Front Page Titles (by Subject) ARISTIDES AND MARCUS CATO - Plutarch's Lives (Dryden trans.) vol. 2
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ARISTIDES AND MARCUS CATO - Plutarch, Plutarch’s Lives (Dryden trans.) vol. 2 
Plutarch’s Lives. The Translation called Dryden’s. Corrected from the Greek and Revised by A.H. Clough, in 5 volumes (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1906).
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ARISTIDES AND MARCUS CATO
Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, was of the tribe Antiochis, and township of Alopece. As to his wealth, statements differ; some say he passed his life in extreme poverty, and left behind him two daughters whose indigence long kept them unmarried: but Demetrius, the Phalerian, in opposition to this general report, professes in his Socrates, to know a farm at Phalerum going by Aristides’s name, where he was interred; and, as marks of his opulence, adduces first, the office of archon eponymus, which he obtained by the lot of the bean; which was confined to the highest assessed families, called the Pentacosiomedimni; second, the ostracism, which was not usually inflicted on the poorer citizens, but on those of great houses, whose station exposed them to envy; third and last, that he left certain tripods in the temple of Bacchus, offerings for his victory in conducting the representation of dramatic performances, which were even in our age still to be seen, retaining this inscription upon them, “The tribe Antiochis obtained the victory: Aristides defrayed the charges: Archestratus’s play was acted.” But this argument, though in appearance the strongest, is of the least moment of any. For Epaminondas, who all the world knows was educated, and lived his whole life, in much poverty, and also Plato, the philosopher, exhibited magnificent shows, the one an entertainment of flute-players, the other of dithyrambic singers; Page 281 Dion, the Syracusan, supplying the expenses of the latter, and Pelopidas those of Epaminondas. For good men do not allow themselves in any inveterate and irreconcilable hostility to receiving presents from their friends, but while looking upon those that are accepted to be hoarded up and with avaricious intentions, as sordid and mean, they do not refuse such as, apart from all profit, gratify the pure love of honor and magnificence. Panætius, again, shows that Demetrius was deceived concerning the tripod by an identity of name. For, from the Persian war to the end of the Peloponnesian, there are upon record only two of the name of Aristides, who defrayed the expense of representing plays and gained the prize, neither of which was the same with the son of Lysimachus; but the father of the one was Xenophilus, and the other lived at a much later time, as the way of writing, which is that in use since the time of Euclides, and the addition of the name of Archestratus prove, a name which, in the time of the Persian war, no writer mentions, but which several, during the Peloponnesian war, record as that of a dramatic poet. The argument of Panætius requires to be more closely considered. But as for the ostracism, every one was liable to it, whom his reputation, birth, or eloquence raised above the common level; insomuch that even Damon, preceptor to Pericles, was thus banished, because he seemed a man of more than ordinary sense. And, moreover, Idomeneus says, that Aristides was not made archon by the lot of the bean, but the free election of the people. And if he held the office after the battle of Platæa, as Demetrius himself has written, it is very probable that his great reputation and success in the war, made him be preferred for his virtue to an office which others received in consideration of their wealth. But Demetrius manifestly is eager not only to exempt Aristides, but Socrates likewise, from poverty, as from a great evil; telling us that the latter had not only a house of his own, but also seventy minæ put out at interest with Crito.
Aristides being the friend and supporter of that Clisthenes, who settled the government after the expulsion of the tyrants, and emulating and admiring Lycurgus the Lacedæmonian above all politicians, adhered to the aristocratical principles of government; and had Themistocles, son to Neocles, his adversary on the side of the populace. Some say that, being boys and bred up together from their infancy, they were always at variance with each other in all their words and actions as well serious as playful, and that in this their early contention they soon made proof of their natural inclinations; the one being ready, adventurous, and subtle, engaging readily and eagerly in every thing; the other of a staid and settled temper, intent on the exercise of justice, not admitting any degree of falsity, indecorum, or trickery, no, not so much as at his play. Ariston of Chios* says the first origin of the enmity which rose to so great a height, was a love affair; they were rivals for the affection of the beautiful Stesilaus of Ceos, and were passionate beyond all moderation, and did not lay aside their animosity when the beauty that had excited it passed away; but, as if it had only exercised them in it, immediately carried their heats and differences into public business.
Themistocles, therefore, joining an association of partisans, fortified himself with considerable strength; insomuch that when some one told him that were he impartial, he would make a good magistrate; “I wish,” replied he, “I may never sit on that tribunal where my friends shall not plead a greater privilege than strangers.” But Aristides walked, so to say, alone on his own path in politics, being unwilling, in the first place, to go along with his associates in ill doing, or to cause them vexation by not gratifying their wishes; and, secondly, observing that many were encouraged by the support they had in their friends to act injuriously, he was cautious; being of opinion that the integrity of his words and actions was the only right security for a good citizen.
However, Themistocles making many dangerous alterations, and withstanding and interrupting him in the whole series of his actions, Aristides also was necessitated to set himself against all Themistocles did, partly in self-defence, and partly to impede his power from still increasing by the favor of the multitude; esteeming it better to let slip some public conveniences, rather than that he by prevailing should become powerful in all things. In fine, when he once had opposed Themistocles in some measures that were expedient, and had got the better of him, he could not refrain from saying, when he left the assembly, that unless they sent Themistocles and himself to the barathrum,* there could be no safety for Athens. Another time, when urging some proposal upon the people, though there were much opposition and stirring against it, he yet was gaining the day; but just as the president of the assembly was about to put it to the vote, perceiving by what had been said in debate the inexpediency of his advice, he let it fall. Also he often brought in his bills by other persons, lest Themistocles, through party spirit against him, should be any hindrance to the good of the public.
In all the vicissitudes of public affairs, the constancy he Page 284 showed was admirable, not being elated with honors, and demeaning himself tranquilly and sedately in adversity; holding the opinion that he ought to offer himself to the service of his country without mercenary views and irrespectively of any reward, not only of riches, but even of glory itself. Hence it came, probably, that at the recital of these verses of Æschylus in the theatre, relating to Amphiaraus,
the eyes of all the spectators turned on Aristides, as if this virtue, in an especial manner, belonged to him.
He was a most determined champion for justice, not only against feelings of friendship and favor, but wrath and malice. Thus it is reported of him that when prosecuting the law against one who was his enemy, on the judges after accusation refusing to hear the criminal, and proceeding immediately to pass sentence upon him, he rose in haste from his seat and joined in petition with him for a hearing, and that he might enjoy the privilege of the law. Another time, when judging between two private persons, on the one declaring his adversary had very much injured Aristides; “Tell me rather, good friend,” he said, “what wrong he has done you: for it is your cause, not my own, which I now sit judge of.” Being chosen to the charge of the public revenue, he made it appear, that not only those of his time, but the preceding officers, had alienated much treasure, and especially Themistocles: —
Therefore, Themistocles associating several persons against Aristides, and impeaching him when he gave in his accounts, caused him to be condemned of robbing the public; so Idomeneus states; but the best and chiefest men of the city much resenting it, he was not only exempted from the fine imposed upon him, but likewise again called to the same employment. Pretending now to repent him of his former practice, and carrying himself with more remissness, he became acceptable to such as pillaged the treasury, by not detecting or calling them to an exact account. So that those who had their fill of the public money began highly to applaud Aristides, and sued to the people, making interest to have him once more chosen treasurer. But when they were upon the point of election, he reproved the Athenians. “When I discharged my office well and faithfully,” said he, “I was insulted and abused; but now that I have allowed the public thieves in a variety of malpractices, I am considered an admirable patriot. I am more ashamed, therefore, of this present honor than of the former sentence; and I commiserate your condition, with whom it is more praiseworthy to oblige ill men than to conserve the revenue of the public.” Saying thus, and proceeding to expose the thefts that had been committed, he stopped the mouths of those who cried him up and vouched for him, but gained real and true commendation from the best men.
When Datis, being sent by Darius under pretence of punishing the Athenians for their burning of Sardis, but in reality to reduce the Greeks under his dominion, landed at Marathon and laid waste the country, among the ten commanders appointed by the Athenians for the war, Militiades was of the greatest name; but the second place, both for reputation and power, was possessed by Aristides: and when his opinion to join battle was added to that of Miltiades, it did much to incline the balance. Every leader by his day having the command in chief, when it came to Aristides’ turn, he delivered it into the hands of Miltiades, showing his fellow officers, that it is not dishonorable to obey and follow wise and able men, but, on the contrary, noble and prudent. So appeasing their rivalry, and bringing them to acquiesce in one and the best advice, he confirmed Miltiades in the strength of an undivided and unmolested authority. For now every one, yielding his day of command, looked for orders only to him. During the fight the main body of the Athenians being the hardest put to it, the barbarians, for a long time, making opposition there against the tribes Leontis and Antiochis, Themistocles and Aristides being ranged together, fought valiantly; the one being of the tribe Leontis, the other of the Antiochis. But after they had beaten the barbarians back to their ships, and perceived that they sailed not for the isles, but were driven in by the force of sea and wind towards the country of Attica; fearing lest they should take the city, unprovided of defence, they hurried away thither with nine tribes, and reached it the same day. Aristides, being left with his tribe at Marathon to guard the plunder and prisoners, did not disappoint the opinion they had of him. Amidst the profusion of gold and silver, all sorts of apparel, and other property, more than can be mentioned, that were in the tents and the vessels which they had taken, he neither felt the desire to meddle with any thing himself, nor suffered others to do it; unless it might be some who took away any thing unknown to him; as Callias, the torchbearer,* did. One of the barbarians, it seems, prostrated himself before this man, supposing him to be a king by his hair and fillet; and, when he had so done, taking him by the hand, showed him a great quantity of gold hid in a ditch. But Callias, most cruel and impious of men. took away the treasure, but slew the man, lest he should tell of him. Hence, they say, the comic poets gave his family the name of Laccopluti, or enriched by the ditch, alluding to the place where Callias found the gold. Aristides, immediately after this, was archon; although Demetrius, the Phalerian, says he held the office a little before he died, after the battle of Platæa. But in the records of the successors of Xanthippides, in whose year Mardonius was overthrown at Platæa, amongst very many there mentioned, there is not so much as one of the same name as Aristides: while immediately after Phænippus, during whose term of office they obtained the victory of Marathon, Aristides is registered.
Of all his virtues, the common people were most affected with his justice, because of its continual and common use; and thus, although of mean fortune and ordinary birth, he possessed himself of the most kingly and divine appellation of Just; which kings, however, and tyrants have never sought after; but have taken delight to be surnamed besiegers of cities, thunderers, conquerors, or eagles again, and hawks;* affecting, it seems, the reputation which proceeds from power and violence, rather than that of virtue. Although the divinity, to whom they desire to compare and assimilate themselves, excels, it is supposed, in three things, immortality, power, and virtue; of which three, the noblest and divinest is virtue. For the elements and vacuum have an everlasting existence; earthquakes, thunders, storms, and torrents have great power; but in justice and equity nothing participates except by means of reason and the knowledge of that which is divine. And thus, taking the three varieties of feeling commonly entertained towards the deity, the sense of his happiness, fear, and honor of him, people would seem to think him blest and happy for his exemption from death and corruption, to fear and dread him for his power and dominion, but to love, honor, and adore him for his justice. Yet though thus disposed, they covet that immortality which our nature is not capable of, and that power the greatest part of which is at the disposal of fortune; but give virtue, the only divine good really in our reach, the last place, most unwisely; since justice makes the life of such as are in prosperity, power, and authority the life of a god, and injustice turns it to that of a beast.
Aristides, therefore, had at first the fortune to be beloved for this surname, but at length envied. Especially when Themistocles spread a rumor amongst the people, that, by determining and judging all matters privately, he had destroyed the courts of judicature, and was secretly making way for a monarchy in his own person, without the assistance of guards. Moreover, the spirit of the people, now grown high, and confident with their late victory, naturally entertained feelings of dislike to all of more than common fame and reputation. Coming together, therefore, from all parts into the city, they banished Aristides by the ostracism, giving their jealousy of his reputation the name of fear of tyranny. For ostracism was not the punishment of any criminal act, but was speciously said to be the mere depression and humiliation of excessive greatness and power; and was in fact a gentle relief and mitigation of envious feeling, which was thus allowed to vent itself in inflicting no intolerable injury, only a ten years’ banishment. But after it came to be exercised upon base and villanous fellows, they desisted from it; Hyperbolus, being the last whom they banished by the ostracism.
The cause of Hyperbolus’s banishment is said to have been this. Alcibiades and Nicias, men that bore the greatest sway in the city, were of different factions. As the people, therefore, were about to vote the ostracism, and obviously to decree it against one of them, consulting together and uniting their parties, they contrived the banishment of Hyperbolus. Upon which the people, being offended, as if some contempt or affront was put upon the thing, left off and quite abolished it. It was performed, to be short, in this manner. Every one taking an ostracon, a sherd, that is, or piece of earthenware, wrote upon it the citizen’s name he would have banished, and carried it to a certain part of the market-place surrounded with wooden rails. First, the magistrates numbered all the sherds in gross (for if there were less than six thousand, the ostracism was imperfect); then, laying every name by itself, they pronounced him whose name was written by the larger number, banished for ten years, with the enjoyment of his estate. As, therefore, they were writing the names on the sherds, it is reported that an illiterate clownish fellow, giving Aristides his sherd, supposing him a common citizen, begged him to write Aristides upon it; and he being surprised and asking if Aristides had ever done him any injury, “None at all,” said he, “neither know I the man; but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called the Just.” Aristides, hearing this, is said to have made no reply, but returned the sherd with his own name inscribed. At his departure from the city, lifting up his hands to heaven, he made a prayer, (the reverse, it would seem, of that of Achilles,) that the Athenians might never have any occasion which should constrain them to remember Aristides.
Nevertheless, three years after, when Xerxes marched through Thessaly and Bœotia into the country of Attica, repealing the law, they decreed the return of the banished: chiefly fearing Aristides, lest, joining himself to the enemy, he should corrupt and bring over many of his fellow-citizens to the party of the barbarians; much mistaking the man, who, already before the decree, was exerting himself to excite and encourage the Greeks to the defence of their liberty. And afterwards, when Themistocles was general with absolute power, he assisted him in all ways both in action and counsel; rendering, in consideration of the common security, the greatest enemy he had the most glorious of men. For when Eurybiades was deliberating to desert the isle of Salamis, and the gallies of the barbarians putting out by night to sea surrounded and beset the narrow passage and islands, and nobody was aware how they were environed, Aristides, with great hazard, sailed from Ægina through the enemy’s fleet; and coming by night to Themistocles’s tent, and calling him out by himself; “If we have any discretion,” said he, “Themistocles, laying aside at this time our vain and childish contention, let us enter upon a safe and honorable dispute, vying with each other for the preservation of Greece; you in the ruling and commanding, I in the subservient and advising part; even, indeed, as I now understand you to be alone adhering to the best advice, in counselling without any delay to engage in the straits. And in this, though our own party oppose, the enemy seems to assist you. For the sea behind, and all around us, is covered with their fleet; so that we are under a necessity of approving ourselves men of courage, and fighting, whether we will or no; for there is no room left us for flight.” To which Themistocles answered, “I would not willingly, Aristides, be overcome by you on this occasion; and shall endeavor, in emulation of this good beginning, to outdo it in my actions.” Also relating to him the stratagem he had framed against the barbarians, he entreated him to persuade Eurybiades and show him, how it was impossible they should save themselves without an engagement; as he was the more likely to be believed. Whence, in the council of war, Cleocritus, the Corinthian, telling Themistocles that Aristides did not like his advice, as he was present and said nothing, Aristides answered, That he should not have held his peace, if Themistocles had not been giving the best advice; and that he was now silent not out of any good-will to the person, but in approbation of his counsel.
Thus the Greek captains were employed. But Aristides perceiving Psyttalea, a small island that lies within the straits over against Salamis, to be filled by a body of the enemy, put aboard his small boats the most forward and courageous of his countrymen, and went ashore upon it; and, joining battle with the barbarians, slew them all, except such more remarkable persons as were taken alive. Amongst these were three children of Sandauce, the king’s sister, whom he immediately sent away to Themistocles, and it is stated that in accordance with a certain oracle, they were, by the command of Euphrantides, the seer, sacrificed to Bacchus, called Omestes, or the devourer. But Aristides, placing armed men all around the island, lay in wait for such as were cast upon it, to the intent that none of his friends should perish, nor any of his enemies escape. For the closest engagement of the ships, and the main fury of the whole battle, seems to have been about this place; for which reason a trophy was erected in Psyttalea.
After the fight, Themistocles, to sound Aristides, told him they had performed a good piece of service, but there was a better yet to be done, the keeping Asia in Europe, by sailing forthwith to the Hellespont, and cutting in sunder the bridge. But Aristides, with an exclamation, bid him think no more of it, but deliberate and find out means for removing the Mede, as quickly as possible, out of Greece; lest being enclosed, through want of means to escape, necessity should compel him to force his way with so great an army. So Themistocles once more despatched Arnaces, the eunuch, his prisoner, giving him in command privately to advertise the king that he had diverted the Greeks from their intention of setting sail for the bridges, out of the desire he felt to preserve him.
Xerxes, being much terrified with this, immediately hasted to the Hellespont. But Mardonius was left with the most serviceable part of the army, about three hundred thousand men, and was a formidable enemy, confident in his infantry, and writing messages of defiance to the Greeks: “You have overcome by sea men accustomed to fight on land, and unskilled at the oar; but there lies now the open country of Thessaly; and the plains of Bœotia offer a broad and worthy field for brave men, either horse or foot, to contend in.” But he sent privately to the Athenians, both by letter and word of mouth from the king, promising to rebuild their city, to give them a vast sum of money, and constitute them lords of all Greece on condition they were not engaged in the war. The Lacedæmonians, receiving news of this, and fearing, despatched an embassy to the Athenians, entreating that they would send their wives and children to Sparta, and receive support from them for their superannuated. For, being despoiled both of their city and country, the people were suffering extreme distress. Having given audience to the ambassadors, they returned an answer, upon the motion of Aristides, worthy of the highest admiration; declaring, that they forgave their enemies if they thought all things purchasable by wealth, than which they knew nothing of greater value; but that they felt offended at the Lacedæmonians, for looking only to their present poverty and exigence, without any remembrance of their valor and magnanimity, offering them their victuals, to fight in the cause of Greece. Aristides, making this proposal and bringing back the ambassadors into the assembly, charged them to tell the Lacedæmonians, that all the treasure on the earth or under it, was of less value with the people of Athens, than the liberty of Greece. And, showing the sun to those who came from Mardonius, “as long as that retains the same course, so long,” said he, “shall the citizens of Athens wage war with the Persians for the country which has been wasted, and the temples that have been profaned and burnt by them.” Moreover, he proposed a decree, that the priests should anathematize him who sent any herald to the Medes, or deserted the alliance of Greece.
When Mardonius made a second incursion into the country of Attica, the people passed over again into the isle of Salamis. Aristides, being sent to Lacedæmon, reproved them for their delay and neglect in abandoning Athens once more to the barbarians; and demanded their assistance for that part of Greece, which was not yet lost. The Ephori, hearing this, made show of sporting all day, and of carelessly keeping holy day, (for they were then celebrating the Hyacinthian festival,) but in the night, selecting five thousand Spartans, each of whom was attended by seven Helots, they sent them forth unknown to those from Athens. And when Aristides again reprehended them, they told him in derision that he either doted or dreamed, for the army was already at Oresteum, in their march towards the strangers; as they called the Persians. Aristides answered, that they jested unseasonably, deluding their friends, instead of their enemies. Thus says Idomeneus. But in the decree of Aristides, not himself, but Cimon, Xanthippus, and Myronides are appointed ambassadors.
Being chosen general for the war, he repaired to Platæa, with eight thousand Athenians, where Pausanias, generalissimo of all Greece, joined him with the Spartans; and the forces of the other Greeks came in to them. The whole encampment of the barbarians extended all along the bank of the river Asopus, their numbers being so great, there was no enclosing them all, but their baggage and most valuable things were surrounded with a square bulwark, each side of which was the length of ten furlongs.
Tisamenus, the Elean, had prophesied to Pausanias and all the Greeks, and foretold them victory if they made no attempt upon the enemy, but stood on their defence. But Aristides sending to Delphi, the god answered, that the Athenians should overcome their enemies, in case they made supplication to Jupiter and Juno of Cithæron, Pan, and the nymphs Sphragitides, and sacrificed to the heroes Androcrates, Leucon, Pisander, Damocrates, Hypsion, Actæon, and Polyidus; and if they fought within their own territories in the plain of Ceres Eleusinia and Proserpine. Aristides was perplexed upon the tidings of this oracle: since the heroes to whom it commanded him to sacrifice had been chieftains of the Platæans, and the cave of the nymphs Sphragitides was on the top of Mount Cithæron, on the side facing the setting sun of summer time; in which place, as the story goes, there was formerly an oracle, and many that lived in the district were inspired with it, whom they called Nympholepti, possessed with the nymphs. But the plain of Ceres Eleusinia, and the offer of victory to the Athenians, if they fought in their own territories, recalled them again, and transferred the war into the country of Attica. In this juncture, Arimnestus, who commanded the Platæans, dreamed that Jupiter, the Saviour, asked him what the Greeks had resolved upon; and that he answered, “To-morrow, my Lord, we march our army to Eleusis, and there give the barbarians battle according to the directions of the oracle of Apollo.” And that the god replied, they were utterly mistaken, for that the places spoken of by the oracle were within the bounds of Platæa, and if they sought there they should find them. This manifest vision having appeared to Arimnestus, when he awoke he sent for the most aged and experienced of his countrymen, with whom communicating and examining the matter, he found that near Hysiæ, at the foot of Mount Cithæron, there was a very ancient temple called the temple of Ceres Eleusinia and Proserpine. He therefore forthwith took Aristides to the place, which was very convenient for drawing up an army of foot, because the slopes at the bottom of the mountain Cithæron rendered the plain, where it comes up to the temple, unfit for the movements of cavalry. Also, in the same place, there was the fane of Androcrates, environed with a thick shady grove. And that the oracle might be accomplished in all particulars for the hope of victory, Arimnestus proposed, and the Platæans decreed, that the frontiers of their country towards Attica should be removed, and the land given to the Athenians, that they might fight in defence of Greece in their own proper territory. This zeal and liberality of the Platæans became so famous, that Alexander, many years after, when he had obtained the dominion of all Asia, upon erecting the walls of Platæa, caused proclamation to be made by the herald at the Olympic games, that the king did the Platæans this favor in consideration of their nobleness and magnanimity, because, in the war with the Medes, they freely gave up their land and zealously fought with the Greeks.
The Tegeatans, contesting the post of honor with the Athenians, demanded, that, according to custom, the Lacedæmonians being ranged on the right wing of the battle, they might have the left, alleging several matters in commendation of their ancestors. The Athenians being indignant at the claim, Aristides came forward; “To contend with the Tegeatans,” said he, “for noble descent and valor, the present time permits not: but this we say to you, O you Spartans, and you the rest of the Greeks, that place neither takes away nor contributes courage: we shall endeavor by crediting and maintaining the post you assign us, to reflect no dishonor on our former performances. For we are come, not to differ with our friends, but to fight our enemies; not to extol our ancestors, but ourselves to behave as valiant men. This battle will manifest how much each city, captain, and private soldier is worth to Greece.” The council of war, upon this address, decided for the Athenians, and gave them the other wing of the battle.
All Greece being in suspense, and especially the affairs of the Athenians unsettled, certain persons of great families and possessions having been impoverished by the war, and seeing all their authority and reputation in the city vanished with their wealth, and others in possession of their honors and places, convened privately at a house in Platæa, and conspired for the dissolution of the democratic government; and, if the plot should not succeed, to ruin the cause and betray all to the barbarians. These matters being in agitation in the camp, and many persons already corrupted, Aristides, perceiving the design, and dreading the present juncture of time, determined neither to let the business pass unanimadverted upon, nor yet altogether to expose it; not knowing how many the accusation might reach, and willing to set bounds to his justice with a view to the public convenience. Therefore, of many that were concerned, he apprehended eight only, two of whom, who were first proceeded against and most guilty, Æschines of Lampra, and Agesias of Acharnæ, made their escape out of the camp. The rest he dismissed; giving opportunity to such as thought themselves concealed, to take courage and repent; intimating that they had in the war a great tribunal, where they might clear their guilt by manifesting their sincere and good intentions towards their country.
After this, Mardonius made trial of the Grecian courage, by sending his whole number of horse, in which he thought himself much the stronger, against them, while they were all pitched at the foot of Mount Cithæron, in strong and rocky places, except the Megarians. They, being three thousand in number, were encamped on the plain, where they were damaged by the horse charging and making inroads upon them on all hands. They sent, therefore, in haste to Pausanias, demanding relief, as not being able alone to sustain the great numbers of the barbarians. Pausanias, hearing this, and perceiving the tents of the Megarians already hid by the multitude of darts and arrows, and themselves driven together into a narrow space, was at a loss himself how to aid them with his battalion of heavy-armed Lacedæmonians. He proposed it, therefore, as a point of emulation in valor and love of distinction, to the commanders and captains who were around him, if any would voluntarily take upon them the defence and succor of the Megarians. The rest being backward, Aristides undertook the enterprise for the Athenians, and sent Olympiodorus, the most valiant of his inferior officers, with three hundred chosen men and some archers under his command. These being soon in readiness, and running upon the enemy, as soon as Masistius, who commanded the barbarians’ horse, a man of wonderful courage and of extraordinary bulk and comeliness of person, perceived it, turning his steed he made towards them. And they sustaining the shock and joining battle with him, there was a sharp conflict, as though by this encounter they were to try the success of the whole war. But after Masistius’s horse received a wound, and flung him, and he falling could hardly raise himself through the weight of his armor, the Athenians, pressing upon him with blows, could not easily get at his person, armed as he was, his breast, his head, and his limbs all over, with gold and brass and iron; but one of them at last, running him in at the visor of his helmet, slew him; and the rest of the Persians, leaving the body, fled. The greatness of the Greek success was known, not by the multitude of the slain, (for an inconsiderable number were killed,) but by the sorrow the barbarians expressed. For they shaved themselves, their horses, and mules for the death of Masistius, and filled the plain with howling and lamentation; having lost a person, who, next to Mardonius himself, was by many degrees the chief among them, both for valor and authority.
After this skirmish of the horse, they kept from fighting a long time; for the soothsayers, by the sacrifices, foretold the victory both to Greeks and Persians, if they stood upon the defensive part only, but if they became aggressors, the contrary. At length Mardonius, when he had but a few days’ provision, and the Greek forces increased continually by some or other that came in to them, impatient of delay, determined to lie still no longer, but, passing Asopus by daybreak, to fall unexpectedly upon the Greeks; and signified the same over night to the captains of his host. But about midnight, a certain horseman stole into the Greek camp, and coming to the watch, desired them to call Aristides, the Athenian, to him. He coming speedily; “I am,” said the stranger, “Alexander, king of the Macedonians, and am arrived here through the greatest danger in the world for the good-will I bear you, lest a sudden onset should dismay you, so as to behave in the fight worse than usual. For to-morrow Mardonius will give you battle, urged, not by any hope of success or courage, but by want of victuals since, indeed, the prophets prohibit him the battle, the sacrifices and oracles being unfavorable; and the army is in despondency and consternation; but necessity forces him to try his fortune, or sit still and endure the last extremity of want.” Alexander, thus saying, entreated Aristides to take notice and remember him, but not to tell any other. But he told him, it was not convenient to conceal the matter from Pausanias (because he was general); as for any other, he would keep it secret from them till the battle was fought; but if the Greeks obtained the victory, that then no one should be ignorant of Alexander’s good-will and kindness towards them. After this, the king of the Macedonians rode back again, and Aristides went to Pausanias’s tent and told him; and they sent for the rest of the captains and gave orders that the army should be in battle array.
Here, according to Herodotus, Pausanias spoke to Aristides, desiring him to transfer the Athenians to the right wing of the army opposite to the Persians, (as they would do better service against them, having been experienced in their way of combat, and emboldened with former victories,) and to give him the left, where the Medizing Greeks were to make their assault. The rest of the Athenian captains regarded this as an arrogant and interfering act on the part of Pausanias; because, while permitting the rest of the army to keep their stations, he removed them only from place to place, like so many Helots, opposing them to the greatest strength of the enemy. But Aristides said, they were altogether in the wrong. If so short a time ago they contested the left wing with the Tegeatans, and gloried in being preferred before them, now, when the Lacedæmonians give them place in the right, and yield them in a manner the leading of the army, how is it they are discontented with the honor that is done them, and do not look upon it as an advantage to have to fight, not against their countrymen and kindred, but barbarians, and such as were by nature their enemies? After this, the Athenians very readily changed places with the Lacedæmonians, and there went words amongst them as they were encouraging each other, that the enemy approached with no better arms or stouter hearts than those who fought the battle of Marathon; but had the same bows and arrows, and the same embroidered coats and gold, and the same delicate bodies and effeminate minds within; “while we have the same weapons and bodies, and our courage augmented by our victories; and fight not like others in defence of our country only, but for the trophies of Salamis and Marathon; that they may not be looked upon as due to Miltiades or fortune, but to the people of Athens.” Thus, therefore, were they making haste to change the order of their battle. But the Thebans, understanding it by some deserters, forthwith acquainted Mardonius; and he, either for fear of the Athenians, or a desire to engage the Lacedæmonians, marched over his Persians to the other wing, and commanded the Greeks of his party to be posted opposite to the Athenians. But this change was observed on the other side, and Pausanias, wheeling about again, ranged himself on the right, and Mardonius, also, as at first, took the left wing over against the Lacedæmonians. So the day passed without action.
After this, the Greeks determined in council to remove their camp some distance, to possess themselves of a place convenient for watering; because the springs near them were polluted and destroyed by the barbarian cavalry. But night being come, and the captains setting out towards the place designed for their encamping, the soldiers were not very ready to follow, and keep in a body, but, as soon as they had quitted their first entrenchments, made towards the city of Platæa; and there was much tumult and disorder as they dispersed to various quarters and proceeded to pitch their tents. The Lacedæmonians, against their will, had the fortune to be left by the rest. For Amompharetus, a brave and daring man, who had long been burning with desire of the fight, and resented their many lingerings and delays, calling the removal of the camp a mere running away and flight, protested he would not desert his post, but would there remain with his company, and sustain the charge of Mardonius. And when Pausanias came to him and told him he did these things by the common vote and determination of the Greeks, Amompharetus taking up a great stone and flinging it at Pausanias’ feet, and “by this token,” said he, “do I give my suffrage for the battle, nor have I any concern with the cowardly consultations and decrees of other men.” Pausanias, not knowing what to do in the present juncture, sent to the Athenians, who were drawing off, to stay to accompany him; and so he himself set off with the rest of the army for Platæa, hoping thus to make Amompharetus move.
Meantime, day came upon them; and Mardonius (for he was not ignorant of their deserting their camp) having his army in array, fell upon the Lacedæmonians with great shouting and noise of barbarous people, as if they were not about to join battle, but crush the Greeks in their flight. Which within a very little came to pass. For Pausanias, perceiving what was done, made a halt, and commanded every one to put themselves in order for the battle; but either through his anger with Amompharetus, or the disturbance he was in by reason of the sudden approach of the enemy, he forgot to give the signal to the Greeks in general. Whence it was, that they did not come in immediately, or in a body, to their assistance, but by small companies and straggling, when the fight was already begun. Pausanias, offering sacrifice, could not procure favorable omens, and so commanded the Lacedæmonians, setting down their shields at their feet to abide quietly and attend his directions, making no resistance to any of their enemies. And, he sacrificing again a second time, the horse charged, and some of the Lacedæmonians were wounded. At this time, also, Callicrates, who, we are told, was the most comely man in the army, being shot with an arrow and upon the point of expiring, said, that he lamented not his death (for he came from home to lay down his life in the defence of Greece) but that he died without action. The case was indeed hard, and the forbearance of the men wonderful; for they let the enemy charge without repelling them; and, expecting their proper opportunity from the gods and their general, suffered themselves to be wounded and slain in their ranks. And some say, that while Pausanias was at sacrifice and prayers, some space out of the battle-array, certain Lydians, falling suddenly upon him, plundered and scattered the sacrifice: and that Pausanias and his company, having no arms, beat them with staves and whips; and that in imitation of this attack, the whipping the boys about the altar, and after it the Lydian procession, are to this day practised in Sparta.
Pausanias, therefore, being troubled at these things, while the priest went on offering one sacrifice after another, turns himself towards the temple with tears in his eyes, and, lifting up his hands to heaven, besought Juno of Cithæron, and the other tutelar gods of the Platæans, if it were not in the fates for the Greeks to obtain the victory, that they might not perish, without performing some remarkable thing, and by their actions demonstrating to their enemies, that they waged war with men of courage, and soldiers. While Pausanias was thus in the act of supplication, the sacrifices appeared propitious, and the soothsayers foretold victory. The word being given, the Lacedæmonian battalion of foot seemed, on the sudden, like some one fierce animal, setting up his bristles, and betaking himself to the combat; and the barbarians perceived that they encountered with men who would fight it to the death. Therefore, holding their wicker-shields before them, they shot their arrows amongst the Lacedæmonians. But they, keeping together in the order of a phalanx, and falling upon the enemies, forced their shields out of their hands, and, striking with their pikes at the breasts and faces of the Persians, overthrew many of them; who, however, fell not either unrevenged or without courage. For taking hold of the spears with their bare hands, they broke many of them, and betook themselves not without effect to the sword; and making use of their falchions and scimitars, and wresting the Lacedæmonians’ shields from them, and grappling with them, it was a long time that they made resistance.
Meanwhile, for some time, the Athenians stood still, waiting for the Lacedæmonians to come up. But when they heard much noise as of men engaged in fight, and a messenger, they say, came from Pausanias, to advertise them of what was going on, they soon hasted to their assistance. And as they passed through the plain to the place where the noise was, the Greeks, who took part with the enemy, came upon them. Aristides, as soon as he saw them, going a considerable space before the rest, cried out to them, conjuring them by the guardian gods of Greece to forbear the fight, and be no impediment or stop to those, who were going to succor the defenders of Greece. But when he perceived they gave no attention to him, and had prepared themselves for the battle, then turning from the present relief of the Lacedæmonians, he engaged them, being five thousand in number. But the greatest part soon gave way and retreated, as the barbarians also were put to flight. The sharpest conflict is said to have been against the Thebans, the chiefest and most powerful persons among them at that time siding zealously with the Medes, and leading the multitude not according to their own inclinations, but as being subjects of an oligarchy.
The battle being thus divided, the Lacedæmonians first beat off the Persians; and a Spartan, named Arimnestus, slew Mardonius by a blow on the head with a stone, as the oracle in the temple of Amphiaraus had foretold to him. For Mardonius sent a Lydian thither, and another person, a Carian, to the cave of Trophonius. This latter, the priest of the oracle answered in his own language. But the Lydian sleeping in the temple of Amphiaraus, it seemed to him that a minister of the divinity stood before him and commanded him to be gone; and on his refusing to do it, flung a great stone at his head, so that he thought himself slain with the blow. Such is the story. — They drove the fliers within their walls of wood; and, a little time after, the Athenians put the Thebans to flight, killing three hundred of the chiefest and of greatest note among them in the actual fight itself. For when they began to fly, news came that the army of the barbarians was besieged within their palisade: and so giving the Greeks opportunity to save themselves, they marched to assist at the fortifications; and coming in to the Lacedæmonians, who were altogether unhandy and unexperienced in storming, they took the camp with great slaughter of the enemy. For of three hundred thousand, forty thousand only are said to have escaped with Artabazus; while on the Greek’s side there perished in all thirteen hundred and sixty: of which fifty-two were Athenians, all of the tribe Æantis, that fought, says Clidemus, with the greatest courage of any; and for this reason the men of this tribe used to offer sacrifice for the victory, as enjoined by the oracle, to the nymphs Sphragitides at the Page 305 expense of the public: ninety-one were Lacedæmonians, and sixteen Tegeatans. It is strange, therefore, upon what grounds Herodotus can say, that they only, and none other, encountered the enemy; for the number of the slain and their monuments testify that the victory was obtained by all in general; and if the rest had been standing still, while the inhabitants of three cities only had been engaged in the fight, they would not have set on the altar the inscription: —
They fought this battle on the fourth day of the month Boëdromion, according to the Athenians, but according to the Bœotians, on the twenty-seventh of Panemus; — on which day there is still a convention of the Greeks at Platæa, and the Platæans still offer sacrifice for the victory to Jupiter of freedom. As for the difference of days, it is not to be wondered at, since even at the present time, when there is a far more accurate knowledge of astronomy, some begin the month at one time, and some at another.
After this, the Athenians not yielding the honor of the day to the Lacedæmonians, nor consenting they should erect a trophy, things were not far from being ruined by dissension amongst the armed Greeks; had not Aristides, by much soothing and counselling the commanders, especially Leocrates and Myronides, pacified and persuaded them to leave the thing to the decision of the Greeks. And on their proceeding to discuss the matter, Theogiton, the Megarian, declared the honor of the victory was to be given some other city, if they would prevent a civil war; after him Cleocritus of Corinth rising up, made people think he would ask the palm for the Corinthians, (for next to Sparta and Athens, Corinth was in greatest estimation); but he delivered his opinion, to the general admiration, in favor of the Platæans; and counselled to take away all contention by giving them the reward and glory of the victory, whose being honored could be distasteful to neither party. This being said, first Aristides gave consent in the name of the Athenians, and Pausanias, then, for the Lacedæmonians. So, being reconciled, they set apart eighty talents for the Platæans, with which they built the temple and dedicated the image to Minerva, and adorned the temple with pictures, which even to this very day retain their lustre. But the Lacedæmonians and Athenians, each erected a trophy apart by themselves. On their consulting the oracle about offering sacrifice, Apollo answered, that they should dedicate an altar to Jupiter of freedom, but should not sacrifice till they had extinguished the fires throughout the country, as having been defiled by the barbarians, and had kindled unpolluted fire at the common altar at Delphi. The magistrates of Greece, therefore, went forthwith and compelled such as had fire to put it out; and Euchidas, a Platæan, promising to fetch fire, with all possible speed, from the altar of the god, went to Delphi, and having sprinkled and purified his body, crowned himself with laurel; and taking the fire from the altar ran back to Platæa, and got back there before sunset, performing in one day a journey of a thousand furlongs; and saluting his fellow-citizens and delivering them the fire, he immediately fell down, and in a short time after expired. But the Platæans, taking him up, interred him in the temple of Diana Euclia, setting this inscription over him: “Euchidas ran to Delphi and back again in one day.” Most people believe that Euclia is Diana. and call her by that name. But some say she was the daughter of Hercules, by Myrto, the daughter of Menœtius, and sister of Patroclus, and, dying a virgin, was worshipped by the Bœotians and Locrians. Her altar and image are set up in all their market-places, and those of both sexes that are about marrying, sacrifice to her before the nuptials.
A general assembly of all the Greeks being called, Aristides proposed a decree, that the deputies and religious representatives of the Greek states should assemble annually at Platæa, and every fifth year celebrate the Eleutheria, or games of freedom. And that there should be a levy upon all Greece, for the war against the barbarians, of ten thousand spearmen, one thousand horse, and a hundred sail of ships; but the Platæans to be exempt, and sacred to the service of the gods, offering sacrifice for the welfare of Greece. These things being ratified, the Platæans undertook the performance of annual sacrifice to such as were slain and buried in that place; which they still perform in the following manner. On the sixteenth day of Mæmacterion (which with the Bœotians is Alalcomenus) they make their procession, which, beginning by break of day, is led by a trumpeter sounding for onset; then follow certain chariots loaded with myrrh and garlands; and then a black bull; then come the young men of free birth carrying libations of wine and milk in large two-handed vessels, and jars of oil and precious ointments, none of servile condition being permitted to have any hand in this ministration, because the men died in defence of freedom; after all comes the chief magistrate of Platæa, (for whom it is unlawful at other times either to touch iron, or wear any other colored garment but white,) at that time apparelled in a purple robe; and, taking a water-pot out of the city record-office, he proceeds, bearing a sword in his hand, through the middle of the town to the sepulchres. Then drawing water out of a spring, he washes and anoints the monuments, and sacrificing the bull upon a pile of wood, and making supplication to Jupiter and Mercury of the earth, invites those valiant men who perished in the defence of Greece, to the banquet and the libations of blood. After this, mixing a bowl of wine, and pouring out for himself, he says, “I drink to those who lost their lives for the liberty of Greece.” These solemnities the Platæans observe to this day.
Aristides perceived that the Athenians, after their return into the city, were eager for a democracy; and deeming the people to deserve consideration on account of their valiant behavior, as also that it was a matter of difficulty, they being well armed, powerful, and full of spirit with their victories, to oppose them by force, he brought forward a decree, that every one might share in the government, and the archons be chosen out of the whole body of the Athenians. And on Themistocles telling the people in assembly that he had some advice for them, which could not be given in public, but was most important for the advantage and security of the city, they appointed Aristides alone to hear and consider it with him. And on his acquainting Aristides that his intent was to set fire to the arsenal of the Greeks, for by that means should the Athenians become supreme masters of all Greece, Aristides, returning to the assembly, told them, that nothing was more advantageous than what Themistocles designed, and nothing more unjust. The Athenians, hearing this, gave Themistocles order to desist; such was the love of justice felt by the people, and such the credit and confidence they reposed in Aristides.
Being sent in joint commission with Cimon to the war, he took notice that Pausanias and the other Spartan captains made themselves offensive by imperiousness and harshness to the confederates; and by being himself gentle and considerate with them and by the courtesy and disinterested temper which Cimon, after his example, manifested in the expeditions, he stole away the chief command from the Lacedæmonians, neither by weapons, ships, or horses, but by equity and wise policy. For the Athenians being endeared to the Greeks by the justice of Aristides and by Cimon’s moderation, the tyranny and selfishness of Pausanias rendered them yet more desirable. He on all occasions treated the commanders of the confederates haughtily and roughly; and the common soldiers he punished with stripes, or standing under the iron anchor for a whole day together; neither was it permitted for any to provide straw for themselves to lie on, or forage for their horses, or to come near the springs to water before the Spartans were furnished, but servants with whips drove away such as approached. And when Aristides once was about to complain and expostulate with Pausanias, he told him, with an angry look, that he was not at leisure, and gave no attention to him. The consequence was that the sea captains and generals of the Greeks, in particular, the Chians, Samians, and Lesbians, came to Aristides and requested him to be their general, and to receive the confederates into his command, who had long desired to relinquish the Spartans and come over to the Athenians. But he answered, that he saw both equity and necessity in what they said, but their fidelity required the test of some action, the commission of which would make it impossible for the multitude to change their minds again. Upon which Uliades, the Samian, and Antagoras of Chios, conspiring together, ran in near Byzantium on Pausanias’s galley, getting her between them as she was sailing before the rest. But when Pausanias, beholding them, rose up and furiously threatened soon to make them know that they had been endangering not his galley, but their own countries, they bid him go his way, and thank Fortune that fought for him at Platæa; for hitherto, in reverence to that, the Greeks had forborne from inflicting on him the punishment he deserved. In fine, they all went off and joined the Athenians. And here the magnanimity of the Lacedæmonians was wonderful. For when they perceived that their generals were becoming corrupted by the greatness of their authority, they voluntarily laid down the chief command, and left off sending any more of them to the wars, choosing rather to have citizens of moderation and consistent in the observance of their customs, than to possess the dominion of all Greece.
Even during the command of the Lacedæmonians, the Greeks paid a certain contribution towards the maintenance of the war; and being desirous to be rated city by city in their due proportion, they desired Aristides of the Athenians, and gave him command, surveying the country and revenue, to assess every one according to their ability and what they were worth. But he, being so largely empowered, Greece as it were submitting all her affairs to his sole management, went out poor, and returned poorer; laying the tax not only without corruption and injustice, but to the satisfaction and convenience of all. For as the ancients celebrated the age of Saturn, so did the confederates of Athens Aristides’s taxation, terming it the happy time of Greece; and that more especially, as the sum was in a short time doubled, and afterwards trebled. For the assessment which Aristides made, was four hundred and sixty talents. But to this Pericles added very near one third part more; for Thucydides says, that in the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, the Athenians had coming in from their confederates six hundred talents. But after Pericles’s death, the demagogues, increasing by little and little, raised it to the sum of thirteen hundred talents; not so much through the war’s being so expensive and chargeable either by its length or ill success, as by their alluring the people to spend upon largesses and play-house allowances, and in erecting statues and temples. Aristides, therefore, having acquired a wonderful and great reputation by this levy of the tribute, Themistocles is said to have derided him, as if this had been not the commendation of a man, but a money-bag; a retaliation, though not in the same kind, for some free words which Aristides had used. For he, when Themistocles once was saying that he thought the highest virtue of a general was to understand and foreknow the measures the enemy would take, replied, “This, indeed, Themistocles, is simply necessary, but the excellent thing in a general is to keep his hands from taking money.”
Aristides, moreover, made all the people of Greece swear to keep the league, and himself took the oath in the name of the Athenians, flinging wedges of redhot iron into the sea, after curses against such as should make breach of their vow. But afterwards, it would seem, when things were in such a state as constrained them to govern with a stronger hand, he bade the Athenians to throw the perjury upon him, and manage affairs as convenience required. And, in general, Theophrastus tells us, that Aristides was, in his own private affairs, and those of his fellow-citizens, rigorously just, but that in public matters he acted often in accordance with his country’s policy, which demanded, sometimes, not a little injustice. It is reported of him that he said in a debate, upon the motion of the Samians for removing the treasure from Delos to Athens, contrary to the league, that the thing indeed was not just, but was expedient.
In fine, having established the dominion of his city over so many people, he himself remained indigent; and always delighted as much in the glory of being poor, as Page 312 in that of his trophies; as is evident from the following story. Callias, the torchbearer, was related to him: and was prosecuted by his enemies in a capital cause, in which, after they had slightly argued the matters on which they indicted him, they proceeded, beside the point, to address the judges: “You know,” said they, “Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, who is the admiration of all Greece. In what a condition do you think his family is in at his house, when you see him appear in public in such a threadbare cloak? Is it not probable that one who, out of doors, goes thus exposed to the cold, must want food and other necessaries at home? Callias, the wealthiest of the Athenians, does nothing to relieve either him or his wife and children in their poverty, though he is his own cousin, and has made use of him in many cases, and often reaped advantage by his interest with you.” But Callias, perceiving the judges were moved more particularly by this, and were exasperated against him, called in Aristides, requiring him to testify that when he frequently offered him divers presents, and entreated him to accept them, he had refused, answering, that it became him better to be proud of his poverty than Callias of his wealth: since there are many to be seen that make a good, or a bad use of riches, but it is difficult, comparatively, to meet with one who supports poverty in a noble spirit; those only should be ashamed of it who incurred it against their wills. On Aristides deposing these facts in favor of Callias, there was none who heard them, that went not away desirous rather to be poor like Aristides, than rich as Callias. Thus Æschines, the scholar of Socrates, writes. But Plato declares, that of all the great and renowned men in the city of Athens, he was the only one worthy of consideration; for Themistocles, Cimon, and Pericles filled the city with porticoes, treasure, and many other vain things, but Aristides guided his public life by the rule of Page 313 justice. He showed his moderation very plainly in his conduct towards Themistocles himself. For though Themistocles had been his adversary in all his undertakings, and was the cause of his banishment, yet when he afforded a similar opportunity of revenge, being accused to the city, Aristides bore him no malice; but while Alcmæon, Cimon, and many others, were prosecuting and impeaching him, Aristides alone, neither did, nor said any ill against him, and no more triumphed over his enemy in his adversity, than he had envied him his prosperity.
Some say Aristides died in Pontus, during a voyage upon the affairs of the public. Others that he died of old age at Athens, being in great honor and veneration amongst his fellow-citizens. But Craterus, the Macedonian, relates his death as follows. After the banishment of Themistocles, he says, the people growing insolent, there sprung up a number of false and frivolous accusers, impeaching the best and most influential men and exposing them to the envy of the multitude, whom their good fortune and power had filled with self-conceit. Amongst these, Aristides was condemned of bribery, upon the accusation of Diophantus of Amphitrope, for taking money from the Ionians when he was collector of the tribute; and being unable to pay the fine, which was fifty minæ, sailed to Ionia, and died there. But of this Craterus brings no written proof, neither the sentence of his condemnation, nor the decree of the people; though in general it is tolerably usual with him to set down such things and to cite his authors. Almost all others who have spoken of the misdeeds of the people towards their generals, collect them all together, and tell us of the banishment of Themistocles, Miltiades’s bonds, Pericles’s fine, and the death of Paches in the judgment hall, who, upon receiving sentence, killed himself on the hustings, with many things of the like nature. They add the banishment of Aristides; but of this his condemnation, they make no mention.
Moreover, his monument is to be seen at Phalerum, which they say was built him by the city, he not having left enough even to defray funeral charges. And it is stated, that his two daughters were publicly married out of the prytaneum, or state-house, by the city, which decreed each of them three thousand drachmas for her portion; and that upon his son Lysimachus, the people bestowed a hundred minas of money, and as many acres of planted land, and ordered him besides, upon the motion of Alcibiades, four drachmas a day. Furthermore, Lysimachus leaving a daughter, named Polycrite, as Callisthenes says, the people voted her, also, the same allowance for food with those that obtained the victory in the Olympic Games. But Demetrius the Phalerian, Hieronymus the Rhodian, Aristoxenus the musician, and Aristotle, (if the Treatise of Nobility is to be reckoned among the genuine pieces of Aristotle,) say that Myrto, Aristides’s granddaughter, lived with Socrates the philosopher, who indeed had another wife, but took her into his house, being a widow, by reason of her indigence, and want of the necessaries of life. But Panætius sufficiently confutes this in his books concerning Socrates. Demetrius the Phalerian, in his Socrates, says, he knew one Lysimachus, son to the daughter of Aristides, extremely poor, who used to sit near what is called the Iaccheum, and sustained himself by a table for interpreting dreams; and that, upon his proposal and representations, a decree was passed by the people, to give the mother and aunt of this man half a drachma a day. The same Demetrius, when he was legislating himself, decreed each of these women a drachma per diem. And it is not to be wondered at, that the people of Athens should take such care of people living in the city, since hearing the granddaughter of Aristogiton was in a low condition in the isle of Lemnos, and so poor nobody would marry her they brought her back to Athens, and, marrying her to a man of good birth, gave a farm at Potamus as her marriage-portion; and of similar humanity and bounty the city of Athens, even in our age, has given numerous proofs, and is justly admired and respected in consequence.
Marcus Cato, we are told, was born at Tusculum though (till he betook himself to civil and military affairs) he lived and was bred up in the country of the Sabines, where his father’s estate lay. His ancestors seeming almost entirely unknown, he himself praises his father Marcus, as a worthy man and a brave soldier, and Cato, his great grandfather too, as one who had often obtained military prizes, and who, having lost five horses under him, received, on the account of his valor, the worth of them out of the public exchequer. Now it being the custom among the Romans to call those who, having no repute by birth, made themselves eminent by their own exertions, new men or upstarts, they called even Cato himself so, and so he confessed himself to be as to any public distinction or employment, but yet asserted that in the exploits and virtues of his ancestors he was very ancient. His third name originally was not Cato, but Priscus, though afterwards he had the surname of Cato, by reason of his abilities; for the Romans call a skilful or experienced man, Catus. He was of a ruddy complexion, and grey-eyed; as the writer, who, with no good-will, made the following epigram upon him, lets us see: —
He gained, in early life, a good habit of body by working with his own hands, and living temperately, and serving in war; and seemed to have an equal proportion both of health and strength. And he exerted and practised his eloquence through all the neighborhood and little villages; thinking it as requisite as a second body, and an all but necessary organ to one who looks forward to something above a mere humble and inactive life. He would never refuse to be counsel for those who needed him, and was, indeed, early reckoned a good lawyer, and, ere long, a capable orator.
Hence his solidity and depth of character showed itself gradually, more and more to those with whom he was concerned, and claimed, as it were, employment in great affairs, and places of public command. Nor did he merely abstain from taking fees for his counsel and pleading, but did not even seem to put any high price on the honor which proceeded from such kind of combats, seeming much more desirous to signalize himself in the camp and in real fights; and while yet but a youth, had his breast covered with scars he had received from the enemy; being (as he himself says) but seventeen years old, when he made his first campaign; in the time when Hannibal, in the height of his success, was burning and pillaging all Italy. In engagements he would strike boldly, without flinching, stand firm to his ground, fix a bold countenance upon his enemies, and with a harsh threatening voice accost them, justly thinking himself and telling others, that such a rugged kind of behavior sometimes terrifies the enemy more than the sword itself. In his marches, he bore his own arms on foot, whilst one servant only followed, to carry the provisions for his table, with whom he is said never to have been angry or hasty, whilst he made ready his dinner or supper, but would, for the most part, when he was free from military duty, assist and help him himself to dress it. When he was with the army, he used to drink only water; unless, perhaps, when extremely thirsty, he might mingle it with a little vinegar; or if he found his strength fail him, take a little wine.
The little country house of Manius Curius, who had been thrice carried in triumph, happened to be near his farm; so that often going thither, and contemplating the small compass of the place, and plainness of the dwelling, he formed an idea of the mind of the person, who, being one of the greatest of the Romans, and having subdued the most warlike nations, nay, had driven Pyrrhus out of Italy, now, after three triumphs, was contented to dig in so small a piece of ground, and live in such a cottage. Here it was that the ambassadors of the Samnites, finding him boiling turnips in the chimney corner, offered him a present of gold; but he sent them away with this saying; that he, who was content with such a supper, had no need of gold; and that he thought it more honorable to conquer those who possessed the gold, than to possess the gold itself. Cato, after reflecting upon these things, used to return, and reviewing his own farm, his servants, and housekeeping, increase his labor, and retrench all superfluous expenses.
When Fabius Maximus took Tarentum, Cato, being then but a youth, was a soldier under him; and being lodged with one Nearchus, a Pythagorean, desired to understand some of his doctrine, and hearing from him the language, which Plato also uses, — that pleasure is evil’s chief bait; the body the principal calamity of the soul; and that those thoughts which most separate and take it off from the affections of the body, most enfranchise and purify it; he fell in love the more with frugality and temperance. With this exception, he is said not to have studied Greek until when he was pretty old; and in rhetoric, to have then profited a little by Thucydides, but more by Demosthenes: his writings, however, are considerably embellished with Greek sayings and stories; nay, many of these, translated word for word, are placed with his own apophthegms and sentences.
There was a man of the highest rank, and very influential among the Romans, called Valerius Flaccus, who was singularly skilful in discerning excellence yet in the bud, and, also, much disposed to nourish and advance it. He, it seems, had lands bordering upon Cato’s; nor could he but admire, when he understood from his servants the manner of his living, how he labored with his own hands, went on foot betimes in the morning to the courts to assist those who wanted his counsel; how, returning home again, when it was winter, he would throw a loose frock* over his shoulders, and in the summer time would work without any thing on among his domestics, sit down with them, eat of the same bread, and drink of the same wine. When they spoke, also, of other good qualities, his fair dealing and moderation, mentioning also some of his wise sayings, he ordered, that he should be invited to supper; and thus becoming personally assured of his fine temper and his superior character which, like a plant, seemed only to require culture and a better situation, he urged and persuaded him to apply himself to state affairs at Rome. Thither, therefore, he went, and by his pleading soon gained many friends and admirers; but, Valerius chiefly assisting his promotion, he first of all got appointed tribune in the army, and afterwards was made quæstor, or treasurer. And now becoming eminent and noted, he Page 320 passed, with Valerius himself, through the greatest commands, being first his colleague as consul, and then censor. But among all the ancient senators, he most attached himself to Fabius Maximus; not so much for the honor of his person, and greatness of his power, as that he might have before him his habit and manner of life, as the best examples to follow: and so he did not hesitate to oppose Scipio the Great, who, being then but a young man, seemed to set himself against the power of Fabius, and to be envied by him. For being sent together with him as treasurer, when he saw him, according to his natural custom, make great expenses, and distribute among the soldiers without sparing, he freely told him that the expense in itself was not the greatest thing to be considered, but that he was corrupting the ancient frugality of the soldiers, by giving them the means to abandon themselves to unnecessary pleasures and luxuries. Scipio answered, that he had no need for so accurate a treasurer, (bearing on as he was, so to say, full sail to the war,) and that he owed the people an account of his actions, and not of the money he spent. Hereupon Cato returned from Sicily, and, together with Fabius, made loud complaints in the open senate of Scipio’s lavishing unspeakable sums, and childishly loitering away his time in wrestling matches and comedies, as if he were not to make war, but holiday; and thus succeeded in getting some of the tribunes of the people sent to call him back to Rome, in case the accusations should prove true. But Scipio demonstrating, as it were, to them, by his preparations, the coming victory, and, being found merely to be living pleasantly with his friends, when there was nothing else to do, but in no respect because of that easiness and liberality at all the more negligent in things of consequence and moment, without impediment, set sail towards the war.
Cato grew more and more powerful by his eloquence, so that he was commonly called the Roman Demosthenes but his manner of life was yet more famous and talked of. For oratorical skill was, as an accomplishment, commonly studied and sought after by all young men; but he was very rare who would cultivate the old habits of bodily labor, or prefer a light supper, and a breakfast which never saw the fire; or be in love with poor clothes and a homely lodging, or could set his ambition rather on doing without luxuries than on possessing them. For now the state, unable to keep its purity by reason of its greatness, and having so many affairs, and people from all parts under its government, was fain to admit many mixed customs, and new examples of living. With reason, therefore, everybody admired Cato, when they saw others sink under labors, and grow effeminate by pleasures; and yet beheld him unconquered by either, and that not only when he was young and desirous of honor, but also when old and greyheaded, after a consulship and triumph; like some famous victor in the games, persevering in his exercise and maintaining his character to the very last. He himself says, that he never wore a suit of clothes which cost more than a hundred drachmas; and that, when he was general and consul, he drank the same wine which his workmen did; and that the meat or fish which was bought in the market for his dinner, did not cost above thirty asses. All which was for the sake of the commonwealth, that so his body might be the hardier for the war. Having a piece of embroidered Babylonian tapestry left him, he sold it; because none of his farm-houses were so much as plastered. Nor did he ever buy a slave for above fifteen hundred drachmas; as he did not seek for effeminate and handsome ones, but able, sturdy workmen, horse-keepers and cow-herds: and these he thought ought to be sold again, when they grew old, and no useless servants fed in a house. In short, he reckoned nothing a good bargain, which was superfluous; but whatever it was, though sold for a farthing, he would think it a great price, if you had no need of it; and was for the purchase of lands for sowing and feeding, rather than grounds for sweeping and watering.
Some imputed these things to petty avarice, but others approved of him, as if he had only the more strictly denied himself for the rectifying and amending of others. Yet certainly, in my judgment, it marks an over-rigid temper, for a man to take the work out of his servants as out of brute beasts, turning them off and selling them in their old age, and thinking there ought to be no further commerce between man and man, than whilst there arises some profit by it. We see that kindness or humanity has a larger field than bare justice to exercise itself in; law and justice we cannot, in the nature of things, employ on others than men; but we may extend our goodness and charity even to irrational creatures; and such acts flow from a gentle nature, as water from an abundant spring. It is doubtless the part of a kind-natured man to keep even worn-out horses and dogs, and not only take care of them when they are foals and whelps, but also when they are grown old. The Athenians, when they built their Hecatompedon,* turned those mules loose to feed freely, which they had observed to have done the hardest labor. One of these (they say) came once of itself to offer its service, and ran along with, nay, and went before, the teams which drew the waggons up to the acropolis, as if it would incite and encourage them to draw more stoutly; upon which there passed a vote, that the creature should be kept at the public charge even till it died. The graves of Cimon’s horses, which thrice won the Olympian races, are yet to be seen close by his own monument. Old Xanthippus,* too, (amongst many others who buried the dogs they had bred up,) entombed his which swam after his galley to Salamis, when the people fled from Athens, on the top of a cliff, which they call the dog’s tomb to this day. Nor are we to use living creatures like old shoes or dishes, and throw them away when they are worn out or broken with service; but if it were for nothing else, but by way of study and practice in humanity, a man ought always to prehabituate himself in these things to be of a kind and sweet disposition. As to myself, I would not so much as sell my draught ox on the account of his age, much less for a small piece of money sell a poor old man, and so chase him, as it were, from his own country, by turning him not only out of the place where he has lived a long while, but also out of the manner of living he has been accustomed to, and that more especially when he would be as useless to the buyer as to the seller. Yet Cato for all this glories that he left that very horse in Spain, which he used in the wars when he was consul, only because he would not put the public to the charge of his freight. Whether these acts are to be ascribed to the greatness or pettiness of his spirit, let every one argue as they please.
For his general temperance, however, and self-control, he really deserves the highest admiration. For when he commanded the army, he never took for himself, and those that belonged to him, above three bushels of wheat for a month, and somewhat less than a bushel and a half a day of barley for his baggage-cattle. And when he entered upon the government of Sardinia, where his predecessors had been used to require tents, bedding, and clothes upon the public account, and to charge the state heavily with the cost of provisions and entertainments for Page 324 a great train of servants and friends, the difference he showed in his economy was something incredible. There was nothing of any sort for which he put the public to expense; he would walk without a carriage to visit the cities, with one only of the common town officers, who carried his dress, and a cup to offer libation with. Yet, though he seemed thus easy and sparing to all who were under his power, he, on the other hand, showed most inflexible severity and strictness, in what related to public justice, and was rigorous, and precise in what concerned the ordinances of the commonwealth; so that the Roman government, never seemed more terrible, nor yet more mild, than under his administration.
His very manner of speaking seemed to have such a kind of idea with it; for it was courteous, and yet forcible; pleasant, yet overwhelming; facetious, yet austere; sententious, and yet vehement: like Socrates, in the description of Plato, who seemed outwardly to those about him to be but a simple, talkative, blunt fellow; whilst at the bottom he was full of such gravity and matter, as would even move tears, and touch the very hearts of his auditors. And, therefore, I know not what has persuaded some to say, that Cato’s style was chiefly like that of Lysias. However, let us leave those to judge of these things, who profess most to distinguish between the several kinds of oratorical style in Latin; whilst we write down some of his memorable sayings; being of the opinion that a man’s character appears much more by his words, than, as some think it does, by his looks.
Being once desirous to dissuade the common people of Rome, from their unseasonable and impetuous clamor for largesses and distributions of corn, he began thus to harangue them: “It is a difficult task, O citizens, to make speeches to the belly, which has no ears.” Reproving, also, their sumptuous habits, he said, it was hard to preserve a city, where a fish sold for more than an ox. He had a saying, also, that the Roman people were like sheep; for they, when single, do not obey, but when altogether in a flock, they follow their leaders: “So you,” said he, “when you have got together in a body, let yourselves be guided by those whom singly you would never think of being advised by.” Discoursing of the power of women: “Men,” said he, “usually command women; but we command all men, and the women command us.” But this, indeed, is borrowed from the sayings of Themistocles, who, when his son was making many demands of him by means of the mother, said, “O woman, the Athenians govern the Greeks; I govern the Athenians, but you govern me, and your son governs you; so let him use his power sparingly, since, simple as he is, he can do more than all the Greeks together.” Another saying of Cato’s was, that the Roman people did not only fix the value of such and such purple dyes, but also of such and such habits of life: “For,” said he, “as dyers most of all dye such colors as they see to be most agreeable, so the young men learn, and zealously affect what is most popular with you.” He also exhorted them, that if they were grown great by their virtue and temperance, they should not change for the worse; but if intemperance and vice had made them great, they should change for the better; for by that means they were grown indeed quite great enough. He would say, likewise, of men who wanted to be continually in office, that apparently they did not know their road; since they could not do without beadles to guide them on it. He also reproved the citizens for choosing still the same men as their magistrates: “For you will seem,” said he, “either not to esteem government worth much, or to think few worthy to hold it.” Speaking, too, of a certain enemy of his, who lived a very base and discreditable life: “It is considered,” he said, “rather as a curse than a blessing on him, that this fellow’s mother prays that she may leave him behind her.” Pointing at one who had sold the land which his father had left him, and which lay near the sea-side, he pretended to express his wonder at his being stronger even than the sea itself; for what it washed away with a great deal of labor, he with a great deal of ease drank away. When the senate, with a great deal of splendor, received king Eumenes on his visit to Rome, and the chief citizens strove who should be most about him, Cato appeared to regard him with suspicion and apprehension; and when one that stood by, too, took occasion to say, that he was a very good prince, and a great lover of the Romans: “It may be so,” said Cato, “but by nature this same animal of a king, is a kind of maneater;” nor, indeed, were there ever kings who deserved to be compared with Epaminondas, Pericles, Themistocles, Manius Curius, or Hamilcar, surnamed Barcas. He used to say, too, that his enemies envied him; because he had to get up every day before light, and neglect his own business to follow that of the public. He would also tell you, that he had rather be deprived of the reward for doing well, than not to suffer the punishment for doing ill; and that he could pardon all offenders but himself.
The Romans having sent three ambassadors to Bithynia, of whom one was gouty, another had his scull trepanned, and the other seemed little better than a fool; Cato, laughing, gave out, that the Romans had sent an embassy, which had neither feet, head, nor heart.* His interest being entreated by Scipio, on account of Polybius, for the Achæan exiles, and there happening to be a great discussion in the senate about it, some being for, and some against their return; Cato, standing up, thus delivered himself: “Here do we sit all day long, as if we had nothing to do, but beat our brains whether these old Greeks should be carried to their graves by the bearers here, or by those in Achæa.” The senate voting their return, it seems that a few days after Polybius’s friends further wished that it should be moved in the senate, that the said banished persons should receive again the honors which they first had in Achæa; and, to this purpose, they sounded Cato for his opinion; but he, smiling, answered, that Polybius, Ulysses like, having escaped out of the Cyclops’ den, wanted, it would seem, to go back again because he had left his cap and belt behind him.* He used to assert, also, that wise men profited more by fools, than fools by wise men; for that wise men avoided the faults of fools, but that fools would not imitate the good examples of wise men. He would profess, too, that he was more taken with young men that blushed, than with those who looked pale; and that he never desired to have a soldier that moved his hands too much in marching, and his feet too much in fighting; or snored louder than he shouted. Ridiculing a fat overgrown man: “What use,” said he, “can the state turn a man’s body to, when all between the throat and groin is taken up by the belly?” When one who was much given to pleasures desired his acquaintance, begging his pardon, he said, he could not live with a man whose palate was of a quicker sense than his heart. He would likewise say, that the soul of a lover lived in the body of another: and that in his whole life he most repented of three things; one was, that he had trusted a secret to a woman; another, that he went by water when he might have gone by land; the third, that he had remained one whole day without doing any business of moment.* Applying himself to an old man who was committing some vice: “Friend,” said he, “old age has of itself blemishes enough; do not you add to it the deformity of vice.” Speaking to a tribune, who was reputed a poisoner, and was very violent for the bringing in of a bill, in order to make a certain law: “Young man,” cried he, “I know not which would be better, to drink what you mix, or confirm what you would put up for a law.” Being reviled by a fellow who lived a profligate and wicked life: “A contest,” replied he, “is unequal between you and me; for you can hear ill words easily, and can as easily give them; but it is unpleasant to me to give such, and unusual to hear them.” Such was his manner of expressing himself in his memorable sayings.
Being chosen consul, with his friend and familiar Valerius Flaccus, the government of that part of Spain which the Romans call the Hither Spain, fell to his lot. Here, as he was engaged in reducing some of the tribes by force, and bringing over others by good words, a large army of barbarians fell upon him, so that there was danger of being disgracefully forced out again. He therefore called upon his neighbors, the Celtiberians, for help; and on their demanding two hundred talents for their assistance, everybody else thought it intolerable, that ever the Romans should promise barbarians a reward for their aid; but Cato said, there was no discredit or harm in it; for if they overcame, they would pay them out of the enemy’s purse, and not out of their own; but if they were overcome, there would be nobody left either to demand the reward or to pay it. However, he won that battle completely, and after that, all his other affairs succeeded splendidly. Polybius says, that by his command the walls of all the cities, on this side the river Bætis, were in one day’s time demolished, and yet there were a great many of them full of brave and warlike men. Cato himself says, that he took more cities than he stayed days in Spain. Neither is this a mere rhodomontade, if it be true, that the number was four hundred. And though the soldiers themselves had got much in the fights, yet he distributed a pound of silver to every man of them, saying, it was better, that many of the Romans should return home with silver, rather than a few with gold. For himself he affirms, that of all the things that were taken, nothing came to him beyond what he ate and drank. “Neither do I find fault,” continued he, “with those that seek to profit by these spoils, but I had rather compete in valor with the best, than in wealth with the richest, or with the most covetous in love of money.” Nor did he merely keep himself clear from taking any thing, but even all those who more immediately belonged to him. He had five servants with him in the army; one of whom called Paccus, bought three boys, out of those who were taken captive; which Cato coming to understand, the man rather than venture into his presence, hanged himself. Cato sold the boys, and carried the price he got for them into the public exchequer.
Scipio the Great, being his enemy, and desiring, whilst he was carrying all things so successfully, to obstruct him, and take the affairs of Spain into his own hands, succeeded in getting himself appointed his successor in the government, and, making all possible haste, put a term to Cato’s authority. But he, taking with him a convoy of five cohorts of foot, and five hundred horse to attend him home, overthrew by the way the Lacetanians, and taking from them six hundred deserters, caused them all to be beheaded; upon which Scipio seemed to be in indignation, but Cato, in mock disparagement of himself, said, “Rome would become great indeed, if the most honorable and great men would not yield up the first place of valor to those who were more obscure, and when they who were of the commonalty (as he himself was) would contend in valor with those who were most eminent in birth and honor.” The senate having voted to change nothing of what had been established by Cato, the government passed away under Scipio to no manner of purpose, in idleness and doing nothing; and so diminished his credit much more than Cato’s. Nor did Cato, who now received a triumph, remit after this and slacken the reins of virtue, as many do, who strive not so much for virtue’s sake, as for vainglory, and having attained the highest honors, as the consulship and triumphs, pass the rest of their life in pleasure and idleness, and quit all public affairs. But he, like those who are just entered upon public life for the first time, and thirst after gaining honor and glory in some new office, strained himself, as if he were but just setting out; and offering still publicly his service to his friends and citizens, would give up neither his pleadings nor his soldiery.
He accompanied and assisted Tiberius Sempronius, as his lieutenant, when he went into Thrace and to the Danube; and, in the quality of tribune, went with Manius Acilius into Greece, against Antiochus the Great, who, after Hannibal, more than any one struck terror into the Romans. For having reduced once more under a single command almost the whole of Asia, all, namely, that Seleucus Nicator had possessed, and having brought into obedience many warlike nations of the barbarians, he longed to fall upon the Romans, as if they only were now worthy to fight with him. So across he came with his forces, pretending, as a specious cause of the war, that it was to free the Greeks, who had indeed no need of it, they having been but newly delivered from the power of king Philip and the Macedonians, and made independent, with the free use of their own laws, by the goodness of the Romans themselves; so that all Greece was in commotion and excitement, having been corrupted by the hopes of royal aid which the popular leaders in their cities put them into. Manius, therefore, sent ambassadors to the different cities; and Titus Flamininus (as is written in the account of him) suppressed and quieted most of the attempts of the innovators, without any trouble. Cato brought over the Corinthians, those of Patræ and of Ægium, and spent a good deal of time at Athens. There is also an oration of his said to be extant, which he spoke in Greek to the people; in which he expressed his admiration of the virtue of the ancient Athenians, and signified that he came with a great deal of pleasure to be a spectator of the beauty and greatness of their city. But this is a fiction; for he spoke to the Athenians by an interpreter, though he was able to have spoken himself; but he wished to observe the usage of his own country, and laughed at those who admired nothing but what was in Greek. Jesting upon Postumius Albinus, who had written an historical work in Greek, and requested that allowances might be made for his attempt, he said, that allowance indeed might be made, if he had done it under the express compulsion of an Amphictyonic decree. The Athenians, he says, admired the quickness and vehemence of his speech; for an interpreter would be very long in repeating what he expressed with a great deal of brevity; but on the whole he professed to believe, that the words of the Greeks came only from their lips, whilst those of the Romans came from their hearts.
Now Antiochus, having occupied with his army the narrow passages about Thermopylæ, and added palisades and walls to the natural fortifications of the place, sat down there, thinking he had done enough to divert the war; and the Romans, indeed, seemed wholly to despair of forcing the passage; but Cato, calling to mind the compass and circuit which the Persians had formerly made to come at this place, went forth in the night, taking along with him part of the army. Whilst they were climbing up, the guide, who was a prisoner, missed the way, and wandering up and down by impracticable and precipitous paths, filled the soldiers with fear and despondency. Cato, perceiving the danger, commanded all the rest to halt, and stay where they were, whilst he himself, taking along with him one Lucius Manlius, a most expert man at climbing mountains, went forward with a great deal of labor and danger, in the dark night, and without the least moonshine, among the wild olive trees, and steep craggy rocks, there being nothing but precipices and darkness before their eyes, till they struck into a little pass which they thought might lead down into the enemy’s camp. There they put up marks upon some conspicuous peaks which surmount the hill called Callidromon, and returning again, they led the army along with them to the said marks, till they got into their little path again, and there once made a halt; but when they began to go further, the path deserted them at a precipice, where they were in another strait and fear; nor did they perceive that they were all this while near the enemy. And now the day began to give some light, when they seemed to hear a noise, and presently after to see the Greek trenches and the guard at the foot of the rock. Here, therefore, Cato halted his forces, and commanded the troops from Firmum only, without the rest, to stick by him, as he had always found them faithful and ready. And when they came up and formed around him in close order, he thus spoke to them. “I desire,” he said, “to take one of the enemy alive, that so I may understand what men these are who guard the passage; their number; and with what discipline, order, and preparation they expect us; but this feat,” continued he, “must be an act of a great deal of quickness and boldness, such as that of lions, when they dart upon some timorous animal.” Cato had no sooner thus expressed himself, but the Firmans forthwith rushed down the mountain, just as they were, upon the guard, and, falling unexpectedly upon them, affirghted and dispersed them all. One armed man they took, and brought to Cato, who quickly learned from him, that the rest of the forces lay in the narrow passage about the king; that those who kept the tops of the rocks were six hundred choice Ætolians. Cato, therefore, despising the smallness of their number and carelessness, forthwith drawing his sword, fell upon them with a great noise of trumpets and shouting. The enemy, perceiving them thus tumbling, as it were, upon them from the precipices, flew to the main body, and put all things into disorder there.
In the mean time, whilst Manius was forcing the works below, and pouring the thickest of his forces into the narrow passages, Antiochus was hit in the mouth with a stone, so that his teeth being beaten out by it, he felt such excessive pain, that he was fain to turn away with his horse; nor did any part of his army stand the shock of the Romans. Yet, though there seemed no reasonable hope of flight, where all paths were so difficult, and where there were deep marshes and steep rocks, which looked as if they were ready to receive those who should stumble, the fugitives, nevertheless, crowding and pressing together in the narrow passages, destroyed even one another in their terror of the swords and blows of the enemy. Cato (as it plainly appears) was never oversparing of his own praises, and seldom shunned boasting of any exploit; which quality, indeed, he seems to have thought the natural accompaniment of great actions; and with these particular exploits he was highly puffed up; he says, that those who saw him that day pursuing and slaying the enemies, were ready to assert, that Cato owed not so much to the public, as the public did to Cato; nay, he adds, that Manius the consul, coming hot from the fight, embraced him for a great while, when both were all in a sweat; and then cried out with joy, that neither he himself, no, nor all the people together, could make him a recompense equal to his actions. After the fight he was sent to Rome, that he himself might be the messenger of it; and so, with a favorable wind, he sailed to Brundusium, and in one day got from thence to Tarentum; and having travelled four days more, upon the fifth, counting from the time of his landing, he arrived at Rome, and so brought the first news of the victory himself; and filled the whole city with joy and sacrifices, and the people with the belief, that they were able to conquer every sea and every land.
These are pretty nearly all the eminent actions of Cato, relating to military affairs: in civil policy, he was of opinion, that one chief duty consisted in accusing and indicting criminals. He himself prosecuted many, and he would also assist others who prosecuted them, nay would even procure such, as he did the Petilii against Scipio; but not being able to destroy him, by reason of the nobleness of his family, and the real greatness of his mind, which enabled him to trample all calumnies underfoot, Cato at last would meddle no more with him; yet joining with the accusers against Scipio’s brother Lucius, he succeeded in obtaining a sentence against him, which condemned him to the payment of a large sum of money to Page 335 the state; and being insolvent, and in danger of being thrown into jail, he was, by the interposition of the tribunes of the people, with much ado dismissed. It is also said of Cato, that when he met a certain youth, who had effected the disgrace of one of his father’s enemies, walking in the market-place, he shook him by the hand, telling him, that this was what we ought to sacrifice to our dead parents — not lambs and goats, but the tears and condemnations of their adversaries. But neither did he himself escape with impunity in his management of affairs; for if he gave his enemies but the least hold, he was still in danger, and exposed to be brought to justice. He is reported to have escaped at least fifty indictments; and one above the rest, which was the last, when he was eighty-six years old, about which time he uttered the well-known saying, that it was hard for him who had lived with one generation of men, to plead now before another. Neither did he make this the last of his lawsuits; for, four years after, when he was fourscore and ten, he accused Servilius Galba: so that his life and actions extended, we may say, as Nestor’s did, over three ordinary ages of man. For, having had many contests, as we have related, with Scipio the Great, about affairs of state, he continued them down even to Scipio the younger, who was the adopted grandson of the former, and the son of that Paulus, who overthrew Perseus and the Macedonians.
Ten years after his consulship, Cato stood for the office of censor, which was indeed the summit of all honor, and in a manner the highest step in civil affairs; for besides all other power, it had also that of an inquisition into every one’s life and manners. For the Romans thought that no marriage, or rearing of children, nay, no feast or drinking-bout ought to be permitted according to every one’s appetite or fancy, without being examined and inquired into; being indeed of opinion, that a man’s character was much sooner perceived in things of this sort, than in what is done publicly and in open day. They chose, therefore, two persons, one out of the patricians, the other out of the commons, who were to watch, correct, and punish, if any one ran too much into voluptuousness, or transgressed the usual manner of life of his country; and these they called Censors. They had power to take away a horse,* or expel out of the senate any one who lived intemperately and out of order. It was also their business to take an estimate of what every one was worth, and to put down in registers everybody’s birth and quality; besides many other prerogatives. And therefore the chief nobility opposed his pretensions to it. Jealousy prompted the patricians, who thought that it would be a stain to everybody’s nobility, if men of no original honor should rise to the highest dignity and power; while others, conscious of their own evil practices, and of the violation of the laws and customs of their country, were afraid of the austerity of the man; which, in an office of such great power was likely to prove most uncompromising and severe. And so consulting among themselves, they brought forward seven candidates in opposition to him, who sedulously set themselves to court the people’s favor by fair promises, as though what they wished for was indulgent and easy government. Cato, on the contrary, promising no such mildness, but plainly threatening evil livers, from the very hustings openly declared himself; and exclaiming, that the city needed a great and thorough purgation, called upon the people, if they were wise, not to choose the gentlest, but the roughest of physicians; such a one, he said, he was, and Valerius Flaccus, one of the patricians, another; together with him, he doubted not but he should do something worth the while, and that, by cutting to pieces and burning like a hydra,* all luxury and voluptuousness. He added, too, that he saw all the rest endeavoring after the office with ill intent, because they were afraid of those who would exercise it justly, as they ought. And so truly great and so worthy of great men to be its leaders was, it would seem, the Roman people, that they did not fear the severity and grim countenance of Cato, but rejecting those smooth promisers who were ready to do all things to ingratiate themselves, they took him, together with Flaccus; obeying his recommendations not as though he were a candidate, but as if he had had the actual power of commanding and governing already.
Cato named as chief of the senate, his friend and colleague Lucius Valerius Flaccus, and expelled, among many others, Lucius Quintius, who had been consul seven years before, and (which was greater honor to him than the consulship) brother to that Titus Flamininus, who overthrew king Philip. The reason he had for his expulsion, was this. Lucius, it seems, took along with him in all his commands, a youth, whom he had kept as his companion from the flower of his age, and to whom he gave as much power and respect as to the chiefest of his friends and relations.
Now it happened that Lucius being consular governor of one of the provinces, the youth setting himself down by him, as he used to do, among other flatteries with which he played upon him, when he was in his cups, told him he loved him so dearly that, “though there was a show of gladiators to be seen at Rome, and I,” he said, “had never beheld one in my life; and though I, as it were, longed to see a man killed, yet I made all possible haste to come to you.” Upon this Lucius, returning his fondness, replied, “Do not be melancholy on that account; I can remedy that.” Ordering therefore, forthwith, one of those condemned to die to be brought to the feast, together with the headsman and axe, he asked the youth if he wished to see him executed. The boy answering that he did, Lucius commanded the executioner to cut off his neck; and this several historians mention; and Cicero, indeed, in his dialogue de Senectute, introduces Cato relating it himself. But Livy says, that he that was killed was a Gaulish deserter, and that Lucius did not execute him by the stroke of the executioner, but with his own hand; and that it is so stated in Cato’s speech.
Lucius being thus expelled out of the senate by Cato, his brother took it very ill, and appealing to the people, desired that Cato should declare his reasons; and when he began to relate this transaction of the feast, Lucius endeavored to deny it; but Cato challenging him to a formal investigation,* he fell off and refused it, so that he was then acknowledged to suffer deservedly. Afterwards, however, when there was some show at the theatre, he passed by the seats where those who had been consuls used to be placed, and taking his seat a great way off, excited the compassion of the common people, who presently with a great noise made him go forward, and as much as they could, tried to set right and salve over what had happened. Manilius, also, who, according to the public expectation, would have been next consul, he threw out of the senate, because, in the presence of his daughter, and in open day, he had kissed his wife. He said, that as for himself, his wife never came into his arms except when there was great thunder; so that it was a jest with him, that it was a pleasure for him, when Jupiter thundered.
His treatment of Lucius, likewise, the brother of Scipio, and one who had been honored with a triumph, occasioned some odium against Cato; for he took his horse from him, and was thought to do it with a design of putting an affront on Scipio Africanus, now dead. But he gave most general annoyance, by retrenching people’s luxury; for though (most of the youth being thereby already corrupted) it seemed almost impossible to take it away with an open hand and directly, yet going, as it were, obliquely around, he caused all dress, carriages, women’s ornaments, household furniture, whose price exceeded one thousand five hundred drachmas, to be rated at ten times as much as they were worth; intending by thus making the assessments greater, to increase the taxes paid upon them. He also ordained that upon every thousand asses of property of this kind, three* should be paid, so that people, burdened with these extra charges, and seeing others of as good estates, but more frugal and sparing, paying less into the public exchequer, might be tired out of their prodigality. And thus, on the one side, not only those were disgusted at Cato, who bore the taxes for the sake of their luxury, but those, too, who on the other side laid by their luxury for fear of the taxes. For people in general reckon, that an order not to display their riches, is equivalent to the taking away their riches; because riches are seen much more in superfluous, than in necessary, things. Indeed, this was what excited the wonder of Ariston the philosopher; that we account those who possess superfluous things more happy than those who abound with what is necessary and useful. But when one of his friends asked Scopas, the rich Thessalian, to give him some article of no great utility, saying that it was not a thing that he had any great need or use for himself, “In truth,” replied he, “it is just these useless and unnecessary things that make my wealth and happiness.” Thus the desire of riches does not proceed from a natural passion within us, but arises rather from vulgar out-of-doors opinion of other people.
Cato, notwithstanding, being little solicitous as to those who exclaimed against him, increased his austerity. He caused the pipes, through which some persons brought the public water into their own houses and gardens, to be cut, and threw down all buildings which jutted out into the common streets. He beat down also the price in contracts for public works to the lowest, and raised it in contracts for farming the taxes to the highest sum; by which proceedings he drew a great deal of hatred on himself. Those who were of Titus Flamininus’s party cancelled in the senate all the bargains and contracts made by him for the repairing and carrying on of the sacred and public buildings, as unadvantageous to the commonwealth. They incited also the boldest of the tribunes of the people to accuse him, and to fine him two talents. They likewise much opposed him in building the court or basilica, which he caused to be erected at the common charge, just by the senate-house, in the market-place, and called by his own name, the Porcian. However, the people, it seems, liked his censorship wondrously well; for, setting up a statue for him in the temple of the goddess of Health, they put an inscription under it, not recording his commands in war or his triumph, but to the effect, that this was Cato the Censor, who, by his good discipline and wise and temperate ordinances, reclaimed the Roman commonwealth when it was declining and sinking down into vice. Before this honor was done to himself, he used to laugh at those who loved such kind of things, saying, that they did not see that they were taking pride in the workmanship of brass-founders and painters; whereas the citizens bore about his best likeness in their breasts. And when any seemed to wonder, that he should have never a statue, while many ordinary persons had one; “I would,” said he, “much rather be asked, why I have not one, than why I have one.” In short, he would not have any honest citizen endure to be praised, except it might prove advantageous to the commonwealth. Yet still he had passed the highest commendation on himself; for he tells us that those who did any thing wrong, and were found fault with, used to say, it was not worth while to blame them; for they were not Catos. He also adds, that they who awkwardly mimicked some of his actions, were called left-handed Catos; and that the senate in perilous times would cast their eyes on him, as upon a pilot in a ship, and that often when he was not present they put off affairs of greatest consequence. These things are indeed also testified of him by others; for he had a great authority in the city, alike for his life, his eloquence, and his age.
He was also a good father, an excellent husband to his wife, and an extraordinary economist; and as he did not manage his affairs of this kind carelessly, and as things of little moment, I think I ought to record a little further whatever was commendable in him in these points. He married a wife more noble than rich; being of opinion, that the rich and the high-born are equally haughty and proud; but that those of noble blood, would be more ashamed of base things, and consequently more obedient to their husbands in all that was fit and right. A man who beat his wife or child, laid violent hands, he said, on what was most sacred; and a good husband he reckoned worthy of more praise than a great senator; and he admired the ancient Socrates for nothing so much, as for having lived a temperate and contented life with a wife who was a scold, and children who were half-witted.
As soon as he had a son born, though he had never such urgent business upon his hands, unless it were some public matter, he would be by when his wife washed it, and dressed it in its swaddling clothes. For she herself suckled it, nay, she often too gave her breast to her servants’ children, to produce, by sucking the same milk, a kind of natural love in them to her son. When he began to come to years of discretion, Cato himself would teach him to read, although he had a servant, a very good grammarian, called Chilo, who taught many others; but he thought not fit, as he himself said, to have his son reprimanded by a slave, or pulled, it may be, by the ears when found tardy in his lesson: nor would he have him owe to a servant the obligation of so great a thing as his learning; he himself, therefore, (as we were saying,) taught him his grammar, law, and his gymnastic exercises. Nor did he only show him, too, how to throw a dart, to fight in armor, and to ride, but to box also and to endure both heat and cold, and to swim over the most rapid and rough rivers. He says, likewise, that he wrote histories, in large characters, with his own hand, that so his son, without stirring out of the house, might learn to know about his countrymen and forefathers: nor did he less abstain from speaking any thing obscene before his son, than if it had been in the presence of the sacred virgins, called vestals. Nor would he ever go into the bath with him; which seems indeed to have been the common custom of the Romans. Sons-in-law used to avoid bathing with fathers-in-law, disliking to see one another naked: but having, in time, learned of the Greeks to strip before men, they have since taught the Greeks to do it even with the women themselves.
Thus, like an excellent work, Cato formed and fashioned his son to virtue; nor had he any occasion to find fault with his readiness and docility; but as he proved to be of too weak a constitution for hardships, he did not insist on requiring of him any very austere way of living. However, though delicate in health, he proved a stout man in the field, and behaved himself valiantly when Paulus Æmilius fought against Perseus; where when his sword was struck from him by a blow, or rather slipped out of his hand by reason of its moistness, he so keenly resented it, that he turned to some of his friends about him, and taking them along with him again, fell upon the enemy; and having by a long fight and much force cleared the place, at length found it among great heaps of arms, and the dead bodies of friends as well as enemies piled one upon another. Upon which Paulus, his general, much commended the youth; and there is a letter of Cato’s to his son, which highly praises his honorable eagerness for the recovery of his sword. Afterwards he married Tertia, Æmilius Paulus’s daughter, and sister to Scipio; nor was he admitted into this family less for his own worth than his father’s. So that Cato’s care in his son’s education came to a very fitting result.
He purchased a great many slaves out of the captives taken in war, but chiefly bought up the young ones, who were capable to be, as it were, broken and taught like whelps and colts. None of these ever entered another man’s house, except sent either by Cato himself or his wife. If any one of them were asked what Cato did, they answered merely, that they did not know. When a servant was at home, he was obliged either to do some work or sleep; for indeed Cato loved those most who used to lie down often to sleep, accounting them more docile than those who were wakeful, and more fit for any thing when they were refreshed with a little slumber. Being also of opinion, that the great cause of the laziness and misbehavior of slaves was their running after their pleasures, he fixed a certain price for them to pay for permission amongst themselves, but would suffer no connections out of the house. At first, when he was but a poor soldier, he would not be difficult in any thing which related to his eating, but looked upon it as a pitiful thing to quarrel with a servant for the belly’s sake; but afterwards, when he grew richer, and made any feasts for his friends and colleagues in office, as soon as supper was over he used to go with a leathern thong and scourge those who had waited or dressed the meat carelessly. He always contrived, too, that his servants should have some difference one among another, always suspecting and fearing a good understanding between them. Those who had committed any thing worthy of death, he punished, if they were found guilty by the verdict of their fellow-servants. But being after all much given to the desire of gain, he looked upon agriculture rather as a pleasure than profit; resolving, therefore, to lay out his money in safe and solid things, he purchased ponds, hot baths, grounds full of fuller’s earth, remunerative lands, pastures, and woods; from all which he drew large returns, nor could Jupiter himself, he used to say, do him much damage. He was also given to the form of usury, which is considered most odious, in traffic by sea; and that thus: — he desired that those whom he put out his money to, should have many partners; and when the number of them and their ships came to be fifty, he himself took one share through Quintio his freedman, who therefore was to sail with the adventurers, and take a part in all their proceedings; so that thus there was no danger of losing his whole stock, but only a little part, and that with a prospect of great profit.* He likewise lent money to those of his slaves who wished to borrow, with which they bought also other young ones, whom, when they had taught and bred up at his charges, they would sell again at the year’s end; but some of them Cato would keep for himself, giving just as much for them as another had offered. To incline his son to be of this kind of temper, he used to tell him, that it was not like a man, but rather like a widow woman, to lessen an estate. But the strongest indication of Cato’s avaricious humor was when he took the boldness to affirm, that he was a most wonderful, nay, a godlike man, who left more behind him than he had received.
He was now grown old, when Carneades the Academic, and Diogenes the Stoic, came as deputies from Athens to Rome, praying for release from a penalty of five hundred talents laid on the Athenians, in a suit, to which they did not appear, in which the Oropians were plaintiffs, and Sicyonians judges. All the most studious youth immediately waited on these philosophers, and frequently, with admiration, heard them speak. But the gracefulness of Carneades’s oratory, whose ability was really greatest, and his reputation equal to it, gathered large and favorable audiences, and erelong filled, like a wind, all the city with the sound of it. So that it soon began to be told, that a Greek, famous even to admiration, winning and carrying all before him, had impressed so strange a love upon the young men, that quitting all their pleasures and pastimes, they ran mad, as it were, after philosophy; which indeed much pleased the Romans in general; nor could they but with much pleasure see the youth receive so welcomely the Greek literature, and frequent the company of learned men. But Cato, on the other side, seeing this passion for words flowing into the city, from the beginning, took it ill, fearing lest the youth should be diverted that way, and so should prefer the glory of speaking well before that of arms, and doing well. And when the fame of the philosophers increased in the city, and Caius Acilius, a person of distinction, at his own request, became their interpreter to the senate at their first audience, Cato resolved, under some specious pretence, to have all philosophers cleared out of the city; and, coming into the senate, blamed the magistrates for letting these deputies stay so long a time without being despatched, though they were persons that could easily persuade the people to what they pleased; that therefore in all haste something should be determined about their petition, that so they might go home again to their own schools, and declaim to the Greek children, and leave the Roman youth, to be obedient, as hitherto, to their own laws and governors.
Yet he did this not out of any anger, as some think, to Carneades; but because he wholly despised philosophy, and out of a kind of pride, scoffed at the Greek studies and literature; as, for example, he would say, that Socrates was a prating seditious fellow, who did his best to tyrannize over his country, to undermine the ancient customs, and to entice and withdraw the citizens to opinions contrary to the laws. Ridiculing the school of Isocrates, he would add, that his scholars grew old men before they had done learning with him, as if they were to use their art and plead causes in the court of Minos in the next world. And to frighten his son from any thing that was Greek, in a more vehement tone than became one of his age, he pronounced, as it were, with the voice of an oracle, that the Romans would certainly be destroyed when they began once to be infected with Greek literature; though time indeed has shown the vanity of this his prophecy; as, in truth, the city of Rome has risen to its highest fortune, while entertaining Grecian learning. Nor had he an aversion only against the Greek philosophers, but the physicians also; for having, it seems, heard how Hippocrates, when the king of Persia sent for him, with offers of a fee of several talents, said, that he would never assist barbarians who were enemies to the Greeks; he affirmed, that this was now become a common oath taken by all physicians, and enjoined his son to have a care and avoid them; for that he himself had written a little book of prescriptions for curing those who were sick in his family; he never enjoined fasting to any one, but ordered them either vegetables, or the meat of a duck, pigeon, or leveret; such kind of diet being of light digestion, and fit for sick folks, only it made those who ate it, dream a little too much; and by the use of this kind of physic, he said, he not only made himself and those about him well, but kept them so.
However, for this his presumption, he seemed not to have escaped unpunished; for he lost both his wife and his son; though he himself, being of a strong robust constitution, held out longer; so that he would often, even in his old days, address himself to women, and when he was past a lover’s age, married a young woman, upon the following pretence. Having lost his own wife, he married his son to the daughter of Paulus Æmilius, who was sister to Scipio; so that being now a widower himself, he had a young girl who came privately to visit him; but the house being very small, and a daughter-in-law also in it, this practice was quickly discovered; for the young woman seeming once to pass through it a little too boldly, the youth, his son, though he said nothing, seemed to look somewhat indignantly upon her. The old man perceiving and understanding that what he did was disliked, without finding any fault, or saying a word, went away as his custom was, with his usual companions to the market: and among the rest, he called aloud to one Salonius, who had been a clerk under him, and asked him whether he had married his daughter? He answered, no, nor would he, till he had consulted him. Said Cato, “Then I have found out a fit son-in-law for you, if he should not displease by reason of his age; for in all other points there is no fault to be found in him; but he is indeed, as I said, extremely old.” However, Salonius desired him to undertake the business, and to give the young girl to whom he pleased, she being a humble servant of his, who stood in need of his care and patronage. Upon this Cato, without any more ado, told him, he desired to have the damsel himself. These words, as may well be imagined, at first astonished the man, conceiving that Cato was as far off from marrying, as he from a likelihood of being allied to the family of one who had been consul, and had triumphed; but perceiving him in earnest, he consented willingly; and, going onwards to the forum, they quickly completed the bargain.
Whilst the marriage was in hand, Cato’s son, taking some of his friends along with him, went and asked his father if it were for any offence he brought in a stepmother upon him? But Cato cried out, “Far from it, my son, I have no fault to find with you nor any thing of yours; only I desire to have many children, and to leave the commonwealth more such citizens as you are.” Pisistratus, the tyrant of Athens, made, they say, this answer to his sons, when they were grown men, when he married his second wife, Timonassa of Argos, by whom he had, it is said, Iophon and Thessalus. Cato had a son by this second wife, to whom from his mother, he gave the surname of Salonius.* In the mean time, his eldest died in his prætorship; of whom Cato often makes mention in his books, as having been a good man. He is said, however, to have borne the loss moderately, and like a philosopher, and was nothing the more remiss in attending to affairs of state; so that he did not, as Lucius Lucullus and Metellus Pius did, grow languid in his old age, as though public business were a duty once to be discharged, and then quitted; nor did he, like Scipio Africanus, because envy had struck at his glory, turn from the public, and change and pass away the rest of his life without doing any thing; but as one persuaded Dionysius, that the most honorable tomb he could have, would be to die in the exercise of his dominion; so Cato thought that old age to be the most honorable, which was busied in public affairs; though he would, now and then, when he had leisure, recreate himself with husbandry and writing.
And, indeed, he composed various books and histories; and in his youth, he addicted himself to agriculture for profit’s sake; for he used to say, he had but two ways of getting — agriculture and parsimony; and now, in his old age, the first of these gave him both occupation and a subject of study. He wrote one book on country matters,* in which he treated particularly even of making cakes, and preserving fruit; it being his ambition to be curious and singular in all things. His suppers, at his country-house, used also to be plentiful; he daily invited his friends and neighbors about him, and passed the time merrily with them; so that his company was not only agreeable to those of the same age, but even to younger men; for he had had experience in many things, and had been concerned in much, both by word and deed, that was worth the hearing. He looked upon a good table, as the best place for making friends; where the commendations of brave and good citizens were usually introduced, and little said of base and unworthy ones; as Cato would not give leave in his company to have any thing, either good or ill, said about them.
Some will have the overthrow of Carthage to have been one of his last acts of state; when, indeed, Scipio the younger, did by his valor give it the last blow, but the war, chiefly by the counsel and advice of Cato, was undertaken on the following occasion. Cato was sent to the Carthaginians and Masinissa, king of Numidia, who were at war with one another, to know the cause of their difference. He, it seems, had been a friend of the Romans from the beginning; and they, too, since they were conquered by Scipio, were of the Roman confederacy, having been shorn of their power by loss of territory, and a heavy tax. Finding Carthage, not (as the Romans thought) low and in an ill condition, but well manned, full of riches and all sorts of arms and ammunition, and perceiving the Carthaginians carry it high, he conceived that it was not a time for the Romans to adjust affairs between them and Masinissa; but rather that they themselves would fall into danger, unless they should find means to check this rapid new growth of Rome’s ancient irreconcilable enemy. Therefore, returning quickly to Rome, he acquainted the senate, that the former defeats and blows given to the Carthaginians, had not so much diminished their strength, as it had abated their imprudence and folly; that they were not become weaker, but more experienced in war, and did only skirmish with the Numidians, to exercise themselves the better to cope with the Romans: that the peace and league they had made was but a kind of suspension of war which awaited a fairer opportunity to break out again.
Moreover, they say that, shaking his gown, he took occasion to let drop some African figs before the senate. And on their admiring the size and beauty of them, he presently added, that the place that bore them was but Page 351 three days’ sail from Rome. Nay, he never after this gave his opinion, but at the end he would be sure to come out with this sentence, “Also, Carthage, methinks, ought utterly to be destroyed.” But Publius Scipio Nasica would always declare his opinion to the contrary, in these words, “It seems requisite to me that Carthage should still stand.” For seeing his countrymen to be grown wanton and insolent, and the people made, by their prosperity, obstinate and disobedient to the senate, and drawing the whole city, whither they would, after them, he would have had the fear of Carthage to serve as a bit to hold in the contumacy of the multitude; and he looked upon the Carthaginians as too weak to overcome the Romans, and too great to be despised by them. On the other side, it seemed a perilous thing to Cato, that a city which had been always great, and was now grown sober and wise, by reason of its former calamities, should still lie, as it were, in wait for the follies and dangerous excesses of the overpowerful Roman people; so that he thought it the wisest course to have all outward dangers removed, when they had so many inward ones among themselves.
Thus Cato, they say, stirred up the third and last war against the Carthaginians: but no sooner was the said war begun, than he died, prophesying of the person that should put an end to it, who was then only a young man; but, being tribune in the army, he in several fights gave proof of his courage and conduct. The news of which being brought to Cato’s ears at Rome, he thus expressed himself: —
This prophecy Scipio soon confirmed by his actions.
Cato left no posterity, except one son by his second wife, who was named, as we said, Cato Salonius; and a grandson by his eldest son, who died. Cato Salonius died when he was prætor, but his son Marcus was afterwards consul, and he was grandfather of Cato the philosopher, who for virtue and renown was one of the most eminent personages of his time.*
COMPARISON OF ARISTIDES WITH MARCUS CATO
Having mentioned the most memorable actions of these great men, if we now compare the whole life of the one with that of the other, it will not be easy to discern the difference between them, lost as it is amongst such a number of circumstances in which they resemble each other. If, however, we examine them in detail as we might some piece of poetry, or some picture, we shall find this common to them both, that they advanced themselves to great honor and dignity in the commonwealth, by no other means than their own virtue and industry. But it seems when Aristides appeared, Athens was not at its height of grandeur and plenty, the chief magistrates and officers of his time being men only of moderate and equal fortunes among themselves. The estimate of the greatest estates then, was five hundred medimns; that of the second, or knights, three hundred; of the third and last called Zeugitæ, two hundred. But Cato, out of a petty village from a country life, leaped into the commonwealth, as it were into a vast ocean; at a time when there were no such governors as the Curii, Fabricii, and Hostilii. Poor laboring men were not then advanced from the plough and spade to be governors and magistrates; but greatness of family, riches, profuse gifts, distributions, and personal application were what the city looked to; keeping a high hand, and, in a manner, insulting over those that courted preferment. It was not as great a matter to have Themistocles for an adversary, a person of mean extraction and small fortune, (for he was not worth, it is said, more than four or five talents when he first applied himself to public affairs,) as to contest with a Scipio Africanus, a Servius Galba, and a Quintius Flamininus, having no other aid but a tongue free to assert right.
Besides, Aristides at Marathon, and again at Platæa, was but one commander out of ten; whereas Cato was chosen consul with a single colleague, having many competitors, and with a single colleague, also, was preferred before seven most noble and eminent pretenders to be censor. But Aristides was never principal in any action; for Miltiades carried the day at Marathon, at Salamis Themistocles, and at Platæa, Herodotus tells us, Pausanias got the glory of that noble victory: and men like Sophanes, and Aminias, Callimachus, and Cynægyrus, behaved themselves so well in all those engagements, as to contest it with Aristides even for the second place. But Cato not only in his consulship was esteemed the chief in courage and conduct in the Spanish war, but even whilst he was only serving as tribune at Thermopylæ, under another’s command, he gained the glory of the victory, for having, as it were, opened a wide gate for the Romans to rush in upon Antiochus, and for having brought the war on his back, whilst he only minded what was before his face. For that victory, which was beyond dispute all Cato’s own work, cleared Asia out of Greece, and by that means made way afterwards for Scipio into Asia. Both of them, indeed, were always victorious in war; but at home Aristides stumbled, being banished and oppressed by the faction of Themistocles; yet Cato, notwithstanding he had almost all the chief and most powerful of Rome for his adversaries, and wrestled with them even to his old age, kept still his footing. Engaging also in many public suits, sometimes plaintiff, sometimes defendant, he cast the most, and came off clear with all; thanks to his eloquence, that bulwark and powerful instrument to which more truly, than to chance or his fortune, he owed it, that he sustained himself unhurt to the last. Antipater justly gives it as a high commendation to Aristotle the philosopher, writing of him after his death, that among his other virtues, he was endowed with a faculty of persuading people which way he pleased.
Questionless, there is no perfecter endowment in man than political virtue, and of this Economics* is commonly esteemed not the least part; for a city, which is a collection of private households, grows into a stable commonwealth by the private means of prosperous citizens that compose it. Lycurgus by prohibiting gold and silver in Sparta, and making iron, spoiled by the fire, the only currency, did not by these measures discharge them from minding their household affairs, but cutting off luxury, the corruption and tumor of riches, he provided there should be an abundant supply of all necessary and useful things for all persons, as much as any other lawmaker ever did; being more apprehensive of a poor, needy, and indigent member of a community, than of the rich and haughty. And in this management of domestic concerns, Cato was as great as in the government of public affairs; for he increased his estate, and became a master to others in economy and husbandry; upon which subjects he collected in his writings many useful observations. On the Page 356 contrary Aristides, by his poverty, made justice odious, as if it were the pest and impoverisher of a family, and beneficial to all, rather than to those that were endowed with it. Yet Hesiod urges us alike to just dealing and to care of our households, and inveighs against idleness as the origin of injustice; and Homer admirably says: —
as if the same characters carelessly neglected their own estates, and lived by injustice and rapine from others. For it is not as the physicians say of oil, that outwardly applied, it is very wholesome, but taken inwardly detrimental, that thus a just man provides carefully for others, and is heedless of himself and his own affairs: but in this Aristides’s political virtues seem to be defective; since, according to most authors, he took no care to leave his daughters a portion, or himself enough to defray his funeral charges: whereas Cato’s family produced senators and generals to the fourth generation; his grandchildren, and their children, came to the highest preferments. But Aristides, who was the principal man of Greece, through extreme poverty reduced some of his to get their living by juggler’s tricks, others, for want, to hold out their hands for public alms; leaving none means to perform any noble action, or worthy his dignity.
Yet why should this needs follow? since poverty is dishonorable not in itself, but when it is a proof of laziness, intemperance, luxury, and carelessness; whereas in a person that is temperate, industrious, just, and valiant, and who uses all his virtues for the public good, it shows a great and lofty mind. For he has no time for great matters, who concerns himself with petty ones; nor can he relieve many needs of others, who himself has many needs of his own. What most of all enables a man to serve the public is not wealth, but content and independence; which, requiring no superfluity at home, distracts not the mind from the common good. God alone is entirely exempt from all want: of human virtues, that which needs least, is the most absolute and most divine. For as a body bred to a good habit, requires nothing exquisite either in clothes or food, so a sound man and a sound household keep themselves up with a small matter. Riches ought to be proportioned to the use we have of them; for he that scrapes together a great deal, making use of but little, is not independent; for if he wants them not, it is folly in him to make provision for things which he does not desire; or if he does desire them, and restrains his enjoyment out of sordidness, he is miserable. I would fain know of Cato himself, if we seek riches that we may enjoy them, why is he proud of having a great deal, and being contented with little? But if it be noble, as it is, to feed on coarse bread, and drink the same wine with our hinds, and not to covet purple, and plastered houses, neither Aristides, nor Epaminondas, nor Manius Curius, nor Caius Fabricius wanted necessaries, who took no pains to get those things whose use they approved not. For it was not worth the while of a man who esteemed turnips a most delicate food, and who boiled them himself, whilst his wife made bread, to brag so often of a half-penny, and write a book to show how a man may soonest grow rich; the very good of being contented with little is because it cuts off at once the desire and the anxiety for superfluities. Hence Aristides, it is told, said, on the trial of Callias, that it was for them to blush at poverty, who were poor against their wills; they who like him were willingly so, might glory in it. For it is ridiculous to think Aristides’s neediness imputable to his sloth, who might fairly enough by the spoil of one barbarian, or seizing one tent, have become wealthy. But enough of this.
Cato’s expeditions added no great matter to the Roman empire, which already was so great, as that in a manner it could receive no addition; but those of Aristides are the noblest, most splendid, and distinguished actions the Grecians ever did, the battles at Marathon, Salamis, and Platæa. Nor indeed is Antiochus, nor the destruction of the walls of the Spanish towns, to be compared with Xerxes, and the destruction by sea and land of so many myriads of enemies; in all of which noble exploits Aristides yielded to none, though he left the glory, and the laurels, like the wealth and money, to those who needed and thirsted more greedily after them: because he was superior to those also. I do not blame Cato for perpetually boasting and preferring himself before all others, though in one of his orations he says, that it is equally absurd to praise and dispraise one’s self: yet he who does not so much as desire others’ praises, seems to me more perfectly virtuous, than he who is always extolling himself. A mind free from ambition is a main help to political gentleness: ambition, on the contrary, is hard-hearted, and the greatest fomenter of envy; from which Aristides was wholly exempt; Cato very subject to it. Aristides assisted Themistocles in matters of highest importance, and, as his subordinate officer, in a manner raised Athens: Cato, by opposing Scipio, almost broke and defeated his expedition against the Carthaginians, in which he overthrew Hannibal, who till then was even invincible; and, at last, by continually raising suspicions and calumnies against him, he chased him from the city, and inflicted a disgraceful sentence on his brother for robbing the state.
Finally, that temperance which Cato always highly cried up, Aristides preserved truly pure and untainted. But Cato’s marriage, unbecoming his dignity and age, is a considerable disparagement, in this respect, to his character. For it was not decent for him at that age to bring home to his son and his wife a young woman, the daughter of a common paid clerk in the public service: but whether it were for his own gratification or out of anger at his son, both the fact and the pretence were unworthy. For the reason he pretended to his son was false: for if he desired to get more as worthy children, he ought to have married a well-born wife; not to have contented himself, so long as it was unnoticed, with a woman to whom he was not married; and, when it was discovered, he ought not to have chosen such a father-in-law as was easiest to be got, instead of one whose affinity might be honorable to him.
[* ]More correctly perhaps, both here and elsewhere, Ariston of Ceos. There were two philosophical writers of the name, Ariston of Chios, a stoic, and Ariston of Ceos, a Peripatetic.
[* ]A pit into which the dead bodies of malefactors, or perhaps living malefactors themselves were thrown. “The gallows” perhaps is the English term most nearly corresponding to the barathrum, as commonly spoken of in the Athenian popular language.
[* ]In the festivals of Eleusinian Ceres; an office hereditary in the family of Callias.
[* ]Demetrius Poliorcetes, or the besieger, Ptolemy Ceraunus, or Thunder, and Demetrius Nicator, the conqueror, are the probable examples alluded to; with Pyrrhus who had the name of Aetus, the eagle, and Antiochus surnamed Hierax, the hawk.
[* ]Plutarch’s Greek word is exomis, a woollen shirt with the right side open to leave the right arm and shoulder free. — Without any thing, nudus, sometimes means, with only the tunic, or ordinary woollen shirt or under-frock, but here it seems to be almost literal, with only a cloth about the loins, or apron on, a compestre.
[* ]The Parthenon; built on the site of an older temple which had borne the name of Hecatompedon, or “a hundred feet long.” The name was retained for the new building.
[* ]The father of Pericles.
[* ]Both the Romans and the Greeks conceived of the region of the heart, the chest, as the seat not of emotion, nor of will and courage merely, but more especially of judgment, deliberation, and practical sense. Thus the Greeks derived their word for moral wisdom from phrēn, the diaphragm, and the Romans by egregie cordatus homo meant a wise statesman.
[* ]Polybius having once succeeded in pushing his request through the senate, was acting as unwisely in venturing his case there again, as Ulysses would have done, had he, after once getting out of the cave of Cyclops, gone back into it to fetch his cap and belt. The cap and belt, the ensigns of the traveller, would be familiar to every one from the representations of Ulysses.
[* ]Or, according to another translation, “without making his will.”
[* ]Equum adimere, to inflict on any member of the order of horsemen or equites, the forfeiture of the horse that was allowed him: in other words, to degrade from the equestrian dignity; to deprive of the lowest distinction of rank. The equestrian dignity depended, up to the end of the republic, on the possession of a certain amount of property, united with free birth from two generations.
[* ]Wherever Hercules cut off one head from the Lernæan hydra, two new ones sprung up in its place; until he applied fire and cauterized the wounds.
[* ]A sponsio, or wager, in which a sum of money was deposited on each side, and forfeited by the party against whom judgment went.
[* ]Whereas the usual charge was probably one as in a thousand.
[* ]He lent money to the company, at high interest, and took one share himself. On this share he could not lose much, and it gave him the advantage of sending his agent. Quintio, to see that all was fair.
[* ]More correctly Salonianus.
[* ]De re rustica.
[* ]It is uncertain whether Plutarch made a mistake in history, or wrote the sentence carelessly; probably the former: but in fact, Salonius, or Salonianus, was the grandfather of the younger Cato, the contemporary of Cicero and Cæsar.
[* ]Economics, in the proper Greek sense, being for the household or family, or æcos, what politics are for the state, or polis. The former word has originally no more to do with money-matters than the latter; but as earning the family’s maintenance is the more obvious and prominent part of household management, Economics, in course of time, became restricted to this sense, and thence again was extended to money-matters in general.
Life of Aristides,page 281 . — The way of writing in use since the time of Euclides differed from the previous usage more particularly in the introduction of the Ionic letters eta and omega, the long e and o, which up to that date had never appeared in public inscriptions or documents. The year of the archonship of Euclides is 403 , the first after the end of the Peloponnesian War; in the course of which the thirty tyrants were expelled, the amnesty decreed, and the democracy reëstablished.
Page 284 . — The verses from Æschylus relating to Amphiaraus are from the Seven against Thebes, lines 574 to 576. Well known he was, &c., is ascribed to Euripides.
Page 305 . — The inscription is by Simonides. Plutarch’s text omits one line, which is found elsewhere in one of his minor works.
Page 312 . — What Plato declares is found in the Gorgias, pages 519 and 526.
Page 313 . — The death of Paches in the judgment-hall is an incorrect expression. Paches, after his suppression of the revolt of Lesbos, was brought to trial, on his return home, and killed himself in the presence of the people assembled to try him, as he stood on the speaker’s stand (the hustings). Compare the account in the beginning of the life of Nicias, Vol. III. p. 296.
Life of Cato,page 320 . — Scipio the great did not seem to envy, but, on the contrary, as the right translation would stand, to be envied by Fabius. See the account at the end of the life of Fabius Maximus, Vol I. p. 321. In the 13th line from the bottom, the word general should probably be altered for prætor; when he was holding the office of prætor, or of consul.
Page 324 . — For Socrates in the description of Plato, see the Symposium, p. 215; a famous portraiture, placed in the mouth of Alcibiades. Cato is compared, rather at random, to Lysias, in Cicero’s Brutus, chapter 16.
Page 335 . — He is reported to have escaped at least fifty indictments should be, to have defended himself in at least fifty causes.
Page 351 . — The quotation is from the 10th book of the Odyssey, line 495: Among the dead, whom Ulysses is to visit, Tiresias, Circe tells him, alone has retained his wisdom after death, the rest flit about as shadows.
Comparison,page 356 . — The lines from Homer are from the Odyssey (XIV., 222).