Monday, November 3, 2008


S. C. Todd, A Commentary on Lysias, Speeches 1-11. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. ix, 783. $299.00. ISBN 9780198149095.
Reviewed by Matthew R. Christ, Indiana University (

With the publication of this nearly 800-page book, Stephen Todd delivers the first installment of his planned multi-volume commentary on the speeches and fragments of Lysias. As Todd observes, "Perhaps surprisingly, there has never been a full-scale commentary on the whole corpus of Lysias" (35-6), though commentaries were produced in the nineteenth century on significant portions of the corpus and numerous commentaries on individual speeches and collections of speeches have appeared. In this volume, Todd not only provides a detailed introduction to, and commentary on, each of the speeches covered, but also includes the full Greek text and apparatus reprinted from Christopher Carey's new Lysias OCT (2007) and his own facing English translation (a precursor of which appeared in Lysias, The Oratory of Classical Greece, Volume 2 [Austin, 2000]). Todd, as author of The Shape of Athenian Law (Oxford, 1993) and numerous articles on Athenian law and oratory, is eminently qualified to write a commentary on the corpus of Lysias, and, though his focus is on historical issues, he is highly attuned to speakers' language, rhetoric, and strategies.

In his General Introduction (forty-two pages, with extensive footnotes), Todd places Lysias in context and addresses basic issues concerning his life, career, and corpus, and sets forth his own priorities as commentator. Although Lysias was probably born in the mid-440s B.C., his career as logographer apparently ran from 403 to ca. 380. Why did this wealthy metic turn to writing speeches in 403? Todd reasonably suggests that this may have been due to a combination of financial need after the Thirty plundered his family's fortune and his "realisation of capability" upon delivering Lysias 12: Against Eratosthenes or at least circulating it as pamphlet, if he was barred by status from delivering it (13). Once he put his hand to logography, Lysias was prolific, with 425 speeches said to be circulating under his name in Antiquity, though ancient critics accepted only 233 of these as authentic; modern editions include either 34 or 35 speeches, and the fragments in Carey's new OCT provide evidence from another 145 speeches (17-18). Todd argues that the core of the extant Lysianic corpus, which shows evidence of organization "by legal procedure or by categories that are capable of being described in procedural terms" (21), reflects the grouping of speeches in competing collections in Antiquity, and "the survival of particular groups to the exclusion of others may represent the result not so much of selection but of chance survival" (25). This is important for how we view the surviving speeches and what they may convey about Lysias and his clients. In surveying questions of authenticity that arise in connection with some of the speeches, Todd expresses skepticism concerning the value of stylometric analysis for the attribution of the speeches of Lysias, as had K. J. Dover before him (Lysias and the Corpus Lysiacum [Berkeley, 1968]). Todd, however, rejects Dover's theory that the speeches we have were not written by Lysias exclusively but rather are the result of collaboration between Lysias and his clients.

After surveying the history of commenting on Lysias from Antiquity to the present, Todd sets forth his own principles and priorities as commentator (38): "This is primarily a historian's commentary, in that my interest in the speeches was initially aroused by the question of how one might use them as historical evidence. But I do not believe that it is legitimate to interpret historical sources which are themselves literary texts without paying attention also to literary questions--or, at least, to some literary questions." Thus, although Todd is not drawn to comment on stylistic issues per se (e.g., the appearance of particular rhetorical figures), he is "interested in issues of narrative, of persuasion, and of rhetoric in the sense of the manipulation of weighted or ambiguous language." Todd also notes that he does not attempt to comment on all the realia that happen to crop up in the speeches; instead he limits discussion to "issues which have been the subject of significant scholarly debate and/or for which the text itself provides important historical evidence, and those where the provision of such information seems necessary for a historical understanding of the text." The need for selectivity is entirely understandable, and I found in using the commentary that, although Todd did not always comment on a word or issue of interest to me, he provided a wealth of information that enriched my reading of each speech.

A brief survey of Todd's extensive introductions to the speeches covered in this volume gives a good sense of his perspective on fundamental issues, many of which he analyzes in further detail in the commentary that follows each speech.

Lysias 1: Concerning the Killing of Eratosthenes: Defence Speech, which is a modern favorite among the speeches of Lysias (it was too racy for the old school commentaries), is the speech of Euphiletus, who is on trial for slaying his wife's lover, whom he had caught in bed with her. Todd argues persuasively that the case was heard before the Delphinion and that the ephetai hearing the case were probably veterans of the homicide courts and distinct from regular dikastai. He observes that Euphiletus' forensic strategy is to "represent the dead man as himself on trial for moikheia" (46), which Athenians would have identified most closely with adultery, and that it was key for his defense "to represent the killing of Eratosthenes as a normal or even obligatory response to his adultery, rather than an unusual one," even though this was in fact not common (50). Todd's analysis of how Euphiletus seeks to convey his character through his narrative is on target, and his position (cf. J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied Families, 600-300 BC [Oxford, 1971] 185) that the adulterous Eratosthenes of this speech may have been a close relative of the Eratosthenes whom Lysias prosecuted in connection with his brother's death under the Thirty (Lys. 12) is appealing; in this case, as Todd suggests, Lysias may have had good reason to provide Euphiletus, who was apparently not a wealthy man, this speech at a discount.

Not least among Todd's achievements in this volume is his careful treatment of Lysias 2: Funeral Speech for those who Assisted the Corinthians, which figures prominently in modern reconstructions of the epitaphic genre and in discussions of Athenian civic identity (most notably, in Nicole Loraux's landmark The Invention of Athens: The Funeral Oration in the Classical City [Cambridge, MA, 1986]). Todd accepts Lysias as author of the speech, but argues that it was probably a display piece on the grounds that 1) Lysias, as a metic, was unlikely to be selected to deliver an actual funeral speech; and 2) an Athenian selected to give the speech would likely write his own speech since Athenians chose speakers at least in part on the basis of their ability to produce an appropriate speech (cf. Thuc. 2.34.6) (I have doubts about this, as one can imagine a selected speaker turning to an exceptionally skilled logographer like Lysias). As a display piece, it may have gained a wide readership, or at least enough that, as Todd reconstructs the lines of influence, Isocrates borrowed from it in his Panegyricus and Plato responded to it in his Menexenus. This up-to-date assessment and commentary may pave the way for a fresh treatment of the epitaphic genre, which may be in order as Loraux's work becomes dated.

Lysias 3: Against Simon: Defence Speech was presented before the Council of the Areopagus by an Athenian of mature years accused of the "wounding with intent" (trauma ek pronoias) of his rival in love for a young man (who was a free non-citizen in Todd's view). Noteworthy are its vivid narrative of the evolution of the conflict between the two rivals ("One of the most important features of narrative in Lysias is to draw attention away from gaps and weaknesses in the speaker's case" [285]) and the speaker's artful self-presentation as a restrained and peaceable fellow. Lysias 4: Concerning a Premeditated Wounding: Prosecutor and Client Unknown involves a defense against the same general charge, but the speech is incomplete. Todd reasonably rejects the hypothesis that it is a rhetorical exercise: "it is difficult to see why the author of a rhetorical exercise (at whatever date) would choose to compose only the proofs and the peroration, omitting the proem and narrative" (351).

The next three speeches deal with impiety in diverse forms. Because just under three hundred words survive from Lysias 5: On Behalf of Kallias: Defence Speech on a Charge of Hierosulia due to damage to the manuscript, it is very difficult to reconstruct the case. This speech was given by a sunegoros ("supporting speaker") on behalf of Kallias, a metic; Todd suggests that Kallias, as a metic, may not have been allowed to bring his own case, or perhaps he was entitled to do so, but for strategic reasons decided not to. In light of other cases involving the charge, as here, of "temple-robbery," brazen theft of objects from a temple may not be in question, and there may be a political dimension to the charge. Todd argues plausibly that Lysias 6: Prosecution against Andokides for Impiety, is not the work of a late rhetorician, as some have maintained, but a genuine speech delivered at Andokides' trial in ca. 400, to which Andokides 1: On the Mysteries replies; Todd believes, however, that at least part of the speech may have been revised after the trial and before circulation. In Lysias 7: Areiopagos Speech: Defence concerning the Sekos, an unnamed speaker defends himself from the charge that he in some way damaged the stump of a sacred olive tree on his property; Todd leaves sekos untranslated on the grounds that it might mean "stump" or perhaps refers to the fence around a stump. As Todd observes, "religious prosecutions in the Attic Orators tend to have a political subtext," and this may be the case here, as the wealthy speaker may be "tainted by his activities during the oligarchic revolution of 404/3" (he remained in Athens under the Thirty) (479-80).

The next group of speeches all concern slander, broadly construed. Lysias 8: Accusation of Defamatory Speech against the Sunousiastai is peculiar, in that "there is no indication that it was prepared for a law-suit," but rather it takes the form of "a complaint directed against and probably addressed to the members of some species of group or association . . . to which the speaker had previously belonged" (543). Todd's section headings "Generic Obscurity" and "Who is Doing What?" convey well the obstacles to making sense of this speech. Todd argues that Lysias 9: On behalf of the Soldier is probably not by Lysias, pointing to a "certain lack of structural and narrative clarity," but likely was produced for a real trial sometime during Lysias' lifetime (584); this may be the case, but we should also allow for the possibility that Lysias sometimes fell short in clarity. The speaker, Polyainos, is being charged through an apographe for "failure to pay a summary fine previously imposed for alleged insults to a public official" (581); although he does not deny using offensive language concerning the generals, he "claims that he did not utter this in a location that made it legally punishable" (589). Todd observes that loidoreo, which has "connotations of verbal insult delivered in a public context," is used frequently to characterize the insulting language in this case, and suggests that this may be evidence of a special legal procedure covering insults to public figures that was distinct from the dike kakegorias, the action used by the prosecutor in Lysias 10 (593). Todd provides a single introduction to Lysias 10 and 11, Prosecution against Theomnestos 1 and 2, since the latter is probably just an epitome of the former. Todd sets out with admirable clarity the legal background to Lysias 10, in which the speaker prosecutes Theomnestus for claiming in an earlier trial that he was a parricide. An interesting feature of the speech is the speaker's extensive rebuttal of Theomnestus' defense that he had not violated the law since he had not used the specific words banned by it. As Todd points out, this is "one of the very few extended examples of juristic thinking in the Orators, and certainly the only one in Lysias, viz. that it is a fundamental principle of statutory interpretation that words should be taken to include their synonyms" (635). While it is unusual to find an Athenian litigant in a private suit displaying what jurors might perceive as excessive legal expertise, Todd rightly notes that "the didactic tone is directed consistently and successfully against the defendant alone" (636).

Although this volume is very expensive, it is an essential reference work for students of Lysias, the orators, and Athenian law and history, who will appreciate the inclusion of four indices: Index Locorum (which includes abundant references to Lysianic fragments); Index of Greek Terms; Index of Names; and General Index. The appearance of this commentary along with that of Carey's new Lysias OCT will open up new avenues of research for scholars. One can only wish Todd well on the long road ahead, as he works his way through the rest of the corpus.

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