The ancient Athenians were way more awesome than you.

Possibly the most novel argument against prostitution I’ve ever seen:

In Demosthenes’ speech Against Androtion the plaintiff labels the proposal a threat against the people, and the proposer is described as a demagogue and a potential oligarch seeking to overthrow the democracy.

Androtion proposes to crown the retiring Council in spite of the fact that it did not build the number of triremes prescribed by law. This proposal is contrary to the interests of the people because the national security builds on the navy. Androtion himself is described as a demagogue, and he is charged with prostitution as well. Diodoros does not use this accusation just to indicate that the decree is unconstitutional because it was brought by an atimos [roughly, outlaw]; he also takes the opportunity of blackening Androtion as a supporter of oligarchy: according to Diodoros, Solon has forbidden prostitutes to speak and make proposals in the Assembly precisely on the assumption that they are corrupt and seek to overthrow democracy.

From Morgens Herman Hanson, 1974, The Sovereignty of the People’s Court in Athens in the Fourth Century B.C. and The Public Action against Unconstitutional Proposals, Odense University Press.

The Athenians had all kinds of delightful litigation — another favorite is a speech written by Lysias (number 10) as logographer which concerns a slander suit. Theomnestus had been charged with illegally speaking before the assembly — illegally because he was an atimos himself, having allegedly thrown away his shield in battle. During that trial, Theomnestus said Lysias’s client, one of the witnesses against him had killed his own father. Theomnestus then brought slander suits against a variety of the witnesses against him, though not Lysias’s client. The speech we have is from the inevitable slander suit against Theomnestus for the parricide accusation. Theomnestus apparently had a really weird (for the Athenians) defense — that the law specified only particular words as grounds for slander — roughly the equivalent in English of saying that it wasn’t slander because he called him a father-killer rather than a father-murderer.

The delightful bit is how Lysias, in preempting this defense, takes every opportunity to slyly fling Theomnestus’s shield-throwing at him, again, and again, and again. I can imagine the jury cracking up here as poor Theomnestus turns redder and redder. Delightful!

Yes, this is how I spend my Saturday nights. Jealous?

It gets worse, actually. So I’m putting together a dissertation on the rule of law. And I wander into a local bookstore for some fun reading for a break. And what do I come out with? Rumpole and the Reign of Terror. From the editorial reviews on the page:

From Publishers Weekly
Mortimer’s curmudgeonly barrister, Horace Rumpole, defends a Pakistani doctor accused of aiding al-Qaeda in an up-to-date tale that pits Rumpole against those who use the terrorist threat as an excuse to subvert the British legal system. When Mahmood Khan, who loves the queen, roast beef and cricket as much as any respectable Englishman, is imprisoned on vague charges, Rumpole must use all his wiles—including blackmailing the odious home secretary—to ensure a fair trial. Meanwhile, wife Hilda (aka “She Who Must Be Obeyed”), as revealed in extracts from the memoirs she’s secretly writing, has been flirting with Judge Leonard “Mad Bull” Bullingham, her husband’s courtroom nemesis, who winds up presiding in the case against Dr. Khan. If luck as much as clever sleuthing figures into Rumpole’s ultimate triumph, this daringly topical entry in Mortimer’s cherished series shows that the 83-year-old author remains as skilled as ever at delivering an entertaining mystery. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Mortimer expanded his Rumpole range from short story to novel form with Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders in 2004. In this, the second full-scale Rumpole novel, Mortimer launches an all-out attack on Britain’s Anti-Terror Act, which he characterizes as aiding and abetting terrorists by doing away with the hard-won rule of law. Rumpole’s disturbing encounters with the devastations of the Anti-Terror Act come through his bread-and-butter connection with the Timsons, the criminal family who, through the years, has sought Rumpole for their defense. A distant Timson relative now comes to Rumpole. This woman is married to a Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism. Rumpole’s attempts to free this man are met with horror from Rumpole’s wife (“She Who Must Be Obeyed”), disapproval from his colleagues at 4 Equity Court, and disavowal from the Timsons, who drop him as their QC of choice. Rumpole, reduced to offering advice at the Free Legal Clinic, pursues his client’s right to a fair trial even as he battles his own doubts about the accused. All the usual Rumpolean marvels of language and characterization are here, with the addition of searing social commentary on racial prejudice and Britain’s current government. A bracing, upsetting, inspiring David-and-Goliath Rumpole.

Yes, this counts as a break.


3 Responses to “The ancient Athenians were way more awesome than you.”

  1. Matt Simonton Says:

    You really must read Aeschines’ “Against Timarchus” if you want the best Athenian male prostitution case.

  2. ellen Says:

    This is what I love about your blog. It lives in a space that has both the word “awesome” in the title and the words “Odense University Press” in the body of the post.

  3. Kenny Says:

    I assume you are also familiar with the infamous Athenian lawsuit over the shadow of an ass? I can’t find a good online reference, but there was a saying in the classical world ‘to argue over the shadow of an ass,’ based on a court case in which a man rented a donkey as a pack animal to transport goods from (IIRC) Megara to Athens. At lunch time, he stopped and tied up the donkey and sat in the animal’s shadow to get out of the sun. At this point, the donkey’s owner walked by and claimed that he had rented him the donkey only as a pack animal and not as a sunshade. A lawsuit ensued.

    Unfortunately, none of the speeches from this court case are preserved!

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