Chapters 7–8 Essay

Emotional appeal is the engine of these two chapters of the speech (Carey 1990: 47). Having quickly dispatched the legal question regarding the total value of his property, the defendant takes direct aim at the emotions of the jury. Any discussion of wealth or income is now entirely absent. In its place, we find an extended request to the members of the Council to pity the defendant. The defendant reminds the jury that he stands before them an older and weaker (not poorer, mind you) version of the man to whom they had previously granted the pension. Past and present are not only significant when it comes to the condition of the defendant, but also as it relates to the behavior of the Council. In previous meetings, the Council took pity on the defendant; now they are on the cusp of treating outrageously men whose own enemies show them pity, should they agree with the arguments of the challenger. Carey (1990: 47) has forcefully argued that in these chapters Lysias has “substitute[d] pathos for argument” in an attempt to distract the members of the Council. While it is true that chapters of the speech are emotionally laden and do not provide substantive evidence in support of the defendant’s financial situation, it is equally important to recognize that the defendant was likely implicated in complex and nuanced entanglements that required more than a simple accounting sheet to rectify. The pathos, in other words, is part of the argument. This appeal is not solely diversionary if we recognize Lysias’ strategy to cast the case as a referendum on the treatment of poor citizens at the hands of the wealthy elite (Major 2021). In this context, the appeal to the Council not to abandon their practice of compassion reinforces the claim made in the introduction to the speech that the defendant is a helpless victim of an “elite bully” (Major 2021: 251) set on putting the defendant in his place.

Lysias constructs his plea from a series of negative commands, which build in length and syntactic complexity, carrying the listener along on their emotional waves. In each instance Lysias delays the verb until the final word of the prohibition. Antithesis, juxtaposition, and antonyms help structure these prohibitions:

(1) μὴ τοίνυν, ἐπειδή γε ἔστιν, ὦ βουλή, σῶσαί με δικαίως, ἀπολέσητε ἀδίκως·

In the first command to not destroy the defendant unjustly when the Council has the ability to save him in a just manner, Lysias balances the ends of his two phrases through the use of antonyms: δικαίως and ἀδίκως.

Next, the defendant asks the jury to avoid contradictory actions and thus not to take from him, now that he is older and more infirm, the benefits which they granted him when he was a younger and healthier man:

(2) μηδὲ ἃ νεωτέρῳ καὶ μᾶλλον ἐρρωμένῳ ὄντι ἔδοτε, πρεσβύτερον καὶ ἀσθενέστερον γιγνόμενον ἀφέλησθε·

Note the inversion of relative clause and prohibition in the construction of the antithesis. The second command similarly finds balance through the juxtaposition of antonyms, e.g.  νεωτέρῳ ~ πρεσβύτερον; μᾶλλον ἐρρωμένῳ ~ ἀσθενέστερον; and ἔδοτε ~ ἀφέλησθε.

The third prohibition is the longest of the quartet, and again its structure is organized around antithesis.

(3) μηδὲ πρότερον καὶ περὶ τοὺς οὐδὲν ἔχοντας κακὸν ἐλεημονέστατοι δοκοῦντες εἶναι νυνὶ διὰ τοῦτον τοὺς καὶ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἐλεινοὺς ὄντας ἀγρίως ἀποδέξησθε·

Previously (πρότερον), the jury had shown itself to be a most merciful (ἐλεημονέστατοι) deliberative body even for men who had not broken any laws (περὶ τοὺς οὐδὲν ἔχοντας κακὸν), but here and now (νυνἰ) the defendant enjoins them not to treat outrageously men who are objects of pity even to their enemies (τοὺς καὶ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἐλεινοὺς ὄντας). Note the oppositions πρότερον ~ νυνί and τοὺς οὐδὲν ἔχοντας κακὸν ~ τοὺς καὶ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς ἐλεινοὺς ὄντας. In short, past action should inform current decision making. The presence of the related adjectives, the active ἐλεήμων (“merciful”) and the passive ἐλεινός (“pitied”)—the former applied to the jury, the latter to the defendant--underscores this point: if the jury has previously shown great mercy in their actions, then they must now do the same for men who are pitiable.

In the final prohibition, the defendant asks the jury to consider the impact a verdict against him will have on the mental state of the other disabled citizens who face similar public examination.

(4) μηδ’ ἐμὲ τολμήσαντες ἀδικῆσαι καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους τοὺς ὁμοίως ἐμοὶ διακειμένους ἀθυμῆσαι ποιήσητε.

The infinitive ἀδικῆσαι recalls the adverb ἀδίκως in the first prohibition, which nicely rounds off the string of injunctions. This final command is also the most syntactically simple and direct, composed of a nominative participial phrase and the negative command.

Lysias caps this section of the speech with an argument intended to reveal a logical contradiction that would result from the jury ruling against the defendant. This type of argument from contradiction is a favorite of Attic orators, and of Lysias in particular, in part because it effectively recruits the jury to the perspective of the speaker and thus enjoins them to reach the same conclusion (Bateman 1962: 161–63). In Lysias this argument has a standard shape and rhythm with a balanced antithesis at its core. After noting that the conclusion he is about to reach would be “strange” (ἄτοπον), preparing the jury to agree with this claim, the defendant then lays out his contradiction in a set of antitheses:

A: When I was in a better state, I received a state pension (ὅτε μὲν ἁπλῆ μοι ἦν ἡ συμφορά, τότε μὲν φαινοίμην λαμβάνων τὸ ἀργύριον τοῦτο)

B: Now that I am beset by illness and old age, I should be deprived of a state pension (νῦν δ᾽ ἐπειδὴ καὶ γῆρας καὶ νόσοι καὶ τὰ τούτοις ἑπόμενα1 κακὰ προσγίγνεταί μοι, τότε ἀφαιρεθείην)

Lysias balances the phrasing of the antithesis when he lays out the circumstances of the defendant’s condition and the possible disbursement of the pension:

A: ὅτε…μοι ἦν             B: νῦν δ᾽…προσγίγνεταί μοι

A: τότε μὲν φαινοίμην λαμβάνων       B: τότε ἀφαιρεθείην

The ridiculousness of the contradiction is plain. By framing the argument thus, Lysias likely succeeds in creating a desire among the Council to avoid this inconsistency, which could be seen to contradict their reputation. Again, the argument fails to address the challenger’s accusations that the defendant is neither sufficiently poor nor disabled, side-stepping an approach that might lead to evidence that the defendant has become wealthier over time and thus demolish the defendant's a fortiori comparison. “Lysias adroitly avoids answering the [challenger’s] charges while seeming to devastate them” (Bateman 1962: 166; cf. Schön 1918: 100).

These chapters are laden with “emotive” language (Carey 1990: 47). Lysias has the defendant command the jury to not “destroy” (ἀπολέσητε) him or “treat [him] outrageously” (ἀγρίως ἀποδέξησθε, note the alliteration). There is mention of the jury “daring to injure” (τολμήσαντες ἀδικῆσαι) the defendant and how that action would cause other disabled citizens “to despair” (ἀθυμῆσαι). The defendant’s condition is a “disaster” (συμφορά), a combination of old age (γῆρας), illness (νόσοι) and the myriad of troubles (κακά) that they entail.  Lastly the repeated mention of pity, noted above, rounds out the appeal to the jury’s sympathies.

Altogether, then, Lysias abandons narrative and evidence for emotional appeal.

Suggested Citation

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