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David D. Phillips, with K. Kapparis, edition of March 27, 2003

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· Lysias ·

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Lysias son of Cephalus (459/8-post 380) was a metic (a resident alien) whose father moved to Athens from Syracuse at the invitation of Pericles. As a teenager he moved to Thurii, where he studied rhetoric; he was banished after the Sicilian expedition ended in disaster and returned to Athens, where he and his brother Polemarchus prospered as owners of a shield-making business.

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Lysias (Lys. 12).
Lysias (Lys. 13).
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When the Thirty Tyrants came to power in 404/3, they seized the brothers’ assets and put Polemarchus to death; Lysias barely escaped to Megara. Upon the restoration of the democracy in 403, Lysias was awarded Athenian citizenship by a decree of Thrasybulus rewarding metics who had aided the return of the exiled democrats; but the decree was soon repealed, and Lysias returned to metic status. Also in 403 Lysias prosecuted the former tyrant Eratosthenes for the killing of Polemarchus. The verdict in the trial is unknown; but the speech Lysias delivered, “Against Eratosthenes” (12), is one of the most important sources we have for the reign of the Thirty, as is “Against Agoratus” (13), written by Lysias for another litigant.

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Lysias (Lys. 1).
Lysias (Lys. 12).
Lysias (Lys. 13).
Lysias (Lys. 14).
Lysias (Lys. 10).
Lysias (Lys. 26).
Lysias (Lys. 31).
Lysias (Lys. 24).

From 403 to his death Lysias worked as a professional speechwriter. Of the hundreds of speeches ascribed to Lysias in antiquity, 35 survive today; in addition we have a number of fragments. Lysias composed speeches dealing with a wide variety of issues, ranging from homicide (1, 12, 13) to intentional wounding (3, 4), slander (10), dokimasiai (26, 31), and a disability pension (24). Lysias’ prose was widely admired in antiquity for its charis (grace, pleasantness) and ethopoiia (portrayal of the speaker’s character). (See also Oratory.)

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