Against Phaenippus


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

Then I had forbidden that wood should be carried off; he carried it off every day except that on which I issued the order. There was no debt charged against the farm; he now reports a number of debts. In a word, he does just what he pleases, not what the laws bid him do.

(To the clerk.) Read the depositions, first those concerning the mine, and then the others as well.

The Depositions

The wrongs, therefore, which Phaenippus began to do to me beginning with the very first day after the tendering of the exchanges, you have heard, men of Athens, both from myself and from the witnesses; but the things which he did after this have been offences, not against me only, but also against the laws, to the defence of which you are all bound to rally.

For although he had sworn on the eleventh of the month Boedromion to give me a true and just inventory of his property, and the law expressly declares that the inventory shall be given within three days after one takes the oath, he came up to me in front of the courtrooms with Polyeuctus of Crioa[*](Crioa was a deme of the tribe Antiochis.) and some others, and begged me, first to have a conference with him regarding a settlement, assuring me that he would do everything that was right; and, secondly, to put off the declaration regarding the property for a few days only (for he said he understood my position).

I, on my part, thinking it was becoming to a good citizen who wished to avoid quarrels not to rush headlong into court, was persuaded (for why should I multiply words?) to consent that the conference regarding a settlement should take place on the twenty-third of the month Boedromion, and the declaration regarding the property on the twenty-fifth.[*](Literally the 8th and the 6th of the last group of ten days in the month, which was counted backward.) Yet, although he had obtained both his requests from me, Phaenippus did not present himself on either of these days; instead, he now appears before you as one who has transgressed two laws instead of one;—first, that which declares that the inventory shall be presented within three days after that on which one takes the oath, and, secondly, that which declares that mutual covenants, agreed upon in the presence of witnesses, shall be binding.

Yet, men of the jury, who among you does not know that the day fixed by law and that agreed upon by the contending parties are equally binding? Why, very often, although the thirtieth day is appointed by law, we fix upon another by mutual agreement; and in all the offices the magistrates put off trials and judgements for the contestants, when these have come to a mutual agreement; and if anyone should hold that the agreement thus entered upon was to be of no effect, you would despise him as a cheat without equal.

Well then, Phaenippus, just as though the law enjoined that one should do nothing that one had agreed to, from the day on which he promised to meet me for a settlement and to give me an inventory of his property and receive from me one of mine, never put in an appearance; but I, when I saw that he was paying no heed to me or to the laws, gave in my inventory at the office of the generals, whereas Phaenippus, as I said a moment ago, gave me a paper only the other day with no other purpose than that he might appear to have given me his inventory, but that I should be unable to make any use of its contents.

But, men of the jury, you should not grant more than their due to those who hold their own shamelessness to be stronger than the laws; if you do, you will multiply the numbers of those who mock at the just provisions of the laws. No; you should succor those who regard the voice of the laws as your voice, and the day appointed for coming into court as established in the interest of those who have been wronged, not of those who have done wrong.

(To the clerk.) Read the depositions in support of what I have just said, and the laws.

The Depositions. The Laws

Having, then, been thus treated by Phaenippus, men of the jury, I reported to the generals the following inventory of my property. Read.

The Inventory

How else, then, in the name of the gods and divinities, men of the jury, should one prove that Phaenippus is liable under the laws which have been read, than precisely in the way in which I am proving it? Yet Phaenippus has none the less brought a counter-charge against me that I am not rendering a just inventory of my property; so easy is it for men of his stamp to make false statements before you; and he complains of the oath which I took before filing the inventory, asserting that I undertook to report all the rest of my property except that in the mining-works;—as if to swear according to law were a matter for complaint!

But you know the law, men of the jury, for you enacted it, that which expressly makes this provision, that those tendering exchanges to one another, when they under oath report their inventories, shall swear also the following oath: I will give a true and honest inventory of my property except that in the silver mines, all of which the laws have made exempt from taxes.

But, rather, read the law itself. Yet, stop a moment, please. For I made this offer before to Phaenippus, and now again, men of the jury, I tender it freely:—I will surrender to him all my property including that in the mining works, if he will hand over to me the farm alone free from all encumbrances as it was when I first went to it with witnesses, and will replace as they were before the grain and wine and the other things which he has carried away from the buildings after removing the seals from the doors.

Why, pray, do you keep on talking and crying out? From my silver mines, Phaenippus, I formerly by my own bodily toil and labor reaped a large profit. I confess it. But now I have lost all but a small portion of my gains. You, on the contrary, since you sell from your farm your barley at a price of eighteen drachmae and your wine at a price of twelve, are a rich man, naturally, for you make more than a thousand medimni[*](The medimnus was roughly equivalent to a bushel and a half.) of grain and above eight hundred measures[*](The metretes was roughly equivalent to nine gallons.) of wine.