Against Callimachus


Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by Larue Van Hook, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1945-1968.

If any others had employed in litigation such a special plea of exception, I should have begun my discourse with the facts themselves; but as the situation is, I am compelled first to speak of the law in accordance with which we have come before the court, that you may cast your votes with an understanding of the issues in our dispute and that no one of you may be surprised that I, although defendant in the case, am speaking prior to the plaintiff.

Now after your return to the city from Piraeus,[*](A reference to the citizens of the democratic party who returned from exile to Athens in 403 B.C. after the defeat of the Thirty Tyrants. They had taken their stand under Thrasybulus in the harbor-city, Piraeus.) you saw that some of the citizens were bent upon bringing malicious prosecutions and were attempting to violate the Amnesty[*](An act passed in 403 B.C. by the citizens, after the expulsion of the Thirty Tyrants to put an end to civic discord and to re-establish the democracy.); so, wishing to restrain these persons and to show to all others that you had not made these agreements under compulsion, but because you thought them of advantage to the city, you enacted a law, on the motion of Archinus, to the effect that, if any person should commence a lawsuit in violation of the oaths, the defendant should have the power to enter a plea of exception, the magistrates should first submit this question to the tribunal, and that the defendant who had entered the plea should speak first;

and further, that the loser should pay a penalty of one-sixth of the sum at stake. The purpose of the penalty was this—that persons who had the effrontery to rake up old grudges should not only be convicted of perjury but also, not awaiting the vengeance of the gods, should suffer immediate punishment. I thought, therefore, that it was absurd if, under the existing laws, I was to permit my calumniator to risk only thirty drachmas, while I myself am contesting a suit in which my whole property is at stake.

I intend to prove that Callimachus not only is bringing a suit in violation of the terms of the Amnesty agreement, but that he is also guilty of falsehood in his charges, and furthermore, that we have already resorted to arbitration in the matter at issue. But I wish to relate the facts to you from the beginning; for if you learn that he has suffered no wrong at my hands, I think that you will be more inclined to defend the Amnesty and be more incensed with him.

The government of the Ten, who had succeeded the Thirty, was then in control when Patrocles, a friend of mine, was the King-Archon,[*](The most important of the Athenian nine archons was not the King-Archon, as the name might suggest, but the Archon Eponymus, who gave his name to the year in which he held office. The King-Archon had charge of public worship and the conduct of certain criminal processes.) and with him one day I happened to be walking. Patrocles, an enemy of Callimachus who is now prosecuting me in this suit, met him as he was carrying a sum of money, laid hold of him, and claimed that this money had been left by Pamphilus and belonged to the government; for Pamphilus was a member of the party of the Piraeus.[*](Cf. Isoc. 18.2 note 1.)

Callimachus denied this and as a violent quarrel ensued many others came running up; among them by chance Rhinon, who had become one of the Ten, approached. So Patrocles immediately laid information with him concerning the money and Rhinon led them both before his colleagues. These officials referred the matter to the Council[*](During the rule of the Thirty, and of their successors the Ten, the judicial functions of the Athenian juries were usurped by the Council.); after an adjudication, the money was declared the property of the state.

Later, after the return of the citizen-exiles from Piraeus, Callimachus brought a charge against Patrocles and instituted proceedings against him on the ground that he was responsible for his loss. And when he had effected with him a settlement of the matter and had exacted from him ten minas of silver, Callimachus maliciously accused Lysimachus. Having obtained two hundred drachmas from him, he began to make trouble for me. At first he charged me with being the accomplice of the others; in the end, he came to such a pitch of impudence that he accused me as responsible for everything that had been done, and it may be that even now he will have the effrontery to make just such an accusation.

In rebuttal, however, I will present to you as witnesses, first, those who were present at the beginning of the affair, who will testify that I did not arrest Callimachus nor did I touch the money; second, Rhinon and his colleagues, who will tell you that it was Patrocles, and not I, who denounced him to them; and finally, the members of the Council, who will attest that Patrocles was the accuser.& Please call witnesses of these facts.

Although so many persons had been present when the events took place, Callimachus here, as if no one had any knowledge of the matter, himself mixed with the crowds, sat in the workshops, and related again and again his story, how he had suffered outrageous treatment at my hands and had been of his money. And some of his friends came to me and advised me to settle the dispute with him, and not deliberately to risk defamation and great financial loss, even though I had the greatest confidence in my cause; and they went on to say that many decisions rendered in the tribunals were contrary to the expectation of litigants,

and that chance rather than justice determined the issue in your courts. Consequently, they asserted, it was in my interest to be freed of serious charges by paying a petty sum, rather than by paying nothing to run the risk of penalties of such gravity. Why need I relate to you all the details? They omitted none of the arguments which are customarily urged in such cases. In any case I was finally prevailed upon (for I will tell you the whole truth) to give him two hundred drachmas. But in order that it might not be in his power to blackmail me again, we committed the arbitration under stated terms[*](A similar example of arbitration under the stated terms(i.e., limited arbitration, where the arbitrator had no discretonary power) is found in Isoc. 17.19. Cf. Jebb. Attic Orators ii. p. 234.) to Nicomachus of Bat---[*](A lacuna is here indicated by Blass, perhaps kai\ moi ka/lei tou/twn ma/rturas“Please call witnesses to these facts”)

At first Callimachus kept his agreement, but later in complicity with Xenotimus—that falsifier of the laws, corrupter of our tribunals, vilifier of the authorities, and author of every evil—he brought suit against me for the sum of ten thousand drachmas. But when I brought forward in my defense a witness to show that the suit was not within the jurisdiction of the court by reason of the previous arbitration, he did not attack my witness—

for he knew that, if he did not receive the fifth of the votes cast, he would be assessed a penalty of one-sixth of the amount demanded—but having won over the magistrate, he again brought the same suit, in the belief that he risked only his court deposit-fee. And since I was at a loss how to cope with my difficulties, I judged that it was best to make the hazard equal for us both[*](See Introduction to this speech.) and to come before you. And these are the facts.

I learn that Callimachus not only intends to speak falsely in the matter of his complaint, but will also deny that the arbitration took place, and that he is prepared to go so far as to assert that he never would have entrusted an arbitration to Nicomachus, whom he knew to be an old friend of ours, and further, that it is improbable that he was willing to accept two hundred drachmas instead of ten thousand.

You must reflect, however, first, that we were not in dispute in the matter of the arbitration, but we committed it as an arbitration under stated terms, so that it is not at all strange that Callimachus chose Nicomachus as arbiter; it would have been far stranger if, after he had come to an agreement about the matter, he had then made difficulty about the choice of arbiter. In the next place, it is not reasonable to assume that, if ten thousand drachmas had been owing to him, he would have settled for two minas[*](10,000 drachmas=about $1800 or approximately 360 sterling; two minas (200 drachmas)=about $36 or between seven and eight pounds.); but since his charges were unjust and in the nature of blackmail, it is not astonishing that he was willing to take so little. Furthermore, if, after exorbitant demands, he exacted little, this is no proof in favor of his contention that the arbitration did not take place on the contrary, it confirms all the more our contention that his claim was unjust in the first place.

I am astonished that, while he judges himself capable of recognizing that it was not probable that he was willing to take two hundred drachmas instead of the ten thousand, yet believes that I am incapable of discovering, if I had wished to lie, that I ought to have asserted that I had given him more. But this I ask—that in so far as it would have been an indication in his favor that the arbitration did not take place, if he had proved the falsity of the testimony, to that same extent it shall be proof in favor of my contention that I tell the truth concerning the arbitration, inasmuch as it is clearly shown that he did not dare to proceed against my witness.

I think, however, that even if there had been neither arbitration nor witnesses to the actual facts and you were under the necessity of considering the case in the light of the probabilities, not even in this event would you have difficulty in arriving at a just verdict. For if I were so audacious a man as to wrong others, you would with good reason condemn me as doing wrong to him also; but as it is, I shall be found innocent of having harmed any citizen in regard to his property, or of jeopardizing his life, or of having expunged his name from the list of active citizens, or of having inscribed his name on Lysander's list.[*](A list of citizens who were deprived of their civic rights; cf. Isoc. 21.2 and Xen. Hell. 2.3.17-19.)

And yet the wickedness of the Thirty[*](For the crimes of the Thirty see the vivid account by Lysias in his speech Against Eratosthenes.) impelled many to act in this way for they not only did not punish the evil-doers but they even commanded some persons to do wrong. So as for me, not even when they had control of the government, shall I be found guilty of any such misdeed; yet Callimachus says that he was wronged after the Thirty had been expelled, the Piraeus had been taken, and when the democracy was in power, and the terms of reconciliation were being discussed.

And yet do you think that a man who was well behaved under the Thirty put off his wrongdoing until that period when even those who had formerly transgressed were repentant? But the most absurd thing of all would be this—that although I never saw fit to avenge myself on anyone of my existing enemies, I was attempting to injure this man with whom I have never had any business dealings at all!

That I am not responsible for the confiscation of the money of Callimachus I think I have sufficiently proved. But that it was not legally in his power to bring a suit pertaining to events which occurred then, not even if I had done everything he says I did, you will learn from the covenant of Amnesty.[*](Cf. Isoc. 18.2 note 1.) Please take the document.

Was it, then, a weak defense of my rights I trusted in when I entered this demurrer? On the contrary, do not the terms of the Amnesty explicitly exculpate any who have laid information against or denounced any person or have done any similar thing, and am I not able to prove that I have neither committed these acts nor transgressed in any other way? Please read the Oaths also.