How to deal with an accusation


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With regard to rebutting an accusation, one way is to attempt wherefrom you could dispel the bad impression formed of yourself; for it makes no difference at all whether this impression has been openly expressed or not, so that this forms a general rule.

Another way is to respond to the disputed points saying that it is not the case, or not harmful, or has nothing to do with you, or not that much or unjust or great or disgraceful or important (for dispute has to do with such matters), as did Iphicrates to Nausicrates — he confessed that he had done what Nausicrates said, but not that he had done him wrong. Or to counterbalance the wrongdoing, that is to say if it is harmful but noble, painful but useful, or anything of the sort.

Another way is to assert that it was a mistake, or accident, or necessity, as Sophocles said he was trembling not as the accuser said, in order to appear old, but from necessity; for his eighty years of age were beyond his control. And replace the reason, saying that I did not mean to harm you but to do that such-and-such a thing, and not that which I was accused of, but I happened to harm you: “I should deserve your hatred, had I acted so as to bring this about”.

Another, if the accuser has been involved in a similar case, now or at some time in the past, either himself or a person related to him.

Another, if others are involved who are admittedly not guilty of what they were accused, e.g. if someone is an adulterer because he is well-groomed, then so-and-so must be one too.

Another, if he has accused others, or others have accused others similar to us, or, without being formally accused, they have been suspected as we now and found not guilty.

Another one is to accuse the accuser; for it would be absurd if he himself is not credible, yet his words are so.

Another, if there is a decision concerning a similar case, as Euripides did in a case dealing with an exchange of property, when Hygiaenon accused him of impiety because he encouraged people to commit perjury saying: “My tongue hath sworn, but my mind is unsworn”. He replied that the accuser himself was the one who did wrong, since he had transferred the decisions of the court of Dionysus to the law courts; for he had already given sufficient proofs there, or would do so, if his accuser desired to accuse him.

Another, to blame slander, how great an evil it is, and this because it alters people’s judgments as well as relying on no real facts.

A topic which is common to both parts is to mention proofs, as Odysseus did in the Teucer saying that he was a relative of Priam, since Hesione (his mother) was Priam’ s sister; Teucer replied that his father, Telamon, was an enemy of Priam, and that he himself did not denounce the spies.

Another, appropriate to the accuser, is to praise something minor for a long time and condemn something major in short, or to mention first several things that are good and condemn one but important for the case. These methods are the most skillful and unfair; for they attempt to do harm by mixing up the good with the bad.

A topic which is common both to the accuser and to the defender, in that the same thing can be brought about by different causes, is that the accuser must underestimate the matter by taking the worst version while the defender the best. As for example, that Diomedes chose Odysseus as his companion, you may say, on the one hand, that he did that because he considered him as the best of men, on the other, just because Odysseus was not so, but he was the only one that Diomedes would not need to compete. Let this suffice as to the matter of slander.

Bibliography: Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric (1416a.4 έως 1416b.15)
Translation: George Kotsalis


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