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On the Choreutes 6.1

True happiness for one who is but human, gentlemen, would mean a life in which his person is threatened by no peril: and well might that be the burden of our prayers. But well too might we pray that if we must perforce face danger, we may have at least the one consolation which is to my mind the greatest of blessings at such an hour, a clear conscience; so that if disaster should after all befall us, it will be due to no iniquity of ours and bring no shame; it will be the result of chance rather than of wrongdoing. 6.2

It would be unanimously agreed, I think, that the laws which deal with cases such as the present are the most admirable and righteous of laws. Not only have they the distinction of being the oldest in this country, but they have changed no more than the crime with which they are concerned; and that is the surest token of good laws, as time and experience show mankind what is imperfect. Hence you must not use the speech for the prosecution to discover whether your laws are good or bad: you must use laws to discover whether or not the speech for the prosecution is giving you a correct and lawful interpretation of the case. note 6.3

The person whom today's proceedings concern most of all is myself, because I am the defendant and in danger. Nevertheless, it is also, I think, of great importance to you who are my judges that you should reach a correct verdict in trials for murder, first and foremost because of the gods and your duty towards them, and secondly for your own sakes. A case of this kind can be tried only once note; and if it is wrongly decided against the defendant, justice and the facts cannot prevail against that decision. 6.4Once you condemn him, a defendant must perforce accept your verdict, even if he was not the murderer or concerned in the crime. The law banishes him from his city, its temples, its games, and its sacrifices, the greatest and the most ancient of human institutions; and he must acquiesce. So powerful is the compulsion of the law, that even if a man slays one who is his own chattel and who has none to avenge him, his fear of the ordinances of god and of man causes him to purify himself and withhold himself from those places prescribed by law, in the hope that by so doing he will best avoid disaster. 6.5Most of the life of man rests upon hope; and by defying the gods and committing transgressions against them, he would rob himself even of hope, the greatest of human blessings. No one would venture either to disregard the sentence passed upon him because he was sure that he had had no part in the crime, or to disobey the law if he knew in his heart that he was guilty of such a deed. He has to submit to the verdict in defiance of the facts, or submit to the facts themselves, as the case may be, even if his victim has none to avenge him. 6.6The laws, the oaths, the sacrifices, the proclamations, in fact the whole of the proceedings in connection with trials for murder differ as profoundly as they do from the proceedings elsewhere simply because it is of supreme importance that the facts at issue, upon which so much turns, should themselves be rightly interpreted. Such a right interpretation means vengeance for him who has been wronged; whereas to find an innocent man guilty of murder is a mistake, and a sinful mistake, which offends both gods and laws. Nor is it as serious for the prosecutor to accuse the wrong person as it is for you judges to reach a wrong verdict. The charge brought by the prosecutor is not in itself effective; whether it becomes so, depends upon you, sitting in judgement. On the other hand, if you yourselves arrive at a wrong verdict, you cannot rid yourselves of the responsibility for so doing by blaming someone else for that verdict. 6.7

My own attitude to my defence, gentlemen, is very different from that of my accusers to their prosecution. They, on their side, allege that their object in bringing this action is to discharge a sacred duty and to satisfy justice; whereas they have in fact treated their speech for the prosecution as nothingbut an opportunity for malicious falsehood, and such behavior is the worst travesty of justice humanly possible. Their aim is not to expose any crime I may have committed in order to exact the penalty which it deserves, but to blacken me, even though I am entirely innocent, in order to have me punished with exile from this country. 6.8I, on the other hand, consider that my first duty is to reply to the charge before the court by giving you a complete account of the facts. Afterwards, if you so desire, I shall be pleased to answer the remaining accusations made, note as they will, I feel, turn to my own credit and advantage, and to the discomfiture of my opponents to whose impudence they are due. For it is indeed a strange fact, gentlemen: 6.9when they had the opportunity of avenging themselves on an enemy and doing the state a service by exposing and bringing home to me any public offence of which I had been guilty, as Choregus or otherwise, not one of them was able to prove that I had done your people any wrong, great or small. note Yet at today's trial, when they are prosecuting for prosecution to the charge before the court, note they are seeking to achieve my downfall with a tissue of lies calculated to bring my public life into disrepute. If the state has in fact been wronged, they are compensating it not with redress, but with a mere accusation; while they are themselves demanding that reparation for a wrong which has been suffered by the state should be made to them in person. 6.10Indeed, they deserve to win neither gratitude nor credence with these charges of theirs. The circumstances in which they are prosecuting are not such as to allow the state to obtain satisfaction if really wronged, and only so would they be entitled to its gratitude; while the prosecutor who refuses to confine himself to the charge before the court in an action such as the present does not so much deserve to be believed as to be disbelieved. I myself know well enough what your own feelings are; nothing save the facts immediately at issue would lead you either to condemn or to acquit, because only thus can the claims of heaven and of justice be satisfied. So with those facts I will begin. 6.11

When I was appointed Choregus for the Thargelia, note Pantacles note falling to me as poet and the Cecropid as the tribe that went with mine [that is to say the Erechtheid], note I discharged my office as efficiently and as scrupulously as I was able. I began by fitting out a training-room in the most suitable part of my house, the same that I had used when Choregus at the Dionysia. note Next, I recruited the best chorus that I could, without indicting a single fine, without extorting a single pledge, note and without making a single enemy. Just as though nothing could have been more satisfactory or better suited to both parties, I on my side would make my demand or request, while the parents on theirs would send their sons along without demur, nay, readily. 6.12

For a while after the arrival of the boys I had no time to look after them in person, as I happened to be engaged in suits against Aristion and Philinus, note and was anxious to lose no time after the impeachment in sustaining my charges in a just and proper manner before the Council and the general public. Being thus occupied myself, I arranged that the needs of the chorus should be attended to by Phanostratus, a member of the same deme as my accusers here and a relative of my own (he is my son-in-law); and I told him to perform the task with all possible care. 6.13Besides Phanostratus I appointed two others. The first, Ameinias, whom I thought a trustworthy man, belonged to the Erechtheid tribe and had been officially chosen by it to recruit and supervise its choruses at the various festivals; while the second, . . ., regularly recruited the choruses of the Cecropid tribe, to which he belonged, in the same way. There was yet a fourth, Philippus, whose duty it was to purchase or spend whatever the poet or any of the other three told him. Thus I ensured that the boys should receive every attention and lack nothing owing to my own preoccupation. 6.14

Such were my arrangements as Choregus. If I am lying as regards any of them in order to exonerate myself, my accuser is at liberty to refute me on any point he likes in his second speech. For this is how it is, gentlemen: many of the spectators here present are perfectly familiar with every one of these facts, the voice of the officer who administered the oath is in their ears, and they are giving my defence their close attention; I would like them to feel that I am respecting that oath, and that if I persuade you to acquit me, it was by telling the truth that I did so. 6.15

In the first place, then, I will prove to you that I did not tell the boy to drink the poison, compel him to drink it, give it to him to drink, or even witness him drinking it. And I am not insisting on these facts in order to incriminate someone else once I have cleared myself; no indeed—unless that someone else be Fortune; and this is not the first time, I imagine, that she has caused a man's death. Fortune neither I nor any other could prevent from fulfilling her destined part in the life of each of us. . . . note Witnesses 6.16

The facts have been confirmed by evidence as I promised, gentlemen; and you must let that evidence help you to decide which of the two sworn statements made, note the prosecution's or my own, reveals more respect for truth and for the oath by which it was preceded. The prosecution swore that I was responsible for the death of Diodotus as having instigated the act which led to it note; whereas I swore that I did not cause his death, whether by my own act or by instigation. 6.17

Further, in making their charge, the prosecution invoke the principle that the responsibility rests with whoever told the boy to drink the poison, forced him to drink it, or gave it to him to drink. By that very principle, however, I will myself prove that I am innocent: for I neither told the boy to drink the poison, nor forced him to drink it, nor gave it to him to drink. I will even go a step further than they and add that I did not witness him drink it. If the prosecution say that it was a criminal act to tell him to drink it, I am no criminal: I did not tell him to drink it. If they say that it was a criminal act to force him to drink it, I am no criminal: I did not force him to drink it. And if they say that the responsibility rests with the person who gave him the poison, I am not responsible: I did not give it to him. 6.18

Now accusations and lies can be indulged in at will, as they are at the command of each one of us. But that what never happened should be transformed into fact, that an innocent man should be transformed into a criminal is not, I feel, a matter which depends upon the eloquence of the prosecution; it is a question of what is right and what is true. Admittedly, with a deliberately planned murder, carried out in secret and with none to witness it, the truth can only be determined from the accounts given by the prosecutor and the defendant, and from them alone; their statements must be followed up with care and suspected on the slightest grounds and the final verdict must necessarily be the result of conjecture rather than certain knowledge. 6.19But in the present instance, the prosecution themselves admit to begin with that the boy's death was not due to premeditation or design: and secondly, everything which happened happened publicly and before numerous witnesses, men and boys, free men and slaves, who would have ensured the complete exposure of the criminal, had there been one, and the instant refutation of anyone who accused an innocent person. note 6.20

Both the spirit shown by my opponents and the way in which they set to work are worth noticing, gentlemen; for their behavior towards me has been very different from mine towards them from the outset. 6.21Philocrates yonder presented himself before the Heliaea of the Thesmothetae note on the very day of the boy's burial, and declared that I had murdered his brother, a member of the chorus, by forcing him to drink poison. At that, I presented myself before the court in my turn. I told the same jury that Philocrates had no right to place legal impediments in my way by coming to court with his outrageous charge, when I was bringing suits against Aristion and Philinus on the following day and the day after: for that was his only reason for making such allegations. 6.22However, I said, there would be no difficulty in provlng his monstrous accusation a lie, as there were plenty of witnesses, slave and free, young and old, in fact, over fifty in all, who knew how the drinking of the poison had been accounted for and were in complete possession of the facts and circumstances. 6.23

Not only did I make this declaration before the court, but I offered Philocrates a challenge there and then, and repeated it the following day in the presence of the same jury. Let him take with him as many witnesses as he liked: let him go to the persons who had been present at the accident (I specified them by name): and let him interrogate and cross-examine them. Let him question the free men as befitted free men; for their own sakes and in the interests of justice, they would give a faithful account of what had occurred. As to the slaves, if he considered that they were answering his questions truthfully, well and good; if he did not, I was ready to place all my own at his disposal for examination under torture, and should he demand any that did not belong to me, I agreed to obtain the consent of their owner and hand them over to him to examine as he liked. 6.24That was the challenge which I addressed to him before the court; and not only the jurors themselves but numbers of private persons also were there to witness it. Yet the prosecution refused to bring the case to this issue at the time, and have persistently refused ever since. They knew very well that instead of supplying them with proof of my guilt, such an inquiry would supply me with proof that their own charge was totally unjust and unfounded. 6.25

You do not need to be reminded, gentlemen, that the one occasion when compulsion is as absolute and as effective as is humanly possible, and when the rights of a case are ascertained thereby most surely and most certainly, arises when there is an abundance of witnesses, both slave and free, and it is possible to put pressure upon the free men by exacting an oath or word of honor, the most solemn and the most awful form of compulsion known to freemen, and upon the slaves by other devices, which will force them to tell the truth even if their revelations are bound to cost them their lives, as the compulsion of the moment has a stronger influence over each than the fate which he will suffer by compulsion afterwards. note 6.26

It was to this, then, and nothing less that I challenged the prosecution. Every means which mortal man finds it necessary to use in order to discover the true rights of a matter, they had the opportunity of using; not the vestige of an excuse was left them. I, the defendant, the alleged criminal, was ready to give them the chance of proving my guilt in the fairest possible way; it was they, the prosecutors, the professedly injured party, who refused to obtain proof of such injury as they had sustained. 6.27Suppose that the offer had come from them. Then had I refused to disclose who the eyewitnesses were: had I refused to hand over my servants at their request: or had I been afraid to accept some other challenge, they would be claiming that those facts in themselves afforded to my detriment the strongest presumption of the truth of their charge. Instead, it was I who issued the challenge, and the prosecution who evaded the test. So it was surely only fair that this same fact should afford me a presumption to their detriment that the charge which they have made against me is untrue. 6.28

Further, I am certain, gentlemen, that if the witnesses present at the accident were testifying in the prosecution's favor and against me, the prosecution would be treating them as supremely important: they would be showing that such unfavourable evidence was proof conclusive. As, however, these same witnesses are testifying that what I say is true and that what the prosecution say is not, they urge that the evidence of those witnesses in my favor is untrustworthy; according to them, it is their own statements which you should believe, statements which they would be attacking as false, were I making them myself without witnesses to support me. 6.29Yet it is strange that the witnesses who would be trustworthy, were their evidence favorable to the prosecution, are to be untrustworthy when it is favorable to me. Were I producing eyewitnesses when there had been none, or were I not producing the true eyewitnesses, there would be some ground for treating the statements of the prosecution as more trustworthy than my witnesses. But the prosecution admit that witnesses were actually present: I am producing those witnesses: and both I and all my witnesses are well known to have maintained from the very first day what we are repeating to you now. So what other means than these are to be employed to confirm what is true and to disprove what is not? 6.30If a bare statement of the facts were made, but not supported by the evidence of witnesses, it might well be criticized for the absence of that support; and if witnesses were forthcoming, only to conflict with the presumptions furnished by the pleader, his opponent might well pass a corresponding criticism, should he so wish. 6.31Now in my own case, you are being presented with an account which is reasonable, with evidence which is consistent with that account, with facts which are consistent with that evidence, with presumptions drawn immediately from those facts, and with two arguments of the greatest significance and weight in addition: 6.32the first, the circumstance that the prosecution have been proved impostors both by themselves and by me: and the second, the circumstance that I have been proved innocent both by the prosecution and by myself; for in refusing to obtain proof of such injury as they had sustained when I was ready for an inquiry into the crime with which they were charging me, they were clearly acknowledging my innocence and testifying to the injustice and falsity of their own accusation. If I supplement the evidence of my own witnesses with that of my opponents in person, what other expedients, what other proofs are necessary to establish my entire freedom from the charge? 6.33

I feel that both the arguments and proofs which I have put before you, gentlemen, would justify you in acquitting me; you all know that the charge before the court does not concern me. However, to confirm you in that knowledge, I will go further. I will prove that my accusers here are the most reckless perjurors and the most godless scoundrels alive: that they have earned not only my own hatred, but the hatred of every one of you and of your fellow-citizens besides, by instituting this trial. 6.34

On the first day, the day of the boy's death, and on the second, when the body was laid out, not even the prosecution themselves thought of accusing me of having played any kind of criminal part in the accident: on the contrary, they avoided neither meeting me nor speaking to me. note It was only on the third day, the day of the boy's burial, that they yielded to my enemies and set about bringing a charge and proclaiming me to be under the usual disabilities. note Now who was it who instigated them? And what reason had those others for wanting to do such a thing? I must enlighten you on these further points. 6.35

I was about to prosecute Aristion, Philinus, Ampelinus, and the secretary to the Thesmothetae, with whose embezzlements they had been associated, on charges which I had presented to the Council in the form of an impeachment. As far as the facts of the case were concerned, they had no hope of acquittal: their offences were too serious. On the other hand, could they but induce my accusers here to register a charge and proclaim that I was under the statutory ban, they would, they thought, be safely rid of the whole business. 6.36The law runs that the ban comes into force as soon as anyone has a charge of murder registered against him; and if placed under it, not only should I myself have been unable to proeeed with my case, but once the party responsible for the impeachment and in possession of the facts failed to proceed, the four would gain an acquittal without difficulty, and the wrong which they had done you would go unpunished. I was not, I may say, the first against whom Philinus and his companions had employed this device; they had already done the same to Lysistratus, as you have heard for yourselves. note 6.37

The prosecution started by doing their utmost to register a charge at once, on the day after the burial, before the house had been purified or the proper rites performed; they had taken care to choose the very day on which the first of the other four was to be tried, to make it impossible for me to proceed against a single one of them or present the court with any of their offences. 6.38However, the Basileus read them the law, and showed that there was not sufficient time to register a charge or issue the necessary writs note; so I took the originators of the plot into court, and secured a conviction in every case—and you know the amount at which the damages were fixed. No sooner, however, did my accusers here find it impossible to give the help which they had been paid to give than they approached me and my friends with a request for a reconciliation, and offered to make amends for their past errors. 6.39I took my friends' advice, and was formally reconciled to them on the Acropolis note in the presence of witnesses, who performed the ceremony near the temple of Athena. Afterwards, they met me and spoke to me in temples, in the Agora, in my house, in their own—everywhere in fact. 6.40The crowning point was reached in the Council-chamber in front of the Council—heavens, to think of it! —when Philocrates here himself joined me on the tribune and conversed with me, his hand on my arm, addressing me by my name as I addressed him by his. No wonder that the Council was astounded to learn that I had been proclaimed under the ban by the very persons whom they had seen in my company chatting to me on the previous day. note 6.41

And now I want your attention, gentlemen: I want you to cast your minds back; for I shall not use witnesses alone to prove the facts to which I am now coming; your own knowledge of how the prosecution have acted will itself show you at once that I am telling the truth. To begin with, they complain of the Basileus and attribute his refusal to register their charge to activities of mine. 6.42That complaint, however, will serve merely to damage their case by suggesting that their statements in general are untrue; for after registering the action, the Basileus was obliged to hold three preliminary inquiries in the course of the three months following, only bringing the case into court during the fourth—as he has done today. Yet only two months of office remained to him, Thargelion and Scirophorion. note It would thus clearly have been impossible for him to bring the case into court during his own period of office; and he is not allowed to hand on an action for murder to his successor; such a thing has never been done by any Basileus in this country. So, as it was a case which he could neither bring into court nor hand on to his successor, he did not see why he should break your laws by registering it. 6.43There is, indeed, one very striking indication that he did not rob the prosecution of their rights: whereas Philocrates yonder tormented other magistrates who had to render account of their office note with vexatious complaints, he failed to come forward with any grievance when this particular Basileus, whose conduct, we are told, had been so outrageously high handed, was rendering account of his. What clearer indication could I present to you that Philocrates had suffered no injury from either myself or him? 6.44

Moreover, after the present Basileus had come into office, there were thirty clear days from the first of Hecatombaeon onwards, note on any of which they could have registered their charge, had they wanted to; yet they did not do so. Similarly, they could have registered it any day they liked from the first of Metageitnion onwards. But even then they did not do so: they let twenty days of this second month by as well. Thus the total number of days in the present archonship on which they could have registered their charge, but failed to do so, was over fifty. note 6.45Ordinarily, anyone who has not time enough under one archon <registers his charge as soon as he can under the next>. But the prosecution, who were perfectly familiar with the laws concerned and could see that I was a member of the Council and used the Council-chamber —why, in that very chamber itself stands a shrine of Zeus the Councillor and Athena the Councillor, where members offer prayers as they enter; and I was one of those members: I did as they did: in their company I entered all our other sanctuaries: I offered sacrifices and prayers on behalf of this city: nay more, I acted as a Prytanis for the whole of the first Prytany save two days note: I was to be seen sacrificing and making offerings on behalf of our sovereign people: I was to be seen putting motions to the vote: I was to be seen voicing my opinion on the most momentous, the most vital public questions. 6.46And the prosecution were in Athens: they witnessed it: by registering their charge they could have debarred me from it all. In spite of that, they did not see fit to do so. Yet if their wrong was real, their duty to alike enough to keep the memory of it fresh and to make it their constant thought. Then why did they fail to register a charge? Their reason was the same as their reason for not refusing to associate and converse with me. They associated with me because they did not think me a murderer and they refused to register a charge for exactly the same reason: they did not think that I had either killed the boy, been concerned in his death, or had any part in the affair at all. 6.47

Where indeed could one find fewer scruples or a greater contempt for law? Here are men who expect to persuade you to believe what they have failed to persuade themselves to believe, who bid you declare guilty the man whom they have themselves in fact declared innocent; whereas everyone else uses the facts to prove the worth of mere assertion, they use mere assertion for the purpose of discrediting the facts. 6.48Indeed, if I had said nothing, established nothing, and produced evidence of nothing, but had proved to you the one fact that, whereas when paid to attack me the prosecution produced charges and proclamations, they frequented my society and were on speaking terms with me when there was no one to finance them, you would have heard enough to acquit me and treat the prosecution as the worst perjurors and the most I impious scoundrels alive. 6.49What accusation would they hesitate to bring, what court would they hesitate to mislead, what oaths would they feel any compunction in breaking, after taking thirty minae, as they have, from the Poristae, the Poletae, the Practores, and the clerks attached to them, to bring me into court, note after driving me from the Council-chamber, and after swearing oaths so solemn, all because during my Prytany I learned of their scandalous malpractices, brought them before the Council, and showed that an inquiry should be instituted and the matter probed to the bottom. 6.50As it is, they themselves, those who struck the bargain with them, and the parties with whom the money was deposited are paying the price of their misdeeds note; and the facts have been revealed so clearly that the prosecution will find it difficult to deny them, even if they wish to; such is the lack of success which they have had. 6.51

What court, then, would they hesitate to invade with their lies, what oaths would they feel the slightest compunction in breaking? The impious scoundrels! They knew that you are the most conscientious and the fairest judges in this nation; yet they come before you intent on deceiving even you, if they can, in spite of the solemn oaths which they have sworn. note

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