Lecture 6 - Athens and Draco's Homicide Law

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Classical Studies
Classical Studies 2301A/B
Randall Pogorzelski

LECTURE 6: ATHENS AND DRACO’S HOMICIDE LAW The Five Things • Title o Lysias was a speechwriter in Athens. He was not an Athenian citizen, but a metic, or resident alien o We have a collection of speeches by Lysias, in which this speech is the first one. We therefore often call it Lysias 1. It is also known by its subject, “On the Murder of Eratosthenes.” • Date o We don’t know exactly when Lysias wrote the speech, but we do know that he wrote it sometime after 403 BCE and probably before 380 BCE. • Location o Lysias lived in Athens, and this speech was delivered in Athens. • Language o Lysias wrote in ancient Greek, and specifically in the dialect of Attic Greek, which was the Greek of classical Athens. • The Five Things: o Author – Lysias o Title – Lysias 1, “On the Murder of Eratosthenes” o Date – between 403 and 380 BCE o Location – Athens o Language – Attic Greek Lysias 1 – On the Murder of Eratosthenes Euphiletos stands accused of the murder of Eratosthenes, his wife's lover. According to Athenian law, if a husband caught his wife's lover in the act of adultery, he could either kill him or demand financial compensation. The latter had become the more common type of settlement at Athens. Euphiletos found Eratosthenes with his wife and killed him in front of witnesses. He now has to prove that the killing was not premeditated murder, as Eratosthenes' family has claimed, but both legal and understandable. To do this he must present himself as a credible character with a convincing account of events. Euphiletos appears honest, hard working, and perhaps a little gullible, in short, an ordinary Athenian with whom a jury of other, ordinary Athenians could be expected to sympathize. • Defendant: Euphiletos • Plaintiff: the family of the victim, Eratosthenes • Draco’s Homicide Law: o If a man kill another unintentionally in an athletic contest, or overcoming him in a fight on the highway, or unwittingly in battle, or in intercourse with his wife, or mother, or sister, or daughter, or concubine kept for procreation of legitimate children, he shall not go into exile as a manslayer on that account (Demosthenes, Against Aristrocrates 23.53) • Lysias makes the case that adulterers caught in the act must be executed • Lysias represents Eratosthenes as a criminal, although he has been legally accused of no crime, and Euphiletos as an innocent victim, although he has twisted the law to justify his murder • Lysias has a rational interpretation of the law that seems counter to what seems reasonable to us, but it must have made sense to an Athenian audience (1) I would be very grateful, gentlemen, if you, the jurymen in this case, judged me as you would judge yourselves, were you to go through the same sort of experience. For I am well aware, that if you employed the same standards for others as you do for your own behavior, there is not a single one of you who would not be furious at what has happened. In fact, all of you would consider the penalties light for those practice such things. • Right from the beginning, the idea is to create a group of right-thinking and reasonable insiders, and a group of evil and twisted outsiders • Lysias is defining the community as including people like the jurors and Euphiletos, and excluding criminals like Eratosthenes • This means that the violence Euphiletos has done to Eratosthenes, is not only not considered criminal, but is heroic – praiseworthy is because criminals are excluded from membership in the community • In the modern world, prisons help serve this function – separate community of outsiders is formed, so violence is accepted and even expected • The way Euphiletos can present himself as good, is by placing Eratosthenes in such a category of harmful outsiders (3) I believe, then, that all of you have the same opinion about the severity of the punishment, and that no one considers the matter to be so frivolous that he supposes that those guilty of such acts should be pardoned or deserve light penalties. • Idea that Euphiletos is punishing a crime, rather than defending himself against an accusation (4) I believe, gentleman, that what I have to demonstrate is this: that Eratosthenes seduced my wife and corrupted her, that he brought shame on my children and insulted me by entering my house, that there was no cause for enmity between him and me apart from this, and that I did not commit this deed for money, to make myself rich instead of poor, nor for any other advantage except for revenge, as the law allows. • Defining feature of women who concerns the law is that she may produce legitimate heirs • Category of seducers is particularly hated in Athens because seducers confuse the issue of inheritance, which was a core issue in the polis of Athens (15) Later, gentlemen, after some time had passed during which I remained quite ignorant of the terrible way I was being treated, an old woman came up to me. She had been sent in secret by a woman with whom that individual was having an affair, as I later heard. The woman was angry, thi
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