Page images

instead of showing your abhorrence of rogues, are overcome by the roguery of one man; and, while you have made it punishable with death for any one to produce a non-existing law, you allow persons to escape without punishment who give to our existing laws the character of nonexisting.

You will perfectly comprehend how great an advantage it is to obey the established laws, and how great an evil to despise and disobey them, if you will place before your eyes and examine separately the advantages arising from the law and the results of their infraction. For you will find that the latter performs acts of madness and intemperance and encroachment, the former does the work of intelligence and wisdom and justice. Here is the proof. Those states we shall see are the best governed, in which there have been the best legislators. As bodily ailments are checked by the discoveries of medical men, so the ferocity of the mind is removed by wisdom. In short, we shall find nothing noble or useful which is not associated with law: indeed the whole universe, the heavenly bodies and the seasons, as they are called, if we may trust to what we see, appear to be governed by law and order. Therefore, ye men of Athens, come with mutual encouragement to the assistance of the laws, and pass sentence upon those who have wilfully offended against what is holy. If you act thus, you will perform your duty, and give the most satisfactory decision.



THE speeches against Aphobus, the first ever spoken by Demosthenes, were delivered in a cause of his own, which came on for trial B. C. 364, when he was in his twentieth year. The circumstances out of which it arose are gathered mainly from the speeches themselves; but it will assist the reader to give a brief account of them. Demosthenes, the father of the orator, was a man of considerable property, the greater part of which was embarked in trade and mercantile speculations. The total amount of capital which he died possessed of, (the details of which are given below,) was estimated at nearly fourteen talents. He left a widow and two children; a son at the age of seven, and a daughter at the age of five. By his last will he bequeathed the guardianship of his children and his property upon certain trusts to his two nephews, Aphobus and Demophon, and an old friend, Therippides. The directions were, that Aphobus should marry the widow and receive with her a portion of eighty minas Demophon was to receive two talents, on condition that he married the daughter when she reached the age of puberty: and Therippides was to enjoy the interest of seventy minas until the son came of age. The residue of the estate was ordered to be invested, so as to accumulate for the benefit of the young Demosthenes. It appears that the guardians grossly neglected their duty, not only failing to perform the conditions upon which they took their own legacies, but squandering, wasting, or appropriating to their own use the bulk of the property. They made no attempt to invest it as the will directed; and the consequence was that, by the time Demosthenes had attained his majority, i. e. when he had completed his seventeenth year, the estate, instead of being vastly increased (as it might have been by good management), was reduced to about a tenth of its original value. He charges them with having committed during the interval divers acts of fraud and meanness, and among others, with having cheated his preceptors of their dues.

Upon the attainment of his majority, Demosthenes called upon the three guardians to render him an account of the manner in which they had disposed of the estate. Their conduct had become pretty notorious, and the account, which, after various excuses and delays

they at last rendered, was not wholly unexpected. The breach of trust however was so flagrant, and the loss which it entailed so enormous, that nothing remained for Demosthenes but to seek redress by legal proceedings. Here indeed the chances seemed against him; for he would have to contend with powerful and experienced adversaries, whose resources were augmented by the very plunder which they had taken from him. In order to recover his rights, it would be necessary to use every possible diligence in collecting proofs of the fraud, and preparing for the struggle in court, in which he would have to appear as plaintiff, and (at least) open his case to the jury. For the Athenians (as I have already explained) required the parties to appear in person, and in general to conduct their own causes; though a youth like Demosthenes would be permitted, after a formal opening of his case, to leave the substantial part of it to the advocacy of a friend. Demosthenes however, as we have reason to believe, had no desire to escape from the personal contest, or to procure an advocate to plead his cause. It was just about this time that he heard Callistratus make his celebrated defence in the affair of Oropus, which fired him with the ambition to become an orator; he felt, as we may well imagine, that he had within him the power to become one. At the same time he must have known, and must have been advised, that for a contest so important, upon the issue of which his future fortunes in life might depend, some laborious preparation was indispensable. To ensure success, there was more required than fluent speaking or an impassioned address to the jury. He must know something of Attic law, more particularly the mercantile branch of it, and that which related to wills and wardship; also of the procedure and practice of the Athenian courts, the rules of evidence, and the various artifices in the management of causes, which are never thoroughly learned except from long experience. It was impossible for a youth of eighteen to obtain a competent knowledge of these things, and to meet so pressing an emergency, without assistance. Under such circumstances, Demosthenes applied for aid to a person of that class, whom the great increase of litigation of Athens had caused to spring up, and who united in themselves some of the functions of our attorney and special pleader. Their chief business was to prepare speeches for the suitors, or rather, to get up their cases for them: the more eminent also gave lectures, or lessons in rhetoric. The person selected by Demosthenes was Isæus, and a better man could not have been chosen. He had been a pupil of Isocrates, whom, though he was inferior in the graces of diction, he greatly surpassed in vigour of reasoning and practical knowledge of the world. He was (as we should say) the best real property lawyer at Athens, where questions of disputed inheritance (not without complexity and difficulty) were frequently occurring. His extant speeches on these subjects, written for his clients, are master-pieces of legal argument, expressed in clear and forcible language. Under the tuition of this able man Demosthenes placed himself, and obtained just the assistance which he needed. În the course of the two years after he had come of age, he so employed

his time under the guidance of Isæus, as not only to prepare himself for the conduct of his own cause, but, by the knowledge which he acquired of Attic jurisprudence and public business, to lay the foundation of his future fame as an orator. It has been said that Isæus either composed or corrected the speeches which have come down to us against Aphobus and Onetor. A similarity in the style to his acknowledged works, as well as the relation which existed between him and his pupil, renders either of such suppositions probable enough; but, however that be, we may take it for granted, that Demosthenes received from him those instructions as to the preparing of his case for trial, the handling of it in court, the arrangement of facts, evidence, and arguments, which were far more important to the issue than the mere language in which he would clothe his address to the jury.

During the long interval which elapsed before the actual commencement of legal proceedings, it seems that several attempts were made by the parties or their common friends to obtain a settlement of the dispute, or a reference to arbitration; but all proved ineffectual. Aphobus at one time had agreed with Demosthenes to refer the matters in difference between them to three private arbitrators, whose decision would have been final; but finding, as Demosthenes tells us, that the arbitrators were likely to decide against him, he revoked the submission, which he was at liberty to do, either because he had not entered into a binding agreement, or perhaps because any submission of that sort was revocable before, or within a certain time before, the award. Nothing then remained for Demosthenes but an appeal to a legal tribunal; and accordingly in the year B. C. 364, in the Archonship of Timocrates, he commenced three several actions against his three guardians, prosecuting that against Aphobus immediately, and postponing his proceedings in the other two until the first should be decided. After the instructio litis before the Archon, the cause was sent to be tried in the first instance before one of the official arbitrators, who gave his decision against Aphobus, from which he appealed to a jury. Fearful however of the result, he attempted to get rid of the whole affair by an artifice, and, a few days before the day of trial, he procured one Thrasylochus, a friend of his own, to tender to Demosthenes the trierarchy, or the alternative (if that were declined,) an exchange of estates. This plot was defeated, as the reader has already learned from the speech against Midias, (see Vol. iii. page 91,) by Demosthenes raising the money, twenty minas, to pay the trierarchal charge. On the appointed day the cause came on for trial; the plaintiff and defendant were both heard; and the jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff, assessing the damages at ten talents, the amount claimed. Aphobus was by no means disposed to acquiesce in this verdict. made an attempt to defeat it, by proceeding against one of the witnesses for false testimony; the conviction of whom might possibly have led to the granting of a new trial in the original case. In the third speech against Aphobus, Demosthenes defends this witness, who, we may presume, was acquitted. Other measures, of an illegal and fraudulent character, were taken by Aphobus, with a view to


prevent Demosthenes obtaining execution, or reaping the fruits of his verdict. These form the subject of the two speeches against Onetor. How much Demosthenes ultimately recovered from his guardians, is unknown to us. Plutarch represents, that it was but a small portion of his estate. That it was much less than he expected and was entitled to, we gather from what he himself says in the oration against Midias, and from other circumstances. The actions against Demophon and Therippides were never tried; most probably they were compromised. We know that Demon, the father of Demophon, who was originally hostile to Demosthenes, afterwards became reconciled to him; for Demosthenes composed for him the speech against Zenothemis. In the speeches against Aphobus there are some indications that Demophon and Therippides did not entirely identify themselves with the cause of their colleague; and it is very likely, that the issue of the first trial would incline them to come to a settlement of their own cases. We may conclude upon the whole, that Demosthenes, though he may have got back something considerable, still remained a great loser by the frauds of his guardians. Out of evil however sometimes comes good. He had sustained a pecuniary loss; but in other respects he was a gainer. He had been thrown at an early age upon his own resources, and compelled to make extraordinary exertions and to fight an uphill battle, which, being attended with success, both gave him self-confidence and earned for him a high reputation. His early education had been in some degree neglected; he was forced to undertake the task of self-education, which is often better than scholastic training. He learned more from Isæus, under the pressure of his necessities, than he would have done by attending any number of rhetorical lectures without such pressure; and the school of life gave him a more useful lesson than he could have got in the shade of the Academy. Even in a pecuniary point he was perhaps ultimately no loser; for the knowledge which he had acquired enabled him to follow the profession of Isæus, and write speeches for others. He employed himself in this way for many years with great advantage, and only discontinued the practice when politics had begun to absorb all his attention. The speeches which we are now considering are, on account of their own merits, well worthy of our perusal; but they are chiefly interesting because the cause in which they were delivered was the first step of Demosthenes on the arena of the world. Here he first stood forth as the lawyer and the man of business. Out of these in due time grew the statesman. Nor can we doubt that from his early troubles and difficulties he imbibed that love of right and truth, and that abhorrence of injustice, which became the animating principles of his subsequent life; to which his country was indebted for his exertions in her cause, and to which we owe the splendid monuments of his eloquence. In his opening speech in this case, Demosthenes, after stating the contents of the will, which was in the possession of the guardians and not produced by them, shows what the property of his father consisted of; which, for the convenience of the reader, is subjoined in a tabular form:

« EelmineJätka »