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.

since the fact of his evil plight he can readily establish in a suit brought against any other citizen whatever. And yet the accusations which should have great weight with you are not those which may be made even against those who are entirely guiltless, but those only which cannot be brought against any persons except those who have committed an act of injustice. To these allegations, this will perhaps be a sufficient reply and a further rebuttal soon will be possible.

Also bear in mind, I ask you—even though I may be thought by someone to be repeating myself—that many persons are attentively watching the outcome of this case; not because they are interested in affairs, but because they believe that the covenant of Amnesty is on trial. Such persons, if your decision is just, you will enable to dwell in the city without fear; otherwise, how do you expect those who remained in the city to feel, if you show that you are angry with all alike who obtained the rights of citizenship?

And what will those think who are conscious of even slight error on their part, when they see that not even persons whose conduct as citizens has been decent obtain justice? What confusion must be expected to ensue when some[*](The former oligarchs.) are encouraged to bring malicious accusations in the belief that your sentiments are now the same as theirs, and when others[*](Those of democratic principles.) fear the present form of government on the ground that no place of refuge is any longer left to them?

May we not rightly fear that, once your oaths have been violated, we shall again be brought to the same state of affairs which compelled us to make the covenant of Amnesty? Certainly you do not need to learn from others how great is the blessing of concord or how great a curse is civil war; for you have experienced both in so extreme a form that you yourselves would be best qualified to instruct all others regarding them.

But lest it be thought that the reason I am dwelling long on the covenant of Amnesty is merely because it is easy when speaking on that subject to make many just observations, I urge you to remember when you cast your votes only one thing more—that before we entered into those agreements we Athenians were in a state of war, some of us occupying the circle enclosed by the city's walls, others Piraeus after we had captured it,[*](The oligarchs were in power in the city; the democratic party after their occupation of Phyle (the fort on Mt. Parnes in Attica), captured and held Piraeus.) and we hated each other more than we did the enemies bequeathed to us by our ancestors.

But after we came together and exchanged the solemn pledges, we have lived so uprightly and so like citizens of one country that it seemed as if no misfortune had ever befallen us. At that time all looked upon us as the most foolish and ill-fated of mankind; now, however, we are regarded as the happiest and wisest of the Greeks.

Therefore it is incumbent upon us to inflict upon those who dare to violate the covenant, not merely the heavy penalties prescribed by the treaty, but the most extreme, on the ground that these persons are the cause of the greatest evils, especially those who have lived as Callimachus has lived. For during the ten years[*](A reference to the so-called Decelean War (413-404 B.C.) when the Spartans occupied Decelea in Attica.) when the Lacedaemonians warred upon you uninterruptedly, not for one single day's service did he present himself to the generals;

on the contrary, all through that period he continued to evade service and to keep his property in concealment. But when the Thirty came to power, then it was that he sailed back to Athens. And although he professes to be a friend of the people, yet he was so much more eager than anybody else to participate in the oligarchical government that, even though it meant hardship, he saw fit not to depart, but preferred to be besieged in company with those who had injured him rather than to live as a citizen with you, who likewise had been wronged by them.

And he remained as a participant in their government until that day on which you were on the point of attacking the walls of Athens; then he left the city, not because he had come to hate the present regime, but because he was afraid of the danger which threatened, as he later made evident. For when the Lacedaemonians came and the democracy was shut up in the Piraeus,[*](By Pausanias, king of Sparta and his general, Lysander.) again he fled from there and resided among the Boeotians; it is far more fitting, therefore, that his name should be enrolled in the list of the deserters than that he should be called one of the “exiles.”

And although he has proved to be a man of such character by his conduct toward the people who occupied the Piraeus, toward those who remained in the city, and toward the whole state, he is not content to be on equal terms with the others, but seeks to be treated better than you, as if either he alone had suffered injury, or was the best of the citizens, or had met with the gravest misfortunes on your account, or had been the cause of the most numerous benefits to the city.

I could wish that you knew him as well as I do, in order that, instead of commiserating with him over his losses, you might bear him a grudge for what he has left. The fact is, though, that if I should try to tell of all the others who have been the objects of his plots, of the private law-suits in which he has been involved, of the public suits which he has entered, of the persons with whom he has conspired or against whom he has borne false witness, not even twice as much water[*](The time allotted to the litigant for his speech in the Athenian law-courts was regulated by an official water-clock (the klepsydra). One has been found; cf. Hesperia viii., 1939.) as has been allotted me would prove sufficient.

But when you have heard only one of the acts which he has committed you will readily recognize the general run of his villainy. Cratinus once had a dispute over a farm with the brother-in-law of Callimachus. A personal encounter ensued. Having concealed a female slave, they accused Cratinus of having crushed her head, and asserting that she had died as a result of the wound, they brought suit against him in the court of the Palladium[*](The tribunal for cases of unpremeditated homicide; also for trials involving the murder of slaves, resident-aliens, and foreigners. Cf. Aristot. Ath. Pol. 57.3.) on the charge of murder.

Cratinus, learning of their plots, remained quiet for a long time in order that they might not change their plans and concoct another story, but instead might be caught in the very act of committing a crime. When the brother-in-law of Callimachus had made accusation and Callimachus had testified on oath that the woman was actually dead,

Cratinus and his friends went to the house where she had been hidden, seized her by force and, bringing her into court, presented her alive to all present. The result was that, in a tribunal of seven hundred judges, after fourteen witnesses had given the same testimony as that of Callimachus, he failed to receive a single vote. Please call witnesses to these facts.

Who, therefore, would be able to condemn his acts as they deserve? Or who would be able to find a more flagrant example of wrongdoing, of malicious prosecution, and of villainy? Some misdeeds, it is true, do not reveal in its entirety the character of the evil-doers, but from acts such as his it is easy to discern the whole life of the culprits.

For any man who testifies that the living are dead, from what villainy do you think that he would abstain? What outrageous deed would a man not have the effrontery to commit in his own interest who is so knavish a villain in the interest of others ? How is it right to trust this man when he speaks in his own behalf, who is proved guilty of perjury in his testimony on behalf of another? Who was ever more convincingly proved to be a giver of false testimony? You judge all other defendants by what is said of them, but this man's testimony the jurors themselves saw was false.

And after the commission of such crimes he will dare to say that it is we who are lying. Why that would be as if Phrynondas[*](A notorious swindler; cf. Aristoph. Thes. 861 and Aeschin. 3.137.) should reproach a man with villainy, or as if Philurgos, who stole the Gorgon's head,[*](The golden relief of the head, the work of Pheidias, was affixed to the shield of the gold and ivory statue of Athena in the Parthenon.) had called everybody else temple-robbers! Who is more likely to present witnesses of events which have not occurred than my antagonist here, who himself has the hardihood to testify falsely for others?

But against Callimachus it will be possible to bring accusations time and again, for he has contrived his life as a citizen that way; but as for myself, I shall say nothing of all my other contributions to the state, but I will merely remind you of that one, a service for which, if you would do me justice, you would not only be grateful, but you would take it even as evidence bearing upon the case as a whole.

Now when the city had lost its ships in the Hellespont[*](At Aegospotami, 405 B.C.) and was shorn of its power, I so far surpassed the majority of the trierarchs that I was one of the very few who saved their ships: and of these few I alone brought back my ship to the Piraeus and did not resign my duties as trierarch;

but when the other trierarchs were glad to be relieved of their duties and were discouraged over the situation, and not only regretted the loss of what they had already spent, but were trying to conceal the remainder and, judging that the commonwealth was completely ruined, were looking out for their private interests, my decision was not the same as theirs; but after persuading my brother to be joint-trierarch with me, we paid the crew out of our own means and proceeded to harass the enemy.