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ORATIONS OF DEMOSTHENES.
THE ORATION AGAINST THE LAW OF LEPTINES.
LEPTINES in the year B.C. 356 passed a statute, enacting that no person in Athens, whether citizen, denizen, or alien, should enjoy exemption from the ordinary public burdens, saving only the descendants of Harmodius and Aristogiton; and that it should not be lawful for the people in future to grant any such exemption; and that whoever petitioned for it should be liable to disfranchisement and other severe penalties. Such was the substance of the statute, fragments of which are found in different parts of the speech of Demosthenes. The public burdens to which the law of Leptines principally related
are the offices, which men of competent fortunes at Athens were liable to serve, of Choragus, Gymnasiarch, and Feaster of the tribe : of which a brief account is.given in an appendix. Exemption from these burdens was sometimes granted by popular decree to men who had deserved well of the state; and not unfrequently it was extended to their children. About the time that Leptines introduced his law it seems to have been thought, that the people had granted this distinction too inconsiderately and too often, and that many unworthy persons were in the enjoyment of it. The commonwealth was greatly impoverished by the losses of the Social war, and difficulties occurred in providing for the expenses of those festivals which contributed so much to the instruction and amusement of the Athenian people. Men whose means were not affluent considered themselves aggrieved, if they were selected to bear these charges, and endeavoured to shift them on their neighbours, while they looked with an evil eye upon a fortunate few, who possessed the privilege of immunity. Leptines introduced his law principally as a measure of relief, that the state might not be deprived of services which she had a right to exact, and which the privileged persons were well able to perform. He contended, that the burden of these services ought to fall equally upon all; that persons who had obtained immunity without having VOL. III.
deserved it, or had afterwards proved themselves unworthy of it by their life and conduct, ought to be deprived : and as the people were so liable to make improvident grants through the influence of deceiving orators, it was better that they should divest themselves of the power. That there was no necessity for retaining it, was proved by the example of Lacedæmon and Thebes, and also by the practice of their own ancestors, who never adopted this method of rewarding distinguished citizens. There were other rewards for merit, such as crowns, statues, and maintenance in the Prytaneum, which the proposed law would not affect; it took away only those which were of little value for the honour they conferred, and the existence of which was injurious to the state. Such were the arguments by which Leptines induced the people of Athens to accept his law. Before the year had expired, an indictment was preferred against him by one Bathippus, for the purpose of quashing the new law as unconstitutional and improper, and also of punishing him as the author of it. Bathippus died before the indictment was brought to trial; and the advocates who were associated with him dropped further proceedings. After the expiration of the year, when by the law of Athens Leptines himself was safe from all personal danger, though his statute was still liable to impeachment, (as explained in Vol. II. Appendix VII.) Aphepsion, the son of Bathippus, and Ctesippus, the son of Chabrias, undertook to procure its repeal by a jury. Ctesippus was personally interested in the matter; for he had inherited from his father the immunity which was abolished. These young men, not feeling themselves equal to the task of pleading in court, engaged the assistance of Phormio and Demosthenes; a practice which was very common at Athens. On the other hand four advocates, besides Leptines, were appointed by the state to defend the law. Aphepsion, as the elder of the two prosecutors, being entitled to begin, Phormio opened the case for him. Demosthenes followed on behalf of Ctesippus. A
sketch of his principal arguments is subjoined : It was not just, (he contends,) to deprive the people of their power to
bestow honours because they had sometimes granted them improvidently. On the same principle all their constitutional rights might be taken away, because they were not always wisely exercised. They should rather make regulations to prevent the people from being
deceived in future, and for punishing the authors of the deceit. It was better that a few unworthy persons should receive honours, than
that no honour at all should be conferred: for in the last case there
was no stimulus to patriotism. It would be disgraceful to violate the national faith by revoking their
own gifts. No pecuniary gain could recompense them for the dishonour that would attend such an act. People should maintain the same integrity in their public as in their private dealings. It had been the practice of the Athenians in former times to prefer faith and justice to every other consideration. The gifts of a democratical government had formerly been regarded as
more secure than those of despots and oligarchs. The law of Leptines
would deprive them of this distinction. The advantage that would accrue to the state by abolishing the