Greek Speech of the Day – Thrasybulus on The Thirty

First, a bit of background. Solon, Athens’ traditional first law-giver, “enacted a law concerning injuries received from beasts, according to which a dog that had bitten anybody must be delivered up with a wooden collar three cubits long fastened to it; a happy device this for promoting safety.”

Second, the nearer background. At one point, just after a huge Athenian defeat, a gang of aristocrats, The Thirty Tyrants, took over Athens, with the support of Sparta. Civil war ensued and the democrats, i.e. “the commons” prevailed, in part because Sparta chose not to support the Thirty very strongly.  The two Athenian factions were then compelled to reconcile, more or less, or at least stop fighting their war.  

This is the speech that Thrasybulus, one of the democrats, then delivered in the Athenian Assembly:

“I advise you,” he said, “Men of the city (The Thirty), to `know yourselves.’ And you would best learn to know yourselves were you to consider what grounds you have for arrogance, that you should undertake to rule over us. Are you more just? But the commons, though poorer than you, never did you any wrong for the sake of money; while you, though richer than any of them, have done many disgraceful things (???????) for the sake of gain. But since you can lay no claim to justice, consider then whether it is courage that you have a right to pride yourselves upon.

“And what better test could there be of this than the way we made war upon one another? Well then, would you say that you are superior in intelligence, you who having a wall, arms, money, and the Peloponnesians as allies, have been worsted by men who had none of these? Is it the Spartans, then, think you, that you may pride yourselves upon? How so? Why, they have delivered you up to this outraged populace, just as men fasten a collar upon the necks of snapping dogs and deliver them up to keepers, and now have gone away and left you.”

Hah! I bet that one left a mark!