Against Agoratus: In Pursuance of a Writ


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

It is the duty of you all, gentlemen of the jury, to avenge the men who were put to death as supporters of your democracy, and it is also my duty in particular; for Dionysodorus was my brother-in-law and cousin. It happens, therefore, that I share with your democracy the same settled animosity against the defendant, Agoratus; the acts that he has committed are of a kind to give me good reason to hate him today, and justification to you for the penalty which, by Heaven’s will, you are to impose on him.

For Dionysodorus, my brother-in-law, and many others whose names you shall be duly told,—all loyal friends of your democracy,—were done to death by him in the time of the Thirty, through his act in informing against them. By this conduct he inflicted not only grievous losses on me and each of their relatives as individuals, but serious injuries—so I consider—on the whole city at large, by depriving it of men of that character.

I therefore, gentlemen, consider it an act of justice and piety in all of you as well as myself to take vengeance as far as each of us is able; and I think we should stand better both with the gods and with mankind if we did so. You must hear the whole of the circumstances, gentlemen, from the beginning,

in order that you may know, first, in what manner your democracy was dissolved, and by whom; second, in what manner those men were done to death by Agoratus; and further, what injunction they gave when they were about to die. For when you have been accurately informed of all these things you will with the more pleasure and piety condemn this man Agoratus. I shall therefore start my relation at a point from which it will be easiest both for me to explain and for you to understand.

When your ships had been destroyed[*](At Aegospotami, 405 B.C.) and the resources of the city had been enfeebled, the ships of the Lacedaemonians arrived soon after at the Peiraeus, and negotiations for peace were made at once with the Lacedaemonians.

At this moment those who desired to have a revolution in the State were busy with their plots, conceiving that they had found an excellent opportunity, and that this was the very moment for them to arrange the government according to their own desire.

The only obstacles that they saw in their path were the leaders of the popular party and the generals and commanders. These they consequently sought to clear out of their way by fair means or foul, in order that they might achieve their ends with ease. So they began with an attack on Cleophon[*](A democratic and anti-Spartan orator.) in the following manner.

When the first Assembly was held on the question of peace, and the emissaries of the Lacedaemonians stated the terms on which the Lacedaemonians were prepared to make peace,—on condition that the Long Walls were demolished, each to the extent of ten stades,—you then refused, men of Athens, to stomach what you had heard as to the demolition of the walls, and Cleophon arose and protested on behalf of you all that by no means could the thing be done.

After that Theramenes, who was plotting against your democracy, arose and said that, if you would appoint him an ambassador to treat for peace with a free hand, he would arrange that there should be neither a breach made in the walls nor any other abasement of the city; and that he thought he would contrive even to get from the Lacedaemonians some additional boon for the city.

You were persuaded, and appointed as an ambassador with a free hand the man whom in the previous year, after his election to the generalship, you had rejected on his scrutiny,[*](An examination of officers and magistrates between their election in spring and their assumption of office after midsummer.) because you judged him disloyal to your democracy.

Well, he went to Lacedaemon and stayed there a long time, though he had left you here in a state of siege, and knew that your population was in desperate straits, as owing to the war and its distresses the majority must be in want of the necessaries of life. But he thought that, if he should reduce you to the condition to which he in fact reduced you, you would be only too glad to make peace on any sort of terms.

The others remained here, with the design of subverting the democracy: they brought Cleophon to trial, on the pretext that he did not go to the camp for his night’s rest, but really because he had spoken on your behalf against the destruction of the walls. So they packed a jury for his trial, and these promoters of oligarchy appeared before the court and had him put to death on that pretext.

Theramenes arrived later from Lacedaemon. Then some of the generals and commanders—among them Strombichides[*](An Athenian general at the close of the Peloponnesian War; cf. Thuc. 8.15, 30, 62.) and Dionysodorus, and some other citizens, who were loyal to you, as indeed they showed later—went to him and protested strongly.

For he had brought to us a peace whose nature we had learnt through the lessons of experience, since we had lost a great number of worthy citizens, and had ourselves been banished by the Thirty. Instead of a breach of ten stades’ length in the Long Walls, its terms required the razing of the Long Walls in their entirety; and instead of his contriving to get some additional boon for the city, we were to surrender our ships and dismantle the wall around the Peiraeus.

These men perceived that, although nominally we had the promise of peace, in actual fact it was the dissolution of the democracy, and they refused to authorize such a proceeding: their motive was not pity, men of Athens, for the walls that were to come down, or regret for the fleet that was to be surrendered to the Lacedaemonians,—for they had no closer concern in these than each one of you,—

but they could see that this would be the means of subverting your democracy; nor were they lacking, as some declare, in eagerness for the conclusion of peace, but they desired to arrange a better peace than this for the Athenian people. They believed that they would be able to do it, and they would have succeeded, had they not been destroyed by this man Agoratus.

Theramenes and the others who were intriguing against you took note of the fact that there were some men proposing to prevent the subversion of the democracy and to make a stand for the defence of freedom; so they resolved, before the Assembly met to consider the peace, to involve these men first in calumnious prosecutions, in order that there should be none to take up the defence of your people at the meeting. Now, let me tell you the scheme that they laid.

They persuaded Agoratus here to act as informer against the generals and commanders; not that he was their accomplice, men of Athens, in anyway,—for I presume they were not so foolish and friendless that for such important business they would have called in Agoratus, born and bred a slave, as their trusty ally; they rather regarded him as a serviceable informer. Their desire was that he could seem to inform unwillingly, instead of willingly, so that the information should appear more trustworthy.

But he gave it willingly, as I think you will perceive for yourselves from what has since occurred. For they sent into the Council Theocritus, the man called the son of Elaphostictus[*](Deermark; from some birth-mark of tattoo, indicating a foreign or servile origin.): this Theocritus was a comrade and intimate of Agoratus. The Council which held session before the time of the Thirty had been corrupted, and its appetite for oligarchy, as you know, was very keen.

For proof of it you have the fact that the majority of that Council had seats in the subsequent Council under the Thirty. And what is my reason for making these remarks to you? That you may know that the decrees issued by that Council were all designed, not in loyalty to you, but for the subversion of your democracy, and that you may study them as thus exposed.