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Lysias(lĭs`ēəs), c.459–c.380 B.C., Attic orator; son of Cephalus, a Syracusan. After the capture (404 B.C.) of Athens by the Spartans, the Thirty Tyrants caused the arrest of Lysias and his brother Polemarchus, who was put to death. Lysias escaped to Megara, from which he returned when the tyrants were expelled (403 B.C.). He prosecuted Eratosthenes for his brother's death, and his oration against Eratosthenes is a model of Greek oratory. The tyrants had deprived him of his wealth, and he adopted the profession of writing speeches for litigants. Only 34 of his orations are extant. The clarity and elegance of his style place him among the very finest Greek orators and prose writers.
Born 459 B.C.; died 380 B.C. Athenian professional speech writer; supporter of the slaveholders’ democracy.
Lysias wrote speeches for litigants on order. A wealthy alien, he lived in Athens from 412. During the rule of the Thirty Tyrants from 404 to 403, the property of the Lysias family was confiscated and his brother was executed. Lysias himself fled to Megara; he returned to Athens after the restoration of democratic government in 403. Tradition ascribes to Lysias more than 200 speeches and places him among the ten best orators of antiquity. Some 40 speeches have survived in more or less complete form. They are a rich, colorful, and often unique source for questions of the political and socioeconomic history of Athens, as well as the history of its foreign policy and everyday life. His most famous speech was directed against Eratosthenes, who was guilty of the death of Lysias’ brother. This is the only speech that Lysias delivered personally in court. He was a perfect master of the art of individualized speeches to suit the “customer.” His speeches were written in a pure, precise, and rhythmic language that was typical of the best models of Attic prose.
WORKSIn Russian translation:
Rechi. Translation and commentary by S. I. Sobolevskii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1933.
REFERENCESPozdeeva, I. “Politicheskie protsessy ν Afinakh ν 403–400 gg. do n.e. (po recham Lisiia).” Vestnik drevnei istorii, 1961, no. 4.
Ferckel, F. Lysias und A then. Würzburg, 1937.