Isocrates wrote this forensic speech for a client who was defending himself against an Action for Damages brought by a person named Callimachus. The defendant in reply entered a Special Plea of Exception, or Demurrer, denying the admissibility of the suit. In a case of this kind the positions of plaintiff and defendant were reversed, so that the defendant, contrary to the usual procedure, spoke first.
The facts of the case, related in the speech, are briefly as follows: Patrocles, Archon Basileus (King-Archon) of Athens in 403 b.c. during the brief period when the Ten held power in succession to the Thirty Tyrants, denounced Callimachus for illegally having in his possession a sum of money which belonged to one of the exiled members of the democratic party who had assembled at Piraeus. The case was referred by the Ten to the Council, which decreed that the money should be confiscated. After the citizens at Piraeus had been restored to power in Athens, Callimachus brought successful actions against several defendants: Patrocles was compelled to pay ten minasa; one Lysimachus two minas; and the defendant compromised the case by the payment of two minas. This last payment was sanctioned by an arbitrator, which action estopped further litigation.
In spite of this, Callimachus again brought suit for one hundred minas, whereupon the defendant produced a witness of the previous arbitration. Callimachus, after an interval, brought a new action. The client of Isocrates then appealed to the new law of Archinus. This was a law which Archinus, in an endeavour to bring to an end civic discord and enmities in accordance with the spirit and the terms of the general amnesty which had been declared following the restoration of the democracy, had succeeded in having passed. The law provided that when an action was brought in violation of the Amnesty, the defendant could enter an Exception or Special Plea and this Special Plea should precede a regular trial; further, if either party failed to receive one-fifth of the votes of the tribunal, he was liable to the fine of one-sixth of the sum in litigation.
This case occurred soon after the Amnesty of 403 b.c. The trial, for which this speech was written, may be assigned with probability to the year 402 b.c. and early in the career of Isocrates.
The plainness and simplicity of the style of the speech and the detailed argumentation, which reminds the student of the Attic orator Isaeus, are in keeping with the subject, the occasion, and the speaker.a