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.

Is it not outrageous, men of the jury, that, although such were the terms of the covenant and the oaths which were sworn were of such nature, Callimachus is so convinced of his own eloquence that he believes he will persuade you to vote in opposition to them? If he saw that the city regretted its past action, his conduct should not occasion surprise; but as a matter of fact you have shown the importance you attach to the covenant, not only in the enactment of the laws,

but when Philon of Coele was indicted for malversation on an embassy, and although he could offer no defense but merely cited the covenant in exoneration, you decided to dismiss his case and not even hold him for trial. And although the city does not think it proper to punish even confessed transgressors, yet this man has the effrontery to bring malicious charges against those who have done no wrong at all.

Furthermore, he is certainly not unaware of this either—that Thrasybulus and Anytus, men of the greatest influence in the city, although they have been robbed of large sums of money and know who gave in lists of their goods, nevertheless are not so brazen as to bring suit against them or to bring up old grudges against them; on the contrary, even if, in respect to all other claims, they have greater power than others to accomplish their ends,

yet in matters covered by the covenant at least they see fit to put themselves on terms of equality with the other citizens. And it is not these men alone who have accepted this point of view; no, not even one of you has dared to bring such an action. And yet it would be outrageous if you, while honoring your oaths where your own affairs are concerned, shall attempt to violate them in connexion with the calumnious charges of Callimachus, and if, while insisting that private agreements must be held valid by public authority, shall allow anyone who so desires, on his own private authority, to break the covenants of the state.

But it would be the most astounding outcome of all if, while it was still uncertain whether or not the reconciliation would be of advantage to the city, you strengthened it with such oaths that, even if it proved disadvantageous, you were forced to abide by your agreements, yet now, when the results have been so happy for you that, even if you had not given any solemn pledge to do so, it is right for you scrupulously to preserve the existing government,[*](i.e., the Democracy.) you are going to seize that moment to violate your oaths!

And although you were incensed with those who have said that the covenant of Amnesty should be repealed, yet this man, who has the effrontery to transgress it after its official promulgation, you are going to discharge without a penalty! No, should you do so, you would neither be rendering justice nor acting in a manner worthy of yourselves or consistent with your former decisions.

I beg you, however, to bear in mind that you have come to pass judgement on matters of the highest importance; for you are going to cast your votes on the question of a covenant, and covenants have never been violated to the advantage of either yourselves in relation to the other parties or of others in relation to you; and they have such binding force that almost all the daily activities of Greeks and of barbarians are governed by covenants.

For it is through our reliance on them that we visit one another's lands and procure those things of which we both have need; with the aid of these we make our contracts with each other and put an end to both our private animosities and our common wars. This is the only universal institution which all we of the human race constantly employ. It is, therefore, the duty of all men to uphold them, and, above all, yours.

It is your duty, I say, for recently, when we had been conquered and had fallen into the power of enemies at home and many wished to destroy the city, we took refuge in the oaths and covenants; and if the Lacedaemonians should dare to violate these, every man of you would be exceedingly indignant.

And yet how can one accuse the other party of transgressions of which he is himself guilty? Who would regard us as victims of injustice when suffering injury through a violation of covenants, if even we ourselves were manifestly holding them in slight esteem? What pledges shall we find binding in our relations with other peoples if we so lightly disregard those which we have made among ourselves?

This, too, is worthy of our remembrance that, although our forefathers performed many glorious deeds in war, not the least of its glory our city has won through these treaties of reconciliation. For whereas many cites might be found which have waged war gloriously, in dealing with civil discord there is none which could be shown to have taken wiser measures than ours.

Furthermore, the great majority of all those achievements that have been accomplished by fighting may be attributed to Fortune; but for the moderation we showed towards one another no one could find any other cause than our good judgement. Consequently it is not fitting that we should prove false to this glorious reputation.

And let no one think that I exaggerate or pass due bounds, because I, a defendant in a private suit, have spoken in this fashion. For this law-suit is concerned not merely with the sum of money specified in the indictment; for me, it is true, this is the issue, but for you it is that of which I have just spoken; on this subject no one would be able to speak in fitting fashion nor could he fix an adequate penalty.

For this law-suit difiers so greatly from other private suits in this respect that, while the latter are of concern to the litigants only, in this private law-suit common interests of the city are likewise at stake. In trying this case you are bound by two oaths: one is the customary judicial oath which you take in all ordinary cases, and the other is that oath which you swore when you ratified the covenant of Amnesty. If in render an unjust verdict in this case, you will be violating not only the laws of the city, but also the laws common to all men. Consequently, it is not fitting that your votes should be based upon favor, or upon mere equity, nor upon anything else than upon the oaths you took when you made the covenant of Amnesty.

Now that it is right, and is expedient and just that you should decide thus concerning the covenant of Amnesty not even Callimachus himself, I think, will gainsay; but he intends, I suppose, to bewail his present poverty and the misfortune which has befallen him and to say that his fate will be dreadful and cruel if now under the democracy he must pay the assessed fine for the money of which under the oligarchy he was deprived,[*](If Callimachus lost the suit, he would be liable to a fine (h( e)pwbeli/a) of one-sixth of the sum at which the damages were laid.) and also if then because he possessed property he was forced to go into exile, yet now, at a time when he ought to get satisfaction for wrongs done him, he is to be deprived of his civic rights.[*](If the fine should not be paid within the appointed period of time, Callimachus would lose his rights as a citizen.)

And he will accuse also those who took part in the revolution, in the hope that in this way especially he will arouse you to wrath; for perhaps he has heard it said that whenever you fail to apprehend the guilty, you punish any who cross your path. But I for my part do not think that you are so disposed, and I believe that it is easy to controvert the pleas just suggested.

As for his lamentations, it is fitting that you give aid, not to those who try to show that they are the most miserable of men, but to those whose statements concerning the facts to which they have sworn in their affidavits are manifestly the more just. And in regard to the penalty assessed against the loser, if I were responsible for this action, you might reasonably sympathize with him as about to be penalized; but the truth is, it is he who brings in a calumnious accusation and therefore you cannot in justice accept anything he says.

In the second place, you should consider this point—that all the exiles who returned to the city from the Peiraeus would be able to use the very same arguments as he; but no one except Callimachus has had the audacity to introduce such a suit. And yet you ought to hate such persons and regard them as bad citizens who, although they have suffered the same misfortunes as the part of the people, think fit to exact exceptional punishments.

Furthermore, it is possible for him even now, before he has made trial of your decision, to drop the suit and to be entirely rid of all his troubles. And yet is it not stupid of him to seek to win your pity while in this jeopardy, for which he himself is responsible, and in which he has involved himself, a jeopardy which even now it is possible for him to avoid?

And if he does mention events which occurred under the oligarchy, demand of him that, instead of accusing persons whom no one will defend,[*](i.e., the oligarchs.) he prove that it was I who took his money; for this is the issue upon which you must cast your votes. And demand that he, instead of showing that he has suffered cruel wrongs, prove that it is I who have committed them, I, from whom he seeks to recover what he has lost;