A Failsafe for Democracy

Lycurgus, Against Leocrates 124    

“These examples are enough I think to understand the opinion your forefathers had against those who broke the laws. I still want to remind you of the monument in the Senate house which recalls traitors and those who destroy the democracy. For I make your judgement easy if I provide you with many examples.

After the reign of the Thirty, your fathers, who had suffered the kinds of things from fellow citizens no Greek ever would have considered and who barely made it back to their own land, blocked every avenue to crime because they learned from experience and knew which offices and approaches were open to those who would dissolve the democracy.

They decreed by vote and by oath that anyone who came upon someone trying to establish a tyranny, betraying the state or overthrowing democracy would not be considered guilty for killing them because it seemed better to them that people who were pursuing these actions should die than they should suffer being enslaved to them. For they believed foremost that citizens should live in such away as to never come into suspicion for these crimes.”

Ἱκανὰ μὲν οὖν καὶ ταῦτα τὴν τῶν προγόνων γνῶναι διάνοιαν, ὡς εἶχον πρὸς τοὺς παρανομοῦντας εἰς τὴν πόλιν· οὐ μὴν ἀλλ᾿ ἔτι βούλομαι τῆς στήλης ἀκοῦσαι ὑμᾶς τῆς ἐν τῷ βουλευτηρίῳ περὶ τῶν προδοτῶν καὶ τῶν τὸν δῆμον καταλυόντων· τὸ γὰρ μετὰ πολλῶν παραδειγμάτων διδάσκειν ῥᾳδίαν ὑμῖν τὴν κρίσιν καθίστησι. μετὰ γὰρ τοὺς τριάκοντα οἱ πατέρες ὑμῶν, πεπονθότες ὑπὸ τῶν πολιτῶν οἷα οὐδεὶς πώποτε τῶν Ἑλλήνων ἠξίωσε,1 καὶ μόλις εἰς τὴν ἑαυτῶν κατεληλυθότες, ἁπάσας τὰς ὁδοὺς τῶν ἀδικημάτων ἐνέφραξαν, πεπειραμένοι καὶ εἰδότες τὰς ἀρχὰς καὶ τὰς ἐφόδους τῶν τὸν δῆμον προδιδόντων. ἐψηφίσαντο γὰρ καὶ ὤμοσαν, ἐάν τις τυραννίδι ἐπιτιθῆται ἢ τὴν πόλιν προδιδῷ ἢ τὸν δῆμον καταλύῃ, τὸν αἰσθανόμενον καθαρὸν εἶναι ἀποκτείναντα, καὶ κρεῖττον ἔδοξεν αὐτοῖς τοὺς τὴν αἰτίαν ἔχοντας τεθνάναι μᾶλλον ἢ πειραθέντας μετὰ ἀληθείας αὐτοὺς δουλεύειν· ἀρχὴν γὰρ οὕτως ᾤοντο δεῖν ζῆν τοὺς πολίτας, ὥστε μηδ᾿ εἰς ὑποψίαν ἐλθεῖν μηδένα τούτων τῶν ἀδικημάτων.


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