Isaeus, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Isae.].
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2 On the Estate of Menecles

2.hypothesisMenecles adopted a son and lived for twenty-three years after the date of the adoption. When his brothers note claimed his estate, a certain Philonides attested that the estate was not adjudicable, because Menecles had left a son. The brothers then brought an action for perjury against Philonides, and it is against them that the son undertakes the defence of Philonides. The speech, which is in defence of a will, is the counterpart of that delivered “On the Estate of Cleonymus,” note which upholds the rights of kindred. The discussion concerns a point of law with a controversy on a point of fact; for the speaker affirms that the deceased had the right to adopt a son, and then deals with the point of fact, saying, “It was not under the influence of a woman that he adopted me.” 2.1I think, gentlemen, that, if any adoption was ever made in accordance with the laws, mine was, and no one could ever dare to say that Menecles adopted me in a moment of insanity or under the influence of a woman. But since my uncle, acting, as I assert, under a misapprehension, is trying by every means in his power to deprive his dead brother of descendants, showing no respect for the gods of his family or for any of you, I feel constrained to come to the aid of the father who adopted me, and to my own aid. 2.2I intend, therefore, first to show you that my adoption was appropriate and legal, and that there is no question of adjudicating the estate of Menecles, since he had a son, namely, myself, and that the evidence of the witness was true. I beg and entreat and beseech you all to listen with favor to what I have to say.

2.3My father, gentlemen, Eponymus of Acharnae, note was a friend and close acquaintance of Menecles and lived on terms of intimacy with him; there were four of us children, two sons and two daughters. After my father's death we married our elder sister, when she reached a suitable age, to Leucolophus, giving her a dowry of twenty minae. 2.4Four or five years later, when our younger sister was almost of marriageable age, Menecles lost his first wife. When he had carried out the customary rites over her, he asked for our sister in marriage, reminding us of the friendship which had existed between our father and himself and of his friendly disposition towards ourselves. 2.5Knowing that our father would have given her to no one with greater pleasure, we gave her to him in marriage—not dowerless, as my opponent asserts on every possible occasion, but with the same portion as we gave to our elder sister. In this manner, having been formerly his friends, we became his kinsmen. I should like first to produce evidence that Menecles received a dowry of twenty minae with my sister.Evidence

2.6Having thus settled our sisters, gentlemen, and, being ourselves of military age, we adopted the career of a soldier and went abroad with Iphicrates to Thrace. note Having proved our worth there, we returned hither after saving a little money and we found that our elder sister had two children, but that the younger, the wife of Menecles, was childless. 2.7Two or three months later Menecles, with many expressions of praise for our sister, approached us and said that he viewed with apprehension his increasing age and childlessness: she ought not, he said, to be rewarded for her virtues by having to grow old with him without bearing children; 2.8it was enough that he himself was unfortunate. [His words clearly prove that he loved her when he put her away; for no one utters supplications for one whom he hates.] note He, therefore, begged us to do him the favor of marrying her to someone else with his consent. We told him that it was for him to persuade her in the matter, for we would do whatever she agreed. 2.9At first she would not even listen to his suggestion, but in course of time she with difficulty consented. So we gave her in marriage to Elius of Sphettus, note and Menecles handed over her dowry to him—for he had become part-lessee of the estate of the children of Nicias note—and he gave her the garments which she had brought with her to his house and the jewelry which there was. 2.10Some time after this Menecles began to consider how he could put an end to his childless condition and have someone to tend his old age and bury him when he died and thereafter carry out the customary rites over him. He saw that my opponent had only one son; so he thought it wrong to ask him to give him his son to adopt and so deprive him of male offspring. 2.11Thus he could find no nearer relative than us; he, therefore, approached us and said that he thought it right, since fate had decreed that he should have no children by our sister, that he should adopt a son out of the family from which he would have wished to have a son of his own in the course of nature; “I should like, therefore,” he said,“to adopt one of you two, whichever is willing.” 2.12My brother, on hearing this, note expressed his approval of Menecles' proposal and agreed that his age and solitary condition required someone who would look after him, and remain at home; “I,” he said, “as you know, go abroad; but my brother here” (meaning me) “will look after your affairs as well as mine, if you wish to adopt him.” Menecles approved of his suggestion and thus adopted me.

2.13I wish next to prove to you that the adoption was carried out in the proper legal manner. So please read me the law which ordains that a man can dispose as he likes of his own property, if he does not possess male issue of his own. The law-giver, gentlemen, legislated thus, because he saw that for childless persons the only refuge for their solitary condition, and the only possible comfort in life, lay in the possibility of adopting whomsoever they wished. 2.14The law thus allowing Menecles, because he was childless, to adopt a son, he adopted me, not by a will made at the point of death, as other citizens have done, nor during illness; but when he was sound in body and mind, and fully aware of what he was doing, he adopted me and introduced me to his fellow-wardsmen in the presence of my opponents and enrolled me among the demesmen and the members of his confraternity. note 2.15At the time my opponents raised no objection to his action on the ground that he was not in his right mind, although it would have been much better to have tried to win him over to their point of view during his lifetime rather than insult him now that he is dead and try to desolate his house. For he lived on after the adoption, not one or two years, but twenty-three, and during all this period he never regretted what he had done, because it was universally acknowledged that he had been well advised in what he did. 2.16To prove the truth of these statements, I will produce before you, as witnesses, the wardsmen, the members of the confraternity, and the demesmen, and, to prove that Menecles was at liberty to adopt me, the clerk of the court shall read you the text of the law in accordance with which the adoption was made. Please read these depositions and the law.Depositions. Laws.

2.17The law itself makes it clear that Menecles was free to adopt anyone he liked as his son; that he did adopt a son, the wardsmen, the demesmen, and the members of the confraternity have provided evidence. Thus we have clearly proved it, gentlemen, the witness note has attested the truth of it, and my opponents cannot say a word against the actual fact of the adoption.

2.18After this, Menecles began to look about for a wife for me, and said I ought to marry. So I married the daughter of Philonides. Menecles exercised the forethought on my behalf which a father would naturally exercise for his son, and I tended him and respected him as though he were my true father, as also did my wife, so that he praised us to all his fellow-demesmen.

2.19That Menecles was not insane or under the influence of a woman but in his right mind when he adopted me, you can easily understand from the following facts. In the first place, my sister, with whom most of my opponent's argument has been concerned, and under whose influence he alleges that Menecles adopted me, had remarried long before the adoption took place, so that, if it had been under her influence that he was adopting his son, he would have adopted one of her boys; for she has two. 2.20But, gentlemen, it was not under her influence that he adopted me as his son; his chief motive was his loneliness, and, secondly, the other causes I have mentioned, and the goodwill which he felt towards my father, and, thirdly, because he had no other relative from whose family he might have adopted a son. These were the motives which at the time induced him to adopt me; so that it is quite clear that he was not insane or under the influence of a woman, unless, indeed, my opponent wishes to describe his loneliness and childlessness in these terms.

2.21I feel that I should like my opponent, who thinks himself so wise, to tell me whom of his relatives Menecles ought to have adopted? Ought he to have adopted my opponent's son? But he would never have given him up and so rendered himself childless; he is not so avaricious as all that. Well then, the son of his sister or of his male or female cousin? But he had no such relative at all. 2.22He was, therefore, obliged to adopt someone else, or, failing that, grow old in childlessness, as my opponent now thinks he ought to have done. I think, therefore, that you would all admit that, when he adopted a son, he could not have adopted anyone who was more closely connected with him than I was. Otherwise, let my opponent indicate such a person. He cannot possibly do so; for he had no other kinsman than those whom I have mentioned.

2.23But my opponent is now clearly blaming Menecles not for failing to adopt his own son but for adopting any son at all and not dying childless. It is for this that he blames him, a proceeding which is as spiteful as it is unjust; for while he has children of his own, he is obviously blaming Menecles for being childless and unfortunate. 2.24All other men, whether Greek or barbarians, regard this law about adoption as a good one and therefore all make use of it; but my uncle here is not ashamed to deprive his own brother of this right to adopt a son, the enjoyment of which no one has ever grudged even those who were no relatives at all. 2.25I think that my opponent, if anyone were to ask him what he would have done in the same circumstances as Menecles, would have nothing to say except that he would have adopted someone who was likely to look after him while he lived and bury him when he died; and it is obvious that the adoption would have been carried out under the same law as mine was. He himself, then, if he had been childless, would have adopted a son; but when Menecles acts in the same manner, he declares that he was insane and under the influence of a woman when he adopted me. 2.26Is it not clear that he is talking in an abominable manner? I am of opinion that it is much rather my opponent who is insane by reason of the line of argument which he employs and the things which he does. For he is clearly arguing the contrary of the laws and of justice and of what he himself would have done, and is not ashamed of making the law about adoption valid for himself, while he seeks to render this same law of no effect for his brother.

2.27Next, it is right, gentlemen, that you should hear what cause of quarrel my opponent has that he seeks to make his own brother childless. For if he has any quarrel with me about my name, and repudiates the suggestion that I am to be called Menecles' son, is he not the victim of mean jealousy? But if it is a question of money with him, let him point out to you what land or building or house Menecles left behind of which I am now in possession. But if he left no such property, but my opponent took from him in his lifetime all that remained after he had paid off the money due to the orphan, is he not clearly convicted of shameless conduct? 2.28I will put the facts of the case before you. When it became necessary to pay back the money to the orphan, and Menecles did not possess the requisite sum, and interest had accumulated against him over a long period, he was for selling the land. My opponent, seizing the opportunity and being desirous to pick a quarrel with him because he had adopted me, tried to prevent the land from being sold, in order that it might be held as a pledge, and that Menecles might be obliged to cede the possession of it to the orphan. My opponent, therefore, claimed a part of the property from Menecles, though he had never previously made any such claim, and tried to prevent the purchasers from completing the purchase. 2.29Menecles was annoyed, as I can well imagine, and was obliged to reserve the portion which my opponent claimed; the rest he sold to Philippus of Pithos for seventy minae and thus paid off the orphan, giving him one talent and seven minae out of the price of the property; and he brought an action against his brother for restraining the sale. After long discussion had taken place and much bad feeling been aroused, we thought it best, in order that no one might say that I was avaricious and that I was setting these men, who were brothers, against one another, to submit the matter to the arbitration of my opponent's brother-in-law and our friends. 2.30The latter told us that, if we were to entrust them to decide the rights of the case, they would refuse to act as arbitrators, for they did not wish to quarrel with either party; if, however, we would allow them to decide what was in the interest of all, they consented to act. So we, in order, as we thought, to get rid of the matter, entrusted the decision to them on these terms. 2.31They, after having sworn an oath to us at the altar of Aphrodite at Cephale note that they would decide what was to our common interest, gave as their verdict that we should give up what my opponent claimed and hand it over to him as a free gift; for they declared that the only way of settling the matter was that my opponent should receive a share of Menecles' property. 2.32They decided that for the future we must behave in a proper manner towards one another, both in word and in deed, and they obliged both parties to swear at the altar that they would do so; so we swore that we would in future behave properly towards one another both in word and in deed, as far as lay within our power. 2.33That the oath was sworn and that these men are in possession of the property which was awarded to them by my opponent's friends and that their notion of behaving well towards us is this, to try and make the deceased childless and drive me forth with insult from his family—of all this I will produce before you as witnesses the very men who gave the decision, if they are willing to appear (for they are my opponent's friends), but, if not, those who were present on the occasion. 2.34Please read these depositions; and, you, turn off the water-clock. noteEvidence

Now, please, take these depositions to the effect that the land was sold for seventy minae and that the orphan received sixty-seven minae from the proceeds.Evidence

2.35Thus it is my uncle here, gentlemen, who has inherited the property of Menecles—really and not merely nominally, as I have—and has a much larger share than I have; for I received only the three hundred drachmae which remained over out of the proceeds of the sale and a small house not worth three minae. My opponent, on the other hand, being in possession of land worth more than ten minae, has now, moreover, come into court with the object of rendering desolate the house of the deceased. note 2.36I, the adopted son, with the aid of my wife, the daughter of Philonides here, tended Menecles while he lived and gave his name to my little son, in order that his family might not lack a representative. On his death, I buried him in a manner befitting both him and myself, and I erected a fine monument to him and celebrated the commemorative ceremony on the ninth day and performed all the other rites at the tomb in the best manner possible, so that I won the praise of all the members of my deme. 2.37But my opponent, his kinsman, who blames him for having adopted a son, during his lifetime deprived him of the landed property which remained to him, and, now that he is dead, wishes to render him childless and wipe out his very name; that is the kind of man he is. In proof that I buried Menecles and performed the ceremonies on the third and ninth days and all the other rites connected with the burial, the clerk shall read you the depositions of those who are acquainted with the facts.Evidence

2.38In support of the truth of my assertion, gentlemen, that Menecles, when he adopted me, was not insane or under the influence of a woman, I wish to bring before you my opponents themselves as witnesses, not in word but in deed, by their own conduct. For it is notorious that both of them went through the process of reconciliation with me and not with Menecles, and swore an oath to me, as I did to them. 2.39Yet if the adoption had not been carried out in proper legal form and I had not been recognized as heir to Menecles' property by my opponents themselves, what need was there for them to swear to me and to receive an oath from me? Surely none. By so acting then they themselves clearly bear witness that I was legally adopted and am the rightful heir of Menecles. 2.40It is clear, I think, to you all that it was acknowledged even by my opponents themselves that Menecles was not insane but that it is much rather my opponent who is insane now, seeing that, after having effected a settlement of his quarrel with us and having sworn oaths, he has now again come forward in violation of his acknowledgements and oaths, and demands that I shall be deprived of these poor remnants of the estate. 2.41Were it not that I think it an altogether base and shameful act to betray him whose son was called and who adopted me, I would have readily abandoned the right of succession to his estate in favor of my opponent; for there is nothing at all left, as I think you realize. 2.42But, in the circumstances, I consider it terrible and disgraceful that, when Menecles possessed property, I accepted adoption as his son and out of his property, before the land was sold, acted as gymnasiarch note in his deme and won credit as his son, and served in his tribe and deme on all the campaigns which took place during that period; 2.43and, now that he is dead, if I shall betray him and go off leaving his house desolate, would it not seem a strange and ridiculous proceeding, and give those who wish to do so a good occasion to speak evil of me? And these are not the only motives which induce me to fight this case; but what grieves me is the possibility of being thought so worthless and good-for-nothing as not to be able to find a friend in his right senses, but only a madman, to adopt me.

2.44I beg you all therefore, gentlemen, and beseech and entreat you to pity me and to acquit the witness here. I have shown you that, in the first place, I was adopted by Menecles with the strictest possible legality, and that the form of adoption was not merely verbal or by will but by very act and deed; and of these things I produced before you the evidence of the wardsmen, the demesmen, and the members of the confraternity. 2.45I further showed that Menecles lived for twenty-three years after he had adopted me. Further, I placed before you the laws which permit those who are childless to adopt sons. In addition to this I am shown to have tended him in his lifetime and to have buried him when he died. 2.46My opponent wishes now to deprive me of my father's estate, whether it be large or small, and to render the deceased childless and nameless, so that there may be no one to honor in his place the family cults and perform for him the annual rites, but that he may be robbed of all his due honors. It was to provide against this that Menecles, being master of his own property, adopted a son, so that he might secure all these advantages.

2.47Do not therefore, gentlemen, listen to my opponents and deprive me of my name, the sole remnant of my inheritance, and annul Menecles' adoption of me; but since the matter has come before you for judgement and you have the sovereign right of decision, come to the aid both of us and of him who is in the other world, and do not allow Menecles, by the gods and deities I beseech you, to be insulted by my opponents, but mindful of the law and of the oath which you have sworn and of the arguments which have been used in support of my plea, pass in accordance with the laws the verdict which is just and in conformity with your oath.

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