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Demosthenes, Speeches 27-38

Demosthenes, Speeches 27-38

This volume contains five speeches written for lawsuits in which Demosthenes sought to recover his inheritance, which he claimed was fraudulently misappropriated and squandered by the trustees of the estate.

Series: The Oratory of Classical Greece, Volume 8, Michael Gagarin, series editor

September 2004
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244 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 | 1 chart |

This is the eighth volume in the Oratory of Classical Greece. This series presents all of the surviving speeches from the late fifth and fourth centuries BC in new translations prepared by classical scholars who are at the forefront of the discipline. These translations are especially designed for the needs and interests of today's undergraduates, Greekless scholars in other disciplines, and the general public.

Classical oratory is an invaluable resource for the study of ancient Greek life and culture. The speeches offer evidence on Greek moral views, social and economic conditions, political and social ideology, law and legal procedure, and other aspects of Athenian culture that have recently been attracting particular interest: women and family life, slavery, and religion, to name just a few.

Demosthenes is regarded as the greatest orator of classical antiquity. This volume contains five speeches written for lawsuits in which Demosthenes sought to recover his inheritance, which he claimed was fraudulently misappropriated and squandered by the trustees of the estate. These speeches shed light on Athenian systems of inheritance, marriage, and dowry. The volume also contains seven speeches illustrating the legal procedure known as paragraphe, or "counter-indictment." Four of these are for lawsuits involving commercial shipping, a vital aspect of the Athenian economy that was crucial to maintaining the city's imported food supply. Another concerns the famous Athenian silver mines.

  • Series Editor's Preface (Michael Gagarin)
  • Series Introduction (Michael Gagarin)
    • Oratory in Classical Athens
    • The Orators
    • The Works of the Orators
    • Government and Law in Classical Athens
    • The Translation of Greek Oratory
    • Abbreviations
    • Note on Currency
    • Bibliography of Works Cited
  • Introduction to Demosthenes (Michael Gagarin)
    • Life
    • Works
    • Style
    • Significance
  • Introduction to This Volume (Douglas M. MacDowell)
    • Demosthenes and His Guardians
    • Counter-Indictment (Paragraphe)
    • Mercantile Cases (Dikai Emporikai)
    • The Authenticity of the Texts
    • Texts and Commentaries
  • DEMOSTHENES (Douglas M. MacDowell)
    • 27. Against Aphobus I
    • 28. Against Aphobus II
    • 29. Against Aphobus for Phanus
    • 30. Against Onetor I
    • 31. Against Onetor II
    • 32. Against Zenothemis
    • 33. Against Apaturius
    • 34. Against Phormion
    • 35. Against Lacritus
    • 36. For Phormion
    • 37. Against Pantaenetus
    • 38. Against Nausimachus and Xenopeithes
  • Bibliography for This Volume
  • Index

Douglas M. Macdowell is Professor Emeritus of Greek at the University of Glasgow.


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Demosthenes and His Guardians

The first five speeches in this volume (Orations 27-31) are the earliest of all Demosthenes' speeches, written soon after he came of age in 366 BC. They were directed against the men who had been his guardians since the death of his father, and particularly against his cousin Aphobus, who was one of the guardians, and Aphobus' brother-in-law Onetor, who was alleged to have been assisting Aphobus.

According to Demosthenes' own account, his father, also named Demosthenes, was a rich man when he died in 376. His property, listed in the first speech, included a workshop with slaves making knives, another workshop with slaves making beds, and several substantial sums of money deposited in banks or lent at interest, besides cash, jewelry, and other effects, to a total value of about 14 talents. Before his death he called his family around him and made various dispositions. His son, Demosthenes, was only seven years old, and his daughter was five. He therefore appointed three men to be guardians of the children and the property until the boy should come of age about ten years later. The guardians were his sister's son Aphobus, his brother Demon's son Demophon, and an old friend named Therippides. He bequeathed his wife, Cleobule, to be married to Aphobus with a substantial dowry, and Aphobus was to have his house to live in for the ten years of Demosthenes' minority. His daughter was to be married, when she was old enough, to Demophon, who himself was probably still quite young, with an even bigger dowry. Therippides was to have a large interest-free loan for the ten-year period. Demosthenes senior also recommended, his son says, that the rest of his property should be leased out, so that the rent paid for it would produce a fixed regular income to support the boy, with a surplus to be paid over to him when he came of age.

If we can believe Demosthenes—and we probably can believe him in general terms, even if there is doubt about some of the details—the guardians turned out to be so negligent, greedy, and contemptuous that they transgressed most of these instructions and kept large parts of the property for themselves. Aphobus did not marry the widow, and Demophon did not marry the daughter, but they both kept the dowries. They sold many of the slaves and got back the loans. When Demosthenes came of age in 366, Aphobus did vacate the house and give back the remaining slaves with some cash, but Demosthenes estimates that the total value of what he was given was no more than 70 minas (somewhat over 1 talent). If they had handed over honestly the whole of what was due, including return of the two dowries, the total amount of the property with ten years' accumulated income should, he claims, have been around 30 talents.

Some time was taken up by abortive negotiations about the dispute, and Demosthenes must also have had to spend some time in military training as an ephebe. After failing to obtain satisfaction, he began legal proceedings against each of the three guardians in 364/3, claiming 10 talents from each of them. Each of the three prosecutions had to be considered first by a public arbitrator. At least in the case of Aphobus, the arbitrator gave a verdict in favor of Demosthenes, against which his opponent appealed, so that the case then went to a trial by jury; probably the same happened in the other two cases.

The first two texts that we have (Orations 27 and 28) are Demosthenes' speeches for the trial of Aphobus. Demosthenes won this case, and in the later part of the trial, for deciding the amount of the compensation to be paid to him by Aphobus, he successfully persuaded the jury to accept his proposal that it should be 10 talents, rather than 1 talent as Aphobus proposed. He also won the cases against Demophon and Therippides. But Aphobus' scheming was not yet exhausted. He next accused one of Demosthenes' witnesses at the trial, named Phanus, of giving false evidence and so causing him to lose the case. If he had succeeded in getting Phanus convicted, probably (though this is not known for certain) Phanus would then have been required to make the payment of 10 talents which Aphobus had incurred. The third speech we have (Oration 29) is Demosthenes' defense of Phanus. Aphobus' other scheme was to pretend that his farm no longer belonged to him but had been taken over by his brother-in-law, Onetor, in substitution for the dowry of his wife, Onetor's sister; Aphobus asserted that the woman was now divorced from him, so that her dowry had had to be returned to her brother and Demosthenes could not claim it as part of the payment due to him from Aphobus. Demosthenes believed that Onetor had not in fact given Aphobus a dowry for his sister and also that there had been no divorce. He therefore prosecuted Onetor, bringing a case of ejectment (dike exoules) to compel him to relinquish the farm to Demosthenes. The last two texts in this group (Orations 30 and 31) are Demosthenes' speeches for the prosecution of Onetor. They were written in 362 or 361.

As far as we know, Demosthenes was successful in all these cases. That was a remarkable triumph for a young and inexperienced speaker. But he never succeeded in getting from his guardians the entire sum of 30 talents, which may well have been a greater sum than they actually possessed.

Counter-Indictment (Paragraphe)

The other seven speeches in this volume (Orations 32-38) were written at various times in Demosthenes' life, but are traditionally grouped together because they all concern cases under the legal procedure called paragraphe. This may be translated "contrary prosecution" or "counter-indictment." It was a procedure for objecting that a prosecution was inadmissible—not because the accusation was untrue but because the prosecution itself was in some way contrary to law. It initiated a separate trial in which the original prosecutor was himself prosecuted for bringing a prosecution that was not allowed. Thus the order in which the litigants spoke was reversed: the man who was the defendant in the original case was the prosecutor in the paragraphe trial and therefore spoke first. The original case was postponed until the paragraphe case had been decided; the result of the paragraphe trial settled whether the original case should proceed to a straight trial (euthydikia). Whoever lost the paragraphe case had to pay a penalty to his opponent for taking up time over the legal question; the penalty was a payment of one-sixth of the amount of money or property in dispute (epobelia, 1 obol per drachma).

The paragraphe procedure was first used in 400 BC by a man who claimed that he could not legally be prosecuted for an offense committed before the amnesty of 403 (Isoc. 18.1-3). In various other cases an accused man claimed that the prosecution was inadmissible because it had been submitted to the wrong magistrate (Lys. 23; cf. Dem. 37.33), or because the time allowed for prosecutions of that type had expired (Dem. 38.17), or because the dispute had already been decided by a court or by private arbitration or by a formal discharge by the prosecutor (Dem. 36.25, 37.1). It was not a procedure for deciding whether the defendant had committed the alleged offense or wrong, which would be the subject of a straight trial; it was for deciding whether a straight trial should be held. Nevertheless, speakers often confuse these two questions by talking about both of them together in a paragraphe speech.

Mercantile Cases (Dikai Emporikai)

Four of these speeches (Orations 32-35) concern maritime loans. Laws enacted in the middle of the fourth century BC prescribed legal procedures for mercantile cases (dikai emporikai). These were cases involving a skipper (naukleros, commanding a merchant ship, possibly but not necessarily its owner) or a merchant (emporos, exporting and importing goods by sea). They were "monthly" cases, but to be acceptable under the mercantile procedure they had to fulfill certain conditions. The ground of prosecution had to be that a written agreement existed between the disputants which, the prosecutor alleged, the defendant had failed to fulfill. The agreement must either have been made in the Athenian port (emporion, the wholesale market at Piraeus) or concern a voyage to or from the Athenian port.

A common type of transaction was for a lender, who had money available for investment, to lend a sum to a merchant; the merchant used the money to buy goods in Athens, transported them to another city, sold them there at a profit, used the proceeds to buy other goods there, which he transported back to Athens and sold at a further profit, and finally repaid the loan with interest to the original lender while still having some profit for himself. The merchant might share the expenses and profits with the skipper of the ship which he used; the goods, and sometimes the ship itself, served as security for the lender in case the loan was not repaid. The written agreement could be quite detailed, specifying not only the rate of interest payable but the goods which were to be purchased with the money lent and the port or ports to which they were to be conveyed. There is an example in 35.10-13. It usually also contained a clause stating that, if the ship was wrecked and the goods lost on the voyage, the loan need not be repaid. The whole system was used especially to support the importation of grain from Sicily and from the Black Sea area, and made a vital contribution to the maintenance of Athens' food supplies.

The Authenticity Of The Texts

The speeches against Aphobus and Onetor (Orations 27-31) are obviously written for Demosthenes himself to deliver in court, and the same may, less certainly, be true of the speech for Phormion (Oration 36). The other speeches in this volume are written for delivery by various other men. Questions of authenticity therefore arise. Did Demosthenes actually write all these texts? And, whoever wrote them, are they accurate records of what was actually said in court?

Neither question can be answered with absolute certainty. We can only estimate the probabilities. On the first question, whether Demosthenes wrote all these speeches, we have to bear in mind several considerations which point in different directions. One is that, if a man with little or no experience in public speaking found that he had to make a speech because he had become involved in a legal case, it was quite common to ask an expert speaker to compose a speech for him; thus Demosthenes in the course of his life may well have written many speeches for other men to deliver. But a second consideration is that in Hellenistic or Roman times librarians and booksellers, on finding a copy of a fourth-century Attic speech with no author's name attached, might easily, but wrongly, assume that it was the work of the most famous orator of that period. There is also the possibility that in the days of the Roman empire, when rhetoric was a standard part of higher education, some pastiches of Demosthenes written by teachers or students may have been so convincing that they were mistakenly believed to be the real thing.

It is sometimes possible to detect a spurious text by anachronisms or other statements which could not have been written in the circumstances to which it purports to belong. But that does not apply to any of the twelve speeches in this volume. None of them can be dismissed on grounds of historical inaccuracy. The only other criterion we can use is the style of writing. Since the nineteenth century, scholars have formed their impressions of Demosthenes' style on the basis of those speeches of which the authenticity has never been doubted and have then tried to judge which of the disputed texts are in the same style. Perhaps the greatest expert in this field was the German scholar Friedrich Blass, and his judgments have been widely accepted, though they remain subjective. More recently, an attempt has been made to compile statistics of the frequency of various features of style, but not all stylistic features lend themselves to arithmetical measurement. It may anyway be unsafe to assume that an author's style never varies.

The problem cannot be fully discussed here, and so I simply state my personal opinion: of the twelve speeches in this volume, there is none which could not have been written by Demosthenes, but the ones about which I (like Blass and others) have some doubts are those against Apaturius, Phormion, and Lacritus (Orations 33-35). Even those, however, are surely genuine texts of the fourth century BC and can safely be used as evidence for the social and legal conditions of that time.

As for the other question, whether the extant texts record what was actually said in court, we must try to imagine how the texts are likely to have been used. In most cases, what we have is probably (passed on through successive copies for more than two thousand years) the draft which the writer (whether Demosthenes or someone else) wrote out beforehand in preparation for the trial. The speaker (whether this was the same man as the writer or not) will then have tried to memorize the draft, so as to make a speech which would seem spontaneous in the court. But he would be unlikely to remember every word of it exactly, and he might depart from it quite substantially, either because he forgot parts of it, or because he misjudged the length and ran out of time, or because he suddenly thought of further points which he wished to add. Thus the text we have may be regarded as being what the speaker intended to say, but not necessarily what he actually said.

Sometimes, however, especially if the speaker won the case, he (or the writer, if that was someone different) may have been so pleased with his speech that he decided to make copies of it for distribution to friends or purchasers after the trial. If so, he may have revised the text so as to include points which he had made in court extemporaneously or to improve it in other ways. This may be indicated by a passage referring to something which the opposing speaker has said in the course of the trial; on the face of it, that could not have been written before the trial but must have been added afterwards. Such passages occur in the second speeches against Aphobus and Onetor (28.1, 31.6). Yet perhaps it was easy to guess in advance what Aphobus and Onetor would say; for example, Demosthenes knew that Aphobus was likely to allude to his grandfather's debt, which had already been mentioned at the arbitration, and so he may have planned beforehand what he would say in reply if that matter came up (28.1-4). Likewise, although he claims to have been taken by surprise when Aphobus raised the matter of his guardianship again at the trial of Phanus (29.28), that may be disingenuous; it was probably obvious that Aphobus would return to that topic. On balance, therefore, I think it likely that what we have are the drafts written before the trials for all these twelve speeches.



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