The main contentions of the speaker arc that the will produced by Cleon and Hierocles is a forgery and that he himself has a better legal and moral claim to the estate. To prove the first point he has to rely on circumstantial evidence. Why, he asks, should Astyphilus have made a will before setting out for Mytilene, though he had never done so before his other campaigns, and why did he choose for adoption the son of his bitterest enemy? The real instigator of the claim is, he alleges, not his nominal opponent Cleon but Hierocles, who had gone round offering to produce a will in favour of anyone who would agree to share the spoils with him.
The speaker bases his moral right to inherit the estate of his half-brother on the grounds that the deceased had experienced many benefits from himself and his family and had lived on terms of the closest affection with them. Astyphilus, when his mother remarried, was still a young child and had accompanied her to the house of her second husband Theophrastus, who had brought him up with his own son, the speaker; on the other hand, he had never in his life even addressed a word to Cleon, who, the speaker alleges, had been the cause of the death of Astyphilus’s father, Euthy crates. As for the legal claim, it is admitted as a general principle of Attic law that, if a man dies intestate, his relatives on the paternal side as far as the children of first cousins have preference over all the relatives on the maternal side; in the present case, however, the half-brother claims that he has a better right to the estate than the cousin, in view of the fact that Cleon had been adopted into another family
and had thus renounced all claim to inherit from a relative in the family out of which he had been adopted.
The case is well argued and the material skilfully arranged, but it is hardly one which would recommend itself to a modern jury. In particular, no convincing proof is adduced for setting aside the will and no objection is raised to any of the circumstances connected with it; for example, none of the usual allegations are made against those who had witnessed it. Moreover, Hierocles, if we disregard the vague assertions made against him by the speaker, would seem prima facie a suitable depositary for the will, since he was a relative and did not benefit under it.
Seeing that Astyphilus died during an expedition to Mytilene, it would be easy to fix the date of the speech if we had any conclusive evidence of such an expedition. We are informed that Astyphilus had previously served in the Theban war (378–371 b.c), so that the speech cannot be earlier than some little time after 371 b.c. The years immediately following 371 b.c. were not apparently marked by any military activity on the part of Athens, and no operations are known to have been undertaken until 366 b.c., when Timotheus commanded an Athenian force in the eastern Aegean; it is possible that Athenian troops were landed at Mytilene in the course of these operations. The names of Cleon and various other members of the family occur in inscriptions, without, however, throwing any light on the question of the date of the speech.