Isaeus, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Isae.].
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1 On The Estate of Cleonymus

1.hypothesisCleonymus having died, his nephews claim his estate as the natural heirs. They admit that the will in favor of Pherenicus, Simon, note and Poseidippus, and produced by these persons, was the genuine will of Cleonymus, and was deposited by Cleonymus with the magistrates at a time when he was angry with their guardian Deinias; they allege, however, that he subsequently tried to annul the will, and after having sent for the police-magistrate, died suddenly. They further allege that Polyarchus, their grandfather and Cleonymus's father, instructed the latter, if anything should happen to him, to leave his property to them. The question at issue is a decision between the conflicting claims of the two parties, one basing their claim on the original will, the other relying on the last acts of Cleonymus, and alleging that he sent for the magistrate in order to annul the will.

1.1Great indeed, gentlemen, is the change which the death of Cleonymus has brought upon me. In his lifetime he devised his property to us; his death has exposed us to the danger of losing it. While he lived, we were so discreetly brought up by him that we never entered a law court even as listeners; now we have come here to fight for all that we possess; for our opponents claim not only Cleonymus's property, but also our patrimony, alleging that we owe his estate money as well. 1.2Their own friends and relatives concede our right to an equal share with them in the undisputed property which Cleonymus left behind him; but our opponents have become so impudent that they are seeking to deprive us even of our patrimony—not because they are ignorant, gentlemen, of what is just, but because they are convinced of our utter helplessness.

1.3For consider the grounds on which the respective parties rely in coming before you. Our opponents insist upon a will which our uncle drew up, not because he had any ground of complaint against us, but through anger against one of our relatives, and which he annulled before his death, sending Poseidippus to the magistrate's office for the purpose. 1.4We were Cleonymus's nearest relatives, and lived on terms of greater intimacy with him than anyone else; and the laws have given us the right of succession as next of kin, as also did Cleonymus himself, owing to the affection which subsisted between us. And, further, Polyarchus, Cleonymus's father and our grandfather, gave instructions that, if Cleonymus should die without issue, he was to leave his property to us. 1.5Though we have all these claims, our opponents, though they are our relatives and have no justice to urge, are not ashamed to bring us into court in a matter about which it would be disgraceful even for those who are no relatives at all to dispute. 1.6But I think, gentlemen, that we and our opponents have not the same feelings towards one another; for I regard it as the worst feature of my present troubles, not that I am being unjustly placed in peril, but that I am at law with kinsmen, against whom even to defend oneself is not creditable; for I should not regard it as a less misfortune to injure them, my relatives, in my own defence than to have been originally injured by them. 1.7They have no such sentiments, but have come against us after calling all their friends to their aid, and procuring orators and mustering all their forces, as though, gentlemen, they were going to punish foes, and not to harm kinsmen and relatives. 1.8You will understand their shamelessness and greed better when you have heard the whole story. I will begin my narrative at a point which will, I think, enable you most readily to understand the matters in dispute.

1.9We were orphans, and our uncle Deinias, our father's brother, assumed the guardianship of us. Now it so happened that he was at variance with Cleonymus; which of the two was to blame for this, it is not perhaps my business to determine, but I might justly find fault with both of them alike, inasmuch as, having previously been friends, without any real pretext, as the result of certain words which were spoken, they became so hastily at enmity with one another. 1.10It was at this time, under the influence of this anger, that Cleonymus made this will: not because he had any complaint against us, as he subsequently stated, but because he saw that we were under the guardianship of Deinias, and was afraid that he might himself die while we were minors, and that Deinias might obtain control of the property, if it became ours; for he could not bear to think of leaving his bitterest enemy as the guardian of his relatives and in control of his property, and of the customary rites being performed over him, until we grew up, by one with whom he had been at variance in his lifetime. 1.11Such were the sentiments under which, whether rightly or wrongly, he made this will; and when Deinias immediately asked him at the time whether he had any grievance against us or our father, he replied in the hearing of all that he had no fault to find with us, and so testified that it was his anger against Deinias and not his calm judgement which decided him to make this will. For surely, gentlemen, if he had been in his right senses, he would never have wished to injure us, who had never wronged him. 1.12His subsequent conduct is the strongest proof in support of our contention, that even in acting thus he did not intend to injure us. For after Deinias's death, when things were going badly with us, he would not allow us to lack anything, but took us into his own house and brought us up, and saved our property when our creditors were scheming against it, and looked after our interests as though they were his own. 1.13It is from these acts rather than from the will that his intentions must be discerned, and inferences must be drawn not from what he did under the influence of anger—through which we are all liable to err—but from his subsequent acts, whereby he made his attitude quite clear. In his last hours he showed still more plainly his feelings toward us. 1.14For, when he was suffering from the illness of which he died, he wished to revoke this will, and directed Poseidippus to fetch the magistrate. Not only did he fail to do so, but he even sent away one of the magistrates who had come to the door. Cleonymus was enraged at this, and again gave instructions, this time to Diocles, to summon the magistrates for the following day, though he was in no fit state to transact business owing to his illness; but, although there was still good hope of his recovery, he died suddenly that night.

1.15I will now produce witnesses to prove, first, that the motive of Cleonymus in making this will was not any grievance against us, but his enmity towards Deinias; secondly, that after Deinias's death he looked after all our interests, and took us to his own house and brought us up; and, thirdly, that he sent Poseidippus for the magistrate, but not only did he himself fail to summon him, but also sent him away when he came to the door. 1.16To prove the truth of my statements, please call the witnesses.Witnesses

Next call witnesses to testify that the friends of our opponents, including Cephisander, were of opinion that the parties should share the estate, and that we should have one third of all that Cleonymus possessed.Witnesses

1.17I think, gentlemen, that in any dispute about an inheritance, if the claimants can prove, as we can, that they are nearer both in affinity and in affection to the deceased, all other arguments are superfluous. But, since my opponents, though they can urge either of these titles, have the impudence to claim what does not belong to them, and are trumping up false arguments, I should like to say a few words on these very points. 1.18They insist upon the will, declaring that Cleonymus sent for the magistrate because he wished, not to revoke it, but to correct it and to confirm the bequest in their favor. Now consider which is the more likely, that Cleonymus, now that he had become friendly towards us, wished to cancel the will which he had made in anger, or that he was seeking a still surer means to deprive us of his property. 1.19All other men afterwards repent of wrongs which they have done to their relatives in moments of anger; Cleonymus is represented by my opponents as desirous, when he was on terms of the closest affection with us, still further to confirm the will which he made in anger. So, even if we were to admit that he did so and you yourselves were to believe it, my opponents, you must observe, are accusing Cleonymus of utter madness. 1.20For what greater act of insanity could be committed than that Cleonymus, when he was at variance with Deinias, should wrong us and make a will whereby he did not punish Deinias but wronged his nearest and dearest, whereas now, when he was on terms of the closest friendship with us and held us in higher esteem than anyone else, he should have wished, as my opponents allege, to leave his nephews alone without any share in his property? Who, gentlemen, in his right mind would determine so to dispose of his estate? 1.21By these arguments they have made it easy for you to decide their case. If it was to revoke the will, as we assert, that Cleonymus sent for the magistrate, they have no possible plea to urge; if he was so mad as always to have the least regard for us, his nearest kinsmen and most intimate friends, you would be justified, I presume, in declaring such a will invalid.

1.22Next remark, that, though they allege that Cleonymus asked for the magistrate to be summoned in order to confirm the bequest to themselves, yet, when they were ordered to do so, they dared not bring him in, and also sent away one of the magistrates who came to the door. Two alternatives lay before them, either to have the inheritance confirmed to them or else to offend Cleonymus by not doing what he asked; they preferred to incur his enmity rather than to secure this bequest! 1.23Could anything be more incredible than this? Those who had so much to gain by doing what he asked, avoided rendering this service, as though they were going to lose by it, while Cleonymus showed so much zeal for their advantage that he was angry with Poseidippus for neglecting his wishes, and repeated the request to Diocles for the following day!

1.24If, gentlemen, Cleonymus, as my opponents allege, bequeathed the estate to them by the will in its present form, I cannot help wondering by what alteration he thought he could make it more valid; for in the eyes of every one else such a will is the most complete form of bequest. 1.25Furthermore, if he wished to add anything to these dispositions, why did he not record and leave behind him his wishes in a codicil, when he found himself unable to procure the original will from the officials? For he could not annul any other document except that which was deposited at the magistrate's office; but he was at liberty to record anything he liked in a codicil, and thus avoid leaving this matter in dispute between us. 1.26If we concede also that Cleonymus wished to alter his will, it is, I think, obvious to you all that he was dissatisfied with it. Here, again, mark the impudence of our opponents, who claim that the will should be valid, though they admit that even the testator himself was dissatisfied with it, and are trying to persuade you to give a verdict which is contrary to the laws and to justice and to the intentions of the deceased. 1.27Most impudent of all their statements is when they dare to say that Cleonymus did not wish us to have any of his property. Whom, gentlemen, could he have wished to have it rather than those to whom in his lifetime he gave more assistance out of his private means than to any other of his relatives? 1.28It would be most extraordinary if, while Cephisander, the kinsman of our opponents, thought it fair that each of us should have a share of the property, yet Cleonymus, who was our nearest relative and received us into his house and cared for us and looked after our interests as though they were his own, was the only person who wished that we should receive no share of his estate. 1.29Who of you could possibly believe that our opponents-at-law are kinder and more considerate towards us than our closest kindred; and that he, who was bound to treat us well and in whom it would have been disgraceful to neglect us, left us none of his property, whereas these men, who are under no obligation to us and whose disregard of us involves no disgrace, offered us a share of the property to which, as they say, we have no claim? These suppositions, gentlemen, are perfectly incredible.

1.30Again, if Cleonymus had entertained the same feelings towards both parties at the time of his death as when he made the will, some of you might reasonably believe my opponents' story; as it is, you will find that the exact contrary is true. Then he was at variance with Deinias, who was acting as our guardian, and was not yet on terms of close intimacy with us, and was kindly disposed towards all my opponents; at the time of his death he had become at variance with some of them, and was living on terms of closer intimacy with us than with anyone else. 1.31On the causes of the quarrel between my opponents and Cleonymus it is unnecessary for me to dwell; but I will mention some striking proofs of its existence, of which I shall be able also to produce witnesses. Firstly, when he was sacrificing to Dionysus, he invited all his relatives and many other citizens besides, but he offered no place to Pherenicus. Again, when, shortly before his death, he was journeying to Panormus note with Simon and met Pherenicus, he could not bring himself to speak to him. 1.32Furthermore, when Simon asked him about the quarrel, he narrated the circumstances of their enmity, and threatened that some day he would show Pherenicus what were his feelings towards him. Now call witnesses to prove the truth of these statements.Witnesses

1.33Do you imagine, gentlemen, that Cleonymus, being thus disposed towards both parties, acted thus towards us, with whom he lived on terms of the closest affection, in order to leave us without a word to say, while he sought means to confirm the bequest of his whole property to my opponents, with some of whom he was at variance? And that, although this enmity subsisted, he thought more highly of them, and, in spite of the intimacy and affection which had sprung up between us, tried rather to injure us? 1.34For my part, if they wished to attack the will and the deceased, I do not know what else they could have said to you, since they represent the will as incorrect and disapproved by the testator, and accuse him of being so insane that, according to them, he set more store by those who were at variance with him than by those with whom he was living on terms of the closest affection, and left all his property to those with whom in his lifetime he was not on speaking terms, while he did not consider those, whom he had treated as his closest friends, as worthy of the smallest share of his estate. Who of you, then, could vote for the validity of this will, 1.35which the testator rejected as being incorrect, and which our opponents are actually ready to set aside, since they expressed their willingness to share the estate with us, and which, moreover, we can show to be contrary both to law and to justice and to the intention of the deceased?

1.36You can best learn, I think, the justice of our plea from the statements of our opponents themselves. If they were asked on what grounds they claimed to inherit the property of Cleonymus, they might reply that they are somehow related to him, and that for some time he was on terms of friendship with them. Would not this statement tell in our favor rather than in theirs? 1.37For if the right of succession is based on affinity, we are more closely related to him; if it is to be based on existing friendship, it is common knowledge that it was to us that he was more closely bound by affection. Thus it is from their lips rather than from ours that you must learn the justice of the case. 1.38Now it would be very strange if in all other cases you were to vote in favor of those who prove themselves nearer either in kinship or in friendship to the deceased, but decide that we, who are admitted to possess both these qualifications, alone are to be deprived of all share in his property.

1.39If Polyarchus, the father of Cleonymus and our grandfather, were alive and lacked the necessities of life, or if Cleonymus had died leaving daughters unprovided for, we should have been obliged on grounds of affinity to support our grandfather, and either ourselves marry Cleonymus's daughters or else provide dowries and find other husbands for them—the claims of kinship, the laws, and public opinion in Athens would have forced us to do this or else become liable to heavy punishment and extreme disgrace— 1.40but now that property has been left, will you regard it as just that others, rather than we, should inherit it? Your verdict, then, will not be just or in your own interest or in harmony with the law, if you are going to force those who are next of kin to share in the misfortunes of their relatives, but, when money has been left, give anyone rather than them the right to its possession.

1.41It is only right, gentlemen, that you should—as indeed you do—give your verdicts on grounds of affinity and the true facts of the case in favor of those who claim by right of kinship rather than of those who rely on a will. For you all know what a family relationship is, and it is impossible to misrepresent it to you; on the other hand, false wills have often to be produced—sometimes complete forgeries, sometimes executed under a misapprehension. 1.42In the present case you are all aware of our kinship and close relations with the deceased, which are the basis of our claim; but none of you has any knowledge that the will was valid, in reliance upon which our opponents are scheming against us. Further, you will find that our relationship to the deceased is admitted even by our adversaries, whereas the will is contested by us, for they prevented him from annulling it when he wished to do so. 1.43So, gentlemen, it is much better that you should give your verdict on the ground of our affinity, which is admitted by both sides, rather than in accordance with the will which was not properly drawn up. Remember also that Cleonymus made the will in a misguided moment of passion, but was in his right mind when he revoked it; it would, therefore, be an extraordinary proceeding to let his momentary passion prevail rather than his reasoned intention.

1.44I think that you yourselves consider it your right to inherit—and feel a grievance if you do not do so—from those who have a claim to inherit from you. Supposing, therefore, that Cleonymus were alive and that our family or that of our opponents had become extinct, consider to which family Cleonymus had the prospect of becoming heir; for it is only fair that those should possess his property from whom he had a right to inherit. 1.45If Pherenicus or one of his brothers had died, their children, and not Cleonymus, had the prospect of becoming entitled to the property which they left behind. If, on the other hand, such a fate had befallen us, Cleonymus had the prospect of becoming heir to everything; for we had no children or other relatives, but he was a next-of-kin and most closely bound to us by ties of affection; 1.46for which reasons the laws have given him the right of succession, and we should never have thought of making this bequest to anyone else. For we should never, I imagine, have in our lifetime placed our property in his hands in such a way that his wishes prevailed over our own in the matter of what belonged to us, and yet, at our death, have wished others to inherit it rather than our closest friend. 1.47Thus, gentlemen, you will find us bound to Cleonymus by the double tie of mutual bequest and inheritance, while you will find my opponents acting impudently and talking of close connection and affinity, because they expect to profit thereby. If it were a question of giving anything away, there are many kinsmen and friends whom they would have preferred as nearer and dearer than him.

1.48I will now sum up what I have said, and I beg the close attention of you all. As long as my opponents try by these arguments to prove and attempt to persuade you that this will represents Cleonymus's intentions, and that he never subsequently regretted having made it, but still wished us to receive none of his estate and to confirm the bequest to them— 1.49yet, while stating and insisting on all these points, they never really prove either that they are nearer of kin to Cleonymus or that they were on terms of closer intimacy with him than we were—remember that they are merely accusing him and are not demonstrating to you the justice of their cause. 1.50If, therefore, you believe what they say, you ought not to declare them heirs to Cleonymus's estate but to pronounce Cleonymus insane. If, on the other hand, you believe what we say, you must consider that Cleonymus exercised his proper judgement when he wished to revoke the will, and that we are not bringing a vexatious suit but are making a just claim to the inheritance. 1.51Lastly, gentlemen, remember that it is impossible for you to decide the matter on the basis of their arguments; for it would be extraordinary, when our adversaries decide that we are entitled in justice to part of the estate, if your verdict is to give them the whole of it, and if you shall hold that they ought to receive more than the amount to which they considered themselves entitled, while you do not award us even as much as our adversaries conceded.

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