Lysias, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [lemma count] [Lys.].
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Defense in the Matter of the Olive Stump

7.1Heretofore, gentlemen of the Council, I thought it possible for a person who so desired to avoid both law-suits and anxieties by leading a quiet life; but now I find myself so unexpectedly embarrassed with accusations and with nefarious slanderers that, if such a thing could be, I conceive that even those who are yet unborn ought now be feeling alarmed for what is in store for them, since the conduct of these men brings as great a share of danger upon those who have done no wrong as upon those who are guilty of many offences. 7.2And this trial has been made especially perplexing for me, because at first I was indicted for clearing away an olive tree from my land, and they went and made an inquiry of the men who had brought the produce of the State olives; but having failed by this method to find that I have done anything wrong, they now say it is an olive-stump that I cleared away, judging that for me this is a most difficult accusation to refute, while to them it allows more freedom to make any statement that they please. 7.3So I am obliged, on a charge which this man has carefully planned against me before coming here, and which I have only heard at the same moment as you who are to decide on the case, to defend myself against the loss of my native land and my possessions. Nevertheless I will try to explain the affair to you from the beginning.

7.4This plot of ground belonged to Peisander; but when his property was confiscated, Apollodorus of Megara had it as a gift from the people note and cultivated it for some time, until, shortly before the Thirty, note Anticles bought it from him and let it out. I bought it from Anticles when peace had been made. note 7.5So I consider, gentlemen, that my business is to show that, when I acquired the plot, there was neither olive-tree nor stump upon it. For I conceive that in respect of the previous time, even had there been sacred olives of old upon it, I could not with justice be penalized; since if we have had no hand in their clearance, there is no relevance in our being charged as guilty of the offences of others. 7.6For you are all aware that, among the numerous troubles that have been caused by the war, the outlying districts were ravaged by the Lacedaemonians, note while the nearer were plundered by our friends; so how can it be just that I should be punished now for the disasters that then befell the city? 7.7And in particular, this plot of land, as having been confiscated during the war, was unsold for over three years: it is not surprising if they uprooted the sacred olives at a time in which we were unable to safeguard even our personal property. You are aware, gentlemen—especially those of you who have the supervision of such matters,—that many plots at that time were thick with private and sacred olive-trees which have now for the most part been uprooted, so that the land has become bare; and although the same people have owned these plots in the peace as in the war, you do not think fit to punish them for the up-rooting done by others. 7.8And yet, if you exculpate those who have cultivated the land throughout the whole period, surely those who bought it in the time of the peace ought to leave your court unpunished.

7.9Well now, gentlemen, although I might speak at length on what had previously occurred, I think these remarks will suffice: but when I took over the plot, after an interval of five days I let it out to Callistratus, in the archonship of Pythodorus: note: 7.10he cultivated it for two years, and had taken over no olive-tree, either private or sacred, nor any olive-stump. In the third year it was worked by Demetrius here for a twelvemonth; in the fourth I let it to Alcias, a freedman of Antisthenes, who is dead. After that Proteas too hired it in the same state during three years. Now, please step this way, witnesses.Witnesses

7.11Well now, since the termination of that time I have cultivated it myself. My accuser says that in the archonship of Souniades note an olive-stump was uprooted by me. And the previous cultivators, who rented it from me for a number of years, have testified to you that there was no stump on the plot. I ask you, how could one convict the accuser more patently of lying? For it is not possible that the cultivator who came after cleared away what was not there before.

7.12Now formerly, gentlemen, whenever people declared me to be a shrewd, exact man who would do nothing at random or without calculation, I would take it hard, feeling that these terms were wide of my true character; but now I should be glad if you all held this opinion of me, so that you should expect me, if I did set about such an act as this, to consider what profit I stood to get by clearing away the stump, and what loss by preserving it, what I should have achieved if I went undetected, and what I should suffer at your hands if I were exposed. 7.13For in every case such acts are done, not for mere mischief, but for profit; and that is the proper direction for your inquiry, and the prosecution should make that the basis of their accusation, by showing what benefit accrued to the wrongdoers. 7.14Yet this man is quite unable to show either that I was compelled by poverty to venture on such an act, or that the plot was declining in value to me while the stump existed, or that it was obstructing vines or close to a building, or that I was unapprised of the dangers awaiting me in your court. 7.15And if I had attempted anything of the kind, I should be openly exposed as having incurred many severe penalties for in the first place, it was daylight when I uprooted the stump,—as though I had not to do it unseen by all, but must let all the Athenians know! If the act had been merely disgraceful, one might perhaps have disregarded the passers-by; but the case was one of my risking, not disgrace, but the severest penalty. 7.16And surely I must have been the most wretched of human creatures if my own servants were to be no longer my slaves, but my masters for the rest of my life, since they would be privy to that act of mine; so that, however great might be their offences against me, I should have been unable to get them punished. For I should have been fully aware that it was in their power at once to be avenged on me and to win their own freedom by informing against me. note 7.17Furthermore, supposing I had been of a mind to be heedless of my domestics, how should I have dared, when so many persons had rented the plot, and all were acquainted with the facts, to clear away the stump for the sake of a petty profit, while there was no statute of limitations note to protect them, so that all who had worked the plot were alike concerned in the preservation of the stump, and hence they would be able, if anyone accused them, to transfer the blame to their successor? But as it is, they have manifestly absolved me, note and have thus taken upon themselves a share of the charge in case they are lying. 7.18Again, if I had settled this matter by arrangement, how could I have prevailed on all the passers-by, or the neighbors who not only know of each other what is open for all to see, but even get information of what we try to keep hidden from the knowledge of anyone? Now, some of those people are my friends, but others are at feud with me about my property: 7.19these persons he ought to have produced as witnesses, instead of merely bringing these hazardous accusations; for he says I stood by while my domestics hewed down the stems and the wagoner loaded up the wood and took it right away.

7.20But surely, Nicomachus, you ought, at the time, both to have called up those who were present as witnesses, and to have exposed the affair: you would then have left me without any defence, while on your own part, if I was your enemy, you would have achieved by this means your vengeance upon me while if you were acting in the interest of the State, you would in this way have convicted me without being regarded as a slanderer. If you were looking for profit, you would have made the largest then; 7.21for, the fact being exposed, I should have decided that my sole deliverance lay in seducing you. Well, you did nothing of the sort, and you expect that your statements will effect my ruin: you put in the plea that owing to my influence and my means there is no one willing to bear you witness. 7.22Yet if, when you saw me—as you say—clearing away the sacred olive, you had brought the nine archons on the scene, or some other members of the Areopagus, you would not have had to seek witnesses elsewhere; for then the truth of your statements would have been ascertained by the very persons who were to decide upon the matter.

7.23So he makes my situation most perplexing; for if he had produced witnesses, he might claim that they should be believed, but as he has none, he thinks it is I who should suffer so much detriment from that. And I am not surprised—at him; for, to be sure, in his slanderous proceedings he is not going to be as hard up for statements of this sort as he is for witnesses; but you, I trust, will not be in agreement with this man. 7.24For you understand that in the plain there are many sacred olives and burnt stumps on my other plots which, had I so desired, it would have been much safer to clear away or cut down or work over, inasmuch as among so many of them the wrongful act was likely to be less evident.

7.25But the fact is that I have as great a regard for them as for my native land and my whole property, realizing that it is the loss of both of these that I have at stake. And you yourselves I shall produce as witnesses to that fact;. for you supervise the matter every month, and also send assessors every year, none of whom has ever penalized me for working the ground about the sacred olives. 7.26Now surely, when I pay so much regard to those small penalties, I cannot so utterly disregard the perils involved for my person. You find me taking all this care of the many olive-trees upon which I could more freely commit the offence, and I am on my trial to-day for clearing away the sacred olive which it was impossible to dig up unobserved!

7.27And under which government was I better placed for breaking the law, gentlemen,—that of the democracy, or that of the Thirty? I do not mean that I was influential then, or that I now stand falsely accused, but that there was a better chance for anyone who wished to commit a crime then than there is at present. Well, you will find that not even in that time did I do anything wrong, either in this or in any other way. 7.28And how—except in all the world I were my own most malignant enemy—could I have attempted, with you supervising as you do, to clear away the sacred olive from this plot; in which there is not a single tree, but there was, as he says, a stump of one olive; where a road skirts the plot all round, and neighbors live about it on both sides, and it is unfenced and open to view from every point? So who would have been so foolhardy in these circumstances, as to attempt such a proceeding? 7.29And I feel it is extraordinary that you, whom the city has charged with the perpetual supervision of the sacred olives, have never either punished me for working over the one of them nor brought me to trial for having cleared one away, and that now this man, who, as it happens, is neither farming near me nor has been appointed a supervisor nor is of age to know about such matters, should have indicted me for clearing away a sacred olive from the land.

7.30I beg you, therefore, not to consider such statements more credible than the facts, nor to tolerate such assertions from my enemies about matters of which you are personally cognizant: let your reflections be guided by what I have told you and by the whole tenor of my citizenship. 7.31For I have performed all the duties laid upon me with greater zeal than the State required: alike in equipping a warship, in contributing to war funds, in producing drama, and in the rest of my public services, my munificence was equal to that of any other citizen. 7.32Yet, if I had done these things but moderately and without that zeal, I should not be struggling to save myself at once from exile and from the loss of all my property, but should have increased my possessions without incurring guilt or imperilling my life: whereas, had I done what this man accuses me of doing, I stood to make no profit, but only to endanger myself. 7.33Surely you will all acknowledge that it is fairer to judge important issues by important proofs, and to give more credit to the testimony of the whole city than to the accusations of this single person.

7.34And further, gentlemen, take note of the other events in the case. I went with witnesses to see him, and said that I still had the servants that I owned when I took over the plot, and was ready to delivery any that he wished to the torture, thinking that this would put his statements and my acts to stronger test. 7.35But he declined, asserting that no credit could be given to servants. To my mind it is surprising that, when put to the torture on their own account, they accuse themselves, in the certain knowledge that they will be executed, but when it is on account of their masters, to whom they naturally have most animosity, they can choose rather to endure the torture than to get release from their present ills by an incrimination! 7.36Nay, in truth, gentlemen, I think it is manifest to all that, had I refused to deliver the men at Nicomachus's request, I should be considered conscious of my guilt note; so, since he declined to accept them when I offered to deliver them, it is fair to form the same opinion regarding him, especially as the danger is not equal for us both. 7.37For if they had made the statements about me that he desired, I should not even have had a chance of defending myself; while if they had not supported his statements, he was liable to no penalty. It behoved him, therefore, much rather to take them than it suited me to deliver them. For my part, I was so solicitous in the matter, because I felt it was in my favour to have you informed of the truth regarding this matter, at once by torture, by witnesses, and by evidence. 7.38And you should consider, gentlemen, which side you ought rather to credit, those for whom many have borne witness, or one for whom nobody has ventured to do so; whether it is more likely that this man is lying, as he can without danger, note or that in face of so grave a danger I committed such an act; and whether you think that he is vindicating the cause of the State, or has been playing the slanderer's trade in his accusation.

7.39For I believe it is your opinion that Nicomachus has been prevailed upon by my enemies to conduct this prosecution, not as hoping to establish my guilt, but as expecting to obtain money from me. For precisely as such actions at law are most damaging and perplexing, so everyone is most anxious to avoid them.

7.40But I, gentlemen, disdained that: as soon as he charged me, I placed myself entirely at your disposal, and came to terms with none of my enemies on account of this ordeal, though they take more pleasure in vilifying me than in commending themselves. Not one of them has ever attempted, openly and in his own person, to do me a single hurt; they prefer to set upon me men of this stamp, whom you cannot honestly believe. 7.41For I shall be the most miserable of creatures if I am to be unjustly declared in exile: I am childless and alone, my house would be abandoned, my mother would be in utter penury, and I should be deprived of a native land, that is so much to me, on the most disgraceful of charges,—I who in her defence have engaged in many sea-fights and fought many battles on land, and have shown myself an orderly person under both democracy and oligarchy.

7.42But on these matters, gentlemen, I do not know what call I have to speak in this place. However, I have proved to you that there was no stump on the plot, and I have produced witnesses and evidence: these you should bear in mind when you make your decision on the case, and require this man to inform you why it was that, neglecting to convict me as taken in the act, he has delayed so long in bringing so serious an action against me; 7.43why he seeks to be credited on the strength of his statements, unsupported by a single witness, when the bare facts would have sufficed to establish my guilt and why,on my offering all the servants whom he asserts to have been then present, he declined to accept them.

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