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

30.1There have been cases, gentlemen of the jury, of persons who, when brought to trial, have appeared to be guilty, but who, on showing forth their ancestors' virtues and their own benefactions, have obtained your pardon. Since, therefore, you are satisfied with the plea of the defendants, if they are shown to have done some service to the State, it is fair that you should also listen to the accusers, if they show forth a long course of villainy in the accused. 30.2Now, to tell how Nicomachus's father was a public slave, note and what were the man's own occupations in his youth, and at what age he was admitted to his clan, note would be a lengthy affair: but when he became a commissioner for transcribing the laws, it is common knowledge what outrages he committed on the city. For whereas he had been instructed to transcribe the laws of Solon within four months, he usurped the place of Solon as lawgiver, extended his office over six years instead of four months, and day by day, in return for payment, he inserted some laws and erased others. 30.3We were brought to such a pass that we had our laws dispensed to us from his hands, and parties to suits produced opposite laws in the courts, both sides asserting that they had obtained them from Nicomachus. When the magistrates imposed summary fines on him, and brought him up in court, he refused to hand over the laws: nay, the city was already involved in the gravest disasters, and still he had not been relieved of his office, nor had submitted to an audit of his proceedings. 30.4And observe, gentlemen, how, having suffered no punishment for that conduct, he has now turned his new office to similar account: first, he has been transcribing for four years, when he could have discharged his duty in thirty days; and second, although he had definite orders as to the texts that he had to transcribe, he assumed supreme authority over the whole code, and after handling more business than anyone had ever done before he is the only person who has held office without submitting to an audit. 30.5Everyone else, with each new presidency, note renders an account of his office; but you, Nicomachus, have not deigned to show your accounts for as much as four years; you, alone of the citizens, claim licence to hold office for a lengthy period, without either submitting to an audit, or obeying the decrees, or respecting the laws: you insert this, and erase that, and carry insolence to such a pitch that you regard the State's property as yours, who are yourself its slave! 30.6It is your duty, therefore, gentlemen of the jury, to remember what was the ancestry of Nicomachus, and also how ungrateful has been his treatment of you with his illegal acts, and to punish him: so, since you have not made him pay the penalty for each one of them, exact requital now, at any rate, for them all.

30.7It may be, gentlemen, that, failing to find a plea for his own defence, he will try to slander me: but I would ask you only to credit this man's account of my life when, on having to defend myself, I fail to convict him of falsehood. If by chance he should venture on a repetition of what he stated before the Council,—that I was one of the Four Hundred,—reflect that on the basis of such statements as this the Four Hundred will number more than a thousand; for on those who were still but children at that time, or were not residing here, this aspersion is commonly cast by persons of slanderous intent. 30.8But for my part, so far was I from being one of the Four Hundred that I was not even included in the list of the Five Thousand. And I consider it monstrous that, although in a suit concerning private contracts, had I convicted him as plainly as here of wrongdoing, he would not even himself have expected to obtain an acquittal by resorting to such a defence, he now, on his trial for matters of public interest, is to count on escaping punishment at your hands by accusing me.

30.9Moreover, I find it astonishing that Nicomachus should think fit to stir up resentment against others in this criminal way, when I mean to prove that he hatched mischief against the people. And now listen to me; for it is justifiable, gentlemen of the jury, to admit such accusations in the case of men who, having combined at that time to subvert the democracy, would represent themselves today as democrats. 30.10After the loss of our ships, note when the revolution was being arranged, Cleophon note reviled the Council, declaring that it was in conspiracy note and was not seeking the best interests of the State. Satyrus of Cephisia, note one of the Council, persuaded them to arrest him and hand him over to the court. 30.11Those who wished to do away with him, fearing that they would fail of a death-sentence in the law-court, persuaded Nicomachus to exhibit a law requiring the Council note to partake in the trial as assessors. And this man, the worst of villains, was so open in his support of the plot that on the day of the trial he exhibited the law. 30.12Now against Cleophon, gentlemen of the jury, one might have other accusations to urge; but one thing is admitted on all sides,—that the subverters of the democracy desired to get him out of their way more than any other of the citizens, and that Satyrus and Chremon, who were members of the Thirty, accused Cleophon, not from any anger at your fate, but in order that, having put that man to death, they might injure you themselves. 30.13And they achieved their end because of the law which Nicomachus exhibited. Now you may reasonably reflect, gentlemen,—even those of you who thought Cleophon to be a bad citizen,—that, although among those who perished under the oligarchy there were perhaps one or two villains, yet it was on account of even such sufferers that you were incensed against the Thirty, as having put them to death, not for their crimes, but for motives of party. 30.14If, therefore, he tries to rebut this charge, you have merely to remember that he exhibited the law at that very moment when the revolution was being effected, with the aim of gratifying those who had subverted the democracy; and that he included as assessors at the trial that Council in which Satyrus and Chremon had the chief influence, and which put to death Strombichides, note Calliades and a number of loyal and upright citizens.

30.15I should have made no reference to these events had I not learnt that he was going to attempt, by posing as a democrat, to save himself in despite of justice, and that he would produce his exile as a proof of his attachment to the people. But I on my part could point out others among those who combined to subvert the democracy who were either put to death or exiled and debarred from the citizenship, 30.16so that he cannot expect to get any credit on that account. For while this man did contribute his share to your exile, he owed his return to you, the people. And besides, it would be monstrous if you should feel grateful to him for what he underwent against his will, but should exact no requital for his voluntary offences.

30.17I am informed that he alleges that I am guilty of impiety in seeking to abolish the sacrifices. But if it were I who were law-making over this transcription of our code, I should take it to be open to Nicomachus to make such a statement about me. But in fact I am merely claiming that he should obey the code established and patent to all note; and I am surprised at his not observing that, when he taxes me with impiety for saying that we ought to perform the sacrifices named in the tablets and pillars as directed in the regulations, he is accusing the city as well: for they are what you have decreed. And then, sir, if you feel these to be hard words, surely you must attribute grievous guilt to those citizens who used to sacrifice solely in accordance with the tablets. 30.18But of course, gentlemen of the jury, we are not to be instructed in piety by Nicomachus, but are rather to be guided by the ways of the past. Now our ancestors, by sacrificing in accordance with the tablets, have handed down to us a city superior in greatness and prosperity to any other in Greece; so that it behoves us to perform the same sacrifices as they did, if for no other reason than that of the success which has resulted from those rites. 30.19And how could a man show greater piety than mine, when I demand, first that our sacrifices be performed according to our ancestral rules, and second that they be those which tend to promote the interests of the city, and finally those which the people have decreed and which we shall be able to afford out of the public revenue? But you, Nicomachus, have done the opposite of this: by entering in your copy a greater number than had been ordained you have caused the public revenue to be expended on these, and hence to be deficient for our ancestral offerings. 30.20For example, last year some sacrifices, costing three talents, were in abeyance, though they were among those inscribed on the tablets. And it cannot be said that the revenues of the State were insufficient; for if this man had not entered sacrifices to an excess amounting to six talents, there would have been enough for our ancestral offerings, and moreover the State would have had a surplus of three talents. In support of these statements I will add the evidence of witnesses.Witnesses

30.21Reflect, therefore, gentlemen of the jury, that when we proceed in accordance with the regulations, all the ancestral offerings are made; but when we are guided by the pillars as copied by this man, numerous rites are abolished. note Whereupon the sacrilegious wretch runs about saying that his transcription was piety and not parsimony, and that if you do not approve of his work you had better erase it: by this means he thinks to persuade you of his innocence. Yet in two years he has managed to spend twelve talents more than was necessary, 30.22and has endeavored to mulct the State in a sum of six talents each year,—and that too when he saw her in difficulties for money, the Lacedaemonians threatening us if we failed to remit them their payments, the Boeotians taking reprisals because we could not refund two talents, and the shipping sheds and the walls falling to pieces; when he knew that the Council for the time being is not led into error if it has sufficient means for the administration, but is forced in a time of difficulty to accept impeachments, to confiscate the property of our citizens, and to be swayed by the most unprincipled of its orators! 30.23You ought therefore, gentlemen, to be incensed, not with those who happen to be on the Council, but with those who reduce the State to these awful straits. And the men who seek to rob the public purse are watching closely to see how Nicomachus will fare in these proceedings. If you do not punish him, you will grant them absolute licence; but if you condemn him and award him your heaviest sentence, by the same vote you will reform the rest, and will have done justice upon this man. 30.24Understand, gentlemen of the jury, that it will be an example to the rest, and will deter them from committing offences against you, if instead of punishing unskillful speakers you exact requital from the skillful. And from whom amongst our citizens could it be more suitably exacted than from Nicomachus? Who has rendered less service or done more wrong to the city? 30.25Appointed to transcribe our code of duties, secular and sacred, he has offended against both. Remember that ere now you have put many of the citizens to death for peculation: yet the injury that they had done you was only for the passing moment, whereas these men, note by taking bribes for the version that they made of our laws, damage the city for all time.

30.26And what reason is there for acquitting this man? Because he has taken a brave man's part in many battles by land and sea against the enemy? But while you were facing danger on naval expeditions, this man stayed at home and corrupted the laws of Solon. Or because he has disbursed money and contributed to numerous levies? But, so far from bestowing anything of his own upon you, he has embezzled a vast amount of your property. Or because of his ancestors? 30.27For this has been a reason in the past for some men obtaining your pardon. But if this man deserves to be put to death on his own account, he ought to be sold on account of his ancestors. note Or is it that, if you spare him now, he will repay your favours hereafter? He does not even remember the benefits in which you allowed him to share before. 30.28And yet from a slave he has become a citizen, and has exchanged beggary for wealth and the position of under-clerk for that of lawgiver! And here one might even make it an accusation against you that, whereas your ancestors chose as lawgivers Solon, Themistocles and Pericles, in the belief that the laws would accord with the character of their makers, you have chosen Teisamenus, note son of Mechanion, and Nicomachus, and other persons who were under-clerks; and although you feel that the magistracy is depraved by people of this sort, it is just these men who have your confidence. 30.29Most extraordinary of all, though it is not permissible for the same man to act twice as under-clerk to the same magistracy, you authorize the same persons to have control over the most important affairs for a long period. And, to crown all, you have chosen Nicomachus for the transcription of our ancestral rites, when on the father's side he has no connection with the State; 30.30and the man who ought to have been tried by the people is found to have joined in destroying the people. Today, therefore, you must repent of the things that you have done, and refuse to endure continual maltreatment from these men. You reprobate the guilty in private: do not acquit them when you are free to punish them.

30.31On these matters I have now said enough: but in regard to those who propose to beg him off I would make to you a few remarks. Some of his friends and some members of the government have arranged to intercede for him: several of them, in my opinion, ought much rather to defend their own acts than engage to save the guilty. 30.32But it seems to me an extraordinary thing, gentlemen of the jury, that, when he was but one man, in no way wronged by the State, they made no attempt at requiring him to desist from his offences against you, but should seek to persuade you, who are so many and have been wronged by him, that you should not do justice upon him. 30.33You ought therefore to show on your part the same zeal, with which you see them working to save their friends, in punishing your enemies, fully assured that they will be the first to think the better of you for exacting the penalty from the guilty. Reflect that not a single one of those who will plead for him has done as much service as this man has done wrong to the State, and that therefore it is much more your duty to punish than it is theirs to succor. 30.34You must also know for certain that these same men have plied the prosecution with many appeals, but have utterly failed to persuade us: it is to make a base attempt on your vote that they have entered the court, and they are hoping to deceive you, and so obtain licence to act as they please in the future. 30.35Now we, having refused to be swayed by the inducements of their appeal, exhort you to show the same spirit and, instead of merely detesting wickedness before it is brought to trial, to make this trial your means of punishing those who nullify your legislation. For thus everything connected with public affairs will be administered in accordance with the laws.

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