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.

as was natural in view of the sad fate that had befallen her husband. In the presence of my sister, Dionysodorus, after disposing of his personal property as he thought fit, referred to this man Agoratus as responsible for his death, and charged me and Dionysius his brother here,

and all his friends to execute his vengeance upon Agoratus; and he charged his wife, believing her to be with child by him, that if she should bear a son she should tell the child that Agoratus had taken his father’s life, and should bid him execute his father’s vengeance on the man for his murder. To show the truth of what I state, I will produce witnesses to these facts.

WitnessesSo then these persons, men of Athens, lost their lives through the depositions of Agoratus. But after the Thirty had cleared them out of their way, you know well enough, I imagine, what a multitude of miseries next befell the city; and for all of them this man, by taking those people’s lives, was responsible.

It gives me pain, indeed, to recall the calamities that have befallen the city, but it is a necessity, gentlemen of the jury, at the present moment, so that you may know how richly Agoratus deserves your pity! For you know the character and number of the citizens who were brought away from Salamis,[*](Cf. Lys. 12.52.) and the way in which they were destroyed by the Thirty. You know what a great number of the people of Eleusis shared that calamity.

You remember also our people here who were haled to prison on account of private enmities; and who, having done no harm to the city, were compelled to perish by the most shameful, the most infamous, of deaths. Some left elderly parents behind them, who were expecting to be supported in their old age by their own children and, when they should end their days, to be laid by them in the grave; others left sisters unwedded, and others little children who still required much tendance.

What sort of feelings, gentlemen, do you think are theirs towards this man, or what kind of vote would they give, if it rested with them, when by his act they have been deprived of their best comforts? You recollect, again, how the walls were demolished, the ships surrendered to the enemy, the arsenals destroyed, our Acropolis occupied by the Lacedaemonians, and the whole strength of the city crippled, so that our city was sunk to a level with the smallest in the world!

And besides all this, you lost your private possessions and finally, at one swoop, you were all expelled by the Thirty from your native land. Impressed with these perils, those loyal citizens, gentlemen, refused their assent to the conditions of peace,

and you, Agoratus, because they sought to do the State some service, brought about their death by laying information that they were intriguing against our democracy; and you are responsible for all the troubles that have befallen the city. So now let each of you remember the misfortunes caused both to individuals and to the common weal of the city, and take vengeance on their author.

I am wondering myself, gentlemen, what he will be bold enough to say to you in his defence. For he must show that he did not lay information against these men, and so is not responsible for their death; but this he could never contrive to show.

In the first place, we have as witnesses against him the decrees issued by the Council, and that of the people, stating expressly—

in regard to those whom Agoratus has denounced.
In the second place, the judgement passed on him when he was acquitted under the Thirty says expressly—
in as much as his report has been approved as true.
Read them, please.

Decrees.DecisionWell then, that he did not make the deposition, he can find no means of showing; he must therefore prove that he was justified in giving that information, because he saw them criminally working against the interest of your people. But he will not attempt to show this either, I believe. For, I presume, if it had been the people of Athens on whom they had inflicted some injury, the Thirty would never, in fear of the people’s rule being subverted, have put them to death to vindicate the cause of the people; no, I conceive they would have done very much the opposite.

But perhaps he will say that he committed all these wrongful acts against his will. My own opinion, gentlemen, is that, however much against his will a man may have done you a wrong so great that it cannot be exceeded, this is no reason why you should not protect yourselves. And then, there are some further facts that you must remember: it was open to this man Agoratus, before he was brought up at the Council, and while he was seated at the altar in Munichia, to escape in safety; for vessels had been provided, and his sureties were ready to depart with him.

And indeed, sir, had you taken their advice and consented to sail away with your friends, neither willingly nor unwillingly would you have taken the lives of so many Athenians. But the fact is that, seduced by certain persons who then made it worth your while, you had only to mention the names of the generals and commanders, and you could count on obtaining a handsome reward from them. So I see no reason there for your receiving any indulgence from us, since those men received none either from you, when you took their lives.

And Hippias of Thasos, and Xenophon of Curium,[*](In the south of Cyprus.) who were summoned by the Council on the same charge as this man, were put to death,—the one, Xenophon, after suffering on the rack, the other, Hippias, in the manner---[*](A short gap is left in the text.); because in the eyes of the Thirty they did not deserve to be saved,—they had not destroyed one Athenian! But Agoratus was let off, because in their eyes he had done what was most agreeable to them.

I am told that he attributes these depositions in part to Menestratus. But the affair of Menestratus was like this: Menestratus was informed against by Agoratus, and was arrested and put in prison. Hagnodorus of Amphitrope,[*](A township or district in the south of Attica, containing some of the silver mines.) a fellow townsman of Menestratus, was a kinsman of Critias, one of the Thirty. Well, when the Assembly was being held in the theater at Munichia, this man, with the double aim of saving the life of Menestratus and of causing, by means of depositions, the destruction of as many people as possible, brought him before the people, when they contrived to give him impunity under the following decree.

DecreeAs soon as this decree had been passed, Menestratus turned informer, and added some more names of citizens to those already deposed. The Thirty, of course, let him off as they did Agoratus here, accepting his report as true: but you long afterwards had him before you in court as an actual murderer, and justly condemned him to death; you handed him over to the executioner, and he suffered death on the plank.[*](This mode of execution, formerly understood to be cudgelling to death, seems to have been something similar to crucifixion. See Gernet et Bizos, ad loc.)

Yet, if that man was put to death, surely Agoratus will be put to death with justice; for since he deposed against Menestratus he is responsible for his death, while, as to those who were deposed against by Menestratus, who is more responsible than the man who placed him under the necessity of such a step?

And his behavior was, I consider, quite unlike that of Aristophanes of Cholleis,[*](A district on the south side of Mt. Hymettus. The point in what follows is that even his surety Aristophanes, when faced with death as a result of Agoratus’s treachery, refused to save himself by denouncing good citizens.) who went surety for him at that time, provided the vessels at Munichia, and was ready to accompany him on the voyage. Thus, so far as it lay with him, you were saved, and then you would neither have destroyed any Athenian nor have brought your own self into such serious dangers.

But no: you not only had the face to depose against your own deliverer, but by making your deposition you sent both him and your other sureties to their death. Some, indeed, desired that Aristophanes should be put to the torture, as one who was not of pure Athenian stock, and they prevailed on the people to pass the following decree.

DecreeWell, after that the persons who then had control of affairs came to Aristophanes and appealed to him to save himself by a denunciation, and not to run the risk of the extreme penalty by standing his trial on the count of alien birth. But he said—Never! Such was his loyalty both to the men who had been imprisoned and to the Athenian people that he chose to suffer death rather than denounce and destroy anyone unjustly.