Bryn Mawr Classical Review 98.6.02


Christopher Carey, Trials from Classical Athens. London and New York: Routledge, 1997. Pp. viii, 247. $22.99. ISBN 0-415-107-60-X (pb).


Reviewed by Edwin Carawan, Austin TX, emcarawan@aol.com.

Jury trials were the defining feature of Athenian democracy, yet they are usually introduced to the Greekless reader through secondhand accounts or, at best, a few speeches of great historical moment. The more mundane documents of interfamily quarrels, property disputes, and personal injuries tend to be pushed aside; we have had no suitable sourcebook to illustrate this social aspect of Athenian justice. A full set of Attic Orators in translation is now in progress, under the direction of Michael Gagarin; but for teaching ancient Athens, a single-volume sample will usually be more manageable. Kathleen Freeman's collection, The Murder of Herodes and Other Trials (1963) has been regularly reissued and is still available, and she covered a fair range of issues with a spirited rendering. But her commentary is marred by outdated equations (three talents = 3600 pounds sterling) and a few errors that have not been corrected in successive printings (e.g., that the speaker of Ant. 5 is named Helos). And Freeman did not include some of the speeches that have attracted greatest interest in recent scholarship. In all respects Christopher Carey's new collection is a sourcebook well-conceived to meet the need. It includes more of the speeches that give us a picture of law in daily life, and Carey presents these documents with a readable and reliable commentary. In style, as Carey himself admits, his version is "less elegant" than Freeman's, but his workmanlike translations may actually prove more useful in class. The following paragraphs describe first the advantages of Carey's selection, then the explanatory material that he offers, and finally the translation itself.

Understandably, half of the speeches that Carey chooses (eight of sixteen) were also treated by Freeman. For pure fascination, Carey could hardly omit the who-done-it of Antiphon 5, Murder of Herodes, Lysias 1 on the slaying of the adulterer Eratosthenes, the brutal beating of Ariston at the hands of Conon (Dem. 54), or the seductions of Neaira ([Dem.] 59). But what he adds gives us a broader picture of Athenian society. Thus, among the homicide speeches, Carey chooses Antiphon 6 over Lysias 12, Against Eratosthenes: the latter is noteworthy, of course, for the grim picture of political murder under the Thirty; but Antiphon's speech for the choregus is at least as interesting for what it tells us of accidental death, an all-too-common occurrence, entangling the obligations of family and public office. Regarding non-lethal injuries, Freeman treated Lysias 4 as well as Lysias 3, Against Simon, both cases for wounding with intent to kill and both proceeding from similar passions. Carey includes Against Simon but leaves out the doublet, Lysias 4, preferring Isocrates 20, Against Lochites, to show another side of the commonplace violence of personal feuds. Giving greater scope to property and commerce disputes, Carey adds two speeches in paragraphai, 'special pleas' barring legal action (Dem. 35 & 37). For a glimpse of this important development, Freeman included only Lysias 23, Against Pancleon, a baffling document that gives no indication of the original dispute -- indeed, we cannot even be sure the procedure is paragraphê. Last but not least, Carey adds the case of slander, Lysias 10, with its own excursus on the letter of the law.

Carey gives a short introduction to the workings of Athenian justice; it is probably quite adequate for undergraduate courses in translation and takes a sensible approach to the scholarly quarrels that might otherwise overwhelm the newcomer. Thus, for instance, Carey notices (16) the extreme position taken by David Cohen and Stephen Todd on the function of witnesses, that their role is largely supportive rather than substantive -- that "witnesses are expected to lie routinely." It is important for students to be aware that some testimony lends itself to this interpretation, to realize that ancient litigants were not bound by modern assumptions. But it is also important to observe, as Carey does, that "witnesses are always called to attest a fact ... and there are penalties for (proven) false testimony." As a rule Carey avoids making prejudicial pronouncements. He gives the newcomer a grasp of the problems rather than easy answers.

Each speech is given a brief preface to explain the issue and a brief epilogue to sort out weaknesses in the argument and likely arguments for the other side. In these comments Carey manages to give the reader a good sense of how the case was argued on both sides and what was ultimately at issue, without trying to decide who was guilty and who won (as Freeman and others have done).

For particular problems of interpretation, explanatory notes are few and far between; and Carey dispenses with the rhetorical analyses and parenthetical explanations that Freeman gave to help the reader along. In many instances the serious student or instructor will have to find further explication elsewhere. To this end, Carey makes reference to the array of recent commentaries. Carey himself has treated some of these speeches in the Cambridge series, in Demosthenes. Selected Private Speeches (1985) and in Lysias. Selected Speeches (1989). He has also written a separate commentary on [Dem.] 59, Apollodoros Against Neaira (Warminster 1992). For Carey's perspective on Athenian trials in general, one might consult his essay in Greece & Rome for 1994 (41: 172-85), "Legal Space in Classical Athens."

The translations are safe and uninspired. Thus to render autolêkythoi, one of the nicknames for rowdy gangs in the case against Conon, Carey resorts to the gloss given in LSJ, 'Down and Outs.' But these autolêkythoi are repeatedly paired with ithyphalloi and should have something of the same spirit: perhaps 'Flask-in-Handers.'

In a few instances, Carey settles for some old answers that may no longer be adequate. [Dem.] 59.10 tells of a prosecution for homicide where the alleged victim was found alive and the prosecutor "got few votes out of 500." Most of the MSS say "500 drachmas" and Carey leaves it at that: the plaintiff "received few votes from his five hundred drachmas" (184). But this makes no obvious sense (referring to court costs or bribery?) and Carey gives no note. Modern editors have regularly deleted "drachmas" and inferred "judges," dikastôn, as did one MS corrector. And there is a close parallel in Isoc. 18.52-4 that makes this solution all but certain (CP 86 [1991] 3-6).

In dealing with the law on sexual violations in Lysias 1 and [Dem.] 59, Carey resorts to the subtle 'seducer' to render moichos. Something stronger or more explicit is needed. David Cohen has argued that moichos in law properly means 'adulterer,' one who violates the sexual property of marriage and threatens the social property of paternity (RIDA 31 [1984] 147-65; Sexuality and Society [1991] 110-22). It is not always used in this strict sense in more dramatic contexts: see now Adele Scafuro, Forensic Stage 474-9, preferring 'fornicator.' But that wider usage does not disprove the natural implication in remedies of law. A woman taken with her moichos is herself subject to exclusion from shrines, to be abused with impunity if she violates that exclusion. Such consequences seem hardly suited to the case of, say, an unmarried girl in her mid teens. The case of Phano, the daughter of Neaira, is the one legal context where moichos seems to mean 'seducer' of an unmarried woman: when Phano was apprehended with her moichos, she was no longer living with her first husband. But Apollodorus is treating Phano as a woman taken with an adulterer -- a violator of the marriage bond, and like her mother before her, a woman intent on foisting illegitimate offspring. For she was married and even after her husband had sent her away she persuaded him to acknowledge her child.

This kind of problem represents perhaps the greatest challenge to a translator of this material: How to render key phrasing that may be intentionally misleading or actually in error? The speech with which Carey closes the collection, Lysias 10, Against Theomnestus, is a case in point. Theomnestus had slandered the speaker, apparently referring to him as the slayer of his own father; Athenian law forbids the unsubstantiated allegation of murder; but evidently Theomnestus would object that he did not use the precise language prohibited in the law, that he said simply so-and-so killed his own father, not that he was his father's 'murderer.' Most of the argument revolves around such semantics: the speaker points out various laws still on the books, where the arcane language of the law is readily interpreted in more familiar terms. In this way the speaker introduces a law of Solon -- E)PEGGUA=N D' E)PIORKH/SANTA TO\N A)*PO/LLW; DEDIO/TA DE\ DI/KHS E(/NEKA DRASKA/ZEIN (17) -- and proceeds to gloss epiorkêsanta as 'swearing.' Now Harpocration noted the oddity and accepted the explanation that here epiorkein means 'swear' -- the opposite of what it means in all other uses. With Harpocration's blessing, translators and commentators have taken the speaker at his word and rendered epiorkein in this one instance as 'vow' or 'swear,' contrary to its natural meaning, 'forswear' or 'swear falsely.' Carey follows suit. But the contradiction may be precisely the point, that the law, as our speaker understands it, once used epiorkein in the positive sense of 'adjure' but later meant 'perjure.' And he may simply be wrong (cf. Hirzel, Der Eid [1902] 151n.). Indeed, it makes much better sense for an archaic law to mean that a perjured defendant must give surety (those with no taint of perjury can be trusted on their oath). As it is, we have no other evidence by which to explicate this fragment of Solon's law (F15b Ruschenbusch). We cannot rely on Harpocration, who has simply accepted the speaker's gloss. In such cases it misleads the reader to overcorrect what was probably a very real confusion. The speaker apparently aims at this effect: "'forswearing' means 'to swear'."

There may be no straightforward way to render such phrasing without a note to explain the implications. Carey gives too few explanatory notes; let us hope he will make room for more in the next edition. For this is a text that is likely to see many printings.