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- The Orations of Lysias - 1/22 -

Handy Literal Translations.



























1. If I thought it were possible, O fellow-citizens who are assembled at this burial-place, to set forth in words the valor of those who lie here, I should blame the men who invited me to speak about them at a few days' notice. But as all time would not be sufficient for (the combined efforts) of all men to prepare an address adequate to their deeds, the city seems to me, in providing for men to speak here, to make the appointment at short notice, on the supposition that the speakers would under the circumstances meet with less adverse criticism.

2. And though my words relate to these men, the chief difficulty is not concerning their deeds, but with those who formerly spoke upon them. For the valor of these men has been the occasion of such abundance (of composition), both by those able to compose, and those wishing to speak, that, although many noble sentiments have been uttered about them by men in the past, yet much has been left unsaid, and enough can yet be spoken at the present time. For they have experienced perils on land and sea, and everywhere and among all men, who, while bewailing their own hard fate, yet sing the praises of the courage of these men.

3. First, then, I will review the hardships of our ancestors, following the traditions. For all men should keep them too in mind, both celebrating them in song, speaking of them in maxims about the good, honoring them at such times as this, and instructing the living by the deeds of the dead.

4. The Amazons were once the daughters of Ares, living by the river Thermodon, and they alone of the inhabitants of that region were armed with metal, and first of all they mounted horses, by which they unexpectedly, because of the inexperience of their adversaries, overtook those who fled from them, and they left their pursuers far behind. So for their spirit they were thought men, rather than women for their nature. For they seemed to surpass men in spirit rather than to be inferior in _physique_.

5. And after they had subdued many tribes and in fact enslaved the surrounding nations, they heard great reports about this country, and for the sake of glory took the most warlike of their tribes and marched against this city. And after they met these brave men, they came to have their souls like their nature, and with changed hearts seemed to be women rather from their conduct in danger than from their forms.

6. And they alone were not allowed to learn from experience and to plan better for the future, and they might not go homeward and tell of their discomfiture and the valor of our ancestors; for they died here and paid the penalty for their rashness, and made the memory of this city immortal through valor, and rendered their own country nameless through their defeat here. These women then, through their unjust desire for a country not their own, justly lost their own.

7. After Adrastus and Polyneices had joined in the expedition against Thebes and had been worsted in battle, the Thebans would not let them bury their dead. So the Athenians, who believed that if these men did wrong they had (already) the greatest punishment in death, and that the gods of the lower world were not receiving their due, and that by the pollution of holy places the gods above were being insulted, first sent heralds and demanded them to grant the removal of the dead, (8) thinking it the part of brave men to punish their enemies while alive, but of men who distrusted themselves to show their courage on the bodies of the dead. As they were unable to obtain this favor, they marched against the Thebans, although previously there was no reason for hostility against them, and not because they were trying to please the living Argives, (9) but because they believed those who died in battle should obtain the customary rites, they ran into danger against the Thebans in the interests of both, on the one hand, that they might never again offer insult to the gods by their treatment of the dead, and on the other, that they might not return to their country with disgrace attached to their names, without fulfilling Greek customs robbed of a common hope. 10. With this in mind, and thinking that the chances of war are common to all men, they made many enemies, but with right on their side they came off victorious. And they did not, roused by success, contend for a greater punishment for the Thebans, but they exhibited to them their own valor instead of their impiety, and after they had obtained the prizes they struggled for, the bodies of the Argives, they buried them in their own Eleusis. Such were they (who fought) for the dead of the Seven at Thebes.

11. And afterwards, after Heracles had disappeared from men, and his children fled from Eurystheus and were hunted by all the Greeks, who, though ashamed indeed of what they did, feared the power of Eurystheus, they came to this city and took refuge at the altars. 12. And though Eurystheus demanded it, the Athenians would not give them up, but they reverenced the bravery of Heracles more than they feared their own danger, and they thought it more worthy of themselves to contend for the weak on the side of justice than to please those in power and surrender those wronged by them. 13. And when Eurystheus marched on them at that time at the head of the Peloponnesus, they did not change their minds on the approach of danger, but held the same opinion as before, though the father (_Heracles_) had done them no special good, and the Athenians did not know what sort of men these (children) would turn out to be. 14. But they thought it was a just course of action, though there was no previous reason for enmity with Eurystheus, and they had no longer hope of reward except that of a good reputation; so they incurred this danger for the boys, because they pitied the down-trodden, and hated the oppressors, and tried to hinder the latter and aid the former, believing it a mark of liberty to do nothing by compulsion, and of justice to aid the wronged, and of courage to die, if need be, fighting for both. 15. And both were so proud that Eurystheus and his party did not seek to gain any favor from willing men, and the Athenians were unwilling that Eurystheus, even if he came as a suppliant, should drive out their suppliants. So they summoned a force and fought and conquered the army from the whole of Peloponnesus, and brought the children of Heracles to safety, dispelled their fear and freed their souls, and because of their father's courage they crowned them with their own perils. 16. And they, while children, were much more fortunate than their father; for he, though bringing much happiness to all men, made his own life full of toil and strife and emulation, and punished others who were wrong-doers, but he could not punish Eurystheus who was his enemy and had sinned against him. But his sons through this city saw on the same day their own safety and the punishment of their enemies.

17. So many occasions came to our ancestors for fighting for this idea of justice. For the commencement of their life was just. For they were not, like many, collected from all quarters, and they did not settle here after expelling the earlier inhabitants, but they sprang from the soil and it was both their mother and country. 18. And they were the first and only ones at that time to banish the ruling families and establish a democracy, in the belief that freedom of all is the greatest harmony, and making the rewards of their dangers common, they administered the government with free minds, (19) by law honoring the good and punishing the bad, for they thought the wild beasts struggle with one another, but it is fitting for men to define justice by law, and to obey argument, and to serve these by their actions ruled by law and taught by argument.

20. So being of noble descent and of one mind, the ancestors of these who lie here did many brave and wonderful things, and their descendants everywhere left by their valor everlasting memorials of themselves. For in behalf of all Greece they risked their lives before the countless hordes of barbarians. 21. For the king of Asia, not satisfied with his own fortunes, but hoping to enslave Europe, sent an army of five hundred thousand. And thinking, if they could make this city a willing ally or subdue against its will, they would easily reduce the rest of Greece, they went to Marathon, believing that the Greeks would be deserted by their allies, if they should bring on the conflict while Greece was still undecided how it was best to ward off the invaders. 22. And still such an opinion prevailed among them about the city from the previous conflicts, that they believed if they should advance against another city, they would contend with both that and the Athenians; for these would eagerly

The Orations of Lysias - 1/22

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