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

2.1If I believed it possible, friends who are attending this burial, to set forth in speech the valor of the men who lie here, I should have reproved those who gave me but a few days' notice of having to speak over them. But as all mankind would find all time insufficient for preparing a speech to match their deeds, the city itself therefore, as I think, taking forethought for those who speak here, makes the appointment at short notice, in the belief that on such terms they will most readily obtain indulgence from their hearers. 2.2However, while my speech is about these men, my contest is not with their deeds, but with the speakers who have preceded me in praising them. For their valor has provided matter in such abundance, alike for those who are able to compose in verse and for those who have chosen to make a speech, that, although many fair things have been spoken by those who preceded me, there are many that even they have omitted, and plenty more remain to be said by those who succeed them; since nowhere is there any land or sea on which they did not venture, and in every place and every nation the people, is lamenting their own disasters, glorify the valorous deeds of these men.

2.3So now, in the first place, I shall recount the ancient ordeals of our ancestors, drawing remembrance thereof from their renown. For they also are events which all men ought to remember, glorifying them in their songs, and describing them in the sage sayings of worthy minds; honoring them on such occasions as this, and finding in the achievements of the dead so many lessons for the living.

2.4In ancient times were the Amazons, daughters of Ares, dwelling beside the river Thermodon; note they alone of the people round about were armed with iron, and they were first of all to mount horses, with which, owing to the inexperience of their foes, they surprised them and either caught those who fled, or outstripped those who pursued. They were accounted as men for their high courage, rather than as women for their sex; so much more did they seem to excel men in their spirit than to be at a disadvantage in their form. 2.5Ruling over many nations, they had in fact achieved the enslavement of those around them; yet, hearing by report concerning this our country how great was its renown, they were moved by increase of glory and high ambition to muster the most warlike of the nations and march with them against this city. But having met with valiant men they found their spirit now was like to their sex; the repute that they got was the reverse of the former, and by their perils rather than by their bodies they were deemed to be women. 2.6They stood alone in failing to learn from their mistakes, and so to be better advised in their future actions; they would not return home and report their own misfortune and our ancestors' valor: for they perished on the spot, and were punished for their folly, thus making our city's memory imperishable for its valor; while owing to their disaster in this region they rendered their own country nameless. And so those women, by their unjust greed for others' land, justly lost their own.

2.7When Adrastus note and Polyneices had marched against Thebes and had been vanquished in battle, and the Cadmeans would not allow the corpses to be buried, the Athenians decided that, if those men had done some wrong, they had paid by their death the heaviest penalty, while the gods below were not obtaining their dues, and by the pollution of the shrines the gods above were being treated with impiety: so first they sent heralds and requested permission to take up the corpses, 2.8considering it to be the duty of brave men to take vengeance on their enemies while they lived, but a mark of self-distrust to display their valor over the bodies of the dead. When they failed to obtain this, they marched against them: no previous quarrel subsisted between them and the Cadmeans, nor did they wish to gratify the Argives who were yet living; 2.9but thinking it right that those who had died in the war should receive the customary treatment, they risked combat with one of the parties in the interest of both, that on the one side they should cease from grossly outraging the gods by their trespass against the dead, and that on the other they should not hasten away to their own land frustrated of an ancestral honor, cut off from Hellenic custom, and disappointed in a common hope. 2.10With these thoughts in their minds, and holding that the fortunes of war are shared by all men in common, they faced a numerous enemy, but had justice as their ally, and they fought and conquered. And they did not allow themselves to be so elated by their fortune as to seek a heavier punishment of the Cadmeans, but in contrast to their impiety showed forth their own virtue, and obtaining for themselves the price for which they had come—the corpses of the Argives—they buried them in their own land of Eleusis. Such, then, is the character that they have evinced in regard to those of the Seven against Thebes who were slain. note

2.11In a later time, when Heracles had vanished from amongst men, and his children were fleeing from Eurystheus and were expelled by all the Greeks, who were ashamed of these acts but afraid of Eurystheus' power, they came to this city, and seated themselves as suppliants at our altars. note 2.12And when Eurystheus demanded them, the Athenians refused to give them up, but revered the virtue of Heracles more than they feared their own danger, and preferred to do battle for the weaker on the side of right, rather than favor the powerful by giving up to them the men whom they had wronged. 2.13Eurystheus marched against them with the people who held the Peloponnese at that time; yet they did not falter at the approach of the danger, but maintained the same resolve as before, though they had received no particular benefit at the father's hands, and could not tell what manner of men the sons would grow to be. 2.14Acting on what they held to be just, on no grounds of former enmity against Eurystheus, with no gain in view but good repute, they made this perilous venture on behalf of those children, pitying the wronged and hating the oppressor; attempting to check the one, and engaging to assist the other; conceiving it a sign of freedom to do nothing against one's will, of justice to succor the wronged, and of courage to die, if need be, in fighting for those two things at once. 2.15So high was the spirit of both sides that Eurystheus and his forces sought no advantage from any offer of the Athenians, while the Athenians would not suffer Eurystheus, even at his own supplication, to take away their suppliants. Having arrayed their own sole force against the host assembled from the whole Peloponnese, they conquered them in battle, rescued the sons of Heracles from bodily peril, liberating also their souls by ridding them of fear, and by their own daring crowned the sons with the meed of their father's valor. 2.16So much happier in the event were these, the children, than the father; for he, though author of many benefits to all mankind, devoting his life to a laborious quest of victory and honor, did indeed chastise those who wronged others, but was unable to punish Eurystheus, who was both his enemy and his oppressor. Whereas his sons, thanks to this city, saw on the same day both their own deliverance and the punishment of their enemies.

2.17Now in many ways it was natural to our ancestors, moved by a single resolve, to fight the battles of justice: for the very beginning of their life was just. They had not been collected, like most nations, from every quarter, and had not settled in a foreign land after driving out its people: they were born of the soil, and possessed in one and the same country their mother and their fatherland. 2.18They were the first and the only people in that time to drive out the ruling classes note of their state and to establish a democracy, believing the liberty of all to be the strongest bond of agreement; by sharing with each other the hopes born of their perils they had freedom of soul in, their civic life, 2.19and used law for honoring the good and punishing the evil. For they deemed that it was the way of wild beasts to be held subject to one another by force, but the duty of men to delimit justice by law, to convince by reason, and to serve these two in act by submitting to the sovereignty of law and the instruction of reason.

2.20For indeed, being of noble stock and having minds as noble, the ancestors of those who lie here achieved many noble and admirable things; but ever memorable and mighty are the trophies that their descendants have everywhere left behind them owing to their valor. For they alone risked their all in defending the whole of Greece against many myriads of the barbarians. 2.21For the King of Asia, not content with the wealth that he had already, but hoping to enslave Europe as well, dispatched an army of five hundred thousand. These, supposing that, if they obtained the willing friendship of this city or overwhelmed its resistance, they would easily dominate the rest of the Greeks, landed at Marathon, thinking that we should be most destitute of allies if they made their venture at a moment when Greece was in dissension as to the best means of repelling the invaders. 2.22Besides, from the former actions of our city they had conceived a particular opinion of her: they thought that if they attacked another city first, they would be at war with it and Athens as well, for she would be zealous in coming to succor her injured neighbors; but if they made their way here first, no Greeks elsewhere would dare attempt the deliverance of others, and for their sake incur the open hostility of the foreigners. 2.23These, then, were the motives of the foe. But our ancestors, without stopping to calculate the hazards of the war, but holding that a glorious death leaves behind it a deathless account of deeds well done, had no fear of the multitude of their adversaries, but rather had confidence in their own valor. And feeling ashamed that the barbarians were in their country, they did not wait till their allies should be informed and come to their support; rather than have to thank others for their salvation, they chose that the rest of the Greeks should have to thank them. 2.24With this one resolve in the minds of all, they marched to the encounter, though few against many: for death, in their opinion, was a thing for them to share with all men, but prowess with a few; and while they possessed their lives, because of mortality, as alien things, they would leave behind something of their own in the memory attached to their perils. And they deemed that a victory which they could not win alone would be as impossible with the aid of their allies. If vanquished, they would perish a little before the others; if victorious, they would liberate the others with themselves. 2.25They proved their worth as men, neither sparing their limbs nor cherishing their lives when valor called, and had more reverence for their city's laws than fear of their perils in face of the enemy; and so in their own land they set up on behalf of Greece a trophy of victory over the barbarians, who had invaded others' territory for money, 2.26past the frontiers of their land; and so swiftly did they surmount their ordeal that by the same messengers information reached the other Greeks both of the barbarians' arrival here and of our ancestors' triumph. For indeed none of the other Greeks knew fear for the peril to come; they only heard the news and rejoiced over their own liberation. No wonder, then, that these deeds performed long ago should be as though they were new, and that even to this day the valor of that band should be envied by all mankind.

2.27Thereafter Xerxes, King of Asia, who had held Greece in contempt, but had been deceived in his hopes, who was dishonored by the event, galled by the disaster, and angered against its authors, and who was unused to ill-hap and unacquainted with true men, in ten years' time prepared for war and came with twelve hundred ships; and the land army that he brought was so immense in numbers that to enumerate even the nations that followed in his train would be a lengthy task. 2.28But the surest evidence of their numbers is this: although he had a thousand ships to spare for transporting his land army over the most narrow part of the Hellespont, he decided against it, for he judged that it would cause him a great waste of time: 2.29despising alike the effects of nature, the dispositions of Heaven and the purposes of men, he made him a road across the sea, and forced a passage for ships through the land, by spanning the Hellespont and trenching Athos; none withstood him, for the unwilling submitted, and the willing chose to be traitors. The former were not capable of resisting, and the latter were corrupted by bribes: they were under the double persuasion of gain and dread. 2.30But while Greece showed these inclinations, the Athenians, for their part, embarked in their ships and hastened to the defence of Artemisium; while the Lacedaemonians and some of their allies went off to make a stand at Thermopylae, judging that the narrowness of the ground would enable them to secure the passage. 2.31The trial came for both at the sane time: the Athenians conquered in the sea-fight, while the Lacedaemonians, showing no failure of spirit, but deceived as to the numbers alike of those whom they expected to mount guard and of those with whom they had to contend, were destroyed, not having been worsted by their adversaries, but slain where they had been stationed for battle. 2.32When in this manner the one side had suffered disaster, and the other had captured the passage, the invaders advanced against this city; while our ancestors, informed of the calamity that had befallen the Lacedaemonians, and perplexed by the difficulties that surrounded them, were aware that, if they marched out to meet the barbarians on land, they would sail against the city with a thousand ships and take it undefended, and if they embarked on their war-vessels they would be reduced by the land army; that they note would be unequal to the double strain of repelling the foe and leaving behind a sufficient garrison. 2.33So having to choose one of two courses, either to desert their native land or to join the barbarians in enslaving the Greeks, they decided to prefer freedom together with valor and poverty and exile to their country's servitude in infamy and wealth: they left their city for the sake of Greece, that they might challenge each of the two forces note in turn, not both at once. 2.34They deposited their children and wives and mothers safe in Salamis, and assembled to their aid the ships of their allies. A few days later both the land army and the fleet of the barbarians appeared; at such a sight, who would not have been afraid of the greatness and terror of the danger that had come upon our city in her struggle for the freedom of Greece? 2.35What were the feelings of those who beheld their friends on board those ships, when their own salvation was as doubtful as the approaching contest; or again, of those who were about to do battle at sea for their dearest, for the prizes there in Salamis? 2.36On every hand they were surrounded by such a multitude of foes that they reckoned it the least of their present troubles to anticipate their own death, but saw the greatest of disasters in the fate that they must expect to be dealt by the barbarians, if successful, to those whom they had transported from the city. 2.37We may be sure that the perplexity of their case made them often grasp each other by the hand, and with reason bewail their plight; knowing their own ships to be few, and seeing those of the foe to be many; understanding that their city was now deserted, that their land was being ravaged and overrun by the barbarians, that the temples were being burnt, and that horrors of every kind were close upon them. 2.38At the same moment they heard mingled battle hymns of Greek and barbarian, exhortations on either side, and shrieks of the perishing: the sea was full of corpses, there was clashing of many wrecks of friends' and foemen's vessels, and for a long time the sea-fight was evenly balanced; they seemed at one moment to have conquered and been saved, at another to have been defeated and destroyed. 2.39Certainly the fear that was upon them must have made them believe that they saw many things which they saw not, and heard many that they did not hear. What supplications, what reminders of sacrifices, were not sent up to Heaven! What pity was felt for children, what yearning over wives, what compassion for fathers and mothers, in calculating the evils that would result from their ill success! 2.40What deity would have denied them pity for such an awful danger? What man but would have shed tears? Who would not have marvelled at their daring? Beyond all compare did those men in their valor surpass all mankind, whether in their counsels or in the perils of that war; for they abandoned their city and embarked on their ships, and pitted their own few lives against the multitude of Asia. 2.41They declared to all men, by their victory in the sea-fight, that there is better hope for the venture shared with a few in the cause of freedom than for that in which numerous subjects of a king contend for their own servitude. 2.42They made the fullest and fairest contribution in aid of the freedom of the Greeks by providing Themistocles as commander, most competent to speak and decide and act, and ships more numerous than those of all their allies, and men of the greatest experience. For indeed who among the rest of the Greeks could have vied with these in decision, in number, and in valor? 2.43Hence it was just that they should receive from Greece without dispute the prize of prowess in the sea-fight, and reasonable that they should attain a prosperity in accord with the measure of their perils, having taught the barbarians of Asia that their own valor was genuine and native to their soil.

2.44By thus proving their quality in the sea-fight, and bearing by far the greatest share in its dangers, they obtained through their particular prowess a general access of freedom for the rest of Greece. But after this the Peloponnesians built a wall across the Isthmus; and being satisfied with their safety, and considering that they were now rid of the peril from the sea, they were disposed to stand by and see the other Greeks subdued by the barbarians. 2.45Then the Athenians, in anger, advised them, if they meant to be of this mind, to encompass the whole Peloponnese with a wall: for if they themselves, betrayed by the Greeks, should be united with the barbarians, these on their part would have no need of a thousand ships, nor would the wall at the Isthmus help its builders, since the empire of the sea would belong without hazard to the King. 2.46Taking the lesson to heart, and deeming their action unjust and ill advised, while the words of the Athenians were just and their recommendation was the wisest, they went to their support at Plataea. Most of the allies had deserted their posts at nightfall, owing to the multitude of the enemy; but the Lacedaemonians and Tegeates routed the barbarians, while the Athenians and Plataeans fought and vanquished all the Greeks who had despaired of freedom and submitted to slavery. 2.47On that day they brought the ventures of the past to a most glorious consummation; for not only did they secure a permanence of freedom for Europe, but had given proof of their own valor in all those trials, whether alone or with others, in land-fights or in sea-fights, against the barbarians or against the Greeks; and thus they were judged worthy by all—by their comrades in peril no less than their foes in the field—to have the leadership of Greece.

2.48In later times a Grecian war arose from envy of what had come to pass, and jealousy of what had been achieved: great was the conceit of all, and small the allegation that each found needful. The Athenians, in a sea-fight with the Aeginetans and their allies, took seventy of their warships. 2.49As they were blockading Egypt and Aegina at the same time, and their men of serviceable age were absent either in their ships or in their land army, the Corinthians and their allies, conceiving that if they invaded our land they would either find it unprotected or draw off our forces from Aegina, marched out in full strength and seized Geranea. note 2.50But the Athenians, though their men were away and the enemy close at hand, would not deign to summon anyone. Trusting in their own spirit, and despising the invaders, the elderly and those below the age of service thought fit to take the risk upon themselves alone; the former had acquired their valor by experience, the latter by nature; 2.51those had proved their own worth on many a field,while these would imitate them, and as the seniors knew how to command, so the juniors were able to carry out their orders. 2.52With Myronides as general they made a sally of their own into the land of Megara and conquered in battle the whole force of the enemy with troops whose strength was already failing or not yet capable,—of an enemy who had chosen to invade their country, but whom they had hastened to meet on alien soil. 2.53There they set up a trophy of an exploit most glorious for them, but most disgraceful for the foe. One part of them had ceased, and the other had not begun, to be able-bodied; but together they took strength from their spirit, and thus with fairest renown they returned to their own land, where the young resumed their education and the old took counsel on what remained to be done.

2.54Now it is not easy for one person to recount in detail the perils undergone by many men, or to show forth in a single day the deeds of all past times. For what speech or time or orator would suffice to declare the valor of the men who lie here? 2.55By means of countless toils, conspicuous struggles, and glorious perils they made Greece free, while proving the supremacy of their native land: they commanded the sea for seventy years note and saved their allies from faction, 2.56not suffering the many to be slaves of the few, but compelling all to live on an equality note; instead of weakening their allies, they secured their strength along with their own, and displayed their own power to such effect that the Great King no more coveted the possessions of others, but yielded some of his own and was in fear for what remained. 2.57In that time no warships sailed from Asia, no despot held sway among the Greeks, no city of Greece was forced into serfdom by the barbarians; so great was the restraint and awe inspired in all mankind by the valor of our people. And for this reason none but they should become protectors of the Greeks and leaders of the cities.

2.58And in misfortunes also they displayed their accustomed valor. For when the ships were destroyed in the Hellespont note—whether it was through the fault of the commander or by the design of Heaven—and that supreme disaster overtook not only us, who suffered that misfortune, but all the rest of the Greeks, it became evident shortly after that the power of our city was the salvation of Greece. 2.59The leadership was taken by others, and a people who had never before embarked upon the sea defeated the Greeks in a naval action; they sailed to Europe and enslaved cities of the Greeks, in which despots were established, some after our disaster, and others after the victory of the barbarians. note 2.60So it would have been fitting for Greece to come then and mourn over this tomb, and lament those who lie here, seeing that her own freedom was interred together with their valor. Unhappy Greece, to be bereft of such men, and happy King of Asia, to be at grips with other leaders! For Greece, deprived of these men, is sunk in slavery, while he, finding others in command, is moved to emulate the designs of his ancestors.

2.61But though I have been led to utter this lament over Greece as a whole, it behoves us to remember, in public as in private, those men note who, shunning slavery, fighting for the right, and rallying to the cause of democracy, incurred the hostility of all and returned to the Peiraeus; compelled by no law, but induced by their nature; imitating in fresh encounters the ancient valor of their ancestors; 2.62ready to purchase with their own lives a common share in the city for the rest; choosing death with freedom rather than life with slavery; no less ashamed of their disasters than angered against the enemy; preferring to die in their own land rather than live to dwell in that of others; and having as allies their oaths and covenants, and as enemies their open foes of aforetime and their own fellow citizens. 2.63Nevertheless, having felt no fear of the multitude of their opponents, and having exposed their own persons to the peril, they set up a trophy over their enemies, and now find witnesses to their valor, close to this monument, in the tombs of the Lacedaemonians note For we know that they restored in the sight of the world the diminished greatness of our city, revived in her the harmony that had been shattered by faction, and rebuilt walls in place of those that had been demolished. 2.64The men who finally returned, showing the kinship of their counsels with the deeds of those who lie here, applied themselves, not to vengeance upon their enemies, but to the preservation of the city; and being men who at once could not be overreached and would not seek their own advantage, they shared their own freedom even with those who wished to be slaves, and declined for themselves a share in that slavery. 2.65By the conspicuous greatness and nobility of their conduct they justified the claim that the former disasters of the city were due to no remissness of theirs, nor to the valor of the enemy; for if they proved able, after internal dissensions and despite the presence of the Peloponnesians and their other enemies, to return to their own place, unanimity would clearly have made it an easy matter for them to make war on their foes.

2.66Thus the struggles at the Peiraeus have earned for those men the envy of all mankind. But it is right that we should also praise the strangers who lie here: they came to the support of the people, and fought for our salvation; they regarded valor as their native land, note and with this noble end they closed their lives. In return the city has not only mourned them but given them a public funeral, and has granted them in perpetuity the same honors as it gives to its own people.

2.67The men who are being buried today went to support the Corinthians, who were wronged by ancient friends, while they were but new allies; they did not act in the same spirit as the Lacedaemonians (who envied the Corinthians their wealth, whereas our men pitied them for their wrongs, unmindful of their former enmity and regardful of their present friendship), but showed forth their own valor in the sight of all men. 2.68To enhance the greatness of Greece they had the courage, not merely to imperil themselves for their own preservation, but also to die for their enemies' freedom: for they fought the allies of the Lacedaemonians for the freedom of those allies. Had they conquered, they deemed their foes worthy of obtaining equal rights: in their misfortune they settled an inheritance of slavery on the peoples of the Peloponnese. note

2.69Now in such a plight as theirs, life was miserable, death desirable. But these men, both in their life and after their death, are enviable; for they were first trained in the excellences of their ancestors, and then in manhood they preserved that ancient fame intact and displayed their own prowess. 2.70For the benefits that they have conferred on their own native land are many and splendid; they restored the broken fortunes of others, and kept the war at a distance from their own country. note They have closed their lives with a death that befits true men, for thus they repaid their native land for their nurture and bequeathed sorrow to those who reared them. 2.71Hence it is meet that the living should yearn for these men, and bewail themselves, and pity their kindred for the life that lies before them. For what pleasure now remains for them, when such men as these are buried? These, prizing valor above all else, deprived themselves of life, widowed their wives, left their own children orphans, and brothers, fathers, mothers in a state of desolation. 2.72Though their children have many troubles in store for them, I envy them because they are too young to know of what noble fathers they have been bereft: but I pity those whose sons they were, as being too old to forget their own misfortune. 2.73For what woe could be more incurable than to bring forth and rear and bury one's own children, and then in old age to be disabled in body and, having lost every hope, to find oneself friendless and resourceless? to have the very cause of former envy turned now to a matter of pity, and to regard death as more desirable than life? For the more they excelled in manhood, the greater the grief to those who are left behind. 2.74And how should they have surcease from their sorrow? In the city's disasters? But then, surely, the fallen will be remembered by everyone else as well. In the public successes? But it is cause enough for sorrow that after the death of their children the living should enjoy the fruits of their valor. In their private adversities? When they see their former friends deserting them in their destitution, and their enemies elated with the misfortunes of the fallen? 2.75We have but one way, as it seems to me, of showing our gratitude to those who lie here: it is to hold their parents in the same high regard as they did, to be as affectionate to their children as though we were ourselves their fathers, and to give such support to their wives as they did while they lived. For whom could we be expected to honor in preference to those who lie here? 2.76Whom amongst the living should we more justly hold in high regard than their relations, who were on an equality with us all in reaping the fruits of their valor, but now that they are dead bear alone the kinsmen's part in their misfortune?

2.77But in truth I do not know what need there is to lament so sadly: for we were quite aware that we were mortals. So why chafe now at the fate which we so long expected, or be so extremely distressed by the calamities of nature, when we know well that death is common to the basest and the noblest alike? 2.78Death neither disdains the wicked nor admires the virtuous, but is even-handed with all. Were it possible for those who escaped the perils of war to be immortal for all time, there would be cause for the living to mourn the dead for evermore. But we see not only that our nature yields to sickness and old age, but that the spirit to whom has been allotted the charge of our fate is inexorable.

2.79Therefore it is fitting to consider those most happy who have closed their lives in risking them for the greatest and noblest ends; not committing their career to chance, nor awaiting the death that comes of itself, but selecting the fairest one of all. For I say their memory can never grow old, while their honor is every man's envy. 2.80Of their nature it comes that they are mourned as mortal, of their valor that they are lauded as immortal. Thus you see them given a public funeral, and contests of strength and knowledge and wealth note held at their tomb; because we think that those who have fallen in war are worthy of receiving the same honors as the immortals. 2.81So I, indeed, call them blessed in their death, and envy them; I hold that for those alone amongst men is it worth while to be born who, having received mortal bodies, have left behind an immortal memory arising from their valor. Nevertheless, we must needs follow our ancient customs, and observe our ancestral law by bewailing those who are now being buried.

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