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.

Theocritus entered this Council, and behind closed doors he informed them that certain persons were combining to oppose the system then being instituted. He declined, however, to give their several names, as he was bound by the same oaths as they were, and there were others who would give the names: he would never do it himself.

Yet, if his information was not laid by arrangement, surely the Council could have compelled Theocritus to give the names, instead of laying the information with no names given. But in fact, here is the decree that they voted:— [*](Ordering the arrest of Agoratus.)

DecreeNow when this decree had been passed, the councillors appointed for the purpose went down to the Peiraeus to find Agoratus: they lighted on him in the market, and sought to take him off. On the spot were Nicias, Nicomenes and some others, who, seeing that the business was not going very successfully in the city, refused to allow Agoratus to be taken: they were for releasing him and giving bail, and undertook to produce him before the Council.

The councillors, having duly noted the names of those who tendered bail and stopped the arrest, went off to town. Then Agoratus and his sureties seated themselves at the altar on Munichia.[*](The citadel on the east side of the Peiraeus, containing an altar of Artemis.) Seated there, they debated the question of what should be done. The sureties and everyone else were of opinion that they should get Agoratus out of the way as quickly as possible, and having brought two vessels alongside they begged him at all costs to quit Athens,

and said that they would themselves accompany him on the voyage until affairs should get settled; they argued that if he were brought up before the Council he would be put to the torture, and would perhaps be compelled to give the names of such Athenians as might be suggested by those who were bent on working some mischief in the city.

Although they thus entreated him, and had provided vessels, and were ready themselves to accompany him on the voyage, this man Agoratus refused to take their advice. And yet, Agoratus, unless there had been some prearrangement with you, such as to assure you that you would come to no harm, how could you have failed to make off, when there were vessels provided, and your sureties were ready to accompany you on the voyage? It was still possible for you: the Council had not yet got you in their hands.

Nay, indeed, you were not in nearly so good a case as your friends: in the first place, they were Athenians, and so were not in fear of being tortured; and in the second, they were ready to resign their own native land and go on the voyage with you, because they felt that there was more to be gained by this than by your unjust destruction of a large number of good citizens. But you, first of all, were in danger of being tortured if you stayed where you were; and secondly, you would not have been parting from your own native land.

So in every view it was more to your interest to go on a voyage than it was to theirs, unless you had something to give you assurance. But now you pretend that you acted unwillingly, though you willingly put to death a large number of good Athenians. To show how all that I have recounted was done by prearrangement I have witnesses; and the very decree of the Council will testify against you.

WitnessesDecreeNow when this decree had been passed, and the councillors had arrived at Munichia, Agoratus of his own free will arose from the altar: yet he now says that he was taken away by force.

When they were brought up before the Council, Agoratus deposed first the names of his sureties, then those of the generals and commanders, and then those of some other citizens. This was the beginning of the whole trouble. That he deposed the names, I think he himself will admit: failing that, I shall convict him as taken in the act. So answer me.

InterrogationNow, they wanted him, gentlemen of the jury, to depose the names of yet more people; so firmly determined were the Council to work some mischief that they would not believe that he had yet given them the whole truth in his accusation. Well, he willingly deposed against all those men, with no compulsion upon him.

When the Assembly met in the theater at Munichia, some were so extremely anxious to have information laid before the people also in regard to the generals and commanders—as to the others, it was enough to have had it laid before the Council only—that they brought him up there also, before the people. Now answer me, Agoratus: you will not, I suppose, deny what you did in the presence of all the Athenians.

InterrogationHe admits it himself; but however, the decrees of the people shall be read to you.

DecreesThat this man Agoratus deposed the names of those men, both before the Council and before the people, and that he is their murderer, I believe you understand well enough. My further point, that he was the author of all the city’s troubles, and does not deserve to be pitied by anybody, I think I can make plain to you in summary fashion.

For it was just when those persons had been arrested and imprisoned that Lysander sailed into your harbors, that your ships were surrendered to the Lacedaemonians, that the walls were demolished, that the Thirty were established, and that every conceivable misery befell the city.

And then, as soon as the Thirty were established, they promptly brought these men to trial before the Council; whereas the people had decreed that it should be

before the court of two thousand.
[*](Composed of four of the twelve panels, each consisting of 500 jurors, which were appointed for the formation of the ordinary courts each year. A court of so large a size was only formed for cases of special importance.) Please read the decree.

DecreeNow if they had been tried before the proper court, they would have easily escaped harm; for by that time you were all apprised of the evil plight of the city, though you were unable at that stage to be of further service to her. But as it was, they were brought before the Council which sat under the Thirty.[*](Cf. above, Lys. 13.20.) And the trial was conducted in a manner that you yourselves well know:

the Thirty were seated on the benches which are now the seats of the presiding magistrates; two tables were set before the Thirty, and the vote had to be deposited, not in urns, but openly on these tables,—the condemning vote on the further one[*](i.e., nearest to the Thirty. The text here has a short gap.)—so what possible chance of escape had any of them?

In a word, all those who had entered that Council chamber for their trial were condemned to death: not one was acquitted, except this man Agoratus; him they let off, as being a benefactor. And in order that you may know of the large number done to death by this man, I propose to read you their names.

NamesNow, when sentence of death, gentlemen, had been passed on them, and they had to die, each of them sent for his sister, or his mother, or his wife, or any female relative that he had, to see them in the prison, in order that they might take the last farewell of their people before they should end their days.

In particular, Dionysodorus sent for my sister—she was his wife—to see him in the prison. On receiving the message she came, dressed in a black cloak[*](Some words describing another sign of mourning seem to be missing here. . . .)