On A Wound By Premeditation: Client and Opponent Unknown


Lysias with an English translation by W.R.M. Lamb, M.A.; Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1930.

It is surprising, gentlemen of the Council, that the fact of our reconcilement is so keenly disputed, and that, while he cannot deny his having restored the yoke of oxen, the slaves, amid all the goods on the estate that he received under the exchange,[*](Apparently an exchange of property in the matter of a λειτουργία. See note on Lys. 3.20, and Lys. 4, Introd.) he denies, in face of the settlement clearly made on every point, that we agreed to share the woman between us.

It is plain that he made the exchange because of her; and the only reason he can give—if he wishes to speak the truth—for having restored what he received is that our friends reconciled us on all these matters.

I could wish that he had not been omitted by lot from the judges at the Dionysia,[*](The great dramatic festival, held about the end of March. Ten judges of the contests seem to have been appointed beforehand, but only some of these were chosen by lot for the actual recording of votes.) so that you might have seen clearly that he had been reconciled to me, from his decision that my tribe was the winner. In fact he recorded it thus on his tablet, but he was omitted by lot.

My statement on this is true, as Philinus and Diocles know: but it is not possible for them to testify when they have not taken oath[*](Witnesses must have taken a solemn oath at a preliminary stage before they could come before the Areopagus.) upon the charge laid against me; you would then have perceived clearly that it was we who proposed him as judge, and that it was on account of us that he went on the bench. But—if he will have it so—he was our enemy:

I grant him that, for it makes no difference. So then I went myself to kill him, as he says, and forced my way into his house. Why, then, did I not kill him, having his person in my power, and having got the upper hand to the extent of taking the woman? Let him explain it to you: but he cannot tell you.

Furthermore, everyone of you is aware that he would have been killed more quickly by the stroke of a dagger than by the blow of a fist. Now, you find that not even he accuses us of having come with anything like that in our hands; he only says he was struck by a potsherd. Why, it is evident already from what he has said that there has been no premeditation.

For we should not have gone in that way, when it was uncertain whether we should find in his house a potsherd or something to serve for killing him, but should have brought it from home as we set out. In point of fact, we admit that we went to see boys and flute-girls and were in liquor: so how is that premeditation?

In no wise, to my thinking. But this man takes his love-sickness in an opposite fashion to the rest of us: he wants to have it both ways—to avoid paying up the money[*](i.e., the half of the woman’s price contributed by the speaker.) and to have the woman as well. And then, with his passion inflamed by the woman, he is excessively hasty of hand and the worse for liquor, and one is forced to defend oneself. As to her, sometimes it is I, and sometimes he, for whom she professes affection, wishing to be loved by both.

Now I have shown an easy temper from the beginning, as I still do to-day; but he has got into such an irritable state that he is not ashamed to call a black eye a wound, and to be carried about in a litter and pretend to be in a dreadful condition, for the sake of a harlot wench whom he is free to leave uncontested on restoring the money to me.

And he says that he has been plotted against in a monstrous way, and contests every point with us; yet although it was open to him to procure his proof by having the woman tortured,[*](It was common in Athenian law-suits to demand or offer that slaves be tortured for the extraction of evidence. See below.) he refused. She would first have informed you whether she was shared by us or belonged only to him, whether I contributed half the money or he gave it all, and whether we had been reconciled or were still enemies;

also whether we went on receipt of a summons, or without invitation from anyone, and whether this man struck the first blow by assault, or I first hit him. Each of these points in turn, as of the rest, could have been cleared up with ease in every ease both for the public and for this court.

Thus there has been neither premeditation nor wrongdoing on my part, gentlemen: this has been made clear to you by an abundance of evidences and testimonies. And I think it fair that, inasmuch as this man could have found an indication in favour of his speaking the truth in my evasion of the test of torture, I should equally find a proof that I am not lying in the fact that he refused to settle the question by means of the woman; and I claim that the less weight should be given to his words, when he says that she is free. For I am alike concerned in her freedom, since I have put down an equal sum of money.[*](i.e., if I let her keep the sum paid by me, she can obtain her freedom; if not, she will continue to be a slave.)

But he lies, and does not speak the truth. What a monstrous position it would be! To ransom my person from the enemy, I could make what use of her I pleased[*](i.e. I could raise money by selling her. See below.); but when I am in danger of losing my native land, I am not to be permitted even to ask her for a true statement on the matters for which I have been brought to this trial. Nay, it would be far more just to have her tortured for the purpose of this charge than to have her sold for my ransom from the enemy, inasmuch as, if they are willing to take a ransom, one can get plenty of means elsewhere for obtaining one’s return; but if one is in the power of one’s adversaries, it is impossible. For they are not set on gaining money, but make it their business to expel one from one’s native land.

It is your duty, therefore, to reject his claim that the woman should not be tortured, which he made on the pretended ground of her freedom; you ought much rather to condemn him for slander, on the ground that he put aside so decisive a test in the expectation that he would easily deceive you.

For surely you should not regard his challenge as more convincing than ours, in regard to the points on which he claimed to have his own servants put to the torture. For as to their knowledge of our having gone to his house, we likewise admit that; but whether we were sent for or not, and whether I received the first blow or gave it, are things that she would be better able to know.

And then, had we put his servants, who were wholly his property, to that torture, they would have been led by a foolish complaisance to him into denying the truth and falsely accusing me. But this woman was our common possession, both alike having put down money, as she knew very well: it is on her account that all this business has come upon us.

And it will be observed by all that in having her put to the torture I must be at a disadvantage, and yet I ran this grave risk; for clearly she was much more attached to him than to me, and has joined him in wronging me, but has never joined me in offending against him. Nevertheless, while I sought her as my refuge, he put no confidence in her.

You should therefore decline, gentlemen, when my danger is so great, to accept offhand the statements of this man: you should rather reflect that I have my native land and my livelihood at stake, and so should take these challenges into your reckoning. Do not look for still stronger pledges than these: I could not instance others to show that I did not premeditate anything against this man.

I am vexed, gentlemen, at finding myself in danger of losing what I value most on account of a harlot and a slave: for what harm have I ever done to the city, or to this man himself, or against what citizen have I committed any sort of offence? Nothing of the kind have I ever done, yet with the least show of reason in the world I am in danger of bringing upon myself a much more serious disaster on account of these men.

So I pray and beseech you, by your children, your wives, and the gods who keep this place, have pity on me, and do not suffer me to fall into the hand of this man, nor involve me in an irremediable calamity. For it is equally unfair that I should be banished from my own country, and that he should exact so heavy a penalty from me for wrongs which, though he says that he has received them, he has never received.