Debtors After Death: An Attic Speech on Inheritance

Isaeus, On the Estate of Kleonymos 1-4

This oration is not really anything special. It is a speech over contested inheritance. It has some classic features of Attic oratory both thematically and structurally. What is strength about this one is figuring out the grammar of section 4. There is a finite verb at the beginning of 3, and then two in what seem to be subordinate clauses in the same section. Starting in section 4, however, we have two nominative clauses (perhaps nominal statements with an implied form of to be) followed by a string of genitive absolutes. I have just turned the genitive absolutes into independent sentences. Any better suggestions?

“I have experienced a great change from the death of Kleonymos, Friends. For, when he was alive, he left his estate to us; but, by dying, he has put it at risk for us. Then, we were educated so prudently by him that we never entered a courtroom, not even for the purpose of observing; but now, we come for the purpose of competing for our own subsistence—for not only do they cast doubt on Kleonymos’ possessions, but they include his patrimony too, claiming that we owe them money on his behalf.

Both their relatives and their close friends believe that we have the right to an equal share with them of the agreed upon possessions which Kleonymos left to us. But these men have come to such a point of shamelessness that they seek to strip us of our paternal rights, not because they are ignorant of what is just, Men, but because they have recognized our great bereavement.

Look at the things which each side relies on when they come before you. These men find their strength in these kinds of documents which [Kleonymos] had written not because he was angry at us but in rage at some other relative. But he resolved these before he died and sent Poseidippos to the registry to do so. We were his closest relatives, staying most regularly in contact of all—the laws have granted this to as the closest relations, and Kleonymos willed this, due do the friendship he experienced, and, in addition, his father Polyarkhos—our grandfather—declared that his possessions should be ours if Kleonymos died without children.”

     Πολλὴ μὲν ἡ μεταβολή μοι γέγονεν, ὦ ἄνδρες, τελευ-τήσαντος Κλεωνύμου· ἐκεῖνος γὰρ ζῶν μὲν ἡμῖν κατέλειπε τὴν οὐσίαν, ἀποθανὼν δὲ κινδυνεύειν περὶ αὐτῆς πεποίηκε. Καὶ τότε μὲν οὕτως ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ σωφρόνως ἐπαιδευόμεθα, ὥστ’ οὐδὲ ἀκροασόμενοι οὐδέποτε ἤλθομεν ἐπὶ δικαστήριον, νῦν δὲ ἀγωνιούμενοι περὶ πάντων ἥκομεν τῶν ὑπαρχόντων· οὐ γὰρ τῶν Κλεωνύμου μόνον ἀμφισβητοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν πατρῴων, ὀφείλειν ἐπὶ τούτοις <ἡμᾶς> ἐκείνῳ φάσκοντες ἀργύριον.

καὶ οἱ μὲν οἰκεῖοι καὶ οἱ προσήκοντες [ἐπὶ τούτοις] οἱ τούτων ἀξιοῦσιν ἡμᾶς καὶ τῶν ὁμολογουμένων, ὧν Κλεώνυμος κατέλιπεν, αὐτοῖς τούτων ἰσομοιρῆσαι· οὗτοι δὲ εἰς τοῦτο ἥκουσιν ἀναισχυντίας, ὥστε καὶ τὰ πατρῷα προσαφελέσθαι ζητοῦσιν ἡμᾶς, οὐκ ἀγνοοῦντες, ὦ ἄνδρες, τὸ δίκαιον, ἀλλὰ πολλὴν ἡμῶν ἐρημίαν καταγνόντες.

Σκέψασθε γὰρ οἷς ἑκάτεροι πιστεύοντες ὡς ὑμᾶς εἰσεληλύθαμεν· οὗτοι μὲν διαθήκαις ἰσχυριζόμενοι τοιαύταις, ἃς ἐκεῖνος διέθετο μὲν οὐχ ἡμῖν ἐγκαλῶν ἀλλ᾿ ὀργισθεὶς τῶν οἰκείων τινὶ τῶν ἡμετέρων, ἔλυσε δὲ πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου, πέμψας Ποσείδιππον ἐπὶ τὴν ἀρχήν· ἡμεῖς δὲ γένει μὲν ἐγγυτάτω προσήκοντες, χρώμενοι δὲ ἐκείνῳ πάντων οἰκειότατα, δεδωκότων δ᾿ ἡμῖν καὶ τῶν νόμων κατὰ τὴν ἀγχιστείαν καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Κλεωνύμου διὰ τὴν φιλίαν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτῷ, ἔτι δὲ Πολυάρχου, τοῦ πατρὸς <τοῦ> Κλεωνύμου, πάππου δ᾿ ἡμετέρου, προστάξαντος, εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις, ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ.

To make sense of this section, I take the nominatives in the first two lines below as statements (as I stated above) and the genitives as absolute clauses adding information. The balance of the content is off from the grammar, because I think that the main point of this passage is ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ. In addition, in the absolute clauses, there is some interesting variation. The laws decree or grant (δεδωκότων, perhaps anticipating δοῦναι), but I think we have to take both Kleonymos and his father as subjects for προστάξαντος (signaled by the correlation of καὶ ἔτι δὲ…). And, of course, all of this is made a little more confusing by having a conditional clause (protasis of a future less vivid? εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις) with an apodosis in indirect statement.

ἡμεῖς δὲ γένει μὲν ἐγγυτάτω προσήκοντες,
χρώμενοι δὲ ἐκείνῳ πάντων οἰκειότατα,
δεδωκότων δ᾿ ἡμῖν καὶ τῶν νόμων κατὰ τὴν ἀγχιστείαν
καὶ αὐτοῦ τοῦ Κλεωνύμου
διὰ τὴν φιλίαν τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν αὐτῷ,
ἔτι δὲ Πολυάρχου, τοῦ πατρὸς <τοῦ> Κλεωνύμου, πάππου δ᾿ ἡμετέρου, προστάξαντος,
εἴ τι πάθοι Κλεώνυμος ἄπαις,
ἡμῖν δοῦναι τὰ αὑτοῦ.

Image result for Ancient Greek fragment of will

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