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Transforming Disputes into Cases: Demosthenes 55, Against Kallikles 

Steven Johnstone, edition of March 22, 2003

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· The Dispute ·

Sometime in the middle of the 4th century BCE, an Athenian farmer whose name we do not know (though his father was named Teisias) was sued by his neighbor Kallikles for damages resulting from a flood. In this case, we have the defendant’s speech and I would summarize it like this:

The son of Teisias argued that Kallikles was a scheming, litigious neighbor, and this suit was just the latest of his harrassments. Though Kallikles claimed that his land had been flooded because a wall on the property of the son of Teisias had diverted a natural arroyo onto his land, Teisias (the defendant’s father) had in fact put up the wall many years before and neither Kallipides nor his son Kallikles had objected either at that time or since. Moreover, the wall did not block the path of the arroyo, Kallikles had himself put up a similar wall (and had obstructed the road), and, besides, the damage wasn’t nearly as much as Kallikles said. The son of Teisias emphasized again to the jurors that this suit itself was part of an ongoing pattern of harassment. Kallikles had earlier suborned his cousin to claim the son of Teisias’ land (a suit the son of Teisias says he won), had persuaded his brother to sue him, and had himself twice sued the son of Teisias’ slave, Kallaros (the first of which Kallikles apparently won). All of this, the son of Teisias argued, was part of Kallikles’ plot to get his land and drive him out of the neighborhood.

We do not have Kallikles’ speech, but by careful attention to the son of Teisias’ speech you can infer what he must have minimally argued. Kallikles would have argued that although the road between their land was a natural arroyo, at some point it diverged from the road and flowed onto the son of Teisias’ land—and this must have been the point at which Teisias had earlier put up the wall. Kallikles must have claimed that the arroyo ran naturally through the son of Teisias’ land. Although years had passed since the wall was put up, the passage of time didn’t erase the liability of the son of Teisias. You may suspect that Kallikles quoted or at least alluded to the law which was the basis of his suit—Athenian prosecutors often did this— though there can be no certainty here since the son of Teisias made no arguments about the law. Kallikles may have made arguments well beyond this minimum—he may, for example, have claimed that the son of Teisias was the bad neighbor—but we cannot know.

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