|Demosthenes, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Dem.].|
|<<Dem. 19||Dem. 20 (Greek)||>>Dem. 21|
20.1Gentlemen of the jury, it is chiefly because I consider that the State will benefit by the repeal of this law, but partly also out of sympathy with the young son of Chabrias, that I have consented to support the plaintiffs to the best of my ability. It is clear, men of
20.5Now if, putting these considerations aside, you would examine the real problem, whether it is more advantageous that you should possess the power of bestowing this privilege, even though you are sometimes duped into bestowing it on a scoundrel, or that by being wholly dispossessed of it you should be unable to grant honors even where they are deserved, you would find the former course the more advantageous. And why? Because the result of rewarding too many citizens is to encourage many to do you good service, but the result of rewarding no one, even if deserving, is to discourage emulation in all. 20.6There is also this other reason, that those who reward an undeserving individual may be credited with some degree of artlessness, note but those who never requite their benefactors are charged with baseness. Just so far as it is better to be thought artless than unscrupulous, it is more honorable to repeal this law than to enact it.
20.7Nor again, men of
20.8Then again, you must consider this point, that in accordance with the existing laws of long standing—laws of which Leptines himself cannot deny the soundness—there is an interval of a year between each public service, so that half the time a citizen is immune. And then, when all citizens, even those who have not benefited you in the least, enjoy a half share in that privilege, are we to take away from your real benefactors the addition that we made to it? Surely not; for that would be dishonorable and, in your case, especially unbecoming. 20.9When we have a law which forbids cheating in the marketplace, where a falsehood entails no public injury, is it not disgraceful that in public affairs the same state should not abide by the law which it enjoins on private individuals, but should cheat its benefactors, and that although it is itself likely to incur no small penalty? 20.10For we must take account not only of loss of money, but of loss of good fame, which you are more anxious to keep than your money—yes, you and your ancestors also. The proof of this is that when they had accumulated vast sums, they spent all for honor, and when reputation was at stake, they never shrank from danger, but even lavished their private fortunes without stint. note As it stands, then, this law reflects on your city not honor but disgrace, unworthy alike of your ancestors and of yourselves; for
20.11Next, men of
20.13The instance I have quoted, men of
20.15Moreover, gentlemen, I think that you would come to a sounder judgement in this matter if you would observe this further truth, that the present law removes just the one advantage which the rewards of a democracy have over those of other constitutions. For in the material value to the recipients of the rewards bestowed, a tyranny or an oligarchy has an immense advantage in that they can make anyone they choose instantaneously rich; but in honor and in security of possession you will find that the gifts of a democracy are to be preferred. 20.16For not the receipt of a flatterer's pay with its taint of shame, but to be honored, where speech is free, as one who is deemed worthy—that is true glory; and to enjoy the willing admiration of equals seems better than to accept the richest gift from a tyrant's hand. For in those communities the fear of tomorrow outweighs the favor of today, but in your city a man could keep what he won without fear of loss, at any rate in time past. 20.17So the law which destroys confidence in the rewards takes away the one thing that gives a higher value to rewards which you bestow. And indeed, if from any one of all known forms of government you take away the right of loyal supporters of the constitution to receive favors, you will find that you have deprived those governments of no unimportant safeguard.
20.18Now perhaps Leptines will try to divert your attention from these points and assert that at present the public services fall upon the poor, but that under his law they will be performed by the wealthiest class. At first hearing, the plea seems to have some weight; but examine it strictly and the fallacy will be exposed. For there are, as you know, among us some services that fall upon resident aliens and others that fall upon citizens, and the exemption, which Leptines would remove, has been granted in the case of both. For from special contributions for war or for national defence and also from the equipment of war-galleys, rightly and justly in accordance with earlier laws, no one is exempt, not even the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton, whom Leptines has specially named. 20.19Let us then see what additional contributors he provides to perform those public services, and how many will be passed over if we turn a deaf ear to him. Now the richest citizens, when equipping a war-galley, are already exempt from the ordinary services, while those whose wealth is insufficient necessarily enjoy exemption and are out of the reach of this tax; so his law will not provide us with another contributor from either of these classes. 20.20He may reply that he recruits many aliens for the services. But if he can point to five such, I will eat my words. I will assume, then, that this is not the case, but that if the law stands, both the number of aliens performing public services will be greater, and of the citizens none will be excused because he is equipping a war-galley. Now let us consider what the State will gain if all these perform the services, for it will prove to be no compensation at all for the disgrace it will entail. 20.21Put it thus. Of aliens there are exempt—I will assume ten. And by Heaven, as I said before, I do not believe there are five. Moreover of the citizens there are not half a dozen. Sixteen of both, then. Let us call it twenty, or thirty, if you like. How many, pray, are there that annually perform the regularly recurring services—chorus-masters, presidents of gymnasia, and public hosts? Perhaps sixty in all, or a trifle more. 20.22In order, then, that we may have thirty more men for the public services, spread over the whole period, note is it worth our while to excite the distrust of all? But surely we must know this, that as long as
20.24Now some of our opponents, men of
20.26Now take the large fortunes which, according to our opponents, some citizens will amass if relieved of the services, but which I will show to be available for your needs. For of course you are aware that no one is exempt from the equipment of war-galleys or from the special contributions for war. So this person, whoever he may be, who owns much, contributes much to those objects; there is no getting out of it. And again, all would agree that the resources which the State can rely on for these objects should be as great as possible. For money spent by the chorus-masters affords those of us who are in the theater gratification for a fraction of a day; but money lavished on equipment for war gives security to the whole city for all time. 20.27Therefore whatever you remit with one hand, you receive with the other; and you grant as an honor exemptions which even those who receive them cannot enjoy, if they have wealth sufficient for the equipment of a war-vessel. But although I suppose you all know that no one is exempt from the latter service, the clerk shall read to you the actual statute. Take the law about the trierarchy and read this clause only.
[And none shall be exempt from the trierarchy except the nine archons.]
20.28You see, Athenians, how explicitly the law lays down that none shall be exempt from the equipment of a war-galley except the nine archons. So those whose wealth falls short of the qualification for that service will contribute by groups to the special war-tax, but those who reach that qualification will be available both for the war-galleys and for the war-tax. Then what relief does your law, Leptines, afford to the main body of citizens, if from one or two tribes it provides a single contributor, who, having relieved one other citizen on one occasion, will thereafter be exempt? note I can see no relief. On the other hand it taints the honor and credit of the whole State. Therefore, when the damage it will inflict is greater than the benefit it confers, ought it not to be repealed by this court? Such would be my verdict.
20.29My next point is this, gentlemen of the jury. The law of Leptines explicitly states that "none, whether citizen or enfranchised alien or foreigner, shall be exempt," and does not specify from what, whether from the public service or from any other charge, but simply that "none shall be exempt except the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton." The word "none" must be taken to include all classes, and foreigner is not further defined as resident at
20.36How reasonable and just was the immunity which Leucon has obtained from you, these decrees have informed you, gentlemen of the jury. Copies of all these decrees on stone were set up by you and by Leucon in the
20.41Again then, Athenians, it is not merely necessary to consider how Leucon may be spared injustice—a man whose anxiety about his privilege would arise from a sense of honor rather than from his needs—but we must also consider whether another man, who did you service when he was prosperous, may not find that the exemption he received from you then is a matter of necessity to him now. To whom, then, do I refer? To Epicerdes of
20.45Gentlemen of the jury, you have heard from the decrees what were the services for which Epicerdes obtained his immunity. Do not stop to ask whether he gave you a hundred minae and a talent as well—for I expect that even those who received it were not struck by the amount of his gift—but think of his zeal, his spontaneous act, and the occasion that he chose. 20.46For recompense is due to all alike who are forward to do us service, but in a special degree to those who are friends in time of need; and such an one clearly was Epicerdes. Are we not then ashamed, men of
20.49Now if any of you is persuaded that our city is far from needing such a benefactor today, let him pray Heaven it may be so, and I will join in that prayer; but let him also reflect, first, that he is going to give his vote on a law under which, if unrepealed, he will have to live, and secondly, that bad laws can injure even communities which fancy they are dwelling in security. For there would have been no changes for better or for worse in the fortunes of states, had it not been that a nation in peril is guided to safety by good policy, good laws, and good citizens and by the observance of order in all things, but in the case of a nation that seems established in perfect prosperity, all these things, being neglected, slip away from it little by little. 20.50For most men achieve prosperity by planning soundly and by despising nothing; but they do not take the trouble to guard it by the same means. Let not this mistake be yours today, and do not think that you ought to ratify a law which will taint the reputation of our city in the time of her prosperity and, if ever a crisis comes, will leave her destitute of those who would be willing to do her service.
20.51Again, Athenians, it is not only the men who, in a private capacity, chose to benefit you and to offer their services on those important occasions that have been described a little while ago by Phormio and mentioned by me just now—it is not only these men that you must be careful not to wrong, but many others also, who drew whole states, their own native cities, into alliance with us in the war against the Lacedaemonians, note thus furthering by word and deed the interests of your city; 20.52and some of these men through their goodwill to you have no longer a fatherland. The first example that I propose to examine is that of the Corinthian exiles. And here I am obliged to mention facts which I myself have only heard from the lips of the older among you. note Some occasions, then, on which they made themselves useful to us, I will pass over; but when the great battle against the Lacedaemonians was fought near
Read this decree also to the court.
20.55Such, gentlemen of the jury, is the decree passed by you in favor of the Corinthians who were exiled on your account. But think! If one who knew those critical times—whether as an eye-witness or hearing the story from one who knew—if he should hear this law which revokes the gifts that were then bestowed, how he would denounce the baseness of us who made the law—and who were so generous and obliging when our need was pressing, but when we have satisfied all our hopes, are so thankless and churlish that we have robbed men of the rewards they enjoy, and have made a law that hereafter no, such rewards should be bestowed! 20.56“Oh but,” we shall be told, “some of those who received these rewards did not deserve them”; for that thought will run through all their argument. In that case shall we confess that we do not know that a man's deserts should be examined at the time of the reward, and not an indefinitely long time after? For to give no reward in the first instance is an exercise of judgement; to take it away when given shows a grudging spirit, and you must not seem to have been prompted by that. 20.57Furthermore, on the question of merit I shall not shrink from saying this to you: I for one do not think that merit should be examined by the State in the same way as by an individual, because the examination is not concerned with the same questions. For in private life each of us tries to find who is worthy, say, to marry into our family, or something of that sort, and such questions are determined by convention and opinion; but in public affairs the State and the people try to find who is their benefactor and savior, and that question you will find is best decided by reference not to birth or opinion, but to plain fact. So, whenever we want to receive benefits, are we to allow anyone to confer them, but when we have received them, then shall we scrutinize the merits of the benefactor? That will be a topsy-turvy policy.
20.58But, it may be said, the only sufferers will be those I have mentioned, and all my remarks apply to them alone. That is quite untrue. But I could not even attempt to examine all the instances of men who have benefited you, but who by this law, if it is not repealed, will be robbed of their rewards; by calling your attention to one or two further decrees, I absolve myself from discussing these cases. 20.59In the first place, then, will you not wrong the Thasian supporters of Ecphantus, if you revoke their immunity—I mean the men who handed over
20.64You have heard the decrees, gentlemen of the jury. Perhaps some of the men named are no longer alive. But their deeds survive, since they were done once for all. It is fitting, therefore, to allow these inscriptions to hold good for all time, that as long as any of the men are alive, they may suffer no wrong at your hands, and when they die, those inscriptions may be a memorial of our national character, and may stand as proofs to all who wish to do us service, declaring how many benefactors our city has benefited in return. 20.65Nor indeed would I have you forget this, men of
20.67Now I should be greatly vexed, gentlemen of the jury, if I thought that the only real charge I was bringing against the law was its depriving many of our alien benefactors of the immunity, but should seem unable to point to any deserving recipient of the honor among our own fellow-countrymen. For my prayer would ever be that
20.71It was not, then, only by you, Athenians, that
20.75Very well. But, they will say, we may let the son of Chabrias be robbed of the immunity which his father justly received from you and bequeathed to him. But I am sure there is not a single right-minded man who would approve of that. Now, perhaps you know, even without any words from me, that Chabrias was a man of high character; yet there is no harm if I too recall briefly his achievements. 20.76How skilfully, as your commander, he drew up your ranks at
Deeds of Chabrias
20.79Does it seem to any of you, gentlemen of the jury, that this man, who captured so many cities and ships from your enemies by his victories on sea, and who was the source of so much honor, but never of disgrace, to your city, deserves to be deprived of the immunity which he obtained at your hands and bequeathed to his son? I cannot believe it, for it is out of all reason. Had he lost a single city or as few as ten ships, Leptines and his supporters would have impeached him for high treason, and if he had been convicted, he would have been a ruined man for ever. 20.80But since, on the contrary, he took seventeen cities, and captured seventy ships and three thousand prisoners, and paid into the treasury a hundred and ten talents, and set up so many trophies, in that case shall not his rewards for these services stand good? Moreover, Athenians, it will be seen that Chabrias during his lifetime did everything in your behalf, and that he met death itself in no other service; so that for this, as well as for all that he did in his life, you ought to show yourselves generously disposed to his son. 20.81Then this too, Athenians, demands your consideration—that we must not prove less generous than the Chians in our treatment of our benefactors. For if they, against whom Chabrias carried arms as an enemy, have not now revoked any of their former gifts, but have made ancient services outweigh recent offences, while you, in whose cause he marched against them to his death, so far from honoring him the more on that account, are even going to rob him of part of the reward of his past services, how will you escape the ignominy that you deserve?
20.82Moreover, should the son be robbed of part of his reward, his treatment would be undeserved in view of the fact that no man's child was ever orphaned through the fault of Chabrias, though he frequently led you in war, but the boy himself has grown up an orphan, just because of his father's devotion to your cause. For to me he seems truly to have been such a staunch patriot, that though reputed to be the most cautious of commanders, as indeed he was, it was for your sake that he displayed that quality whenever he led you, but for his own sake, when he found himself assigned to the post of danger, he forgot all his caution and preferred to lay down his life rather than tarnish the honors that you had bestowed. 20.83After that, are we to rob the son of those honors which inspired the father to conquer or to die? And what shall we say, men of
20.84Turn now to the decree passed in honor of Chabrias. Just look and see; it must be somewhere there. note
There is one thing further that I want to say about Chabrias. You, Athenians, in honoring Iphicrates, honored not only him but also on his account Strabax and Polystratus; and again, when giving your reward to Timotheus, you also for his sake rewarded Clearchus and some others with the citizenship note;20.85but in the case of Chabrias your honors were for him alone. Now, if at the time when he was receiving his reward, he had claimed that as you had rewarded others for the sake of Iphicrates and Timotheus, so for his sake you should reward some of those men who have actually received the immunity, but to whom our opponents object so strongly that they want all alike to be deprived of it, would you not have granted him that boon? I cannot doubt it. 20.86For his sake you would have rewarded them then; yet now, on their account, will you take away the immunity from Chabrias himself? Why, that is absurd! For it is inconsistent to seem so generous, when the benefits are recent, that you honor not the benefactors only but their friends as well, but, when a short time has elapsed, to take away even the rewards that you have given to the benefactors. note
Decrees on the Honors of Chabrias
20.87So these whose names you have heard, as well as many others, are the men whom you will injure if you do not repeal the law. Just reflect and ponder in your own minds, if any of these men now passed away could somehow come to know of the present proceedings, what just ground they would have for indignation! For if of the deeds that each wrought for your advantage there is to be a judgement based on words, if actions nobly performed by them, unless nobly avowed by us in speech, have been wrought in vain for all their toil, are they not suffering a terrible wrong?
20.88Now, to satisfy you, Athenians, that every argument that we submit to you is based on perfectly just grounds, and that not a single argument is intended to mislead and deceive you, the clerk shall read the law drafted and proposed by us to take the place of the present one, which we contend is mischievous. For our law will show you that we take some care to ensure that you shall be saved from the appearance of a dishonorable act; that if anyone objects to one of the recipients, he can deprive him of his gift, if the objection is sound, after trial in your courts; and also that those whose claim to the gifts none could dispute shall keep them. 20.89And in all this there is nothing new, no innovation of our own; but the old law, transgressed by Leptines, lays down this procedure in legislation, that if a man disapproves of an existing law, he shall bring an indictment against it, but shall himself introduce an alternative, such as he proposes to enact after repeal of the other, and that you, after hearing arguments, shall choose the better law. 20.90For Solon, who imposed this method, did not think it right that while the junior archons, who are appointed by lot to administer the laws, undergo two scrutinies note before entering on office, one in the Council and a second in the law-courts before you, the laws themselves, which regulate their official acts and all other civic duties, should be passed at haphazard to meet some emergency, and should be at once valid without passing a scrutiny. 20.91For in those days, indeed, while they legislated in that way, they kept to the existing laws and were not always proposing new ones; but ever since certain statesmen rose to power and, as I am informed, contrived to get into their own hands the right to initiate legislation at any time and in any way they wished, there are so many contradictory statutes that for a long time you have had to appoint a commission to sort out the contradictory ones; 20.92yet in spite of this the business never comes to an end. Our laws are no better than so many decrees; nay, you will find that the laws which have to be observed in drafting the decrees are later note than the decrees themselves. Not to be content, then, with a bare assertion, but to show you the actual law to which I refer, please take and read the law constituting the original legislative commission.
20.93You understand, Athenians, the beauty of Solon's directions for legislating. The first stage is in your courts, before men under oath, where all other ratifications are made; the next is the repeal of the contradictory laws, so that there may be only one law dealing with each subject, and that the plain citizen may not be puzzled by such contradictions and be at a disadvantage compared with those who are acquainted with the whole body of law, but that all may have the same ordinances before them, simple and clear to read and understand. 20.94Moreover, before these proceedings, Solon ordered that the laws should be exposed before the statues of the eponymous heroes note and handed in to the town-clerk to recite them at the meetings of the Assembly, so that each of you may hear them more than once and digest them at leisure, and if they are just and expedient, may add them to the statute-book. Now, numerous as those enactments are, Leptines yonder has observed not one of them, for, if he had, I do not think that you would ever have consented to pass his law. We on the other hand, Athenians, have observed them all, and we are submitting a much better and more equitable law than his. You will realize that when you hear it. 20.95Take and read first of all the clauses of his law which we have indicted, and next the clauses we propose to substitute for them. Read.
These are the parts of the law of Leptines which we arraign as unsatisfactory. Next in order read our proposed amendments. Pray attend, gentlemen of the jury, to these as they are recited. Read.
20.96Stop there. The laws now in force contain this provision—a capital one, men of
20.98You hear the law, Athenians, and you understand that it enables the deserving to retain their rewards, and those who are judged otherwise to be deprived of any privilege they have unjustly secured; for the future everything is left in your hands, as is right, to grant or to withhold. Now I do not think that Leptines will deny that this law is sound and just, or, if he does, that he will be able to prove it. But perhaps he will try to lead you astray by repeating what he said before the junior archons. note For he alleged that the publication of this amended law was a mere trick, and that should his own law be repealed, this one would never be passed. 20.99Now, to avoid dispute, I will not press the point that the old law of Solon, in accordance with which the junior archons have notified these amendments to you, clearly enjoins that if the law of Leptines is repealed by your vote, the alternative law shall be valid. note I will pass to another point. Leptines, in saying this, obviously admits that our law is better and fairer than his own, but bases his argument on the way in which it is to be passed. 20.100Now, in the first place, there are many ways open to him, if he wishes, of compelling the amender to introduce his own law. In the next place, Phormio and myself and anyone else he likes to name are prepared to guarantee that we will introduce it. You know there is a law making death the penalty for anyone who breaks his promise to the Assembly or one of the Councils or law-courts. You have our guarantee, our promise. Let the archons record it, and let the matter rest in their hands. 20.101Neither do anything that is unworthy of this court, nor, if a worthless person is found among those who enjoy the grant, let him keep it; only let each case be judged on its merits. But if Leptines shall say that that is all talk and humbug, this at any rate is not mere talk; let him bring in the amended law himself and cease to say that we will not do so. It is surely a greater honor to propose the law, stamped with your approval, note than this of his own devising.
20.102It seems to me, Athenians, that Leptines—and pray, be not angry, note for I am not going to say anything offensive about you—Leptines has either never read Solon's laws or else does not understand them. For if Solon made a law that every man could grant his property to whomsoever he pleased, in default of legitimate offspring, not with the object of depriving the next of kin of their rights of consanguinity, but that by making the prize open to all he might excite a rivalry in doing good one to another; 20.103and if you, on the contrary, have proposed a law that the people shall not be permitted to bestow on any man any part of what is their own, how can you be said to have read or understood the laws of Solon? You make the nation barren of would-be patriots by proclaiming unmistakably that those who benefit us shall gain nothing by it. 20.104Again, there is another excellent law of Solon, forbidding a man to speak ill of the dead, even if he is himself defamed by the dead man's children. You do not speak ill of our departed benefactors, Leptines; you do ill to them, when you blame one note and assert that another is unworthy, though these charges have nothing to do with the dead men. note Are you not very far from the intention of Solon?
20.105Now I have been quite seriously informed that with regard to the absolute prohibition of all rewards, note whatever a man's services may be, our opponents are prepared to use some such argument as this. The Lacedaemonians, who are a well-organized state, and the Thebans grant no such reward to any of their citizens, and yet possibly there are some good men among them. In my opinion, men of
20.109Again, with regard to the absence of honors at
20.112Then they have another argument ready; that even at
20.116Now this decree, Athenians, proves that your ancestors, like yourselves, were accustomed to honor good men; if they used different methods from ours today, that is another matter. So even if we should admit that neither Lysimachus nor anyone else gained anything from our ancestors, does that make it any fairer in us to rob the men whom we have just rewarded? 20.117For there is nothing outrageous in withholding what one never dreamed of giving; but it is an outrage to give and afterwards take back one's gift, with no fault alleged. Prove to me that our ancestors ever took back the gifts they had bestowed, and you too have my leave to do the same, though the disgrace remains none the less; but if no one can cite an instance from the whole course of our history, why is such a precedent to be set in our generation?
20.118Again, men of
20.120Now I expect that another argument of Leptines will be that his law does not deprive the recipients of their inscriptions and their free maintenance, nor the State of the right to confer honor on those who deserve it, but that it will still be in your power to set up statues and grant maintenance and anything else you wish, except this one privilege. But with respect to the powers that he will pretend to leave to the State, I have just this to say. As soon as you take away one of the privileges you have already granted, you will shake the credit of all the rest. For how can the grant of a statue or of free maintenance be more indefeasible than that of an immunity, which you will seem to have first given and then taken away? 20.121Further, even if this difficulty were not likely to arise, I cannot think that it is well to bring the State into this dilemma, that it must either put all citizens on an equality with its greatest benefactors, or to avoid this must treat some with ingratitude. Now as for great benefactions, it is not well that you should have many opportunities of receiving them, nor is it perhaps easy for an individual to confer them; 20.122but the humbler duties to which one can rise in time of peace and in the civil sphere—loyalty, justice, zeal and the like—it is, in my opinion, both well and necessary that they should be rewarded. Grants ought, therefore, to be so apportioned that each man may receive from the people the exact reward that he deserves. 20.123And then again, with regard to what he will say about leaving their honors to those who have received them, some would have a perfectly plain and straightforward answer, when they claim their right to all their rewards, because they were granted for the same service, but the others will reply that the man who says that he leaves them anything is mocking them. note For if a man has been thought to deserve immunity and has received that from you as his sole reward, be he foreigner or citizen, what reward has he left, Leptines, if that is taken from him? None whatever! Then you have no right to rob some because you arraign the worthlessness of the others, or to rob one class of their sole reward because you say that you are going to leave the other class something. 20.124To put it plainly, the danger is not that of doing a greater or less injustice to one member of the whole body, but that of rendering precarious the honors with which we reward men's services, nor is immunity the main topic of my speech, but the evil precedent which this law will establish, so that there will be no security for the nation's gifts.
20.125Again, the most unscrupulous argument that they have framed, as they think, to persuade you to withdraw the immunities, is one which I had better explain for fear you should be their innocent dupes. They are going to claim that all such payments are religious dues, and that of course it is monstrous that anyone should be exempt from the dues of religion. For my part, I see no unfairness in such exemption, if the people have bestowed it; the really monstrous thing is the course which they propose, if that is to be their argument. 20.126For if by appealing to the name of the gods they try to justify a robbery which they cannot justify otherwise, will not that be most impious and monstrous conduct? In my opinion, whenever a man appeals solemnly to the gods, his conduct ought to be clearly such as would not appear base even if supported only by human authority. Now that there is a difference between exemption from religious duties and exemption from public services, and that the defendants are trying to deceive you by transferring the name of public services to religious acts, I shall adduce Leptines himself as my witness. For the first clause of the law says 20.127"Leptines proposed that, to the end that the wealthiest citizens may perform the public services, none shall be immune save and except the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton." But if immunity from religious duties were the same as immunity from public services, what was the object of that clause? For immunity from religious duties has never been granted even to the persons here named. To prove that this is so, please take and read the copy of the inscription and then the beginning of the law of Leptines.
Copy of Stela Inscription
20.128You hear the copy of the inscription, men of
Good; stop there. After the words "to the end that the wealthiest citizens may perform the public services," he added "no one shall be immune save and except, the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton." Why so, if to pay for a religious rite is to perform a public service? For if that is his meaning, his own drafting will be found to contradict the inscription.20.129Now I should like to put a question to Leptines. When you say that the public services come under the head of religious dues, in what, according to you, did the immunity consist, which our ancestors then granted and you now leave untouched? For by the old laws they are not immune from all the special war-taxes or from the equipment of war-galleys; and they enjoy no immunity from the state services, since they are included in the religious duties. 20.130And yet the inscription says that they shall be immune. From what? From the tax on resident aliens, since nothing else is left? Of course not. It is from the regularly recurring services, as the inscription shows, as your law further specifies, and as all history witnesses. During all that length of time no tribe has ever ventured to nominate one of these descendants as chorus-master, and no one nominated has ever ventured to challenge them to an exchange of property. If Leptines dares to deny it, you must pay no heed to him.
20.131Again, note perhaps they will say in their haphazard note style that some citizens, by claiming to be Megarians and Messenians, note at once gain immunity, whole crowds at a time, to say nothing of slaves and jailbirds like Lycidas and Dionysius; such are the examples they select. When they hold such language, deal with them thus. Tell them, if they are speaking the truth, to produce the decrees which contain these men's immunity; for no one in your city enjoys immunity unless granted by some decree or law. 20.132Many such men, however, have been proclaimed Friends of the State here at the instance of your politicians Lycidas, for example. But it is one thing to be a Friend of the State and another to enjoy immunity. Be not misled by them. Because slaves, like Lycidas and Dionysius and perhaps one other, were made Friends of the State by men who are readily bribed to propose such decrees, they must not try to take away the gifts that you have justly bestowed on men of a different class—mentorious, freeborn, munificent benefactors. 20.133On this principle, what a gross insult it would be to Chabrias, if politicians of that stamp, not content with making his slave, Lycidas, a Friend of your State, should make the slave an excuse for taking back rewards conferred on the master, and that on a false plea! For neither Lycidas nor anyone else enjoys immunity as a Friend of the State, unless such immurity has been expressly conferred by the people. The men in question have not received it; I defy the defendants to prove it. If they have the effrontery to assert it, they will be acting dishonorably.
20.134I now come to speak of a matter about which I feel bound, Athenians, to warn you most seriously. For even if one could admit the truth of all that Leptines will say in praise of his law, it would be impossible under any circumstances to wipe out one disgrace which his law, if ratified, will bring upon our city. To what do I refer? To the reputation of having cheated our benefactors. 20.135Now I think you would all agree that this is a distinct disgrace; how much worse in you than in others, hear me explain. You have an ancient law, one held in great respect, that if anyone deceives the people by false promises, he shall be brought to trial, and if convicted shall be punished with death. And are you not then ashamed, Athenians, to find yourselves doing the very thing for which you punish other men with death? Nay, but in everything it is right to take heed against doing whatever seems or is dishonorable, but especially in cases where a man is seen to be indignant with others. For there is no room left even for hesitation in avoiding acts which a man's own judgement has already condemned.
20.136Then there is another precaution that you must take—to do nothing as a community which you would shun as individuals. Not a man among you would take away from another his own personal gifts, nor even dream of doing so. Then do not so in your public capacity, but tell the official defenders note of this law that 20.137if they say that any of the recipients of these rewards is undeserving, or holds them under false pretences, or is open to any other charge, they should indict him under the amended law which we are now proposing, either when we have carried it through, as we guarantee and assert that we will, or when they have themselves carried it, that is, as soon as the legislative commission has been appointed. note But each defender of this law, it seems, has a personal enemy, whether Diophantus or Eubulus or someone else. note 20.138If they hang back and refuse to take this step, then consider, men of
20.139Again, we must not deviate from this principle, that it was fair to investigate their merits at the time of conferring the reward, when none of these men opposed the vote, but after that to let the reward stand, unless you have received any subsequent wrong at their hands. If they allege that (for they cannot prove it), it must be shown that the men were punished at the time of the alleged wrongs. But if you ratify this law, though no such wrong was committed, it will seem that you have taken away their reward because you were envious, not because you found them rascals. 20.140Every reproach, I might almost say, should be avoided, but this above all, men of
20.143But of all the astonishing features of Leptines' law, what astonishes me most is his ignorance of the fact that just as a man who assigns heavy penalties for offences would be unlikely to have contemplated an offence himself, so one who abolishes the rewards for benefactions will not himself be likely to have contemplated a good deed. Now if, as is just possible, he did not know this, he will at once confess it by allowing you to repeal the law which embodies his own error, but if he shows himself obstinate and eager to ratify the law, I for one cannot praise him, though I refrain from censure. 20.144Then be not stubborn, Leptines; do not insist on a course which will not add to your own reputation or that of your supporters, especially as this trial no longer endangers you. For owing to the death of the father of Apsephion here, Bathippus, who indicted Leptines when he was still liable, the legal period has elapsed, and now our whole concern is with the law, and its proposer runs no risk. note
20.145I am told, however, that you assert that three distinct persons indicted you before Apsephion, but dropped the action. Well, if your complaint against them is that they did not endanger you, you must be fonder of danger than other people, but if you bring it forward as a proof of the justice of your proposals, you are doing a very silly thing. For how is your law improved by the fact that one of those who indicted you died before he could come into court, or was induced by you to drop the charge, or even was simply suborned by you? But I am ashamed even to suggest such things.
20.146There are advocates appointed to defend the law, and very able speakers they are; Leodamas of Acharnae, Aristophon of Hazenia, Cephisodotus of Ceramicus, and Dinias of Herchia. note Let me tell you, then, how you may reasonably retort upon them, and do you consider whether the retort is fair. note Take Leodamas first. It was he who impeached the grant to Chabrias, note which included among other things the gift of immunity, and when his case came before you, he lost it. 20.147Now the laws forbid the same man to be tried twice on the same issue, be it a civil action, a scrutiny, a contested claim, or anything else of the sort. But quite apart from all this, it would be a most absurd result if on the first occasion the services of Chabrias outweighed the arguments of Leodamas, but when to his services were added those of all the other benefactors, then the combined effect should be weaker than the arguments. 20.148To Aristophon I think I could raise many sound objections. He obtained his grant, which included immunity, by your votes. I find no fault with that, for it is right that you should have it in your power to bestow what is yours on anyone you please. But I do suggest that it is unfair that he should raise no objection when he was going to receive it himself, but when it has been given to others, he should take offence and urge you to withdraw it. 20.149Moreover it was Aristophon who proposed to pay Gelarchus five talents for sums advanced to the democrats in the
That, Athenians, is both an old and a sound law, note which the commissioners will be careful not to violate, if they are wise.
20.154I have still a few things to say to you before I sit down. For you ought, in my opinion, men of
20.155Now the law of Leptines, Athenians, does harm not only by abolishing the rewards of good service and so rendering fruitless the good intentions of those who are ambitious for honor, but also by leaving our city under the serious reproach of imbecility. For you are of course aware that for each grave offence a single penalty is provided by the law, which says explicitly that “at any trial there shall be not more than one assessment of penalty, whichever the court imposes, whether a personal punishment or a fine, but not both.” 20.156But Leptines has used a different measure and says that if anyone claims a return from you, “he shall be disfranchised, and his property shall be confiscated.” There you have two penalties. “The process shall be by laying information or by summary arrest; and if he be convicted, he shall be liable under the law which provides for the case of a man holding office while in debt to the treasury.” Death is what he means, for such is the punishment in that case. Why, here are three penalties! note Is it not monstrously hard, Athenians, if it proves more serious in your courts to ask for a return for good service than to be convicted of some heinous crime?
20.160And besides all this, observe a further point. That law cannot be a sound one which deals with the past and the future in the same way. “None,” says this law, “shall be immune save and except the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton.” Good! “Nor shall anyone in future be granted immunity.” What! not even if other such benefactors arise, Leptines? If you found fault with the past, can it be that you also foresaw the future? 20.161Because, you will say, we are now past such expectation. note I pray that we may be, Athenians. But as we are mere mortals, neither our language nor our laws should offend religious sentiment; we may both expect blessings and pray for them, but we must reflect that all things are conditioned by mortality. For the Lacedaemonians never dreamed that they would be brought to their present straits, and perhaps even the Syracusans, once a democracy, who exacted tribute from the Carthaginians and ruled all their neighbors and beat at us at sea, little thought they would fall under the tyranny of a single clerk, note if report be true. 20.162Nor again could the present Dionysius note ever have exacted that
20.163There are still many arguments that one might develop at length, showing that this law is in every respect unsound and opposed to your interests; but to sum up and bring my speech to a conclusion, I will ask you to do this. Calculate and compare in your own minds what will happen to you if you repeal this law, and what if you do not; and then be careful to remember all the consequences of either step, so that you may make the better choice. 20.164Now if, on our advice, you reject it, deserving men will receive their due reward from you, and any undeserving man (assuming that there are such) will not only lose his reward, but will pay whatever penalty you approve, in accordance with our alternative law, while all men will acknowledge the honor, justice and veracity of our city. If, on the other hand, you allow it to pass, as I pray you may not, the good will suffer for the sake of the bad, the undeserving will bring calamity on the rest, but come off scot-free themselves, and the reputation of
I think I need say no more, for I believe you understand all my arguments.
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