Cornelius Nepos: Lives of Eminent Commanders (1886)pp. 305-450.
Translated by the Rev. John Selby Watson, MA
LIVES OF EMINENT COMMANDERS.
Phocion better known for his virtues than his military achievements, I.----In his old age he incurred the displeasure of his countrymen on various accounts, II.----Is exiled; his pleading before Philip; is sent back to Athens, III.----Is condemned at Athens, and put to death there, IV.
I. THOUGH Phocion the Athenian was often at the head of armies, and held the most important commands, yet the blamelessness of his life is much better known than his exertions in war. Of the one, accordingly, there is no recollection,207 |406 but of the other the fame is great; and hence he was surnamed The Good. He was always poor, though he might have been extremely rich, by reason of the numerous offices conferred upon him, and the high commissions given him by the people. When he refused the present of a large sum of money from King Philip, and Philip's ambassadors urged him to receive it, and at the same time reminded him, that if he himself could easily do without it, he should nevertheless have some regard for his children, for whom it would be difficult, in the depth of poverty, to act up to the high character of their father, he gave them this answer: "If my children be like me, this same little farm, which has enabled me to reach my present eminence, will maintain them; but if they prove unlike me, I should not wish their luxury to be supported and increased at my expense."
II. After fortune had continued favourable to him almost to his eightieth year, he fell, towards the close of his life, into great unpopularity with his countrymen. In the first place, he had acted in concert with Demades in delivering up the city to Antipater; and, by his suggestions, Demosthenes and others, who were thought to deserve well of their country, had been sent into banishment by a decree of the people. Nor had he given offence only in this respect, that he had ill consulted the interest of his country, but also in not having observed the obligations of friendship; for though he had risen to the eminence which he then held through being supported and aided by Demosthenes, when he furnished him with means of defence against Chares,208 and though he had several times come off with acquittal on trials, when he had to plead for his life, through having been defended by Demosthenes, he not only did not take the part of Demosthenes when he was in peril, but even betrayed him. But his fate was decided chiefly on one charge, that, when the supreme government of the state was in his hands, and he was warned by Dercyllus that Nicanor, the prefect of Cassander, was |407 forming designs upon the Piraeeus, and Dercyllus begged him, at the same time, to take care that the city should not want provisions, Phocion told him in the hearing of the people, that there was no danger, and engaged to be security for the truth of his statement; whereas Nicanor, not long after, became master of the Piraeeus; and when the people assembled under arms to defend that harbour, without which Athens could not at all subsist, Phocion not only did not call any body to arms, but would not even take the command of those who were armed.
III. There were at that period in Athens two parties, one of which espoused the cause of the people, and the other that of the aristocracy; to the latter Phocion and Demetrius Phalereus were attached. Each of them relied on the support of the Macedonians; for the popular party favoured Polysperchon, and the aristocracy took the side of Cassander. After a time Cassander was driven from Macedonia by Polysperchon; and the people, in consequence, getting the superiority, immediately expelled from their country the leaders of the opposite faction, after they had been capitally convicted;209 and among them Phocion and Demetrius Phalereus; and they then sent a deputation on the subject to Polysperchon, to request him to confirm their decrees. Phocion went to him at the same time, and as soon as he arrived he was summoned to plead his cause, nominally before King Philip,210 but in reality before Polysperchon; for he at that time held the direction of the king's affairs. Being accused by Agnonides 211 of having betrayed the Piraeeus to Nicanor, and being thrown, by order of the council, into confinement, he was then conveyed to Athens, that a trial might there be held upon him according to law.
IV. On his arrival, as he was weak in his feet through age, and was brought to the city in a carriage, great crowds of people gathered about him, of whom some, calling to mind his former reputation, expressed commiseration for his declining |408 years but the greater number were violently exasperated against him, from the suspicion that he had betrayed the Piraeeus, but especially because he had opposed the interest of the people in his old age. Hence not even the liberty of making a speech, and of pleading his cause, was granted him, but being forthwith sentenced to death, after some formalities of law had been despatched, he was delivered over to the eleven,212 to whom public criminals, by the custom of the Athenians, are wont to be consigned. As he was being led to execution, Emphyletus, a man with whom he had been very intimate, met him, and having exclaimed, with tears, "O what unworthy treatment you suffer, Phocion!" Phocion rejoined, "But not unexpected, for most of the famous men of Athens have come to this end." So violent was the hatred of the multitude towards him, that no free person dared to bury him; and he was accordingly interred by slaves.
Timoleon delivers Corinth from the tyranny of his brother, and causes him to be put to death, I.----He expels Dionysius the younger from Sicily; defeats Hicetas; overcomes the Carthaginians, II.----After settling affairs in Sicily, he lays down the government, III.----He loses his sight from old age, but still attends to the interests of his country; builds a temple to Fortune, IV.----Instances of his patience; his death, V.
I. TIMOLEON of Corinth was doubtless a great man in the opinion of everybody, since it happened to him alone (for I know not that it happened to any one else),213 to deliver his country, in which he was born, from the oppression of a tyrant, to banish a long established slavery from Syracuse (to the assistance of which he had been sent), and, on his arrival, |409 to restore Sicily, which had been disturbed by war for many years, and harassed by barbarians,214 to its former condition. But in these undertakings he struggled not with one kind of fortune only, and, what is thought the more difficult, he bore good much more discreetly than evil fortune; for when his brother Timophanes, on being chosen general by the Corinthians, had made himself absolute by the aid of his mercenary troops, and Timoleon himself might have shared the sovereignty with him, he was so far from taking part in his guilt, that he preferred the liberty of his countrymen to the life of his brother, and thought it better to obey the laws of his country than to rule over his country. With this feeling, he contrived to have his brother the tyrant put to death by a certain augur, a man connected with them both, as their sister by the same parents 215 was married to him. He himself not only did not put his hand to the work, but would not even look upon his brother's blood; for, until the deed was done, he kept himself at a distance on the watch, lest any of his brother's guards should come to his aid. This most noble act of his was not equally approved by all; for some thought that natural affection had been violated by him, and endeavoured, from envy, to lessen the praise of his virtue. His mother, indeed, after this proceeding, would neither admit her son into her house, nor look upon him, but, uttering imprecations against him, called him a fratricide, and destitute of natural feeling. With this treatment he was so much affected, that he was sometimes inclined to put an end to his life, and withdraw himself by death from the sight of his ungrateful fellow-creatures.
II. In the meantime, after Dion was assassinated at Syracuse, Dionysius again became master of that city, and his enemies solicited assistance from the Corinthians, desiring a general whose services they might employ in war. Timoleon, being in consequence despatched thither, expelled Dionysius, with wonderful success, quite out of Sicily. Though he might have put him to death, he refused to do so, and secured him a safe passage to Corinth, because the Corinthians had often |410 been supported by the aid of both the Dionysii, and he wished the memory of that kindness to be preserved, esteeming that victory noble, in which there was more clemency than cruelty; and, finally, he wished it not only to be heard, but seen, what a personage he had reduced from such a height of power to so low a condition. After the departure of Dionysius, he had to go to war with Hicetas, who had been the opponent of Dionysius; but that he did not disagree with him from hatred of tyranny, but from a desire for it, this was a sufficient proof, that after the expulsion of Dionysius he was unwilling to lay down his command. Timoleon, after defeating Hicetas, put to flight a vast army of the Carthaginians on the river Crimessus, and obliged those who had now for several years maintained their ground in Sicily, to be satisfied if they were allowed to retain Africa. He took prisoner also Mamercus, an Italian general, a man of great valour and influence, who had come into Italy to support the tyrants.
III. Having achieved these objects, and seeing not only the lands, but also the cities, deserted through the long continuance of the war, he assembled, in the first place, as many Sicilians as he could, and then sent for settlers also from Corinth, because it was by the Corinthians that Syracuse had been originally founded. He gave back to the old inhabitants their own lands, and divided such estates as had lost their owners in the war, among the new colonists; he repaired the dilapidated walls of the cities, and the neglected temples;216 he restored their laws and liberties to the several communities, and, after a most destructive war, established such tranquillity through the whole island, that he, and not those who had brought colonists thither at first, might have been thought the founder of those cities. The citadel of Syracuse, which Dionysius had built to overawe the city, he demolished to its foundations; other bulwarks of tyranny he removed, and exerted his efforts that as few traces as possible of servitude might be left.
Though he was possessed of so much influence that he |411 might have ruled the Syracusans even against their will, and though he had so strongly gained the affection of all the Sicilians that he might have assumed supreme power without opposition from any one, he chose rather to be loved than to be feared. He therefore laid down his authority as soon as he could, and lived as a private person at Syracuse during the remainder of his life. Nor did he act in this respect injudiciously; for, what other rulers could scarcely effect by absolute power, he attained by the good will of the people. No honour was withheld from him; nor, when any public business was afterwards transacted at Syracuse, was a decision made upon it before Timoleon's opinion was ascertained. Not only was no man's advice ever preferred to his, but no man's was even compared to it; nor was this occasioned more by the good will of others towards him, than by his own prudence.
IV. When he was advanced in age he lost the sight of his eyes, without any apparent disease in them; a misfortune which he bore with so much patience, that neither did any one ever hear him complain, nor did he take a less part in private and public business. He used to come to the theatre,217 when any assembly of the people was held there, riding in a carriage by reason of his infirmity, and used to state from the vehicle what he thought proper. Nor did any one impute this to pride; for nothing arrogant or boastful ever came out of his mouth. Indeed when he heard his praises repeated, he never made any other observation than that "he paid and felt the utmost gratitude to the immortal gods for this favour, that when they had resolved on regenerating Sicily, they had appointed him, above all others, to be the leader to execute their will." For he thought that nothing in human affairs was done without the directing power of the gods; and he therefore erected a temple to Fortune 218 in his own house, and used to worship at it most religiously.
V. To this eminent virtue in his character were added certain wonderful incidents in his life; for he fought all his most remarkable battles on his birth-day; and hence it |412 happened that all Sicily kept his birth-day as a festival. When one Lamestius, an impudent and ungrateful fellow, wanted to compel him to give bail for his appearance, as he said that he was merely dealing with him according to law, and several persons, flocking about him, would have curbed the insolence of the man by laying hands upon him, Timoleon entreated them all "not to do so, for that he had encountered extreme labours and dangers in order that Lamestius and others might enjoy such privileges; since this was the true form of liberty, if it were permitted to every one to try at law what he pleased." When a person, too, something like Lamestius, by name Demaenetus, had proceeded to detract from his actions before an assembly of the people, and uttered some invectives against Timoleon himself, he observed, that "he now enjoyed the fulfilment of his prayers,219 for that he had always made this his request to the immortal gods, that they would re-establish that degree of liberty among the Syracusans, in which it would be lawful for every man to say what he wished of any one with impunity." When he died, he was buried at the public expense by the Syracusans, in the Gymnasium, which is called the Timoleontean Gymnasium,220 all Sicily attending his funeral.
208. * Quum adversus Charetem eum subornaret.] I have given to subornaret the sense to which Bos thinks it entitled. To what part of Phocion's life this passage relates is uncertain. Bos refers to Plutarch, Phocion, c. 14, where it is stated that Phocion was sent to Byzantium with a force to accomplish what Chares had failed in doing. But no mention is made there of any support given to Phocion by Demosthenes.
213. † Namque huic uni contigit, quod nescio an nulli.] I have endeavoured to give a satisfactory turn in the English to that which is not very satisfactory in the Latin. "For (that) happened to (him) alone, (of) which I know not whether (it happened) to any one (else)." If it happened to him alone, it of course happened to no one else. Some editors read ulli: but nulli appears to be the right reading, nescio an being taken in the sense of ''perhaps."
216. * Fana deserta.] Bos retains deserta, in his text, but shows an inclination, in his note, to adopt the emendation of Lambinus, deleta; déserta, however, which is found, I believe, in all the manuscripts, is susceptible of a very good interpretation; for temples that were deserted or neglected might have fallen into decay, and require to be repaired or rebuilt.
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