The Classical Quarterly (New Series)

Research Article

Did the Athenians Regard Seduction as a Worse Crime than Rape?

Edward M. Harrisa1

a1 Brooklyn College and the Graduate Center, The City University of New York

One of the most ingenious arguments in all of Attic oratory is to be found in the speech Lysias wrote for Euphiletus to deliver at his trial for the murder of Eratosthenes (Lys. 1.30–5). In his speech Euphiletus first describes to the court how his wife was seduced by Eratosthenes, then recounts how he discovered the affair, caught the adulterer in the act, and, despite an offer to pay compensation, slew him. Euphiletus defends his action by citing the law of the Areopagus that whoever kills an adulterer caught in flagranti with his wife cannot be convicted of murder. Euphiletus further points out that the same exemption applies to the man who catches someone seducing his pallakē. If the lawgiver regarded the seduction of a pallakē as so serious that it merited the death penalty, Euphiletus argues, he must have regarded the seduction of a wife as even more reprehensible, deserving a penalty worse than death.