Cornelius Nepos: Lives of Eminent Commanders (1886)pp. 305-450.
Translated by the Rev. John Selby Watson, MA
LIVES OF EMINENT COMMANDERS.
Aristides the contemporary and rival of Themistocles; is banished, I. ----After his recall, commands against Mardonius; increases the popularity of the Athenians, II.----Has the care of the treasury, dies poor, III.
I. ARISTIDES, the son of Lysimachus, a native of Athens, was almost of the same age with Themistocles, and contended with him, in consequence, for pre-eminence, as they were determined rivals one to the other; 39 and it was seen in their case how much eloquence could prevail over integrity; for though Aristides was so distinguished for uprightness of conduct,40 that he was the only person in the memory of man (as far at least as I have heard) who was called by the surname of JUST, yet being overborne by Themistocles with the ostracism, he was condemned to be banished for ten years.
Aristides, finding that the excited multitude could not be appeased, and noticing, as he yielded to their violence, a person writing that he ought to be banished, is said to have asked him "why he did so, or what Aristides had done, that he should be thought deserving of such a punishment?" The person writing replied, that "he did not know Aristides, but that he was not pleased that he had laboured to be called Just beyond other men."
He did not suffer the full sentence of ten years appointed by law, for when Xerxes made a descent upon Greece, he was recalled into his country by a decree of the people, about six years after he had been exiled.
II. He was present, however, in the sea-fight at Salamis, which was fought before he was allowed to return. 41 He was |324 also commander of the Athenians at Plataeae, in the battle in which Mardonius was routed, and the army of the barbarians was cut off. Nor is there any other celebrated act of his in military affairs recorded, besides the account of this command; but of his justice, equity, and self-control, there are many instances. Above all, it was through his integrity, when he was joined in command of the common fleet of Greece with Pausanias, under whose leadership Mardonius had been put to flight, that the supreme authority at sea was transferred from the Lacedaemonians to the Athenians; for before that time the Lacedaemonians had the command both by sea and land. But at this period it happened, through the indiscreet conduct of Pausanias, and the equity of Aristides, that all the states of Greece attached themselves as allies to the Athenians, and chose them as their leaders against the barbarians.
III. 42 In order that they might repel the barbarians more easily, if perchance they should try to renew the war, Aristides was chosen to settle what sum of money each state should contribute for building fleets and equipping troops. By his appointment four hundred and sixty talents were deposited annually at Delos, which they fixed upon to be the common treasury; but all this money was afterwards removed to Athens.
How great was his integrity, there is no more certain proof, than that, though he had been at the head of such important affairs, he died in such poverty that he scarcely left money to defray the charges of his funeral. Hence it was that his daughters were brought up at the expense of the country, and were married with dowries given them from the public treasury. He died about four years after Themistocles was banished from Athens. |325
Pausanias at Plataeae, I.----He takes Byzantium, and makes advances to Xerxes, II.----His conduct abroad; his imprisonment, III.----He betrays his guilt, IV.----His death at the temple of Minerva, V.
I. PAUSANIAS the Lacedaemonian was a great man, but of varied character in all the relations of life; for as he was ennobled by virtues, he was also obscured by vices. His most famous battle was that at Plataeae, for, under his command Mardonius, a royal satrap, by birth a Mede, and son-in-law to the king (a man, among the chief of all the Persians, brave in action and full of sagacity), at the head of two hundred thousand infantry, whom he had chosen man by man, and twenty thousand cavalry, was routed by no very large army of Greeks; and the general himself was slain in the struggle.
Elated by this victory, he began to indulge in irregular proceedings,43 and to covet greater power. But he first incurred blame on this account, that he offered at Delphi, out of the spoil, a golden tripod with an inscription written upon it, in which was this statement, that "the barbarians had been cut off at Plataeae by his management, and that, on account of that victory, he had presented this offering to Apollo." These lines the Lacedaemonians erased, and wrote nothing but the names of the states by whose aid the Persians had been conquered.
II. After this battle they sent Pausanias with the confederate fleet to Cyprus and the Hellespont, to expel the garrisons of the barbarians from those parts. Experiencing equal good fortune in this enterprise, he began to conduct himself still more haughtily, and to aim at still higher matters; for having, at the taking of Byzantium, captured several Persian noblemen, and among them some relations of the king, he sent them secretly back to Xerxes, and pretended that they had escaped out of prison. He sent with them, also, Gongylus of Eretria, to carry a letter to the king, in which Thucydides 44 has recorded that the following words were written: "Pausanias, the general of Sparta, having discovered that those whom |326 he took at Byzantium are your relations, has sent them back as a gift, and desires to be joined in affinity with you. If therefore it seem good to you, give him your daughter in marriage. Should you do so, he engages, with your aid, to bring both Sparta and the rest of Greece under your sway. If you wish anything to be done with regard to these proposals, be careful to send a trustworthy person to him, with whom he may confer."
The king, extremely delighted at the restoration of so many persons so nearly related to him, immediately despatched Artabazus with a letter to Pausanias, in which he commended him, and begged that he would spare no pains to accomplish what he promised; if he effected it, he should never meet with a refusal of anything from him. Pausanias, learning what the king's pleasure was, and growing more eager for the accomplishment of his designs, fell under the suspicion of the Lacedaemonians. In the midst of his proceedings, accordingly, he was recalled home, and being brought to trial on a capital charge, was acquitted on it, but sentenced to pay a fine; for which reason he was not sent back to the fleet.
III. Not long after, however, he returned to the army of his own accord, and there, not in a sensible, but in an insane manner, let his views become known; for he laid aside, not only the manners of his country, but its fashions and dress. He adopted regal splendour and Median attire; Median and Egyptian guards attended him; he had his table served, after the Persian manner, more luxuriously than those who were with him could endure; he refused permission to approach him to those who sought it; he gave haughty replies and severe commands. To Sparta he would not return, but withdrew to Colonae, a place in the country of Troas, where he formed designs pernicious both to his country and himself. When the Lacedaemonians knew of his proceedings, they sent deputies to him with a scytala,45 on which it was written, after their fashion,46 that "if he did not return home, they would |327 condemn him to death." Being alarmed at this communication, but hoping that he should be able, by his money and his influence, to ward off the danger that threatened him, he returned home. As soon as he arrived there, he was thrown into the public prison by the Ephori, for it is allowable, by their laws, for any one of the Ephori to do this to a king.47 He however got himself freed from confinement, but was not cleared from suspicion, for the belief still prevailed, that he had made a compact with the king of Persia.
There is a certain class of men called Helots, of whom a great number till the lands of the Lacedaemonians, and perform the duties of slaves. These men he was thought to have solicited, by holding out to them hopes of liberty, to join him. But as there was no visible ground for a charge against him on these points, on which he might be convicted, they did not think that they ought to pronounce, concerning so eminent and famous a man, on suspicion only, but that they must wait till the affair should disclose itself.
IV. In the meantime a certain Argilian,48 a young man whom, in his boyhood, Pausanias had loved with an ardent affection,49 having received a letter from him for Artabazus, and conceiving a suspicion that there was something written in it about himself, because no one of those who had been sent to the same place on such an errand, had returned, loosed the string of the letter,50 and taking off the seal, discovered that if he delivered it he would lose his life. In the letter were also some particulars respecting matters that had been arranged between the king and Pausanias. This letter he delivered to the Ephori. The cautious prudence of the Lacedaemonians, on this occasion, is not to be passed without notice; for they were not induced, even by this man's information, to seize Pausanias, nor did they think that violent measures should be adopted, until he gave proof of his own guilt. |328
They accordingly directed the informer what they wished to have done. At Taenarus there is a temple of Neptune, which the Greeks account it a heinous crime to profane. To this temple the informer fled, and sat down on the steps of the altar. Close to the building, they made a recess underground, from which, if any one held communication with the Argilian, he might be overheard; and into this place some of the Ephori went down. Pausanias, when he heard that the Argilian had fled to the altar, came thither in great trepidation, and seeing him sitting as a suppliant at the altar of the divinity, he inquired of him what was the cause of so sudden a proceeding. The Argilian then informed him what he had learned from the letter, and Pausanias, being so much the more agitated, began to entreat him "not to make any discovery, or to betray him who deserved great good at his hands;" adding that, "if he would but grant him this favour, and assist him when involved in such perplexities, it should be of great advantage to him
V. The Ephori, hearing these particulars, thought it better that he should be apprehended in the city. After they had set out thither, and Pausanias, having, as he thought, pacified the Argilian, was also returning to Lacedaemon, he understood (just as he was on the point of being made prisoner) by a look from one of the Ephori who wished to warn him, that some secret mischief was intended against him. He accordingly fled for refuge, a few steps before those who pursued him, into the temple of Minerva, which is called Chalcioecos.51 That he might not escape from thence, the Ephori immediately blocked up the folding-doors of the temple, and pulled off the roof, that he might more readily die in the open air. It is said that the mother of Pausanias was then living, and that, though very aged, she was among the first to bring a stone, when she heard of her son's guilt, to the door of the temple, in order to shut him in. Thus Pausanias tarnished his great glory in war by a dishonourable death.
As soon as he was carried, half-dead, out of the temple, he gave up the ghost. When some said that his body ought to |329 be carried to the place where those given up to capital punishment were buried, the proposal was displeasing to the majority, and they interred him at some distance from the spot in which he died. He was afterwards removed from thence, in consequence of an admonition from the Delphic god, and buried in the same place where he had ended his life.
39. * Obtrectârunt inter se.] Diepoliteu&santo: they supported opposite parties in the state. So in the Life of Epaminondas, c. 5, it is said that he had Meneclides for an obtrectator. Such obtrectationes are called by Vell. Pat. ii. 43, civiles contentiones, and by Val. Max. iii. 8, acerrimi studii in administratione Reipublicae dissidia.----Gebhard. Plutarch says, that according to some there were dissensions between Aristides and Themistocles from their earliest years, so that in all their communications, whether on graver or lighter topics, the one always opposed the other.----Buchner.
45. * Cum scytala.] The scytala was a staff, round which a slip of parchment being rolled obliquely, the orders of the Ephori were written on it longitudinally, so that, when unrolled, they could not be read until the parchment was again rolled round a staff of the same thickness, which the general had with him.
50. § Vincula epistolae laxavit.] Letters were tied round with a string, which was sealed, probably, over the knot. The Argilian, according to Nepos, contrived to take off the string without breaking the seal, so that he might readily replace it.
51. * Quae Chalcioecos vocatur.] Whether the quae refers to aedem of Minervae, the critics are not agreed. Thucydides, i. 134, to_ i9ero_n th~j Xalkioi/kou, makes it apparent that it should be referred to Minerva. But Bos and Bremi concur in referring it to aedes.
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