Although it was probably not written by Plutarch himself, this entertaining collection of sayings shares his desire to illustrate the character of great men. It contains quotations gathered from the Parallel Lives, as well as many from other sources.
Translated by E.Hinton of Witney, revised by W.Goodwin (1878). A few words and spellings have been changed. The page numbers in the Greek text are shown in red.
PLUTARCH WISHES PROSPERITY TO TRAJANUS THE EMPEROR.
 Artaxerxes, King of Persia, O Caesar Trajanus, greatest of princes, esteemed it no less royal and bountiful kindly and cheerfully to accept small, than to make great presents, and when he was in a progress, and a common country labourer, having nothing else, took up water with both his hands out of the river and presented it to him, he smiled and received it pleasantly, measuring the kindness not by the value of the gift, but by the affection of the giver. And Lycurgus ordained in Sparta very cheap sacrifices, that they might always worship the Gods readily and easily with such things as were at hand. Upon the same account, when I bring a mean and slender present of the common first-fruits of philosophy, accept also (I beseech you) with my good affection these short memorials, if they may contribute any thing to the knowledge of the manners and dispositions of great men, which are more apparent in their words than in their actions. My former treatise contains the lives of the most eminent princes, law givers, and generals, both Romans and Greeks; but most of their actions admit a mixture of fortune, whereas such speeches and answers as happened amidst their employments, passions, and events afford us ( as in a looking-glass) a clear discovery of each particular temper and disposition. Accordingly Seiramnes the Persian, to such as wondered that he usually spoke like a wise man and yet was unsuccessful in his designs, replied: I myself am master of my words, but the king and fortune have power over my actions. In the former treatise speeches and actions are mingled together, and require a reader that is at leisure; but in this the speeches, being as it were the seeds and the illustrations of those lives, are placed by themselves, and will not (I think) be tedious to you, since they will give you in a few words a review of many memorable persons.
CYRUS. The Persians affect such as are hawk-nosed and think them most beautiful, because Cyrus, the most beloved of their kings, had a nose of that shape.
Cyrus said that those that would not do good for themselves ought to be compelled to do good for others; and that nobody ought to govern, unless he was better than those he governed.
When the Persians were desirous to exchange their hills and rocks for a plain and soft country, he would not suffer them, saying that both the seeds of plants and the lives of men resemble the soil they inhabit.
DARIUS. Darius the father of Xerxes used to praise himself, saying that he became even wiser in battles and dangers.
When he laid a tax upon his subjects, he summoned his lieutenants, and asked them whether the tax was burdensome or not. When they told him it was moderate, he commanded them to pay half as much as was at first demanded.
 As he was opening a pomegranate, one asked him what it was of which he would wish for a number equal to the seeds thereof. He said, Of men like Zopyrus, - who was a loyal person and his friend.
This Zopyrus, after he had maimed himself by cutting off his nose and ears, beguiled the Babylonians; and being trusted by them, he betrayed the city to Darius, who often said that he would not have had Zopyrus maimed to gain a hundred Babylons.
SEMIRAMIS. Semiramis built a monument for herself, with this inscription: Whatever king wants treasure, if he open this tomb, he may be satisfied. Darius therefore opening it found no treasure, but another inscription of this import : If you were not a wicked person and of insatiable covetousness, you would not disturb the mansions of the dead.
XERXES. Arimenes came out of Bactria as a rival for the kingdom with his brother Xerxes, the son of Darius. Xerxes sent presents to him, commanding those that brought them to say: With these your brother Xerxes now honours you; and if he chance to be proclaimed king, you shall be the next person to himself in the kingdom. When Xerxes was declared king, Arimenes immediately did him homage and placed the crown upon his head; and Xerxes gave him the next place to himself.
Being offended with the Babylonians, who rebelled, and having overcome them, he forbade them weapons, but commanded they should practise singing and playing on the flute, keep brothel-houses and taverns, and wear loose coats.
He refused to eat Attic figs that were brought to be sold, until he had conquered the country that produced them.
When he caught some Greek scouts in his camp, he did them no harm, but having allowed them to view his army as much as they pleased, he let them go.
ARTAXERXES. Artaxerxes, the son of Xerxes, surnamed Longimanus (or Long-hand) because he had one hand longer than the other, said, it was more princely to add than to take away.
He first gave leave to those that hunted with him, if they would and saw occasion, to throw their darts before him.
He also first ordained that punishment for his nobles who had offended, that they should be stripped and their garments scourged instead of their bodies ; and whereas then, hair should have been plucked out, that the same should be done to their turbans.
When Satibarzanes, his chamberlain, petitioned him in an unjust matter, and he understood he did it to gain thirty thousand darics, he ordered his treasurer to bring the said sum, and gave them to him, saying: O Satibarzanes ! take it ; for when I have given you this, I shall not be poorer, but it had been more unjust if I had granted your petition.
CYRUS THE YOUNGER. Cyrus the Younger , when he was exhorting the Lacedaemonians to side with him in the war, said that he had a stronger heart than his brother, and could drink more wine unmixed than he, and bear it better ; that his brother, when he hunted, could scarce sit his horse, or when ill news arrived, his throne. He exhorted them to send him men, promising he would give horses to footmen, chariots to horsemen, villages to those that had farms, and those that possessed villages he would make lords of cities; and that he would give them gold and silver, not by tale but by weight.
ARTAXERXES MNEMON. Artaxerxes, the brother of Cyrus the Younger, called Mnemon, did not only give very free and patient access to any that would speak with him, but commanded the queen his wife to draw the curtains of her chariot, that petitioners might have the same access to her also.
 When a poor man presented him with a very fair and great apple, By the Sun, said he, 'tis my opinion, if this person were entrusted with a small city, he would make it great.
In his flight, when his carriages were plundered, and he was forced to eat dry figs and barley-bread, Of how great pleasure, said he, have I hitherto lived ignorant !
PARYSATIS. Parysatis, the mother of Cyrus and Artaxerxes, advised him that would discourse freely with the king, to use words of fine linen.
ORONTES. Orontes, the son-in-law of King Artaxerxes, falling into disgrace and being condemned, said: As mathematicians count sometimes myriads on their fingers, sometimes units only; in like manner the favourites of kings sometimes can do every thing with them, sometimes little or nothing.
MEMNON. Memnon, one of King Darius' generals against Alexander, when a mercenary soldier excessively and impudently reviled Alexander, struck him with his spear, adding, I pay you to fight against Alexander, not to reproach him.
EGYPTIAN KINGS. The Egyptian kings, according unto their law, used to swear their judges that they should not obey the king when he commanded them to give an unjust sentence.
POLTYS. Poltys king of Thrace, in the Trojan war, being solicited both by the Trojan and Greek ambassadors, advised Alexander to restore Helen, promising to give him two beautiful women for her.
TERES. Teres, the father of Sitalces, said, when he was out of the army and had nothing to do, he thought there was no difference between him and his grooms.
COTYS. Cotys, when one gave him a leopard, gave him a lion for it.
He was naturally prone to anger, and severely punished the miscarriages of his servants. When a stranger brought him some earthen vessels, thin and brittle, but delicately shaped and admirably adorned with sculptures, he requited the stranger for them, and then brake them all in pieces, Lest ( said he) my passion should provoke me to punish excessively those that broke them.
IDATHYRSUS. Idathyrsus, King of Scythia, when Darius invaded him, solicited the Ionian tyrants that they would assert their liberty by breaking down the bridge that was made over the Danube: which they refusing to do because they had sworn fealty to Darius, he called them good, honest, lazy slaves.
ATEAS. Ateas wrote to Philippus: You reign over the Macedonians, men that have learned fighting; and I over the Scythians, which can fight with hunger and thirst.
As he was rubbing his horse, turning to the ambassadors of Philippus, he asked whether Philippus did so or not.
He took prisoner Ismenias, an excellent piper, and commanded him to play; and when others admired him, he swore it was more pleasant to hear a horse neigh.
SCILURUS. Scilurus on his death-bed, being about to leave eighty sons surviving, offered a bundle of darts to each of them, and bade them break them. When all refused, drawing out one by one, he easily broke them; thus teaching them that, if they held together, they would continue strong, but if they fell out and were divided, they would become weak.
GELON.  Gelon the tyrant, after he had overcome the Carthaginians at Himera, made peace with them, and among other articles compelled them to subscribe this, - that they should no more sacrifice their children to Cronus.
He often marched the Syracusans out to plant their fields, as if it had been to war, that the country might be improved by husbandry, and they might not be corrupted by idleness.
When he demanded a sum of money of the citizens, and thereupon a tumult was raised, he told them he would but borrow it; and after the war was ended, he restored it to them again.
At a feast, when a harp was offered, and others one after another tuned it and played upon it, he sent for his horse, and with an easy agility leaped upon him.
HIERON. Hieron, who succeeded Gelon in the tyranny, said he was not disturbed by any that freely spoke against him.
He judged that those that revealed a secret did an injury to those to whom they revealed it; for we hate not only those who tell, but them also that hear what would not have disclosed.
One upbraided him with his stinking breath, and he blamed his wife that never told him of it ; but she said, I thought all men smelt so.
To Xenophanes the Colophonian, who said he had much ado to maintain two servants, he replied: But Homerus, whom you disparage, maintains above ten thousand, although he is dead.
He fined Epicharmus the comedian, for speaking unseemly when his wife was by.
DIONYSIUS THE ELDER. Dionysius the Elder, when the public orators cast lots to know in what order they should speak, drew as his lot the letter M. And when one said to him, morologeis, You will make a foolish speech, O Dionysius, You are mistaken, said he, monarcheso, I shall be a monarch. And as soon as his speech was ended, the Syracusans chose him general.
In the beginning of his tyranny, the citizens rebelled and besieged him; and his friends advised him to resign the government, rather than to be taken and slain by them. But he, seeing a cook butcher an ox and the ox immediately fall down dead, said to his friends: Is it not a hateful thing, that for fear of so short a death we should resign so great a government!
When his son, whom he intended to make his successor in the government, had been detected in debauching a freeman's wife, he asked him in anger, When did you ever know me guilty of such a crime! But you, sir, replied the son, had not a tyrant for your father. Nor will you, said he, have a tyrant for your son, unless you mend your manners.
And another time, going into his son's house and seeing there abundance of silver and gold plate, he cried out: You are not capable of being a tyrant, who have made never a friend with all the plate I have given you.
When he exacted money of the Syracusans, and they lamenting and beseeching him, pretended they had none, he still exacted more, twice or thrice renewing his demands, until he heard them laugh and jeer at him as they went to and fro in the market-place, and then he gave over. Now, said he, since they despise me, it is a sign they have nothing left.
When his mother, being ancient, requested him to find a husband for her, I can, said he, overpower the laws of the city, but I cannot force the laws of Nature.
Although he punished other malefactors severely, he favoured such as stole clothes, that the Syracusans might forbear feasting and drunken clubs.
A certain person told him privately, he could show him a way how he might know beforehand such as conspired against him. Let us know, said he, going aside.  Give me, said the person, a talent, that everybody may believe that I have taught you the signs and tokens of plotters; and he gave it him, pretending he had learned them, much admiring the subtlety of the man.
Being asked whether he was at leisure, he replied: God forbid that it should ever befall me.
Hearing that two young men very much reviled him and his tyranny in their cups, he invited both of them to supper; and perceiving that one of them prattled freely and foolishly, but the other drank warily and sparing, he dismissed the first as a drunken fellow whose treason lay no deeper than his wine, and put the other to death as a disaffected and resolved traitor.
Some blaming him for rewarding and preferring a wicked man, and one hated by the citizens; I would have, said he, somebody hated more than myself.
When he gave presents to the ambassadors of Corinth, and they refused them because their law forbade them to receive gifts from a prince to whom they were sent in embassy, he said they did very ill to destroy the only advantage of tyranny, and to declare that it was dangerous to receive a kindness from a tyrant.
Hearing that a citizen had buried a quantity of gold in his house, he sent for it; and when the party removed to another city, and bought a farm with part of his treasure which he had concealed, Dionysius sent for him and bade him take back the rest, since he had now begun to use his money, and was no longer making a useful thing useless.
DIONYSIUS THE YOUNGER. Dionysius the Younger said that he maintained many Sophists; not that he admired them, but that he might be admired for their sake.
When Polyxenus the logician told him he had baffled him; Yes, said he, in words, but I have caught you in deeds; for you, leaving your own fortune, attend me and mine.
When he was deposed from his government, and one asked him what he got by Plato and philosophy, he answered, That I may bear so great a change of fortune patiently.
Being asked how it came to pass that his father, a private and poor man, obtained the government of Syracuse, and he already possessed of it, and the son of a tyrant, lost it, - My father, said he, entered upon affairs when the democracy was hated, but I, when tyranny was become odious.
To another that asked him the same question, he replied: My father bequeathed to me his government, but not his fortune.
AGATHOCLES. Agathocles was the son of a potter. When he became lord and was proclaimed king of Sicily, he used to place earthen and golden vessels together, and show them to young men, telling them, Those I made first, but now I make these by my valour and industry.
As he was besieging a city, some from the walls reviling him, saying, Do you hear, potter, where will you have money to pay your soldiers ! - he gently answered, I'll tell you, if I take this city. And having taken it by storm, he sold the prisoners, telling them, If you reproach me again, I will complain to your masters.
Some inhabitants of Ithaca complained of his mariners, that making a descent on the island they had taken away some cattle; But your king, said he, came to Sicily, and did not only take away sheep, but put out the shepherd's eyes, and went his way.
DION. Dion, who deposed Dionysius from the tyranny, when he heard Callippus, whom of all his friends and attendants he trusted most, conspired against him, refused to question him for it, saying: It is better for him to die  than to live, who must be weary not only of his enemies, but of his friends too.
ARCHELAUS. Archelaus, when one of his companions ( and none of the best) begged a golden cup of him, bade the boy give it Euripides ; and when the man wondered at him, You, said he, are worthy to ask, but he is worthy to receive it without asking.
A garrulous barber asked him how he would be trimmed. He answered, In silence.
When Euripides at a banquet embraced fair Agathon and kissed him, although he was no longer beardless, he said, turning to his friends : Do not wonder at it, for the beauty of such as are handsome lasts after autumn.
Timotheus the harper, receiving of him a reward less than his expectation, twitted him for it not openly; and once singing the short verse of the chorus, You commend earth-born silver, directed it to him. And Archelaus answered him again singing, But you beg it.
When one sprinkled water upon him, and his friends would have had him punish the man, You are mistaken, said he, he did not sprinkle me, but some other person whom he took me to be.
PHILIPPUS. Theophrastus tells us that Philippus, the father of Alexander, was not only greater in his character and success, but also freer from luxury than other kings of his time.
He said the Athenians were happy, if they could find every year ten fit to be chosen generals, since in many years he could find but one fit to be a general, and that was Parmenion.
When he had news brought him of diverse and eminent successes in one day, O fortune, said he, for all these so great kindnesses do me some small mischief.
After he had conquered Greece, some advised him to place garrisons in the cities. No, said he, I had rather be called merciful a great while, than lord a little while.
His friends advised him to banish an abusive man from his court. I will not do it, said he, lest he should go about and insult us in many other places.
Smicythus accused Nicanor for one that commonly spoke evil of King Philippus; and, his friends advised him to send for him and punish him. Truly, said he, Nicanor is not the worst of the Macedonians ; we ought therefore to consider whether we have given him any cause or not. When he understood therefore that Nicanor, being slighted by the king, was much afflicted with poverty, he ordered a boon should be given him. And when Smicythus reported that Nicanor was continually abounding in the king's praises, You see then, said he, that whether we will be well or ill spoken of is in our own power.
He said he was beholden to the Athenian orators, who by reproaching him made him better both, in speech and behaviour; for I will endeavour, said he, both by my words and actions to prove them liars.
Such Athenians as he took prisoners in the fight at Chaeroneia he dismissed without ransom. When they also demanded their garments and quilts, and on that account accused the Macedonians, Philippus laughed and said, Do you not think these Athenians imagine we beat them at a game of dice ?
In a fight he broke his collar-bone, and the surgeon that had him in care requested him daily for his reward. Take what you will, said he, for you have the key.
There were two brothers called Both and Either; perceiving Either was a good understanding busy fellow and Both a silly fellow and good for little, he said: Either is Both, and Both is Neither.
 To some that advised him to deal severely with the Athenians he said: You talk absurdly, who would persuade a man that suffers all things for the sake of glory, to overthrow the theatre of glory.
Being arbitrator between two wicked persons, he commanded one to fly out of Macedonia and the other to pursue him.
Being about to pitch his camp in a likely place, and hearing there was no hay to be had for the cattle, What a life, said he, is ours, since we must live according to the convenience of asses!
Designing to take a strong fort, which the scouts told him was exceeding difficult and impregnable, he asked whether it was so difficult that an ass could not come at it laden with gold.
Lasthenes the Olynthian and his friends being aggrieved, and complaining that some of Philippus' retinue called them traitors, These Macedonians, said he, are a rude and clownish people, that call a spade a spade.
He exhorted his son to behave himself courteously toward the Macedonians, and to acquire influence with the people, while he could be affable and gracious during the reign of another.
He advised him also to make friends of men of interest in the cities, both good and bad, that afterwards he might make use of these, and suppress those.
To Philon the Theban, who had been his host and given him entertainment while he remained an hostage at Thebes, and afterwards refused to accept any present from him, he said: Do not take from me the title of invincible, by making me inferior to you in kindness and bounty.
Having taken many prisoners, he was selling them, sitting in an unseemly posture, with his tunic tucked up; when one of the captives to be sold cried out, Spare me, Philippus, for our fathers were friends. When Philippus asked him, Tell me, how or from whence ! Let me come nearer, said he, and I'll tell you. When he was come up to him, he said: Let down your cloak a little lower, for you sit indecently. Whereupon said Philippus: Let him go, in truth he wishes me well and is my friend; though I did not know him.
Being invited to supper, he carried many he took up by the way along with him; and perceiving his host troubled (for his provision was not sufficient), he sent to each of his friends, and bade them reserve a place for the cake. They, believing and expecting it, ate little, and so the supper was enough for all.
It appeared he grieved much at the death of Hipparchus the Euboean. For when somebody said it was time for him to die, - For himself, said he, but he died too soon for me, preventing me by his death from returning him the kindness his friendship deserved.
Hearing that Alexander blamed him for having children by several women, Therefore, said he to him, since you have many rivals with you for the kingdom, be just and honourable, that you may not receive the kingdom as my gift, but by your own merit.
He charged him to be observant of Aristotle, and study philosophy, That you may not, said he, do many things which I now repent of doing.
He made one of Antipater's recommendation a judge; and perceiving afterwards that his hair and beard were coloured, he removed him, saying, I could not think one that was faithless in his hair could be trusty in his deeds.
While he sat as judge in the cause of one Machaetas, he fell asleep, and for want of minding his arguments, gave judgement against him. And when being enraged he cried out, I appeal; To whom, said he, will you appeal ?  To you yourself, O king, said he, when you are awake to hear me with attention. Then Philippus rousing and coming to himself, and perceiving Machaetas was injured, although he did not reverse the sentence, he paid the fine himself.
When Harpalus, on behalf of Crates his kinsman and intimate friend, who was charged with disgraceful crimes, begged that Crates might pay the fine and so cause the action to be withdrawn and avoid public disgrace; - It is better, said he, that he should be reproached upon his own account, than we for him.
His friends being enraged because the Peloponnesians, to whom he had shown favour, hissed at him in the Olympic games, What then, said he, would they do if we should abuse them ?
Awaking after he had overslept himself in the army; I slept, said he, securely, for Antipater watched.
Another time, being asleep in the day-time, while the Greeks fretting with impatience thronged at the gates; Do not wonder, said Parmenion to them, if Philippus be now asleep, for while you slept he was awake.
When he corrected a musician at a banquet, and discoursed with him concerning notes and instruments, the musician replied: Far be that dishonour from your majesty, that you should understand these things better than I do.
While he was at variance with his wife Olympias and his son, Demaratus the Corinthian came to him, and Philippus asked him how the Greeks held together. Demaratus replied : You had need to enquire how the Greeks agree, who agree so well with your nearest relations. Whereupon he let fall his anger, and was reconciled to them.
A poor old woman petitioned and dunned him often to hear her cause ; and he answered, I am not at leisure; the old woman bawled out, Do not reign then. He admired the speech, and immediately heard her and others.
ALEXANDER. While Alexander was a boy, Philippus had great success in his affairs, at which he did not rejoice, but told the children that were brought up with him, My father will leave me nothing to do. The children answered, Your father gets all this for you. But what good, said he, will it do me, if I possess much and do nothing !
Being nimble and light-footed, his father encouraged him to run in the Olympic race; Yes, said he, if there were any kings there to run with me.
A wench being brought to lie with him late in the evening, he asked why she tarried so long. She answered, I stayed until my husband was abed; and he sharply reproved his pages, because through their carelessness he had almost committed adultery.
As he was sacrificing to the Gods liberally, and often offered frankincense, Leonidas his tutor standing by said, O son, thus generously will you sacrifice, when you have conquered the country that bears frankincense. And when he had conquered it, he sent him this letter: I have sent you an hundred talents of frankincense and cassia, that hereafter you may not be niggardly towards the Gods, when you understand I have conquered the country in which perfumes grow.
The night before he fought at the river Granicus, he exhorted the Macedonians to sup plentifully and to bring out all they had, as they were to sup the next day at the charge of their enemies.
Perillus, one of his friends, begged of him dowries for his daughters; and he ordered him to receive fifty talents. And when he said, Ten were enough, Alexander replied: Enough for you to receive, but not for me to give.
He commanded his steward to give Anaxarchus the philosopher as much as he should ask for. He asks, said the steward, for an hundred talents. He does well, said he, knowing he has  a friend that both can and will bestow so much on him.
Seeing at Miletus many statues of wrestlers that had overcome in the Olympic and Pythian games, And where, said he, were these lusty fellows when the barbarians assaulted your city ?
When Ada queen of Caria was ambitious often to send him sauces and sweetmeats delicately prepared by the best cooks and artists, he said, I have better confectioners of my own - my night-travelling for my breakfast, and my spare breakfast for my dinner.
All things being prepared for a fight, his captains asked him whether he had any thing else to command them. Nothing, said he, but that the Macedonians should shave their beards. Parmenion wondering at it, Do you not know, said he, there is no better hold in a fight than the beard ?
When Darius offered him ten thousand talents, and to divide Asia equally with him ; I would accept it, said Parmenion, were I Alexander. And so. truly would I; said Alexander, if I were Parmenion. But he answered Darius, that the earth could not bear two suns, nor Asia two kings.
When he was going to fight for the world at Arbela, against ten hundred thousand enemies set in array against him, some of his friends came to him, and told him the discourse of the soldiers in their tents, who had agreed that nothing of the spoils should be brought into the treasury, but they would have all themselves. You tell me good news, said he, for I hear the discourse of men that intend to fight, and not to run away. Several of his soldiers came to him and said: O King! be of good courage, and fear not the multitude of your enemies, for they will not be able to endure the very stink of our sweat.
The army being marshalled, he saw a soldier fitting his thong to his javelin, and dismissed him as a useless fellow, for fitting his weapons when he should use them.
As he was reading a letter from his mother, containing secrets and accusations of Antipater, Hephaestion also ( as he was accustomed) read it along with him. Alexander did not hinder him; but when the letter was read, he took his ring off his finger, and laid the seal of it upon Hephaestion's mouth.
Being saluted as the son of Zeus in the temple of Ammon by the chief priest ; It is no wonder, said he, for Zeus is by nature the father of all, and calls the best men his sons.
When he was wounded with an arrow in the ankle, and many ran to him that were wont to call him a God, he said smiling: That is blood, as you see, and not, as Homer says, -
"Such liquid as distils from blessed Gods." [ Il_5'340 ]
To some that commended the frugality of Antipater, whose diet was sober and without luxury; Outwardly, said he, Antipater wears white clothes, but within he is all purple.
In a cold winter day one of his friends invited him to a banquet, and there being a little fire on a small hearth, he bid him fetch either wood or frankincense.
Antipatridas brought a beautiful singing woman to supper with him ; Alexander, being taken with her visage, asked Antipatridas whether she was his miss or not. And when he confessed she was; O villain, said he, turn her immediately out from the banquet.
Again, when Cassander forced a kiss from Python, a boy beloved by Euius the piper, and Alexander perceived that Euius was concerned at it, he was extremely enraged at Cassander, and said with a loud voice, It seems nobody must be loved if you can help it.
When he sent such of the Macedonians as were sick and maimed to the sea,  they showed him one that was in health and yet subscribed his name among the sick; being brought into the presence and examined, he confessed he used that pretence for the love of Telesippa, who was going to the sea. Alexander asked, of whom he could make inquiries about this Telesippa, and hearing she was a free woman, he said. Therefore, my Antigenes, let us persuade her to stay with us, for to force her to do so when she is a free woman is not according to my custom.
Of the Greek mercenaries that fought against him he took many prisoners. He commanded the Athenians should be kept in chains, because they served for wages when they were allowed a public maintenance; and the Thessalians, because when they had a fruitful country they did not till it ; but he set the Thebans free, saying, To them only I have left neither city nor country.
He took captive an excellent Indian archer who said he could shoot an arrow through a ring, and commanded him to show his skill; and when the man refused to do this, he commanded him in a rage to be put to death. The man told them that led him to execution that, not having practised for many days, he was afraid he should miss. Alexander, hearing this, wondered at him and dismissed him with rewards, because he chose rather to die than show himself unworthy of his reputation.
Taxiles, one of the Indian kings, met Alexander, and advised him not to make war nor fight with him, but if he were a meaner person than himself, to receive kindness from him, or if he were a better man, to show kindness to him. He answered, that was the very thing they must fight for, who should exceed the other in bounty.
When he heard the rock called Aornus in India was by its situation impregnable, but the commander of it was a coward; Then, said he, the place is easy to be taken.
Another, commanding a rock thought to be invincible, surrendered himself and the rock to Alexander, who committed the said rock and the adjacent country to his government, saying: I take this for a wise man, who chose rather to commit himself to a good man than to a strong place.
When the rock was taken, his friends said that it exceeded the deeds of Heracles - But I, said he, do not think my actions and all my empire to be compared with one word of Heracles.
He fined some of his friends whom he caught playing at dice in earnest.
Of his chief and most powerful friends, he seemed most to respect Craterus, and to love Hephaestion. Craterus, said he, is the friend of the king; but Hephaestion is the friend of Alexander.
He sent fifty talents to Xenocrates the philosopher, who would not receive them, saying he was not in want. And he asked whether Xenocrates had no friend either; For as to myself, said he, the treasure of Darius is hardly sufficient for me to bestow among my friends.
He demanded of Porus, after the fight, how he should treat him. Royally, said he, like a king. And being again asked, what else he had to request ; All things, said he, are in that word royally. Admiring his wisdom and valour, he gave him a greater government than he had before.
Being told a certain person reviled him, To do good, said he, and to be evil spoken of is kingly.
As he was dying, looking upon his friends, I see, said he, my funeral tournament will be great.
When he was dead, Demades the rhetorician likened the Macedonian army without a general to Polyphemus the Cyclops when his eye was put out.
PTOLEMAEUS. Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, frequently supped with his friends and lay at their houses; and if at any time he invited them to supper, he made use of their furniture, sending for vessels, carpets, and tables; for he himself had only things that were of constant use about him, saying it was more becoming a king to make others rich than to be rich himself.
ANTIGONUS.  Antigonus exacted money severely. When one told him that Alexander did not do so, It may be so, said he; Alexander reaped Asia, and I but glean after him.
Seeing some soldiers playing at ball in helmets and breast-plates, he was pleased, and sent for their officers, intending to commend them; but when he heard the officers were drinking, he bestowed their commands on the soldiers.
When all men wondered that in his old age his government was mild and easy; Formerly, said he, I sought for power, but now for glory and good-will.
To Philippus his son, who asked him in the presence of many when the army would march, What, said he, are you afraid that you only should not hear the trumpet ?
The same young man being desirous to quarter at a widow's house that had three handsome daughters, Antigonus called the quartermaster to him: Please, said he, help my son out of these straits.
Recovering from a slight disease, he said: No harm; this distemper puts me in mind not to aim at great things, since we are mortal.
Hermodotus in his poems called him Son of the Sun. He that attends my chamber-pot, said he, would say differently.
When one said, All things in kings are just and honourable, - Indeed, said he, for barbarian kings ; but for us only honourable things are honourable, and only just things are just.
Marsyas his brother had a legal case pending, and requested him it might be examined at his house. No, said he, it shall be heard in the judgement-hall, that all may hear whether we do exact justice or not.
In the winter being forced to pitch his camp where necessities were scarce, some of his soldiers reproached him, not knowing he was near. He opened the tent with his cane, saying: Woe be to you, unless you get you farther off when you revile me.
Aristodemus, one of his friends, supposed to be a cook's son, advised him to moderate his gifts and expenses. Your words, said he, Aristodemus, smell of the apron.
The Athenians, out of a respect to him, gave one of his servants the freedom of their city. And I would not, said he, have any Athenian whipped by my command.
A youth, scholar to Anaximenes the rhetorician, spoke in his presence a prepared and studied speech ; and he asking something which he desired to learn, the youth was silent. What do you say, said he,
"Is all that you have said written in your table-book?" [ Euripides, IphTaur_787 ]
When he heard another rhetorician say, The snow-spread season makes the country fodder spent; Will you not stop, said he, declaiming to me as you do to the rabble ?
Thrasyllus the Cynic begged a drachma of him. That, said he, is too little for a king to give. Why then, said the other, give me a talent. And that, said he, is too much for a Cynic (or for a dog) to receive.
Sending his son Demetrius with ships and land-forces to make Greece free; Glory, said he, from Greece, as from a watch-tower, will shine throughout the world.
Antagoras the poet was boiling a conger, and Antigonus, coming behind him as he was stirring his pan, said: Do you think, Antagoras, that Homer boiled congers, when he wrote the deeds of Agamemnon ? Antagoras replied: Do you think, O King, that Agamemnon, when he did such exploits, was a peeping in his army to see who boiled congers ?
 After he had seen in a dream Mithridates mowing a golden harvest, he designed to kill him, and acquainted Demetrius his son with his design, making him swear to conceal it. But Demetrius, taking Mithridates aside and walking with him by the seaside, with the pick of his spear wrote on the shore, " Fly, Mithridates ; " which he understanding, fled into Pontus and there reigned until his death.
DEMETRIUS. Demetrius, while he was besieging Rhodes, found in one of the suburbs the picture of Ialysus made by Protogenes the painter. The Rhodians sent a herald to him, beseeching him not to deface the picture. I will sooner, said he, deface my father's statues, than such a picture.
When he made peace with the Rhodians, he left behind him an engine, called the Helepolis, that it might be a memorial of his magnificence and of their courage.
When the Athenians rebelled, and he took the city, which had been distressed for want of provision, he called an assembly and gave them corn. And while he made a speech to them concerning that affair, he spoke improperly ; and when one that sat by told him how the word ought to be spoken, he said: For this correction I bestow upon you five thousand bushels more.
ANTIGONUS THE SECOND. Antigonus the Second, when his father was a prisoner, and sent one of his friends to admonish him to pay no regard to any thing that he might write at the constraint of Seleucus, and to enter into no obligation to surrender up the cities, wrote to Seleucus that he would give up his whole kingdom, and himself for an hostage, that his father might be set free.
Being about to fight by sea with the lieutenants of Ptolemy, and the pilot telling him the enemy outnumbered him in ships, he said: But how many ships do you reckon my presence to be worth ?
Once when he gave ground, his enemies pressing upon him, he denied that he fled; but he betook himself (as he said) to an advantage that lay behind him.
To a youth, son of a valiant father, but himself no very great soldier, petitioning he might receive his father's pay; Young man, said he, I pay and reward men for their own, not for their fathers' valour.
When Zenon of Citium, whom he admired beyond all philosophers, died, he said, The theatre of my actions is fallen.
LYSIMACHUS. Lysimachus, when he was overcome by Dromichaetes in Thrace and constrained by thirst, surrendered himself and his army. When he was a prisoner, and had drunk; O Gods, said he, for how small a satisfaction have I made myself a slave from a king !
To Philippides the comedian, his friend and companion, he said: What have I that I may impart to you ? He answered, What you please, except your secrets.
ANTIPATER. Antipater, hearing that Parmenion was slain by Alexander, said: If Parmenion conspired against Alexander, whom may we trust ? but if he did not, what is to be done ?
Of Demades the rhetorician, now grown old, he said: As of sacrifices when finished, so there is nothing left of him but his belly and tongue.
ANTIOCHUS THE THIRD. Antiochus the Third wrote to the cities, that if he should at any time write for anything to be done contrary to the law, they should not obey, but suppose it to be done out of ignorance.
When he saw the Priestess of Artemis, that she was exceeding beautiful, he presently removed from Ephesus, lest he should be swayed, contrary to his judgement, to commit some unholy act.
ANTIOCHUS HIERAX.  Antiochus, surnamed the Hawk, warred with his brother Seleucus for the kingdom. After Seleucus was overcome by the Galatians, and was not to be heard of, but supposed to be slain in the fight, he laid aside his purple and went into mourning. A while after, hearing his brother was safe, he sacrificed to the Gods for the good news, and caused the cities under his dominion to put on garlands.
EUMENES. Eumenes was thought to be slain by a conspiracy of Perseus. That report being brought to Pergamum, Attalus his brother put on the crown, married his wife, and took upon him the kingdom. Hearing afterwards his brother was alive and upon the way, he met him, as he used to do, with his life-guard, and a spear in his hand. Eumenes embraced him kindly, and whispered in his ear: -
"If a widow you will wed,
Wait till you're sure her husband's dead." -
But he never afterwards did or spoke any thing that showed any suspicion all his lifetime; but when he died, be bequeathed to him his queen and kingdom. In requital of which, his brother bred up none of his own children, although he had many; but when the son of Eumenes was grown up, he bestowed the kingdom on him in his own lifetime.
PYRRHUS OF EPIRUS. Pyrrhus was asked by his sons, when they were boys, to whom he would leave the kingdom. To him of you, said he, that has the sharpest sword.
Being asked whether Python or Caphisius was the better piper, Polysperchon, said he, is the best general.
He joined in battle with the Romans, and twice overcame them, but with the loss of many friends and captains. If I should overcome the Romans, said he, in another fight, I were undone.
Not being able to keep Sicily (as he said) from them, turning to his friends he said: What a fine wrestling ring do we leave to the Romans and Carthaginians!
His soldiers called him Eagle; And I may deserve the title, said he, while I am borne upon the wings of your arms.
Hearing some young men had spoken many reproachful words of him in their drink, he summoned them all to appear before him next day; when they appeared, he asked the foremost whether they spoke such things or him or not. The young man answered : Such words were spoken, O King, and more we had spoken, if we had had more wine.
ANTIOCHUS. Antiochus, who twice made an inroad into Parthia, as he was once a hunting, lost his friends and servants in the pursuit, and went into a cottage of poor people who did not know him. As they were at supper, he threw out discourse concerning the king; they said for the most part he was a good prince, but overlooked many things he left to the management of debauched courtiers, and out of love of hunting often neglected his necessary affairs; and there they stopped. At break of day the guard arrived at the cottage, and the king was recognised when the crown and purple robes were brought. From the day, said he, on which I first received these, I never heard truth concerning myself till yesterday.
When he besieged Jerusalem, the Jews, in respect of their great festival, begged of him seven days' truce; which he not only granted, but preparing oxen with gilded horns, with a great quantity of incense and perfumes, he went before them to the very gates, and having delivered them as a sacrifice to their priests, he returned back to his army. The Jews wondered at him, and as soon as their festival was finished, surrendered themselves to him.
THEMISTOCLES. Themistocles in his youth was much given to wine and women. But after Miltiades the general overcame the Persian at Marathon, Themistocles utterly forsook his former disorders;  and to such as wondered at the change, he said, The trophy of Miltiades will neither suffer me to sleep nor to be idle.
Being asked whether he would rather be Achilles or Homerus, - And pray, said he, which would you rather be, a conqueror in the Olympic games, or the crier that proclaims who are conquerors ?
When Xerxes with that great navy made a descent upon Greece, he fearing, if Epicydes (a popular, but a covetous, corrupt, and cowardly person) were made general, the city might be lost, bribed him with a sum of money to desist from that pretence.
Adeimantus was afraid to hazard a sea-fight, whereunto Themistocles persuaded and encouraged the Greeks. O Themistocles, said he, those that start before their time in the Olympic games are always scourged. Yes; but, Adeimantus, said the other, they that are left behind are not crowned.
Eurybiades lifted up his cane at him, as if he would strike him. Strike, said he, but hear me.
When he could not persuade Eurybiades to fight in the straits of the sea, he sent privately to Xerxes, advising him that he need not fear the Greeks, for they were running away. Xerxes, upon this persuasion, fighting in a place advantageous for the Greeks, was worsted; and then he sent him another message, and bade him fly with all speed over the Hellespont, for the Greeks designed to break down his bridge ; that under pretence of saving him he might secure the Greeks.
A man from the little island of Seriphus told him, he was famous not upon his own account but through the city where he lived, - You say true, said he, for if I had been a Seriphian, I had not been famous; nor would you, if you had been an Athenian.
To Antiphatus, a beautiful person that avoided and despised Themistocles when he formerly loved him, but came to him and flattered him when he was in great power and esteem; Hark you, lad, said he, though late, yet both of us are wise at last.
To Simonides desiring him to give an unjust sentence, You would not be a good poet, said he, if you should sing out of tune; nor I a good governor, if I should give judgement contrary to law.
When his son was a little saucy towards his mother, he said that this boy had more power than all the Greeks, for the Athenians governed Greece, he the Athenians, his wife him, and his son his wife.
He preferred an honest man that wooed his daughter, before a rich man. I would rather, said he, have a man that wants money, than money that wants a man.
Having a farm to sell, he bid the crier proclaim also that it had a good neighbour.
When the Athenians reviled him; Why do you complain, said he, that the same persons so often befriend you? And he compared himself to a row of plane-trees, under which in a storm passengers run for shelter, but in fair weather they pluck the leaves off and abuse them.
Scoffing at the Eretrians, he said, Like the sword-fish, they have a sword indeed, but no heart.
Being banished first out of Athens and afterwards out of Greece, he betook himself to the king of Persia, who bade him speak his mind. Speech, he said, was like to tapestry; and like it, when it was spread, it showed its figures, but when it was folded up, hid and spoiled them.
And therefore he requested time until he might learn the Persian tongue, and could explain himself without an interpreter.
Having there received great presents, and being enriched of a sudden; O lads, said he to his sons, we had been undone if we had not been undone.
MYRONIDES. Myronides summoned the Athenians to fight against the Boeotians. When the time was almost come, and the captains told him they were not near all come out;  They are come, said he, all that intend to fight. And marching while their spirits were up, he overcame his enemies.
ARISTEIDES. Aristeides the Just always managed his offices himself, and avoided all political clubs, because power gained by the assistance of friends was an encouragement to the unjust.
When the Athenians were fully bent to banish him by an ostracism, an illiterate country fellow came to him with his shell, and asked him to write in it the name of Aristeides. Friend, said he, do you know Aristeides ? Not I, said the fellow, but I do not like his surname of Just. He said no more, but wrote his name in the shell and gave it him.
He was at variance with Themistocles, who was sent on an embassy with him. Are you content, said he, Themistocles, to leave our enmity at the borders ? and if you please, we will take it up again at our return.
When he levied an assessment upon the Greeks, he returned poorer by so much as he spent in the journey.
Aeschylus wrote these verses on Amphiaraus : -
"His shield no emblem bears; his generous soul
Wishes to be, not to appear, the best;
While the deep furrows of his noble mind
Harvests of wise and prudent counsel bear."
And when they were pronounced in the theatre, all turned their eyes upon Aristeides.
PERICLES. Whenever he entered on his command as general, while he was putting on his war-cloak, he used thus to bespeak himself: Remember, Pericles, you govern freemen, Greeks, Athenians.
He advised the Athenians to demolish Aegina, as a dangerous eyesore to the haven of Peiraeus.
To a friend that wanted him to bear false witness and to bind the same with an oath, he said: I am a friend only as far as the altar.
When he lay on his death-bed, he blessed himself that no Athenian ever went into mourning upon his account.
ALCIBIADES. Alcibiades, while he was a boy, wrestling in a ring, seeing he could not break his adversary's hold, bit him by the hand; who cried out, You bite like a woman. Not so, said he, but like a lion.
He had a very handsome dog, that cost him seven thousand drachmas ; and he cut off his tail, that, said he, the Athenians may have this story to tell of me, and may concern themselves no farther with me.
Coming into a school, he called for Homerus' Iliad; and when the master told him he had none of Homerus' works, he gave him a box on the ear, and went his way.
He came to Pericles' gate, and being told he was busy a preparing his accounts to be given to the people of Athens, Had he not better, said he, contrive how he might give no account at all ?
Being summoned by the Athenians out of Sicily to plead for his life, he absconded, saying, that criminal was a fool who studied a defence when he might fly for it.
But, said one, will you not trust your country with your cause ? No, said he, nor my mother either, lest she mistake and cast a black pebble, instead of a white one.
When he heard death was decreed to him and his associates, Let us convince them, said he, that we are alive. And passing over to Lacedaemon, he stirred up the Decelean war against the Athenians.
LAMACHUS. Lamachus rebuked a captain for a fault; and when he had said he would do so no more, Sir, said he, in war there is no room for a second miscarriage.
IPHICRATES. Iphicrates was despised because he was thought to be a shoemaker's son.  The exploit that first brought him into repute was this: when he was wounded himself, he caught up one of the enemies and carried him alive and in his armour to his own ship.
He once pitched his camp in a country belonging to his allies and confederates, and yet he fortified it exactly with a trench and bulwark. Said one to him, What are you afraid of? Of all speeches, said he, none is so dishonourable for a general, as I should not have thought it.
As he marshalled his army to fight with barbarians, I am afraid, said he, they do not know Iphicrates, for his very name used to strike terror into other enemies.
Being accused of a capital crime, he said to the informer: O fellow! what are you doing, who, when war is at hand, do advise the city to consult concerning me, and not with me ?
To Harmodius, descended from the ancient Harmodius, when he reviled him for his mean birth, My nobility, said he, begins in me, but yours ends in you.
A rhetorician asked him in an assembly, who he was that he took so much upon him, - horseman, or footman, or archer, or shield-bearer. Neither of them, said he, but one that understands how to command all those.
TIMOTHEUS. Timotheus was reputed a successful general, and some that envied him painted cities falling under his net of their own accord, while he was asleep. Said Timotheus, If I take such cities when I am asleep, what do you think I shall do when I am awake ?
A confident commander showed the Athenians a wound he had received. But I, said he, when I was your general in Samos, was ashamed that a dart from an engine fell near me.
The orators set up Chares as one they thought fit to be general of the Athenians. Not to be general, said Timotheus, but to carry the general's baggage.
CHABRIAS. Chabrias said, they were the best commanders who best understood the affairs of their enemies.
He was once indicted for treason with Iphicrates, who blamed him for exposing himself to danger, by going to the place of exercise, and dining at his usual hour. If the Athenians, said he, deal severely with us, you will die all foul and empty; I'll die clean and anointed, with my dinner in my belly.
He was accustomed to say, that an army of stags, with a lion for their commander, was more formidable than an army of lions led by a stag.
HEGESIPPUS. When Hegesippus, surnamed Crobylus (i.e. Top-knot), instigated the Athenians against Philippus, one of the assembly cried out, You would not persuade us to a war ? Yes, indeed, would I, said he, and to mourning clothes and to public funerals and to funeral speeches, if we intend to live free and not submit to the pleasure of .the Macedonians.
PYTHEAS. Pytheas, when he was a young man, stood forth to oppose the decrees made concerning Alexander. One said: Have you, young man, the confidence to speak in such weighty affairs ? And why not ? said he: Alexander, whom you voted a God, is younger than I am.
PHOCION. Phocion the Athenian was never seen to laugh or cry.
In an assembly one told him, You seem to be thoughtful, Phocion. You guess right, said he, for I am contriving how to reduce what I have to say to the people of Athens.
The Oracle told the Athenians, there was one man in the city of a contrary judgement to all the rest; and the Athenians in a hubbub ordered search to be made, who this should be. I, said Phocion, am the man ; I alone am pleased with nothing the common people say or do.
 Once when he had delivered an opinion which pleased the people, and perceived it was entertained by a general consent, he turned to his friend, and said: Have I not unawares spoken something or other wrong ?
The Athenians gathered contributions for a certain sacrifice; and when others gave to it, he being often spoken to said: I should be ashamed to give to you, and not to pay this man, - pointing to one of his creditors.
Demosthenes the orator told him, If the Athenians should be mad, they would kill you. Like enough, said he, me if they were mad, but you if they were wise.
Aristogeiton the informer, being condemned and ready to be executed in prison, entreated that Phocion would come to him. And when his friends would not suffer him to go to so vile a person; And where, said he, would you discourse with Aristogeiton more pleasantly ?
The Athenians were offended with the Byzantines, for refusing to receive Chares into their city, who was sent with forces to assist them against Philippus. Said Phocion, You ought not to be displeased with the distrust of your confederates, but with your commanders that are not to be trusted. Whereupon be was chosen general, and being trusted by the Byzantines, he forced Philippus to return without his errand.
King Alexander sent him a present of a hundred talents; and he asked those that brought it, what it should mean that, of all the Athenians, Alexander should be thus kind to him. They answered, because he esteemed him alone to be a worthy and upright person. Pray therefore, said he, let him suffer me to seem as well as to be so.
Alexander sent to them for some ships, and the people calling for Phocion by name, bade him speak his opinion. He stood up and told them: I advise you either to conquer yourselves, or else to side with the conqueror.
An uncertain rumour happened, that Alexander was dead. Immediately the orators leaped into the rostrum, and advised them to make war without delay; but Phocion entreated them to tarry awhile and know the certainty: for, said he, if he is dead to-day, he will be dead to-morrow, and so forwards.
Leosthenes hurried the city into a war, with fond hopes conceited at the name of liberty and command. Phocion compared his speeches to cypress-trees ; They are tall, said he, and comely, but bear no fruit. However, the first attempts were successful; and when the city was sacrificing for the good news, he was asked whether he did not wish he had done this himself. I would, said he, have done what has been done, but have advised what I did.
When the Macedonians invaded Attica and plundered the seacoasts, he drew out the youth. When many came to him and generally persuaded him by all means to possess himself of such an ascent, and thereon to marshal his army, O Heracles! said he, how many commanders do I see, and how few soldiers ? Yet he fought and overcame, and slew Nicion, the commander of the Macedonians.
But in a short time the Athenians were overcome, and admitted a garrison sent by Antipater. Menyllus, the governor of that garrison, offered money to Phocion, who was enraged thereby and said: This man is no better than Alexander; and what I refused then I can with less honour receive now.
Antipater said, of the two friends he had at Athens, he could never persuade Phocion to accept a present, nor could he ever satisfy Demades with presents.
When Antipater requested him to do some indirect thing or other, Antipater, said he, you cannot have Phocion for your friend and flatterer too.
 After the death of Antipater, democracy was established in Athens, and the assembly decreed the death of Phocion and his friends. The rest were led weeping to execution; but as Phocion passed silently, one of his enemies met him and spat in his face. But he turned himself to the magistrates, and said, Will nobody restrain this insolent fellow ?
One of those that were to suffer with him lamented and complained: Why, Euippus, said he, are you not pleased that you die with Phocion ?
When the cup of hemlock was brought to him, being asked whether he had any thing to say to his son; I command you, said he, and entreat you not to think of any revenge upon the Athenians.
PEISISTRATUS. Peisistratus, tyrant of Athens, when some of his party revolted from him and possessed themselves of Phyle, came to them bearing his baggage on his back. They asked him what he meant by it. Either, said he, to persuade you to return with me, or if I cannot persuade you, to tarry with you; and therefore I come prepared accordingly.
An accusation was brought to him against his mother, that she was in love and used secret familiarity with a young man, who out of fear for the most part refused her. This young man he invited to supper, and as they were at supper asked him how he liked his entertainment. He answered, Very well. Thus, said he, you shall be treated daily, if you please my mother.
Thrasybulus was in love with his daughter, and as he met her, kissed her; whereupon his wife would have incensed him against Thrasybulus. If, said he, we hate those that love us, what shall we do to them that hate us ? - and he gave the maid in marriage to Thrasybulus.
Some lascivious drunken persons by chance met his wife, and used unseemly speech and behaviour to her; but the next day they begged his pardon with tears. As for you, said he, learn to be sober for the future; but as for my wife, yesterday she was not abroad at all.
He designed to marry another wife, and his children asked him whether he could blame them for anything. By no means, said he, but I commend you, and desire to have more such children as you are.
DEMETRIUS PHALEREUS. Demetrius Phalereus persuaded King Ptolemy to get and study such books as treated of government and conduct; for those things are written in books which the friends of kings dare not advise.
Following pages (189 - 208) →
Attalus' home page | 11.04.14 | Any comments?