This ancient Athenian murder trial centralizes around the expectations of marriage, the role of women in ancient Greece, and the dangers a husband faces after failing to properly supervise his wife. Euphiletus stands accused of the murder of Eratosthenes, his wife’s lover. According to Athenian law, if a husband finds his wife in bed with another man, it is the husband’s right to determine what penalty the male adulterer will face. The Husband could demand he pay a fine, or even justifiably kill him. The time period of Euphiletus’ trial had come to acknowledge financial compensation as the common settlement for such offenses.
Eratosthenes’ family is having Euphiletus prosecuted for premeditated murder; leaving Euphiletus to convince a jury his actions where perfectly legal. He must paint himself as the real victim, a respectable law abiding citizen forced to uphold the law and carryout the proper punishment Eratosthenes earned. All to protect the honor of his wife, children, home and name as best he could. If his defense fails in the eyes of the jury, Euphiletus will face execution. DEFENSE Euphiletus begins his defense by recounting the events leading up to the crime, starting with his marriage.
He is sure to stress the proper supervision and responsible guardianship he took over his wife, like a respectable husband should. However once she for fills her ultimate obligation as a wife and bares him a child, she earns his trust. Euphiletus- now overjoyed with her womanly cleverness and proper management of their house hold, is convinced of her loyalty. This opening serves Euphiletus’ a key primary evidence towards his defense. The legitimacy of his marriage and his role as perfect husband are needed to boost his character.
He appears law abiding, by keeping close watch over his wife once they are married. Solon’s laws on women limit the behavior of wives in particular-by expecting the husband to seclude her from society as much as possible. Wives were viewed as being too fragile, uneducated and gullible to be subjected to the public- incapable of recognizing evil advances that might be made towards them. A father stood responsible for his daughter’s guardianship before she matures, and once ready for marriage this responsibility is passed onto her husband.
Euphiletus then explains the incident that changed everything, the occasion which Eratosthenes first sees his wife. “But then my mother died, and her death has proved to be the source of all my troubles, because it was when my wife went to the funeral that this man Eratosthenes saw her; and as time went on, he was able to seduce her. ” This statement provides Euphiletus with an acceptable excuse as to why other men were able to veiw his wife, and defense against assumptions that it was his fault for not sheltering her away from the public or letting her run wild.
Because wives were allowed to make appearances at the funerals of family members. Even Solons strict laws for women of the time accepted mourning as an allowable circumstance for a man’s wife to leave the house. However law still stressed proper supervision by a trusted male chaperone and required she dressed modestly as to not draw attention. Euphiletus claims he was gullable and unaware during this outing, along with many other incidents following the funeral. This being his only crime, if he should be charged with one.
For it was later into the affair when Euphiletus noticed his wife wearing make up on her face and then playfully locking him into his section of the house for an entire night- but still shrugged off any suspicion. Her odd behavior was not enough reason for Euphiletus to assume her dishonest. He now regrets not assuming the worst, and admits he should’ve acknowledged the red flags. Still he upholds his image as a proper husband, perhaps too loving is all. Although having said all this, Euphiletus is sure to make the distinction of deceitfulness between his defenseless wife and the villainous adulterer he put to death.
In fact, Euphiletus claims his wife was just as much a victim as he. He is sure to specify that the ‘old hag’ who approached him and exposed the affair was sent by Eratosthenes previous mistress, now bitter that he had lost interest in her and moved on to Euphiletus’s wife. He recalls the old hags words to the jury- “The culprit, she added, is Eratosthenes from Oea. Your wife is not the only one he has seduced- there are plenty of others. It is his profession. ” This can be seen as a vital part of Euphiletus’s defense for multiple reasons.
First and foremost it establishes Eratosthenes character as a cunning criminal in a league of his own. Not only has he behaved criminally by seducing Euphilitus’s wife, but makes known he seduced other men’s wives prior to his. This paints a picture of Eratosthenes as a debaucher of women, and a disgrace to the community. Not only by his claims, but importantly claims shared by others- exemplified by the old hag when she refers to Eratosthenes unlawful actions as ‘his profession’. Euphiletus not only makes himself appear more morally just,
but argues that by choosing the maximum penalty of death he saved future husband’s from becoming victim to Eratosthenes’s criminal advances. He also could have used this evidence to save his wife from suffering any penalties or persecution for adultery- since women did not testify. Whether or not he truly believed his wife was completely innocent was not why Euphiletus stands in her defense. It was most likely centered around doing more good for him, not only in court but in his reputation among society and the future reputation of his children.
The more victim he makes his wife appear, the more chances of understanding and integrity from the community. If we have learned one thing about aristocratic Athenians, it would be the monumental importance of proper image and acceptance among other aristocrats. Looking back at the beginning of the semester, ancient greek poets like Archilochus further defend this assumption as shown in his powerful iambic invective ‘birth control’. Families of high rank where so dependent on their reputation in Athenian society that they would have rather chosen suicide than undergo such embarrassment.
For an aristocratic male, rumored illegitimacy of his sons or even daughters would ruin future prosperity and inheritance. It was the same as facing death. Euphiletus then turns away from using emotional pleas to sway the jury to cementing his innocence with concrete evidence-armed with witnesses and the laws of Athens towards adulterers. By gathering up neighbors to intrude on Eratosthenes and catch him in the physical act, he is provided proof by each of their testimonies that Euphiletus killed Eratosthenes in the required situation specified by the law to make the murder legal.
Which mandates that in order to carry out a death punishment the man must catch the adulterer in the physical act. Euphiletus ends with his strongest evidence he has, and that is the law of Athen’s itself. He first has the clerk of court read aloud Solon’s law for adulterer’s : “an adulterer may be put to death by the man who catches him. ” He then has the clerk read aloud another version of Solon’s law as recorded on the pillar of the Areopagus Court which insists that no man can be found guilty of murder if he finds his wife with an adulterer and inflicts punishment.
This recording of the law reads on to further legitimize Euphiletus’s actions, “The law-giver was so strongly convinced of the justice of the provisions in the case of married women that he applied them also to concubines, who are of less importance. Yet obviously if he had know of any greater punishment than this for cases where married women are concerned, he would have provided it. ” PROSECTUTION The prosecution that this court case did not provide for us, can be almost certainly assumed to have claimed Eratosthenes’s death as a premeditated murder.
They most likely would insist not only that the situation recounted by Euphiletus and his friends or hired witnesses was staged as a lawful punishment, but that the adultery allegations where false entirely. Only an invented explanation to provide proper protection from facing a murder conviction. They probably would have instead explained the real incentive as a personal dispute or hatred Euphiletus had towards Eratosthenes because of reasons non criminal. Whatever the motive that drove Euphiletus to murder, he was sure to use every precaution necessary to escape all consequences.
And by invoking an almost ‘ancient’ law rarely excersized during that time for adulterers insists he must have done much research into creating his perfect crime. That Eratosthenes was drug into the house and murdered by Euphiletus. His witnesses partaking as the muscle needed to ensure he could not make an escape. These ‘witnesses’ most likely trusted friends who Euphiletus also compensated financially for their role in the staged murder and court testimonies needed to seal the deal & cover-up a murder plot.
While Euphiletus’s defense claims he only followed the law by punishing an adulterer- the prosecution would say Euphiletus abused the law, by using it for protection to avoid his own punishment for the premeditated murder of Eratosthenes. Although in a modern day court of law jurors would almost certainly find Eratosthenes death a premeditated murder, I have come to the conclusion that because ancient Athenian court proceedings where based off probability and persuadable testimonies Euphiletus would be found innocent without a doubt.
Not to mention the law allowed citizens to kill other citizens if the situation is right, so that alone makes anything possible. It also could be largely rigged or negotiable by who you knew, since no physical evidence was required and verdicts where reached over who had the most convincing story. Euphiletus tale of events are hard to argue and obviously protected by Athenian law. So in this case, just like so many today- the best actor won. Was Euphiletus guilty of premeditated murder in reality? Probably. But in an ancient Athenian courtroom? Innocent all the way.