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Against The Corn-Dealers

22.1 Many people have come to me, gentlemen of the jury, in surprise at my accusing the corn-dealers in the Council, and telling me that you, however sure you are of their guilt, none the less regard those who deliver speeches about them as slander-mongers. [Note] I therefore propose to speak first of the grounds on which I have found it necessary to accuse them.

22.2When the Committee [Note] of the time brought up their case before the Council, the anger felt against them was such that some of the orators said that they ought to be handed over without trial to the Eleven, for the penalty of death. But I, thinking it monstrous that the Council should get into the way of such practice, rose and said that in my opinion we ought to try the corn-dealers in accordance with the law; for I thought that if they had committed acts deserving of death you would be no less able than we [Note] to come to a just decision, while, if they were not guilty, they ought not to perish without trial. 22.3 After the Council adopted this view, attempts were made to discredit me by saying that I hoped to save the corn-dealers by these remarks. Now before the Council, when the case came up for their hearing, [Note] I justified myself in a practical way: while the rest kept quiet, I rose and accused these men, and made it evident to all that my remarks were not made in their defence, but in support of the established laws. 22.4 Well, these were my reasons for beginning my task, in fear of those incriminations; but I consider it would be disgraceful to leave off before you have given such verdict upon them as you may prefer.

22.5 So, first of all, go up on the dais. [Note] Tell me, sir, are you a resident alien? Yes. Do you reside as an alien to obey the city's laws, or to do just as you please? To obey. Must you not, then, expect to be put to death, if you have committed a breach of the laws for which death is the penalty? I must. Then answer me: do you acknowledge that you bought up corn in excess of the fifty measures [Note] which the law sets as the limit? I bought it up on an order from the magistrates.

22.6 Well now, gentlemen, if he proves that there is a law which orders the corn-dealers to buy up the corn on an order from the magistrates, acquit him: if not, it is just that you should condemn him. For we have produced to you the law which forbids anyone in the city to buy up corn in excess of fifty measures.

22.7 This accusation of mine should have sufficed, gentlemen of the jury, since this man acknowledges that he bought up the corn, while the law clearly forbids him to do so; and you have sworn to decide in accordance with the laws. Nevertheless, in order that you may be convinced that they are actually traducing the magistrates, it is necessary to speak of them at some greater length. 22.8 For since these men shifted the blame on to them, we called the magistrates before us and questioned them. Two of them denied any knowledge of the matter; but Anytus stated that in the previous winter, as the corn was dear, and these men were outbidding each other and fighting amongst themselves, he had advised them to cease their competition, judging it beneficial to you, their customers, that they should purchase at as reasonable a price as possible: for they were bound, in selling, to add no more than an obol to the price. 22.9 Now, that he did not order them to buy up the corn for holding in store, [Note] but only advised them not to buy against each other, I will produce to you Anytus himself as witness.Testimony

These statements were made by him in the time of the former Council, whereas these men evidently bought up the corn in the time of the present one.

22.10 So now you have heard that it was not on an order from the magistrates that they bought up the corn; yet, in my opinion, however true their statements may be on these points, they will not be clearing themselves, but only accusing the magistrates. For where we have laws expressly drafted for the case, surely punishment should fall alike on those who disobey them and on those who order an infringement of them.

22.11 But in fact, gentlemen of the jury, I believe they will not have recourse to this argument, but will repeat, perhaps, what they said before the Council, — that it was in kindness to the city that they bought up the corn, so that they might sell it to you at as reasonable a price as possible. But I will give you a very strong and signal proof that they are lying. 22.12 If they were doing this for your benefit, they ought to have been found selling it at the same price for a number of days, until the stock that they had bought up was exhausted. But in fact they were selling at a profit of a drachma [Note] several times in the same day, as though they were buying by the medimnus [Note] at a time. I adduce you as witnesses of this. 22.13 And it seems to me a strange thing that, when they have to contribute to a special levy of which everyone is to have knowledge, they refuse, making poverty their pretext; but illegal acts, for which death is the penalty, and in which secrecy was important to them, — these they assert that they committed in kindness to you. Yet you are all aware that they are the last persons to whom such statements are appropriate. 22.14 For their interests are the opposite of other men's: they make most profit when, on some bad news reaching the city, they sell their corn at a high price. And they are so delighted to see your disasters that they either get news of them in advance of anyone else, or fabricate the rumor themselves; now it is the loss of your ships in the Black Sea, now the capture of vessels on their outward voyage by the Lacedaemonians, now the blockade of your trading ports, or the impending rupture of the truce; and they have carried their enmity to such lengths that they choose the same critical moments as your foes to overreach you. 22.15 For, just when you find yourselves worst off for corn, these persons snap it up and refuse to sell it, in order to prevent our disputing about the price: we are to be glad enough if we come away from them with a purchase made at any price, however high. And thus at times, although there is peace, we are besieged by these men. 22.16 So long is it now that the city has been convinced of their knavery and disaffection that, while for the sale of all other commodities you have appointed the market-clerks as controllers, for this trade alone you elect special corn-controllers by lot; and often you have been known to inflict the extreme penalty on those officials, who were citizens, for having failed to defeat the villainy of these men. Now, what should be your treatment of the actual offenders, when you put to death even those who are unable to control them?

22.17 You should reflect that it is impossible for you to vote an acquittal. For if you reject the charge, when they admit that they are combining against the traders, you will be regarded as aiming a blow at the importers. If they were putting up some other defence, nobody could censure a verdict for acquittal; for it rests with you to choose which side you are to believe. But, as matters stand, your action cannot but be thought extraordinary, if you dismiss unpunished those who confess to breaking the law. 22.18 Remember, gentlemen of the jury, that many in the past have met this charge with denial, and have produced witnesses; yet you have condemned them to death because you gave more credence to the statements of their accusers. But surely it would be astounding if, in passing judgement on the same offences, you are more eager to punish those who deny! 22.19 And, moreover, gentlemen, I conceive it is obvious to you all that suits of this kind are of the closest concern to the people of our city; and hence they will inquire what view you take of such matters, in the belief that, if you condemn these men to death, the rest will be brought to better order; while if you dismiss them unpunished, you will have voted them full licence to do just as they please. 22.20 You must chastise them, gentlemen, not only on account of the past, but also to give an example for the future: even so these people will be barely tolerable. Consider that great numbers in this business have been tried for their lives: so much profit do they make by it that they choose rather to risk death every day than to cease making illicit gain out of you. 22.21 Nay, more, not even if they implore and beseech you, would you be justified in taking pity on them: far rather ought you to pity those of our citizens who perished by their villainy, and the traders against whom they have combined. These you will gratify and render more zealous by punishing the accused. Otherwise, what do you suppose their feelings will be, when they learn that you have acquitted the retailers who confessed to overreaching the importers?

22.22 I do not see what more there is to say when suits against other malefactors are heard, you have to get your information from the accusers; whereas the villainy of these men is understood by you all. So, you convict them, you will both do justice and buy your corn at a fairer price: otherwise, it will be dearer.



Lysias, Speeches (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose; rhetoric] [word count] [Lys.].
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