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Lysias (modern bust at the Achilleion in Corfu )

Lysias ( Greek Λυσίας Lysías ; * around 445 BC in Athens ; † around 380 BC) was a Greek logographer . Lysias created speeches with precisely calculated effects for his clients. The speeches he has received are a main source of knowledge of the situation in Athens after the end of the Peloponnesian War .


Lysias' father Kephalos came from Syracuse and, as a Metöke , ran a shield manufacture in the port of Athens, Peiraieus (Piraeus). After the death of his father, Lysias, who was around 15 years old, went to Thurioi in southern Italy with his brother Polemarchus . There Lysias was trained in rhetoric by Teisias, a student of the Korax . After the Sicilian disaster , they had to flee back to Athens. Lysias then tried himself as a rhetoric teacher.

The thirty had Polemarchus executed. Lysias was able to flee and took part in the struggle for the re-establishment of Attic democracy . Later, an application by Thrasybulus to grant citizenship to the metics who had taken part in the overthrow of the Thirty failed . As a Metöke, Lysias could not pursue a political career. After losing his fortune during the reign of the thirty, he was forced to earn a living as a logographer.

At the Olympic Games of 388 BC Lysias delivered his speech with the title Olympiacos , in which he called for the fight against Dionysius I of Syracuse .


In Roman times, Lysias 230 speeches that were considered authentic were circulated. To date, 32 speeches have survived under his name, some of which are incomplete and eight are believed to be false.

The defense speech in the murder case Eratosthenes (1st) is Lysias' masterpiece as a character artist. The speaker defends himself against the charge of having lured Eratosthenes into a trap. In addition, he presents himself as a simple-minded farmer, who had long remained hidden that his wife had betrayed him with Eratosthenes.

In the defense against Simon (3rd), the unnamed speaker for this speech has to defend himself against Simon's accusation that he tried to kill him. Both coveted the handsome boy Theodotos. In this speech the art of Lysias lies in making the speaker appear as a little man to whom all this is immensely embarrassing and who has not long since reported Simon because of his shyness about his violence.

Olive trees were considered sacred because they were considered to be direct descendants of the first olive tree donated by the goddess Athena. Their oil was presented in price amphorae to the victors of the Panathenaic Mountains. The death penalty was imposed on removing such a tree. In defense of the removal of an olive tree stump (7.), the representation of the multiple changes of ownership of a property on which the olive tree stump was allegedly located is of particular interest.

The speech against Eratosthenes (12th) is an accusatory speech by Lysias against one of the thirty whom he holds responsible for the death of his brother. She is the main source for Lysias' biography. The speech closes with an asyndeton : “You heard, saw, tolerated, caught the guilty party - judged!” - Against Agoratos (13th) is the accusation of a professional informer. Both speeches contain sharp attacks on Theramenes, who was executed on Kritias ' orders .

The speeches against Alcibiades (14th) and on the confiscation of the property of Nikias ' brother (18th) owe their tradition to the interest in the fate of the descendants of these two tragic figures of the Peloponnesian War.

After Konon 392 BC. Was arrested by the Persians at the peace congress in Sardis , his sub-commander Nicophemus and his son Aristophanes were executed in Athens. In the speech on Aristophanes' fortune (19th), the brother of Aristophanes' widow defends his father against the accusation of hiding Aristophanes' fortune that has lapsed from the state treasury. A difficult task: he must not openly defend the executed person, but must use doubts about the legality of his conviction for himself; he mustn't make his own fortune seem too big, but must show that the family has always been wealthy and that what they have is not Aristophanes' money.

The speech against the grain traders (22nd) is directed against middlemen who joined forces in order to lower importers' prices.

The speaker for the speech about the denial of a pension to an invalid (24th) defends himself against three claims: he runs a trade, rides and interacts with bad people - so that he does not need a pension and is generally unworthy of them. None of this is denied, but: The industry produces almost nothing, because of his invalidity and poverty he does not ride a saddled mule, but on strange horses, and people of all kinds meet in the market. Instead, he emphasizes alleged invalid his dignity, asks about the motives of the person who is disputing his pension, and tries to achieve a winking approval with the court.

In the speeches Against Ergocles (28th) and Against Philocrates (29th) sub-commanders of Thrasybulus are accused of having enriched themselves at the expense of their allies. Thrasybulus himself is not on trial only because he died in 389 BC. In Asia Minor fell.


In the speech against Neaira given by Apollodorus , the relationship between Lysias and Hetaire Metaneira is told. Lysias had them initiated into the mysteries of Eleusis at his own expense .


Cephalos' house in the Demos Peiraieus is the scene of Plato's state. In Phaedrus , Plato's Socrates discusses a speech from Lysias about love. Aristotle treats Lysias in his rhetoric .

Even Dionysius of Halicarnassus saw the special performance of Lysias in the individual character drawing.

Editions and translations (selection)

  • Lysiae orationes cum fragmentis. Recognovit brevique adnotatione critica instruxit Christopher Carey. Oxford 2007 (authoritative critical edition of all speeches and fragments).
  • Lysias: Talk. Introduced, commented on and translated by Ingeborg Huber, edited by Kai Brodersen . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2004/2005.
  • Ernst-Alfred Kirfel: Lysias. Selected speeches. Comment. Aschendorff, Münster 1977, 1985, ISBN 3-402-02222-2 .
  • Lysias: the avenger of his honor. Edited and translated by Ursula Treu. Reclam, Leipzig 1983.


Web links

Wikisource: Λυσίας  - sources and full texts


  1. Aristotle , Athenaion politeia 40.2.
  2. Diodorus 14,109,2 f.
  3. Demosthenes 59:21 ff.
  4. Speeches 1, 7, 12, 16, 22 and 24. Separate volume of text in Greek. ibid., same years ISBN 3-402-02261-3 .