Chapters 10–12 Essay

The defendant next addresses the second major piece of evidence that the challenger has brought against him, primarily that the use of a horse demonstrates a degree of physical fitness that would not make him eligible for the benefit. Lysias again turns the challenger’s accusation into an opportunity to attack him as out of touch with the reality of life for the disabled and poor citizen. In doing so, Lysias also successfully side-steps the specifics of the charge laid against his defendant by the challenger.

The defendant directly addresses his challenger’s claim that riding a horse is clear evidence of physical fitness in a brief and high-handed manner. In making this accusation, he insists, the challenger acts recklessly without fear of the fickleness of fate (i.e., he too may end up one day needing this pension) and has no shame in asking the jury to deny the disability of the man they see standing before them. The defendant explains that he makes use of a horse for long journeys. Lysias prefaces this perfunctory explanation with the claim that all men who suffer a misfortune must seek and search out a remedy for what afflicts them, which in his case requires the use of a horse. Lysias peppers the final lengthy sentences of the chapter with language that evokes the grander rhetorical style of philosophical moral instruction (Edwards and Usher 1985: 266). While φιλοσοφεῖν does not carry with it here the technical sense of teaching philosophy or pursuing technical knowledge, its use nevertheless evinces a more elevated register of intellectual dialogue. A similar effect is also detectable in the medical resonances of μεταχειριοῦνται (LSJ μεταχειρίζω 5, “to treat”) and ῥᾳστώνην (“relief”).

Rather than continue to debate whether horseback riding is evidence of physical fitness, Lysias recasts the issue as one of poverty and wealth (Albini 1952: 31; Carey 1990: 45), a charge that he feels that he has already successfully countered. While the logical movement of the argument might feel at first somewhat swift and jarring, we must remember that eligibility for the state benefit requires that the petitioner demonstrate a physical disability that materially contributes to their impoverishment. A wealthy man with a physical impairment would not qualify for state assistance. The defendant asserts that the challenger has claimed that he rides horses “because of arrogance” (διὰ τὴν ὕβριν). Arrogance (ὕβρις) was a quality often associated with the wealthy in the Athenian mind (see the essay for Chs. 15–18). In response to the argument that his riding a horse, beyond demonstrating his physical ability, is evidence of access to income or wealth, the defendant observes that if he used animal transport as a luxury he would ride on a saddled mule (ἐπ᾽ ἀστράβης) not a borrowed horse (ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀλλοτρίους ἵππους). That the challenger does not appreciate the fact that the defendant’s use of borrowed horses is evidence of his poverty further underscores the challenger’s elite ignorance of the necessities facing the poor and may rouse the sympathies of working-class members of the Council (Major 2021: 257–58).

At the same time, the defendant’s use of a horse (borrowed or not) could still be an evidentiary problem for the defense, which explains, in part, why Lysias turns the accusation into another referendum on the class differences between the challenger and defendant. First, the fact that the defendant has friends from whom he can borrow a horse suggests that he travels in rather affluent circles; horse ownership in Athens was not the norm and may well suggest that the defendant is not necessarily the downtrodden citizen he claims to be. Second, the physical strength required to ride a horse may raise questions in certain Council members’ minds about the defendant’s degree of physical impairment and whether it truly limits his ability to earn a living. Though he references his use of canes (see below) and stresses the visual obviousness of his disability, the defendant never makes clear his exact physical disability, which we assume involves the impairment of one (or both) of his lower extremities. It is quite possible that the defendant lived with a disability that would significantly limit his mobility, especially over long distances, such as a club foot, but would not compromise his ability to ride a horse.

The defendant’s physical impairment and his use of canes and horses for mobility bring us to the climax of this section of the defense’s argument. “How is it not absurd” (πῶς οὐκ ἄτοπόν ἐστιν), he sarcastically asks the Council, that the challenger cites as evidence for his physical fitness the defendant’s use of a borrowed horse (which also demonstrates his poverty), while the challenger does not similarly assert that the defendant’s use of two canes is further evidence of his lack of disability since both the use of a horse and a cane serve the same purpose of aiding mobility. In other words, the defendant declares that the challenger is logically inconsistent in his argumentation if he alleges one aid to mobility (here horseback riding) is evidence of able-bodiedness, but not the other (the use of canes). Disputing the logic of the challenger’s argument allows the defendant to call his character into question, representing him as a mendacious sophist who seeks to make a weak (and false) argument into a stronger argument. At the same time, in asking the members of the Council to untangle this line of argumentation, Lysias leaves unaddressed the core issue of how the defendant’s physical disability significantly limits his ability to earn a living.

Suggested Citation

Taylor Coughlin, Lysias: For the Disabled Man (Oration 24). Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2022 ISBN: 978-1-947822-22-1