Good Lovers as Good Citizens: Strategic Self-representation
of Erastai in Fourth-Century
Greek Rhetoric

Nicholas C. Rynearson (University of Georgia)

Near the end of Aeschines’ Against Timarchus (346/5 BCE), after having built his case primarily on the defendant’s sexual relations with various men, Aeschines prepares the jurors for a counter-attack he anticipates from the defense.  A certain general, he says, will take the stand to argue that Aeschines’ prosecution amounts to an attack on the institution of pederasty and Athenian cultural education in general, citing the famous pederastic lovers and benefactors of the polis, Harmodius and Aristogeiton, as well as Homer’s depiction of Achilles and Patroclus (132-4).  This general, Aeschines continues, will then turn to a more personal attack, a charge of hypocrisy, since everyone knows that the prosecutor himself is an avid lover of boys (135).  In response, Aeschines devotes the next twenty-four chapters of his speech (136-159) to a careful distinction (137: horizomai, 141: kechôristhai) between culturally-sanctioned and praiseworthy erôs, on the one hand, and, on the other, shameful, hubristic sexual behavior. 

Others have shown that this section of Against Timarchus reinforces Aeschines’ general contention that Timarchus’ sex life makes him unfit for citizenship (notably Cissa 1999 and Fisher 2001 and 2005).  However, few have noted that the presentation of a contrasting model of pederastic erôs as just (dikaios), self-controlled (sôphrôn) and conducive of the virtues that make good citizens is also central to Aeschines’ argumentation. 

My paper offers an analysis of this model of virtuous erôs, with which Aeschines aligns not only himself but also, crucially, the jurors, whom he invites to identify with him in contrast to the slavishly incontinent and hubristic Timarchus.  Ultimately, the connection between the behavior of the virtuous pederastic lover and good citizenship is as important to Aeschines as the converse argument by which Timarchus is excised from the citizen body.

In addition, I argue that Aeschines’ connection between good lovers and good citizenship represents a rhetorical topos already deployed by Lysias’ Against Simon (after 394 BCE).  In this speech an unnamed speaker defends himself against a charge of “premeditated wounding” originating in a conflict between himself and a rival lover of a Plataean youth.  Like Against Timarchus, Lysias’ speech makes two crucial contrasts.  The speaker first distinguishes between Simon’s violent and shameful behavior as an erastês and his own kindness and respectful courtship (especially 3.5).  He then makes this distinction a central part of his demonstration that Simon is a hubristês and a bad citizen, unworthy of the judges’ sympathy, while the speaker himself is a benefactor of both his beloved and the polis.  Aeschines’ Against Timarchus thus represents a later and more elaborate instance of a fourth-century rhetorical trope that makes the behavior of erastai indicative of their quality as citizens, a trope that can be traced back at least as far as Lysias’ Against Simon

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