Lysias 3: Defence Against Simon

220px-Art_grèciaThis speech is another legal defence, written for and spoken by an unnamed client. A man named Simon had charged this man with “premeditated wounding”, and he faced possible exile as a result. As this man would have it, the disagreement between himself and Simon arose from a competition for the affections of Theodotus, a young, male prostitute.

1. Although I have been privy to many and terrible things about Simon, councillors, I would not ever have believed that he arrived at such a great point of boldness1 that on behalf of that for which he ought to pay a penalty, on behalf of these things, he would make an accusation as if he were the one wronged, and that having solemnly sworn an oath so great and holy, he would come to you.

2. If, then, any others were about to make a legal judgement concerning me, I would be very much afraid, seeing that there are sometimes both intrigues and fortunes of the sort such that events various and contrary to expectation turn out for those who are on trial: by going to you, I hope that I will chance upon men observant of the law.

3. And I am vexed most of all, councillors, that I will be forced to speak to you concerning matters of this kind, for the sake of which, since I would be dishonoured were many to know them about me, I bore it to be wronged. But since Simon has placed me into such compulsion, I shall go through for you everything that was done, hiding nothing at all.

4. I expect, councillors, if I am unjust, to obtain no forgiveness: but if, concerning these things, I show you that I am not guilty of that to which Simon did solemnly swear, but I am nevertheless shown to you to have managed myself in a manner contrary to my age, and quite foolishly, and all for a lad, then I beg that you think no less of me, since you know that it exists in the hearts of all men to covet, whereas the best and most chaste man would be he who is able to bear his misfortunes in the most discrete manner. For all these, this man Simon became an obstacle to me, as I shall show you.

5. For we, dear councillors, had set our hearts on Theodotus, a Plataean lad. And I, by doing the boy good, expected him to be a dear friend, whereas this man, by committing hubris2 and acting contrary to the law, he looked to force the boy to do whatever he might wish. As many evils as that boy has suffered by him, it would be a great toil to speak it, but as many misdeeds as he committed against me, this I believe fitting for you to hear.

6. For, having heard that the lad was at my house, he came to my place, drunk, knocked out the doors and went into the women’s quarters, where my sister and nieces were, who have lived such orderly lives that they were ashamed to be seen, even by family.

7. This man, moreover, came to such a point of hubris that he was not willing to depart until, since they believed that he did a terrible thing, that is, they who attended him and who came with him, because he intruded upon the maiden girls and the orphans within, these men drove him out by force. And so far was he from feeling repentance for his acts of hubris that once he discovered where we were dining, he did a most unnatural and unbelievable thing, unless one were aware of his mania.

8. For, having called me from within, as soon as I came out, he immediately tried to beat me. And when I defended myself, he abandoned the fight and hurled stones at me. And although he missed me, Aristocritus, who had come to my house with him, him he hit with a stone, and smashed in his forehead.

9. Therefore I, councillors, although I believed that I suffered terrors, and although, as I said, I was shamed by the circumstance, I bore it, and I preferred not to exact a penalty for these misdeeds, rather than to seem to be foolish to the citizens, knowing that although the matters did befit the knavery of the other man, many would mock me for having suffered these sorts of things, at least by those men accustomed to spite whenever anyone in the city is eager to do his part.

10. And thus I was so puzzled about what I should do, councillors, for the law-breaking of this man, that it seemed to me that the very best thing was to be abroad from the city. Indeed, I took the lad (for I must speak the whole truth) and departed from the city. And once I believed that there was sufficient time for Simon to have forgotten the young man, and to have repented his earlier misdeeds, I returned again.

11. And I went away to Piraeus,3 whereas this man, as soon as he became aware that Theodotus had arrived, and was spending time with Lysimachus, who dwelled near a house which that man rented, he summoned some of his friends. And these men took a luncheon and drank, and they stood watch on the roof, so that when the lad went out, they could grab him and drag him in.

12. At this critical time, I return from Piraeus and since I’m passing by, I drop in on Lysimachus: after we passed a little time, we go out. Then these men, already drunk, leap upon us. And whereas some of those men attending to him did not wish to share his fault, Simon himself, and Theophilus, and Protarchus and Autokles, began to drag the lad away. And he, casting off his cloak, departed fleeing.

13. And I, believing that he had escaped, and that the men, just as soon as they encountered any people, would desist from shaming themselves—having thought through these things, departing along the other road, I was away: thus I was zealously watching for them; and everything that was done by them, I considered a great calamity to myself.

14. And herein, where Simon says there was a battle, no-one, neither one of these men, nor of us, neither had his head broken, nor did he receive any other harm, of which I furnish for you these witnesses who were there.


15. That, therefore, it was this man who acted unjustly, councillors, and who plotted against us, and not I against him, has been given witness for you by those who were present. After this, the lad fled into a fuller’s shop, and these men, all rushing in together, took him out by force, although he shouted and cried out and protested.

16. Although many people rushed together, vexed by the matter and saying that terrible things were happening, they cared nothing for what was said, and they soundly thrashed Molon the fuller, and certain others who were trying to give defence.

17. Presently, going about alone, I came upon them nearby the house of Lampon, and since I believed it to be monstrous and shameful to stand by and watch hubris committed against the young man so lawlessly and violently, I seized him. And those men, for what reason they were breaking the law, doing such things against the boy, they did not wish to say when they were asked, and releasing the young man, they beat me.

18. When this battle took place, councillors, with the lad striking them, and defending his own person, and them striking us, and them still beating him under the influence of drink, and me defending myself, and all those who arrived coming to our aid, as we were wronged, in this uproar, we all got our heads smashed.

19. And those other men, those who were acting like drunken louts with him, as soon as they saw me after these events, they begged my forgiveness, as they had not been done wrong, but as they had done monstrous things: and since that time, four years have passed, and no one has ever brought any charge against me.

20. But Simon, this man, being guilty of all these evils, although for a period of time he observed a peace, since he feared for himself, when he became aware of a private charge, that I had contested badly by an exchange of property,4 since he had contempt for me, with great boldness he brought me into a contest such as this. As proof that I speak the truth, I shall provide for you these witnesses of the events who were there.


21. And so you have heard, both from me and from the witnesses, what happened: I would wish, councillors, that Simon held the same opinion as me, so that, having heard the truth from both of use, you would easily know the righteous. But since he has no concern for the oaths which he swore, I will endeavour also to instruct you concerning that of which he has deceived.

22. For he dared to say that he himself gave three-hundred drachmas to Theodotus, that he made a contract with him, whereas I contrived that the lad be away from him. And yet he ought to have, if indeed this is true, by summoning witnesses, worked things out, as much as possible, according to the laws concerning these events.

23. But this man has been shown to never have done anything of this sort, committing hubris and giving beatings to both of us at once, and acting like a rowdy partier, breaking open my doors, and coming in during the night upon freeborn women. Things which you must, councillors, believe are the greatest proof that he is lying to you.

24. Examine what unbelievable things he has said. His property, all of it, he has estimated at two-hundred and fifty drachma. And yet it is astonishing if he hired a companion worth more than what he happens to have attained.

25. He arrived at this point of daring, such that it is not enough for him only to lie concerning this, concerning giving money, but he also claims to have recovered it: And yet how is it likely that we committed such misdeeds of the sort which this man has accused, that we wished at one point to rob three-hundred drachmas, and then when we fought it out, at that point to return the money to him, although we were neither acquitted of the accusations, nor was there any compulsion against us?

26. But really, councillors, all of this has been concocted and devised by him, and on the one hand he claims that he gave the money, so that he might not seem to be doing a terrible thing, if, with there being no contract with him, he had such audacity to commit such hubris against the lad, and on the other hand, he pretends that he recovered it, for reason that it is clear that he never at any time pressed a charge for the money, nor did he ever make any mention of it.

27. And he claims that at his doors, he was treated heinously by me, that he was beaten. But he was shown to have pursued the lad more than four stadia5 away from the house, suffering no harm, and although more than two-hundred men saw this, he denies it.

28. He says that we came to the house, his house, bearing a pot-shard, and that I was threatening to kill him, and that this was the premeditation. But I believe, councillors, that it is easy to recognize that he is lying, not only for you, who are accustomed to close scrutiny concerning this sort of thing, but indeed for everyone else.

29. For would it seem believable to anyone that I, if I had fore-planned and plotted, that I would come to Simon’s house during the day, with the boy, when he had so many people gathered together with him, unless I had arrived at such a point of mania that I set my heart on fighting as one man against many, and especially knowing that he would gladly see me at his doors, he who, when he visited my house, came in by force, and having no concern neither for my sister nor my nieces, he dared to seek me out, and when he discovered where I happened to be dining, calling me out, he beat me?

30. Or that at one time, so that I would not be the subject of gossip, I kept my peace, knowing that his knavery was my calamity: but once time passed, conversely, so this man says, did I then set my heart on becoming the subject of gossip?

31. And if the lad was with him, his falsehood would have held some logic, that I, due to my desire, was compelled to do something more senseless than was likely: but as it stands, the boy did not pick him, but rather hated him more than all other men, and he happened to be living with me.

32. As a result, is this credible to any of you, that I had earlier sailed away from the city, taking the lad, so as not to battle with this man, but that when I returned again I led him to Simon’s house, where I was destined to have the most trouble?

33. Or that I plotted against him, but I came so unprepared that I summoned no-one to my side, not friends, nor my household, nor anyone else, except, of course, this child, who would not be able to be an ally to me, but would be capable to inform, should he be put to torture,6 as to whether I had committed any misdeed?

34. But that I reached a point of such ignorance that, although I plotted against Simon, I paid no heed to where I could capture this man alone, whether by night or day, but I that came there where I myself was fated to be seen by the most people and also be soundly thrashed, just as if I had devised a premeditated crime against myself, so that I might have as much hubris committed against me as possible by my hated foes?

35. But really, councillors, it is easy also to understand from the battle that occurred that he lies. For the lad, as you know, threw off his cloak and departed, fleeing, and these men chased after him, whereas I departed, going by another road.

36. And furthermore, which of the two must you believe to be the culprits of what happened, those who fled or those who sought to capture? For I believe it to be clear to all that those who fear for themselves flee, whereas those who wish to do something wicked pursue.

37. This, therefore, is not likely, that it had turned out otherwise concerning these things, but rather, those who grabbed the lad were dragging him from the road by force, and when I encountered these men, I did not assail them, but I tried to grab hold of the boy: but they took him by force and beat me. And these things have been testified to you by people who were there. As a result, it is terrible thing if I should seem to have premeditated concerning what these men obtained, who have committed such terrible and illegal acts.

38. What should I have ever suffered, if the opposite of what has presently happened was so, if I had many of my friends when I encountered Simon, and fought with him, and I was beating him, and giving chase, and had captured him, seeking to drag him off by force, whereas now, when this man has done these things, I have entered into a contest of this sort, in which I run a risk concerning my fatherland, and my property, all of it.

39. And this is the greatest and most conspiscuous thing of all: for although he was wronged and plotted against by me, so he says, he did not dare, in four years, to denounce me to you. And while other men, when they love and they are robbed of that on which they set their hearts, and they are soundly thrashed, angered, they seek to be avenged on the spot, this man does so later, at long last.

40. Therefore, councillors, that I am guilty of nothing of what happened, I believe I have sufficiently made clear. So much am I disposed toward disagreement with matters of this sort that although I was inflicted with much other hubris at Simon’s hands, and had my head broken by him, I did not dare to denounce him, believing it a terrible thing, if we were contentious toward each other concerning a child, of all things, to seek for this reason to drive someone out from the land of their fathers.

41. And since I also believed there to be no premeditation of harm when someone, with no desire to kill, inflicts a wound. For who is so simple-minded, who premeditates so far in advance how one of his hated foes will receive a wound?

42. But it is clear that even those who laid the laws here, if some who happened to be fighting broke each other’s heads, not for these reasons did they deem exile from the fatherland to be imposed: or they would have driven out many: but whosoever, plotting to kill, did wound anyone, but were not able to kill, concerning such men, they laid down thus the highest punishments, for they believed, on account of what they plotted and premeditated, on account of that it was befitting for these men to pay a penalty: and even if they did not prevail, that nonetheless, for their part, it had been done.

43. Both presently here and many times prior, you have thus made judgement concerning premeditation. For it would also be terrible, if anytime anyone by drunkeness and contentiousness or by childish play, or by invective or those fight over consorts were to take a wound—if because of these things which, when they come to their right mind, everyone repents—you also impose such serious and terrible penalties, that some of the citizens are driven out of their fatherland.

44. I marvel a great deal at this man for his thinking. For, to me, it does not seem to be of the same cloth, to love and to extort by false accusation, but rather the one belongs to rather guileless men, the other to the most mean-spirited. I wish it were permissible for me, among you, to show you the knavery of this man by other means as well, so that you would have acquaintance how much more just it would be were this man contending concerning death rather than putting others in peril with respect to their fatherland.

45. Therefore, while I shall let other things be, there is one which I consider fitting for you to hear and will be the evidence of this man’s audacity and daring, concerning this, I shall make mention. For in Corinth, when he came to the battle against our opponents, and the expedition into Coronea, he fought with the squad leader, Laches, and he beat him, and standing before the whole levy of the citizen army, he was deemed to be the most disorderly and knavish, and he alone of the Athenians was banished by proclamation by the generals.

46. I would have many other things to say, as well, concerning this man, but since it is not customary among you to speak outside of the business at hand, reflect upon that: these are men who entered into our house by force, men who gave chase, men who snatched us from the road by force and carried us off.

47. Since you have been reminded to vote for justice, do not also stand by while he exiles me unjustly from my fatherland, on behalf of which I have hazarded many risks and have performed many liturgies, and I have been to blame for no evil here, nor has anyone of my ancestors, who were many and noble:

48. As a result, may I justly be shown pity by you and by other men, not only if I should suffer something of what Simon wishes, but that I was even compelled by matters of this sort to be put into a trial of this kind.

1. boldness, here, is translating the Greek word, τόλμα, which can mean courage, boldness, daring. It is often cast in a positive light, but is just as often seen in a negative sense, as temerity, recklessness, audacity, as it is used throughout this speech. I’ve tried to translate it with ways that keep that double-sense, as boldness and daring do in the English language.
2. In the prior speech, I translated hubris as outrage. In the Greek world, an act of hubris was not overweening pride, a connotation the word has acquired in English, but is an act that demeans someone else, and damages their integrity and equality as a citizen. An act of hubris always has a victim. In this speech, as opposed to the prior speech I translated, I’ve used the word hubris in English wherever it appears in the Greek, even where it leads to some awkward constructions, since English doesn’t have a verb that means, to commit hubris. The awkwardness will be especially apparent when the verb is used passively.
3. Piraeus was a port city very close to, and administrated by Athens.
4. In Athens, wealthy men were required to perform liturgies, such as field a warship with its crew, or sponsor a festival play. These liturgies were quite expensive. Sponsoring a play, for example, meant buying the costumes for the chorus, which could be quite elaborate, paying the playwright, and also all the performers, not only for the performance itself, but also for rehearsals and time spent learning the play. To escape this obligation, a nominee could protest with the claim that another man had better means to fund the liturgy. In such a case, the assets of both men were audited. If indeed the other man was wealthier, he received the liturgy. If, however, the original nominee was in fact the wealthier man, he was required to exchange all his property with the other man. It seems that the defendant in this case had lost such a case, and had been required to exchange properties with another man.
5. An Attic stadion (pl. stadia) is about 185 meters. So Simon pursued the boy about 740 meters.
6. If Theodotus was a slave, his testimony at a trial was invalid unless it was acquired by torture. If he was a non-citizen foreigner dwelling in Athens, a metic, his status was a little more ambiguous. It would have been, perhaps, contrary to Athenian sensibilities to torture a free metic for testimony, but not unheard of.

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One Response to Lysias 3: Defence Against Simon

  1. Pingback: Guest Post: Lysias, Turkey, and Smiling Girls

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