Front Page Titles (by Subject) VII.: LYCURGUS. - The Morals, vol. 5
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VII.: LYCURGUS. - Plutarch, The Morals, vol. 5 
Plutarch’s Morals. Translated from the Greek by Several Hands. Corrected and Revised by William W. Goodwin, with an Introduction by Ralph Waldo Emerson. 5 Volumes. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1878). Vol. 5.
Part of: Plutarch’s Morals, 5 vols.
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Lycurgus was the son of Lycophron, and grandson of that Lycurgus whom the Thirty Tyrants put to death, by the procurement of Aristodemus the Batesian, who, also being treasurer of the Greeks, was banished in the time of the popular government. He was a Butadian by birth, and of the line or family of the Eteobutades. He received his first institutions of philosophy from Plato the philosopher. But afterward entering himself a scholar to Isocrates the orator, he employed his study about affairs of the commonwealth. And to his care was committed the disposal and management of the city stock, and so he executed the office of treasurer-general for the space of twelve years; in which time there went through his hands fourteen thousand talents, or (as some will have it) eighteen thousand six hundred and fifty. It was the orator Stratocles that procured him this preferment. At first he was chosen in his own name; but afterwards he nominated one of his friends to the office, while he himself performed the duties; for there was a law just passed, that no man should be chosen treasurer for above the term of four years. But Lycurgus plied his business closely, both summer and winter, in the administration of public affairs. And being entrusted to make provision of all necessaries for the wars, he reformed many abuses that were crept into the commonwealth. He built four hundred galleys for the use of the public, and prepared and fitted a place for public exercises in Lyceum, and planted trees before it; he likewise built a wrestling-court, and being made surveyor of the theatre of Bacchus, he finished this building. He was likewise of so great repute among all sorts, that he was entrusted with two hundred and fifty talents of private citizens. He adorned and beautified the city with gold and silver vessels of state, and golden images of victory. He likewise finished many things that were as yet imperfect, as the dockyards and the arsenal. He built a wall also about the spacious Panathenaic race-course, and made level a piece of uneven ground, given by one Dinias to Lycurgus for the use of the city. The keeping of the city was committed wholly to his care, and power to apprehend malefactors, of whom he cleared the city utterly; so that some sophisters were wont to say, that Lycurgus did not dip his pen in ink, but in blood. And therefore it was, that when Alexander demanded him of the people, they would not deliver him up. When Philip made the second war upon the Athenians, he was employed with Demosthenes and Polyeuctus in an embassy to Peloponnesus and other cities. He was always in great repute and esteem with the Athenians, and looked upon as a man of that justice and integrity, that in the courts of judicature his good word was at all times prevalent on the behalf of those persons for whom he undertook to speak. He was the author of several laws; one of which was, that there should be certain comedies played at the Chytrian solemnities, and whoever of the poets or players should come off victor, he should thereby be invested with the freedom of the city, which before was not lawful; and so he revived a solemnity which for want of encouragement had for some time before been out of request. Another of his laws was, that the city should erect statues to the memory of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides; and that their tragedies, being fairly engrossed, should be preserved in the public consistory, and that the public clerks should read these copies as the plays were acted, that nothing might be changed by the players; and that otherwise it should be unlawful to act them. A third law proposed by him was, that no Athenian, nor any person inhabiting in Athens, should be permitted to buy a captive, who was once free, to be a slave, without the consent of his former master. Further, that in the Piraeus there should be at least three circular dances played to Neptune; and that to the victor in the first should be given not less than ten minas; in the second, eight; in the third, six. Also, that no woman should go to Eleusis in a coach, lest the poor should appear more despicable than the rich, and so be dejected and cast down; and that whoever should ride in a coach contrary to this law should be fined six thousand drachms. And when even his own wife was taken in the violation of it, he paid to the discoverers of it a whole talent; for which being afterwards called in question by the people: See therefore, said he, I am called to answer for giving, and not for receiving money.
As he was walking one day in the streets, he saw an officer lay hand on Xenocrates the philosopher; and when nothing would serve his turn but the philosopher must to prison, because he had not deposited the tribute due from strangers, he with his staff struck the officer on the head for his unmannerly roughness toward a person of that character, and freeing Xenocrates, cast the other into prison in his stead. And not many days after, Xenocrates meeting with the children of Lycurgus said: I have returned thanks unto your father right speedily, my good children, for his friendship towards me, for I hear his kindness commended by all people where I go. He made likewise several decrees, in which he made use of the help of an Olynthian named Euclides, one very expert in such matters. Though he was rich enough, yet he was used to wear the same coat every day, both summer and winter; but he wore shoes only when he was compelled to do it. Because he was not ready to speak extempore, he used to practise and study day and night. And to the end he might not at any time oversleep himself and so lose time from his study, he used to cover himself on his bed only with a sheepskin with the wool on, and to lay a hard bolster under his head. When one reproached him for being in fee with rhetoricians when he studied his orations, he answered, that, if a man would promise to restore his sons better, he would give him not only a thousand drachms, but half what he was worth. He took the liberty of speaking boldly upon all occasions, by reason of his greatness; as when once the Athenians interrupted him in his speaking, he cried out, O thou Corcyraean whip, how many talents art thou worth? And another time, when some would rank Alexander among the Gods, What manner of God, said he, must he be, when all that go out of his temple had need to be dipped in water to purify themselves?
After his death Menesaechmus accusing and indicting them by virtue of an instrument drawn by Thracycles, his sons were delivered to the eleven executioners of Justice. But Demosthenes, being in exile, wrote to the Athenians, to let them know that they were wrongfully accused, and that therefore they did not well to hear their accusers; upon which they recanted what they had done, and set them at liberty again, — Democles, who was Theophrastus’s scholar, likewise pleading in their defence. Lycurgus and some of his posterity were buried publicly, at or near the temple of Minerva Paeonia, where their monuments stand in the garden of Melanthius the philosopher, on which are inscriptions to Lycurgus and his children, which are yet extant. The greatest thing he did while he lived was his raising the revenue of the commons totally from sixty talents, as he found it, to twelve hundred. When he found he must die, he was by his own appointment carried into the temple of the Mother of the Gods, and into the senate-house, being willing before his death to give an account of his administration. And no man daring to accuse him of any thing except Menesaechmus, having purged himself from those calumnies which he cast upon him, he was carried home again, where in a short time he ended his life. He was always accounted honest; his orations were commended for the eloquence they carried in them; and though he was often accused, yet he never was overthrown in any suit.
He had three children by Callisto, the daughter of Abron, and sister of Callias, Abron’s son, by descent a Batesian, — I mean, of him who, when Chaerondas was magistrate, was paymaster to the army. Of this affinity Dinarchus speaks in his oration against Pastius. He left behind him three sons, Abron, Lycurgus, and Lycophron; of which, Abron and Lycurgus died without issue, though the first, Abron, did for some time act very acceptably and worthily in affairs of the commonwealth. Lycophron marrying Callistomacha, the daughter of Philip of Aexone, begat Callisto, who married Cleombrotus the son of Dinocrates the Acharnian, to whom she bare Lycophron, who, being adopted by his grandfather, died without issue. He being dead, Socrates married Callisto, of whom he had his son Symmachus. To him was born Aristonymus; to Aristonymus, Charmides, who was the father of Philippe. Of her and Lysander came Medeius, who also was an interpreter, one of the Eumolpids. He begat two children of Timothea, the daughter of Glaucus, viz. Laodamia and Medius, who were priests of Neptune Erechtheus; also Philippe a daughter, who was afterward priestess of Minerva; for before, she was married to Diocles of Melite, to whom she bare a son named Diocles, who was a colonel of a regiment of foot. He married Hediste, the daughter of Abron, and of her begat Philippides and Nicostrata, whom Themistocles the torch-bearer, son of Theophrastus, married, and by her had Theophrastus and Diocles; and he likewise constituted the priesthood of Neptune Erechtheus.
It is said that he penned fifteen orations. He was often crowned by the people, and had statues dedicated to him. His image in brass was set up in Ceramicus by order of the public, in the year of Anaxicrates; in whose time also it was ordered that he and his eldest son should be provided for with diet in the Prytaneum; but he being dead, Lycophron his eldest son was forced to sue for that donation. This Lycurgus also was used frequently to plead on the account of sacred things; and accused Autolycus the Areopagite, Lysicles the general, Demades the son of Demeas, Menesaechmus, and many others, all whom he caused to be condemned as guilty. Diphilus also was called in question by him, for impairing and diminishing the props of the metal mines, and unjustly making himself rich therefrom; and he caused him to be condemned to die, according to the provision made by the laws in that case. He gave out of his own stock fifty drachms to every citizen, the sum total of which donation amounted to one hundred and sixty talents;* but some say he gave a mina of silver to each. He likewise accused Aristogiton, Leocrates, and Autolycus for cowardice. He was called the Ibis: . . .
The ibis to Lycurgus, to Chaerephon the bat.†
His ancestors derived their pedigree from Erechtheus, the son of the Earth and of Vulcan; but he was nearest to Lycomedes and Lycurgus, whom the people honored with public solemnities. There is a succession of those of the race who were priests of Neptune, in a complete table placed in the Erechtheum, painted by Ismenias the Chalcidian; in the same place stood wooden images of Lycurgus, and of his sons, Abron, Lycurgus, and Lycophron; made by Timarchus and Cephisodotus, the sons of Praxiteles. His son Abron dedicated the table; and coming to the priesthood by right of succession, he resigned to his brother Lycophron, and hence he is painted as giving a trident. But Lycurgus had made a draught of all his actions, and hung it on a column before the wrestling-court built by himself, that all might read that would; and no man could accuse him of any peculation. He likewise proposed to the people to crown Neoptolemus, the son of Anticles, and to dedicate statues to him, because he had promised and undertaken to cover the altar of Apollo in the market with gold, according to the order of the oracle. He decreed honors likewise to Diotimus, the son of Diopithes of Euonymus, in the year when Ctesicles was magistrate.
[* ]This is one of the statements which seem to fix the number of Athenian citizens in the age of the Orators at about 20,000. See Boeckh’s Public Economy of the Athenians, I. Book 1, chap. 7. (G.)
[† ]Aristoph. Birds, 1296.