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On the Murder of Eratosthenes

1.1I should be only too pleased, sirs, to have you so disposed towards me in judging this case as you would be to yourselves, if you found yourselves in my plight. For I am sure that, if you had the same feelings about others as about yourselves, not one of you but would be indignant at what has been done; you would all regard the penalties appointed for those who resort to such practices as too mild. 1.2And these feelings would be found, not only among you, but in the whole of Greece: for in the case of this crime alone, under both democracy and oligarchy, the same requital is accorded to the weakest against the strongest, so that the lowest gets the same treatment as the highest. note Thus you see, sirs, how all men abominate this outrage. 1.3Well, I conceive that, in regard to the severity of the penalty, you are all of the same mind, and that not one of you is so easygoing as to think it right that men who are guilty of such acts should obtain pardon, or to presume that slight penalties suffice for their deserts. 1.4But I take it, sirs, that what I have to show is that Eratosthenes had an intrigue with my wife, and not only corrupted her but inflicted disgrace upon my children and an outrage on myself by entering my house; that this was the one and only enmity between him and me; that I have not acted thus for the sake of money, so as to raise myself from poverty to wealth; and that all I seek to gain is the requital accorded by our laws. 1.5I shall therefore set forth to you the whole of my story from the beginning; I shall omit nothing, but will tell the truth. For I consider that my own sole deliverance rests on my telling you, if I am able, the whole of what has occurred.

1.6When I, Athenians, decided to marry, and brought a wife into my house, for some time I was disposed neither to vex her nor to leave her too free to do just as she pleased; I kept a watch on her as far as possible, with such observation of her as was reasonable. But when a child was born to me, thence-forward I began to trust her, and placed all my affairs in her hands, presuming that we were now in perfect intimacy. 1.7It is true that in the early days, Athenians, she was the most excellent of wives; she was a clever, frugal housekeeper, and kept everything in the nicest order. But as soon as I lost my mother, her death became the cause of all my troubles. 1.8For it was in attending her funeral that my wife was seen by this man, who in time corrupted her. He looked out for the servant-girl who went to market, and so paid addresses to her mistress by which he wrought her ruin. 1.9Now in the first place I must tell you, sirs (for I am obliged to give you these particulars), my dwelling is on two floors, the upper being equal in space to the lower, with the women's quarters above and the men's below. When the child was born to us, its mother suckled it; and in order that, each time that it had to be washed, she might avoid the risk of descending by the stairs, I used to live above, and the women below. 1.10By this time it had become such an habitual thing that my wife would often leave me and go down to sleep with the child, so as to be able to give it the breast and stop its crying. Things went on in this way for a long time, and I never suspected, but was simple-minded enough to suppose that my own was the chastest wife in the city. 1.11Time went on, sirs; I came home unexpectedly from the country, and after dinner the child started crying in a peevish way, as the servant-girl was annoying it on purpose to make it so behave; for the man was in the house— 1.12I learnt it all later. So I bade my wife go and give the child her breast, to stop its howling. At first she refused, as though delighted to see me home again after so long; but when I began to be angry and bade her go, —“Yes, so that you,”she said, “may have a try here at the little maid. Once before, too, when you were drunk, you pulled her about.” 1.13At that I laughed, while she got up, went out of the room, and closed the door, feigning to make fun, and she took the key away with her. I, without giving a thought to the matter, or having any suspicion, went to sleep in all content after my return from the country. 1.14Towards daytime she came and opened the door. I asked why the doors made a noise in the night; she told me that the child's lamp had gone out, and she had lit it again at our neighbor's. I was silent and believed it was so. But it struck me, sirs, that she had powdered her face, note though her brother had died not thirty days before; even so, however, I made no remark on the fact, but left the house in silence. 1.15After this, sirs, an interval occurred in which I was left quite unaware of my own injuries; I was then accosted by a certain old female, who was secretly sent by a woman with whom that man was having an intrigue, as I heard later. This woman was angry with him and felt herself wronged, because he no longer visited her so regularly, and she was keeping a watch on him until she should discover what was the cause. 1.16So the old creature accosted me where she was on the look-out, near my house, and said,—“Euphiletus, do not think it is from any meddlesomeness that I have approached you; for the man who is working both your and your wife's dishonor happens to be our enemy. If, therefore, you take the servant-girl who goes to market and waits on you, and torture her, you will learn all. It is,” she said, “Eratosthenes of Oe who is doing this; he has debauched not only your wife, but many others besides; he makes an art of it.” 1.17With these words, sirs, she took herself off; I was at once perturbed; all that had happened came into my mind, and I was filled with suspicion,—reflecting first how I was shut up in my chamber, and then remembering how on that night the inner and outer doors made a noise, which had never occurred before, and how it struck me that my wife had put on powder. All these things came into my mind, and I was filled with suspicion. 1.18Returning home, I bade the servant-girl follow me to the market, and taking her to the house of an intimate friend, I told her I was fully informed of what was going on in my house: “So it is open to you,” I said, “to choose as you please between two things,—either to be whipped and thrown into a mill, and to be irrevocably immersed in that sort of misery, or else to speak out the whole truth and, instead of suffering any harm, obtain my pardon for your transgressions. Tell no lies, but speak the whole truth.” 1.19The girl at first denied it, and bade me do what I pleased, for she knew nothing; but when I mentioned Eratosthenes to her, and said that he was the man who visited my wife, she was dismayed, supposing that I had exact knowledge of everything. At once she threw herself down at my knees, and having got my pledge that she should suffer no harm, 1.20she accused him, first, of approaching her after the funeral, and then told how at last she became his messenger; how my wife in time was persuaded, and by what means she procured his entrances, and how at the Thesmophoria note, while I was in the country, she went off to the temple with his mother. And the girl gave an exact account of everything else that had occurred. 1.21When her tale was all told, I said,—“Well now, see that nobody in the world gets knowledge of this; otherwise, nothing in your arrangement with me will hold good. And I require that you show me their guilt in the very act; I want no words, but manifestation of the fact, if it really is so.” She agreed to do this. 1.22Then came an interval of four or five days as I shall bring strong evidence to show. But first I wish to relate what took place on the last day. I had an intimate friend named Sostratus. After sunset I met him coming from the country. As I knew that, arriving at that hour, he would find none of his circle at home, I invited him to dine with me; we came to my house, mounted to the upper room, and had dinner. 1.23When he had made a good meal, he left me and departed; then I went to bed. Eratosthenes, sirs, entered, and the maid-servant roused me at once, and told me that he was in the house. Bidding her look after the door, I descended and went out in silence; I called on one friend and another, and found some of them at home, while others were out of town. 1.24I took with me as many as I could among those who were there, and so came along. Then we got torches from the nearest shop, and went in; the door was open, as the girl had it in readiness. We pushed open the door of the bedroom, and the first of us to enter were in time to see him lying down by my wife; those who followed saw him standing naked on the bed. 1.25I gave him a blow, sirs, which knocked him down, and pulling round his two hands behind his back, and tying them, I asked him why he had the insolence to enter my house. He admitted his guilt; then he besought and implored me not to kill him, but to exact a sum of money. 1.26To this I replied, “It is not I who am going to kill you, but our city's law, which you have transgressed and regarded as of less account than your pleasures, choosing rather to commit this foul offence against my wife and my children than to obey the laws like a decent person.”

1.27Thus it was, sirs, that this man incurred the fate that the laws ordain for those who do such things; he had not been dragged in there from the street, nor had he taken refuge at my hearth note, as these people say. For how could it be so, when it was in the bedroom that he was struck and fell down then and there, and I pinioned his arms, and so many persons were in the house that he could not make his escape, as he had neither steel nor wood nor anything else with which he might have beaten off those who had entered? 1.28But, sirs, I think you know as well as I that those whose acts are against justice do not acknowledge that their enemies speak the truth, but lie themselves and use other such devices to foment anger in their hearers against those whose acts are just. So, first read the law.Law

1.29He did not dispute it, sirs: he acknowledged his guilt, and besought and implored that he might not be killed, and was ready to pay compensation in money. But I would not agree to his estimate, as I held that our city's law should have higher authority; and I obtained that satisfaction which you deemed most just when you imposed it on those who adopt such courses. Now, let my witnesses come forward in support of these statements.Witnesses

1.30Read out also, please, that law from the pillar in the Areopagus.Law

You hear, sirs, how the Court of the Areopagus itself, to which has been assigned, in our own as in our fathers' time, the trial of suits for murder, has expressly stated that whoever takes this vengeance on an adulterer caught in the act with his spouse shall not be convicted of murder. 1.31And so strongly was the lawgiver convinced of the justice of this in the case of wedded wives, that he even applied the same penalty in the case of mistresses, who are of less account. Now surely it is clear that, if he had had any heavier punishment than this for the case of married women, he would have imposed it. But in fact, as he was unable to devise a severer one for this case, he ordained that it should be the same for that of mistresses also. Please read this law besides.Law

1.32You hear, sirs, how it directs that, if anyone forcibly debauches a free adult or child, he shall be liable to double note damages; while if he so debauches a woman, in one of the cases where it is permitted to kill him, he is subject to the same rule. Thus the lawgiver, sirs, considered that those who use force deserve a less penalty than those who use persuasion; for the latter he condemned to death, whereas for the former he doubled the damages, 1.33considering that those who achieve their ends by force are hated by the persons forced; while those who used persuasion corrupted thereby their victims' souls, thus making the wives of others more closely attached to themselves than to their husbands, and got the whole house into their hands, and caused uncertainty as to whose the children really were, the husbands' or the adulterers'. In view of all this the author of the law made death their penalty. 1.34Wherefore I, sirs, not only stand acquitted of wrongdoing by the laws, but am also directed by them to take this satisfaction: it is for you to decide whether they are to be valid or of no account. 1.35For to my thinking every city makes its laws in order that on any matter which perplexes us we may resort to them and inquire what we have to do. And so it is they who, in cases like the present, exhort the wronged parties to obtain this kind of satisfaction. 1.36I call upon you to support their opinion: otherwise, you will be giving adulterers such licence that you will encourage thieves as well to call themselves adulterers; since they will feel assured that, if they plead this reason in their defence, and allege that they enter other men's houses for this purpose, nobody will touch them. For everyone will know that the laws on adultery are to be given the go-by, and that it is your vote that one has to fear, because this has supreme authority over all the city's affairs.

1.37Do but consider, sirs, what they say: they accuse me of ordering the maid-servant on that day to go and fetch the young man. Now I, sirs, could have held myself justified in using any possible means to catch the corrupter of my wife. 1.38For if I had bidden the girl fetch him, when words alone had been spoken and no act had been committed, I should have been in the wrong: but if, when once he had compassed all his ends, and had frequently entered my house, I had then used any possible means to catch him, I should have considered myself quite in order. 1.39And observe how on this point also they are lying: you will perceive it easily in this way. As I told you, sirs, before, Sostratus was a friend of mine, on intimate terms with me; he met me as he came from the country about sunset, and had dinner with me, and when he had made a good meal he left me and departed. Now in the first place, sirs, you must bear this in mind: 1.40if on that night I had designs on Eratosthenes, which was more to my advantage, —to go and take my dinner elsewhere, or to bring in my guest to dinner with me? For in the latter case that man would have been less likely to venture on entering my house. And in the second place, do you suppose that I should have let my dinner guest go and leave me there alone and unsupported, and not rather have bidden him stay, in order that he might stand by me in taking vengeance upon the adulterer? 1.41Then again, sirs, do you not think that I should have sent word to my intimate acquaintances in the daytime, and bidden them assemble at the house of one of my friends living nearest to me, rather than have waited till the moment of making my discovery to run round in the night, without knowing whom I should find at home, and who were away? Thus I called on Harmodius, and one other, who were not in town —of this I was not aware—and others, I found, were not in; but those whom I could I took along with me. 1.42Yet if I had foreknown this, do you not think that I should have called up servants and passed the word to my friends, in order that I might have gone in myself with all possible safety, —for how could I tell whether he too had some weapon? —and so I might have had as many witnesses as possible with me when I took my vengeance? But as in fact I knew nothing of what was to befall on that night, I took with me those whom I could. Now let my witnesses come forward in support of all this.Witnesses

1.43You have heard the witnesses, sirs; and consider this affair further in your own minds, asking yourselves whether any enmity has ever arisen before this between me and Eratosthenes. 1.44I say you will discover none. For he had neither subjected me to slanderous impeachment, nor attempted to expel me from the city, nor brought any private suit against me, nor was he privy to any wrongdoing which I was so afraid of being divulged that I was intent on his destruction, nor, should I accomplish this, had I any hope of getting money from anywhere: for there are people who plot each other's death for such purposes. 1.45So far, indeed, from either abuse or a drunken brawl or any other quarrel having occurred between us, I had never even seen the man before that night. For what object, then, should I run so grave a risk, unless I had received from him the greatest of injuries? 1.46Why, again, did I choose to summon witnesses for my wicked act, when it was open to me, if I was thus criminally intent on his destruction, to have none of them privy to it?

1.47I therefore, sirs, do not regard this requital as having been exacted in my own private interest, but in that of the whole city. For those who behave in that way, when they see the sort of reward that is in store for such transgressions, will be less inclined to trespass against their neighbors, if they see that you also take the same view. 1.48Otherwise it were better far to erase our established laws, and ordain others which will inflict the penalties on men who keep watch on their own wives, and will allow full immunity to those who would debauch them. 1.49This would be a far more just way than to let the citizens be entrapped by the laws; these may bid a man, on catching an adulterer, to deal with him in whatever way he pleases, but the trials are found to be more dangerous to the wronged parties than to those who, in defiance of the laws, dishonor the wives of others. 1.50For I am now risking the loss of life, property and all else that I have, because I obeyed the city's laws.

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