Nonfiction > William Jennings Bryan, ed. > The World’s Famous Orations > Vol. I. Greece
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  The World’s Famous Orations.
Greece (432 B.C.–324 B.C.).  1906.
 
In the Suit Against Dicæogenes and Leochares
 
Isaeus (b. c.420 B.C.)
 
Born about 420 B.C.; studied oratory under Isocrates, and became a teacher of Demosthenes; eleven of his speeches, relating chiefly to the law of inheritance, have survived.
 
 
YOU 1 have heard the testimony of these witnesses, and I am persuaded that even Leochares himself will not venture to assert that they are perjured; but he will have recourse perhaps to his defense, that Dicæogenes has fully performed his agreement, and that his own office of surety is completely satisfied. If he allege this, he will speak untruly and will easily be confuted; for the clerk shall read to you a schedule of all the effects which Dicæogenes, the son of Menexenus, left behind him, together with an inventory of those which the defendant unjustly took; and if he affirms that our uncle neither had them in his lifetime nor left them to us at his death, let him prove his assertion; or if he insists that the goods were indeed ours, but that we had them restored to us, let him call a single witness to that fact; as we have produced evidence on our part that Dicæogenes promised to give us back the two-thirds of what the son of Menexenus possessed, and that Leochares undertook to see him perform his promise. This is the ground of our action, and this we have sworn to be true. Let the oath again be read.  1
  Now, judges, if the defendants intended only to clear themselves of this charge, what has already been said would be sufficient to ensure my success; but, since they are prepared to enter once more into the merits of the question concerning the inheritance, I am desirous to inform you on our side of all the transactions in our family; that, being apprised of the truth, and not deluded by their artifices, you may give a sentence agreeable to reason and justice.  2
  Menexenus our grandfather had one son named Dicæogenes, and four daughters, of whom Polyaratus my father married one; another was taken by Democles of Phrearrhi; a third by Cephisophon of Pæania; and the fourth was espoused by Theopompus the father of Cephisodotus. Our uncle Dicæogenes, having sailed to Cnidos in the Parhalian galley, was slain in a sea fight; and, as he left no children, Proxenus the defendant’s father brought a will to our parents, in which his son was adopted by the deceased and appointed heir to a third part of his fortune; this part our parents, unable at that time to contest the validity of the will, permitted him to take; and each of the daughters of Menexenus, as we shall prove by the testimony of persons then present, had a decree for her share of the residue.  3
  When they had thus divided the inheritance and had bound themselves by oath to acquiesce in the division, each person possessed his allotment for twelve years; in which time, tho the courts were frequently open for the administration of justice, not one of these men thought of alleging any unfairness in the transaction; untill, when the state was afflicted with troubles and seditions, this Dicæogenes was persuaded by Melas the Egyptian, to whom he used to submit on other occasions, to demand from us all our uncle’s fortune and to assert that he was appointed heir to the whole.  4
  When he began his litigation we thought he was deprived of his senses; never imagining that the same man, who at one time claimed as heir to a third part, and at another time as heir to the whole, could gain any credit before this tribunal; but when we came into court, altho we urged more arguments than our adversary and spoke with justice on our side, yet we lost our cause; not through any fault of the jury, but through the villainy of Melas and his associates, who, taking advantage of the public disorders, assumed a power of seizing possessions to which they had no right, by swearing falsely for each other. By such men, therefore, were the jury deceived; and we, overcome by this abominable iniquity, were stripped of our effects; for my father died not long after the trial and before he could prosecute, as he intended, the perjured witnesses of his antagonist.  5
  On the very day when Dicæogenes had thus infamously prevailed against us, he ejected the daughter of Cephisophon, the niece of him who left the estate from the portion allotted to her; took from the wife of Democles what her brother had given her as coheiress; and deprived both the mother of Cephisodotus and the unfortunate youth himself of their whole fortune. Of all these he was at the same time guardian and spoiler, next of kin, and cruelest enemy; nor did the relation which he bore them excite in the least degree his compassion; but the unhappy orphans, deserted and indigent, became destitute even of daily necessities.  6
  Such was the guardianship of Dicæogenes their nearest kinsman! who gave to their avowed foes what their father Theopompus had left them, illegally possesses himself of the property which they had from their maternal uncle and their grandfather; and (what was the most open act of cruelty) having purchased the house of their father and demolished it, he dug up the ground on which it stood, and made that handsome garden for his own house in the city.  7
  Still further, altho he receives an annual rent of eighty minas from the estate of his uncle, yet such are his insolence and profligacy that he sent my cousin, Cephisodotus, to Corinth as a servile attendant on his brother Harmodius; and adds to his other injuries this cruel reproach, that he wears ragged clothes and coarse buskins; but is not this unjust, since it was his own violence which reduced the boy to poverty?  8
  On point enough has been said. I now return to the narration from which I have thus disgressed. Menexenus then, the son of Cephisophon, and cousin both to this young man and to me, having a claim to an equal portion of the inheritance, began a prosecution against those who had perjured themselves in the former cause, and convicted Lycon, whom he had first brought to justice, of having falsely sworn that our uncle appointed this Dicæogenes heir to his whole estate; when, therefore, this pretended heir was disappointed in his hopes of deluding you, he persuaded Menexenus, who was acting both for our interest and his own, to make a compromise, which, though I blush to tell it, his baseness compels me to disclose.  9
  What was their agreement?  10
  That Menexenus should receive a competent share of the effects on condition of his betraying us, and of releasing the other false witnesses, whom he had not yet convicted; thus, injured by our enemies, and by our friends, we remained with silent indignation.  11
  Again, when contributions were continually brought by all who loved their country, to support the war and provide for the safety of the state, nothing came from Dicæogenes; when Lechæum indeed was taken, and when he was pressed by others to contribute, he promised publicly that he would give three minas, a sum less than that which Cleonymus the Cretan voluntarily offered; yet even this promise he never performed; but his name was hung up on the statues of the Eponymi with an inscription asserting, to his eternal dishonor, that he had not paid the contribution, which he promised in public, for his country’s service. Who can now wonder, judges, that he deceived me, a private individual, when he so notoriously deluded you all in your common assembly? Of this transaction you shall now hear the proofs.  12
  Such and so splendid have been the services which Dicæogenes, possessed of so large a fortune, has performed for the city. You perceive, too, in what manner he conducts himself toward his relations; some of whom he has deprived, as far as he was able, of their property; others he has basely neglected, and forced, through the want of mere necessaries to enter into the service of some foreign power. All Athens saw his mother sitting in the temple of Illithyia, and heard her accuse him of a crime which I blush to relate, but which he blushed not to commit. As to his friends, he has now incurred the violent hatred of Melas the Egyptian, who had been fond of him in his early youth, by refusing to pay him a sum of money which he had borrowed; his other companions he had either defrauded of sums which they lent him, or has failed to perform his promise of giving them part of his plunder if he succeeded in his cause.  13
  Yet our ancestors, judges, who first acquired this estate, and left it to their descendants, conducted all the public games, contributed liberally toward the expense of the war, and continually had the command of galleys, which they equipped: of these noble acts the presents with which they were able, from what remained of their fortune after their necessary charges, to decorate the temples, are no less undeniable. proofs, than they are lasting monuments of their virtue; for they dedicated to Bacchus the tripods which they won by their magnificence in their games; they gave new ornaments to the temple of the Pythian Apollo, and adorned the shrine of the goddess in the citadel, where they offered the first fruits of their estate, with a great number, if we consider that they were only private men, of statues both in brass and stone, they died fighting resolutely in defence of their country; for Dicæogenes, the father of my grandfather, Menexenus, fell at the head of the Olysian legion in Spartolus; and his son, my uncle, lost his life at Cnidos, where he commanded the Parhaliar galley.  14
  His estate, O Dicæogenes, thou hast unjustly seized and shamefully wasted, and, having converted it into money, hast the assurance to complain of poverty. How hast thou spent that money? Not for the use of the state or of your friends; since it is apparent that no part of it has been employed for those purposes; not in breeding fine horses, for thou never wast in possession of a horse worth more than three minas; not in chariots, for, with so many farms and so great a fortune, thou never hadst a single carriage even drawn by mules; nor hast thou redeemed any citizen from captivity; nor hast thou conveyed to the citadel those statues which Menexenus had ordered to be made for the price of three talents, but was prevented by his death from consecrating in the temple; and, through thy avarice, they lie to this day in the shop of the statuary; thus hast thou presumed to claim an estate to which thou hast no color of right, and hast not restored to the gods the statues, which were truly their own.  15
  On what ground, Dicæogenes, canst thou ask the jury to give a sentence in thy favor? Is it because thou hast frequently served the public offices; expended large sums of money to make the city more respectable, and greatly benefited the state by contributing bountifully toward supporting the war? Nothing of this sort can be alleged with truth. Is it because thou art a valiant soldier? But thou never once could be persuaded to serve in so violent and formidable a war, in which even the Olynthians and the islanders lose their lives with eagerness, since they fight for this country; whilst thou, who art a citizen, wouldst never take arms for the city.  16
  Perhaps the dignity of thy ancestors, who slew the tyrant, emboldens thee to triumph over us: as for them, indeed, I honor and applaud them, but cannot think that a spark of their virtue animates thy bosom; for thou hast preferred the plunder of our inheritance to the glory of being their descendant, and wouldst rather be called the son of Dicæogenes than of Harmodius; not regarding the right of being entertained in the Prytaneum, nor setting any value on the precedence and immunities which the posterity of those heroes enjoy: yet it was not for noble birth that Harmonius and Aristogiton were so transcendently honored, but for their valor and probity; of which thou, Dicæogenes, hast not the smallest share.  17
 
Note 1. Delivered in Athens. Translated by Sir William Jones. Abridged. [back]
 

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