Cornelius Nepos : Life of Phocion

Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1929). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.   Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.

XVIII.   Eumenes


[1] L   Phocion, the Athenian, although he often commanded armies and held the highest offices, yet was much better known for the integrity of his life than for his work as a soldier. And so no one remembers the latter, while the former is widely known and led to his surname of 'The Good.' 2 In fact, he was always in moderate circumstances, although he might have acquired great wealth because of the frequent offices and commissions which the people conferred upon him. ** 3 When he had refused the gift of a large sum of money from King Philip, the king's envoys urged him to take it; at the same time reminding him that even if he himself could readily do without such things, yet he ought to consider his children, who would find it difficult with narrow means to live up to the great glory inherited from their father. 4 But he replied to them: "If they are like me, they will live on this same little farm which has brought me to my present rank; but if they are going to be different, I do not wish their luxury to be nourished and grow at my expense." **

[2] L   After good fortune had attended him almost to his eightieth year, at the end of his life he incurred the bitter hatred of his fellow-citizens; 2 at first, ** because he had made an agreement with Demades to turn the city over to Antipater, and because it was by his advice that Demosthenes and the rest who were thought to have served their country well had been exiled by decree of the people. And in the latter instance he was censured, not merely for having acted contrary to the interests of his country, but also for disloyalty to a friend. 3 For it was through the aid and support of Demosthenes that Phocion had reached the rank that he enjoyed, having gained the orator's secret support against Chares; ** he had also on several occasions been defended by Demosthenes, when charged with capital offences, and had been acquitted. This benefactor Phocion not only did not defend in time of danger, but he even betrayed him.

4 But his downfall was due particularly to one offence, committed when he held the highest office in the gift of the people. ** On that occasion, being warned by Dercylus that Nicanor, one of Cassander's prefects, was plotting an attack on the Piraeus of the Athenians, and being urged to take heed that the state should not be deprived of supplies, Phocion replied in the hearing of the people that there was no danger and promised to assume all responsibility.5 Not long afterwards Nicanor got possession of the Piraeus, without which Athens cannot ** exist at all; and when the people united to recover it by force, Phocion not only issued no call to arms, but refused to take command of the people when they had armed themselves.

[3] L   There were at Athens at that time two parties, one of which favoured the populace, the other the aristocrats. To the latter belonged Phocion and Demetrius of Phalerum. Both these parties depended upon the patronage of the Macedonians; for the popular party sided with Polyperchon, the aristocrats with Cassander. 2 While these events were going on, Cassander was driven from Macedonia by Polyperchon. When that happened, the people, having gained the upper hand, at once outlawed the leaders of the opposing party and drove them from Athens, ** including Phocion and Demetrius of Phalerum; then with reference to that action they sent envoys to Polyperchon, to beg him to confirm their decrees. 3 Phocion also went to Polyperchon. On his arrival he was ordered to plead his cause, ostensibly before king Philip, ** but actually before Polyperchon; for he then had the management of the king's affairs. 4 Phocion was accused by Hagnon of having betrayed the Piraeus to Nicanor, was imprisoned by the decision of the council, and was then taken to Athens, in order that he might there be judged according to the laws of the Athenians.

[4] L   When he arrived in the city, he was now unable to proceed on foot because of his age, and was taken to the court in a carriage. A great crowd collected, some of whom remembered his past glory and pitied his years, although the greater number were filled with bitter anger because of their suspicion that he had betrayed the Piraeus, and especially because in his old age he had opposed the interests of the people. 2 In consequence, he was not even given the opportunity of making a speech and of pleading his cause. Then he was condemned by the court, after certain legal forms had been observed, and was turned over to the Eleven, who, according to the custom of the Athenians, regularly have official charge of the punishment of the condemned. ** 3 As he was being led to execution, he was met by Euphiletus, who had been his intimate friend. When the latter said with tears in his eyes: "Oh, how unmerited is the treatment you are suffering, Phocion! " the prisoner replied: "But it is not unexpected; for nearly all the distinguished men of Athens have met this end." 4 Such was the hatred of the people for him, that no freeborn man ventured to bury him; and so he was buried by slaves. **

XX.   Timoleon →


1.   Honores are magistracies; potestates is a more general term. Both are Roman terms; cf. note on xvii. 4. 2.

2.   That is, at the expense of his good name.

3.   The second reason follows in 4.

4.   See xii. 3,1, and note.

5.   That of strategos, or general.

6.   Although the Piraeus had been destroyed in the first Mithridatic war, the harbour was still important in the time of Nepos.

7.   Some were banished; others were condemned to death and fled from the city.

8.   This was Philippus Arrhidaeus, half-brother and nominal successor of Alexander the Great.

9.   They had charge of executions, which were actually performed by an executioner.

10.   Since he had been executed for high treason, he could not be buried within the limits of Attica; see Val. Max. v. 3. ext. 3; Plut. Phoc. 37.

XX.   Timoleon →

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