On the Confiscation of the Property Of The Brother Of Nicias: Peroration


Lysias. Lamb, W.R.M., translator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1930.

Now you must reflect, gentlemen of the jury, on the character that we bear as citizens ourselves, and also on the family of which we come, when we claim your pity for the wrongs that we have suffered and an award of our rights. For we are contending, not merely for our property, but for our citizenship as well: we must know whether we are to have our portion in the democracy of our city. So first let me remind you of our uncle, Nicias:

in all that he did for your common weal while using his own judgement, he will be found everywhere to have been the author of many benefits to the State, and to have inflicted a great number of grievous injuries on the enemy; but in all that he was compelled to do, not of his own wish but against his will, he bore no slight part of the injuries himself, while the responsibility for the disaster ought in fairness to lie with those who persuaded you,[*](The reference is to the Sicilian expedition in 415 B.C., which Nicias had opposed; cf. Thuc. 6.8 ff.)

seeing that of his own loyalty to you and of his merit he afforded proof in your successes and your enemies’ failures. For as your general, he took many cities, and many were the splendid trophies of the foe’s defeats that he set up; to mention them severally would be wearisome.

Now Eucrates, his brother, who was my father, just after the last sea-fight[*](At Aegospotami, 405 B.C.) had taken place, gave signal evidence of his loyal devotion to your democracy. For after our defeat in the sea-fight he was elected general by you and, although invited to take part in the oligarchy by those who were plotting against the people, he refused to listen to them.

He was involved in the kind of crisis[*](The oligarchic revolution of the Thirty, 404 B.C.) in which the majority of men not only shift about according to circumstances, but also yield to the vagaries of fortune. The democracy was faced with failure; he was not being driven out of public life, nor did he nurse any private enmity against those who were about to be the rulers. And yet, although it was open to him to become one of the Thirty and to have as much power as any man, he chose rather to perish in working for your safety than to endure the sight of the demolition of the walls, the surrender of the ships to the enemy and the enslavement of your people.

And, not long after that, Niceratus, who was my cousin and Nicias’s son, and a loyal supporter of your democracy, was arrested and put to death by the Thirty: neither his birth nor his means nor his age could be thought to disqualify him for a part in the government; but it was supposed that he was in such high credit with your democracy on his own account as well as on that of his ancestors that he could never be zealous for a different government.

For they were conscious of the honor in which the whole family were held by the city, and how they had faced danger on your behalf in many places, and had made many large contributions to your funds, and had most nobly performed their public services; how they had never once evaded any of the other duties enjoined on them by the State, but had eagerly discharged them all.

I ask you, whose misfortune can surpass ours, if under the oligarchy we are put to death for showing loyalty to the people, and under the democracy we are stripped of our property as being disloyal to the people?

Furthermore, gentlemen, Diognetus was so slandered by base informers that he went away into exile, and was one of the few of the banished who neither took the field against the city nor came to Decelea[*](Where the Spartans kept a stranglehold on Attica, and welcomed exiled oligarchs from Athens.); nor has he been the author of any sort of injury to your people either in exile or after his return, but he carried principle to such a point that he was rather incensed with those who had offended against you than grateful to those who had been the authors of his recall.

He held no office under the oligarchy: but, as soon as the Lacedaemonians and Pausanias arrived at the Academy, he took the son of Niceratus and us, who were children, and laying him on the knees of Pausanias, and setting us by his side, he told Pausanias and the others present the tale of our sufferings and the fate that had befallen us, and called on Pausanias to succor us in virtue of our bonds both of friendship and of hospitality, and to do vengeance upon those who had maltreated us.

The result was that Pausanias began to be favorable to the people, holding up our calamities to the Lacedaemonians as an example of the villainy of the Thirty. For it had become evident to all the Peloponnesians who had come that they were putting to death, not the most villainous of the citizens, but those who were especially deserving of honor on account of their birth, their wealth and their general excellence.

Such was the pity felt for us, and such an impression of our grievous sufferings was made on everyone, that Pausanias rejected the hospitable offerings[*](Gifts were offered as tokens of a friendly welcome.) of the Thirty, and accepted ours. Surely it will be strange, gentlemen of the jury, if after being pitied as children by the enemy who had come to succor the oligarchy we, who have proved ourselves the men we are, should be stripped of our property by you, gentlemen, whose fathers gave their lives for the democracy!

I am well aware, gentlemen, that Poliochus would value most highly his success in this trial, since he would regard it as a fine demonstration to citizens and strangers alike that he has sufficient power in Athens to make you vote in contradiction of your own selves on the very question in which you have sworn to do your duty.

For everyone will know that formerly you punished with a fine[*](Inflicted on a prosecutor who failed to obtain a fifth of the judges’ votes.) of a thousand drachmae the man who proposed that our land should be confiscated, and yet that today he has prevailed with his demand for its confiscation; and that in these two suits, in which the same man was illegally prosecuted, the Athenians voted in contradiction of themselves.

Would it not then be disgraceful of you, after confirming your agreements with the Lacedaemonians, to shatter so lightly what you have voted on your own account, and to make valid your covenants with them, but invalidate those that you have made with yourselves? You are incensed with any other Greeks who value the Lacedaemonians more than you; and will you show in your own disposition more fidelity to them than to yourselves?

But what calls for the highest indignation is that the disposition of men in public life today is such that the orators do not propose what will be most beneficial to the city, but it is for proposals which must bring profit to them that you give your votes.[*](The law awarded three-quarters of a property confiscated to the person who brought the action for its confiscation; cf. Lys. 18.20 below.)

Now, if it were to the advantage of your people that, while some kept their own, others had to suffer the unjust confiscation of their property, you would have some reason to neglect our arguments: but in fact you must all acknowledge that unanimity is the greatest boon to a city, while faction is the cause of all evils; and that mutual dissensions chiefly arise from the desire of some for what is not theirs, and the ejection of others from what they have. This was your conclusion shortly after your return, and your reasoning was sound;

for you still remembered the disasters that had occurred, and you prayed to the gods to restore the city to unanimity rather than permit the pursuit of vengeance for what was overpast to lead to faction in the city and the rapid enrichment of the speech-makers.

And yet it would have been more pardonable to show resentment shortly after you had returned, while your anger was freshly kindled, than to pursue so belated a vengeance for what is overpast at the bidding of men who, after remaining in the city, conceive that they give you a pledge of their own loyalty when they make bad subjects of their fellows instead of showing themselves good ones, and who today reap the fruits of the city’s successes without having previously shared your perils.

And if you saw, gentlemen, that the property confiscated by these men was being secured for the State, we should forgive them; but the fact is, as you well know, that some of it is melting away in their hands, while the rest, though of great value, is being sold off cheap. Yet, if you will take my advice, you will receive no less profit from it than we, the owners.