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Against Leptines

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 Athens, that Leptines and anyone else who defends the law will have nothing fair to say in its favor, but will urge the unworthiness of certain persons who have used their exemption as a means of shirking the public services, and he will take his stand chiefly on that ground. 20.2For my own part, I shall forbear to retort that it is unjust to take away this privilege from all because you find fault with some; for that objection has already been partially stated, note and you probably realize its force. But I should like to ask Leptines on what grounds, even if not some, but all the recipients had been to the last degree undeserving, he has meted out the same treatment to you as to them; for by the clause "none shall be exempt" he has taken away the privilege from those who now enjoy it, while by the addition "nor shall it be lawful hereafter to grant it" he takes away from you the right to bestow it. For surely he cannot mean that precisely as he thought the holders of this privilege unworthy, so he thought the people unworthy of the right to dispense its own favors to whomsoever it wishes. 20.3But perhaps he may object here that he framed his law in this way because the people are so easily gulled. But by parity of reasoning why should you not be deprived of all your rights—of the whole constitution in fact? For there is no single—right which has not been abused in this way. You have often been deceived into passing decrees; you have sometimes been induced to choose weak allies rather than strong; and generally, I suppose, in many of your public proceedings the same thing is bound to happen. 20.4Shall we then make a law that hereafter neither Council nor Assembly shall be permitted to deliberate or to vote on any subject? Not so, in my opinion; for we ought not to be deprived of our rights, where we have been misled; we ought to be instructed how to avoid such mistakes, and we ought to make a law, not to strip us of our own authority, but to punish those who mislead us.

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 Athens, on reflection does it seem to me reasonable, when finding fault with some on the ground of the rewards they already enjoy, to rob useful citizens of their honors. For if, while these immunities exist, some of the recipients are, as our opponents say, worthless and unprofitable, what result are we to expect when there is no chance whatever of reward for the good citizens?

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 Athens is incurring the three worst reproaches—that men should think us envious, faithless, ungrateful.

20.11Next, men of Athens, that it is absolutely contrary to the national character to ratify such a law as this, I will also endeavor to show you briefly by an example of our conduct in the past. The Thirty Tyrants are said to have borrowed money from the Lacedaemonians for use against the patriots in the Piraeus. note But when unity was restored to the State and those disputes were settled, the Lacedaemonians sent envoys to demand payment. 20.12When the question was discussed and some were for ordering the city-party, who were the real borrowers, to repay, while others claimed that the first sign of reconciliation should be the joint settlement of the debt, they say that the people chose to pay their contribution and bear their share of the loss, so that there should be no breach of the agreement. On that occasion, men of Athens, to avoid a breach of faith, you consented to pay money to those who had injured you, but now, when you might without any expense requite your benefactors by repealing this law, will it not be strange if you prefer to break your faith? I for one cannot approve of it.

20.13The instance I have quoted, men of Athens, as well many others, will show what our national character is—truthful, honest, and, where money is concerned, not asking what pays best, but what is the honorable thing to do. But as to the character of the proposer of this law, I have no further knowledge of him, nor do I say or know anything to his prejudice; but if I may judge from his law, I detect a character very far removed from what I have described. 20.14I say, then, that it would be more honorable for Leptines to be guided by you in repealing the law than for you to be guided by him in ratifying it, and it would be more profitable for you, as well as for him, that Athens should persuade Leptines to assume a likeness to herself than that she should be persuaded by Leptines to be like him; for even if he is a really good man—and he may be, for aught I know—he cannot excel her in character.

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 Athens stands, there will be plenty of citizens, without fail, to perform the services, but not a soul will want to do us a good turn, if he sees our previous benefactors wronged. 20.23So far, so good. But if there were the most serious shortage of possible contributors, in Heaven's name, which would you prefer—to organize syndicates for those services as for the equipment of war-vessels, or to rob your benefactors of what you have given them? I think I should prefer the syndicates. By the present law, while each of these thirty is performing a public service, Leptines affords a respite for the others, and that is all; after that, each of them will have to spend as much as before; but in the other case, each would pay a small contribution, proportioned to his means, and none would be hardly treated, even if his property were quite small.

20.24Now some of our opponents, men of Athens, are so illogical that they make no attempt to answer these arguments, but take a different line, saying for instance how monstrous it is that on the one hand there is nothing left in the Exchequer, but on the other hand private individuals will grow wealthy because they have secured an immunity. But it is not fair to combine both these statements. For if a man has great wealth without doing you any wrong, there is surely no need to look on him with envy; but if they are prepared to say that he has stolen it or gained it in some other disreputable way, there are laws by which he can be suitably punished. But as long as they do not prosecute him, neither have they any right to make this allegation. 20.25Further, with regard to the alleged poverty of the Exchequer, you must reflect that you will not be a whit the better off if you abolish these exemptions, for the expenditure on these services has nothing to do with the revenues or the surplus of the State. And apart from all this, of two possible advantages—wealth and credit with the rest of the world—our State today enjoys the latter. But if anyone imagines that because we have no money we need not also keep our honor bright, his judgement is at fault. For myself indeed, I pray Heaven that, if so it may be, our wealth also may increase, but if not, then at least that our reputation for good faith and constancy may remain sure.

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.Law

[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 Athens. 20.30It follows that Leptines deprives Leucon, note the ruler of the Bosporus, and his children of the reward which you bestowed on them. For, of course, Leucon is a foreigner by birth, though by adoption an Athenian citizen, but on neither ground can he claim exemption, if this law stands. And yet, while of our other benefactors each has made himself useful to us on one occasion, Leucon will be found on reflection to be a perpetual benefactor, and that in a matter especially vital to our city. 20.31For you are aware that we consume more imported corn than any other nation. Now the corn that comes to our ports from the Black Sea is equal to the whole amount from all other places of export. And this is not surprising; for not only is that district most productive of corn, but also Leucon, who controls the trade, has granted exemption from dues to merchants conveying corn to Athens, and he proclaims that those bound for your port shall have priority of lading. For Leucon, enjoying exemption for himself and his children, has granted exemption to every one of you. 20.32See what this amounts to. He exacts a toll of one-thirtieth from exporters of corn from his country. Now from the Bosporus there come to Athens about four hundred thousand bushels; the figures can be checked by the books of the grain commissioners. So for each three hundred thousand bushels he makes us a present of ten thousand bushels, and for the remaining hundred thousand a present of roughly three thousand. note 20.33Now, so little danger is there of his depriving our state of this gift, that he has opened another depot at Theudosia, which our merchants say is not at all inferior to the Bosporus, note and there, too, he has granted us the same exemption. I omit much that might be said about the other benefits conferred upon you by this prince and also by his ancestors, but the year before last, when there was a universal shortage of grain, he not only sent enough for your needs, but such a quantity in addition that Callisthenes had a surplus of fifteen talents of silver to dispose of. note 20.34What, then, men of Athens, do you expect of this man, who has proved himself such a friend to you, if he learns that you have deprived him by law of his immunity, and have made it illegal to bestow it hereafter, even if you change your minds? Are you not aware that this same law, if ratified, will take away the immunity, not only from Leucon, but from those of you who import corn from his country? note 20.35For surely no one dreams that he will tolerate the cancelling of your gifts to him, and let his own gifts to you stand good. So to the many disadvantages that this law will obviously entail upon you, may be added the immediate loss of part of your resources. In view of this, are you still considering whether you ought to erase it from the statute-book? Have you not made up your minds long ago? Take and read them the decrees touching Leucon. Decrees

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 Bosporus, in the Piraeus, and at Hierum. note Just reflect to what depths of meanness you are dragged by this law, which makes the nation less trustworthy than an individual. 20.37For you must not imagine that the pillars standing there are anything else than the covenants of all that you have received or granted; and it will be made clear that Leucon observes them and is always eager to benefit you, but that you have repudiated them while they still stand; and that is a far worse offence than to pull them down note; for when men wish to traduce our city, there will stand the pillars to witness to the truth of their words. 20.38Now mark! Suppose Leucon sends and asks us on what charge or for what fault we have taken away his immunity; what, in the name of wonder, shall we say, or in what terms will the proposer of your reply draft it? He will say, I suppose, that some of those who obtained immunity did not deserve it! 20.39If, then, Leucon replies to this, “Yes; I dare say some of the Athenians are scoundrels, but I have not made that a reason for robbing the good citizens; on the contrary, because I think the Athenians, as a nation, are good men, I allow them all a share”; will there not be more fairness in his words than in ours? To me, at least, it seems so. For it is the custom of all nations, for the sake of their benefactors, rather to include some bad men in their rewards, than to make the worthless men an excuse for withholding their rewards from those who are acknowledged to merit them. 20.40Nay more, upon consideration, I cannot even see why anyone should not, if he wishes, challenge Leucon to an exchange of property. note For there is always property of his at Athens, and by this law, if anyone tries to lay hands on it Leucon will either forfeit it or be compelled to perform public service. And it is not the question of expense that will trouble him most, but the reflection that you have robbed him of his reward.

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 Cyrene, than whom no recipient of this honor ever deserved it better, not because his gifts were great or extraordinary, but because they came at a time when we were hard put to it to find, even among those whom we had benefited, anyone willing to remember our benefactions. 20.42For Epicerdes, as this decree then passed in his honor declares, gave a hundred minae to our fellow-countrymen at that time prisoners in Sicily under such distressing circumstances, note and thus he became the chief instrument in saving them from all perishing of hunger. Afterwards, when you had rewarded him with immunity, seeing that in the war note just before the rule of the Thirty the people were straitened for want of funds, he gave them a talent as a freewill offering. 20.43In the name of Zeus and all the gods, men of Athens, ask yourselves how a man could more clearly show his goodwill towards you, or how he could be less deserving of an ill return than if, being first an eye-witness of that national disaster, he should prefer the beaten side and such favors as they might some day bestow, rather than the victors among whom he found himself in their hour of triumph; or if next, seeing a further need arise, he should be found once more a donor, anxious not to hoard his own private means, but to ensure that no cause of yours should fall short of success, so far as in him lay. 20.44Yet this man, who in actual deed on those momentous occasions shared his wealth with the people, but enjoyed only a nominal and honorary immunity, will be robbed by you, not of his immunity, for it is evident that he did not use it when he had it, but of his trust in you; and what could be more discreditable than that? Now you shall hear the very words of the decree then passed in his honor. And observe, men of Athens, how many decrees this law annuls, how many individuals it wrongs, and what occasions they chose for making themselves serviceable to you; for you will find that the law wrongs just the men who least deserve it. Read. Decree

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 Athens, if it appears that we have retained no memory of these services and have robbed of their reward the sons of such a benefactor, though we can charge them with no fault? 20.47For if those who were then saved by him and who bestowed on him this immunity were a different generation from you who now propose to take it away, yet that does not remove the infamy of the act; nay, it is just there that its atrocity lies. For if those who knew and experienced his generosity felt that it merited this return, while we, who have only heard the story told, shall revoke the gift as undeserved, shall we not be guilty of more than ordinary atrocity? 20.48Now my plea is the same in this case as for those who overthrew the Four Hundred, and for those who proved helpful to the democrats in exile; for I think they would all be atrociously treated if any portion of the rewards then decreed to them should be revoked.

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 Corinth, and when the party in that city determined after the battle not to admit our soldiers within their walls, but to send heralds to greet the Lacedaemonians, 20.53these men, though they saw that Athens had lost the day and that our enemies were holding the pass, note refused to betray us or to take steps for their own individual safety, but with the whole armed force of the Peloponnese close upon them, they opened their gates to us in defiance of the majority and chose along with you, who had been engaged in the battle, to suffer whatever might betide, rather than without you to enjoy a safety that involved no danger; and so they admitted the troops and succeeded in saving both you and your allies. 20.54And afterwards, when peace, the peace of Antalcidas, note was concluded with the Lacedaemonians, the latter requited their acts with exile. But you, in giving them shelter, acted like good men and true; for you decreed them all that they needed. Yet now are we actually debating whether those decrees should remain valid? No! The bare statement is a disgrace, if it should be reported that Athenians are debating whether they ought to let their benefactors keep what they have given them; for that question ought to have been debated, yes, and decided, long ago.

Read this decree also to the court.Decree

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 Thasos to you by expelling the armed garrison of the Lacedaemonians and admitting Thrasybulus, note and thus, by bringing their own country on to your side, were the means of winning for you the alliance of the district bordering on Thrace? 20.60In the second place, will you not wrong Archebius and Heraclides, who by putting Byzantium into the hands of Thrasybulus made you masters of the Hellespont, so that you farmed out the toll of ten per cent, note and thus being well furnished with money forced the Lacedaemonians to conclude a peace favorable to you? note When subsequently they were banished, you, Athenians, passed what I think was a very proper decree in favor of men exiled through devotion to your interests, conferring on them the title of Friends of the State note and Benefactors, together with immunity from all taxes. For your sakes they were in exile, from you they received a just recompense; and are we now to let them be robbed of this, though we can charge them with no fault? But that would be scandalous. 20.61You will grasp the situation best if you will reason it out for yourselves in this way. Suppose at the present day a party of those in power at Pydna or Potidaea or any of those other places which are subject to Philip and hostile to you— 20.62just as Thasos and Byzantium then were friendly to the Lacedaemonians and estranged from you—promised to hand them over to you in return for the same rewards that you gave to Ecphantus of Thasos and Archebius of Byzantium; and suppose some of these gentlemen here objected to their proposal on the ground that it would be monstrous if a select few of the resident aliens were to escape the public services; how would you deal with their arguments? Is it not certain that you would refuse to listen to such malignant pettifoggers? If so, then it is disgraceful that you should consider such an objection malignant when you are going to receive a benefit, but should lend an ear to it when it is proposed to revoke your gifts to former benefactors. Now let us pass to another argument. 20.63The men who betrayed Pydna and the other places to Philip—what prompted them to injure us? Is it not obvious to everyone that it was the reward which they calculated on receiving from Philip for their services? Which, then, ought you to have chosen to do, Leptines? To induce our enemies, if you can, to give up honoring those who become their benefactors on the strength of injuries done to us, or to impose a law on us which takes away some part of the rewards which our own benefactors are enjoying? I fancy the former. But that I may not wander from the present point, take and read the decrees passed in honor of the Thasians and the Byzantines.Decrees

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 Athens, that it is a most disgraceful thing to show and proclaim to all mankind that the misfortunes which these men endured for your sake have been confirmed to them for ever, while the grants which they received from you in recompense have been even now rescinded. 20.66For it would have been far more fitting to mitigate their distress by letting them keep your gifts, than, while the distress remains, to rob them of your bounty. In Heaven's name, I ask you, who is there that will choose to do you service with the prospect of instant punishment by your enemies, if he fails, and of a dubious gratitude from you, if he succeeds?

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 Athens may abound in all blessings, but especially that the best men and the most numerous benefactors of this city may be her own citizens. 20.68First of all, then, in the case of Conon, ask yourselves whether dissatisfaction with the man or his performances justifies the cancelling of the gifts conferred on him. For, as some of you who are his contemporaries can attest, it was just after the return of the exiled democrats from the Piraeus, note when our city was so weak that she had not a single ship, and Conon, who was a general in the Persian service and received no prompting whatever from you, defeated the Lacedaemonians at sea and taught the former dictators of Greece to show you deference; he cleared the islands of their military governors, and coming here he restored our Long Walls note; and he was the first to make the hegemony of Greece once more the subject of dispute between Athens and Sparta. 20.69For, indeed, he has the unique distinction of being thus mentioned in his inscription; “Whereas Conon,” it runs, “freed the allies of Athens.” That inscription, gentlemen of the jury, is his glory in your estimation, but it is yours in the estimation of all Greece. For whatever boon any one of us confers on the other states, the credit of it is reaped by the fame of our city. 20.70Therefore his contemporaries not only granted him immunity, but also set up his statue in bronze—the first man so honored since Harmodius and Aristogiton. For they felt that he too, in breaking up the empire of the Lacedaemonians, had ended no insignificant tyranny. In order, then, that you may give a closer attention to my words, the clerk shall read the actual decrees which you then passed in favor of Conon. Read them.Decrees

20.71It was not, then, only by you, Athenians, that Conon was honored for the services that I have described, but by many others, who rightly felt bound to show gratitude for the benefits they had received. And so it is to your dishonor, men of Athens, that in other states his rewards hold good, but of your rewards alone he is to lose this part. 20.72Neither is this creditable—to honor him when living, with all the distinctions that have been recited to you, but when he is dead to take back some part of your former gifts. For many of his achievements, men of Athens, deserve praise, and all of them make it improper to revoke the gifts they earned for him, but the noblest deed of all was his restoration of the Long Walls. 20.73You will realize this if you compare the way in which Themistocles, the most famous man of his age, accomplished the same result. Now history tells us that Themistocles bade his countrymen get on with the building and detain anyone who came from Sparta, while he went off himself on an embassy to the Lacedaemonians; and while negotiations went on there and the news kept coming that the Athenians were fortifying, he denied it and told them to send envoys to see for themselves, and when these envoys did not return, he urged them to send more. Indeed, I expect you have all heard the story of how he hoodwinked them. 20.74Now I assert—and I earnestly appeal to you, Athenians, not to take offence at what is coming, but to consider whether it is true—I assert that in proportion as openness is better than secrecy, and it is more honorable to gain one's end by victory than by trickery, so Conon deserves more credit than Themistocles for building the walls. For the latter achieved it by evading those who would have prevented it, but the former by beating them in battle. Therefore it is not right that so great a man should be wronged by you, or should gain less than those orators who will try to prove that you ought to deduct something from what was bestowed on him.

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 Thebes note to face the whole power of the Peloponnese, how he slew Gorgopas in Aegina, what trophies he set up in Cyprus and afterwards in Egypt, how he visited, I might almost say, every land, yet nowhere disgraced our city's name or his own—of all these exploits it is by no means easy to speak adequately, and it would be a great shame if my words should make them fall below the estimate of him which each one of you has formed in his own mind. But of some, which I think I could never belittle in describing them, I will try to remind you. 20.77Now, he beat the Lacedaemonians in a sea-fight note and took forty-nine warships; he captured most of the islands near and handed them over to you, turning their previous enmity into friendship; he brought to Athens three thousand captives, and paid into the treasury more than a hundred and ten talents taken from the enemy. And in all these facts some of the oldest among you can bear me out. But in addition, he captured more than twenty warships, one or two at a time, and brought them all into your harbors. 20.78To sum up; he alone of all our generals never lost a city, a fort, a ship, or a man, as long as he led you; and none of your enemies can boast a single trophy won from you and him, while you possess many won from many enemies while he was your general. But for fear lest my speech should omit any of his exploits, the clerk shall read to you an inventory of all the ships he took and where he took each, the number of cities and the amount of treasure captured, and the place where he set up each trophy. Read.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 Athens, when the trophies that he set up as general in your name stand plain for all men to see, but a part of the reward for those trophies is found to have been filched away? Will you not observe, men of Athens, and reflect that today we are not judging the law, to see whether it is suitable or not? It is you who are under examination, to see whether you are suitable persons to receive benefits in the future or whether you are not.

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. noteDecrees 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. Law

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.Law

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.Law

20.96Stop there. The laws now in force contain this provision—a capital one, men of Athens, and unambiguous—that "all rewards granted by the people shall be valid." Equitable too, by all the powers! So Leptines should not have proposed his own law until he had indicted and repealed this. As it is, neglecting proof of his own violation of the law, he nevertheless proceeded to legislate, in face of the fact that another law proclaims his law indictable for this very offence, namely, for contradicting previous legislation. Here is the very law in question.Law

20.97Men of Athens, is not the provision that "all rewards granted by the people shall be valid" contradicted by the clause that "no one shall be immune," no one, that is, of those to whom the people has granted immunity? That is plain enough, at any rate. But it is not so in the alternative law which my friend note here proposes, and which confirms what you have granted, and provides a fair ground of action against those who have imposed upon you, or have subsequently injured you, or are generally undeserving; so that you will thus prevent anyone you please from retaining his grant. Read the law.Law

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 Athens, all such arguments are provocative, and intended to persuade you to abolish the immunities, but just they are certainly not. For I am quite aware that the Thebans and the Lacedaemonians and ourselves do not observe the same laws and customs, nor the same form of government. 20.106For in the first place, if this is their argument, they are about to do exactly what a man cannot do at Sparta—praise the laws of Athens or of any other state; nay, so far from that, he is obliged to praise, as well as do, whatever accords with his native constitution. Then again, though the Lacedaemonians do not hold with these customs, yet there are other honors at Sparta, which our citizens to a man would shrink from introducing here. 20.107What, then, are those honors? Not to take each singly, I will describe one which comprises all the rest. Whenever a man for his good conduct is elected to the Senate, or Gerusia, as they call it, he is absolute master of the mass of citizens. For at Sparta the prize of merit is to share with one's peers the supremacy in the State; but with us the people is supreme, and any other form of supremacy is forbidden by imprecations note and laws and other safeguards, but we have crowns of honor and immunities and free maintenance and similar rewards, which anyone may win, if he is a good citizen. 20.108And both these customs are right enough, the one at Sparta and the other here. Why? Because in an oligarchy harmony is attained by the equality of those who control the State, but the freedom of a democracy is guarded by the rivalry with which good citizens compete for the rewards offered by the people.

20.109Again, with regard to the absence of honors at Thebes, I think I can express the truth thus. The Thebans, men of Athens, plume themselves more on brutality and iniquity than you on humanity and love of justice. If a prayer may be allowed, may they never cease to withhold honor and admiration from those who do them service, or to deal with kindred states in the same way (For you remember how they treated Orchomenus. note) And never may you cease to do the opposite, honoring your benefactors and winning your rights from your fellow-citizens by debate and in harmony with the laws! 20.110And in general, I think that then only ought you to praise the habits and character of other nations and decry your own, when it is possible to prove that they are more prosperous than you. As long as you (thank Heaven!) are more prosperous than they, in public policy, in internal harmony, and in every other way, why should you belittle your national institutions and imitate theirs? Even if theirs could be proved superior in theory, yet the good fortune that you have enjoyed under your own institutions makes it worth your while to retain them. 20.111Besides all this, if I must say what I think is right, I would put it in this way. It is not right, Athenians, to cite the laws of the Lacedaemonians or of the Thebans in order to undermine the laws established here; it is not right that you should want to put a man to death for transplanting to Athens any of the institutions that have made those nations great, and yet lend a willing ear to those who propose to destroy the institutions under which our democracy has flourished.

20.112Then they have another argument ready; that even at Athens in former generations men who had rendered great services met with no recognition of this sort, but were content with an inscription in the Hermes-Portico. note Perhaps indeed the inscription will be read to you. But in my opinion, Athenians, this argument is in many ways prejudicial to the State, besides being unjust. 20.113For if anyone says that even these men deserved no honor, let him say who does deserve it, if there is no one either before or after them. If he shall say "no one," I should be very sorry for our city, if no one in the course of its history has proved worthy of reward. Again, if while admitting their merit he points out that they got nothing by it, assuredly he accuses the city of ingratitude. But that is not the truth or anything like it; but whenever a man maliciously gives a wrong twist to his arguments, I think they must appear hateful. 20.114I, however, will explain the case to you, as truth and justice demand. There were, men of Athens, plenty of zealous citizens in former generations, and our city even then honored its good men; only honors then, like everything else, reflected the temper of the times, just as they now reflect the temper of today. And why do I say this? Because for myself I should be inclined to assert that they did get from the State everything that they wished. 20.115What is my evidence? Lysimachus, note only one of the worthies of that day, received a hundred roods of orchard in Euboea and a hundred of arable land, besides a hundred minas of silver and a pension of four drachmas a day. And the decree in which these gifts are recorded stands in the name of Alcibiades. For then our city was rich in lands and money, though now—she will be rich some day note; for I must put it in that way to avoid anything like obloquy. Yet today who, think you, would not prefer a third of that reward to mere immunity? To prove the truth of my words, please take the decree. Decree

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 Athens, you must also consider well and carefully the fact that you have come into court today, sworn to give your verdict according to the laws, not of Sparta or Thebes, nor those of our earliest ancestors, but those under which immunities were granted to the men whom Leptines is now trying to rob by his law; and where there are no statutes to guide you, you are sworn to decide according to the best of your judgement. So far, so good. Then you must apply these principles to the law as a whole. 20.119Is it right, Athenians, to honor your benefactors? It is. Well then, is it right to allow a man to keep what has once been given him? It is. Then, to observe your oaths, act on that principle yourselves; resent the imputation that your ancestors acted otherwise; and as for those who cite such instances, alleging that your ancestors rewarded no man for great benefits received, look upon them as both knaves and dullards—knaves, because they falsely charge your ancestors with ingratitude; fools, because they do not see that were the charge proved to the hilt, it would better become them to deny than to repeat it.

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 Athens, ordering them to be immune, save from religious duties. Now read the beginning of the law of Leptines.Law

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 Athens, whether it is to your credit that you should be known to have taken away from your benefactors what not one of these men ventures to take from his personal enemy, and that you should pass a law to rob collectively of their rewards men who have served you well and whom no one dreams of indicting, when the handful of unworthy recipients, if there are any, could be dealt with just as effectively, if these men would impeach them and bring them to trial one by one. For it passes my comprehension how the present arrangement can consort with your honor and your dignity.

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 Athens. Why? Because in every way envy is the mark of a vicious nature, and the man who is subject to it has no claim whatever to consideration. Moreover there is no reproach more alien to our city than the appearance of envy, averse as she is from all that is disgraceful. 20.141See what strong evidence we have of this. In the first place, you alone of all mankind publicly pronounce over your dead funeral orations, in which you extol the deeds of the brave. Such, however, is the practice of men who admire bravery, not of men who envy the honors that bravery wins. Next, you have from time immemorial given the richest rewards to those who win crowns in the athletic games; nor, because such honors are necessarily confined to a few, have you grudged or stinted the honors of the victors on that account. Beside these notable instances, no one, I think, has ever surpassed our State in generosity; such a superabundance of rewards has she heaped on those who serve her well. 20.142All these, men of Athens, are proofs of justice, of virtue, of magnanimity. Then do not now destroy the very qualities on which throughout its history our city's reputation is founded; do not, in order that Leptines may vent his spite on men whom he dislikes, rob both yourselves and your city of the fair fame that has been yours in every age; do not suppose that anything else is at stake in this trial save the honor of Athens, whether it is to stand unimpaired as of old, or to pass into neglect and degradation.

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 Piraeus note; and he was right. Then, my friend, if you recommended the repayment of unattested sums on the ground of service done to the people, you must not advise the revocation of grants for services which the people themselves attested by inscriptions in the temples, and which are indeed known to all men. You must not exhibit yourself as at the same time proposing that debts ought to be paid, and urging that a man should be deprived of what he has won at the hands of the people. 20.150Next, I have this much to say to Cephisodotus. As an orator, men of Athens, he is inferior to none. Then it would be far more honorable to use his talents for the chastisement of evil-doers than for the injury of those who deserve well. If he must make enemies, I suggest that they should be those who injure the people, not those who benefit them. 20.151Then as to Dinias. Perhaps he will tell you of the war-galleys he has equipped and of his other public services. For my part, though Dinias has proved himself a valuable servant of the public, as I sincerely believe, I would urge him rather to claim from you some reward for himself than to tell you to take back rewards previously given to others; for a man gives a surer proof of excellence by claiming a reward for his own services than by grudging others the rewards they have received for theirs. 20.152But the most effective retort is one which applies to all the commissioners alike. Each one of them has often before served as commissioner for some business or other. Now you have a very sound law—not, of course, directed against these men, but framed to prevent any commissioner from using his opportunity for profit or blackmail—that no one, elected by the people, be permitted to serve as commissioner more than once. 20.153Surely those who are going to advocate a law and urge its necessity ought to show themselves ready to obey existing laws; otherwise it is absurd for them to defend one law as commissioners and violate another themselves. Take and read the law which I cite.Law

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 Athens, to be anxious for the utmost possible efficiency of our laws, but especially of those on which depends the strength or weakness of our State. And which are they? They are those which assign rewards to those who do good and punishments to those who do evil. For in truth, if from fear of legal penalties all men shunned wrongdoing, and if from ambition for the rewards of good service all chose the path of duty, what prevents our city from being great and all our citizens honest, with not a rogue among them?

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?

20.157Men of Athens, this law, so dishonorable, so unsound, so suggestive of envy and spite and—I spare you the rest. Those are the sort of things that the framer of the law seems to favor, but you must not imitate them nor display sentiments unworthy of yourselves. I ask you in Heaven's name, what should we all most earnestly deprecate? What do all our laws most carefully guard against? What but those vengeful murders against which our specially appointed protector is the Council of the Areopagus? 20.158Now Draco, in this group of laws, marked the terrible wickedness of homicide by banning the offender from the lustral water, the libations, the loving-cup, the sacrifices and the market-place; he enumerated everything that he thought likely to deter the offender; but he never robbed him of his claim to justice; he defined the circumstances that make homicide justifiable and proclaimed the accused in such case free from taint. If, then, your laws can justify homicide, is this fellow's law to forbid any claim, even a just one, to recompense? Not so, men of Athens! 20.159Do not let it appear that you have been more diligent to prevent any of your benefactors from winning a recompense than to suppress murder in your city. Rather, recalling the occasions on which you have repaid the services rendered you, and remembering the inscription of Demophantus, already referred to by Phormio, on which it stands written and confirmed by oath that whoso shall suffer in defence of the democracy shall receive the same reward as Harmodius and Aristogiton, vote for the repeal of this law; for if you do not, it is impossible for you to observe your oaths.

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 Dion would come against him in a cargo-boat with a handful of soldiers and expel the master of so many warships and mercenaries and cities. But, methinks, the future is hidden from all men, and great events hang on small chances. Therefore we must be modest in the day of prosperity, and must show that we are not blind to the future.

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 Athens will be the very reverse of what I have described; all men will regard her as faithless, envious and mean. 20.165It is unworthy of you, Athenians, to prefer such a foul reproach to advantages so honorable and so appropriate to you. For each of you will share individually in the credit of your joint decision. For it is known to all standing round us, note as to everyone else, that in this court Leptines is contending with us, but within the conscience of each member of the jury humanity is arrayed against envy, justice against malice, and all that is good against all that is most base. 20.166If you yield to the nobler impulse and cast your votes with us, you will win for yourselves the credit, and for the State the benefit, of a righteous verdict, and if ever occasion arises, you will not lack friends willing to encounter risk in your behalf. I ask you, therefore, to take all these considerations seriously to heart and to beware that you are not forced into an error of judgement. For on many occasions, men of Athens, the justice of the case has not been brought home to you, but a verdict has been wrested from you by the clamor, the violence and the shamelessness of the pleaders. Let not that be your case today, for that would be unworthy of you; 20.167but hold fast to what you are convinced is just, and bear it in mind until you vote, so that true to your oaths you may cast your votes against the counsels of the wicked. If you punish with death those who debase the coinage, I shall be surprised if you lend an ear to men who render our whole State base and counterfeit. By all the gods, I will not believe it of you.

I think I need say no more, for I believe you understand all my arguments.

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