Against Eratosthenes | Study Guide


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Against Eratosthenes | Quotes


The Thirty ... declared ... the city must be purged of unjust men.


In the introduction Lysias starts his prosecution of Eratosthenes who is a member of the Thirty Tyrants. Lysias reminds the attendees of the Thirty Tyrants's evil actions. One early action of the Thirty Tyrants was to purge the city of people whom they considered unjust and disloyal. Lysias notes the hypocrisy in the actions of the Thirty Tyrants who used violence, manipulation, and lies to accomplish their goals. Much of Lysias's argument is not directly against Eratosphenes but the actions of the Thirty Tyrants.


Those men thought nothing of putting people to death, but a great deal of getting money.


The Thirty Tyrants knowingly executed innocent people without any concern, guilt, or respect for the judicial process. In addition to eliminating any opposition, their motive was to seize the wealth of the arrested or executed people.


No statement made as to the reason for his execution: still less was he allowed to be tried and defend himself.


Lysias describes the events of his brother Polemarchus's death. The Thirty Tyrants provided no information or statement about the charges against Polemarchus. Polemarchus was provided no reason for his arrest and was taken to prison where he was sentenced to drink hemlock. The Thirty Tyrants gave him no justification for his arrest and punishment and no trial.


Our wealth impelled them to act as injuriously towards us as others might from anger aroused by grievous wrongs.


Lysias explains that he, his brother, and the other victims were targets due to their wealth. The Thirty Tyrants nevertheless punished these victims as if they were serious criminals.


Such was their reward to us for behaving as resident aliens far otherwise than they did as citizens!


Lysias and Polemarchus were wealthy metics. Even though they were not citizens, metics greatly contributed to city life, paid taxes, and participated in cultural life and festivals. Lysias argues in his speech that he and Polemarchus behaved more like true citizens of Athens than the Thirty Tyrants.


Neither suffering under any private wrong himself, nor found him offending against the State, but merely sought to gratify his own lawless passions.


Lysias shifts his focus from the Thirty Tyrants to the actions of Eratosthenes. He emphasizes that Eratosthenes arrested Polemarchus due to Eratosthenes's own greed. According to Eratosthenes's testimony, he does not believe that Polemarchus had wronged him or that he had committed a crime against the State.


Against taking your lives ... it was unjust.


Lysias interrogates Eratosthenes and demands a rationalization for his actions. Eratosthenes claims that he opposed the orders of the Thirty Tyrants and believed that arresting and executing Lysias, Polemarchus, and others was wrong.


When it rested with you alone to save Polemarchus or not, you arrested him and put him in prison.


Lysias makes the case that Eratosthenes is responsible for Polemarchus's death. Lysias explains that Eratosthenes knew that Polemarchus would be unjustly killed, yet he arrested Polemarchus anyway. Lysias concludes that had Eratosthenes not arrested Polemarchus, he would be alive.


But whom, in fact, will you ever punish, if the Thirty are to be allowed to state that they merely carried out the orders of the Thirty?


Lysias makes the point that individual members of the Thirty Tyrants are responsible for the actions of the whole. Eratosthenes is unable to use the excuse that he was just following orders.


This court should take its verdict from your deeds, not from your words.


Lysias urges the court to judge Eratosthenes on the actions he took. Eratosthenes says he spoke out against the scheme to arrest metics. Even if Eratosthenes spoke out as he claimed to do it would have been irrelevant. Eratosthenes still chose to arrest Polemarchus knowing this was unjust and would ultimately result in Polemarchus's death.


They will feel that those of you who acquit these men will have passed sentence of death on them, while those who inflict the merited penalty will have acted as their avengers.


Lysias speaks directly to the court. He explains that any member of the court who does not convict Eratosthenes of murder bears responsibility for the deaths of Polemarchus and others. Lysias continues stating that members of the court who find Eratothenes guilty are avenging the deaths of Polemarchus and the other victims of the Thirty Tyrants.

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