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Transforming Disputes into Cases: Demosthenes 55, Against Kallikles 

Steven Johnstone, edition of March 22, 2003

page 7 of 7

· Conclusion ·

Read about the evidence
Demosthenes (Dem. 54).
Lysias (Lys. 1).

Because it was conventional, because, that is, the kind of story he told was determined by the context in which he told it, the son of Teisias’ story cannot be said to capture the whole truth of the dispute. If a dispute is always in part a dispute about what form the dispute should take, about how to narrate the conflict, then no story can be complete, including the son of Teisias’. This was not simply because it did not narrate the dispute the way his opponent did, but even more because it, too, was determined by the context of litigation. For example, it accepted the dichotomization of the dispute, it took the prosecutor and the defendant as the two primary parties. Along the way, however, the son of Teisias had mentioned other people involved: the mothers of both litigants, his slave Kallaros, Kallikles’ brother and cousin, and (at an earlier time) their fathers. Even though we have only the speech of the son of Teisias, we should not assume that any or all of these parties would have understood the dispute in the way he (or Kallikles) narrated it. It is possible, for example, to imagine that Kallaros thought of the dispute as primarily between himself and Kallikles, even if his legal position as a slave didn’t allow him to fully pursue it. Or that the mothers of the litigants (who the son of Teisias says were friends) remained friendly and saw the conflict between themselves on the one hand and their bickering sons on the other as the most important. Because slaves and women could not litigate, we never get to hear their voices, never get a story from their perspective. So, for example, Ariston in Demosthenes 54, “Against Konon,” makes no attempt to understand the perspective of the slaves who were mistreated, instead interpreting this from his own vantage. Or, Euphiletos in Lysias 1, “On the Murder of Eratosthenes,” includes women in his story—his slave, his wife, and an older woman who tipped him off—entirely as subordinate to his conflict with Eratosthenes, making no attempt to understand how they interpreted the dispute.

Thus, when reading an Athenian legal speech more important than the question, Is this guy telling the truth?—the question the jurors must have asked themselves—are the historians’ questions: How is this guy narrating his story? What stories would other people involved have told? How do I account truly for the shape of the dispute, the conflict over what kind of story to tell?

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