(c346 BCE)

man from a vase

 "The distinction which I draw is this: to be in love with those who are beautiful and chaste is the experience of a kind-hearted and generous soul; but to hire for money and to indulge in licentiousness is the act of a man who is wanton and ill-bred. And whereas it is an honor to be the object of a pure love, I declare that he who has played the prostitute by inducement of wages is disgraced. " -- Aeschines Against Timarchus


     Regular visitors to the House of Rhetoric have possibly noticed a slightly feminist tinge to our ladies' pronouncements. They are, however, not in the least bit prejudiced against the other sex. When they heard that Timarchus was lacking a safe house to work in, they unanimously agreed to invite him.  His profession was, after all, used as a weapon to destroy his career, and the ladies are very sympathetic to that sort of story.
     The Greeks were not opposed to physical love between males -- paiderastia was a common and accepted practice. It was not a sign of effeminacy for two men love one another, in fact, it was often linked to military prowess. Soldiers could form romantic attachments to their comrades and even inspired each other to feats of heroism.  On the other hand, while a free association between consenting males was accepted, the buying or selling of free born males for sexual purposes was a crime. The boy's parents could prosecute and the perpetrator faced penalties ranging from  a fine to execution.  When the free born male willingly sold himself, however, he entered a legal gray area.
     Like most Greek citizens of uncertain status, Timarchus is doomed to be known only by what others said of him.  Fortunately, those others are two of the greatest Attic orators: Demosthenes and Aeschines. Unfortunately, they provide diametrically opposed portraits.
    Timarchus was born of good family, but his father died when he was young, and the money soon ran out. (Aeschines implies that he drank and gambled it away.) Since he still had his looks and his education, he regained his fortune by selling himself to his admirers. He was luckier than most young men in his position in that he survived and saved his money and eventually quit. When he was reestablished he took the place in the Athenian council that was his birthright.  He acquitted himself well, and served for several years. (Demosthenes implies that he spoke often.)  Then he got caught with a political hot potato.
     Athens was approached by Philip of Macedonia (known for his expansionist tendencies) wanting to sign a peace treaty. Envoys from Athens were sent to negotiate, but they did a poor job and got unfavorable terms.  Those council members who distrusted Philip suspected bribery and moved to have the envoys arrested. In the forefront of that move was Timarchus, who offered a decree to make the sale of arms to Philip a capital offense. In his corner was Demosthenes.  Aeschines had been one of  the envoys. Naturally he wanted to strike hard and fast.  His first big move was to have Timarchus' suggestion rendered null and void, on the grounds that an ex-prostitute had no right to speak in the council. His long oration painted Timarchus as the blackest villain. Since Aeschines had chased a few young men in his own time, his oration carefully delineated between pure love and the kind sold for gain.  Demosthenes noted that Timarchus' past profession had never bothered Aeschines before, at least not until Macedonian gold became involved.  In the end, Aeschines won the vote, and Timarchus was barred from politics for three years, when he filed an appeal with the council and won a reversal.
     Poor Timarchus! He made speeches his entire career, but all we know is what Demosthenes says he said. Such is the fate of any politician who gets trapped between rhetorical dynamos.

calico cat

Read the attack:  Aeschines Against Timarchus .

Read the defense:  Demosthenes On the False Embassy .


Would you like to visit Liane?


Click for the music.