Solon Says: Sue Bad Leaders of State

Aeschines, Against Timarchus

“[Solon] believed that someone who managed their own personal affairs badly would manage matters of state similarly. It did not seem likely to the lawgiver that that the same person who was a scoundrel in private would be a useful citizen in public. He also did not think right that a person should come to speak in public before being prepared for it, not just for words but in life.

And he also thought that advice from a good and noble person, however poorly and simply it was framed, is beneficial to those who hear it, while the words of a person who has no shame, who has made a mockery of his own body and who has shamefully managed his inheritance—well, these words he believed would never help the people who heard them, not even if they were delivered well.

This is why he keeps these kinds of people from the platform, why he forbids them from addressing the public. If someone speaks, then, not merely against these precepts but also for the sack of bribery and criminality, and if the state can no longer endure such a person, he adds “Let any citizens who desires it, and who is able, sue him…”

τὸν γὰρ τὴν ἰδίαν οἰκίαν κακῶς οἰκήσαντα, καὶ τὰ κοινὰ τῆς πόλεως παραπλησίως ἡγήσατο διαθήσειν, καὶ οὐκ ἐδόκει οἷόν τ᾿ εἶναι τῷ νομοθέτῃ τὸν αὐτὸν ἄνθρωπον ἰδίᾳ μὲν εἶναι πονηρόν, δημοσίᾳ δὲ χρηστόν, οὐδ᾿ ᾤετο δεῖν τὸν ῥήτορα ἥκειν ἐπὶ τὸ βῆμα τῶν λόγων ἐπιμεληθέντα πρότερον, ἀλλ᾿ οὐ τοῦ βίου. καὶ παρὰ μὲν ἀνδρὸς καλοῦ καὶ ἀγαθοῦ, κἂν πάνυ κακῶς καὶ ἁπλῶς ῥηθῇ, χρήσιμα τὰ λεγόμενα ἡγήσατο εἶναι τοῖς ἀκούουσι· παρὰ δὲ ἀνθρώπου βδελυροῦ, καὶ καταγελάστως μὲν κεχρημένου τῷ ἑαυτοῦ σώματι, αἰσχρῶς δὲ τὴν πατρῴαν οὐσίαν κατεδηδοκότος, οὐδ᾿ ἂν εὖ πάνυ λεχθῇ συνοίσειν ἡγήσατο τοῖς ἀκούουσι. τούτους οὖν ἐξείργει ἀπὸ τοῦ βήματος, τούτους ἀπαγορεύει μὴ δημηγορεῖν. ἐὰν δέ τις παρὰ ταῦτα μὴ μόνον λέγῃ, ἀλλὰ καὶ συκοφαντῇ καὶ ἀσελγαίνῃ, καὶ μηκέτι τὸν τοιοῦτον ἄνθρωπον δύνηται φέρειν ἡ πόλις, “Δοκιμασίαν μέν,” φησίν, “ἐπαγγειλάτω Ἀθηναίων ὁ βουλόμενος, οἷς ἔξεστιν,” ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἤδη κελεύει

File:Portrait bust of Sophocles on Herm (known as Solon)-Uffizi.jpg
Bust Labeled “Solon” but Probably actually Sophocles. Sue Me.

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