chapter  1
44 Pages

HOMICIDE CASES

This speech was written for the defence of a man named Euphiletos (§16), who is accused of the deliberate killing of a young man named Eratosthenes. Both are otherwise unknown. He argues in his defence that he caught Eratosthenes in the act of sex with his wife. The killing was therefore legal. The case will have been heard by the Delphinion, the court which tried homicide cases in which the accused admitted the act but maintained that the killing was allowed by law. The date of the trial cannot be fixed with confidence. It could fall at any point between the probable start of Lysias’ speech-writing career after 403 BC and his retirement or death some time around 380. It has been suggested that the characters and situation in this speech are fictive, i.e. that what we have is an exercise/sample speech of the kind we have in the tetralogies of Antiphon rather than a defence spoken in a real trial. The names might lend credence to this hypothesis (Eratosthenes means something like ‘power of desire’ and Euphiletos means ‘wellbeloved’, an ironic name under the circumstances). But this speech is quite unlike the bare manner of the tetralogies, and there is nothing that is incompatible with delivery in a real action. Even the names are of limited significance in a culture where almost all names have a meaning, though we cannot rule out the possibility that the names have been changed for publication, given the implications of seduction for family honour and legitimacy of children. There are commentaries on this speech in C. Carey, Lysias: Selected Speeches (Cambridge 1989), S.C. Todd, A Commentary on Lysias, Speeches 1-11 (Oxford 2007) and M.J. Edwards, Lysias: Five Speeches (London 1999).