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Plutarch: Life of Phocion

Chapters 1 - 18

Translated by John & William Langhorne (1770). A few words and spellings have been changed.
The chapter numbers are shown in red.

Phocion was an Athenian statesman and general, who was prominent from 348 B.C. onwards, until he was condemned to death in 318 B.C.


[1] Demades the orator, by studying in his whole administration to please the Macedonians and Antipater, had great authority in Athens. When he found himself by that servile policy often obliged to propose laws and make speeches injurious to the dignity and virtue of his country, he used to say, " He was excusable, because he came to the helm when the commonwealth was no more than a wreck." 2 This assertion, which in him was unwarrantable, was true enough when applied to the administration of Phocion. 3 Demades was the very man who wrecked his country. He pursued such a vicious plan both in his private and public conduct, that Antipater scrupled not to say of him, when he was grown old, " That he was like a sacrificed beast, all consumed except his tongue and his paunch." 4 But the virtue of Phocion found a strong and powerful adversary in the times, and its glory was obscured in the gloomy period of Greece's misfortunes. 5 For virtue is not so weak as Sophocles would make it, nor is the sentiment just which he puts in the mouth of one of the persons of his drama-
The firmest mind will fail
Beneath misfortune's stroke, and stunned, depart
From its sage plan of action,  
[ Antig_563 ]

6 All the advantage that fortune can truly be affirmed to gain in its combats with the good and virtuous is the bringing upon them unjust reproach and censure, instead of the honour and esteem which are their due, and by that means lessening the confidence the world would have in their virtue.

[2] It is imagined, indeed, that when affairs prosper, the people, elated with their strength and success, behave with great insolence to good ministers; but it is the very reverse. 2 Misfortunes always sour their temper; the least thing will then disturb them; they take fire at trifles; and they are impatient of the least severity of expression. He who reproves their faults seems to reproach them with their misfortunes, and all bold and free speech is considered as an insult. 3 As honey makes a wounded or ulcerated member smart, so it often happens, that a remonstrance, though pregnant with truth and sense, hurts and irritates the distressed if it is not gentle and mild in the application. Hence Homer often expresses such things as are pleasant, by the word menoikes, which signifies what is harmonious to the mind, what soothes its weakness, and bears not hard upon its inclinations. 4 Inflamed eyes love to dwell upon dark brown colours and avoid such as are bright and glaring. So it is with a state, in any series of ill-conducted and unfavourable measures; such is the feeble and relaxed condition of its nerves, that it cannot bear the least alarm; the voice of truth, which brings its faults to its remembrance, gives it inexpressible pain, though not only salutary but necessary ; and it will not be heard except its harshness is modified. 5 It is a difficult task to govern such a people, for if the man who tells them the truth falls the first sacrifice, he who flatters them at last perishes with them.

6 The mathematicians say, the sun does not move in the same direction with the heavens, nor yet in a direction quite opposite, but circulating with a gentle and almost insensible obliquity, gives the whole system such a temperature as tends to its preservation. 7 So, in a system of government, if a statesman is determined to describe a straight line, and in all things to go against the inclinations of the people, such rigour must make his administration odious: and, on the other hand, if he suffers himself to be carried along with their most erroneous motions, the government will soon be in a tottering and ruinous state. The latter is the more common error of the two; 8 but the politics which keep a middle course, sometimes slackening the reins and sometimes keeping a tighter hand, indulging the people in one point to gain another that is more important, are the only measures that are formed upon rational principles; for a well-timed condescension and moderate treatment will bring men to concur in many useful schemes, which they could not be brought into by despotism and violence. It must be acknowledged that this medium is difficult to hit upon, because it requires a mixture of dignity with gentleness; 9 but when the just temperature is gained, it presents the happiest and most perfect harmony that can be conceived. It is by this sublime harmony that god governs the world, for nature is not dragged into obedience to his commands, and though his influence is irresistible, it is rational and mild.

[3] The effects of austerity were seen in the younger Cato, There was nothing engaging or popular in his behaviour ; he never studied to oblige the people, and therefore his weight in the administration was not great. 2 Cicero says, " He acted as if he had lived in the republic of Plato, not in the dregs of Romulus, and by that means fell short of the consulate." His case appears to me to have been the same with that of fruit which comes out of season : 3 people look upon it with pleasure and admiration, but they make no use of it. Thus the old-fashioned virtue of Cato, making its appearance amidst the luxury and corruption which time had introduced, had all the splendour of reputation which such a phenomenon could claim, but it did not answer the exigencies of the state; it was unsuited to the times, and too ponderous and unwieldy for use. 4 Indeed, his circumstances were not altogether like those of Phocion, who came not into the administration till the state was sinking ; whereas Cato had only to save the ship beating about in the storm. At the same time we must allow that he had not the principal direction of her; he sat not at the helm ; he could do no more than help to hand the sails and the tackle. Yet he maintained a noble conflict with Fortune, 5 who, having determined to ruin the commonwealth, effected it by a variety of hands, but with great difficulty, by slow steps and gradual advances. So near was Rome being saved by Cato and Cato's virtue! 6 With it we would compare that of Phocion ; not in a general manner, so as to say they were both persons of integrity and able statesmen ; 7 for there is a difference between valour and valour, for instance, between that of Alcibiades and that of Epaminondas ; the prudence of Themistocles and that of Aristeides were not the same; justice was of one kind in Numa, and in Agesilaus of another; 8 but the virtues of Phocion and Cato were the same in the most minute particular; their impression, form, and colour are perfectly similar, Thus their severity of manners was equally tempered with humanity, and their valour with caution; they had the same solicitude for others, and disregard for themselves; the same abhorrence of everything base and dishonourable, and the same firm attachment to justice on all occasions; 9 so that it requires a very delicate expression, like the finely discriminated sounds of the organ, to mark the difference in their characters.

[4] It is universally agreed that Cato was of an illustrious pedigree, and we conjecture that Phocion's was not mean or obscure, 2 for had he been the son of a turner, as Idomeneus claims, it would certainly have been mentioned by Glaucippus, the son of Hypereides, among a thousand other things, in the treatise which he wrote on purpose to disparage him. Nor, if his birth had been so low, would he have had so good an education, or such a liberal mind and manners, It is certain that, when very young, he was in tuition with Plato, and afterwards with Xenocrates in the Academy; and from the very first, he distinguished himself by his strong application to the most valuable studies. 3 Duris tells us, the Athenians never saw him either laugh or cry, or make use of a public bath, or put his hand from under his cloak when he was dressed to appear in public. 4 If he made an excursion into the country, or marched out to war, he went always barefooted, and without his upper garment too, except it happened to be intolerably cold; and then his soldiers used to laugh, and say, " It is a sign of a sharp winter: Phocion has got his clothes on."

[5] He was one of the most humane and best-tempered men in the world, and yet he had so ill-natured and forbidding a look, that strangers were afraid to address him without company. 2 Therefore, when Chares the orator observed to the Athenians what terrible brows Phocion had, and they could not help making themselves merry, he said, " This brow of mine never gave one of you an hour of sorrow ; but the laughter of these sneerers has cost their country many a tear." 3 In like manner, though the measures he proposed were happy ones, and his counsels of the most salutary kind, yet he used no flowers of rhetoric; his speeches were concise, commanding, and severe. 4 For as Zenon says, that a philosopher should never let a word come out of his mouth that is not strongly imbued with sense, so Phocion's oratory contained the most sense in the fewest words. 5 And it seems that Polyeuctus, the Sphettian, had this view when he said, " Demosthenes was the better orator, and Phocion the more persuasive speaker." 6 His speeches were to be estimated like coins, not for the size, but for the intrinsic value. 7 In accordance with which, we are told that one day when the theatre was full of people, Phocion was observed behind the scenes wrapped up in thought, 8 when one of his friends took occasion to say, "What! at your meditations, Phocion ?" " Yes," said he, " I am considering whether I cannot shorten what I have to say to the Athenians." 9 And Demosthenes, who despised the other orators, when Phocion got up, used to say to his friends softly, " Here comes the pruner of my sentences." 10 But perhaps this is to be ascribed to the excellence of his character, since a word or a nod from a person revered for his virtue is of more weight than the most elaborate speeches of other men.

[6] In his youth he served under Chabrias, then commander of the Athenian armies; and, as he paid him all proper attention, he gained much military knowledge from him. In some degree too he helped to correct the temper of Chabrias, which was impetuous and uneven. 2 For that general, though at other times scarce anything could move him, in time of action was violent, and exposed his person with a boldness ungoverned by discretion. At last it cost him his life, when he made it a point to get in before the other galleys to the isle of Chios, and attempted to make good his landing by dint of the sword. 3 Phocion, whose prudence was equal to his courage, animated him when he was too slow in his operations, and endeavoured to bring him to act coolly when he was unsuitably violent. 4 This gained him the affection of Chabrias, who was a man of candour and probity; and he assigned him commissions and enterprises of great importance, which raised him to the notice of the Greeks. 5 Particularly in the sea-fight of Naxos, Phocion being appointed to head the squadron on the left, where the action was hottest, had a fine opportunity to distinguish himself, and he made such use of it that victory soon declared for the Athenians; 6 and as this was the first victory they had gained at sea in a dispute with Greeks since the taking of their city, they expressed the highest regard for Chabrias, and began to consider Phocion as a person in whom they should one day find an able commander. 7 This battle was won during the celebration of the great mysteries; and Chabrias, in commemoration of it, annually treated the Athenians with wine on the sixteenth day of the month of Boedromion.

[7] Some time after this, Chabrias sent Phocion to the islands to demand their contributions, and offered him a guard of twenty sail. But Phocion said, " If you send me against enemies, such a fleet is too small ; if to friends, one ship is sufficient." 2 He therefore went in his own galley, and by addressing himself to the city and magistrates in an open and humane manner, he succeeded so well as to return with a number of ships which the allies fitted out, and at the same time put their respective quotas of money on board.

3 Phocion not only honoured and paid his court to Chabrias as long as he lived, but, after his death, continued his attentions to all that belonged to him. With his son Ctesippus, he took peculiar care to form him to virtue; and though he found him very stupid and difficult, yet he still laboured to correct his errors, as well as to conceal them. 4 Once, indeed, his patience failed him. In one of his expeditions the young man was so troublesome with unseasonable questions and attempts to give advice, as if he knew how to direct the operations better than the general, that at last he cried out, " O Chabrias, Chabrias ! what a return do I make you for your favours, in enduring the impertinence of your son !"

5 He observed, that those who took upon them the management of public affairs, made two departments of them - the civil and the military, which they shared as it were by lot. Pursuant to this division, Eubulus, Aristophon, Demosthenes, Lycurgus, and Hypereides, addressed the people from the rostrum, and proposed new edicts; while Diophites, Menestheus, Leosthenes, and Chares, raised themselves by the honours and employments of warfare. But Phocion chose rather to follow in the steps of Pericles, Aristeides, and Solon, who excelled not only as orators but as generals, for he thought their fame more complete; 6 each of these great men (to use the words of Archilochus) appearing justly to claim
The palms of Enyalius [god of war], and laurels of the Muses ;
and he knew that the goddess Athene was equally the patroness of arts and arms.

[8] Formed upon these models, peace and tranquillity were the great objects he had always in view; yet he was engaged in more wars than any person, either of his own or of the preceding times. Not that he courted, or even applied for the command; but he did not decline it when called to that honour by his countrymen. 2 It is certain, he was elected general no less than 45 times, without once attending to the election; being always appointed in his absence by the free choice of his countrymen. 3 Men of shallow understanding were surprised that the people should put such a value on Phocion, who generally opposed their inclinations, and never said or did anything with a view to recommend himself. For, as princes divert themselves at their meals with buffoons and jesters, so the Athenians attended to the polite and agreeable address of their orators by way of entertainment only; but when the question was concerning so important a business as the command of their forces, they returned to sober and serious thinking, and selected the wisest citizen, and the man of the severest manners, who had combated their capricious humours and desires the most. 4 This he openly confirmed; for one day when an oracle from Delphi was read in the assembly, importing, " That the rest of the Athenians were unanimous in their opinions, and there was only one man who dissented from them," Phocion stepped up and told them, " They need not give themselves any trouble in inquiring for this refractory citizen, for he was the man who liked not anything they did," 5 And another time in a public debate, when his opinion happened to be received with universal applause, he turned to his friends and said, " Have I inadvertently said something wrong?"

[9] The Athenians were one day making a collection to defray the charge of a public sacrifice, and many gave liberally. Phocion was urged to contribute among the rest, but he bade them apply to the rich. " I should be ashamed," said he, " to give you anything, and not to pay this man what I owe him;" pointing to the usurer Callicles. 2 And as they continued very clamorous and vexing, he told them this tale. A cowardly fellow once resolved to make a campaign; but when he set out the ravens began to croak, and he laid down his arms and stopped. When the first alarm was a little over, he marched again. The ravens renewed their croaking, and then he made a full stop, and said, "You may croak your hearts out if you please, but you shall not taste my carcase." 3 The Athenians once insisted on his leading them against the enemy, and when he refused, they told him nothing could be more dastardly and spiritless than his behaviour. He answered, " You can neither make me valiant, nor can I make you cowards; however, we know one another very well."

4 Public affairs happening to be in a dangerous situation, the people were greatly exasperated against him, and demanded an immediate account of his conduct. Upon which he only said, " My good friends, first get out of your difficulties."

5 During a war, however, they were generally humble and submissive, and it was not till after peace was made that they began to talk in a vaunting manner, and to find fault with their general. As they were one time telling Phocion he had robbed them of the victory which was in their hands, he said, " It is happy for you that you have a general who knows you; otherwise you would have been ruined long ago."

6 Having a difference with the Boeotians, which they refused to settle by treaty, and proposed to decide by the sword, Phocion said, " Good people, keep to the method in which you have the advantage ; and that is talking, not fighting."

7 One day, determined not to follow his advice, they refused to give him a hearing. But he said, "Though you can make me act against my judgement, you shall never make me speak so."

8 Demosthenes, one of the orators of the adverse party, happening to say, " The Athenians will certainly kill you, Phocion, some time or other;" he answered, " They may kill me if they are mad ; but it will be you, if they are in their senses."

9 When Polyeuctus the Sphettian advised the Athenians to make war upon Philippus, the weather being hot, and the orator a corpulent man, he ran himself out of breath, and perspired so violently that he was forced to take several draughts of cold water before he could finish his speech. Phocion, seeing him in such a condition, thus addressed the assembly - "You have great reason to pass an edict for the war upon this man's recommendation. For what are you not to expect from him when, loaded with a suit of armour, he marches against the enemy, if in delivering to you (peaceable folks) a speech he had composed at his leisure, he is ready to be suffocated."

10 Lycurgus the orator one day said many disparaging things of him in the general assembly, and, among the rest, observed that when Alexander demanded ten of their orators, Phocion gave it as his opinion that they should be delivered to him. " It is true," said Phocion, " I have given the people of Athens much good counsel, but they do not follow it."

[10] There was then in Athens one Archibiades, who got the name of Laconistes by letting his beard grow long, in the Lacedaemonian manner, wearing a threadbare cloak, and keeping a very grave countenance. Phocion finding one of his assertions much opposed in the assembly, called upon this man to support the truth and rectitude of what he had said. 2 Archibiades, however, ranged himself on the people's side, and advised what he thought agreeable to them. Then Phocion, taking him by the beard, said, " What is all this heap of hair for? Cut it, cut it off:"

3 Aristogeiton, a public informer, paraded with his pretended valour before the people, and pressed them much to declare war. But when the lists came to be made out of those that were to serve, this swaggerer had got his leg bound up, and a crutch under his arm. Phocion, as he sat upon the business, seeing him at some distance in this form, called out to his secretary, to put down Aristogeiton " a cripple and a coward."

4 All these sayings have something so severe in them that it seems strange that a man of such austere and unpopular manners should ever get the surname of the Good. 5 It is indeed difficult, but I believe not impossible, for the same man to be both rough and gentle, as some wines are both sweet and sour; and, on the other hand, some men who have a great appearance of gentleness in their temper are very harsh and vexatious to those who have to do with them. 6 In this case, the saying of Hypereides to the people of Athens deserves notice. " Examine not whether I am severe upon you, but whether I am so for my own sake." As if it were avarice only that makes a minister odious to the people, and the abuse of power to the purposes of pride, envy, anger, or revenge, did not make a man equally obnoxious

7 As to Phocion, he never exerted himself against any man in his private capacity, or considered him as an enemy; but he was inflexibly severe against every man who opposed his motions and designs for the public good. His behaviour, in other respects, was liberal, benevolent, and humane; 8 the unfortunate he was always ready to assist, and he pleaded even for his enemy, if he happened to be in danger. His friends one day finding fault with him for appearing on behalf of a man whose conduct did not deserve it, he said, "The good have no need of an advocate." 9 Aristogeiton, the informer, being condemned, and committed to prison, begged the favour of Phocion to go and speak to him, and he agreed to his request. His friends dissuaded him from it, but he said, "Let me alone, good people. Where can one rather wish to speak to Aristogeiton than in a prison?"

[11] When the Athenians sent out their fleets under any other commander, the maritime towns and islands in alliance with that people looked upon every such commander as an enemy: they strengthened their walls, shut up their harbours, and conveyed the cattle, the slaves, the women and children, out of the country into the cities. But when Phocion had the command, the same people went out to meet him in their own ships, with chaplets on their heads and every expression of joy, and in that manner conducted them into their cities.

[12] Philippus endeavoured by stealth to get a footing in Euboea, and for that purpose sent in forces from Macedon, as well as controlled the towns by means of the petty princes. Hereupon, Plutarchus of Eretria called in the Athenians, and entreated them to come and rescue the island out of the hands of the Macedonians; in consequence of which they sent Phocion at first with a small body of troops, expecting that the Euboeans would immediately rise and join him. 2 But when he came, he found nothing among them but treasonable designs and disaffection to their own country, for they were corrupted by Philippus' money. For this reason, he seized an eminence separated from the plains of Tamynae by a deep defile, and in that post he secured the best of his troops. 3 As for the disorderly, the talkative, and cowardly part of the soldiers, if they attempted to desert and steal out of the camp, he ordered the officers to let them go. "For," said he, "if they stay here, such is their want of discipline, that instead of being serviceable they will bc prejudicial in time of action; and, as they will bc conscious that they have deserted their colours, we shall not have so much noise and calumny from them in Athens."

[13] Upon the approach of the enemy, he ordered his men to stand to their arms, but not attempt anything till he had made an end of his sacrifice: and, whether it was that he wanted to gain time, or could not easily find the auspicious signs, or was desirous of drawing the enemy nearer to him, he was long about it 2 Meanwhile Plutarchus, imagining that this delay was owing to fear and irresolution, charged at the head of the mercenaries; and the cavalry seeing him in motion, could wait no longer, but advanced against the enemy, though in a scattered and disorderly manner, as they happened to issue out of the camp. 3 The first line being soon broken, all the rest dispersed, and Plutarchus himself fled. A detachment from the enemy then attacked the entrenchments, and endeavoured to make a breach in them, supposing that the fate of the day was decided; 4 but at that instant Phocion had finished his sacrifices, and the Athenians sallying out of the camp, fell upon the assailants, routed them, and cut most of them to pieces in the trenches. Phocion then gave the main body directions to keep their ground in order to receive and cover such as were dispersed in the first attack, 5 while he with a select party went and charged the enemy. A sharp conflict ensued, both sides behaving with great spirit and intrepidity. Among the Athenians, Thallus the son of Cineas, and Glaucus the son of Polymedes, who fought near the general's person, distinguished themselves the most. 6 Cleophanes, too, did great service in the action; for he rallied the cavalry, and brought them up again, by calling after them and insisting that they should come to the assistance of their general, who was in danger. They returned, therefore, to the charge, and by the assistance which they gave the infantry secured the victory.

7 Phocion, after the battle, drove Plutarchus out of Eretria, and made himself master of Zaretra, a fort advantageously situated where the island draws to a point, and the neck of land is defended on each side by the sea. He did not choose, in pursuance of his victory, to take the Greeks prisoners, lest the Athenians, influenced by their orators, should, in the first motions of resentment, pass some unjust sentence upon them.

[14] After this great success he sailed back to Athens. The allies soon felt the lack of his goodness and justice, and the Athenians saw his capacity and courage in a clear light; 2 for Molossus, who succeeded him, conducted the war so badly as to fall himself into the enemy's hands. 3 Philippus now rising in his designs and hopes, marched to the Hellespont with all his forces, in order to seize at once on the Chersonesus, Perinthus, and Byzantium.

The Athenians determining to send aid to that quarter, the orators prevailed upon them to give that commission to Chares. 4 Accordingly he sailed to those parts, but did nothing worthy of such a force as he was entrusted with. The cities would not receive his fleet into their harbours; but, suspected by all, he beat about, raising contributions where he could upon the allies, and, at the same time, was despised by the enemy. The orators, now taking the other side, exasperated the people to such a degree, that they repented of having sent any aid to the Byzantines. 5 Then Phocion rose up and told them, " They should not be angry at the suspicions of the allies, but at their own generals, who deserved not to have any confidence placed in them; for on their account," said he, " you are looked upon with an eye of jealousy by the very people who cannot be saved without your assistance." 6 This argument had such an effect on them that they changed their minds again, and bade Phocion go himself with another army to the aid of the allies upon the Hellespont.

This contributed more than anything to the saving of Byzantium. Phocion's reputation was already great; 7 besides, Leon, a man of eminence in Byzantium, who had formerly been well acquainted with him at the Academy, pledged his honour to the city on his behalf. The Byzantines would then no longer let him encamp without, but opening their gates received him into their city, and mixed familiarly with the Athenians; who, charmed with this confidence, were not only easy with respect to provisions, and regular in their behaviour, but exerted themselves with great spirit in every action. 8 By these means Philippus was forced to retire from the Hellespont, and he suffered not a little in his military reputation; for till then he had been deemed invincible. Phocion took some of his ships, and recovered several cities which he had garrisoned; and making descents in various parts of his territories, he harassed and ravaged the flat country. But at last, happening to be wounded by some men who came out to resist him, he weighed anchor and returned home.

[15] Some time after this, the Megarians applied to him privately for assistance ; and as he was afraid the matter would become known, and the Boeotians would prevent him, he assembled the people early in the morning, and gave them an account of the application. They had no sooner given their sanction to the proposal, than he ordered the trumpets to sound as a signal for them to arm; after which he marched immediately to Megara, 2 where he was received with great joy. The first thing he did was to fortify Nisaea, and to build two good walls between the city and the port; by which means the town had a safe communication with the sea, and having now little to fear from the enemy on the land side, was secured in the Athenian interest.

[16] The Athenians being now clearly in a state of hostility with Philippus, the conduct of the war was committed to other generals in the absence of Phocion ; but on his return from the islands, he represented to the people, that as Philippus was peaceably disposed, and apprehensive of the issue of the war, it was best to accept the conditions he had offered. 2 And when one of those public accusers, who spend their whole time in the court of Heliaea, and make it their business to form impeachments, opposed him, and said, " Dare you, Phocion, pretend to dissuade the Athenians from war, now the sword is drawn ?" " Yes," said he, " I dare; though I know you would be in my power in time of war, and I shall be in yours in time of peace." 3 Demosthenes, however, carried it against him for war; which he advised the Athenians to make at the greatest distance they could from Attica. This gave Phocion occasion to say, " My good friend, consider not so much where we shall fight, as how we shall conquer ; for victory is the only thing that can keep the war at a distance. If we are beaten, every danger will soon be at our gates."

4 The Athenians did lose the day; after which the most factious and troublesome part of the citizens drew Charidemus to the rostrum, and insisted that he should have the command. This alarmed the real well-wishers of their country so much, that they called in the members of the Areopagus to their assistance; and it was not without many tears, and the most earnest entreaties, that they prevailed upon the assembly to put their concerns in the hands of Phocion.

5 He was of opinion that the other proposals of Philippus should be readily accepted, because they seemed to be dictated by humanity; but when Demades moved that Athens should be included in the general peace, and, as one of the states of Greece, should have the same terms with the other cities, Phocion said, " It ought not to be agreed to, till it was known what conditions Philippus required." 6 The times were against him, however, and he was overruled. And when he saw the Athenians repented afterwards, because they found themselves obliged to furnish Philippus both with ships of war and cavalry, 7 he said, " This was the thing I feared ; and my opposition was founded upon it. But since you have signed the treaty, you must bear its inconveniences without murmuring or despondence; remembering that your ancestors sometimes gave law to their neighbours, and sometimes were forced to submit, but did both with honour; and by that means saved themselves and all Greece."

8 When the news of Philippus' death was brought to Athens, he would not suffer any sacrifices or rejoicings to be made on that account. " Nothing," said he, " would show greater meanness of spirit than expressions of joy on the death of an enemy. What great reason, indeed, is there for it, when the army you fought with at Chaeroneia is lessened only by one man."

[17] Demosthenes gave into invectives against Alexander, when he was marching against Thebes ; the ill policy of which Phocion easily perceived, and said,
What boots the godlike giant to provoke,
Whose arm may sink us at a single stroke!   [Odyss. 9'494]

" When you see such a dreadful fire near you, would you plunge Athens into it? For my part, I will not suffer you to ruin yourselves, though your inclinations lie that way; and to prevent every step of that kind is the end I propose in taking the command."

2 When Alexander had destroyed Thebes, he sent to the Athenians, and demanded that they should deliver up to him Demosthenes, Lycurgus, Hypereides, and Charidemus. The whole assembly cast their eyes upon Phocion, and called upon him often by name. 3 At last he rose up; and placing by him one of his friends, who had the greatest share in his confidence and affection, he expressed himself as follows: " The persons whom Alexander demands have brought the commonwealth into such miserable circumstances, that if he demanded even my friend Nicocles, I should vote for delivering him up. For my own part, I should think it the greatest happiness to die for you all. 4 At the same time, I am not without compassion for the poor Thebans who have taken refuge here; but it is enough for Greece to weep for Thebes, without weeping for Athens too. The best measure, then, we can take is to intercede with the conqueror for both, and by no means to think of fighting."

5 The first decree drawn up in consequence of these deliberations Alexander is said to have rejected, and to have turned his back upon the deputies; 6 but the second he received, because it was brought by Phocion, who, as his old counsellors informed him, stood high in the esteem of his father Philippus. He, therefore, not only gave him a favourable audience, and granted his request, but even listened to his counsel. 7 Phocion advised him, " If tranquillity was his object, to put an end to his wars; if glory, to leave the Greeks in quiet, and turn his arms against the barbarians." 8 In the course of their conference he made many observations so agreeable to Alexander's disposition and sentiments that his resentment against the Athenians was perfectly appeased, and he was pleased to say, " The people of Athens must be very attentive to the affairs of Greece, for if anything happens to me, the supreme direction will devolve upon them." 9 With Phocion in particular he entered into obligations of friendship and hospitality, and did him greater honours than most of his own courtiers were indulged with. 10 Indeed, Duris tells us that after that prince was risen to superior greatness by the conquest of Dareius, and had left out the word chairein, the common form of salutation in his address to others, he still retained it in writing to Phocion, and to nobody besides, except Antipater. Chares asserts the same.

[18] As to his generosity to Phocion, all agree that he sent him 100 talents. When the money was brought to Athens, Phocion asked the persons employed in that commission, "Why, among all the citizens of Athens, he should be singled out as the object of such bounty ?" 2 " Because," said they, " Alexander looks upon you as the only honest and good man." " Then," said Phocion, " let him permit me always to retain that character, as well as really to be that man." 3 The envoys then went home with him, and when they saw the frugality that reigned there, his wife baking bread, himself drawing water, and afterwards washing his own feet, they urged him the more to receive the present. They told him, " It gave them real uneasiness, and was indeed an intolerable thing, that the friend of so great a prince should live in such a wretched manner." 4 At that instant a poor old man happening to pass by, in a mean garment, Phocion asked the envoys, " Whether they thought worse of him than of that man ?" As they begged of him not to make such a comparison, he rejoined, " Yet that man lives upon less than I do, and is contented. In one word, it will be to no purpose for me to have so much money if I do not use it; and if I was to live up to it, I should bring both myself and the king, your master, under the censure of the Athenians. 5 Thus the money was carried back from Athens, and the whole transaction was a good lesson to the Greeks, that the man who did not want such a sum of money was richer than he who could bestow it.

6 Displeased at the refusal of his present, Alexander wrote to Phocion, "That he could not number those among his friends who would not receive his favours." Yet Phocion even then would not take the money. However, he desired the king to set at liberty Echecratides the sophist, and Athenodorus the Imbrian, as also Demaratus and Sparton, two Rhodians, who were arrested for certain crimes, and kept in custody at Sardis. 7 Alexander granted his request immediately; and afterwards, when he sent Craterus into Macedonia, ordered him to give Phocion his choice of one of these four cities in Asia, Cius, Gergithus, Mylassa, or Elaea. At the same time he was to assure him, that the king would be much more disobliged if he refused his second offer. 8 But Phocion was not to be prevailed upon, and Alexander died soon after.

Phocion's house is shown to this day in the borough of Melite, adorned with some plates of copper, but otherwise plain and homely.

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