On the Property of Aristophanes: Against the Treasury


Lysias. Lamb, W.R.M., translator. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1930.

Next, when the envoys had arrived from Cyprus to procure our assistance,[*](Against the Persians.) his ardent energy knew no bounds. You had granted them ten warships, and had voted all the material, but they were in need of money for the dispatch of the fleet. They had brought but scanty funds with them, and they required a great deal more: for they had to hire not only men to work the ships but light infantry also, and to purchase arms.

Well, it was Aristophanes who personally supplied most of their funds: as he had not enough, he persuaded his friends with entreaties and guarantees, and he took forty minae which he had in deposit at his house for his brother on the father’s side, and applied the money to that purpose. The day before he put to sea, he called on my father and pressed him for the loan of such money as he had; for some more was required, he said, to pay the light infantry. We had seven minae in the house: he took these and applied them also.

What man, think you, who was ambitious of glory, and was receiving letters from his father that told him he would lack for nothing in Cyprus, and had been elected ambassador and was about to sail to Evagoras, would have left behind anything that he possessed, and not have rather gratified that ruler by supplying everything that he could, with a view to a handsome return? Now, to show the truth of all this, please call Eunomus.


Please call the other witnesses also.

WitnessesYou hear them testify, not only that they lent the money at his request, but also that they have been repaid; for it was conveyed to them in the warship. Well now, it is easily concluded from my argument that in such emergencies he was not likely to spare his own resources. But the strongest evidence is this:

Demus, son of Pyrilampes,[*](This Demus has been famous in youth for his beauty: cf. Aristoph. Wasps 98, Plat. Gorg. 481d, Plat. Gorg. 513b.) who was equipping a warship for Cyprus, requested me to go to Aristophanes; he said he had received a gold cup as a credential from the Great King, and would give it to Aristophanes in pledge for sixteen minae, so as to have means for equipping his warship; when he got to Cyprus, he would redeem it with a payment of twenty minae, since on the strength of that credential he would then obtain plenty of goods and also money all over the continent.

Then Aristophanes, on hearing this proposal from Demus and a request from me,—although he was to have the gold cup in his hands and receive four minae as interest,— said that it was impossible, and he swore that he had already gone elsewhere to borrow more for these foreigners; since, but for that, nobody alive, he declared, would have been more delighted than he to take that credential forthwith and to comply with our request.

To show the truth of this, I will produce to you witnesses.


So then, that Aristophanes did not leave any silver or gold is easily concluded from what I have stated and from these testimonies. Of fine[*](Containing an admixture of gold and silver.) bronze plate he possessed but little: when he was entertaining the envoys of Evagoras, he had to use what he could borrow. The list of the pieces that he left shall be read to you.

Inventory of Bronze PlatePerhaps to some of you, gentlemen of the jury, they appear few: but bear in mind the fact that before Conon won his victory at sea,[*](At Cnidus, 394 B.C.) Aristophanes had no land except a small plot at Rhamnus.[*](A district of Attica.) Now the sea-fight occurred in the archonship of Eubulides;

and in four or five years it was a difficult thing, gentlemen, when he had no wealth to start with, to be twice a producer of tragedies, on his father’s account as well as his own; to equip a warship for three years in succession; to have been a contributor to special levies on many occasions; to purchase a house for fifty minae; and to acquire more than three hundred plethra[*](Amounting to about 80 acres.) of land. Do you suppose that, besides doing all this, he must have left many personal effects?

Why, even people credited with long-established wealth may fail to produce any that are of value: for at times, however much one may desire it, one cannot buy things of the sort that, once acquired, will be a permanent source of pleasure.

Again, consider this: in all other cases where you have confiscated the property, not merely have you had no sale of furniture, but even the doors were torn away from the apartments; whereas we, as soon as the confiscation was declared and my sister had left the place, posted a guard in the deserted house, in order that neither door-timber nor utensils nor anything else might be lost. Personal effects were realized to the value of over a thousand drachmae,

—more than you had received in any previous instance. Moreover, we now repeat our former offer to pledge ourselves to the Commissioners, in the most binding terms available to man, that we hold no part of Aristophanes’ estate, but are owed from it the dowry of my sister and seven minae which he got from my father at his departure.

Could human beings have a more miserable fate than to lose their own property, and then to be supposed to hold that of the mulcted party? And the greatest hardship of all for us will be that, having taken charge of my sister and her many children, we must rear them with no means available even for ourselves, if you deprive us of what we now have.

I adjure you, by the Olympian gods, gentlemen, just consider it in this way: suppose that one of you had happened to bestow his daughter or his sister on Timotheus,[*](A friend of Isocrates, and an important Athenian commander and statesman, c. 380-352 B.C. His father Conon, like Aristophanes’ father Nicophemus, resided and died in Cyprus.) son of Conon, and during his absence abroad Conon was involved in some slander and his estate was confiscated, and the city received from the sale of the whole something less than four talents of silver. Would you think it right that his children and relatives should be ruined merely because the property had turned out to be but a trifling fraction of the amount at which it stood in your estimation?

But of course you are all aware that Conon held the command, and Nicophemus carried out his instructions. Now it is probable that Conon allotted to others but a small proportion of his prizes; so that if it be thought that Nicophemus’s gains were great, it must be allowed that Conon’s were more than ten times greater.

Furthermore, there is no evidence of any dispute having occurred between them; so probably in regard to money they agreed in deciding that each should leave his son with a competence here,[*](In Athens.) while keeping the rest in his own hands.[*](In Cyprus.) For Conon had a son and a wife in Cyprus, and Nicophemus a wife and a daughter, and they also felt that their property there was just as safe as their property here.

Besides, you have to consider that, even if a man had distributed among his sons what he had not acquired but inherited from his father, he would have reserved a goodly share for himself[*](Still more would this be the case if, like Conon’s, his wealth had been acquired by his public services.); for everyone would rather be courted by his children as a man of means than beg of them as a needy person.

So, in this case, if you should confiscate the property of Timotheus,—which Heaven forbid, unless some great benefit is to accrue to the State,—and you should receive a less amount from it than has been derived from that of Aristophanes, would this give you any good reason for thinking that his relatives should lose what belongs to them? No, it is not reasonable, gentlemen of the jury:

for Conon’s death and the dispositions made under his will in Cyprus have clearly shown that his fortune was but a small fraction of what you were expecting. He dedicated five thousand staters[*](The Attic stater was a gold coin equal to 20 drachmae.) in offerings to Athene and to Apollo at Delphi;

to his nephew, who acted as guardian and manager of all his property in Cyprus, he gave about ten thousand drachmae; to his brother three talents; and to his son he left the rest,—seventeen talents. The round total of these sums amounts to about forty talents.