(legendary, died 395 B.C.E.)
Translated by John Dryden
The treasure-chamber of the Acanthians at
Lysander's father is said to have been Aristoclitus, who was not indeed of the royal family but yet of the stock of the Heraclidae. He was brought up in poverty, and showed himself obedient and conformable, as ever any one did, to the customs of his country; of a manly spirit, also, and superior to all pleasures, excepting only that which their good actions bring to those who are honoured and successful; and it is accounted no base thing in Sparta for their young men to be overcome with this kind of pleasure. For they are desirous, from the very first, to have their youth susceptible to good and bad repute, to feel pain at disgrace, and exultation at being commended; and any one who is insensible and unaffected in these respects is thought poor-spirited and of no capacity for virtue. Ambition and the passion for distinction were thus implanted in his character by his Laconian education, nor, if they continued there, must we blame his natural disposition much for this. But he was submissive to great men, beyond what seems agreeable to the Spartan temper, and could easily bear the haughtiness of those who were in power, when it was any way for his advantage, which some are of opinion is no small part of political discretion. Aristotle, who says all great characters are more or less atrabilious, as Socrates and Plato and Hercules were, writes that Lysander, not indeed early in life, but when he was old, became thus affected. What is singular in his character is that he endured poverty very well and that he was not at all enslaved or corrupted by wealth, and yet he filled his country with riches and the love of them, and took away from them the glory of not admiring money; importing amongst them an abundance of gold and silver after the Athenian war, though keeping not one drachma for himself. When Dionysius, the tyrant, sent his daughters some costly gowns of Sicilian manufacture, he would not receive them, saying he was afraid they would make them look more unhandsome. But a while after, being sent ambassador from the same city to the same tyrant, when he had sent him a couple of robes, and bade him choose which of them he would, and carry to his daughter: "She," said he, "will be able to choose best for herself," and taking both of them, went his way.
The Peloponnesian war having now been carried on a long time, and it being expected, after the disaster of the Athenians in Sicily, that they would at once lose the mastery of the sea, and ere long be routed everywhere, Alcibiades, returning from banishment, and taking the command, produced a great change, and made the Athenians again a match for their opponents by sea; and the Lacedaemonians, in great alarm at this, and calling up fresh courage and zeal for the conflict, feeling the want of an able commander and of a powerful armament, sent out Lysander to be admiral of the seas. Being at Ephesus, and finding the city well affected towards him, and favourable to the Lacedaemonian party, but in ill condition, and in danger to become barbarized by adopting the manners of the Persians, who were much mingled among them, the country of Lydia bordering upon them, and the king's generals being quartered there for a long time, he pitched his camp there, and commanded the merchant ships all about to put in thither, and proceeded to build ships of war there; and thus restored their ports by the traffic he created, and their market by the employment he gave, and filled their private houses and their workshops with wealth, so that from that time the city began, first of all, by Lysander's means, to have some hopes of growing to that stateliness and grandeur which now it is at.
Understanding that Cyrus, the king's son, was come to Sardis, he went up to talk with him, and to accuse Tisaphernes, who, receiving a command to help the Lacedaemonians, and to drive the Athenians from the sea, was thought, on account of Alcibiades, to have become remiss and unwilling, and by paying the seamen slenderly to be ruining the fleet. Now Cyrus was willing that Tisaphernes might be found in blame, and be ill reported of, as being, indeed, a dishonest man, and privately at feud with himself. By these means, and by their daily intercourse together, Lysander, especially by the submissiveness of his conversation, won the affection of the young prince, and greatly roused him to carry on and when he would depart, Cyrus gave him a banquet, and desired him not to refuse his goodwill, but to speak and ask whatever he had a mind to, and that he should not be refused anything whatsoever: "Since you are so very kind," replied Lysander, "I earnestly request you to add one penny to the seamen's pay, that instead of three pence, they may now receive four pence." Cyrus, delighted with his public spirit, gave him ten thousand darics, out of which he added the penny to the seamen's pay, and by the renown of this in a short time emptied the ships of the enemies, as many would come over to that side which gave the most pay, and those who remained, being disheartened and mutinous, daily created trouble to the captains. Yet for all Lysander had so distracted and weakened his enemies, he was afraid to engage by sea, Alcibiades being an energetic commander, and having the superior number of ships, and having been hitherto, in all battles, unconquered both by sea and land.
But afterwards, when Alcibiades sailed from Samos to
Lysander, meanwhile, invited to Ephesus such persons in the
various cities as he saw to be bolder and haughtier-spirited than the rest,
proceeded to lay the foundations of that government by bodies of ten, and those
revolutions which afterwards came to pass, stirring up and urging them to unite
in clubs and apply themselves to public affairs, since as soon as ever the
Athenians should be put down, the popular government, he said, should be
suppressed and they should become supreme in their several countries. And he
made them believe these things by present deeds, promoting those who were his friends
already to great employments, honours, and offices, and, to gratify their
covetousness, making himself a partner in injustice and wickedness. So much so,
that all flocked to him, and courted and desired him, hoping, if be remained in
power, that the highest wishes they could form would all be gratified. And
therefore, from the very beginning, they could not look pleasantly upon
Callicratidas, when he came to succeed Lysander as admiral; nor, afterwards,
when he had given them experience that he was a most noble and just person,
were they pleased with the manner of his government, and its straightforward,
Dorian, honest character. They did, indeed, admire his virtue, as they might
the beauty of some hero's image; but their wishes were for Lysander's zealous
and profitable support of the interests of his friends and partisans, and they
shed tears, and were much disheartened when he sailed from them. He himself
made them yet more disaffected to Callicratidas; for what remained of the money
which had been given him to pay the navy, he sent back again to Sardis, bidding
them, if they would, apply to Callicratidas himself, and see how he was able to
maintain the soldiers. And, at the last, sailing away, he declared to him that
he delivered up the fleet in possession and command of the sea. But
Callicratidas, to expose the emptiness of these high pretensions, said,
"In that case, leave Samos on the left hand, and sailing to Miletus, there
deliver up the ships to me; for if we are masters of the sea, we need not fear
sailing by our enemies in Samos." To which Lysander answering, that not himself but he commanded the ships, sailed to
And now, affairs going backwards, the associates in the war
sent an embassy to
But to those who loved honest and noble behaviour in their commanders, Lysander, compared with Callicratidas, seemed cunning and subtle, managing most things in the war by deceit, extolling what was just when it was profitable, and when it was not, using that which was convenient, instead of that which, was good; and not judging truth to be in nature better than falsehood, but setting a value upon both according to interest. He would laugh at those who thought Hercules's posterity ought not to use deceit in war: "For where the lion's skin will not reach, you must patch it out with the fox's." Such is the conduct recorded of him in the business about Miletus when his friends and connections, whom he had promised, raised to assist in suppressing popular government, and expelling their political opponents, had altered their minds, and were reconciled to their enemies, he pretended openly as if he was pleased with it, and was desirous to further the reconciliation, but privately he railed at and abused them, and provoked them to set upon the multitude. And as soon as ever he perceived a new attempt to be commencing, he at once came up, and entered into the city, and the first of the conspirators he lit upon, he pretended to rebuke, and spoke roughly, as if he would punish them; but the others, meantime, he bade be courageous, and to fear nothing, now he was with them. And all this acting and dissembling was with the object that the most considerable men of the popular party might not fly away, but might stay in the city and be killed; which so fell out, for all who believed him were put to death.
There is a saying also, recorded by Androclides, which makes him guilty of great indifference to the obligations of an oath. His recommendation, according to this account, was to "cheat boys with dice, and men with oaths," an imitation of Polycrates of Samos, not very honourable to a lawful commander, to take example, namely, from a tyrant; nor in character with Laconian usages, to treat gods as ill as enemies, or, indeed, even more injuriously since he who overreaches by an oath admits that he fears his enemy, while he despises his God.
Cyrus now sent for Lysander to Sardis, and gave him some money, and promised him some more, youthfully protesting in favour to him, that if his father gave him nothing, he would supply him of his own; and if he himself should be destitute of all, he would cut up, he said, to make money, the very throne upon which he sat to do justice, it being made of gold and silver; and, at last on going up into Media to his father, he ordered that he should receive the tribute of the towns, and committed his government to him, and so taking his leave, and desiring him not to fight by sea before he returned, for he would come back with a great many ships out of Phoenicia and Cilicia, departed to visit the king.
Lysander's ships were too few for him to venture to fight,
and yet too many to allow of his remaining idle; he set out, therefore, and
reduced some of the islands, and wasted Aegina and Salamis; and from thence
landing in Attica, and saluting Agis, who came from Decelea to meet him, he
made a display to the land-forces of the strength of the fleet as though he
could sail where he pleased, and were absolute master by sea. But hearing the
Athenians pursued him, he fled another way through the island into
Then they all rested themselves, hoping they should have battle the next morning. But Lysander had other things in his head; he commanded the mariners and pilots to go on board at dawn, as if there should be a battle as soon as it was day, and to sit there in order, and without any noise, excepting what should be commanded, and in like manner that the land army should remain quietly in their ranks by the sea. But the sun rising, and the Athenians sailing up with their whole fleet in line, and challenging them to battle, though he had had his ships all drawn up and manned before daybreak, nevertheless did not stir. He merely sent some boats to those who lay foremost, and bade them keep still and stay in their order; not to be disturbed, and none of them to sail out and offer battle. So about evening, the Athenians sailing back, he would not let the seamen go out of the ships before two or three, which he had sent to espy, were returned, after seeing the enemies disembark. And thus they did the next day, and the third, and so to the fourth. So that the Athenians grew extremely confident, and disdained their enemies as if they had been afraid and daunted. At this time, Alcibiades, who was in his castle in the Chersonese, came on horseback to the Athenian army, and found fault with their captains, first of all that they had pitched their camp neither well nor safely on an exposed and open beach, a very bad landing for the ships, and secondly, that where they were they had to fetch all they wanted from Sestos, some considerable way off; whereas if they sailed round a little way to the town and harbour of Sestos, they would be at a safer distance from an enemy, who lay watching their movements, at the command of a single general, terror of whom made every order rapidly executed. This advice, however, they would not listen to; and Tydeus answered disdainfully, that not he, but others, were in office now. So Alcibiades, who even suspected there must be treachery, departed.
But on the fifth day, the Athenians having sailed towards
them, and gone back again as they were used to do, very proudly and full of
contempt, Lysander sending some ships, as usual, to look out, commanded the
masters of them that when they saw the Athenians go to land, they should row
back again with all their speed, and that when they were about half-way across,
they should lift up a brazen shield from the fore-deck, as the sign of battle.
And he himself sailing round, encouraged the pilots and masters of the ships,
and exhorted them to keep all their men to their places, seamen and soldiers
alike, and as soon as ever the sign should be given, to row boldly to their
enemies. Accordingly, when the shield had been lifted up from the ships, and
the trumpet from the admiral's vessel had sounded for the battle, the ships
rowed up, and the foot soldiers strove to get along by the shore to the
promontory. The distance there between the two continents is fifteen furlongs,
which, by zeal and eagerness of the rowers, was quickly traversed. Conon, one
of the Athenian commanders, was the first who saw from the land the fleet
advancing, and shouted out to embark, and in the greatest distress bade some
and entreated others, and some he forced to man the ships. But all his
diligence signified nothing, because the men were scattered about; for as soon
as they came out of the ships, expecting no such matter, some went to market,
others walked about the country, or went to sleep in their tents, or got their dinners
ready, being, through their commanders' want of skill, as far as possible from
any thought of what was to happen; and the enemy now coming up with shouts and
noise, Conon, with eight ships, sailed out, and making his escape, passed from
thence to Cyprus, to Evagoras. The Peloponnesians falling upon the rest, some
they took quite empty, and some they destroyed while they were filling; the
men, meantime coming unarmed and scattered to help, died at their ships, or,
flying by land, were slain, their enemies disembarking and pursuing them.
Lysander took three thousand prisoners, with the generals, and the whole fleet,
excepting the sacred ship Paralus, and those which fled with Conon. So taking
their ships in tow, and having plundered their tents, with pipe and songs of
victory, he sailed back to Lampsacus, having accomplished a great work with
small pains, and having finished in one hour a war which had been protracted in
its continuance, and diversified in its incidents and in its fortunes, to a
degree exceeding belief, compared with all before it. After altering its shape
and character a thousand times, and after having been the destruction of more
commanders than all the previous wars of
Some, therefore, looked upon the result as a divine intervention, and there were certain who affirmed that the stars of Castor and Pollux were seen on each side of Lysander's ship, when he first set sail from the haven toward his enemies, shining about the helm; and some say the stone which fell down was a sign of this slaughter. For a stone of a great size did fall, according to the common belief, from heaven, at Aegos Potami, which is shown to this day, and held in great esteem by the Chersonites. And it is said that Anaxagoras foretold that the occurrence of a slip or shake among the bodies fixed in the heavens, dislodging any one of them, would be followed by the fall of the whole of them. For no one of the stars is now in the same place in which it was at first; for they, being, according to him, like stones and heavy, shine by the refraction of the upper air round about them, and are carried along forcibly by the violence of the circular motion by which they were originally withheld from falling, when cold and heavy bodies were first separated from the general universe. But there is a more probable opinion than this maintained by some, who say that falling stars are no effluxes, nor discharges of ethereal fire, extinguished almost at the instant of its igniting by the lower air; neither are they the sudden combustion and blazing up of a quantity of the lower air let loose in great abundance into the upper region; but the heavenly bodies, by a relaxation of the force of their circular movement, are carried by an irregular course, not in general into the inhabited part of the earth, but for the most part into the wide sea; which is the cause of their not being observed. Daimachus, in his treatise on Religion, supports the view of Anaxagoras. He says, that before this stone fell, for seventy-five days continually, there was seen in the heavens a vast fiery body, as if it had been a flaming cloud, not resting, but carried about with several intricate and broken movements, so that the flaming pieces, which were broken off by this commotion and running about, were carried in all directions, shining as falling stars do. But when it afterwards came down to the ground in this district, and the people of the place recovering from their fear and astonishment came together, there was no fire to be seen, neither any sign of it; there was only a stone lying, big indeed, but which bore no proportion, to speak of, to that fiery compass. It is manifest that Daimachus needs to have indulgent hearers; but if what he says be true, he altogether proves those to be wrong who say that a rock broken off from the top of some mountain, by winds and tempests, and caught and whirled about like a top, as soon as this impetus began to slacken and cease, was precipitated and fell to the ground. Unless, indeed, we choose to say that the phenomenon which was observed for so many days was really fire, and that the change in the atmosphere ensuing on its extinction was attended with violent winds and agitations, which might be the cause of this stone being carried off. The exacter treatment of this subject belongs, however, to a different kind of writing.
Lysander, after the three thousand Athenians whom he had
taken prisoners were condemned by the commissioners to die, called Philocles
the general, and asked him what punishment he considered himself to deserve,
for having advised the citizens, as he had done, against the Greeks; but he,
being nothing cast down at his calamity, bade him not to accuse him of matters
of which nobody was a judge, but to do to him, now he was a conqueror, as he
would have suffered, had he been overcome. Then washing himself, and putting on
a fine cloak, he led the citizens the way to the slaughter, as Theophrastus
writes in his history. After this Lysander, sailing about to the various
cities, bade all the Athenians he met go into Athens, declaring that he would
spare none, but kill every man whom he found out of the city, intending thus to
cause immediate famine and scarcity there, that they might not make the siege
laborious to him, having provisions sufficient to endure it. And suppressing
the popular governments and all other constitutions, he left one Lacedaemonian
chief officer in every city, with ten rulers to act with him, selected out of
the societies which he had previously formed in the different towns. And doing
thus as well in the cities of his enemies as of his associates, he sailed
leisurely on, establishing, in a manner, for himself supremacy over the whole
Having spent some little time about these things, and sent
some before to Lacedaemon to tell them he was arriving with two hundred ships,
he united his forces in
But when he now understood they were in bad case in the city
because of the famine, he sailed to
Lysander, as soon as he had taken all the ships except
twelve, and the walls of the Athenians, on the sixteenth day of the month
Munychion, the same on which they had overcome the barbarians at
"Electra, Agamemnon's child,
I come Unto thy desert home,"
they were all melted with compassion, and it seemed to be a cruel deed to destroy and pull down a city which had been so famous, and produced such men.
Accordingly Lysander, the Athenians yielding up everything, sent for a number of flute-women out of the city, and collected together all that were in the camp, and pulled down the walls, and burnt the ships to the sound of the flute, the allies being crowned with garlands, and making merry together, as counting that day the beginning of their liberty. He proceeded also at once to alter the government, placing thirty rulers in the city and ten in the Piraeus: he put, also, a garrison into the Acropolis, and made Callibius, a Spartan, the governor of it; who afterwards taking up his staff to strike Autolycus, the athlete, about whom Xenophon wrote his "Banquet," on his tripping up his heels and throwing him to the ground, Lysander was not vexed at it, but chid Callibius, telling him he did not know how to govern freemen. The thirty rulers, however, to gain Callibius's favour, a little after killed Autolycus.
Lysander, after this, sails out to Thrace, and what remained
of the public money, and the gifts and crowns which he had himself received,
numbers of people, as might be expected, being anxious to make presents to a
man of such great power, who was, in a manner, the lord of Greece, he sends to
Lacedaemon by Gylippus, who had commanded formerly in Sicily. But he, it is
reported, unsewed the sacks at the bottom, took a considerable amount of silver
out of every one of them, and sewed them up again, not knowing there was a writing
in every one stating how much there was. And coming into
But the wisest of the Spartans, very much on account of this occurrence, dreading the influence of money, as being what had corrupted the greatest citizens, exclaimed against Lysander's conduct, and declared to the Ephors that all the silver and gold should be sent away, as mere "alien mischiefs." These consulted about it; and Theopompus says it was Sciraphidas, but Ephorus that it was Phlogidas, who declared they ought not to receive any gold or silver into the city; but to use their own country coin, which was iron, and was first of all dipped in vinegar when it was red-hot, that it might not be worked up anew, but because of the dipping might be hard and unpliable. It was also, of course, very heavy and troublesome to carry, and a great deal of it in quantity and weight was but a little in value. And perhaps all the old money was so, coin consisting of iron, or, in some countries, copper skewers, whence it comes that we still find a great number of small pieces of money retain the name of obolus, and the drachma is six of these, because so much may be grasped in one's hand. But Lysander's friends being against it, and endeavouring to keep the money in the city, it was resolved to bring in this sort of money to be used publicly, enacting, at the same time, that if any one was found in possession of any privately, he should be put to death, as if Lycurgus had feared the coin, and not the covetousness resulting from it, which they did not repress by letting no private man keep any, so much as they encouraged it, by allowing the state to possess it; attaching thereby a sort of dignity to it, over and above its ordinary utility. Neither was it possible, that what they saw so much esteemed publicly they should privately despise as unprofitable; and that every one should think that thing could be nothing worth for his own personal use, which was so extremely valued and desired for the use of the state. And moral habits, induced by public practices, are far quicker in making their way into men's private lives, than the failings and faults of individuals are in infecting the city at large. For it is probable that the parts will be rather corrupted by the whole if that grows bad; while the vices which flow from a part into the whole find many correctives and remedies from that which remains sound. Terror and the law were now to keep guard over the citizens' houses, to prevent any money entering into them: but their minds could no longer be expected to remain superior to the desire of it when wealth in general was thus set up to be striven after, as a high and noble object. On this point, however, we have given our censure of the Lacedaemonians in one of our other writings.
Lysander erected out of the spoils brazen statues at Delphi
of himself, and of every one of the masters of the ships, as also figures of
the golden stars of Castor and Pollux, which vanished before the battle at
Will celebrate with songs of victory."
And the Samians decreed that their solemnities of Juno should be called the Lysandria; and out of the poets he had Choerilus always with him, to extol his achievements in verse; and to Antilochus, who had made some verses in his commendation, being pleased with them, he gave a hat full of silver; and when Antimachus of Colophon, and one Niceratus of Heraclea competed with each other in a poem on the deeds of Lysander, he gave the garland to Niceratus; at which Antimachus, in vexation, suppressed his poem; but Plato, being then a young man and admiring Antimachus for his poetry, consoled him for his defeat by telling him that it is the ignorant who are the sufferers by ignorance, as truly as the blind by want of sight. Afterwards, when Aristonus, the musician, who had been a conqueror six times at the Pythian games, told him as a piece of flattery, that if he were successful again, he would proclaim himself in the name of Lysander, "that is," he answered," as his slave?"
This ambitious temper was indeed only burdensome to the
highest personages and to his equals, but through having so many people devoted
to serve him, an extreme haughtiness and contemptuousness grew up, together
with ambition, in his character. He observed no sort of moderation, such as
befitted a private man, either in rewarding or in punishing; the recompense of
his friends and guests was absolute power over cities,
and irresponsible authority and the only satisfaction of his wrath was the
destruction of his enemy; banishment would not suffice. As for example, at a
later period, fearing lest the popular leaders of the Milesians should fly, and
desiring also to discover those who lay hid, he swore he would do them no harm,
and on their believing him coming forth, he delivered them up to the
oligarchical leaders to be slain, being in all no less than eight hundred. And,
indeed, the slaughter in general of those of the popular party in the towns
exceeded all computation as he did not kill only for offences against himself,
but granted these favours without sparing, and joined in the execution of them,
to gratify the many hatreds and the much cupidity of his friends everywhere
round about him. From whence the saying of Eteocles, the Lacedaemonian, came to
be famous, that "
But Lysander, when the staff came to him to the
"Others beside Ulysses deep can be,
Not the one wise man of the world is he,"
in extreme confusion, left them at
the time. But a few days after, meeting the Ephors, he said he must go to the
And having hardly and with difficulty obtained leave of the
magistrates to depart, he set sail. But the kings, while he was on his voyage,
considering that keeping, as he did, the cities in possession by his own
friends and partisans, he was in fact their sovereign and the lord of Greece,
took measures for restoring the power to the people, and for throwing his
friends out. Disturbances commencing again about these things, and, first of
all, the Athenians from Phyle setting upon their thirty rulers and overpowering
them, Lysander, coming home in haste, persuaded the Lacedaemonians to support
the oligarchies and to put down the popular governments, and to the thirty in Athens,
first of all, they sent a hundred talents for the war, and Lysander himself, as
general, to assist them. But the kings envying him, and fearing lest he should
His speech, also, was bold and daunting to such as opposed him. The Argives, for example, contended about the
bounds of their land, and thought they brought juster pleas than the
Lacedaemonians; holding out his sword, "He," said Lysander,
"that is master of this, brings the best argument about the bounds of
territory." A man of
When King Agis died, leaving a brother Agesilaus, and Leontychides, who was supposed his son, Lysander, being attached to Agesilaus, persuaded him to lay claim to the kingdom, as being a true descendant of Hercules; Leontychides lying under the suspicion of being the soil of Alcibiades, who lived privately in familiarity with Timaea, the wife of Agis, at the time he was a fugitive in Sparta. Agis, they say, computing the time, satisfied himself that she could not have conceived by him, and had hitherto always neglected and manifestly disowned Leontychides; but now when he was carried sick to Heraea, being ready to die, what by importunities of the young man himself, and of his friends, in the presence of many he declared Leontychides to be his; and desiring those who were present to bear witness to this to the Lacedaemonians, died. They accordingly did so testify in favour of Leontychides. And Agesilaus, being otherwise highly reputed of and strong in the support of Lysander, was, on the other hand, prejudiced by Diopithes, a man famous for his knowledge of oracles, who adduced this prophecy in reference to Agesilaus's lameness:-
Though sound thyself, an halting sovereignty;
Troubles, both long and unexpected too,
And storms of deadly warfare shall ensue."
When many, therefore, yielded to the oracle, and inclined to Leontychides, Lysander said that Diopithes did not take the prophecy rightly; for it was not that the god would be offended if any lame person ruled over the Lacedaemonians, but that the kingdom would be a lame one if bastards and false-born should govern with the posterity of Hercules. By this argument, and by his great influence among them, he prevailed, and Agesilaus was made king.
Immediately, therefore, Lysander spurred him on to make an
Lysander, miscarrying in everything, and perceiving that his diligence for his friends was but a hindrance to them, forbore to help them, entreating them that they would not address themselves to, nor observe him, but that they would speak to the king, and to those who could be of more service to friends than at present he could; most, on hearing this forbore to trouble him about their concerns, but continued their observances to him, waiting upon him in the walks and places of exercise; at which Agesilaus was more annoyed than ever, envying him the honour; and, finally, when he gave many of the officers places of command and the governments of cities, he appointed Lysander carver at his table, adding, by way of insult to the Ionians, "Let them go now, and pay their court to my carver." Upon this, Lysander thought fit to come and speak with him; and a brief laconic dialogue passed between them as follows: "Truly, you know very well, O Agesilaus, how to depress your friends;" "Those friends," replied he, "who would be greater than myself; but those who increase my power, it is just should share in it." "Possibly, O Agesilaus," answered Lysander, "in all this there may be more said on your part than done on mine, but I request you, for the sake of observers from without, to place me in any command under you where you may judge I shall be the least offensive, and most useful."
Upon this he was sent ambassador to the Hellespont; and though angry with Agesilaus, yet did not neglect to perform his duty, and having induced Spithridates the Persian, being offended with Pharnabazus, a gallant man, and in command of some forces, to revolt, he brought him to Agesilaus. He was not, however, employed in any other service, but having completed his time returned to Sparta, without honour, angry with Agesilaus, and hating more than ever the whole Spartan government, and resolved to delay no longer, but while there was yet time, to put into execution the plans which he appears some time before to have concerted for a revolution and change in the constitution. These were as follows. The Heraclidae who joined with the Dorians, and came into Peloponnesus, became a numerous and glorious race in Sparta, but not every family belonging to it had the right of succession in the kingdom, but the kings were chosen out of two only, called the Eurypontidae and the Agiadae; the rest had no privilege in the government by their nobility of birth, and the honours which followed from merit lay open to all who could obtain them. Lysander who was born of one of these families, when he had risen into great renown for his exploits, and had gained great friends and power, was vexed to see the city, which had increased to what it was by him, ruled by others not at all better descended than himself, and formed a design to remove the government from the two families, and to give it in common to all the Heraclidae; or, as some say, not to the Heraclidae only, but to all Spartans; that the reward might not belong to the posterity of Hercules, but to those who were like Hercules, judging by that personal merit which raised even him to the honour of the Godhead; and he hoped that when the kingdom was thus to be competed for, no Spartan would be chosen before himself.
Accordingly he first attempted and prepared to persuade the citizens privately, and studied an oration composed for this purpose by Cleon, the Halicarnassian. Afterwards perceiving so unexpected and great an innovation required bolder means of support, he proceeded, as it might be on the stage, to avail himself of machinery, and to try the effects of divine agency upon his countrymen. He collected and arranged for his purpose answers and oracles from Apollo, not expecting to get any benefit from Cleon's rhetoric, unless he should first alarm and overpower the minds of his fellow-citizens by religious and superstitious terrors, before bringing them to the consideration of his arguments. Ephorus relates, after he had endeavoured to corrupt the oracle of Apollo, and had again failed to persuade the priestess of Dodona by means of Pherecles, that he went to Ammon, and discoursed with the guardians of the oracle there, proffering them a great deal of gold, and that they, taking this ill, sent some to Sparta to accuse Lysander; and on his acquittal the Libyans, going away, said, "You will find us, O Spartans, better judges, when you come to dwell with us in Libya," there being a certain ancient oracle that the Lacedaemonians should dwell in Libya. But as the whole intrigue and the course of the contrivance was no ordinary one, nor lightly undertaken, but depended as it went on, like some mathematical proposition, on a variety of important admissions, and proceeded through a series of intricate and difficult steps to its conclusion, we will go into it at length, following the account of one who was at once an historian and a philosopher.
There was a woman in Pontus who professed to be pregnant by Apollo, which many, as was natural, disbelieved, and many also gave credit to, and when she had brought forth a man-child, several, not unimportant persons, took an interest in its rearing and bringing up. The name given the boy was Silenus, for some reason or other. Lysander, taking this for the groundwork, frames and devises the rest himself, making use of not a few, nor these insignificant champions of his story, who brought the report of the child's birth into credit without any suspicion. Another report, also, was procured from Delphi and circulated in Sparta, that there were some very old oracles which were kept by the priests in private writings; and they were not to be meddled with, neither was it lawful to read them, till one in aftertimes should come, descended from Apollo, and, on giving some known token to the keepers, should take the books in which the oracles were. Things being thus ordered beforehand, Silenus, it was intended, should come and ask for the oracles, as being the child of Apollo, and those priests who were privy to the design were to profess to search narrowly into all particulars, and to question him concerning his birth; and finally, were to be convinced, and, as to Apollo's son, to deliver up to him the writings. Then he, in the presence of many witnesses, should read, amongst other prophecies, that which was the object of the whole contrivance, relating to the office of the kings, that it would be better and more desirable to the Spartans to choose their kings out of the best citizens. And now, Silenus being grown up to a youth, and being ready for the action, Lysander miscarried in his drama through the timidity of one of his actors, or assistants, who just as he came to the point lost heart and drew back. Yet nothing was found out while Lysander lived, but only after his death.
He died before Agesilaus came back from Asia, being
involved, or perhaps more truly having himself involved
Pausanias proposing to request the bodies of the dead under truce, the elders of the Spartans took it ill, and were angry among themselves, and coming to the king, declared that Lysander should not be taken away upon any conditions; if they fought it out by arms about his body, and conquered, then they might bury him; if they were overcome, it was glorious to die upon the spot with their commander. When the elders had spoken these things, Pausanias saw it would be a difficult business to vanquish the Thebans, who had but just been conquerors; that Lysander's body also lay near the walls, so that it would be hard for them, though they overcame, to take it away without a truce; he therefore sent a herald, obtained a truce, and withdrew his forces, and carrying away the body of Lysander, they buried it in the first friendly soil they reached on crossing the Boeotian frontier, in the country the Panopaeans; where the monument still stands as you go on the road from Delphi to Chaeronea. Now the army quartering there, it is said that a person of Phocis, relating the battle to one who was not in it, said, the enemies fell upon them just after Lysander had passed over the Hoplites; surprised at which a Spartan, a friend of Lysander, asked what Hoplites he meant, for he did not know the name. "It was there," answered the Phocian, "that the enemy killed the first of us; the rivulet by the city is called Hoplites." On hearing which the Spartan shed tears and observed how impossible it is for any man to avoid his appointed lot; Lysander, it appears, having received an oracle as follows:-
"Sounding Hoplites see thou bear in mind,
And the earthborn dragon following behind."
Some, however, say that Hoplites does not run by Haliartus, but is a watercourse near Coronea, falling into the river Philarus, not far from the town in former times called Hoplias, and now Isomantus.
The man of Haliartus who killed Lysander, by name Neochorus, bore on his shield the device of a dragon; and this, it was supposed, the oracle signified. It is said also that at the time of the Peloponnesian war, the Thebans received an oracle from the sanctuary of Ismenus, referring at once to the battle at Delium, and to this which thirty years after took solace at Haliartus. It ran thus:-
"Hunting the wolf, observe the utmost bound,
And the hill Orchalides where foxes most are found."
By the words, "the utmost bound," Delium being
intended, where Boeotia touches Attica, and by Orchalides, the hill now called
Alopecus, which lies in the parts of Haliartus towards
But such a death befalling Lysander, the Spartans took it so grievously at the time, that they put the king to a trial for his life, which he not daring to await, fled to Tegea, and there lived out his life in the sanctuary of Minerva. The poverty also of Lysander being discovered by his death made his merit more manifest, since from so much wealth and power, from all the homage of the cities, and of the Persian kingdom, he had not in the least degree, so far as money goes, sought any private aggrandizement, as Theopompus in his history relates, whom any one may rather give credit to when he commends than when he finds fault, as it is more agreeable to him to blame than to praise. But subsequently, Ephorus says, some controversy arising among the allies at Sparta, which made it necessary to consult the writings which Lysander had kept by him, Agesilaus came to his house, and finding the book in which the oration on the Spartan constitution was written at length, to the effect that the kingdom ought to be taken from the Eurypontidae and Agiadae, and to be offered in common, and a choice made out of the best citizens, at first he was eager to make it public, and to show his countrymen the real character of Lysander. But Lacratidas, a wise man, and at that time chief of the Ephors, hindered Agesilaus, and said they ought not to dig up Lysander again, but rather to bury with him a discourse, composed so plausibly and subtilely. Other honours, also, were paid him, after his death; and amongst these they imposed a fine upon those who had engaged themselves to marry his daughters, and then when Lysander was found to be poor, after his decease, refused them; because when they thought him rich they had been observant of him, but now his poverty had proved him just and good, they forsook him. For there was, it seems, in Sparta, a punishment for not marrying, for a late, and for a bad marriage; and to the last penalty those were most especially liable who sought alliances with the rich instead of with the good and with their friends. Such is the account we have found given of Lysander.