Those Who Risked Everything For Freedom

Lysias, On the Property of Nicias’ Brother  24-27 (Go here for the full text)

“Jurors, I can’t bring anyone before you to plead for us. Some of our relatives died in war, proving they were good men and making this city great. Others died by drinking hemlock under the tyranny of the thirty for the sake of democracy and your freedom. For these reasons, the cause of our isolation is the excellence of our relatives and the sufferings of our city. It is right, then, for you to help us eagerly, once you consider this and understand that those people should be treated well by you in the democracy when they shared a great portion of sufferings with you under the oligarchy.

I also think it is right that the superintendents here are favorable to us, remembering that time when you were expelled from your country and you lost your wealth and you believed that the best people were those who died for your sake: you prayed to the gods that you would be able to give your thanks to their descendants.

Therefore, we sons and relatives of those very people who risked everything for your freedom, we ask you to return this favor now and not to bring us to unjust ruin but instead to help us more when we have shared in these troubles. I ask you and beg you and I kneel before you as a suppliant—I believe we are worthy of getting this treatment from you. For we do not risk losing small things, this is about everything we are.”

Οὐκ ἔχω, ὦ ἄνδρες δικασταί, οὕστινας δεησομένους ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἀναβιβάσομαι· τῶν γὰρ προσηκόντων οἱ μὲν ἄνδρας ἀγαθοὺς αὑτοὺς παρασχόντες καὶ μεγάλην τὴν πόλιν ποιοῦντες ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τεθνᾶσιν, οἱ δ᾿ ὑπὲρ τῆς δημοκρατίας καὶ τῆς ὑμετέρας ἐλευθερίας ὑπὸ τῶν τριάκοντα κώνειον πιόντες, ὥστε τῆς ἐρημίας ἡμετέρας αἴτιαι γεγόνασιν αἵ τε τῶν προσηκόντων ἀρεταὶ καὶ αἱ τῆς πόλεως συμφοραί. ὧν ἄξιον ὑμᾶς ἐνθυμηθέντας προθύμως ἡμῖν βοηθῆσαι, ἡγησαμένους τούτους ἂν ἐν δημοκρατίᾳ δικαίως εὖ πάσχειν ὑφ᾿ ὑμῶν, οἵπερ ἐν ὀλιγαρχίᾳ τῶν συμφορῶν μετέσχον τὸ μέρος. ἀξιῶ δὲ καὶ τούτους τοὺς συνδίκους εὔνους ἡμῖν εἶναι, ἐκείνου τοῦ χρόνου μνησθέντας, ὅτ᾿ ἐκ τῆς πατρίδος ἐκπεπτωκότες καὶ τὰς οὐσίας ἀπολωλεκότες ἄνδρας ἀρίστους ἐνομίζετ᾿ εἶναι τοὺς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ἀποθνῄσκοντας, καὶ τοῖς θεοῖς ηὔχεσθε δυνηθῆναι χάριν τοῖς ἐξ ἐκείνων ἀποδοῦναι. ἡμεῖς τοίνυν, ὑεῖς ὄντες καὶ συγγενεῖς τῶν ὑπὲρ τῆς ἐλευθερίας προκεκινδυνευκότων, ἀπαιτοῦμεν ὑμᾶς νυνὶ ταύτην τὴν χάριν, καὶ ἀξιοῦμεν μὴ ἀδίκως ἡμᾶς ἀπολέσαι, ἀλλὰ πολὺ μᾶλλον βοηθεῖν τοῖς τῶν αὐτῶν μετασχοῦσι συμφορῶν. ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν καὶ δέομαι καὶ ἀντιβολῶ καὶ ἱκετεύω, καὶ τούτων παρ᾿ ὑμῶν τυγχάνειν ἀξιῶ· οὐ γὰρ περὶ μικρῶν κινδυνεύομεν, ἀλλὰ περὶ τῶν ὄντων ἁπάντων.

Lady holding a sandal to punish a young enslaved person. White-ground black-figure lekythosRegional Archaeological Museum in Palermo.