This site presents a Greek text, vocabulary lists, and commentary on the speech "On the Disabled Man," also known as "On the Refusal of a Pension," or "On the Suspension of the Benefit of the Disabled Man." Delivered in Athens at the turn the fourth century BCE, in the tumultuous years following the bloody rule of The Thirty, it is one of the few extant speeches intended to be delivered by a poor Athenian. This edition is intended for students and readers of ancient Greek.

The Athenian logographos (writer of court speeches) Lysias (459/8 or c. 445 to c. 380 BCE) has been admired since antiquity for his clear and engaging style, inventive argumentation, and ability to inhabit and project the character of his commissioning litigant. In his dialogue Phaedrus, Plato has Phaedrus compliment Lysias as the most clever of the logographoi (Phaed. 228a) following the performance of one of his speeches. Though Socrates later dismantles the logic of the speech itself (which may or may not be an original composition by Lysias), he still admits that Lysias’ “expressions are clear and well-rounded and finely turned” (Phaed. 234e). In the first century BCE Lysias’ reputation as a model of rhetorical style and Attic prose remained strong. In his essay Lysias, the critic and historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus praises the orator lavishly, arguing that he exemplifies the "simple" or "ordinary" style of prose. Among Lysias’ virtues, Dionysius emphasizes the purity of his Attic dialect, the lucidity, brevity, and compactness of his expression, the vividness of his language, and his deft characterization. All these facets of Lysianic style are on display in the twenty-forth of Lysias' preserved Orations (abbreviated Or. 24), making this short speech an ideal introduction to Attic prose and oratory.

Yet this speech has been surprisingly little studied or read in modern times. Besides the aspects of Lysianic style and rhetorical argument mentioned in the previous paragraph, Or. 24 is a fascinating social and political document. It introduces important and timely issues related to the intersection of identities—centered on class, politics, and disability—in Athenian society. The sarcastic and cynical defendant of Or. 24 presents a marked contrast to the trusting husband Euphelitos, the defendant in the more commonly read Or. 1. The pairing of these two texts (which can reasonably be read together in one semester) offers a good opportunity to explore Lysianic character building. Indeed, this was the fruitful context in which the materials for this commentary were workshopped at the 2022 Dickinson Summer Ancient Greek Workshop with my co-instructor Prof. Scott Farrington of Dickinson and a wonderfully engaged cohort of keen readers. Their insightful questions and comments have greatly improved the final version.

This introduction, commentary, and set of interpretive essays aim to make the language, style, argument, and socio-political context of the speech accessible, enjoyable, and thought-provoking. The text (with several minor variations) is based on the Oxford Classical Text (Lysiae orationes cum fragmentis, 2007) of Christopher Carey. The running vocabulary lists include only words (with a few exceptions) that are not in the DCC Greek Core Vocabulary. The notes are meant to help intermediate Greek learners read the text, and so they focus on the parsing and explanation of morphology and syntax, significant stylistic features, as well as critical legal, historical, and social background. Treatments of morphology or syntax are often supplemented with links to the standard student grammars, Goodell’s School Grammar of Attic Greek (abbreviated G.) and Smyth’s Greek Grammar (abbreviated S.). When a term is used in an unusual or non-standard manner, it is highlighted in the notes and linked to the citation in Logeion. Translations are provided for particularly difficult or complex phrases and sentences. The interpretive essays, which are keyed to the chapters, provide fuller treatments of rhetorical, legal, and historical topics and are written not only to help clarify the content of the argument but in the hopes of prompting discussion and further research into the topic. While the primary audience for this set of materials is students in an intermediate or advanced undergraduate course on Greek prose or oratory, it is the hope that other readers, including avid recreational readers of Greek, graduate students, and even professional scholars, may find value in what follows.

Taylor Coughlan, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, November 10, 2022


Cover Image: Bronze statuette of an artisan with silver eyes, ca. mid-1st century B.C. Greek. New York, Metropolitan Museum, 1972.11.1. Image in public domain.

Suggested Citation

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