Time went on, sirs; I came home unexpectedly from the country, and after dinner the child
started crying in a peevish way, as the servant-girl was annoying it on purpose to make it so
behave; for the man was in the house—
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After this, sirs, an interval occurred in which I was left quite unaware of my own injuries; I was
then accosted by a certain old female, who was secretly sent by a woman with whom that man
was having an intrigue, as I heard later. This woman was angry with him and felt herself
wronged, because he no longer visited her so regularly, and she was keeping a watch on him
until she should discover what was the cause.
So the old creature accosted me where she was on the look-out, near my house, and said,—
“Euphiletus, do not think it is from any meddlesomeness that I have approached you; for the
man who is working both your and your wife’s dishonor happens to be our enemy. If, therefore,
you take the servant-girl who goes to market and waits on you, and torture her, you will learn all.
It is,” she said, “Eratosthenes of Oe who is doing this; he has debauched not only your wife, but
many others besides; he makes an art of it.”
Returning home, I bade the servant-girl follow me to the market, and taking her to the house of
an intimate friend, I told her I was fully informed of what was going on in my house: “So it is
open to you,” I said, “to choose as you please between two things,—either to be whipped and
thrown into a mill, and to be irrevocably immersed in that sort of misery, or else to speak out the
whole truth and, instead of suffering any harm, obtain my pardon for your transgressions. Tell no
lies, but speak the whole truth.”
The girl at first denied it, and bade me do what I pleased, for she knew nothing; but when I
mentioned Eratosthenes to her, and said that he was the man who visited my wife, she was
dismayed, supposing that I had exact knowledge of everything. At once she threw herself down
at my knees, and having got my pledge that she should suffer no harm,
she accused him, first, of approaching her after the funeral, and then told how at last she
became his messenger; how my wife in time was persuaded, and by what means she procured
his entrances, and how at the Thesmophoria [a festival], while I was in the country, she went off
to the temple with his mother. And the girl gave an exact account of everything else that had
When her tale was all told, I said,—“Well now, see that nobody in the world gets knowledge of
this; otherwise, nothing in your arrangement with me will hold good. And I require that you
show me their guilt in the very act; I want no words, but manifestation of the fact, if it really is
so.” She agreed to do this.
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[one evening…] Eratosthenes, sirs, entered, and the maid-servant roused me at once, and told
me that he was in the house. Bidding her look after the door, I descended and went out in
silence; I called on one friend and another, and found some of them at home, while others were
out of town.
I took with me as many as I could among those who were there, and so came along. Then we got
torches from the nearest shop, and went in; the door was open, as the girl had it in readiness.
We pushed open the door of the bedroom, and the first of us to enter were in time to see him
lying down by my wife; those who followed saw him standing naked on the bed.
I gave him a blow, sirs, which knocked him down, and pulling round his two hands behind his
back, and tying them, I asked him why he had the insolence to enter my house. He admitted his
guilt; then he besought and implored me not to kill him, but to exact a sum of money.
To this I replied, “It is not I who am going to kill you, but our city’s law, which you have
transgressed and regarded as of less account than your pleasures, choosing rather to commit
this foul offence against my wife and my children than to obey the laws like a decent person.”
…. [section removed for brevity]
Read out also, please, that law from the pillar in the Areopagus.“Law”
You hear, sirs, how the Court of the Areopagus itself, to which has been assigned, in our own as in our fathers’ time, the trial of suits for murder, has expressly stated that whoever takes this vengeance on an adulterer caught in the act with his spouse shall not be convicted of murder.
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I therefore, sirs, do not regard this requital as having been exacted in my own private interest, but in that of the whole city. For those who behave in that way, when they see the sort of reward that is in store for such transgressions, will be less inclined to trespass against their neighbors, if they see that you also take the same view.
Otherwise it were better far to erase our established laws, and ordain others which will inflict the penalties on men who keep watch on their own wives, and will allow full immunity to those who would debauch them.
This would be a far more just way than to let the citizens be entrapped by the laws; these may bid a man, on catching an adulterer, to deal with him in whatever way he pleases, but the trials are found to be more dangerous to the wronged parties than to those who, in defiance of the laws, dishonor the wives of others.