Chapters 21–27 Essay

Pathos takes center stage in the conclusion (epilogos) of the defendant’s speech, inverting the humorous and sarcastic tone of the speech’s prologue (Carey 1990: 48). Our “most pitiable” (δειλαιότατος) defendant directs a series of emotional appeals to the jury designed to reinforce his characterization as a victim and cast the challenger in a negative light (Schön 1918: 109).  To arouse pity for his client in the jury, Lysias unloads his rhetorical toolbox. The superlative adjective δειλαιότατος is drawn from the language of Athenian drama and so Lysias has the defendant cast himself and his predicament in a tragic light. In Chapter 22, Lysias returns to the argument of precedent and “common agreement” (κοινῇ) concerning the granting of the pension in previous years (see Ch. 7). He amplifies this argument by contrasting the previous decisions of the multiple juries (κοινῇ πάντες) with the attempts of the lone challenger (οὗτος εἷς ὤν) to persuade the current jury to overturn those decisions. This construction parallels a rhetorical turn he deployed earlier in Chapter 13 to mockingly make a point (Albini 1952: 332). Next, the defendant claims “fortune” (τύχη) and the city have deemed it right to grant him a pension to counteract the deprivations wrought by “heaven,” but the challenger seeks to undo this right and good work of the state. This is all a bit much and perhaps bordering on parody (Usher 1999: 108).

In addition to the appeals to such grand notions as “fate,” “heaven,” and “the city,” Lysias reinforces the arguments of this lengthy conclusion (whose length humorously equals much of the substantive argumentation) with antitheses and a series of rhetorical questions. The latter provides the emotional climax of the section (Chs. 24–25), all while recycling arguments from earlier in the speech: the defendant is neither litigious nor violent (Ch. 15); moreover, he is a committed democrat. When the Thirty came to power, the defendant chose to go into exile rather than support the oligarchic usurpers and reap financial benefits. Appeals to one’s democratic bona fides are common in dokimasia speeches following the restoration of the democratic government. Since many of the members of the Council adjudicating his case also had suffered the deprivations of exile, the defendant’s attempt to build a shared experience is transparent. And yet, the defendant’s suggestion that he had a choice in which side of the political battle he backed is at odds with his purported indigence. Drawn from the conservative upper classes, the Thirty were notoriously elitist and restricted citizenship rights to members of their social class. If the defendant is truthful in his account, he appears to occupy a financial status that would disqualify him from receiving the pension. Given the customary appeal in dokimasia defense speeches to pro-democratic behavior under the Thirty, hyperbolic parody better accounts for this contradictory image of the defendant, who lives off a state benefit, exerting influence with the Thirty (Carey 1990: 48). Lysias cannot resist ending this speech, which has sought to undermine the entire state examination and oversight system through irony and humor, with one final laugh.

As regards solid proof of the defendant’s financial need, Lysias does not save his conclusion for a big reveal. Diversion, diminishment, and character assassination remain the name of the game in this defense right to the end. On the one hand, the defendant reminds the jury that they are not examining a man who has (mis)managed large public funds, but rather they are tasked with making a judgment about a single obol (περὶ ὀβολοῦ μόνον). Lysias concludes the speech by returning to the argument with which he began: the challenger is leveraging his standing in Athenian society to bring a case against the defendant not because he has any substantive proof of fraud, but rather because he is envious of him despite his poverty. The defendant may be weaker, but he is a better citizen. Now, should the Council come to the correct decision and reject the accusations of the challenger, they will teach the challenger, and other wealthy citizens, “not to plot against weaker men but to prevail over those men equal to him” (μὴ τοῖς ἀσθενεστέροις ἐπιβουλεύειν ἀλλὰ τῶν ὁμοίων αὐτῷ περιγίγνεσθαι). The challenger, in other words, should busy himself with inter-elite conflicts and allow the better (more democratic?) citizens to prosper (Major 2021: 261).

Suggested Citation

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