Aeschines (EoH)

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Aeschines (CA. 397 - CA. 322 B.C.)

Athenian orator. His exchanges with Demosthenes in the courts in 343 and 330 reflect the relations between Athens and Macedon in the era of Alexander the Great. Aeschines and Demosthenes were both members of the Athenian boule (assembly) in the year 347146, and their disagreements led to sixteen years of bitter enmity. Demosthenes opposed Aeschines and the efforts to reach an accord with Philip of Macedon, while Aeschines supported the negotiations and wanted to extend them into a peace that would provide for joint action against aggressors and make it possible to do without Macedonian help. In 346145 Demosthenes began a prosecution of Aeschines for his part in the peacenegotiations; Aeschinesreplied with a charge that Timarchus, Demosthenes' ally, had prostituted himself with other males and thereby incurred atimia, "civic dishonor," which disqualified him from addressing the assembly. Aeschines' stratagem was successful, and Timarchus was defeated and disenfranchised.

The oration is often discussed because of the texts of the Athenian laws that it cites, as well as such accusations that Timarchus had gone down to Piraeus, ostensibly to learn the barber's trade, but in reality he was a hustler for the sailors landing at the port. The prosecution is one of the earliest instances of the attempt to destroy a political opponent in a democracy by attacking his sexual past. The offense of which Timarchus was guilty was that by prostituting himself he had in effect put himself in the power of another male, which was not a crime per se, but an act that disqualified a free citizen from speaking before the assembly, and had no relevance to a slave or aforeigner. Nothing in the oration suggests that a general reprobation of paiderasteia prevailed in Athenian society at the end of the Golden Age; Aeschines even says expressly that both he and the members of the jury have been honorable boy-lovers, but that the ignoble ("passive") and notorious conduct of which Timarchus had been guilty rendered him unfit to participate in public life. The oration contrasts Timarchus' behavior with the ideal of pederasty that the Greeks derived from the comradeship in arms depicted in the Homeric poems.


K. J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978, pp. 13-57, 75-76.

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