From Peithô's Web
Lives of the Ten Orators, tr. Bancroft


LYSIAS was the son of Cephalus, grandson of Lysanias, and great-grandson of Cephalus. His father was by birth a Syracusan; but partly for the love he had to the city, and partly in condescension to the persuasions of Pericles the son of Xanthippus, who entertained him as his friend and guest, he went to live at Athens, being a man of great wealth. Some say that he was banished Syracuse when the city was under the tyranny of Gelo. Lysias was born at Athens when Philocles, the successor of Phrasicles, was chief magistrate, in the second year of the eightieth Olympiad.(1) At his first coming, he was educated among the most noble of the Athenians. But when the city sent a colony to Sybaris, which was afterwards called Thurii, he went thither with his other brother Polemarchus, his father being now dead (for he had two other brothers, Euthydemus and Brachyllus), that he might receive his portion of his father's estate. This was done in the fifteenth year of his age, when Praxiteles was chief magistrate.(2) There then he stayed, and was brought up under Nicias and Tisias, both Syracusans. And having purchased a house and received his estate, he lived as a citizen for thirty-three years, till the year of Cleocritus.(3) In the year following, in the time of Callias, viz. in the ninety-second Olympiad, when the Athenians had met with their disasters in Sicily, and when other of their allies revolted; and especially the Italians, he, being accused of favoring the Athenians, was banished with three other of his association; when coming to Athens, in the year wherein Callias succeeded Cleocritus, the city then laboring under the tyranny of the four hundred conspirators, he there sat down. But after the fight at Aegospotami, when the Thirty Tyrants had usurped the government, he was banished thence, after he had remained in Athens seven years. His goods were confiscated; and having likewise lost his brother Polemarchus, he himself escaped by a back door of the house in which he was kept for execution, fled to Megara and there lived. But when the citizens endeavored to return from Phyle, he also behaved himself very well, and appeared very active in the affair, having, to forward this great enterprise, deposited two thousand drachms of silver and two hundred targets, and being commissioned with Hermas, he maintained three hundred men in arms, and prevailed with Thrasylaeus the Elean, his old friend and host, to contribute two talents. Upon entering the city, Thrasybulus proposed that, for a consideration of his good service to the public, he should receive the rights of citizenship: this was during the so-called time of anarchy before Euclides. Which proposal being ratified by the people, Archinus objected that it was against the laws, and a decree without authority of the senate. The decree was thereupon declared void, and Lysias lost his citizenship. He led the remainder of his life in the rank of an Isoteles (or citizen who had no right to vote or hold office), and died at last at Athens, being fourscore and three years old, or as some would have it, seventy-six; and others again say, that he lived above fourscore years, till after the birth of Demosthenes. It is supposed he was born in the year of Philocles.

There are four hundred and twenty-five orations which bear his name, of which Dionysius and Caecilius affirm only two hundred and thirty to be genuine, and he is said to have been overcome but twice in all. There is extant also the oration which he made in defence of the forementioned decree against Archinus, who indicted it and thereby prevented Lysias from receiving the citizenship, as also another against the Thirty Tyrants. He was very cogent in his persuasions, and was always very brief in what he delivered. He would commonly give orations to private persons. There are likewise his institutions of oratory, his public harangues, his epistles, his eulogies, funeral orations, discourses of love, and his defence of Socrates, accommodated to the minds of the judges. His style seems plain and easy, though hardly imitable. Demosthenes, in his oration against Neaera, says that he was in love with one Metanira, Neaera's serving-maid, but afterwards married his brother Brachyllus's daughter. Plato in his Phaedrus makes mention of him, as a most eloquent orator and ancienter than Isocrates. Philiscus, his companion, and Isocrates's votary, composed an epigram concerning him, whence the same that we have urged from Plato is deducible; and it sings to this effect:

Calliope's witty daughter, Phrontis, show
If aught of wit or eloquence thou hast;
For 'tis decreed that thou shalt bear a son,
Lysias by name, to spread the name of him
Whose great and generous acts do fill the world,
And are received for glorious above.
Let him who sings those praises of the dead,
Let him, my friend, too, praise our amity.

He likewise wrote two orations for Iphicrates,--one against Harmodius, and another accusing Timotheus of treason,--in both which he overcame. But when Iphicrates made himself responsible for Timotheus's actions, and would purge himself of the allegation of treason made also against him, Lysias wrote an oration for him to deliver in his defence; upon which he was acquitted, but Timotheus was fined in a considerable sum of money. He likewise delivered an oration at the Olympic games, in which he endeavored to convince the Greeks of how great advantage it would be to them, if they could but unanimously join to pull down the tyrant Dionysius.

1. B.C. 459.

2. B.C. 444.

3. B.C. 418.

Scanned by Agathon (RSB) from the University of Washington's copy of Plutarch's Lives and Writings, ed. by A.H. Clough and William W. Goodwin, with an introd. by Ralph Waldo Emerson. London, Simpkin, Hamilton, Kent & Co., Ltd. [1914?], vol. 5.

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