Against Phaenippus


Demosthenes. Vol. V. Private Orations, XLI-XLIX. Murray, A. T., translator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1939 (printing).

Ought I, then, to continue in the same class, when the same fortune does not attend me now as formerly? Do not demand that; it would not be just. No; do you also take your turn and share for a little while in the class that performs public services, since those engaged in mining have suffered reverses while you farmers are prospering beyond what is your due. For a considerable time you have enjoyed the income of two estates, that of your natural father, Callippus, and that of him who adopted you, Philostratus, the orator, and you have never done anything for your fellow-citizens here.[*](i.e. the members of the jury.)

Yet my father left to each of us, my brother and myself, an estate of forty-five minae merely, on which it is not easy to live, while your fathers were possessed of such wealth that each of them set up a tripod in honor of choregic victories at the Dionysia. And I do not begrudge them this, for it is the duty of the wealthy to render service to the state. Do you, therefore, show that you have expended one single copper coin on the state—you, who have inherited two estates which performed public services.

But you cannot show it, for you have learned secrecy and evasion and how to do everything to escape rendering service to your fellow-citizens here. But I will show that I have expended large sums—I, who inherited that slender estate from my father.

(To the clerk.) Now read me first that law which declares that no mining property shall be included in the inventory, and the challenge and then the depositions proving that this fellow Phaenippus has inherited two estates that performed public services.

The Law. The Challenge. The Depositions

There is one thing only, men of the jury, in which anyone could show that this man Phaenippus has been ambitious of honor from you: he is an able and ambitious breeder of horses,[*](Only well-to-do persons in Athens owned horses, and only the wealthy possessed stock-farms.) being young and rich and vigorous. What is a convincing proof of this? He has given up riding on horseback, has sold his war horse, and in his place has bought himself a chariot—he, at his age!—that he may not have to travel on foot; such is the luxury that fills him. This chariot he has included in his inventory to me, but of the barley and wine and the rest of the farm-produce not a tenth part.

He deserves then, does he not, to be let off now, seeing that he has been so public-spirited and ambitious to serve both with his property and his person? No; far from it. For it is the duty of honest jurymen to give respite to those citizens, when they have need of such help, who, when prosperous, willingly perform public services and remain in the list of the Three Hundred; but as to those who consider as lost whatever money they spend upon the state, you should bring them into the list of those who make advance contributions, and not suffer them to run away from their duty.

(To the clerk.) Read first the deposition, and then his declaration.

The Deposition. The Declaration

Enough of that. Yet Phaenippus, men of the jury, opened the rooms that had been sealed and carried off much that was within, as the witnesses have testified to you, leaving behind just what he pleased; and one month after the law prescribes gave me the declaration regarding his property. Nevertheless, enough of that.

(To the clerk.)Read from the words, Upon this property I owe the following debts.


Stop reading. This Aristonoê, men of the jury, is the daughter of Philostratus and mother of Phaenippus. He declares that a debt is owing to her for her marriage portion, but of this the laws make him the owner.[*](After the death of her husband a woman might return to the house of her κύριος(nearest male relative), or, if there were children, she might live with them in her husband’s house. In this case the marriage portion became the property of her son. In return he was bound to give his mother maintenance, but the portion could not be counted a lien upon his property.) His statement is therefore false, and he does not make a just declaration. For why is it that I, Phaenippus, while my mother—who brought with her a marriage portion—is living and dwelling in my house, do not declare the marriage portion as a debt due to her, and thus try to lead the jurymen astray, but permit her to share in all that I have, alike whether it shall prove to be the estate of Phaenippus or my own? Because the laws so command, my good Sir. But all that you do is contrary to the laws. (To the clerk.) Read on.

The Declaration

You hear, men of the jury. He declares that he owes upon the land to Pamphilus and Pheidoleus of Rhamnus[*](Rhamnus was a deme of the tribe Aeantis.) jointly a talent, and to Aeantides of Phlyus[*](Phlyus was a deme of the tribe Cecropis.) four thousand drachmae, and to Aristomenes of Anagyrus[*](Anagyrus was a deme of the tribe Erectheïs.) fourteen minae. Why, then, Phaenippus, when I asked you in the presence of witnesses whether you owed anything on your farm, and bade you show me the pillar of mortgage, if one were set up anywhere upon it, and and adjured you not to have any fictitious creditors to be brought to light later on to my prejudice—why, pray, did you not reveal any of these debts then? And why, when you have been a month late in giving me your declaration, though the law bids that it be given within three days, have creditors and debts for more than three talents now come on the scene?

Because, my good Sir, it is merely this that you are contriving, that you may now have private debts equal in amount to the public debt which I have incurred to the state. But that your statement is false, Phaenippus, and that you have come before these gentlemen as a perjured man, I shall straightway prove beyond all question.

Please, clerk, take the deposition of Aeantides and Theoteles to whom this fellow has declared that he owes four thousand drachmae. His declaration is false, and he long ago paid the debt, not willingly, but after a judgement had been secured against him. Read.

The Deposition

Well, then, men of the jury, when a man has made out a declaration that is so manifestly false in all points and has shown no regard for the laws which define the time within which the declaration must be made out, or to the private agreements which we hold to be equally binding; when besides this he has opened the seals of the buildings and carried off the grain and wine from within, and furthermore has after the offer to exchange sold the cut timber to the value of more than thirty minae; and when (worst of all) he has concocted false debts for the purpose of the exchange—will you decide by your votes that this man has made a just declaration? Surely not, men of the jury.

For where is one to turn if he fails of a verdict from you, when men of wealth who have never been of any service to you, who produce large quantities of grain and wine and dispose of this at three times its former price, have an advantage in your courts? Let not this happen now, I beg of you; but, as you have given public aid to all those engaged in mining, so now give aid to me as a private citizen.

For, if I had been your slave and not a citizen, seeing my industry and my goodwill toward you, you would have given me respite from my expenditures and would have turned to one of the rest who was running away from his duty. In the same manner, when I shall have paid the three talents for which I became liable to you, and shall have recovered my losses, you will relieve some other person among those in distress and turn to me. But for the present discharge me, men of the jury, I beg of you all; and since I have spoken only what is just, I implore you to come to my aid, and not to suffer me to be harried by these men.