Demosthenes, Against Konon: was drinking on duty a court-martial offense?

William C. West

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Side A of an archaic inscription from Eleutherna (Eleutherna II [Rethymnon, 1991] no. 1 = SEG 41.739; Van Effenterre and Ruzé, Nomima II, no. 98) probably a law, may be translated as follows: "Do not drink to excess. Drink together with others, as an adult, at Dion Akron …" The toponym Dion Akron, "Promontory of Zeus", is interpreted as equivalent to Dios Akron, probably to be identified with a cape on the north coast of Crete near Eleutherna, cited by Ptolemy, Geogr. 3.15.5, suitable for the establishment of a lookout. H. van Effenterre, editor of this interesting text, cites Theognis 989, pin' hopotan pinousin, as a parallel for understanding the inscription, which would be clearly applicable to a festival or any social gathering of a group. The reference to communal drinking at a military garrison invites comparison with  the situation described in Demosthenes, Against Konon. The suit is an aikeias dike against Konon who, as alleged, together with his sons, violently assaulted the speaker and harmed him physically. The speaker claims that he could have brought a graphe hubreos but opted for the lesser charge because he was persuaded that it would be difficult to prove the more serious offense. Carey and Reid discuss the difference between hybris and aikeia and conclude that in a case of aikeia the litigant was required only to prove the fact of assault and not the motive as well. (Cf. Demosthenes: Selected Private Speeches, ed. by Carey and Reid [Cambridge, 1985], pp. 74-77). D.M. MacDowell examines extensively the meaning of hybris as an offense in Athenian law (Demosthenes, Against Meidias, Oration 21 [Oxford, 1990], pp. 18-21). Considering that the speechwriter, the logographer, served as the major consultant to the litigant who presented his own case, one may suspect that the rhetorical strategy pursued in the speech reflects the advice he was given

As we learn from the Eleutherna inscription, however, consumption of alcoholic beverages in the company of others while on garrison duty was permitted in this Cretan site. We may suppose that a similar attitude prevailed in Athens as well. The outrageous behavior of the sons of Konon to which their garrison drinking contributed merely allowed the speaker to establish a pattern of violence which led up to the later incident in Athens of assault and battery described in sections 7-9. The graphic description of the violence in Athens concludes with the brilliant tekmerion of Konon standing over the body of his victim, like a victorious fighting cock flapping his wings. The rhetorical strategy of Demosthenes in helping the speaker present his case most effectively begins with an ordinary situation which gets out of hand and, as the speaker contends, is shown to result in a criminal offense committed at a later time.


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