

There was an upper room in our house occupied by Philoneos, a highly respected friend of our father's, during his visits to Athens. Now Philoneos had a mistress a whom he proposed to place in a brothel. note My brother's mother made friends with her; 1.15and on hearing of the wrong intended by Philoneos, she sends for her, informing her on her arrival that she herself was also being wronged by our father. If the other would do as she was told, she said, she herself knew how to restore Philoneos' love for her and our father's for herself. She had discovered the means; the other's task was to carry out her orders. 1.16She asked if she was prepared to follow her instructions, and, I imagine, received a ready assent.

Later, Philoneos happened to have a sacrifice to perform to Zeus Ctesius note in Peiraeus, while my father was on the point of leaving for Naxos. So Philoneos thought that it would be an excellent idea to make one journey of it by seeing my father as far as Peiraeus, offering the sacrifice, and entertaining his friend. 1.17Philoneos' mistress accompanied him to attend the sacrifice. On reaching Peiraeus, Philoneos of course carried out the ceremony. When the sacrifice was over, the woman considered how to administer the draught: should she give it before or after supper? Upon reflection, she decided that it would be better to give it afterwards, thereby carrying out the suggestion of this Clytemnestra here. note 1.18Now it would take too long for me to furnish or for you to listen to a detailed description of the meal so I shall try to give you as brief an account as I can of the administration of the poison which followed.

After supper was over, the two naturally set about pouring libations and sprinkling some frankincense to secure the favour of heaven, as the one was offering sacrifice to Zeus Ctesius and entertaining the other, and his companion was supping with a friend and on the point of putting out to sea. 1.19But Philoneos' mistress, who poured the wine for the libation, while they offered their prayers—prayers never to be answered, gentlemen—poured in the poison with it. Thinking it a happy inspiration, she gave Philoneos the larger draught; she imagined perhaps that if she gave him more, Philoneos would love her the more: for only when the mischief was done did she see that my stepmother had tricked her. She gave our father a smaller draught. 1.20So they poured their libation, and, grasping their own slayer, drained their last drink on earth. Philoneos expired instantly; and my father was seized with an illness which resulted in his death twenty days later. In atonement, the subordinate who carried out the deed has been punished as she deserved, although the crime in no sense originated from her: she was broken on the wheel and handed over to the executioner; and the woman from whom it did originate, who was guilty of the design, shall receive her reward also, if you and heaven so will. note 1.21

Now mark the justice of my request as compared with my brother's. I am bidding you avenge once and for all time him who has been wrongfully done to death; but my brother will make no plea for the dead man, although he has a right to your pity, your help, and your vengeance, after having had his life cut short in so godless and so miserable a fashion by those 1.22who should have been the last to commit such a deed. No, he will appeal for the murderess; he will make an unlawful, a sinful, an impossible request, to which neither heaven nor you can listen. He will ask you to refrain from punishing a crime which the guilty woman could not bring herself to refrain from committing. But you are not here to champion the murderers: you are here to champion the victims willfully murdered, murdered moreover by those who should have been the last to commit such a deed. Thus it now rests with you to reach a proper verdict; see that you do so. 1.23

My brother will appeal to you in the name of his in mother who is alive and who killed her husband with out thought and without scruple; he hopes that if he is successful, she will escape paying the penalty for her crime. I, on the other hand, am appealing to you in the name of my father who is dead, that she may pay it in full; and it is in order that judgement may come upon wrongdoers for their misdeeds that you are yourselves constituted and called judges. 1.24I am prosecuting to ensure that she pays for her crime and to avenge our father and your laws wherein you should support me one and all, if what I say is true. My brother, on the contrary, is defending this woman to enable one who has broken the laws to avoid paying for her misdeeds. 1.25Yet which is the more just: that a willful murderer should be punished, or that he should not? Which has a better claim to pity, the murdered man or the murderess? To my mind, the murdered man: because in pitying him you would be acting more justly and more righteously in the eyes of gods and men. So now I ask that just as this woman put her husband to death without pity and without mercy, so she may herself be put to death by you and by justice; 1.26for she was the willful murderess who compassed his death: he was the victim who involuntarily came to a violent end. I repeat, gentlemen, a violent end; for he was on the point of sailing from this country and was dining under a friend's roof, when she, who had sent the poison, with orders that a draught be given him, murdered our father. What pity, then, what consideration, does a woman who refused to pity her own husband, who killed him impiously and shamefully, deserve from you or anyone else? 1.27Involuntary accidents deserve such pity: not deliberately planned crimes and acts of wickedness. Just as this woman put her husband to death without respecting or fearing god, hero, or human being, so she would in her turn reap her justest reward were she herself put to death by you and by justice, without finding consideration, sympathy, or respect. 1.28

I am astounded at the shameless spirit shown by my brother. To think that he swore in his mother's defence that he was sure of her innocence! How could anyone be sure of what he did not witness in person? Those who plot the death of their neighbors do not, I believe, form their plans and make their preparations in front of witnessess; they act as secretly as possible and in such a way that not a soul knows; 1.29while their victims are aware of nothing until they are already trapped and see the doom which has descended upon them. Then, if they are able and have time before they die, they summon their friends and relatives, call them to witness, tell them who the murderers are, and charge them to take vengeance for the wrong; 1.30just as my father charged me, young as I was, during his last sad illness. Failing this, they make a statement in writing, call their slaves to witness, and reveal their murderers to them. My father told me, and laid his charge upon me, gentlemen, not upon his slaves, young though I still was. 1.31I have stated my case; I have championed the dead man and the law. It is upon you that the rest depends; it is for you to weigh the matter and give a just decision. The gods of the world below are themselves, I think, mindful of those who have been wronged. note



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