On the Property of Aristophanes: Against the Treasury


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

And nobody can say that there was malversation, or that the accounts were not fairly rendered: for he made his dispositions himself in his illness, while his mind was sound. Please call witnesses to this.

WitnessesWhy, surely anyone, gentlemen, before the amounts of the two had been revealed, would have thought that the property of Nicophemus was a mere fraction of that of Conon. Now, Aristophanes had acquired a house with land for more than five talents, had produced dramas on his own account and on his father’s at a cost of five thousand drachmae,[*](50 minae.) and had spent eighty minae[*](1 talent and 20 minae.) on equipping warships;

on account of the two, no less than forty minae have been contributed to special levies; for the Sicilian expedition he spent a hundred minae,[*](1 talent and 40 minae.) and for commissioning the warships, when the Cypriots came and you gave them the ten vessels, he supplied thirty thousand drachmae[*](5 talents.) to pay the light infantry and purchase their arms. The total of all these sums amounts to little short of fifteen talents.

Hence you can have no reason to lay blame on us, since the property of Conon, which is admitted to have been fairly accounted for by the owner himself, and was thought to be many times more than that of Aristophanes, is found to be less than thrice the amount of his. And we are omitting from the calculation all that Nicophemus held himself in Cyprus, where he had a wife and a daughter.

I claim, therefore, gentlemen of the jury, that after having produced such an abundance of weighty proofs we ought not to be unjustly ruined. I have been told by my father and other elderly people that you have had similar experiences in the past of being deceived in the fortunes of many men who were supposed to be wealthy while they lived, but whose death showed your supposition to be wide of the mark.

For example, Ischomachus during his life was considered by everyone to own more than seventy talents, as I am told: his two sons, on his death, had less than ten talents to divide between them. Stephanus, son of Thallus, was reported to own more than fifty talents; but when he died his fortune was found to be about eleven talents.

Again, the estate of Nicias was expected to be not less than a hundred talents,— most of it in his house; but when Niceratus[*](Son of Nicias; cf. Lys. 18, On the Confession of the Property of the brother of Nicias.) was dying, he said that he in his turn was not leaving any silver or gold, and the property that he left to his son is worth no more than fourteen talents.

Then Callias,[*](A wealthy patron of Sophists; cf. Plato, Protagoras.) son of Hipponicus, just after his father’s death, was thought to have more in his possession than any other Greek, and the story goes that his grandfather valued his own property at two hundred talents; yet his ratable property stands today at less than two talents. And you all know how Cleophon[*](Cf. Lys. 13.7, note.) for many years had all the affairs of the State in his hands, and was expected to have got a great deal by his office; but when he died this money was nowhere to be found,

and moreover his relatives both by blood and by marriage, in whose hands he would have left it, are admittedly poor people. So it is evident that we have been greatly deceived both in men of hereditary riches and in those who have recently gained a name for wealth. The cause of this, in my opinion, is that people make light of stating that such an one has got many talents by his office. As to the common statements about dead people, I am not so much surprised, since there is no disproof to fear from them; but what of the lies with which they assail the living?

Why, you yourselves were told of late in the Assembly that Diotimus[*](An Athenian general, 388-387 B.C.) had got forty talents more from the ship-masters and merchants[*](In return for the protection given them in their business by the general.) than he himself admitted; and when he rendered an account on his return, and was indignant at being slandered in his absence, nobody put that matter to the proof, although the State was in need of money,

and he was ready to show his accounts. Just imagine what the position would have been if, after all the Athenians had been told that Diotimus had forty talents, something had then happened to him before he reached our shores. His relatives would then have been in the gravest danger, if they had been obliged to defend themselves against that monstrous slander without any knowledge of the facts of the case. So, for your being deceived in many people even now, and indeed for the ruin that some have unjustly incurred, you have to thank those who make light of telling lies and are bent on bringing malicious charges against their fellows.

For I suppose you know that Alcibiades held command for four or five years[*](411-407 B.C.) in succession, keeping the upper hand and winning victories over the Lacedaemonians: the cities thought well to give him twice as much as any other commander, so that some people supposed that he had more than a hundred talents. But when he died[*](He was murdered in Phrygia, 404 B.C.) he left evidence that this was not true: for he bequeathed a smaller fortune to his children than he had inherited himself from his guardians.

Well now, that such things were common in former times is easily judged. But they say that it is the best and wisest men who are most willing to change their minds. If, therefore, our statements are deemed to be reasonable and the proofs that we have adduced satisfactory, gentlemen of the jury, show your pity by all manner of means. For, grievous as was the weight of this slander, we always expected to conquer with the help of truth: but if you should altogether refuse to entertain our plea, we felt ourselves without a single hope of deliverance.

Ah, by the Olympian gods, gentlemen, choose rather to deliver us with justice than to ruin us with injustice; and believe that those men speak the truth who, though keeping silent, show themselves throughout their lives self-respecting and just.

In regard to the charge itself, and the manner in which they became our kinsmen, and the fact that Aristophanes’ means were not sufficient for the expedition, but were supplemented by loans from others, you have heard our statements and testimonies: I propose next to tell you briefly about myself. I am now thirty years old, and never yet have I either had a dispute with my father or been the subject of a complaint from any citizen; and although I live near the market-place, I have never once been seen in either law-court or council-chamber until I met with this misfortune.

So much let me say regarding myself: as to my father, since he has been treated as guilty in these accusations, forgive me if I mention what he has spent on the city and on his friends; I do this, not for mere vainglory, but to bring in as evidence the fact that the same man cannot both spend a great deal without compulsion and covet some of the public property at the gravest risk.

There are, indeed, persons who spend money in advance, not with that sole object, but to obtain a return of twice the amount from the appointments which you consider them to have earned.[*]( Some men spend money to earn a good name for public spirit: it is spent, not for that end alone, but as a speculation on the prospect of gaining twice as much in gifts during their tenure of the office which they hope to obtain.) Now, not once did my father seek office, but he has discharged every duty in the production of dramas, has equipped a warship seven times, and has made numerous large contributions to special levies. That you on your part may be apprised of this, the record shall be read in detail.

Public ServicesYou hear, gentlemen of the jury, the whole series. For as many as fifty years my father performed services to the State, both with his purse and with his person. In all that time, with his reputation for ancestral wealth, he is not likely to have shunned any expense. However, I will strengthen the case for you with witnesses.

WitnessesThe sum total of them all is nine talents and two thousand drachmae. In addition, he also joined privately in portioning daughters and sisters of certain needy citizens: there were men whom he ransomed from the enemy, and others for whose funerals he provided money. He acted in this way because he conceived it to be the part of a good man to assist his friends, even if nobody was to know: but at this moment it is fitting that you should hear of it from me. Please call this and that person.

WitnessesWell then, you have heard the witnesses; and now reflect that, although one might be able to adopt a feigned character for a short time, nobody in the world could keep his baseness secret for seventy years. Now, there are things for which it might perhaps be possible to reproach my father; but on the score of money there is no one, even among his enemies, who has ever dared to do so.