The Case Against Timocrates: Legal Issues and Substantive Arguments against the Unsuitability of Timocrates’ Law (Demosthenes 24.17–109)

  Mosiou, Eleni. “The Case Against Timocrates: Legal Issues and Substantive Arguments against the Unsuitability of Timocrates’ Law (Demosthenes 24.17–109).” CHS Research Bulletin 10 (2022).

Pre-doctoral Fellow in Hellenic  Studies 2021–22


The research project which I have worked on during my CHS Pre-doctoral Fellowship focuses on the legal argumentation presented by Demosthenes in his speech Against Timocrates (Dem. 24.17–109). This speech was delivered by a certain Diodorus in a public trial against an inexpedient law. In order for the speaker to accomplish both the repeal of the law he is indicting and the punishment of its author, he lays out an array of arguments largely based on the citation of existing statutes. A closer examination of this part of the speech allows us to observe that the orator’s strategy is not only to stress the defendant’s legal violations, but also to suggest that Timocrates plotted against the city by proposing a law which does not fit in a democratic constitution, thus opposing the spirit of the Athenian laws in general. In my paper, I have tried to shed light on the way in which Demosthenes employs rational arguments and the rhetoric of law so as to portray the opponent’s ethos and render him an enemy of the city and its values.


My year-long appointment as a CHS Pre-doctoral Fellow in Hellenic Studies (June 2021-May 2022) offered me the opportunity to conduct research on a project closely related to the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation. The aim of my doctoral thesis is to produce a detailed commentary on Demosthenes’ speech Against Timocrates with specific emphasis on issues regarding the history of Athenian law and political, social, and economic features of the 4th century polis. In the paper I have written during the first semester of my CHS fellowship, I examine the lengthy part of the legal argumentation in the speech Against Timocrates, which was written for Diodorus who appears to be the prosecutor in a public trial against an inexpedient law (γραφὴ νόμον μὴ ἐπιτήδειον θεῖναι).  The arguments in this section have been systematically structured by Demosthenes and are based largely on the documents of the laws he cites in order to prove the illegality and unsuitability of Timocrates’ bill. 

In the introductory part of my paper, I explore the way in which the orator has arranged his rational arguments and how he combines them with ‘artless proof’, namely the documents of the existing statutes. Firstly, the speaker discusses the procedural violations of the defendant; then, he proceeds to cite Timocrates’ law and examine the existing statutes that it opposes one by one; the rest of this part of the speech contains the substantive arguments for the unsuitability of Timocrates’ law, in view of the public interest and the city’s welfare.

After analyzing and evaluating some of the procedural and substantive arguments, I attempt to demonstrate that the orator’s aim, rather than merely arraying the defendant’s legal violations, is to indicate that Timocrates opposes the general spirit of the city’s laws and their democratic character. This is suggested by the speaker’s constant praise of the existing laws of Athens on the basis of their fairness, goodness, and expediency and also by the juxtaposition of the defendant as a potential lawmaker with Solon, the archetypical lawgiver. Moreover, to enhance his argument on the inexpediency of the law he is indicting, the speaker attempts to reveal its oligarchic aspects by comparing its proposer with Critias, the leading member of the Thirty. Hence, the orator shapes the opponent’s ethos in a way that dissociates him from the character and the values of the Athenian polis.

Furthermore, I seek to indicate that throughout the legal argumentation Demosthenes states more or less clearly that the defendant proposed his law in order to favour three specific men with whom he is associated. Although the orator does not provide proof to prove this claim adequately, he manages to portray his opponent as a man who intentionally tries to harm the city and its people, thus being a public danger that needs to be eliminated. Should the speaker convince the dicasts that Timocrates has deliberately contrived against the Athenian people, he is to achieve not only the abolition of the law under discussion but also the severe punishment of its proposer; for, as he claims drawing upon popular beliefs, those who consciously attempt to harm the city do not deserve forgiveness.

To sum up, Demosthenes in the first half of his speech Against Timocrates develops an impressive number of arguments to prove the illegality and inexpediency of the defendant’s law by citing the existing statutes that it contradicts. However, as I have argued, his aim is not solely to point to Timocrates’ violations strictly in terms of procedure and substance; what is more, he endeavors to make an attack to his opponents’ ethos, as revealed by the law he has enacted. Hence, Timocrates is presented as a man who has breached all the existing laws and deliberately harms the city and its people, this rendering him an enemy of the laws, an enemy of democracy, and also an enemy of the dicasts and the entire polis

My trip to CHS in Washington DC

After the completion of my semester-long work on my research project, the CHS organized for all three Pre-doctoral Fellows in Hellenic Studies a 15-day educational trip to CHS in Washington DC. During my stay there, I was able to use the library and the resources of the Center and therefore enhance my project. I made significant progress with my research in a very welcoming environment since I had the chance to interact and collaborate with other fellows and members of the CHS academic community in the US. The CHS also arranged for us a visit to Dumbarton Oaks, a meeting with the director Mark Schiefsky as well as other activities which raised stimulating academic discussions and created an overall unforgettable experience.

Sharing my research

My appointment as a CHS fellow offered me -among others- the opportunity to communicate my project to a wider audience. An article presenting some preliminary ideas and outcomes of my research has been published in FirstDrafts@Classics@. Moreover, during my stay at the CHS in Washington DC, I presented virtually to the US fellows and to the members of the academic committee of the Pre-doctoral Fellowships a part of my paper. My presentation (entitled “Law and Character in Demosthenes’ speech Against Timocrates”) focused on the way in which the orator by using the rhetoric of law sheds light not merely on the actual legal violations of Timocrates, but also on his character as revealed by the law he proposed. Finally, I will have the chance to present another part of my project at the CHS Greece Annual Research Workshop to be held in Nafplio in August 2022. In this talk, I intend to explore how Timocrates is portrayed by Demosthenes as a conspirator who plots against the Athenian people. I hope to stimulate a fruitful discussion and receive once again feedback and useful comments which will help me develop my research.


I would like to express my gratitude to the academic committee of the CHS Pre-doctoral Fellowships in Hellenic Studies and especially to my advisor professor Anna Lamari for her invaluable comments and suggestions on my paper. Not least, I wish to thank the whole CHS staff for the guidance and, above all, for the great hospitality at the Center in Washington DC. It has been an honour to be part of so supportive and warm a community, that enabled me to gain a wonderful experience.

Selected Bibliography

De Brauw, M. 2001–2002. “’Listen to the Laws Themselves:’ Citations of Laws and Portrayal of Character in Attic Oratory.” The Classical Journal 97.2: 161–176.

Canevaro, M. 2013. The Documents in the Attic Orators: Laws and Decrees in the Public Speeches of the Demosthenic Corpus. New York.

———. 2016. Demostene, Contro Leptine. Introduzione, Traduzione e Commento Storico. Berlin/Boston.

———. 2019. “Law and Justice.” In The Oxford Handbook of Demosthenes, ed. M. Gunther, 73–85. Oxford.

Carey, C. 1994. “‘Artless’ Proofs in Aristotle and the Orators.” Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 39:95–106.

———. 1996. “Nomos in Attic Rhetoric and Oratory.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 116:33–46.

———. 2015. “Solon in the Orators.” Trends in Classics 7.1:110–128.

Hansen, M. H. 1974. The Sovereignty of the People’s Court in Athens in the Fourth Century BC and the Public Action against Unconstitutional Proposals. Odense.

———. 1985. “Athenian Nomothesia.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 26:345–371.

Harris, E. M. 2006. Democracy and the Rule of Law in Classical Athens: Essays on Law, Society and Politics. Cambridge.

———. 2018. Demosthenes. Speeches 23–26. Austin.

Hunter, V. J. 1994. Policing Athens. Social Control in the Attic Lawsuits, 420–320 B.C. Princeton.

Kremmydas, C. 2007. “Logical Argumentation in Demosthenes Against Leptines.” In Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies Supplement, vol. 96, ed. J. Powell, 30–52. Institute of Classical Studies, London.

MacDowell, D. M. 1975. “Law-making at Athens in the Fourth c. B.C.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies 95:62–74.

———. 2009. Demosthenes the Orator. Oxford.

Roisman, J. 2006. The Rhetoric of Conspiracy in Ancient Athens. Berkeley.

Sealey, R. 1993. Demosthenes and his Time. A study in Defeat. New York.

Thomas, R. 1994. “Law and the Lawgiver in the Athenian Democracy.” In Ritual, Finance, Politics. Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis, ed. R. Osborne & S. Hornblower, 119–133. Oxford. 

———. 2005. “Writing, law and written law.” In The Cambridge Companion to Greek Law, ed. M. Gagarin & D. Cohen, 41–60. Cambridge. 

Wayte, W. 1882. Demosthenes, Against Androtion and Against Timocrates. Cambridge.

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