Against Timocrates

Against Timocrates was a speech given by Demosthenes in Athens in which he accused Timocrates of proposing an illegal decree.[1] The speech provides our best evidence about the use of imprisonment as a punishment in Classical Athens.[1]

Timocrates' law would have allowed debtors to the state to go free on providing a surety, rather than being imprisoned until they paid their debts.[2] Democrates' speech criticises this law on the grounds that it would unfairly advantage wealthy citizens at the expense of the poor.[3]

Historical Background

The speech can be dated to the summer of 353BC[4]. A series of events led to the trial. Three Athenians in 355BC, including Androtion, whilst sailing as ambassadors to Mausolus, the King of Caria, captured a merchant ship near Naucratis, claiming lawful seizure of enemy property[4]. The ambassadors held onto the plunder they received until a commission was appointed into the matter, moved by Euctemon and Diodorus[4]. Euctemon and Diodorus gave information against the two trierarchs who had been commanding the ambassadors' ship[4]. The result was that the ambassadors admitted possession of the money, however Euctemon furthered his investigation and proposed a decree (which was passed) that the trierarchs should be responsible for recovering the money[4]. Androtion and his supporters in retaliation proposed a graphe paranomon (the charge for proposing an unlawful decree) against Euctemon[4]. Euctemon was acquitted, however Timocrates, a friend of the ambassadors, then proposed his law that any debtor of the state should remain at liberty until the ninth prytany on the condition that they provided a surety[4]. This presumably would have enabled the ambassadors to escape with their plunder[4]. The speech Against Timocrates details the graphe paranomon Euctemon and Diodorus brought against Timocrates in retaliation[4]. Diodorus opens the speech. The action of the graphe paranomon suspended the effect of Timocrates' law, and the ambassadors were forced to pay the money[4]. The action against Timocrates however was not halted but pursued[4].


  1. Allen, Danielle (1997). "Imprisonment in Classical Athens". The Classical Quarterly. 47 (1): 124.
  2. Allen, Danielle (1997). "Imprisonment in Classical Athens". The Classical Quarterly. 47 (1): 132.
  3. Allen, Danielle (1997). "Imprisonment in Classical Athens". The Classical Quarterly. 47 (1): 133.
  4. Henderson, J (1935). Loeb Classical Library: Demosthenes, Orations, Volume III. MA: Harvard University. pp. 370–371.

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