Reciprocity in Ancient Greece

By Christopher Gill; Norman Postlethwaite et al. | Go to book overview

11
The Rhetoric of Reciprocity in Classical Athens

PAUL MILLETT


I. ONE GOOD TURN DESERVES ANOTHER?

Towards the middle of the fourth century BC, the professional speechwriter Isaios composed a lawcourt speech that has been preserved in its published form as On the Estate of Nikostratos (IV). It was written on behalf of two brothers, Hagnon and Hagnotheos, who were laying joint claim to the estate of Nikostratos son of Thrasymakhos: a mercenary soldier who had died away from Athens, leaving a substantial fortune of two talents. Competition in Athens to inherit the estate was apparently keen, with at least seven rival claimants (7-10). The brothers based their claim on considerations of kinship, being first cousins of the deceased. Their opponent in court was one Khariades, himself a soldier of fortune, who claimed that Nikostratos, before his death, had drawn up a will adopting him as son and heir. The speech composed by Isaios was actually delivered on behalf of the two brothers by an unnamed person, who identifies himself as a close friend of the family (1).1

The contents of the speech conform to the usual pattern of Isaios' orations. There are elaborate (and uneven) arguments to persuade the jury that Hagnon and Hagnotheos are, indeed, first cousins of the deceased and his closest surviving relatives, while the will leaving everything to Khariades is denounced as a manifest

____________________
1
The date of c.350 BC is supported by Wevers ( 1969), 9-33, on stylistic grounds, though it entails rejection of Valckenaer's almost universally accepted emendation in 7 which gives a date c.370. No credence need be given to the assertion in the ancient summary prefacing the speech that it was delivered by Isaios himself (in spite of the Loeb translator's repeated and gratuitous insertion of the phrase 'my clients').

-227-

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