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

Is Regret a Inevitable Dish for the (Very) Old? Isocrates…

Isocrates Panathenaicus, 7-9

[Isocrates delivered this speech at the age of 94]

“I will not hesitate to describe either the confusion that afflicts my thought right now nor the strangeness of the thing I am experiencing currently, nor even if I am accomplishing anything that needs to be done. For I have had my share of the greatest goods which everyone would pray to share: first, health of the body and the mind (and I have enjoyed a degree of this similar to those who have been the luckiest); and second, being well-supported in life—I have never lacked for any reasonable thing a sensible man might desire; and third, I’ve been one of those no one would scorn or ignore, but one of those of whom the most sophisticated Greeks might remember or mention as being serious men.

But while all these things have happened for me–some in excess and some in good measure–I do not cherish them, but I have come to such a disagreeable and pusillanimous and fault-finding old age, that I often complain about my own nature, a life no other would reject, and I mourn my fate, even though I am able to say nothing against it other than the fact that there have been unfortunate and partisan-based attacks on the philosophy which I have taken as my own.

But because I knew that my own character was not strong enough for public affairs and took weak for what was needed, and was not useful nor prepared for public speeches, but it did seem capable of developing a sense of the truth more than those who say they know, even though, if I may admit it, deficient at speaking about the same things in a gathering of so many people.

I was also lacking of the two things which have the greatest power among us—a strong-enough voice and confidence–perhaps more than any other citizen. Men who are not imbued with these traits endure with less honor regarding public repute than those who owe money to the state. For debtors, at least, retain the hope of paying back what they owe; we can never change our nature.”

Οὐκ ὀκνήσω δὲ κατειπεῖν οὔτε τὴν νῦν ἐγγιγνομένην ἐν τῇ διανοίᾳ μοι ταραχὴν οὔτε τὴν ἀτοπίαν ὧν ἐν τῷ παρόντι τυγχάνω γιγνώσκων, οὔτ’ εἴ τι πράττω τῶν δεόντων. ᾿Εγὼ γὰρ μετεσχηκὼς τῶν μεγίστων ἀγαθῶν, ὧν ἅπαντες ἂν εὔξαιντο μεταλαβεῖν, πρῶτον μὲν τῆς περὶ τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ὑγιείας, οὐχ ὡς ἔτυχον, ἀλλ’ ἐναμίλλως τοῖς μάλιστα περὶ ἑκάτερον τούτων εὐτυχηκόσιν,  ἔπειτα τῆς περὶ τὸν βίον εὐπορίας, ὥστε μηδενὸς πώποτ’ ἀπορῆσαι τῶν μετρίων, μηδ’ ὧν ἄνθρωπος ἂν νοῦν ἔχων ἐπιθυμήσειεν, ἔτι τοῦ μὴ τῶν καταβεβλημένων εἷς εἶναι, μηδὲ τῶν κατημελημένων, ἀλλ’ ἐκείνων περὶ ὧν οἱ χαριέστατοι τῶν ῾Ελλήνων καὶ μνησθεῖεν ἂν καὶ διαλεχθεῖεν ὡς σπουδαίων ὄντων, τούτων ἁπάντων μοι συμβεβηκότων, τῶν μὲν ὑπερβαλλόντως, τῶν δ’ ἐξαρκούντως, οὐκ ἀγαπῶ ζῶν ἐπὶ τούτοις, ἀλλ’ οὕτω τὸ γῆράς ἐστι δυσάρεστον καὶ μικρολόγον καὶ μεμψίμοιρον ὥστε πολλάκις ἤδη τήν τε φύσιν τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ κατεμεμψάμην, ἧς οὐδεὶς ἄλλος καταπεφρόνηκεν, καὶ τὴν τύχην ὠδυράμην, ταύτῃ μὲν οὐδὲν ἔχων ἐπικαλεῖν ἄλλο, πλὴν ὅτι περὶ τὴν φιλοσοφίαν, ἣν προειλόμην, ἀτυχίαι τινὲς καὶ συκοφαντίαι γεγόνασιν, τὴν δὲ φύσιν εἰδὼς πρὸς μὲν τὰς πράξεις ἀρρωστοτέραν οὖσαν καὶ μαλακωτέραν τοῦ δέοντος, πρὸς δὲ τοὺς λόγους οὔτε τελείαν οὔτε πανταχῇ χρησίμην, ἀλλὰ δοξάσαι μὲν περὶ ἑκάστου τὴν ἀλήθειαν μᾶλλον δυναμένην τῶν εἰδέναι φασκόντων, εἰπεῖν δὲ περὶ τῶν αὐτῶν τούτων ἐν συλλόγῳ πολλῶν ἀνθρώπων ἁπασῶν ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν ἀπολελειμμένην.

Οὕτω γὰρ ἐνδεὴς ἀμφοτέρων ἐγενόμην τῶν μεγίστην δύναμιν ἐχόντων παρ’ ἡμῖν, φωνῆς ἱκανῆς καὶ τόλμης, ὡς οὐκ οἶδ’ εἴ τις ἄλλος τῶν πολιτῶν· ὧν οἱ μὴ τυχόντες ἀτιμότεροι περιέρχονται πρὸς τὸ δοκεῖν ἄξιοί τινος εἶναι τῶν ὀφειλόντων τῷ δημοσίῳ· τοῖς μὲν γὰρ ἐκτείσειν τὸ καταγνωσθὲν ἐλπίδες ὕπεισιν, οἱ δ’ οὐδέποτ’ ἂν τὴν φύσιν μεταβάλοιεν.


From the Suda:

“Isocrates said: the man who has a poor understanding of his own affairs will never provide good counsel about another’s.”

᾿Ισοκράτης εἶπεν· ὁ γὰρ φαύλως διανοηθεὶς περὶ τῶν ἰδίων, οὐδέποτεκαλῶς βουλεύσεται περὶ τῶν ἀλλοτρίων.


Suda Entry on Isocrates

“Isocrates, the son of Theodoros the flute-maker, Athenian, orator born during the 86th Olympiad, which was after the Peloponnesian Wars. Because of the weakness of his voice and his resigned character, he did not deliver forensic speeches, but he taught many and wrote 32 speeches. After living a century, he died in his 106th year. His brothers were Tisippos, Theomnestos, and Theodorus.  His teacher was Gorgias. Some claim it was Tisias or Erginos; others say it was Prodicus or Theramenes.”

᾿Ισοκράτης, Θεοδώρου αὐλοποιοῦ, ᾿Αθηναῖος, ῥήτωρ, γενόμενος ἐπὶ τῆς πϚ′ ὀλυμπιάδος, ὅ ἐστι μετὰ τὰ Πελοποννησιακά. καὶ διὰ μὲν τῆς φωνῆς τὴν ἀτονίαν καὶ τὸ ἀπαρρησίαστον δίκας οὐκ εἶπεν, ἐδίδαξε δὲ πλείστους, καὶ λόγους γέγραψε λβ′· βιώσας δὲ ἔτη Ϛ′ πρὸς τοῖς ρ′ ἐτελεύτησεν. ἀδελφοὶ δὲ αὐτῷ ἐγένοντο Τίσιππος καὶ Θεόμνη-στος καὶ Θεόδωρος· διδάσκαλος δὲ Γοργίας, οἱ δὲ Τισίαν φασίν, οἱ δὲ
᾿Εργῖνον· οἱ δὲ Πρόδικον ἔφασαν, οἱ δὲ Θηραμένην.