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A Review of the Traditional Practice of ‘Self-Help’ in Lysias' Oration, 'On the Murder of Eratosthenes'

Journal: Athens Journal of Philology (Vol.2, No. 4)

Publication Date:

Authors : ;

Page : 227-242

Keywords : Lysias; Euhiletos; Eratosthenes; Athens; Mediterranean societies; self-help; killing (apokteinai; kteinai); guilty murder (phonos);

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Herman suggested that Euphiletos’ murder of Eratosthenes in Lysias’ 1st Oration, “On the murder of Eratosthenes” was an exception from the common practice of self-help in Mediterranean societies. Even if he admitted killing Eratosthenes who committed adultery with his wife, Euphiletos maintained that he should be acquitted of the crime of murder. For this, Herman explained that Euphiletos tried to persuade the judges that he should be found innocent, as he did not, in fact, kill Eratosthenes, but executed him in the name of the law of the city-state. And the fact that Euphiletos put great emphasis on Eratosthenes’ insolent trespass into his territory, proves that he wanted to dispel the impression that his killing of Eratosthenes was an act of private vengeance by a betrayed husband. Herman defined Euphiletos’ principle of behavior as ‘rather dishonor than death’, which was an exception from the common practice, ‘rather death than dishonor’, in the Mediterranean societies. In my opinion, however, the key point which needs to be judged in Euphiletos’ case was whether he killed Eratosthenes premeditatedly or not. So it has absolutely no relation with whether his act of killing was an execution performed in the name of law of the city-state or an act of vengeance committed by a betrayed husband. As he himself insists, Euphiletos could simply be a killer, and not a culprit of 'phonos', as the law acquitted the killer of an adulterer, provided that he did not premeditatedly devise the murder. Euphiletos insisted that he was innocent, as he did not set up the situation, but Eratosthenes made himself vulnerable by trespassing on Euphiletos’ territory. Related to this issue, it should be noticed that there is a difference between the concepts, killing (kteinai, apokteinai) and ‘guilty murder’ (phonos). The former does not always include the meaning of culpability, but the latter refers to anyone suspected of or found guilty of the crime.

Last modified: 2015-11-18 15:47:22