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Andocides, c. 440–c. 390 BCE

A member of a distinguished aristocratic family whose grandfather had been one of the ten Athenian envoys who negotiated the Thirty Years Peace of 446. In 415, shortly before the great expedition to Sicily was due to depart, the Athenians were greatly dismayed one morning to discover that in the night the statues of Hermes around the city (see herms) had been mutilated: Hermes being the god of travellers, this act was presumably intended to affect the progress of the expedition, but it was also taken, curiously, as a sign that the democracy itself was in danger. In the subsequent accusations the young Andocides and his associates in a club, which was probably suspected of oligarchic tendencies (see hetaireiai), were named as having shared both in the mutilations and in the profanation of the Eleusinian mysteries (see demeter; eleusis), and were arrested. Andocides, to secure immunity and, as he claimed, to save his father, confessed to a share in the mutilations and gave an account of the whole affair which, though it may have been far from the truth, was readily accepted by the Athenians. This secured his release, but shortly afterwards, when the decree of Isotimides, aimed at him especially, forbade those who had confessed to an act of impiety to enter temples or the Agora, Andocides preferred to leave the city and began to trade as a merchant, in which role he developed connections all over the Aegean and in Sicily and Italy. In 411, seeking to restore himself to favour at Athens, he provided oars at cost price to the fleet in Samos, and shortly afterwards returned to Athens to plead for the removal of the limitation on his rights. Unfortunately for him, the revolution of the Four Hundred had just installed in power the very class of citizens whom his confession had affected, and he was put into prison and maltreated. Released, perhaps at the fall of the Four Hundred, he returned to his trading, in the course of which he was for a while imprisoned by Evagoras, the king of Cyprus. At some time after the re-establishment of the democracy in 410, he returned to the city to renew his plea (the speech De reditu belongs to this occasion) but he was again unsuccessful. Returning finally under the amnesty of 403, he resumed full participation in public life, and in 400 (or 399) successfully defended himself in the De mysteriis against an attempt to have him treated as still subject to the decree of Isotimides: the sixth speech of the Lysian corpus (see lysias), Against Andocides, was delivered by one of his accusers. In 392/1 he was one of the Athenian envoys sent to Sparta to discuss the making of peace, and on his return in the debate in the assembly he delivered the De pace urging acceptance of the proffered terms, which were in fact very similar to those of the King's Peace of 387/386. The Athenians, however, rejected the peace, and Andocides and the other envoys were prosecuted by the young Callistratus (2). Andocides anticipated condemnation by retiring into exile, and we hear no more of him.


In addition to the three speeches mentioned above, there is a fourth speech, Against Alcibiades, preserved under his name, which purports to be concerned with an ostracism in 415; most scholars regard this as a forgery. Fragments of four other speeches are preserved.

Greek and Roman critics discovered in Andocides faults which, according to their canons, were serious; and admittedly the faults are there. He sometimes carries the use of parenthesis to absurd extremes; he cannot keep to one point at a time; his style is so loose that the argument is hard to follow. On the other hand, this inconsequential method of expression is at times effective, giving the impression of an eagerness which outruns premeditated art. He possessed a natural gift of expression, a fine flow of words, and a good narrative style. He was not a professional rhetorician, and if he neglected scholastic rules, it can at least be claimed for him that he was successful on his own unconventional lines.


For general bibliography see attic orators.Find this resource:


    Andocides. Andocidis orations. Edited by F. Blass and C. Fuhr. Leipzig: Teubner, 1913.Find this resource:

      Text and translation

      Andocides. Discours. Edited and translated by G. Dalmeyda. Paris: Société d’édition “Les Belles lettres,” 1930.Find this resource:

        Minor Attic Orators, 2nd edn., vol. 1. Translated by K. J. Maidment. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1953.Find this resource:

          Andocides, ed. and trans. M. Edwards (1995).Find this resource:

            Trans. with nn.: Antiphon and Andocides, trans. M. Gagarin and D. Macdowell (1998).Find this resource:


              All speeches (1–4): Andocides, ed. and trans. M. Edwards (1995).Find this resource:

                On the Mysteries (1) and On his Return (2), Andocides, De mysteriis and De reditu, ed. E. C. Marchant (1889).Find this resource:

                  On the Mysteries (1), Andocides, On the Mysteries, ed. D. Macdowell (1962).Find this resource:

                    On his Return (2), Andocides, De reditu, ed. U. Albini (1961).Find this resource:

                      On the Peace (3), De pacis, ed. U. Albini (1964).Find this resource:

                        Against Alcibiades (4), Andocies, Contro Alcibiade, ed. and trans. F. Gazzano (1999).Find this resource:

                          L. L. Forman, Index Andocideus, Lycurgeus, Dinarcheus (1897).Find this resource:

                            Special studies

                            A. Missiou, The Subversive Oratory of Andocides (1992).Find this resource:

                              W. D. Furley, Andocides and the Herms (1996).Find this resource:

                                On the authenticity of Against Alcibiades see P. J. Rhodes in R. Osborne and S. Hornblower (eds.), Ritual Finance Politics (1994), ch. 5. On the authenticity of On the Peace see E. M. Harris in P. Flensted-Jensen and others (eds.), Polis and Politics (2000), 479–505.

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