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  • Author or Editor: Brenda Griffith-Williams x
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This paper challenges the traditional view that Athenian witnesses functioned as supporters of litigant rather than impartial observers of events, and that evidence on such matters as family disputes is irrelevant to the legal issues in an inheritance dispute. Isaios wrote this speech for a client who claims the estate of Astyphilos, his half-brother by the same mother. His opponent, Kleon, a first cousin of Astyphilos on his father’s side, says that his son was adopted in Astyphilos’s will. To win the case, Isaios must prove both that the will is invalid and that his client is entitled to the estate as next of kin. He deploys 13 items of witness testimony, more than in any of his other surviving speeches. Witnesses testify not only that the will is a forgery, but also that Astyphilos never spoke to Kleon after a quarrel between their fathers, whereas Astyphilos and the speaker enjoyed a close fraternal relationship. On the traditional view, Isaios is asserting a moral claim to the estate, knowing that his legal case is weak. I argue that evidence of relationships within the family is relevant to the validity of the will, as part of the argument from probability that Astyphilos was unlikely to have adopted his enemy’s son. Some important aspects of the speaker’s story are, nevertheless, unsupported by testimony, and I conclude that Isaios was probably trying to disguise his client’s vulnerability on the issue of kinship by making the most of his evidence against the will.

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