Plutarch: Life of Aratus

Chapters 1 - 30

Translated by John & William Langhorne (1770). A few words and spellings have been changed. See key to translations for an explanation of the format.

Aratus of Sicyon lived from 271 to 213 B.C. He liberated his city from tyrants and became leader of the Achaean League.

[1] The philosopher Chrysippus, my dear Polycrates, seems to have thought the ancient proverb not quite justifiable, and therefore he delivered it, not as it really is, but what he thought it should be :-
"Who but a happy son will praise his sire ?"
2 Dionysodorus the Troezenian, however, corrects him, and gives it right:-
"Who but unhappy sons will praise their sires ?"
He says, the proverb was made to silence those who, having no merit of their own, dress themselves up in the virtues of their ancestors, and are lavish in their praises. 3 And those in whom "the virtues of their sires shine in congenial beauty", to make use of Pindarus' expression; who, like you, form their conduct after the brightest patterns in their families, may think it a great happiness to remember the most excellent of their ancestors, and often to hear or speak of them; 4 for they assume not the honour of other men's virtues for want of merit in their own, but uniting their great actions to those of their progenitors, they praise them as the authors of their descent, and the models of their lives. 5 For which reason, when I have written the life of Aratus, your countryman, and one of your ancestors, I shall send it to you, who reflect no dishonour upon him either in point of reputation or power. Not that I doubt your having informed yourself of his actions from the first with all possible care and exactness; but I do it that your sons, Polycrates and Pythocles, may form themselves upon the great examples in their own family, sometimes hearing and sometimes reading what it becomes them well to imitate: 6 for it is the self admirer, not the admirer of virtue, that thinks himself superior to others.

[2] After the pure Doric harmony, I mean the aristocracy, was broken in Sicyon, and seditions took place through the ambition of the demagogues, the city continued a long time in a disordered state. It only changed one tyrant for another, till Cleon was slain, and the administration committed to Timocleidas and Cleinias, persons of the greatest reputation and authority amongst the citizens. 2 The commonwealth seemed to be in some degree re-established, when Timocleidas died. Abantidas, the son of Paseas, taking that opportunity to set himself up tyrant, killed Cleinias, and either banished or put to death his friends and relations. He sought also for his son Aratus, who was only seven years old, with a design to despatch him. 3 But, in the confusion that was in his house when his father was slain, the boy escaped among those that fled, and wandered about the city, in fear and destitute of help, till he happened to enter, unobserved, the house of a woman named Soso, who was sister to Abantidas, and had been married to Prophantus, the brother of Cleinias. 4 As she was a person of generous sentiments, and persuaded besides that it was by the direction of some deity that the child had taken refuge with her, she concealed him in one of her apartments till night, and then sent him privately to Argos.

[3] Aratus, having thus escaped so imminent a danger, immediately conceived a violent and implacable hatred for tyrants, which increased as he grew up. He was educated by the friends of his family at Argos in a liberal manner; and as he was vigorous and robust, he took to gymnastic exercises, and succeeded so well as to gain the prize in the pentathlon. 2 Indeed, in his statues there is an athletic look; and amidst the strong sense and majesty expressed in his countenance, we may yet discover something of the "voracity and hard labour" of the wrestlers. 3 Hence perhaps it was that he cultivated his powers of eloquence less than became a statesman. He might indeed be a better speaker than some suppose; and there are those who judge, from his Commentaries, that he certainly was so, though they were hastily written, and attempted nothing beyond common language.

4 Some time after the escape of Aratus, Deinias and Aristoteles the teacher of dialectic formed a design against Abantidas, and they easily found an opportunity to kill him, when he attended and sometimes joined in their disputations in the public halls, which they had gradually drawn him into for that very purpose. Paseas, the father of Abantidas, then seized the supreme power, but he was assassinated by Nicocles, who took his place, and was the next tyrant. 5 We are told that there was a perfect likeness between this Nicocles and Periander, the son of Cypselus; as Orontes the Persian resembled Alcmaeon, the son of Amphiaraus, and a Lacedaemonian youth the great Hector. Myrsilus informs us, that the young man was crowded to death by the multitudes who came to see him when that resemblance was known.

[4] Nicocles reigned four months, during which time he did a thousand injuries to the people, and was near losing the city to the Aetolians, who formed a scheme to surprise it. Aratus was by this time approaching to manhood, and great attention was paid him on account of his high birth and his spirit, in which there was nothing little or unenterprising, and yet it was under the correction of a gravity and solidity of judgement much beyond his years. 2 The exiles, therefore, considered him as their principal resource; and Nicocles did not neglect his movements, but by his private agents observed the measures he was taking. Not that he expected he would embark in so bold and dangerous an enterprise as he did, but he suspected his applications to the princes who were the friends of his father. 3 Indeed Aratus began in that channel; but when he found that Antigonus, notwithstanding his promises, put him off from time to time, and that his hopes from Egypt and Ptolemy were too remote, he resolved to destroy the tyrant without any foreign assistance.

[5] The first persons to whom he communicated his intentions were Aristomachus and Ecdelus. Aristomachus was an exile from Sicyon, and Ecdelus an Arcadian banished from Megalopolis. The latter was a philosopher, who in speculation never lost sight of practice, for he had studied at Athens under Arcesilaus the Academic. 2 As these readily accepted his proposal, he applied to the other exiles; a few of whom joined him, because they were ashamed to give up so promising a hope; but the greatest part believed it was only Aratus' inexperience that made him think of so bold an attempt, and endeavoured to prevent his proceeding.

3 While he was considering how to seize some post in the territories of Sicyon, from whence he might prosecute hostilities against the tyrant, a man of Sicyon arrived at Argos who had escaped out of prison. He was brother to Xenocles, one of the exiles; and being introduced by him to Aratus, he informed him, that the part of the wall which he had got over was almost level with the ground on the inside, as it joined upon a high rocky part of the city, and that on the outside it was not so high but that it might be scaled. 4 Upon this intelligence, Aratus sent two of his servants, Seuthas and Technon, along with Xenocles, to reconnoitre the wall; for he was resolved, if he could do it secretly, to hazard all upon one great effort, rather than lengthen out the war, and publicly engage with a tyrant, when he had no resources but those of a private man.

5 Xenocles and his companions, after they had taken the height of the wall, reported, at their return, that it was neither impracticable nor difficult, but that it was dangerous to attempt it on account of some dogs kept by a gardener, which were little indeed, but at the same time extremely fierce and furious. Aratus, however, immediately set about the work. [6] It was easy to provide arms without suspicion; for almost everybody went armed, by reason of the frequent robberies and the incursions of one people into the territories of another. And as to the scaling ladders, Euphranor, who was one of the exiles, and a carpenter by trade, made them publicly; his business screening him from suspicion. 2 Each of his friends in Argos, who had no great number of men that he could command, furnished him with ten; he armed thirty of his own servants, and hired some few soldiers of Xenophilus, who was chief captain of a band of robbers. To the latter it was given out that the design of their march to Sicyon was to carry off the king's stud; and several of them were sent before by different ways to the tower of Polygnotus, with orders to wait for him there. 3 Caphesias was likewise sent with four others in a travelling dress. These were to go in the evening to the gardener's, and, pretending to be travellers, get a lodging there; after which, they were to confine both him and his dogs: for that part of the wall was not accessible any other way. The ladders being made to take in pieces, were packed up in corn chests, and sent before in wagons prepared for that purpose.

4 In the meantime some of the tyrant's spies arrived at Argos, and it was reported that they were skulking about to watch the motions of Aratus. Next morning, therefore, Aratus appeared early with his friends in the market-place, and talked with them for some time. He then went to the Gymnasium, and after he had anointed himself, took with him some young men from the wrestling ring who used to be of his parties of pleasure, and returned home. In a little time his servants were seen in the market-place, some carrying chaplets of flowers, some buying torches, and some in discourse with the women who used to sing and play at entertainments. 5 Those manoeuvres deceived the spies. They laughed, and said to each other," Certainly nothing can be more dastardly than a tyrant, since Nicocles, who is master of so strong a city, and armed with so much power, lives in fear of a young man who wastes the pittance he has to subsist on in exile in drinking and revelling even in the day-time." After these false reasonings they retired.

[7] Aratus, immediately after he had made his meal, set out for the tower of Polygnotus, and when he had joined the soldiers there, proceeded to Nemea, where he disclosed his real intentions to his whole company. Having exhorted them to behave like brave men, and promised them great rewards, 2 he gave propitious Apollo for the word, and then led them forwards towards Sicyon, governing his march according to the motion of the moon, sometimes quickening and slackening his pace, so as to have the benefit of its light by the way, and to come to the garden by the wall just after it was set. 3 There Caphesias met him, and informed him that the dogs were let out before he arrived, but that he had secured the gardener. Most of the company were greatly dispirited at this account, and desired Aratus to quit his enterprise; but he encouraged them by promising to desist if the dogs should prove very troublesome. 4 Then he ordered those who carried the ladders to march before, under the conduct of Ecdelus and Mnasitheus, and himself followed softly. The dogs now began to run about and bark violently at Ecdelus and his men; nevertheless they approached the wall, and planted their ladders safe. 5 But as the foremost of them were mounting, the officer who was to be relieved by the morning guard passed by that way at the sound of the bell, with many torches and much noise. Upon this, the men laid themselves close to their ladders, and escaped the notice of this watch without much difficulty; but when the other which was to relieve it came up, they were in the utmost danger. 6 However, that too passed by without observing them, after which, Mnasitheus and Ecdelus mounted the wall first, and having secured the way both to the right and left, they sent Technon to Aratus to desire him to advance as fast as possible.

[8] It was no great distance from the garden to the wall, and to a tower in which was placed a great hunting dog to alarm the guard. But whether he was naturally drowsy, or had wearied himself the day before, he did not perceive their entrance. But the gardener's dog awaking him by barking below, he began to growl; and when Aratus' men passed by the tower, he barked out, 2 so that the whole place resounded with the noise. Then the sentinel who kept watch opposite the tower called aloud to the huntsman, and asked him, "Whom the dog barked at so angrily, or whether anything new had happened ?', 3 The huntsman answered from the tower, " That there was nothing extraordinary, and that the dog was only disturbed at the torches of the guards and the noise of the bell." This encouraged Aratus' soldiers more than anything; for they imagined that the huntsman concealed the truth because he had a secret understanding with their leader, and that there were many others in the town who would promote the design. 4 But when the rest of their companions came to scale the wall, the danger increased. It appeared to be a long affair, because the ladders shook and swung extremely if they did not mount them softly and one by one; and the time pressed, for the cocks began to crow. The country people, too, who kept the market, were expected to arrive every moment. 5 Aratus, therefore, hastened up himself when only 40 of his company were upon the wall; and when a few more had joined him from below, he put himself at the head of his men, and marched immediately to the tyrant's palace, where the main guard was kept, and where the mercenaries passed the night under arms. Coming suddenly upon them, he took them prisoners without killing one man; and then sent to his friends in the town to invite them to come and join him.6 They ran to him from all quarters ; and day now appearing, the theatre was filled with a crowd of people who stood in suspense; for they had only heard a rumour, and had no certainty of what was doing, till a herald came and proclaimed it in these words, " Aratus the son of Cleinias calls the citizens to liberty."

[9] Then, persuaded that the day they had long expected was come, they rushed in multitudes to the palace of the tyrant, and set fire to it. The flame was so strong that it was seen as far as Corinth, and the Corinthians, wondering what might be the cause, were upon the point of going to their assistance. 2 Nicocles escaped out of the city by some subterranean conduits; and the soldiers having helped the Sicyonians to extinguish the fire, plundered his palace. Nor did Aratus hinder them from taking this booty; but the rest of the wealth, which the several tyrants had amassed, he bestowed upon the citizens.

3 There was not so much as one man killed or wounded in this action, either of Aratus' party or the enemy, fortune so conducting the enterprise as not to sully it with the blood of one citizen. 4 Aratus recalled 80 persons who had been banished by Nicocles, and 500 of those who had been expelled by the former tyrants. The latter had long been forced to wander from place to place, some of them fully fifty years; 5 consequently most of them returned in a destitute condition. They were now, indeed, restored to their ancient possessions; but their going into houses and lands which had found new masters laid Aratus under great difficulties. Outside he saw Antigonus envying the liberty which the city had recovered, and laying schemes to enslave it again, and within he found nothing but faction and disorder. 6 He therefore judged it best in this critical situation to join it to the Achaean league. Although the people of Sicyon were Dorians, they had no objection to being called a part of the Achaean community, or to their form of government. It must be acknowledged, indeed, that the Achaeans at that time were no very great or powerful people. Their towns were generally small, their lands neither extensive nor fertile; and they had no harbours on their coasts, the sea for the most part entering the land in rocky and impracticable creeks. 7 Yet none gave a better proof than this people, that the power of Greece is invincible while good order and harmony prevail amongst its members, and it has an able general to lead her armies. In fact, these very Achaeans, though but inconsiderable in comparison with the Greeks in their flourishing times, or, to speak more properly, not equalling in their whole community the strength of one respectable city in the period we are upon, yet by good counsels and unanimity, and by hearkening to any man of superior virtue, instead of envying his merit, not only kept themselves free amidst so many powerful states and tyrants, but saved great part of Greece, or rescued it from chains.

[10] As to his character, Aratus had something very popular in his behaviour; he had a native greatness of mind, and was more attentive to the public interest than to his own. He was an implacable enemy to tyrants; but with respect to others, he made the good of his country the sole rule of his friendship or opposition, 2 so that he seems rather to have been a mild and moderate enemy than a zealous friend; his regards or aversions to particular men varying as the occasions of the commonwealth dictated. In short, nations and great communities with one voice re-echoed the declaration of the assemblies and theatres, that Aratus loved none but good men. With regard to open wars and pitched battles, he was indeed diffident and timorous; but in gaining a point by stratagem, in surprising cities and tyrants, there could not be an abler man.

3 To this cause we must assign it, that, after he had exerted great courage and succeeded in enterprises that were looked upon as desperate, through too much fear and caution he gave up others that were more practicable, and not of less importance. 4 For, as amongst animals there are some that can see very clearly in the night, and yet are next to blind in the daytime, the dryness of the eye and the subtlety of its humours not suffering them to bear the light; so there is in a man a kind of courage and understanding which is easily disconcerted in open dangers and encounters, and yet resumes a happy boldness in secret enterprises. 5 The reason of this inequality, in men who are otherwise excellent, is their lack of the advantages of philosophy. Virtue in them is the product of nature, unassisted by science, like the fruits of the forest, which come without the least cultivation. Of this there are many examples to be found.

[11] After Aratus had engaged himself and his city in the Achaean league, he served in the cavalry, and the generals highly esteemed him for his ready obedience; for though he had contributed so much to the common cause by his name and by the forces of Sicyon, yet the Achaean commander, whether of Dyme, or Tritaea, or some more inconsiderable town, found him always as tractable as the meanest soldier.

2 When the king of Egypt made him a present of 25 talents, he received it indeed, but laid out the whole upon his fellow-citizens ; relieving the needy with part of it, and ransoming such as were prisoners with the rest.

[12] But the exiles whom Aratus had recalled would not be satisfied with anything less than the restitution of their estates, and gave the present possessors so much trouble that the city was in danger of being ruined by sedition. In this extremity he saw no resource except in the generosity of Ptolemy, and therefore determined to take a voyage to Egypt, and apply to him for as much money as would reconcile all parties. 2 Accordingly he set sail for Methone, above the promontory of Malea, in hopes of taking the shortest passage; but a contrary wind sprang up, and the seas ran so high, that the pilot, unable to bear up against them, changed his course, and with much difficulty got into Adria, 3 a town which was in the enemy's hands, for Antigonus had a garrison there. To avoid this imminent danger he landed, and, with only one friend, named Timanthes, making his way as far as possible from the sea, sought for shelter in a place well covered with wood, in which he and his companion spent a very disagreeable night. 4 Soon after he had left the ship, the governor of the fort came and inquired for him, but he was deceived by Aratus' servants, who were instructed to say he had made off in another vessel to Euboea. However, he detained the ship and servants as a lawful prize. 5 Aratus spent some days in this distressful situation, where one while he looked out to reconnoitre the coast, and another while he kept himself concealed; but at last, by good fortune, a Roman ship happened to put in near the place of his retreat. The ship was bound for Syria, and Aratus prevailed upon the master to land him in Caria. But he had equal dangers to combat at sea in this as in his former passages; 6 and when he was in Caria, he had a voyage to take to Egypt, which he found a very long one. Upon his arrival, however, he was immediately admitted to audience by the king, who had long been inclined to serve him, on account of the paintings which he used to provide him with from Greece; for Aratus, who had a taste for these things, was always collecting for him the pieces of the best masters, particularly those of Pamphilus and Melanthus ; [13] for Sicyon was famed for the cultivation of the arts, particularly the art of painting, and it was believed that there only the ancient elegance was preserved without the least corruption. Hence it was, that the great Apelles, at a time when he was much admired, went to Sicyon, and gave the painters a talent, not so much for any advantage he expected, as for the reputation of having been of their school; 2 in consequence of which, Aratus, when he restored Sicyon to liberty, and destroyed the portraits of the tyrants, hesitated a long time on coming to that of Aristratus, for it was the united work of the disciples of Melanthus, who had represented him standing in a chariot of victory; and the pencil of Apelles had contributed to the performance, as we are informed by Polemon the geographer.

3 The piece was so admirable that Aratus could not avoid feeling the art that was displayed in it; but his hatred of tyrants soon overruled that feeling, and he ordered it to be defaced. 4 Nealces the painter, who was honoured with his friendship, is said to have implored him with tears to spare that piece; and when he found him inflexible, said, " Aratus, continue your war with tyrants, but not with everything that belongs to them. Spare at least the chariot and the victory, and I shall soon make Aristratus vanish." 5 Aratus gave his consent, and Nealces defaced the figure of Aristratus, but did not venture to put anything in its place except a palm-tree. We are told, however, that there was still a dim appearance of the feet of Aristratus at the bottom of the chariot.

6 This taste for painting had already recommended Aratus to Ptolemy, and his conversation gained so much further upon him, that he made a present of 150 talents for the city; 40 of which he sent with him on his return to Peloponnesus, and he paid the rest in the several portions and at the times that he had fixed. [14] It was a glorious thing to apply so much money to the use of his fellow-citizens, at a time when it was common to see generals and demagogues, for much smaller sums, which they received of the kings, oppress, enslave, and betray to them the cities where they were born. But it was still more glorious by this money to reconcile the poor to the rich, to secure the commonwealth, and establish harmony amongst all ranks of people.

His moderation in the exercise of the great power he was vested with, was truly admirable. 2 For, being appointed sole arbitrator of the claims of the exiles, he refused to act alone, and joined 15 of the citizens in the commission; with whose assistance, after much labour and attention, he established peace and friendship amongst the people. 3 Besides the honours which the whole community conferred on him for these services, the exiles in particular erected his statue in brass, and put upon it this inscription :
4 "Far as the pillars which Heracles rear'd,
Your counsels and your deeds in arms for Greece
The tongue of Fame has told. But we, Aratus,
We wanderers whom you have restored to Sicyon,
Will sing your justice; place your pleasing form,
As a benign power with the gods that save.
For you have given that dear equality,
And all the laws which favouring Heaven might give."

[15] Aratus, after such important services, was placed above envy amongst his people. But king Antigonus, uneasy at the progress he made, was determined either to gain him, or to make him obnoxious to Ptolemy. He therefore gave him extraordinary marks of his regard, though Aratus did not welcome such advances. Amongst others this was one. On occasion of a sacrifice which he offered at Corinth, he sent portions of it to Aratus at Sicyon; 2 and at the feast which ensued, he said in full assembly, " I at first looked upon this young Sicyonian only as a man of a liberal and patriotic spirit, but now I find that he is also a good judge of the characters and affairs of princes. 3 At first he overlooked us for the sake of foreign hopes, and the admiration he had conceived from stories of the wealth, the elephants, fleets, and the splendid court of Egypt; but since he has been upon the spot, and seen that all this pomp is merely a theatrical thing, he is come over entirely to us. I have received him to my bosom, and am determined to employ him in all my affairs. I desire, therefore, you will all consider him as a friend." 4 The envious and malevolent took occasion from this speech to lay heavy charges against Aratus in their letters to Ptolemy, insomuch that the king sent one of his agents to tax him with his infidelity. 5 Thus, like passionate lovers, the candidates for the first favours of kings dispute them with the utmost envy and malignity.

[16] After Aratus was first chosen general of the Achaean league, he ravaged Locris, which lies on the other side of the Gulf of Corinth ; and committed the same spoil in the territories of Calydon. It was his intention to assist the Boeotians with 10,000 men, but he came too late; they were already defeated by the Aetolians in an action near Chaeroneia, in which Aboeocritus their general and 1000 of their men were slain.

2 The year following, Aratus, being elected general again, undertook that celebrated enterprise of recovering the citadel of Corinth, in which he consulted not only the benefit of Sicyon and Achaea, but of Greece in general, for such would be the expulsion of the Macedonian garrison, which was nothing better than a tyrant's yoke. 3 As Chares, the Athenian general, upon a battle which he won over the king of Persia's lieutenants, wrote to the people that he had gained a victory which was sister to that of Marathon; 4 so we may justly call this exploit of Aratus sister to that of Pelopidas the Theban and Thrasybulus the Athenian when they killed the tyrants. There is, indeed, this difference, that Aratus' enterprise was not against Greeks, but against a foreign power, which is a difference much to his honour. 5 For the Isthmus of Corinth, which separates the two seas, joins our land to that of Peloponnesus ; and when there is a good garrison in the citadel of Corinth, which stands on a high hill in the middle, at an equal distance from the two lands, it cut off the communication with those within the Isthmus, so that there can be no passage for troops, nor any kind of commerce, either by sea or land. 6 In short, he that is possessed of it is master of all Greece. The younger Philippus of Macedon, therefore, was not jesting, but spoke a serious truth, when he called the city of Corinth the fetters of Greece.

[17] Hence the place was always much contended for, particularly by kings and princes. Antigonus' passion for it was not less than that of love in its greatest madness; and it was the chief object of his cares to find a method of taking it by surprise when the hopes of succeeding by open force failed. 2 When Alexander, who was master of the citadel, died of poison, that is said to have been given him through Antigonus' means, his wife Nicaea, into whose hands it then fell, guarded it with great care. But Antigonus, hoping to gain it by means of his son Demetrius, sent him to make her an offer of his hand. It was a flattering prospect to a woman somewhat advanced in years, to have such a young prince for her husband. Accordingly, Antigonus caught her by this bait. 3 However, she did not give up the citadel, but guarded it with the same attention as before. Antigonus pretending to take no notice, celebrated the marriage with sacrifices and shows, and spent whole days in feasting the people, as if his mind had been entirely taken up with mirth and pleasure. 4 One day, when Amoebeus was to sing in the theatre, he conducted Nicaea in person on her way to the entertainment in a litter set out with royal ornaments. She was elated with the honour, and had not the least thought of what was to ensue. 5 But when they came to the point which bore towards the citadel, he ordered the men that bore the litter to proceed to the theatre; and bidding farewell to Amoebeus and the wedding, he walked up to the fort, much faster than could have been expected from a man of his years. Finding the gate barred, he knocked with his staff, and commanded the guard to open it. Surprised at the sight of him, they complied, 6 and thus he became master of the place. He was not able to contain his joy on that occasion; he drank and revelled in the open streets and in the market-place, attended with female musicians, and crowned with flowers. When we see a man of his age, who had experienced such changes of fortune, carouse and indulge his delight, embracing and saluting every one he meets, 7 we must acknowledge that unexpected joy raises greater tumults in an unbalanced mind, and disorders it sooner than either fear or sorrow.

[18] Antigonus having in this manner made himself master of the citadel, garrisoned it with men in whom he placed the greatest confidence, and made the philosopher Persaeus governor. 2 Whilst Alexander was living, Aratus had cast his eye upon it, as an excellent acquisition for his country; but the Achaeans admitting Alexander into the league, he did not prosecute his design. Afterwards, however, a new occasion presented itself. 3 There were in Corinth four brothers, natives of Syria, one of whom, named Diocles, served as a soldier in the garrison. 4 The other three having stolen some of the king's money, retired to Sicyon, where they applied to one Aegias, a banker whom Aratus used to employ. Part of this gold they immediately deposited with him, and Erginus, one of the three, at several visits privately changed the rest. 5 Thus an acquaintance was formed between him and Aegias, who one day drew him into discourse about the garrison. Erginus told him, that as he often went up to visit his brother, he had observed, on the steepest side, a small winding path cut in the rock, and leading to a part of the wall much lower than the rest. 6 Upon this Aegias said, with an air of raillery, " Why will you, my good friend, purloin the king's treasures for so inconsiderable a sum, when you might raise yourself to opulence by one hour's service ? Do not you know that if you are taken, you will as certainly be put to death for this trifling theft, as if you had betrayed the citadel ?" 7 Erginus laughed at the hint, and promised to sound his brother Diocles upon the subject; for he could not, he said, place much confidence in the other two.

A few days after this he returned, and had an interview with Aratus, at which it was agreed that he should conduct him to a part of the wall that was not above 15 feet high, and that both he and his brother Diocles should assist him in the rest of the enterprise. [19] Aratus, on his part, promised to give them 60 talents if he succeeded; and in case they failed, and yet returned all safe to Sicyon, he engaged that each of them should have a house and one talent. 2 As it was necessary that the 60 talents should be deposited in the hands of Aegias, for the satisfaction of Erginus, and Aratus neither had such a sum, nor chose to borrow it, because that might create some suspicion of his intentions, he took most of his plate, and his wife's jewels, and pledged them with Aegias for the money. 3 Such was the greatness of his soul, such his passion for high achievements, that knowing that Phocion and Epaminondas were accounted the justest and most excellent of all the Greeks, for refusing great presents, and not sacrificing virtue to money, he ascended a step higher. He privately gave money, he embarked his estate on an enterprise where he alone was to expose himself for the many, who were not even aware of his intentions in their favour. 4 Who then can sufficiently admire his magnanimity? Who is there, even in our days, that is not fired with an ambition to imitate the man who purchased so much danger at so great an expense, who pledged the most valuable of his goods for the sake of being introduced by night amongst enemies, where he was to fight for his life, without any other equivalent than the hope of performing a great action?

[20] This undertaking, which was dangerous enough in itself, became more so by a mistake which they committed in the beginning. 2 Technon, one of Aratus' servants, was sent before to Diocles, that they might reconnoitre the wall together. He had never seen Diocles, but he thought he should easily know him by the marks which Erginus had given, which were curled hair, a swarthy complexion, and want of beard. 3 He went, therefore, to the place appointed, and sat down before the city at a point called Ornis, to wait for Erginus and his brother Diocles. 4 In the meantime Dionysius, their eldest brother, who knew nothing of the affair, happened to come up. He greatly resembled Diocles, and Technon, struck with his appearance, which answered the description, asked him if he had any connection with Erginus. 5 He said he was his brother, upon which Technon, thoroughly persuaded that he was speaking to Diocles, without asking his name or waiting for any token, gave him his hand, mentioned to him the circumstances of the appointment with Erginus, and asked him many questions about it. 6 Dionysius availed himself very artfully of the mistake, agreed to every point, and returning towards the city, held him in discourse without giving him the least cause of suspicion. 7 They were now near the town, and he was on the point of seizing Technon, when, by good fortune, Erginus met them, and perceiving how much his friend was imposed upon, and the great danger he was in, beckoned to him to make his escape. Accordingly they both fled, and got safe to Aratus. 8 However, Aratus did not give up his hopes, but immediately sent Erginus to Dionysius, to offer him money and entreat him to be silent; in which he succeeded so well, that he brought Dionysius along with him to Aratus. 9 When they had him in their hands, they did not think it safe to part with him; they bound and set a guard on him in a small apartment, and then prepared for their principal design.

[21] When every thing was ready, Aratus ordered his troops to pass the night under arms; and taking with him 400 picked men, few of whom knew the business they were going about, he led them to the gates of the city near the temple of Hera. 2 It was then about the middle of summer, the moon at the full, and the night without the least cloud. As their arms glittered with the reflection of the moon, they were afraid that circumstances would discover them to the watch. The foremost of them were now near the walls, when clouds arose from the sea, and covered the city and its environs. 3 The men sat down and took off their shoes, that they might make the less noise, and mount the ladders without danger of slipping. But Erginus took with him 7 young men in the habit of travellers, and getting unobserved to the gate, killed the keeper and the guard that were with him. 4 At the same time the ladders were applied to the walls, and Aratus, with l00 men, got over with the utmost speed. The rest he commanded to follow in the best manner they could, and having immediately drawn up his ladders, he marched at the head of his party through the town towards the citadel, confident of success, because he was not discovered.

5 As they advanced they met four of the watch with a light, which gave Aratus a full and timely view of them, while he and his company could not be seen by them, because the moon was still overclouded. 6 He therefore retired under some ruined walls, and lay in ambush for them. Three out of the four were killed; but the other, after he had received a cut upon his head, ran off; crying, " That the enemy was in the city." 7 A little after, the trumpets sounded, and the whole town was in motion on the alarm. The streets were filled with people running up and down, and so many lights were - brought out, both in the lower town and the citadel, that the whole was illuminated, and a confused noise was heard from every quarter. [22] Aratus went on, notwithstanding, and attempted the way up the rock. He proceeded in a slow and difficult manner at first, because he had lost the path, which lay deep beneath the craggy parts of the rock, and led to the wall by a great variety of windings and turnings. 2 But at that moment the moon, as it were by miracle, is said to have dispersed the clouds, and thrown a light on the most obscure part of the path, which continued till he reached the wall at the place he wanted. Then the clouds gathered afresh, and it hid her face again.

3 In the meantime the 300 men whom Aratus had left by the temple of Hera had entered the city, which they found all in alarm, and full of lights. As they could not find the way Aratus had taken, nor trace him in the least, they screened themselves under the shady side of a high rock, and waited there in great perplexity and distress. 4 By this time Aratus was engaged with the enemy on the ramparts of the citadel, and they could distinguish the cries of combatants ; but as the noise was echoed by the neighbouring mountains, it was uncertain from whence it first came. 5 Whilst they were in doubt what way to turn, Archelaus, who commanded the king's forces, took a considerable number of soldiers, and began to ascend the hill with loud shouts, and trumpets sounding, in order to attack Aratus' rear. He passed the party of the 300 without perceiving them; 6 but he was no sooner gone by than they rose as from an ambuscade, fell upon him, and killing the first they attacked, so terrified the rest, and even Archelaus himself, that they turned their backs, and were pursued till they entirely dispersed.

7 When the party was thus victorious, Erginus came to them from their friends above, to inform them that Aratus was engaged with the enemy, who defended themselves with great vigour, that the wall itself was disputed, and that their general wanted immediate assistance. 8 They bade him lead them to the place that moment, and as they ascended, they discovered themselves by their shouts. Thus their friends were encouraged, and the reflection of the full moon upon their arms made their numbers appear greater to their enemies, on account of the length of the path. In the echoes of the night, too, the shouts seemed to come from a much larger party. 9 At last they joined Aratus, and with a united effort beat off the enemy, and took post upon the wall. At break of day the citadel was their own, and the first rays of the sun did honour to their victory. At the same time the rest of Aratus' forces arrived from Sicyon. The Corinthians readily opened their gates to them, and assisted in taking the king's soldiers prisoners.

[23] When he thought his victory complete, he went down from the citadel to the theatre; an innumerable multitude crowding to see him, and to hear the speech that he would make to the Corinthians. 2 After he had disposed the Achaeans on each side of the avenues to the theatre, he came from behind the scenes, and made his appearance in his armour; but he was so much changed by labour and watching, that the joy and elevation which his success might have inspired, were weighed down by the extreme fatigue of his spirits. 3 On his appearance the people immediately began to express their high sense of his services, upon which he took his spear in his right hand, and leaning his body and one knee a little against it, remained a long time in that posture silent, to receive their plaudits and acclamations, their praises of his virtue, and compliments on his good fortune.

4 After their first expressions of delight were over, and he perceived that he could be heard, he summoned the strength he had left, and made a speech in the name of the Achaeans suitable to the great event. He persuaded the Corinthians to join the league, and delivered to them the keys of their city, which they had not been masters of since the times of Philippus. 5 As to the generals of Antigonus, he sent Archelaus, who was his prisoner, free; but he put Theophrastus to death, because he refused to leave Corinth. Persaeus, on the taking of the citadel, made his escape to Cenchreae. 6 Some time after, when he was amusing himself with disputations in philosophy, and some person advanced this position, " None but the wise man is fit to be a general :" " It is true," said he, " and the gods know it, that this maxim of Zenon's once pleased me more than all the rest ; but I have changed my opinion, since I was better taught by the young Sicyonian.'

[24] Aratus immediately seized the Heraeum, or temple of Hera, and the harbour of Lechaeum, in which he took 25 of the king's ships. He took also 500 horses, and 400 Syrians, whom he sold. The Achaeans put a garrison of 400 men in the citadel of Corinth, which was strengthened with 50 dogs, and as many men to keep them.

2 The Romans were great admirers of Philopoemen, and called him the last of the Greeks ; not allowing that there was any great man amongst that people after him. But, in my opinion, this exploit of Aratus is the last which the Greeks have to boast of. Indeed, whether we consider the boldness of the enterprise, or the good fortune which attended it, it equals the greatest upon record. The same appears from its immediate consequences ; 3 the Megarians revolted from Antigonus, and joined Aratus ; the Troezenians and Epidaurians too ranged themselves on the side of the Achaeans.

In his first expedition beyond the bounds of Peloponnesus, Aratus overran Attica, and passing into Salamis, ravaged that island, so that the Achaean forces thought themselves escaped, as it were, out of prison, and followed him wherever he pleased. 4 On this occasion he set the Athenian prisoners free without ransom, by which he sowed amongst them the first seeds of defection from the Macedonians. He brought Ptolemy likewise into the Achaean league, by procuring him the direction of the war both by sea and land. 5 Such was his influence over the Achaeans, that, as the laws did not allow him to be general two years together, they appointed him every other year; and in action, as well as counsel, he had always in effect the chief command ; for they saw it was not wealth, or glory, or the friendship of kings, or the advantage of his own country, or anything else that he preferred to the promotion of the Achaean power. 6 He thought that cities in their single capacity were weak, and that they could not provide for their defence without uniting and binding themselves together for the common good. As the members of the body cannot be nourished, or live, but by their connection with each other, and when separated pine and decay ; so cities perish when they break off from the community to which they belonged : and, on the contrary, gather strength and power by becoming part of some great body, and enjoying the fruits of the wisdom of the whole.

[25] Observing, therefore, that all the bravest people in his neighbourhood lived according to their own laws, it gave him pain to see the Argives in slavery, and he took measures for destroying their tyrant Aristomachus. Besides, he was ambitious of restoring Argos to its liberty, as a reward for the education it had afforded him, and to unite it to the Achaean league. 2 Without much difficulty he found some hardy enough to undertake the commission, at the head of whom were Aeschylus and Charimenes the diviner; but they had no swords, for they were forbidden to keep arms, and the tyrant had laid great penalties on such as should be found to have any in their possession. To supply this defect, Aratus provided several daggers for them at Corinth, and having sewed them up in the pack-saddles of horses that were to carry some ordinary wares, they were by that stratagem conveyed to Argos. 3 In the meantime Charimenes took on another of his friends as a partner, and Aeschylus and his associates were so much provoked that they cast him off, and determined to do the business by themselves. But Charimenes, perceiving their intention, in resentment of the slight, informed the tyrant of their purpose, when they were setting out to put it in execution. Upon which they fled with great haste, and most of them escaped to Corinth.

4 It was not long, however, before Aristomachus was despatched by one of his own servants; but before any measures could be taken to guard against tyranny, Aristippus took the reins, and proved a worse tyrant than the former. Aratus, indeed, marched immediately to Argos with all the Achaeans that were able to bear arms, in order to support the citizens, whom he doubted not to find ready to assert their liberty. 5 But they had been long accustomed to the yoke, and were willing to be slaves; insomuch that not one of them joined him, and he returned with the inconvenience of bringing a charge upon the Achaeans, that they had committed acts of hostility in time of full peace; for they were summoned to answer for this injustice before the Mantineians.

Aratus did not appear at the trial, and Aristippus being the prosecutor, got a fine of 30 minae laid upon the Achaeans. 6 As that tyrant both hated and feared Aratus, he meditated his death, and Antigonus entered into the scheme. They had their emissaries in almost every quarter, watching their opportunity. 7 But the surest guard for a prince, or other chief, is the sincere affection of his people : for when the commons and the nobility, instead of fearing their chief magistrate, fear for him, he sees with many eyes, and hears with many ears. 8 And here I leave the thread of my story, to describe that manner of life which Aristippus was under a necessity of leading, if he chose to keep in his hands that despotism, that state of an arbitrary sovereign, which is commonly so much envied and admired as the highest pitch of happiness.

[26] This tyrant, who had Antigonus for his ally, who kept so large a body-guard, and had not left one of his enemies alive in the city, would not suffer his guards to do duty in the palace, but only in the vestibule and porticoes about it. 2 When supper was over, he sent away all his servants, barred the door of the hall himself, and with his mistress crept through a trap-door into a small chamber above. Upon that door he placed his bed, and slept there as a person in his anxious state of mind may be supposed to sleep. 3 The ladder by which he went up, his mistress's mother took away, and secured in another room till morning, when she brought it again, and called up this wonderful prince, who crept like a reptile out of his hole. 4 Whereas Aratus, who acquired a lasting command, not by force of arms, but by virtue, and in a way agreeable to the laws; who made his appearance without fear in a plain cloak and mantle, and always showed himself an enemy to tyrants, left an illustrious posterity among the Greeks, which flourishes at this day. 5 But of those who have seized castles, who have maintained guards, who have fenced themselves with arms, and gates, and barricades, how few can we reckon up that have not, like timorous hares, died a violent death; and not one of them has left a family, or even a monument, to preserve his memory with honour.

[27] Aratus made many attempts, both private and open, to pull down Aristippus, and rescue Argos out of his hands, but he always miscarried. Once he applied his scaling ladders, and ascended the wall with a small party, in spite of the extreme danger that threatened him. He even succeeded so far as to kill the guards that came to oppose him; 2 but when day appeared, and the tyrant attacked him on all sides, the people of Argos, as if he had not been fighting for their liberty, and they were only presiding at the Nemean games, sat very impartial spectators of the action, without making the least motion to assist. 3 Aratus defended himself with great courage, and though he had his thigh run through with a spear, maintained his post all day against such superior numbers. 4 Would his strength have permitted him to continue the combat in the night, too, he must have carried his point; for the tyrant now thought of nothing but making his escape, and had already sent most of his treasure on board his ships. However, as no one gave Aratus intelligence of this circumstance, as his water failed, and his wound disqualified him from any further efforts, he called off his men and retired.

[28] He now despaired of succeeding by way of surprise, and therefore openly entered the territories of Argos with his army, and committed great devastations. He fought a pitched battle with Aristippus, near the river Chares, and on that occasion he was censured for deserting the action, and letting the victory slip out of his hands; 2 for one part of his army had clearly the advantage, and was advancing fast in the pursuit, when he, without being overpowered where he acted in person, merely out of fear and diffidence, retired in great disorder to his camp. 3 His men, on their return from the pursuit, expressed their indignation at being prevented from erecting the trophy, after they had put the enemy to flight, and killed many more men than they had lost. Aratus, wounded with these reproaches, determined to risk a second battle for the trophy. Accordingly, after his men had rested one day, he drew them out the next; 4 but finding that the enemy's numbers were increased, and that their troops were in much higher spirits than before, he dared not venture upon an action, but retreated after having obtained a truce to carry off the dead. 5 However, by his engaging manners, and his abilities in the administration, he avoided the consequences of his error, and added the city of Cleonae to the Achaean league. In Cleonae he caused the Nemean games to be celebrated, for he thought that city had the best and most ancient claim to them. 6 The people of Argos likewise exhibited them; and on this occasion, the freedom and security which had been the privilege of the champions were first violated. The Achaeans considered as enemies all that had attended the games at Argos, and haying seized them as they passed through their territories, sold them for slaves - so violent and implacable was their general's hatred of tyrants.

[29] Not long after, Aratus had intelligence that Aristippus had a design upon Cleonae, but that he was afraid of him, because he then resided at Corinth, which was very near Cleonae. In this case he assembled his forces by proclamation, 2 and having ordered them to take provisions for several days, marched to Cenchreae. By this manoeuvre he hoped to bring Aristippus against Cleonae, as supposing him at a distance; and it had its effect. The tyrant immediately set out from Argos with his army; 3 but it was no sooner dark than Aratus returned from Cenchreae to Corinth, and having placed guards in all the roads, led on the Achaeans, who followed him in such good order, and with so much speed and pleasure, that they not only made their march, but entered Cleonae that night, and put themselves in order of battle; nor did Aristippus gain the least knowledge of this movement. 4 Next morning, at break of day, the gates were opened, the trumpet sounded, and Aratus advancing at full speed, and with all the alarm of war, fell upon the enemy, and soon routed them. Then he went upon the pursuit, particularly that way which he imagined Aristippus might take, for the country had several outlets. 5 The pursuit was continued as far as Mycenae, and the tyrant, as Deinias tells us, was overtaken and killed by a Cretan named Tragiscus, and of his army there were above 1500 slain. 6 Aratus, though he had gained this important victory without the loss of one man, could not make himself master of Argos, nor deliver it from slavery ; for Agias and young Aristomachus entered it with the king of Macedon's troops, and held it in subjection.

7 This action silenced in a great measure the calumny of the enemy, and put a stop to the insolent scoffs of those who, to flatter the tyrants, had not scrupled to say, that whenever the Achaean general prepared for battle, his bowels lost their retentive faculty; that when the trumpet sounded, his eyes grew dim and his head giddy; and that when he had given the word, he used to ask his lieutenants and other officers what further need there could be of him, since the die was cast, and whether he might not retire, and wait the event of the day at some distance. 8 These reports had prevailed so much that the philosophers, in their inquiries in the schools, whether the palpitation of the heart and change of colour on the appearance of danger were arguments of cowardice, or only of some natural defect, some coldness in the constitution, used always to quote Aratus as an excellent general, who yet was always subject to these emotions on occasion of a battle.

[30] After he had destroyed Aristippus, he sought means to depose Lydiades the Megalopolitan, who had assumed the supreme power in his native city. This man had something generous in his nature, and was not insensible to true honour. 2 He had not, like most other tyrants, committed this injustice out of a love of licentious pleasure, or from a motive of avarice; but, incited when very young by a passion for glory, and unadvisedly believing the false and vain accounts of the wondrous happiness of arbitrary power, he had made it his business to usurp it. However, he soon felt it a heavy burden, 3 and being at once desirous to gain the happiness which Aratus enjoyed, and to deliver himself from the fear of his intriguing spirit, he formed the noblest resolution that can be conceived, which was first to deliver himself from the hatred, the fears, and the guards that encompassed him, and then to bestow the greatest blessings on his country. 4 In consequence whereof, he sent for Aratus, laid down the authority he had assumed, and joined the city to the Achaean league. The Achaeans, delighted by his noble spirit, thought it not too great a compliment to elect him general. 5 He was no sooner appointed than he discovered an ambition to raise his name above that of Aratus, and was by that means led to several unnecessary attempts, particularly to declare war against the Lacedaemonians. 6 Aratus endeavoured to prevent it, but his opposition was thought to proceed from envy. Lydiades was chosen general a second time, though Aratus exerted all his interest to get that appointment for another, for he had the command himself only every other year. 7 Lydiades was fortunate enough to gain that commission a third time, enjoying it alternately with Aratus. But at last avowing himself his enemy, and often accusing him to the Achaeans in full council, that people cast him off ; for he appeared with only an assumed character to contend against real and sincere virtue. 8 Aesopus tells us, " That the cuckoo one day asked the little birds why they avoided her; and they answered, it was because they feared she would at last prove a hawk." In like manner it happened to Lydiades. It was suspected that, as he had been once a tyrant, his laying down his power was not quite a voluntary thing, and that he would be glad to take the first opportunity to resume it.

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