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Lysias, On the Murder of Eratosthenes

The following essay recounts a speech was given by Euphiletos, defending himself against the charge that he murdered Eratosthenes, after he supposedly caught him, Eratosthenes, committing adultery with his wife. Euphiletos defends himself. Euphiletos claims that the killing of Eratosthenes was justifiable homicide rather than murder in accordance with Athenian law that male adulterers could be killed if caught in the act. There is some debate over whether or not these events and characters were real or if this was constructed as a theoretical exercise and moral fable. Euphiletos means “beloved,” while Eratosthenes means “vigorous in love” causing some historians to suspect this was not a real sequence of events. Regardless, it offers key insight into gender roles and expectations in Athenian society.

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I should be only too pleased, sirs, to have you so disposed towards me in judging this case as you would be to yourselves, if you found yourselves in my plight. For I am sure that, if you had the same feelings about others as about yourselves, not one of you but would be indignant at what has been done; you would all regard the penalties appointed for those who resort to such practices as too mild.

And these feelings would be found, not only among you, but in the whole of Greece: for in the case of this crime alone, under both democracy and oligarchy, the same requital is accorded to the weakest against the strongest, so that the lowest gets the same treatment as the highest. Thus you see, sirs, how all men abominate this outrage.

The general statement in these last words shows that the full sense of the preceding is: “the same requital is accorded to the weakest against the strongest as to the strongest against the weakest.”

Well, I conceive that, in regard to the severity of the penalty, you are all of the same mind, and that not one of you is so easygoing as to think it right that men who are guilty of such acts should obtain pardon, or to presume that slight penalties suffice for their deserts.

But I take it, sirs, that what I have to show is that Eratosthenes had an intrigue with my wife, and not only corrupted her but inflicted disgrace upon my children and an outrage on myself by entering my house; that this was the one and only enmity between him and me; that I have not acted thus for the sake of money, so as to raise myself from poverty to wealth; and that all I seek to gain is the requital accorded by our laws.

 

I shall therefore set forth to you the whole of my story from the beginning; I shall omit nothing,

but will tell the truth. For I consider that my own sole deliverance rests on my telling you, if I am

able, the whole of what has occurred.

When I, Athenians, decided to marry, and brought a wife into my house, for some time I was

disposed neither to vex her nor to leave her too free to do just as she pleased; I kept a watch on

her as far as possible, with such observation of her as was reasonable. But when a child was born

 

 

to me, thence-forward I began to trust her, and placed all my affairs in her hands, presuming

that we were now in perfect intimacy.

It is true that in the early days, Athenians, she was the most excellent of wives; she was a clever,

frugal housekeeper, and kept everything in the nicest order. But as soon as I lost my mother, her

death became the cause of all my troubles.

For it was in attending her funeral that my wife was seen by this man, who in time corrupted her.

He looked out for the servant-girl who went to market, and so paid addresses to her mistress by

which he wrought her ruin.

Now in the first place I must tell you, sirs (for I am obliged to give you these particulars), my

dwelling is on two floors, the upper being equal in space to the lower, with the women’s

quarters above and the men’s below. When the child was born to us, its mother suckled it; and

in order that, each time that it had to be washed, she might avoid the risk of descending by the

stairs, I used to live above, and the women below.

By this time it had become such an habitual thing that my wife would often leave me and go

down to sleep with the child, so as to be able to give it the breast and stop its crying. Things went

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