(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Pericles persuaded Cephalus, the father of Lysias (LIHS-ee-as), to leave his home in Syracuse and settle in Athens, where Lysias was born. At the age of fifteen, Lysias joined the Athenian colony of Thurii. During his stay in Italy, he reportedly learned oratory from the Syracusan Teisias, who was one of the first to expound theories on the art of rhetoric. After anti-Athenian disturbances in Thurii, Lysias returned to Athens and helped manage his family’s shield factory.

In 404 b.c.e., the Thirty Tyrants seized control of Athens. They arrested Lysias along with his brother Polemarchus and seized their property. Polemarchus was executed, but Lysias escaped and furnished the democratic exiles with mercenaries, weapons, and money. After the restoration of the Athenian democracy in 403 b.c.e., a motion to grant Lysias citizenship failed, and he lived the rest of his life as a resident alien, supporting himself by writing speeches for others to deliver in court and before the assembly.

Lysias Influence

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

A corpus of thirty-five speeches attributed to Lysias survives, displaying the simple Attic style of everyday language, for which he is famous and which Julius Caesar adopted. From a speech on the murder of an adulterer to one in which Lysias recounts the plight of his family, his work gives us a unique glimpse into Athens after the Peloponnesian War.

Lysias Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Todd, S. C., trans. Lysias. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

Usher, S. Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.