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Their last service effaces all former demerits—it extends to the public; their private demeanors reached only to a few. Yet not one of these was at all induced to shrink from danger through fondness for these delights which the peaceful affluent life bestows; not one was the less lavish of his life through that flattering hope attendant upon want, that poverty might at length be exchanged for affluence. One passion there was in their minds much stronger than these—the desire for vengeance upon their enemies. Regarding this as the most honorable of dangers, they boldly rushed toward the mark to glut revenge, and then to satisfy those secondary passions. The uncertain event they had already secured in hope; what their eyes showed plainly must be done they trusted to their own valor to accomplish, thinking it more glorious to defend themselves and die in the attempt than to yield and live. From the reproach of cowardice, indeed, they fled but presented their bodies to the shock of battle; when, insensible of fear, but triumphing in hope, in the doubtful charge they instantly dropped, and thus discharged the duty which brave men owe to their country.
As for you, who now survive them, it is your business to pray for a better fate, but to think it your duty also to preserve the same spirit and warmth of courage against your enemies; not judging of the expediency of this from a mere harangue—when any man indulging in a flow of words may tell you, what you yourselves know as well as he, how many advantages there are in fighting valiantly against your enemies—but rather making the daily increasing grandeur of the community the object of your thoughts. And when it really appears great to your apprehensions, think again that this grandeur was acquired by brave and valiant men ; by men who knew their duty and in the moment of action were sensible of shame, who whenever their attempts were unsuccessful, thought it dishonor their country should stand in need of anything their valor could do for it, and so made it the most glorious present.
Bestowing thus their lives upon the public, they have every one received a praise that will never decay, a sepulchre that will always be most illustrious—not that in which their bones lie moldering, but that in which their fame is preserved, to be on every occasion, when honor is the display of either word or act, eternally remembered. This whole earth is the sepulchre of illustrious men.
LYSIAS (458–378 B.C.)
stands first among the ancient orators whose works still exist, otherwise than in fragments. Thucydides gives us in his history orations attributed to Pericles and others, but these may have been largely the work of his own hand. The dying speech of Socrates comes to us only in Plato's works, and we do not know that it was not of his own invention. But of the orations of Lysias thirty-five still exist—some perhaps spurious, but most of them doubtless his own. The great credit of Lysias is that he broke away from the artificial manner of the previous schools of oratory, and developed a new, forcible and natural manner. The diction of Lysias is eminently graceful, pure and conspicuous. “He resembles,” says Quintilian, “rather a pure fountain than a great river.” He employs only the simplest language, yet has the happy art of giving to every subject treated an air of dignity and importance. As a rule, however, he excels in elegance and persuasion, rather than in vigor of declamation; though this is not the case in the example quoted. Lysias was born at Athens, the most celebrated city of Greece, about 458 B. C. He traveled among other Grecian cities and the Grecian colonies of the Mediterranean. During his travels he studied rhetoric and oratory.
T HERE was abundant oratory before the days of Lysias, but he
THE CRIMES OF ERATOSTHENES
[The great sum of the orations of Lysias relate to private matters. Of those extant only one is on a public theme, the arraignment of Eratosthenes. The occasion of this may be briefly stated. Lysias, after residing for years in Italy, returned to Athens, which was then under the rule of what are known in history as the Thirty Tyrants. He and his brother opposed these civic magnates, the result being that his brother was executed, and he had to fly for his life. After these tyrants were expelled he returned to Athens and became a composer of orations for others. Eratosthenes,
one of the expelled tyrants, returned and asked amnesty from the court. During the trial Lysias came into Court and denounced the assassin of his brother in a burst of simple and passionate eloquence, which must have had a great effect on his hearers. In this he first broke from the stilted manner previously existing into his natural later style of speech. We give an illustrative passage from this oration.]
It is an easy matter, O Athenians, to begin this accusation. But to end it without doing injustice to the cause will be attended with no small difficulty. For the crimes of Eratosthenes are not only too atrocious to describe, but too many to enumerate. No exaggeration can exceed, and within the time assigned for this discourse it is impossible fully to represent them. This trial, too, is attended with another singularity. In other causes it is usual to ask the accusers: “What is your resentment against the defendants 2 ” But here you must ask the defendant: “What was your resentment against your country P What malice did you bear your fellow-citizens? Why did you rage with unbridled fury against the State itself?”
The time has now indeed come, Athenians, when, insensible to pity and tenderness, you must be armed with just severity against Horatosthenes and his associates. What avails it to have conquered them in the field, if you be overcome by them in your councils 2 Do not show them more favor for what they boast they will perform, than resentment for what they have already committed. Nor, after having been at so much pains to become masters of their persons, allow them to escape without suffering that punishment which you once sought to inflict; but prove yourselves worthy of that good fortune which has given you power over your enemies.
The contest is very unequal between Eratosthenes and you. Formerly he was both judge and accuser; but we, even while we accuse, must at the same time make our defense. Those who were innocent he put to death without trial. To those who are guilty we allow the benefit of law, even though no adequate punishment can ever be inflicted. For should we sacrifice them and their children, would this compensate for the murder of your fathers, your sons, and your brothers ? Should we deprive them of their property, would this indemnify the individuals whom they have beggared, or the State which they have plundered 2 Though they cannot suffer a punishment adequate to their demerit, they ought not, surely, on this account, to escape. Yet how matchless is the effrontery of Eratosthenes, who, being now judged by the very persons whom he formerly injured, still ventures to make his defense before the witnesses of his crimes? What can show more evidently the contempt in which he holds you, or the confidence which he reposes in others?
Let me now conclude with laying before you the miseries to which you were reduced, that you may see the necessity of taking punishment on the authors of them. And first, you who remained in the city, consider the severity of their government. You were reduced to such a situation as to be forced to carry on a war, in which, if you were conquered, you partook indeed of the same liberty with the conquerors; but if you proved victorious, you remained under the slavery of your magistrates. As to you of the Piraeus,” you will remember that though you never lost your arms in the battles which you fought, yet you suffered by these men what your foreign enemies could never accomplish, and at home, in times of peace, were disarmed by your fellow-citizens. By them you were banished from the country left you by your fathers. Their rage, knowing no abatement, pursued you abroad, and drove you from one territory to another. Recall the cruel indignities which you suffered ; how you were dragged from the tribunal and the altars; how no place, however sacred, could shelter you against their violence. Others, torn from their wives, their children, their parents, after putting an end to their miserable lives, were deprived of funeral rites; for these tyrants imagined their government to be so firmly established that even the vengeance of the gods was unable to shake it.
But it is impossible for one, or in the course of one trial, to enumerate the means which were employed to undermine the power of this State, the arsenals which were demolished, the temples sold or profaned, the citizens banished or murdered, and those whose dead bodies were impiously left uninterred. Those citizens now watch your decree, uncertain whether you will prove accomplices of their death or avengers of their murder. I shall desist from any further accusations. You have heard, you have seen, you have experienced. Decide then I
*The port of Athens.