Redevoeringen, Lycurgus (396-325 v. Chr.): redevoering I

Redevoeringen, Lycurgus (396-325 v. Chr.): redevoering I



Against Leocrates

After the disaster of Chaeronea the Athenian people passed a decree forbidding persons to leave the city or to remove their wives or children. Now a certain Leocrates left the city and, after going to Rhodes and later Megara, returned to Athens. He made no secret of his story and so was accused of treason by Lycurgus. The case must be classified as an instance of contradictory definition, since Leocrates admits that he left the city but denies that he betrayed it. Others class it as an instance of conjecture as to intention, since it is admitted that the accused left the city, while his purpose in leaving it is doubtful: did he wish to be a traitor or only to trade? Others think it an instance of counterplea, since he claims that he left the city not with treasonable intentions but for commerce. The subject matter resembles that of the speech against Autolycus.

Justice towards you, Athenians, and reverence for the gods, shall mark the opening of my speech against Leocrates, now here on trial; so may Athena and those other gods and heroes whose statues are erected in our city and the country round receive this prayer. If I have done justly to prosecute Leocrates, if he whom I now bring to trial has been a traitor to their temples, shrines and precincts, a traitor to the honors which your laws ordain and the sacrificial rituals which your ancestors have handed down, may they make me on this day, in the interest of the city and its people, a worthy accuser of his crimes; and may you, who in your deliberation now are defending your fathers, wives and children, your country and your temples, who hold at the mercy of your vote one who has betrayed all these things, be inexorable judges, now and in future, towards all who break the laws on such a scale as this. But if the man whom I am now bringing to trial neither betrayed his country nor forsook his city and its temples, I pray that he may be saved from danger by the gods and you, the members of the jury.

Gentlemen, it is a privilege for the city to have within it those who prosecute transgressors of the law, and I could wish to find among the public an appropriate sense of gratitude. In fact the opposite is true, and anyone who takes the personal risk of unpopularity for our common good is actually regarded as an interferer rather than a patriot, which makes neither for justice nor the state’s advantage. For the things which in the main uphold our democracy and preserve the city’s prosperity are three in number: first the system of law, second the vote of the jury, and third the method of prosecution by which the crimes are handed over to them. The law exists to lay down what must not be done, the accuser to report those liable to penalties under the law, and the juryman to punish all whom these two agencies have brought to his attention. And thus both law and jury’s vote are powerless without an accuser who will hand transgressors over to them.

I myself, Athenians, knew that Leocrates avoided the dangers to which his country called him and deserted his fellow citizens. I knew that he had utterly disregarded your authority and was chargeable with all the articles of the indictment. Therefore I instituted these proceedings. It was not out of hatred in the least nor with the slightest wish to be contentious that I undertook this trial; but I thought it monstrous to allow this man to push into the market place and share the public sacrifices, when he had been a disgrace to his country and to you all.

A just citizen will not let private enmity induce him to start a public prosecution against one who does the state no harm. On the contrary, it is those who break his country’s laws whom he will look on as his personal enemies; crimes which affect the public will, in his eyes, offer public grounds for enmity towards the criminals.

All public trials should therefore rank as important, but particularly this present one, in which you are about to cast your vote. For when you give a verdict on a charge of illegal proposals you merely rectify one single error, and in preventing the intended measure your scope depends upon the extent to which the decree in question will harm the city. But the present case is not concerned with some trifling constitutional issue, nor yet with a moment of time; our city’s whole life is at stake, and this trial will leave a verdict to posterity to be remembered for all time.

So dangerous is the wrong which has been done and so far-reaching that no indictment adequate could be devised, nor have the laws defined a punishment for the crimes. What punishment would suit a man who left his country and refused to guard the temples of his fathers, who abandoned the graves of his ancestors and surrendered the whole country into the hands of the enemy? The greatest and final penalty, death, though the maximum punishment allowed by law, is too small for the crimes of Leocrates.

The reason why the penalty for such offences, gentlemen, has never been recorded is not that the legislators of the past were neglectful; it is that such things had not happened hitherto and were not expected to happen in the future. It is therefore most essential that you should be not merely judges of this present case but lawmakers besides. For where a crime has been defined by some law, it is easy, with that as a standard, to punish the offender. But where different offences are not specifically included in the law, being covered by a single designation, and where a man has committed crimes worse than these and is equally chargeable with them all, your verdict must be left as a precedent for your successors.

I assure you, gentlemen, that if you condemn this man you will do more than merely punish him; you will be giving all younger men an incentive to right conduct. For there are two influences at work in the education of the young: the punishments suffered by wrongdoers and the reward available to the virtuous. With these alternatives before their eyes they are deterred by fear from the one and attracted by desire for honor to the other. You must therefore give your minds to the trial on hand and let your first consideration be justice.

In my speech also justice shall come first; on no occasion will I have recourse to falsehoods or irrelevance. Most of the speakers who come before you behave in the strangest possible manner, either giving you advice from the platform on public affairs or wasting their charges and calumnies on any subject except the one on which you are going to vote. Either course is easy, whether they choose to express an opinion on questions about which you are not deliberating or else to invent a charge to which no one is going to reply.

But it is wrong that they should ask for justice from you when you give your vote and yet be unjust themselves in handling the prosecution. And yet the blame for this is yours, gentlemen; for you have granted this freedom to speakers appearing before you, although you have, in the council of the Areopagus, the finest model in Greece: a court so superior to others that even the men convicted in it admit that its judgements are just.

Let it be your pattern, and, like it, do not give way to speakers who digress from the point. If you take this advice, defendants will receive an unbiased hearing, accusers will be least able to give false information, and you will best be able to make the verdict in keeping with your oath. For those who have not been rightly informed cannot give their verdict rightly.

A further point for you to notice, gentlemen, is this: the trial of Leocrates is not comparable with that of other ordinary men. For if the defendant were unknown in Greece, your verdict, whether good or bad, would be a matter solely for yourselves to contemplate. But where this man is concerned, whatever judgement you may give will be discussed by every Greek, since it is common knowledge that the conduct of your ancestors was just the opposite of his. He won notoriety by his voyage to Rhodes and the discreditable report of you which he made officially to the Rhodians and to those merchants residing there; merchants who sailed round the whole Greek world on their business and passed on the news of Athens which they had heard from Leocrates. It is important therefore to reach a correct verdict upon him. For you must realize, Athenians, that you would be held to have neglected the virtues which chiefly distinguish you from the rest of mankind, piety towards the gods, reverence for your ancestors and ambition for your country, if this man were to escape punishment at your hands.

I am asking you, Athenians, to listen to my accusation to the end and not to be impatient if I begin with the history of Athens at the time under discussion; you may reserve your anger for the men whose fault it is that I am now compelled to recall those happenings. After the battle of Chaeronea you all gathered hastily to the Assembly, and the people decreed that the women and children should be brought from the countryside inside the walls and that the generals should appoint any Athenians or other residents at Athens to defence duties as they thought fit.

Leocrates ignored all these provisions. He collected what belongings he had and with his slaves’ assistance placed them in the ship’s boat, the ship itself being already anchored off the shore. Late in the evening he went out himself with his mistress Irenis through the postern gate on to the open beach and sailed out to the ship. And so he disappeared, a deserter, untouched by pity for the city’s harbors from which he was putting out to sea, and unashamed in face of the walls which, for his own part, he left undefended. Looking back at the Acropolis and the temple of Zeus the Savior and Athena the Protectress, which he had betrayed, he had no fear, though he will presently call upon these gods to save him from danger.

He landed and entered Rhodes, where, as if he were bringing good news of great successes for his country, he announced that the main city had been captured when he left it, that the Piraeus was blockaded and that he was the only one who had escaped, feeling no shame at speaking of his country’s ruin as the occasion of his own safety. The Rhodians took his news so seriously that they manned triremes and brought in their merchantmen; and the traders and shipowners who had intended to sail to Athens unloaded their corn and other cargoes there, because of Leocrates.

To prove the truth of this account the clerk shall read you the evidence of all concerned: first the testimony of the neighbors and the men living in this district who know that the defendant ran away during the war and sailed from Athens, next that of the people present at Rhodes when Leocrates was delivering this news, and finally the evidence of Phyrcinus, whom most of you know as the accuser of Leocrates in the Assembly for having seriously harmed the two per cent tax in which he had an interest.

But before the witnesses come up I want to say a few words to you. You are well acquainted, gentlemen, with the tricks of defendants and with the requests made by others asking pardon for them. You know too well that desire for bribes and favors induces many witnesses to forget what they know, to fail to appear, or to contrive some other excuse. Ask the witnesses therefore to come up without hesitation and not to put offered favors before your interests and the state. Ask them to pay their country the debt of truth and justice which they owe and not to follow the example of Leocrates by failing in this duty. Otherwise let them swear the oath of disclaimer with their hands on the sacrifice. If they refuse both these alternatives, we will summons them in the interest of yourselves, our laws and our democracy. Read the evidence.


To resume then, gentlemen. After this, time passed, merchant ships from Athens continued to arrive at Rhodes, and it was clear that no disaster had overtaken the city. So Leocrates grew alarmed, and embarking again, left Rhodes for Megara. He stayed at Megara for over five years with a Megarian as his patron, unashamed at living on the boundaries of Attica, an alien on the borders of the land that nurtured him.

He had condemned himself so finally to a lifetime of exile that he sent for Amyntas, the husband of his elder sister, and Antigenes of Xypete, a friend of his, to come to him from Athens, and asked his brother-in-law to buy his house and slaves from him, selling them to him for a talent. Out of this sum he arranged that his debts should be settled, his loans paid off and the balance restored to him.

After concluding all this business Amyntas resold the slaves himself for thirty-five minas to Timochares of Acharnae who had married Leocrates’ younger sister. Timochares had no ready money for the purchase and so drew up an agreement which he lodged with Lysicles and paid Amyntas interest of one mina. To convince you that this is fact, lest you should think it idle talk, the clerk shall read you the evidence relating to these points also. If Amyntas had been still alive I should have produced him in person; since he is not, I am summoning for you the men who know the facts. Please read me this evidence showing that Amyntas bought the slaves and house from Leocrates at Megara.


Now hear how Philomelos of Cholargus and Menelaus, once an envoy to the King, received from Amyntas forty minas owed them.


Please take the evidence of Timochares who bought the slaves from Amyntas for thirty-five minas, and also his agreement.



You have heard the witnesses, gentlemen. What I am now going to say will give you good reason for indignation and hatred of this man Leocrates. For he was not content simply to remove his own person and his goods. There were the sacred images of his family which his forbears established and which, in keeping with your customs and ancestral tradition, they afterwards entrusted to him. These too he had sent to Megara. He took them out of the country without a qualm at the name “ancestral images” or at the thought that he had uprooted them from their country and expected them to share his exile, to leave the temples and the land which they had occupied and be established in a strange and uncongenial place, as aliens to the soil and to the rites traditionally observed in Megara.

Your fathers, honoring Athena as the deity to whom their land had been allotted, called their native city Athens, so that men who revered the goddess should not desert the city which bore her name. By disregarding custom, country, and sacred images Leocrates did all in his power to cause even your divine protection to be exported. Moreover, to have wronged the city on this enormous scale was not enough for him. Living at Megara and using as capital the money which he had withdrawn from Athens he shipped corn, bought from Cleopatra, from Epirus to Leucas and from there to Corinth.

And yet, gentlemen, in cases of this sort your laws lay down the most severe penalties if an Athenian transports corn to any place other than your city. When therefore a man has been a traitor in war and has broken the laws in transporting corn, when he has had no regard for sacred things and none for his country or the laws, if you have him at the mercy of your vote, will you not execute him and make an example of him to others? If you do not it will show an apathy and lack of righteous indignation completely without parallel.

Consider these further proofs that my inquiry into this question has been just; for it is my opinion that in dealing with such serious crimes you must base your vote, not on conjecture, but on certainty; and that witnesses must prove their good faith before, not after, they give their evidence. I submitted to the defence a written challenge on all these points and demanded the slaves of Leocrates for torture, according to the right procedure for making challenges. Please read the challenge.


You hear the challenge, gentlemen. By the very act of refusing to accept this Leocrates condemned himself as a traitor to his country. For whoever refuses to allow the testing of those who share his secrets has confessed that the charges of the indictment are true. Every one of you knows that in matters of dispute it is considered by far the justest and most democratic course, when there are male or female slaves, who possess the necessary information, to examine these by torture and so have facts to go upon instead of hearsay, particularly when the case concerns the public and is of vital interest to the state.

Certainly I cannot be called unjust in my prosecution of Leocrates. I was even willing at my own risk to let the proof rest on the torture of his male and female slaves, but the defendant, realizing his guilt, rejected the offer instead of accepting it. Add yet, gentlemen, the male and female slaves of Leocrates would have been far readier to deny any of the real facts than to invent lies against their master.

Apart from this, Leocrates will presently proclaim that he is a simple citizen and is falling a prey to the cunning of an orator and false informer. But I am sure you all know well the characteristic behavior of those unscrupulous men who try to lay false information; for when they choose their part they look for vantage-points on which to quibble against those on trial, whereas the man whose aims in going to law are honest, who brings proofs to bear against those who come under the herald’s curse,1 does just the opposite, as I myself am doing.

Look at the present case yourselves in this way. Which people could not have been misled by cunning or a deceptive argument? The male and female slaves. Naturally, when tortured, they would have told the whole truth about all the offences. But it was just these persons whom Leocrates refused to hand over, though they were his and no one else’s.

On the other hand which people could he probably impose upon by arguments, appealing to their softer side by his tears and so winning their sympathy? The jury. Leocrates, the betrayer of his country, has come into court with only one fear, namely that the witnesses who by certain proofs expose the criminal will be produced from the same household as the man whom they expose. What was the use of pretexts, pleas, excuses? Justice is plain, the truth easy and the proof brief.

If he admits that the articles of the indictment are true and right, why does he not suffer punishment as the laws require? But if he claims that they are false, why has he not handed over his male and female slaves? When a man is up for treason he should submit his slaves for torture, without evading a single one of the most searching tests.

Leocrates did nothing of the sort. Though he has condemned himself as a traitor to his country, a traitor to his gods and to the laws, he will ask you when you vote to contradict his own admissions and his own evidence. How can it be right, when a man has refused a fair offer and in many other ways also has robbed himself of the means of defence, for you to let him mislead your judgement on crimes to which he has confessed?

So much for the challenge and the crime. I think you have been shown well enough, gentlemen, that that part is beyond dispute. I want now to remind you what emergencies, what great dangers the city was facing when Leocrates turned traitor to it. Please take the decree of Hyperides, clerk, and read it.


You hear the decree, gentlemen. It provided that the Council of Five Hundred should go down to the Piraeus armed, to consult for the protection of that harbor, and that it should hold itself ready to do whatever seemed to be in the people’s interest. And yet, if the men who had been exempted from military service so that they might deliberate upon the city’s affairs were then playing the part of soldiers, do you think that the alarms which had taken hold upon the city were any trivial or ordinary fears?

Yet it was then that this man Leocrates made off himself–a runaway from the city; it was then that he conveyed to safety his available property and sent back for the sacred images of his family. To such a pitch did he carry his treason that, so far as his decision went, the temples were abandoned, the posts on the wall unmanned and the town and country left deserted.

And yet in those days, gentlemen, who would not have pitied the city, even though he were not a citizen but only an alien who had lived among us in previous years? Surely there was no one whose hatred of the people or of Athens was so intense that he could have endured to see himself remain outside the army. When the defeat and consequent disaster had been reported to the people and the city was tense with alarm at the news, the people’s hope of safety had come to rest with the men of over fifty.

Free women could be seen crouching at the doors in terror inquiring for the safety of their husbands, fathers or brothers, offering a spectacle degrading to themselves and to the city. The men who had outlived their stength and were advanced in life, exempt by law from service in the field, could be seen throughout the city, now on the threshold of the grave, wretchedly scurrying with their cloaks pinned double round them.

Many sufferings were being visited upon the city; every citizen had felt misfortune at its worst; but the sight which would most surely have stirred the onlooker and moved him to tears over the sorrows of Athens was to see the people vote that slaves should be released, that aliens should become Athenians and the disfranchised regain their rights: the nation that once proudly claimed to be indigenous and free. The city had suffered a change indeed.

She who used once to champion the freedom of her fellow Greeks was now content if she could safely meet the dangers that her own defence entailed. In the past she had ruled a wide extent of foreign land; now she was disputing with Macedon for her own. The people whom Lacedaemonians and Peloponnesians, whom the Greeks of Asia used once to summon to their help,1 were now entreating men of Andros, Ceos, Troezen and Epidaurus to send them aid.

Therefore, gentlemen, if at a time of fears like these, a time of such great danger and disgrace, there was a deserter from the city, a mall who neither took up arms in his country’s defence nor submitted his person to the generals for enrollment but ran away and betrayed the safety of the people, what patriotic juryman with any scruples would vote for his acquittal? What advocate summoned into court would help a traitor to his city? He had not even the grace to share our grief at the misfortunes of his country, and he has made no contribution towards the defence of Athens and our democracy.

Yet men of every age offered their services for the city’s defence on that occasion when the land was giving up its trees, the dead their gravestones, and the temples arms. Some set themselves to building walls, others to making ditches and palisades. Not a man in the city was idle. Leocrates did not offer himself to be enrolled for a single one of these tasks.

You would do well to remember this and punish with death this man who did not even deign to help collect the bodies or attend the funeral of those who at Chaeronea died for freedom and the safety of our people; for had it rested with him those men would be unburied. He was not even ashamed to pass their graves when he greeted their country eight years after.

I wish to say a few words more about these men, gentlemen, and I ask you to listen and not regard such pleas as out of keeping with public trials. For the praise of brave men provides an unanswerable refutation of all whose conduct is opposed to theirs. And it is fair too that that praise which is to them the only reward for danger should be remembered at the public trials in which the entire city shares, since it was for her safety as a whole that they forfeited their lives.

Those men encountered the enemy on the borders of Boeotia, to fight for the freedom of Greece. They neither rested their hopes of safety on city walls nor surrendered their lands for the foe to devastate. Believing that their own courage was a surer protection than battlements of stone, they held it a disgrace to see the land that reared them wasted. And they were right. Men do not hold their foster parents so dear as their own fathers, and so towards countries which are not their own but which have been adopted during their lifetime they feel a weaker loyalty.

In such a spirit did these men bear their share of dangers with a courage unsurpassed; but their prowess was not equalled by their fortune. For they have not lived to reap the enjoyment of their valor; they died and have bequeathed their glory in its stead. Unconquered, they fell at their posts in the defence of freedom, and if I may use a paradox but one which yet conveys the truth, they triumphed in their death. For liberty and courage, the prizes offered to brave men in war, are both in the possession of the dea neither can we say that men have been defeated whose spirits did not flinch at the aggressor’s threat. For it is only those who meet an honorable end in war whom no man justly could call beaten, since by the choosing of a noble death they are escaping slavery. The courage of these men has made this plain. They alone among us all held in their persons the liberty of Greece.

For at the very moment when they passed away her lot was changed to servitude. With the bodies of these men was buried the freedom of every other Greek, and thus they proved it to the world that they were fighting for no private ends but facing danger for our common liberty. I therefore say without misgiving that their lives have been a laurel wreath for Athens.

They had good reason for their conduct, since you, Athenians, alone among Greeks know how to honor valiant men. In other cities, you will find, it is the athletes who have their statues in the market place, whereas in yours it is victorious generals and the slayers of the tyrants: men whose like it is hard to find though we search the whole of Greece for but a few, whereas the winners of contests for a wreath have come from many places and can easily be seen. It is then only right, since you pay the highest honors to your benefactors, that you should also punish with the utmost rigor those who dishonor and betray their country.

You should bear in mind, gentlemen, that it is not even in your power, unless you go beyond your rights, to acquit this man Leocrates, since his offence has had judgement passed upon it and a vote of condemnation too. For the council of the Areopagus;–(No one need interrupt me. That council was, in my opinion, the greatest bulwark of the city at the time; )–seized and executed men who then had fled from their country and abandoned it to the enemy. You must not think, gentlemen, that these councillors who are so scrupulous in trying other men for homicide would themselves have taken the life of any citizen unlawfully.

Moreover you condemned Autolycus and punished him because, though he himself had faced the dangers, he was charged with secretly sending his wife and sons away. Yet if you punished him when his only crime was that he had sent away persons useless for war, what should your verdict be on one who, though a man, did not pay his country the price of his nurture? The people also, who looked with horror upon what was taking place, decreed that those who were evading the danger which their country’s defence involved were liable for treason, meriting in their belief the extreme penalty.

When therefore certain actions have been censured by the most impartial council and condemned by you who were the judges appointed by lot, when they have been recognized by the people as demanding the severest punishment, will you give a verdict which opposes all these views? If you do, you will be the most unconscionable of men and will have few indeed ready to risk themselves in your defence.

It is now clear, gentlemen, that Leocrates is liable under all the articles of the indictment. He will, I gather, try to mislead you by saying that it was merely as a merchant that he departed on this voyage and that the pursuance of this calling took him from his home to Rhodes. So if he says this, please take note how you may easily expose his lies. The first point is that men travelling as merchants do not leave by the postern on the beach; they embark inside the harbor with all their friends watching to see them off. Secondly, they go alone with their attendant slave, not with their mistress and her maids.

Besides, what need had this Athenian to stay five years in Megara as a merchant? What need had he to send for the sacred images of his family or to sell his house in Athens? The answer is that he had condemned himself as a traitor to his country, as a criminal who had greatly wronged us all. It would be incongruous indeed if you, with the decision in your power, were to dismiss this charge on which he was himself expecting punishment. But quite apart from these objections, we need not, I think, admit this line of defence.

For surely it is outrageous, when men abroad on business were hurrying to the city’s help, that Leocrates alone should sail away at such a time for purposes of trade, since no one would then have thought of adding to his wealth. Men’s only care was to preserve what they already had. I should like Leocrates to tell me what merchandise he could have brought us to render him more useful than he would have been, had he presented himself before the generals for enrollment and had resisted the invaders by fighting at your sides.

Personally I know no help to equal this. He deserves your anger for this conduct and for his explanation too, since he has not hesitated to tell a blatant lie. For he never previously carried on this trade, being in fact a master smith; and subsequently, after his departure, he imported nothing to us from Megara, though he was away for six years without a break. Besides, he had, as it happens, an interest in the two per cent tax,1 which he would never have left to live abroad on business. So if he says a word about these matters, I do not doubt that you will stop him.

He will perhaps in his impetuosity raise the argument, suggested to him by certain of his advocates, that he is not liable on a charge of treason, since he was not responsible for dockyards, gates or camps nor in fact for any of the city’s concerns. My own view is that those in charge of these positions could have betrayed a part of your defences only, whereas it was the whole city which Leocrates surrendered. Again, it is the living only whom men of their kind harm, but Leocrates has wronged the dead as well, depriving them of their ancestral rites.

Had the city been betrayed by them it would have been inhabited though enslaved, but left as this man left it, it would have been deserted. Moreover, after suffering hardships cities may well expect to see a change to better times, but with complete destruction even the hopes common to every city are taken from them. A man, if he but lives, has still a prospect of change from evil fortunes, but at his death there perishes with him every means by which prosperity could come. And so it is with cities; their misfortune reaches its limit when they are destroyed.

Indeed, the plain fact is that for a city destruction is like death. Let us take the clearest illustration. Our city was enslaved in earlier times by the tyrants and later by the Thirty, when the walls were demolished by the Spartans. Yet we were freed from both these evils and the Greeks approved us as the guardians of their welfare.

Not so with any city which has ever been destroyed. First, though it is to quote a rather early case, remember Troy. Who has not heard how, after being the greatest city of her time and ruling the whole of Asia, she was deserted for ever when once the Greeks had razed her? Think of Messene too, established again as a city five hundred years after from men of indiscriminate origin.

Perhaps one of his advocates will dare to belittle the offence and say that none of these misfortunes could have resulted from the action of one man. They are not ashamed to make before you the kind of plea for which they deserve to die. For if they admit that he deserted his country, once they have granted this, let them leave it to you to determine the seriousness of the offence; and even if he has committed none of these crimes, surely it is madness to say that this one man could cause no harm.

Personally, gentlemen, I think the opposite is true: the safety of the city rested with this man. For the city’s life continues only if each one guards her by personally doing his duty and if a man neglects his duty in a single aspect, he has, unwittingly, neglected it entirely. But it is easy, gentlemen, to ascertain the truth by referring to the attitude of the early lawgivers.

It was not their way, when prescribing the death penalty for the thief who stole a hundred talents, to approve a punishment less severe for one who took ten drachmas. Again with sacrilege: for a great offence they inflicted death, and for a small one too they had no milder punishment. They did not differentiate between him who killed a slave and him who killed a free man, by fining one and outlawing the other.

For all breaches of the law alike, however small, they fixed upon the death penalty, making no special allowances, in their assessment of the magnitude of crimes, for the individual circumstances of each. On one point only they insisted: was the crime such that, if it became more widespread, it would do serious harm to society? And it is absurd to face this question in any other way. Just imagine, gentlemen. Suppose someone had entered the Metroon and erased one law and then excused himself on the grounds that the city was not endangered by the loss of just this one. Would you not have killed him? I think you would have been justified in doing so, at least if you intended to save the other laws.

The same applies here: you must punish this man with death if you intend to make the other citizens better, oblivious of the fact that he is only one. You must consider the act. There are not many like him. In my opinion we have our good fortune to thank for that; but Leocrates, I think, deserves a more severe punishment on this account, since he alone of his fellow citizens sought safety for himself rather than for the city.

Nothing angers me so much, gentlemen, as to hear some person among his supporters saying that to have left the city is not treason, since your ancestors once left it when they crossed to Salamis during their war with Xerxes: a critic so senseless and contemptuous of you that he has presumed to confuse the most honorable action with the most base.

For where have men not proclaimed the valor of those heroes? Who is so grudging, who so completely without spirit, that he would not wish to have shared in their exploits? They did not desert Athens; they simply changed the scene, making an honorable decision in the face of the growing menace.

Eteonicus the Spartan, Adimantus the Corinthian and the Aeginetan fleet intended, under cover of night, to seek safety for themselves. Our ancestors, though they were being deserted by all the Greeks, forcibly liberated themselves and the others too by making them assist at Salamis in the naval battle against the Persians, and so triumphed unaided over both enemy and ally, in a way appropriate to each, conferring a favor upon one and defeating the other in battle. A fit comparison indeed to make with the man who escapes from his country on a four days’ voyage to Rhodes!

Do you imagine that any one of those heroes would have been ready to condone such an act? Would they not have stoned to death one who was disgracing their valor? At least they all loved their country so much that they nearly stoned to death Alexander, the envoy from Xerxes, formerly their friend, because he demanded earth and water. If they thought it right to exact vengeance for a speech, are we to believe that they would not have visited with severe punishment a man who in fact delivered his country into the hands of the enemy?

It was because they held such beliefs as these that for ninety years they were leaders of the Greeks. They ravaged Phoenicia and Cilicia, triumphed by land and sea at the Eurymedon, captured a hundred barbarian triremes and sailed round the whole of Asia wasting it.

And to crown their victory: not content with erecting the trophy in Salamis, they fixed for the Persian the boundaries necessary for Greek freedom and prevented his overstepping them, making an agreement that he should not sail his warships between the Cyaneae and Phaselis and that the Greeks should be free not only if they lived in Europe but in Asia too.

Do you think that if they had all adopted the attitude of Leocrates and fled, any of these glorious things would have been done or that you would still be living in this country? Then, gentlemen, as you praise and honor brave men so too you must hate and punish cowards, and particularly Leocrates who showed no fear or respect towards you.

Consider too what your traditional views have been in this respect and what your present feelings are. It is as well that I should remind you though you know already. For by Athena, in the ancient laws and in the principles of those who drew them up in the beginning we have indeed a panegyric on the city. You have but to observe them to do right and all men will respect you as worthy of her.

There is an oath which you take, sworn by all citizens when, as ephebi, they are enrolled on the register of the deme, not to disgrace your sacred arms, not to desert your post in the ranks, but to defend your country and to hand it on better than you found it. If Leocrates has sworn this oath he has clearly perjured himself and, quite apart from wronging you, has behaved impiously towards the god. But if he has not sworn it, it becomes immediately plain that he has been playing tricks in the hope of evading his duty; and for this you would be justified in punishing him, on your own and Heaven’s behalf.

I want you to hear the oath. Read, clerk.


I will not bring dishonor an my sacred arms nor will I abandon my comrade wherever I shall be stationed. I will defend the rights of gods and men and will not leave my country smaller, when I die, but greater and better, so far as I am able by myself and with the help of all. I will respect the rulers of the time duly and the existing ordinances duly and all others which may be established in the future. And if anyone seeks to destroy the ordinances I will oppose him so far as I am able by myself and with the help of all. I will honor the cults of my fathers. Witnesses to this shall be the gods Agraulus, Hestia, Enyo, Enyalius, Ares, Athena the Warrior, Zeus, Thallo, Auxo, Hegemone, Heracles, and the boundaries of my native land, wheat, barley, vines, olive-trees, fig-trees. . . .

It is a fine and solemn oath, gentlemen; an oath which Leocrates has broken in all that he has done. How could a man be more impious or a greater traitor to his country? How could he disgrace his arms more than by refusing to take them up and resist the enemy? Is there any doubt that a man has deserted the soldier at his side and left his post, if he did not even offer his person for enlistment?

How could anyone have defended the rights of men and gods who did not face a single danger? What greater treachery could he have shown towards his country, which, for all that he has done to save it, is left at the mercy of the enemy? Then will you not kill this man who is answerable for every crime? If not, whom will you punish? Those guilty of only one such act? It will be easy then to commit serious offences among you, if you show that the smaller ones arouse your anger more.

There is a further point which you should notice, gentlemen. The power which keeps our democracy together is the oath. For there are three things of which the state is built up: the archon, the juryman and the private citizen. Each of these gives this oath as a pledge, and rightly so. For human beings have often been deceived. Many criminals evade them, escaping the dangers of the moment, yes, and even remaining unpunished for these crimes for the remainder of their lives. But the gods no one who broke his oath would deceive. No one would escape their vengeance. If the perjured man does not suffer himself, at least his children and all his family are overtaken by dire misfortunes.

It was for this reason, gentlemen of the jury, that all the Greeks exchanged this pledge at Plataea, before taking up their posts to fight against the power of Xerxes. The formula was not their own but borrowed from the oath which is traditional among you. It would be well for you to hear it; for though the events of that time are ancient history now we can discern clearly enough, in these recorded words, the courage of our forbears. Please read the oath.


I will not hold life dearer than freedom nor will I abandon my leaders whether they are alive or dead. I will bury all allies killed in the battle. If I conquer the barbarians in war I will not destroy any of the cities which have fought for Greece but I will consecrate a tenth of all those which sided with the barbarian. I will not rebuild a single one of the shrines which the barbarians have burnt and razed but will allow them to remain for future generations as a memorial of the barbarians’ impiety.

They stood by this oath so firmly, gentlemen, that they had the favor of the gods on their side to help them; and, though all the Greeks proved courageous in the hour of danger, your city won the most renown. Your ancestors faced death to save the city from shame; nothing could then be worse than for you to pardon those who have disgraced her and allowed our national glory, won through many hardships, to perish by the wickedness of men like this.

Consider, gentlemen: you are the only Greeks for whom it is impossible to ignore any of these crimes. Let me remind you of a few past episodes; and if you take them as examples you will reach a better verdict in the present case and in others also. The greatest virtue of your city is that she has set the Greeks an example of noble conduct. In age1 she surpasses every city, and in valor too our ancestors have no less surpassed their fellows.

Remember the reign of Codrus. The Peloponnesians, whose crops had failed at home, decided to march against our city and, expelling our ancestors, to divide the land amongst themselves. They sent first to Delphi and asked the god if they were going to capture Athens, and when he replied that they would take the city so long as they did not kill Codrus, the king of the Athenians, they marched out against Athens.

But a Delphian Cleomantis, learning of the oracle, secretly told the Athenians. Such, it seems, was the goodwill which our ancestors always inspired even among aliens. And when the Pelopannesians invaded Attica, what did our ancestors do, gentlemen of the jury? They did not desert their country and retire as Leocrates did, nor surrender to the enemy the land that reared them and its temples. No. Though they were few in number, shut inside the walls, they endured the hardships of a siege to preserve their country.

And such was the nobility, gentlemen, of those kings of old that they preferred to die for the safety of their subjects rather than to purchase life by the adoption of another country. That at least is true of Codrus, who, they say, told the Athenians to note the time of his death and, taking a beggar’s clothes to deceive the enemy, slipped out by the gates and began to collect firewood in front of the town. When two men from the camp approached him and inquired about conditions in the city he killed one of them with a blow of his sickle.

The survivor, it is said, enraged with Codrus and thinking him a beggar drew his sword and killed him. Then the Athenians sent a herald and asked to have their king given over for burial, telling the enemy the whole truth and the Peloponnesians restored the body but retreated, aware that it was no longer open to them to secure the country. To Cleomantis of Delphi the city made a grant of maintenance in the Prytaneum for himself and his descendants for ever.

Is there any resemblance between Leocrates’ love for his country and the love of those ancient kings who preferred to die for her and outwit the foe, giving their own life in exchange for the people’s safety? It is for this reason that they and only they have given the land their name and received honors like the gods, as is their due. For they were entitled, even after death, to a share in the country which they so zealously preserved.

But Leocrates, whether alive or dead, would have no claim to a portion in it; he of all men deserves to be cast out from the country which he abandoned to the enemy by his flight. For it is unfitting that the same ground should cover heroes and the most cowardly of mankind.

Yet he contended (and perhaps he will say this to you now also ) that he would not have faced this trial if he had been conscious of committing a crime like this. As if all thieves and temple-robbers did not use this argument! It is an argument which goes to prove their shamelessness rather than the fact of their innocence. That is not the point at issue; we need the assurance that he did not sail, that he did not leave the city or settle at Megara.

These are the facts by which the truth can be established. As for his appearance in court: surely some god brought him specially for punishment, so that, after shirking an honorable danger, he might meet a death of disgrace and shame and place himself at the mercy of the men he betrayed. If misfortune befalls him in some other place it is hardly clear if this is the crime for which he is being punished. But here, among the men whom he betrayed, it is obvious that his own transgressions of the law have brought upon him this reward.

For the first step taken by the gods in the case of wicked men is to unhinge their reason; and personally I value as the utterance of an oracle these lines, composed by ancient poets and handed down to posterity:

When gods in anger seek a mortal’s harm,
First they deprive him of his sanity,
And fashion of his mind a baser instrument,
That he may have no knowledge when he errs.

Who does not know the fate of Callistratus, which the older among you remember and the younger have heard recounted, the man condemned to death by the city? How he fled and later, hearing from the god at Delphi that if he returned to Athens he would have fair treatment by the laws, came back and taking refuge at the altar of the twelve gods was none the less put to death by the state, and rightly so, for “fair treatment by the laws” is, in the case of wrongdoers, punishment. And thus the god too acted rightly in allowing those who had been wronged to punish the offender. For it would be an unseemly thing if revelations made to good men were the same as those vouchsafed to malefactors.

It is my belief, gentlemen, that the guidance of the gods presides over all human affairs and more especially, as is to be expected, over our duty towards our parents, towards the dead and towards the gods themselves. For in our dealings with those to whom we owe our being, at whose hands we have enjoyed the greatest benefits, it is the utmost sacrilege that we should fail, not merely to do our duty, but even to dedicate our lives to their service.

Let me take an illustration. There is a story that in Sicily,–the tale, though half a legend, will, for the younger ones among you, be well worth the hearing,–a stream of fire burst forth from Etna. This stream, so the story goes, flowing over the countryside, drew near a certain city of the Sicilians. Most men, thinking of their own safety, took to flight; but one of the youths, seeing that his father, now advanced in years, could not escape and was being overtaken by the fire, lifted him up and carried him.

Hindered no doubt by the additional weight of his burden, he too was overtaken. And now let us observe the mercy shown by God towards good men. For we are told that the fire spread round that spot in a ring and only those two men were saved, so that the place is still called the Place of the Pious, while those who had fled in haste, leaving their parents to their fate, were all consumed.

You too, therefore, following that divine example, should punish with one accord this man who spared no pains to show himself in all respects the greatest criminal, depriving the gods of their traditional cults, abandoning his parents to the enemy and denying the dead their dues.

Here is another story, gentlemen. Again I shall be speaking of our ancestors, since it is only right that you should hear of the deeds in which they took a pride and give them your approval. The tradition is that Eumolpus, the son of Poseidon and Chione, came with the Thracians to claim this country during the reign of Erechtheus who was married to Praxithea, the daughter of Cephisus.

As a large army was about to invade their country, he went to Delphi and asked the god by what means he could assure a victory over the enemy. The god’s answer to him was that if he sacrificed his daughter before the two sides engaged he would defeat the enemy and, submitting to the god, he did this and drove the invaders from the country.

We have therefore good reason to thank Euripides, because, apart from his other merits as a poet, he chose this subject for a play, believing that in the conduct of those people the citizens would have a fine example which they could keep before them and so implant in their hearts a love of their country. You must hear the iambic lines, gentlemen of the jury, which, in the play, are spoken by the mother of the girl. You will find in them a greatness of spirit and a nobility worthy of Athens and a daughter of Cephisus.

Speech from Euripides

He wins men’s hearts who with a ready hand
Confers his favors; he who in the doing
Delays and falters is less generous.
But I consent to give my child to die
For many reasons: first there is no state
I count more worthy to accept my gift
Than Athens, peopled by no alien race.
For we are of this soil, while other towns,
Formed as by hazard in a game of draughts,
Take their inhabitants from diverse parts.
He who adopts a city, having left
Some other town, resembles a bad peg
Fixed into wood of better quality,
A citizen in name but not in fact.
And secondly: it is that we may guard
Our country and the altars of the gods
That we get children for ourselves at all.
This city, though it bears a single name,
Holds many people in it. Should I then
Destroy all these, when it is in my power
To give one girl to die on their behalf?
The mere ability to count, and tell
The greater from the less, convinces me
That this, the ruin of one person’s home,
Is of less consequence and brings less grief
Than would result if the whole city fell.
If I had sons at home instead of girls,
When hostile flames beset the city’s walls,
Should I not send them forth into the fight,
Though fearing for them? May my children then
Fight also, vie with men, and not become
Mere shapes of vanity within the state.
And yet, when mothers send their sons to war
With tears, they often daunt them as they leave.
I hate the women who above all else
Prefer their sons to live and put this thought
Before their honor, urging cowardice.
But if they fall in battle they obtain
A common grave and glory which they share
With many others; whereas she, my child,
By dying for this city will attain
A garland destined solely for herself.
And she will save her mother and you too
And both her sisters. Is it right to scorn
Honors like these? Except in nature’s way
This girl whom I shall give for sacrifice
To save her native land is not my own.
And if the city falls, what further chance
Shall I have left me to enjoy my child?
So far as rests with me, all shall be saved.
Let others rule in Athens; I will be
Her savior, and without my wish no man
Shall harm what most concerns our common good,
The ancient laws our fathers handed down.
Eumolpus and his slavish Thracian train
Shall set no trident in our midst or deck
It round with garlands, where the olive tree
And Gorgon’s golden head have been revered;
Nor shall Athena meet with utter scorn.
Come, citizens, and use my travail’s fruit
To save yourselves and conquer, knowing well
That I could never hesitate to save
This city for the sake of one poor life.
My country, were the love of all your sons
As great as mine! You could not suffer ill,
And we possessing you would live secure.

On these verses, gentlemen, your fathers were brought up. All women are by nature fond of children, but this one Euripides portrayed as loving her country more than her offspring and made it clear that, if women bring themselves to act like this, men should show towards their country a devotion which cannot be surpassed, not forsake it and flee, as Leocrates did, nor disgrace it before the whole of Greece.

I want also to recommend Homer to you. In your fathers’ eyes he was a poet of such worth that they passed a law that every four years at the Panathenaea he alone of all the poets should have his works recited ; and thus they showed the Greeks their admiration for the noblest deeds. They were right to do so. Laws are too brief to give instruction: they merely state the things that must be done; but poets, depicting life itself, select the noblest actions and so through argument and demonstration convert men’s hearts.

Thus Hector, while exhorting the Trojans to defend their country, speaks these words:

Fight on unresting by the ships; and if some meet their fate
By wound of dart, or battling hand to hand, then let them die.
To fall in combat for your country’s sake is no disgrace;
For wife and child will live unharmed, and home and plot last on,
If once the Achaeans leave and sail their ships to their own land.

These are the lines, gentlemen, to which your forefathers listened, and such are the deeds which they emulated. Thus they developed such courage that they were ready to die, not for their country alone, but for the whole of Greece as a land in whose heritage they shared. Certainly those who confronted the barbarians at Marathon, by defeating an army from the whole of Asia, won, at their own peril, security for every Greek alike. They gave themselves no credit for glory but valued rather conduct deserving of it, whereby they made themselves the champions of the Greeks and lords of the barbarians. Their pursuit of valor was no idle boast; they displayed it in action to the world.

Mark how the men who lived at Athens then excelled in public, and in private life; so greatly that when in days gone by the Spartans, so renowned for courage, were at war with the Messenians the god advised them to take a leader from us; for so they would defeat their enemies. And yet if the god decided that the leaders sent from Athens were better than the two descendants of Heracles who in succession reign at Sparta, must we not conclude that nothing could surpass the valor of our ancestors?

Does any Greek not know that they took Tyrtaeus from our city to be their leader and with him defeated their enemies and established their system of training for the young, thus wisely providing for the immediate danger and for their whole future too? For Tyrtaeus left them elegiac poems by his own hand, and through listening to these they are trained to be brave.

Though they have no regard for other poets, they valued his works so highly that they passed a law which provides that their men, after taking the field, shall be summoned to the king’s tent to hear the verses of Tyrtaeus all together, holding that this of all things would make them most ready to die for their country. It will be profitable for you to hear these elegiac verses too, that you may know what sort of conduct brought men fame among the Spartans.

Nobly comes death to him who in the van
Fighting for fatherland has made his stand.
Shame and despite attend the coward’s flight,
Who, leaving native town and fruitful land,
Wanders, a homeless beggar, with his kin,
True wife, old father, mother, tender child.
Unwelcome will he be where’er he goes,
Bowed dawn with hardship and by want defiled.
Bringing his house dishonor, he belies
His noble mien, a prey to fear and shame.
Thus roams the waif unpitied and unloved,
He and the line that after bears his name.
Be stalwart then. Think not of life or limb;
Shielding our land and children let us die.
Youths, brave the fight together. Be not first
To yield to craven cowardice and fly.
Make large your hearts within you. Undismayed
Engage in battle with grown men. Be bold;
And standing fast forsake not those whose feet
No longer keep their swiftness. Guard the old.
For shame it is to see an elder fall,
Down in the forefront, smitten in the strife,
Before the youths, with grey beard, hair grown white,
To breathe out in the dust his valiant life,
Clasping his bloody groin with clinging hands,
(Fit sight indeed to kindle wrath and shame! )
His body bared. But those whom youth’s sweet flower
Adorns unfaded nothing can defame.
Honor of men is theirs, in life, and women’s love;
Fair are they too when in the van laid low.
Then clench your teeth and, with both feet astride,
Firm planted on the ground withstand the foe.

They are fine lines, gentlemen, and a lesson too for those who wish to heed them. Such was the courage of the men who used to hear them that they disputed with our city for supremacy; no matter for surprise, since the most gallant feats had been performed by either people. Your ancestors defeated the barbarians who first set foot in Attica, demonstrating clearly the superiority of valor over wealth and courage over numbers. The Spartans took the field at Thermopylae, and, though their fortune was less happy, in bravery they far surpassed all rivals.

And so over their graves a testimony to their courage can be seen, faithfully engraved for every Greek to read: to the Spartans:

Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by,
That here obedient to their laws we lie.

And to your ancestors:

Athenians, guarding Greece, subdued in fight
At Marathon the gilded Persians’ might.

These are noble lines for us to remember, Athenians; they are a tribute to those whose deeds they record and an undying glory to the city. But Leocrates has not acted thus. Deliberately he sullied that honor which the city has accumulated from the earliest times. Therefore if you kill him all Greeks will believe that you too hate such acts as his. If not, you will rob your forbears of their long-lived renown, and will do grievous harm to your fellow citizens. For those who do not admire our ancestors will try to imitate Leocrates believing, that although among men of the past the old virtues had a place of honor, in your eyes shamelessness, treachery and cowardice are held in most esteem.

If I am unable to show you what your attitude towards such men should be, remember your ancestors and the methods of punishment which they employed against them. Capable as they were of the noblest actions, they were no less ready to punish what was base. Think of them, gentlemen; think how enraged they were with traitors and how they looked on them as common enemies of the city.

You remember when Phrynichus was murdered at night beside the fountain in the osier beds by Apollodorus and Thrasybulus, who were later caught and put in the prison by the friends of Phrynichus. The people noted what had happened and, releasing the prisoners, held an inquiry after torture. On investigation they found that Phrynichus had been trying to betray the city and that his murderers had been unjustly imprisoned.

They decreed publicly, on the motion of Critias, that the dead man should be tried for treason, and that if it were found that this was a tratior who had been buried in the country, his bones should be dug up and removed from Attica, so that the land should not have lying in it even the bones of one who had betrayed his country and his city.

They decreed also that if any persons defended the dead man and he were found guilty, they should be liable to the same punishment as he. Thus, in their view, it was wrong even to assist men who had deserted others; and to try to save the traitor would be to betray the city no less than he. In this way then, by hating wrongdoers and by passing such measures against them, they brought themselves safely out of dangers. Produce the decree for them, clerk, and read it.


You hear this decree, gentlemen. After it was passed your ancestors dug up the traitor’s bones and cast them out of Attica; they killed his defenders, Aristarchus and Alexicles, and even refused them burial in the country. Will you then, who have the very person who has betrayed the city alive and at the mercy of your vote, let him go unpunished?

Your ancestors inflicted the extreme penalty on men who simply lent the traitor verbal help. Will you fall so short of their example as to let go as innocent the man who abandoned the state in deed as well as word? Do not do it, gentlemen of the jury. Do not give a verdict unworthy of yourselves; for it would be both impious and contrary to your traditions. If only one such decree were recorded, we might have said that anger rather than real conviction had prompted it. But when the same punishment was meted out by them to all alike it is surely plain that our ancestors were by nature bound to make war an all such crimes.

When Hipparchus, the son of Charmus, did not stand his trial for treason before the people but let the case go by default, they sentenced him to death. Then, as they did not secure his person to answer for the crime, they took down his statue from the Acropolis and, melting it down, made a pillar of it, on which they decreed that the names of sinners and traitors should be inscribed. Hipparchus himself has his name recorded on this pillar and all other traitors too.

Clerk, please take the decree which authorized the statue of Hipparchus to be taken down from the Acropolis and then the inscription at the base of the pillar with the names of the traitors later engraved upon it and read them out.

Decree and Text of Inscription on the Pillar

What is your impression of them, gentlemen? Had they the same attitude as yourselves towards wrongdoers? Or did they, by obliterating the memorial of the traitor, since they could not command his person, punish him with all the means at their disposal? The simple fact of melting down the bronze statue was not enough for them; they wished to leave to their successors a lasting memorial of their attitude to traitors.

Let the jury hear the other decree, clerk, relating to the men who withdrew to Decelea when the people were besieged by the Spartans, so that they will realize that the punishments inflicted by our ancestors on traitors were uniform and self-consistent. Read it.


You hear this decree too, gentlemen. It says that they condemned any who moved to Decelea in war-time and laid it down that those who were caught returning should be led by any Athenian who cared to do so to the Thesmothetae who should take them into custody and hand them over to the executioner. If they dealt thus with men who merely changed their place in Attica, how will you treat Leocrates who in wartime fled from his city and his country to Rhodes and deserted the state? Will you not kill him? If you do not, how can you pass as the descendants of those men?

You ought also to hear the decree relating to the man executed in Salamis. Though he had only attempted to speak treason against the city, the Council, after removing their crowns, killed him with their own hands. It is an admirable decree, gentlemen, and well worthy of your ancestors. Their nobility, revealed in their characters, was shown too in their punishment of criminals.


What is your view, gentlemen? Do you think that if you wish to emulate your forefathers, it is in keeping to allow Leacrates to live? When they dispatched like that one who merely betrayed with his lips a city already desolate, how ought you, whose city prospered at the time, to treat the man who did in very fact desert it? Ought you not to outdo them in severity? When they chastised so sternly those who tried to rob them of the security which the people offered, how ought you to treat a traitor to the people’s own safety? And if they, from considerations of honor only, took vengeance on criminals in this way, how should you react when your country is at stake?

These instances suffice to show you the attitude of our ancestors towards those who broke the city’s laws. Nevertheless I want also to remind you of the pillar in the Council Chamber which commemorates traitors and enemies of democracy. For if my point is backed by frequent illustrations, I am rendering your verdict easy. After the rule of the Thirty, your fathers, who had suffered from citizens what no other Greek had ever thought fit to inflict and had barely managed to return to their country, barred all the paths to crime, having learnt by experience the principles and methods followed by men who wished to overthrow democracy.

For they established it by decree and oath that anyone who found a person aspiring to tyranny or attempting to betray the city or overthrow the democracy should be guiltless if he killed him. They thought it better that imagined culprits should perish than that they themselves should have a real experience of slavery, holding that citizens must simply live in such a manner as to avoid the very suspicion of any of these crimes. Please take the decree.


These words, gentlemen, they inscribed on the pillar, erecting it in the Council Chamber as a reminder to those who daily met in council over affairs of state what their attitude to men like this should be, and hence they swore a common oath to kill them if they saw them even contemplating such conduct. Naturally enough. For where other offences are concerned, the punishment should follow on the crime; but in cases of treason or the overthrow of a democracy it should precede it. If you let slip the moment when the criminals are contemplating some treasonable act against their country, you cannot afterwards bring them to justice for their crimes, since by then they are too powerful to be punished by those whom they have wronged.

Let this foresight, gentlemen, and these actions be the inspiration to you that they should. Remember, when you vote, the temper of your forbears, and urge each other to bring in today, before you leave the court, a verdict modelled to their pattern. You have memorials, you have examples of the punishments they meted out, embodied in the decrees concerning criminals. You have sworn in the decree of Demophantus to kill the man who betrays his country, whether by word or deed, hand or vote. I say “you”; for you must not think that, as heirs to the riches bequeathed by your ancestors, you can yet renounce your share in their oaths or in the pledge your fathers gave as a security to the gods, thereby enjoying the prosperity of their city.

Your city was not alone in dealing thus with traitors. The Spartans were the same. Please do not think me tedious, gentlemen, if I allude often to these men. We shall be well advised to take examples of just conduct from a city which has good laws, and so be surer that each of you will give a just verdict in keeping with his oath. The Spartans, you remember, caught their king Pausanias trying to betray Greece to the Persians. He escaped in time into the temple of the Brazen House, but they walled up the door, took off the roof and mounted guard in a circle round it, remaining at their posts until they had starved him to death and made his punishment a proof to all that even divine assistance is not vouchsafed to traitors.1 And it is right that it should not be; for impiety towards the gods is the first crime by which they show their wickedness, since they deprive them of their traditional cults. But I have yet to give you the best illustration of the prevailing practice at Sparta. They passed a law, covering all who refused to risk their lives for their country, which expressly stated that they should be put to death. Thus the punishment which they laid down was the very fate which traitors most fear; survival after war was to be subject to a scrutiny which might involve disgrace and death. Let me convince you that what I have said can be proved and that my examples are genuine. Produce the law for them.

The Law of the Spartans

See what an admirable law this is, gentlemen, and how expedient it would be for other peoples too besides the Spartans. The fear of one’s own community is a strong thing and will compel men to face danger against an enemy; no one will forsake his country in times of peril when he sees that a traitor is punished with death. No one will turn coward when his city needs him, if he knows that the punishment in store for him is this. For death is the one fitting penalty for cowardice; since, when men know that there are two alternative dangers of which they must face one, they will choose to meet the enemy far rather than stand out against the law and their fellow citizens.

Leocrates is much more deserving of death than deserters from the army. They return to the city ready to defend it or to meet disaster in company with their fellow citizens, while he fled from his country and provided for his own safety, not daring to protect his hearth and home. He alone of men has betrayed even the natural ties of kinship and blood which the unthinking beasts themselves hold dearest and most sacred.

Birds at least, which by nature are best fitted for a swift escape, can be seen accepting death in defence of their brood. Hence the words of the old poets:

Nor does the wild fowl let another’s brood
Be laid within the nest that she has built.

But the cowardice of Leocrates has so passed all bounds that he left his country to the enemy.

That is why no city let him reside within it as an alien. He was naturally expelled more quickly than a murderer. Exiles for murder who move into another city do not meet with enmity among their hosts; but what city could admit Leocrates? One who refused to help his own country would indeed be likely to face danger for another’s! Such men are bad, whether as citizens, guests, or personal friends; for they will enjoy the advantages offered by the state but will not consent to assist it too, in times of difficulty.

Consider: he is hated and expelled by those without a reason to resent him; what treatment should he get from you who have had the utmost provocation? Should it not be the extreme penalty? Indeed, gentlemen, if there were any punishment worse than death, Leocrates of all the traitors that have ever been would most deserve to undergo it. For other traitors are punished, though, when they are caught, their crime has yet to be committed. The defendant, alone of all men, by deserting the city, has, at the time of his trial, accomplished what he undertook to do.

I am amazed at the advocates who are going to defend him. Whatever justification, I wonder, will they find for his acquittal? Will it be his friendship with themselves? In my own view they are not entitled to indulgence but deserve to die for daring to be intimate with him. Though their attitude was not obvious, before Leocrates acted as he did, it is clear to everyone now, since they maintain their friendship with him, that they uphold the same principles as he does and should therefore far rather be required to plead their own defence than be allowed to win your pardon for him.

I believe myself that if the dead really do have any knowledge of earthly affairs, his own father, now no more, would be a sterner judge than any other; since he it was whose bronze statue Leocrates left behind him in the temple of Zeus the Savior, abandoned to the enemy for them to steal or mutilate. He turned that statue, which his father erected as a memorial of his own uprightness, into an object of reproach, since it commemorates a man now famed as father of a son like this.

It is with this in mind, gentlemen, that many have approached me and asked why I did not include in the indictment the charge that he had betrayed his father’s statue, dedicated in the temple of Zeus the Savior. Gentlemen, I fully realized that this offence called for the most severe punishment, but I did not think it right, when prosecuting the defendant for treason, to add the name of Zeus the Savior to the bill of indictment.

What astounds me most of all is, that though you are dealing with men who have no ties of blood or friendship with him but who always champion defendants for a fee, you do not realize that they deserve to feel your anger in its fullest violence. If they and their kind defend the criminals it is proof that they would associate themselves with the actual crimes. It is to defend you, in the interests of democracy and law, not to oppose you, that a speaker should have acquired his skill.

Some of them indeed are no longer using arguments to try to deceive you; they will even cite their own public services in favor of the defendants. These I particularly resent. For having performed the services for the advancement of their own families, they are now asking you for public token of thanks. Horsebreeding, a handsome payment for a chorus, and other expensive gestures, do not entitle a man to any such recognition from you, since for these acts he alone is crowned, conferring no benefit on others. To earn your gratitude he must, instead, have been distinguished as a trierarch, or built walls to protect his city, or subscribed generously from his own property for the public safety. These are services to the state: they affect the welfare of you all and prove the loyalty of the donors, while the others are evidence of nothing but the wealth of those who have spent the money. I do not believe that anyone has done the city so great a service that he can claim the acquittal of traitors as a special privilege for himself; nor do I believe that anyone, with ambitions for the city’s honor, is so unthinking as to help Leocrates, by whom he, first and foremost, had those ambitions frustrated; unless indeed such people have interests other than their country’s.

Though it may not be customary at any other time for members of the jury to set their wives and children beside them in the court, at least in a trial for treason this practice ought to have been sanctioned, so as to bring into full view all those who shared in the danger, as a reminder that they had not been thought deserving of the pity which is their universal right, and make the jury reach a sterner verdict on the man who wronged them. Since, however, custom and tradition have not sanctioned this and you must act on their behalf, at least avenge yourselves upon Leocrates by putting him to death, and so report to your own wives and children that when you had their betrayer in your power you took vengeance upon him.

It is an outrageous scandal for Leocrates to think that he, the runaway, should take his place in the city of those who stood their ground, the deserter among men who fought in battle, the one who left his post among those who saved their country; it is outrageous that he is returning to have access to your cults and sacrifices, to your market, your laws and constitution, when to save these from destruction a thousand of your citizens fell at Chaeronea and received public burial from the city. Yet Leocrates, on his way back to Athens, even braved the epitaphs engraved on their memorials, shamelessly presuming to exhibit himself, in the way he does, before the eyes of those who mourn their loss.

He will shortly beg you to hear him plead his defence according to the laws. Ask him what laws. The ones he deserted in his flight. He will beg you to let him live within the walls of his native city. Which walls? Those which he, alone of Athenians, did not help to defend. He will call on the gods to save him from danger. Who are they? Are they not the gods whose temples, altars and precincts he betrayed? He will beg and pray you to pity him. To whom is this prayer addressed if not to men who made a contribution to safety which he had not the courage to make? Let him make his plea to the Rhodians, since he thought their city safer than his own country.

Would any men, no matter what their age, be justified in pitying him? Take the older generation. He did his best to deny them so much as a safe old age or even a grave in the free soil of their native land. What of the younger men? Would any of them, remembering their contemporaries, comrades in arms at Chaeronea who shared the same dangers, absolve the man who has betrayed the graves they lie in? Would they, in the same vote, denounce as mad those who died for freedom and let Leocrates who deserted his country go unpunished as a sane man?

By such means you will grant to all who wish it the power to injure the state and yourselves whether by word or deed. This is no simple matter of an exile’s coming back; the deserter of his city, who condemned himself to banishment and lived for more than five or six years in Megara with a sponsor, is now at large in Attica and in the city. It means that one who openly gave his vote for abandoning Attica to be a sheep-walk is in this country resident among you.

Before I leave the platform I want to add a few remarks and to read you the decree relating to piety which the people drew up. It has a message for you who are on the point of giving your verdict. Please read it.


My part consists in exposing one who is doing away with all these principles, to you who are empowered to chastise him it remains for you, as a service to yourselves and Heaven, to take vengeance on Leocrates. For while crimes remain untried the guilt rests with those who committed them, but once the trial has taken place it falls on all who did not mete out justice. Do not forget, gentlemen, that each of you now, though giving his vote in secret, will openly proclaim his attitude to the gods.

I believe, gentlemen, that all the greatest and most atrocious crimes are today included within the scope of your single verdict; for Leocrates can be shown to have committed them all. He is guilty of treason, since he left the city and surrendered it to the enemy; guilty of overthrowing the democracy, because he did not face the danger which is the price of freedom; guilty of impiety, because he has done all in his power to have the sacred precincts ravaged and the temples destroyed. He is guilty too of injuring his forbears, for he effaced their memorials and deprived them of their rites, and guilty of desertion and refusal to serve, since he did not submit his person to the leaders for enrollment.

Shall this man then find someone to acquit him or pardon his deliberate misdeeds? Who is so senseless as to choose to save Leocrates at the cost of leaving his own security at the mercy of men who wish to be deserters, to choose to pity him at the cost of being killed himself without pity by his enemies, or to grant a favor to the betrayer of his country and so expose himself to the vengeance of the gods?

My task has been to assist my country, its temples and its laws. I have conducted the trial rightly and justly without slandering the private life of the defendant or digressing from the subject of my indictment. It is now for each of you to reflect that the absolver of Leocrates condemns his country to death and slavery, that of the two caskets before you one stands for treason and the other for deliverance, that the votes cast into one are given for the destruction of your country and the rest for safety and prosperity in Athens.

My task has been to assist my country, its temples and its laws. I have conducted the trial rightly and justly without slandering the private life of the defendant or digressing from the subject of my indictment. It is now for each of you to reflect that the absolver of Leocrates condemns his country to death and slavery, that of the two caskets before you one stands for treason and the other for deliverance, that the votes cast into one are given for the destruction of your country and the rest for safety and prosperity in Athens.

If you acquit Leocrates, you will vote for the betrayal of the city, of its temples and its fleet. But if you kill him, you will be encouraging others to preserve your country with its revenues and its prosperity. Imagine then, Athenians, that the country and its trees are appealing to you, that the harbors, dockyards and walls of the city are begging you for protection, yes, and the temples and sanctuaries too. Bear in mind the charges brought and make of Leocrates a proof that with you tears and compassion have not more weight than the salvation of the laws and people.


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