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Polyaenus: Stratagems

    - BOOK 8, Chapters 26-71

Adapted from the translation by R.Shepherd (1793). See key to translations for an explanation of the format.

The Greek text of these chapters is available in archive.org.


CONTENTS:   ← Previous Chapters (1-25) 26 Semiramis ; 27 Rhodogune ; 28 Tomyris ; 29 Nitetis ; 30 Philotis ; 31 Cloelia ; 32 Porcia ; 33 Telesilla ; 34 Cheilonis ; 35 Pieria ; 36 Polycrete ; 37 Lampsace ; 38 Aretaphila ; 39 Camma ; 40 Timocleia ; 41 Eryxo ; 42 Pythopolis ; 43 Chrysame ; 44 Polycleia ; 45 Leaena ; 46 Themisto ; 47 Pheretima ; 48 Axiothea ; 49 Archidamis ; 50 Laodice ; 51 Theano ; 52 Deidameia ; 53 Artemisia ; 54 Mania ; 55 Tirgatao ; 56 Amage ; 57 Arsinoe ; 58 Cratesipolis ; 59 The Priestess ; 60 Cynane ; 61 Mysta ; 62 Epicharis ; 63 The Milesian Women ; 64 The Melian Women ; 65 The Phocian Women ; 66 The Chian Women ; 67 The Thasian Women ; 68 The Argive Women ; 69 The Acarnanian Women ; 70 The Women of Cyrene ; 71 The Lacedaemonian Women


[26]   Semiramis.

Semiramis received intelligence of the revolt of the Siraces while she was in her bath; and without waiting to have her sandals put on or her hair dressed, she immediately left it and took the field. Her exploits are recorded on pillars, in these words: "Nature made me a woman, but I have raised myself to rivalry with the greatest of men. I swayed the sceptre of Ninus; and extended my dominions to the river Hinamames on the east; on the south, to the country which is fragrant with the production of frankincense and myrrh; and northward to the Saccae and Sogdians. No Assyrian before me ever saw the sea; but distant as the seas are from here, I have seen four. And to their proud waves who can set bounds? I have directed the course of rivers at my will; and my will has directed them where they might prove useful. I have made a barren land produce plenty, and fertilised it with my rivers. I have built walls which are impregnable; and with iron forced a way through inaccessible rocks. At great expense I have formed roads in places, which before not even the wild beasts could traverse. And great and various as my exploits have been, I have always found leisure hours, in which to indulge myself and my friends.

[27]   Rhodogune.

Rhodogune was just coming out of her bath, with her hair as yet undressed, when she received intelligence of the revolt of a subject nation. Without waiting to have her hair dressed, she mounted her horse, and put herself at the head of her army. At the same time, she vowed never to have her hair dressed, till she had subdued the rebels; which she eventually achieved after a tedious war. She then bathed, and had her hair dressed. From this circumstance, the seal of the kings of Persia bears on it Rhodogune with dishevelled hair.

[28]   Tomyris.

When Cyrus advanced against the Massagetae, Tomyris their queen retreated before him. The Persian army, closely pursuing her, entered and plundered her camp. There they found a great quantity of wine, and all sorts of provisions; on which they indulged immoderately, revelling throughout the night, as if they had obtained a victory. In that situation Tomyris attacked them, and cut them to pieces, while they were partly buried in sleep, and partly so drenched with wine, and surfeited with banqueting, that they could scarcely stand upright; and Cyrus himself was slain. [see also: Herodotus, 1.211 - however Herodotus attributes this ruse to Cyrus, not to Tomyris. ]

[29]   Nitetis.

Cyrus king of Persia asked Amasis king of Egypt for his daughter in marriage. But instead of his own, he sent him Nitetis the daughter of king Apries, whose death had contrived, and whose throne he had usurped. Nitetis long passed for the daughter of Amasis, while she cohabited with Cyrus. But after having borne him children, and made herself mistress of his affections, she informed him, who she was; that her father was Apries, the king and master of Amasis. "And now," she said, "since Amasis is dead, it will be a generous act to revenge the injury of my family on Psammetichus his son. Cyrus consented; but he died before the expedition took place. However his son Cambyses was prevailed on by his mother to undertake the expedition; which he finished successfully, and transferred the sceptre of Egypt once more into the hands of the family of Apries.

[30]   Philotis.

The Latins under the command of Postumius made war upon the Romans; at the same time they offered to form an alliance with them, if they would give them their daughters in marriage, which would cement the two nations, as they had themselves done in the case of the Sabines. The Romans were at that time in no condition to engage in a war, and yet were unwilling to part with their daughters. Philotis, a young and handsome slave, proposed to them to dress her, and such other good-looking slaves as they could pick out, and send them to the Latins in place of their daughters; at the same time she engaged to let them know by lighting a torch, at what time in the night the Latins went to rest. Accordingly, as soon as they had retired to repose with their new brides, Philotis lit the torch, and the Romans surprised the Latins in bed, and slew them. [see also: Plutarch, Rom.29]

[31]   Cloelia.

The Romans concluded a treaty with the Etruscans, and sent as hostages for the observance of it the daughters of some of the first families in Rome. Those young women used frequently to go down to the Tiber to bathe; and Cloelia, who was one of them, proposed to the rest that they should tie their clothes around their heads, and swim across the river. The Romans admired their resolution; but according to the faith of the treaty, they sent them all back to the Etruscans. When they were introduced to Porsenna, king of the Etruscans, he asked who was the proposer of so daring an act. To which Cloelia undauntedly replied, that she was. Porsenna was pleased with her manly spirit. He presently her with a richly caparisoned horse, and sent her and her companions back to Rome, with just praise for their courage. [see also: Plutarch, Publ.19]

[32]   Porcia.

Porcia, the daughter of Cato, and wife of Brutus, when she suspected that her husband entertained some designs against Caesar, which he would not venture to communicate to her, cut her thigh with a razor. Thus she gave him proof of the resolution, with which she could inflict the wound, and bear the pain. Brutus no longer hesitated to reveal to her the conspiracy; she carried her own dress to him, and he found a sword privately concealed in it. He used this sword, when with the rest of the conspirators he murdered Caesar. Afterwards, together with Cassius, Brutus fought against Augustus in Macedonia. He was defeated, and fell upon his own sword. Then Porcia at first endeavoured to starve herself. But not being able to achieve that, because of the intervention of her relations and servants, she ordered some fire to be brought to her, under pretence of using some unguents; and seizing the burning coals in her hands, she swallowed them, before anybody who was present had time to prevent it. Thus died Porcia; a memorable instance of resolution and fortitude, and of conjugal affection. [see also: Plutarch, Brut.53]

[33]   Telesilla.

Cleomenes king of Sparta defeated the Argives, of whom more than seven thousand were left dead on the field, and directed his march to Argos, in the hope of making himself master of the city. Then Telesilla, a musician, put herself at the head of the Argive women; they took up arms, and defended the walls so successfully, that they repulsed Cleomenes, and the other king Damaratus, and saved the city. In memory of this exploit of the women, the Argives celebrate a festival at the start of the month of Hermaeus, when the women wear tunics and robes, and the men wear the women's gowns. [see also: Pausanias, 2.20]

[34]   Cheilonis.

When Cheilonis, the daughter of Cleadas, and wife of Theompompus, learnt that her husband was husband was made prisoner by the Arcadians, she travelled into Arcadia to see him. The Arcadians, in consideration of the affection she had displayed, gave her leave to visit him in prison; there she exchanged clothes with him, and by that means he effected his escape, while she in his stead remained in prison. Before long Theopompus found an opportunity to seize a priestess of Artemis, as she was celebrating a procession at Pheneus; and the inhabitants of Tegea released Cheilonis in exchange for her.

[35]   Pieria.

After they formed a sedition against the posterity of Neleus, a considerable body of the Ionians, who inhabited Miletus, separated and established themselves at Myus; and there they lived in a state of hostility with their old countrymen, though not in actual war; but they used to meet them at festivals, and public occasions. At the celebration of a solemn festival called Neleis, Pieria, the daughter of Pythus a man of distinction, went to Miletus. Phrygius, one of the descendants of Neleus, met her there; and becoming enamoured of the girl, he asked her how he could most agreeably serve her. "By giving me an opportunity," replied the maid, "of coming here frequently, and with as many companions as I please." Phrygius understood her meaning; he effected a permanent peace, and a re-establishment of the union of the two states. The love of Phrygius and Pieria became famous ever after in the annals of Milesian history. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.253]

[36]   Polycrete.

The Milesians, assisted by the Erythraeans, made war on the Naxians; and Diognetus, the general of the Milesians, ravaged their country, and brought away considerable booty, besides a number of women, and among them Polycrete. He became enamoured of Polycrete, and cohabited with her not on the terms of a slave, but as his wife. In the Milesian camp a local festival was celebrated, at which the Milesians give themselves up to drinking and pleasure. Polycrete requested Diognetus' permission to send her brothers a small present of the sumptuous fare that was prepared; in a cake she moulded up a piece of lead, and she ordered the bearer to tell her brothers, that it was intended only for their use. On the lead she inscribed, that if they attacked the Milesian camp, they might surprise the enemy in a state of intoxication and sleep. The Naxian generals accordingly made the attack, and succeeded. Polycrete was highly honoured by her citizens for her service; and at her instance they preserved Diognetus, and his possessions. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.254]

[37]   Lampsace.

The Phocaeans under the command of Phoxus marched to the assistance of Mandron, king of the Bebryces, who had been attacked by the neighbouring barbarians. As a reward for their service, Mandron granted to the Phocaeans a part of the country, and city, and invited them to settle there. By their courage and conduct they had obtained many victories, and had enriched themselves with great spoils; which so drew upon them the envy of the barbarians, that in the absence of Mandron, the barbarians formed a resolution to massacre them. But Lampsace, the daughter of Mandron, got intelligence of the plot, and as she could not prevent it, she secretly revealed it to the Greeks. The Phocaeans prepared a magnificent sacrifice in the suburbs, and invited the barbarians to partake of it. They then divided themselves into two groups; one of which secured the walls; and the other slew the banqueters, and made themselves masters of the city. They afterwards rewarded Lampsace with honour, and named the city Lampsacus after her. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.255]

[38]   Aretaphila.

Nicocrates, tyrant of Cyrene, among a number of other oppressive and atrocious acts, with his own hands slew Melanippus, priest of Apollo, and married Aretaphila his wife, a woman of exquisite beauty. She endeavoured by poison, and various other methods, to take revenge on the tyrant for her distressed country, and her husband's death; of which she was accused, and brought to trial. But, despite the tortures to which she was exposed, she confessed nothing, except that she had administered to him a love potion, in order to win his affections. She was finally acquitted by the tyrant's order; and supposing that she had suffered innocently, he afterwards treated her with marks of great attention and affection. Aretaphila had a daughter, who was extremely beautiful, and she introduced her to Leander, the tyrant's brother. He fell in love with her, and with the consent of Nicocrates married her. Leander was won over by the frequent remonstrances of his mother-in-law, and formed a resolution to free his country by killing the tyrant; which he managed to achieve after much difficulty, with the assistance of the Daphnis, the groom of his chamber.

[39]   Camma.

Sinorix and Sinatus possessed tetrarchies in Galatia. Camma, the wife of Sinatus, was esteemed as virtuous, and fair; she was priestess of Artemis, which is an office of the highest rank that a woman can hold in Galatia. Sinorix conceived a passion for her., which he despaired of gratifying either by force or entreaties, while her husband was alive. He therefore procured the assassination of Sinatus; and not long afterwards, paid his addresses to Camma, who repeatedly rejected his advances. At last however, yielding to the pressing solicitation of her friends and acquaintances, she pretended to consent, on these terms: "Let Sinorix come to the temple of Artemis, and there we will make our marriage vows in the presence of the goddess". On the day, Sinorix, attended by a great number of Gauls, both men and women, waited on her; and she accompanied him to the altar with fond words and tenderness. There she drank to him from a golden cup, and bade him partake with her in the drink. He received it with pleasure, as a token of bridal love, and drank it down. But the bridal cup was a potion of strong poison. As soon as she saw that he had drunk it, she fell down on he knees, and said with a loud voice: "I thank you, venerable Artemis, for granting me in this your temple a glorious revenge for my murdered husband." After saying this, she dropped down, and expired; and the bridegroom expired with her, at the altar of the goddess. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.257]

[40]   Timocleia.

Timocleia was sister of Theagenes the Theban. Theagenes fought against Philippus at Chaeroneia, and when Philippus called out, "Whither would you pursue me?", he answered, "Even unto Macedonia". After his death, when Alexander sacked Thebes, and some men were plundering the city in one part, and some in another, a Thracian cavalry leader entered the house of Timocleia; after supper he forced her to his bed, and also insisted on her telling him, where she had deposited her treasures. She acknowledged she had vases, cups, and other pieces of ornamental furniture, which on the city being taken, she said she had deposited in a dry well. The Thracian pressed her immediately to go with him, and show him the place, which she accordingly did; conducting him through the garden, and bringing him to the well. Fearing lest any one should preempt him, he eagerly entered the well: but instead of a treasure, found a shower of stones: which Timocleia and her servants discharged upon him, and buried him under the pile. When the Macedonians learnt of what had happened, they seized her, and carried her before Alexander. She confessed the fact to him, and said, no terrors would make her repent of having so gloriously revenged the brutal violence, that the Thracian had offered to her. Alexander applauded her spirit; and exempted from the public calamity not only her, but all who could prove any relation to her. [see also: Plutarch, Alex.12]

[41]   Eryxo.

Laarchus was declared regent of Cyrene, during the minority of Battus son of Arcesilaus; but intoxicated by power, he soon became not only a king, but a tyrant; and he exercised on the citizens the most atrocious acts of cruelty and injustice. The mother of Battus was Eryxo, a woman of great modesty and exemplary virtue. Laarchus conceived a violent passion for her, and made her proposals of marriage; on which subject, she referred him to her brothers. When they, as had been agreed between them and their sister, demurred upon it, she sent a servant to Laarchus, informing him that her brothers seemed to disapprove of the marriage; but if he would grant them a meeting at her house, she expected that the discussion might remove their present objections. So fair an opening seemed to him to promise a favourable outcome, and he visited Eryxo's house by night without a guard. There he found Polyarchus her eldest brother, together with two youths, armed and waiting to receive him; they immediately fell upon him, and slew him. Then they proclaimed Battus king; and restored to the inhabitants of Cyrene their ancient form of government. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.260]

[42]   Pythopolis.

When Pythes discovered some gold mines in his dominions, he set all his men at work in digging, searching for, and cleaning the ore; no other business was to be carried on, either by land or sea. The people were all uneasy at the land being suffered to lie uncultivated; as in the meantime there was likely be no corn, no fruits, nor anything to be had for the purposes of life. The women entreated Pythopolis, the wife of Pythes, to use her influence with her husband on this subject of general complaint. She bade them not to be uneasy; and assured them that she would. Accordingly, she sent for some goldsmiths, and ordered them to make in gold for her fish, ripe fruits, cakes, and meats of various kinds. Pythes, on his return from a journey, asked if supper was ready. A golden table was placed before him, covered with the resemblance of various foods, all worked up in gold. Pythes much admired the workmanship; then he ordered them to be taken away, and the supper to be brought. Other dishes were accordingly served up, and others after them; but in all of them, only the golden resemblance of foodstuffs was served up. Pythes in a rage told her her to put an end to her show, and let him have his supper; for he was tired and hungry. "You do not consider," replied his wife, "that victuals are difficult to procure. The whole country is employed in ransacking the bowels of the earth for gold; and unless we can eat it, we must all soon starve." Pythes, convinced of the justness of this remonstrance, ordered the people out of the mines; and ordered them to employ themselves in agriculture, and other useful occupations. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.262]

[43]   Chrysame.

When the Ionian colonists came to Asia, Cnopus, who was descended from the family of the Codridae, made war on the inhabitants of Erythrae. He was directed by the oracle to commit the conduct of the expedition to a Thessalian priestess of Hecate Enodia, and sent an embassy to the Thessalians, which returned with the priestess Chrysame. Possessing great skill in the occult qualities of herbs, she chose out of the herd a large and beautiful bull, gilded his horns, and decorated him with garlands, and purple ribbons embroidered with gold. She mixed in his fodder a medicinal herb that would excite madness, and ordered him to be kept in the stall and fed upon it. The efficacy of this medicine was such, that not only the beast, who ate it, was seized with madness; but also all, who ate the flesh of it, when it was in such a state, were seized with the same insanity. When the enemy encamped against her, she directed an altar to be raised in sight of them; and after every preparation for a sacrifice had been made, the bull was brought forth. Under the influence of the medicine, the bull broke loose; he ran wild into the plain, roaring, and tilting at everything he met. The Erythraeans saw the victim, intended for the enemy's sacrifice, running towards their camp, and considered it as a happy omen. They seized the beast, and offered him up in sacrifice to their gods; everyone, in participation of the sacrifice, ate a piece of the flesh. The whole army was soon afterwards seized with madness, and exhibited the same marks of wildness and frenzy the bull had done. When Chrysame observed this, she directed Cnopus immediately to draw out his forces, and charge the enemy. Incapable of making any defence, the Erythraeans were cut to pieces; but Cnopus made himself master of Erythrae, a great and flourishing city.

[44]   Polycleia.

Aeatus the son of Pheidippus had an only sister called Polycleia, was descended like him from the Heracleidae. The oracle had declared that whichever of their family should first cross the Achelous, should possess the city, and occupy the throne. While Aeatus was engaged in a war with the Boeotians, who had formerly settled themselves in Thessaly, and his army was preparing to cross the Achelous, Polycleia bound up her foot, pretending to have hurt it, and requested her brother to carry her across the river. He, not suspecting any deceit, readily complied with her request; he gave his shield to his armour-bearer, and took his sister on his shoulders. But as he approached the opposite bank, she leapt from him onto the shore. Turning to Aeatus, she said: "Remember the oracle, by whose declaration the kingdom must be mine; for I was the first to reach the shore." Aeatus was pleased with the trick, and captivated by the girl's manner; he married her, and shared the kingdom with her. Their marriage produced a son, whose name was Thessalus; from whom the city was afterwards called Thessalia.

[45]   Leaena.

How Aristogeiton and Harmodius delivered Athens from the tyrant's yoke, is known to every Greek. Aristogeiton had a mistress, whose name was Leaena. Hippias ordered her to be examined by torture, as to what she know of the conspiracy; after she had long borne with great resolution the various cruelties that were exercised on her, she cut out her tongue with her own hand, lest the further increase of pain should extort from her any disclosure. The Athenians in memory of her erected in the Propylaea of the Acropolis a statue of a lioness in brass, without a tongue. [see also: Pausanias, 1.23]

[46]   Themisto.

Philon, the son of Phricodemus the tyrant, fell in love with Themisto, daughter of Crithon of Oeanthe. The tyrant demanded her for his son in marriage; and was refused by her father. In resentment of this affront, Phricodemus ordered Crithon's sons to be exposed to wild beasts before the eyes of their father and mother; then he seized the daughter, and gave her in marriage to his son. Themisto, thus forced into his embraces, concealed a sword under her robe. During the night, while the bridegroom was asleep, she dispatched him with the sword so secretly, that not the least noise was heard. She then found means to escape out of the house, and fled to the shore, where she found a boat; she went onto it, and committed herself to the mercy of the wind and waves. She was carried to Helice, a city of Achaea, in which there was a temple of Poseidon, where she took refuge. Thither Phricodemus sent his other son Heracon, the brother of Philon who had been murdered, to demand the girl from the inhabitants of Helice; and they, as the tyrant requested, delivered her up. But the ship had scarcely got under sail, when a violent storm arose, which drove them to Rhium, a town in Achaea. There two Acarnanian vessels made prize of the ship, because the Acarnanians at that time were at open war with the tyrant, and they carried it to Acarnania. The people there, as soon as they were informed of what had happened, bound Heracon, and delivered him up into the power of the girl. The tyrant then sent an embassy to her, requesting his son; she promised to give him up, after she had received her parents. Phricodemus accordingly sent her parents; but nevertheless the Acarnanians would not hand over Heracon, but scourged him, and afterwards put him to death. The tyrant himself not many days afterwards fell by the hands of his citizens. And, what is most remarkable, the citizens of Helice along with their city were not long afterwards engulfed in the sea, which swelled over them in an earthquake. Poseidon thus seemed to have revenged himself on them for the indignity they had offered him, in delivering up a fugitive, who had fled for refuge to his shrine.

[47]   Pheretima.

When Arcesilaus son of Battus, king of Cyrene, was driven from his kingdom by a sedition of the people, his mother Pheretima sailed to Cyprus to ask for the assistance of Euelthon, king of Salamis. The Cyprian was deaf to her entreaties, but Arcesilaus at last acquired a number of Greek allies, and recovered his kingdom. However he was too severe in the punishments that he exacted on some of his enemies, and he was slain by the neighbouring barbarians. Amidst all these calamities, Pheretima did not lose her spirit, but applied to Aryandes, the satrap of Egypt, by recounting some obligations which she had formerly been able to confer on Cambyses. Aryandes supplied her with a powerful force, with which she attacked the inhabitants of Cyrene by sea and land; thus she avenged the death of her son, and re-instated her family on the throne. [see also: Herodotus, 4.162]

[48]   Axiothea.

When Ptolemaeus king of Egypt sent a powerful force to dispossess Nicocles of the kingdom of Cyprus, both he and his brothers, rather than submit to slavery, fell by their own hands. Axiothea the wife of Nicocles, wishing to emulate the glorious resolution of the deceased, assembled their sisters, mothers, and wives; and exhorted them not to submit to anything unworthy of their family. Accordingly they barred the doors of the women's apartments, and while the citizens were crowding into the palace, with their children in their arms they set fire to the house. Some dispatched themselves with a sword, and others resolutely leaped into the flames. Axiothea, who was the promoter of the enterprise, after she had see them all thus gloriously fall, first stabbed, and then threw herself into the fire; to preserve even her dead body from falling into the hands of the enemy.

[49]   Archidamis.

Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, defeated the Lacedaemonians in a bloody battle, and marched against their city. The Lacedaemonians decided to convey their wives and children to Crete, and themselves to hazard another battle; they were determined either to obtain the victory, or to sell their lives at a dear price. But Archidamis, the daughter of king Cleadas, rejected the proposal, declaring that Spartan women ought to live, and die, with their husbands. The women therefore insisted on sharing in the operations of war; some fetched the tools, other dug in the ditches, some again were employed in sharpening the weapons, and other assisted in dressing the wounded. The spirit of the women gave new resolution to the Spartans, who again took the field; they engaged Pyrrhus, and defeated him.

[50]   Laodice.

Antiochus, surnamed Theos, married Laodice, his sister on the father's side, and had by her a son Seleucus. He also afterwards married Berenice, daughter of king Ptolemaeus, by whom he likewise had a son; but he died while this son was in his infancy, and left his kingdom to Seleucus. Laodice did not think her son was secure on the throne, while the son of Berenice was alive, and sought means to procure his death. Berenice invoked the pity and assistance of her husband's subjects - but too late. The assassins however exhibited to the people a child very like him, whom they had murdered; they declared him to be the royal infant, whom they had spared, and a guard was appointed to protect his person. Berenice also had a guard of Gallic mercenaries, and a fortified citadel appointed for her residence; and the people swore allegiance to her. At the suggestion of Aristarchus her physician, she now considered herself perfectly secure, and hoped to reconcile to her all who had before been hostile to her pretensions. But their object, in the oath they had taken to her, was only to throw her off her guard; once this was achieved, she was secretly assassinated. Several of the women, who were about her, fell while attempting to save her. However Panariste, Mania, and Gethosyne buried the body of Berenice, and placed another woman in her stead, in the bed where she had been murdered. They pretended that she was still living, and likely to recover from the wound she had received. And they persuaded her subjects of this, until Ptolemaeus, the father of the deceased, arrived. He dispatched letters to the countries around in the names of his daughter and her son, as if they were still alive; and by this stratagem of Panariste he secured for himself the whole country from Taurus to India, without a single engagement.

[51]   Theano.

Pausanias, after he had been convicted of a plot to betray the city to the Medes, took refuge in the temple of Athene Chalcioeca, from whence the law strictly forbids a suppliant to be forced away. His mother Theano immediately went there, and laid a brick, which she carried with her, at the door. The Laconians admired her prompt thought and resolution, and they also each carried a brick to the door of the temple. The doorway was thus blocked up, without forcing the suppliant from the temple, and the traitor perished by being blocked up in the temple. [see also: Diodorus, 11.45]

[52]   Deidameia.

Deidameia, the daughter of Pyrrhus, attacked and took Ambracia, to avenge the death of Ptolemaeus. And when the Epirots sued for peace as suppliants, she granted it only on condition that they acknowledged her hereditary rights, and the honours of her ancestors. This they agreed to do, without any intention of observing their agreement. For some of them immediately formed a plot against her life, and bribed Nestor, one of Alexander's guards, to murder her; but he, struck with her majestic dignity, fixed his eyes on the ground as if in meditation, and returned without accomplishing his purpose. She then retired to the temple of Artemis Hegemone, where Milon, who had been guilty of murdering his own mother Philotera, pursued her with a drawn sword. She had just time to call out to him, "Slaughter, thou matricide, on slaughter raise" [Euripides, Orestes.1587], before Milon aimed a blow, and slew her in the temple.

[53]   Artemisia.

Artemisia, in the naval battle at Salamis, found that the Persians were defeated, and she herself was near to falling into the hands of the Greeks. She ordered the Persian colours to be taken down, and the master of the ship to bear down upon, and attack a Persian vessel, that was passing by her. The Greeks, seeing this, supposed her to be one of their allies; they drew off and left her alone, directing their forces against other parts of the Persian fleet. Artemisia in the meantime sheered off, and escaped safely to Caria. [see also: Herodotus, 8.87]

2   Artemisia, the daughter of Lygdamis, sank a ship of the Calyndian allies, which was commanded by Damasithymus. In acknowledgement of her gallantry, the king sent her a complete suit of Greek armour; and he presented the captain of the ship with a distaff and spindle.

3   Artemisia always chose a long ship, and carried on board with her Greek, as well as barbarian, colours. When she chased a Greek ship, she hoisted the barbarian colours; but when she was chased by a Greek ship, she hoisted the Greek colours; so that the enemy might mistake her for a Greek, and give up the pursuit

4   Artemisia planted soldiers in ambush near Latmus; and herself, with a numerous train of women, eunuchs and musicians, celebrated a sacrifice at the grove of the Mother of the Gods, which was about seven stades distant from the city. When the inhabitants of Latmus came out to see the magnificent procession, the soldiers entered the city and took possession of it. Thus did Artemisia, by flutes and cymbals, possess herself of what she had in vain endeavoured to obtain by force of arms.

5   Artemisia, queen of Caria, fought as an ally of Xerxes against the Greeks. At the famous battle of Salamis, the king acknowledged her to have excelled herself above all the officers in the fleet. And even in the heat of the action, observing the manner in which she distinguished herself, he exclaimed: "O Zeus, surely you have formed women out of man's materials, and men out of woman's." [see also: Herodotus, 8.88]

[54]   Mania.

Mania, the wife of Zenis prince of Dardanus, governed the realm after the death of her husband, with the assistance of Pharnabazus. She always went to battle, drawn in a chariot; she gave her orders at the time of action, formed her lines, and rewarded every man who fought well, as she saw he deserved. And - what has scarcely happened to any general, except herself - she never suffered a defeat. But Meidias, who had married her daughter, and might from that close relationship have been supposed to be faithful to her, secretly entered her apartments, and murdered her. [see also: Xenophon, Hell.3.1]

[55]   Tirgatao.

Tirgatao of Maeotis married Hecataeus, king of the Sindi, a people who live a little above the Bosphorus. Hecataeus was expelled from his kingdom, but was reinstated in his throne by Satyrus, tyrant of Bosphorus. Satyrus gave him his daughter in marriage, and urged him to kill his former wife. As Hecataeus passionately loved the Maeotian, he could not think of killing her, but confined her to a strong castle; however, she found a way of making her escape from there. Fearing lest she should excite the Maeotians to war, Hecataeus and Satyrus made a strict search for her, which she skilfully eluded, travelling through lonely and deserted ways, hiding herself in the woods in the day, and continuing her journey in the night. At last she reached the country of the Ixomatae, where her own family possessed the throne. Her father was dead, and she afterwards married his successor in the kingdom. Then she roused the Ixomatae to war, and engaged many warlike nations around the Maeotis to join the alliance. The confederates first invaded the country of Hecataeus, and afterwards ravaged the dominions of Satyrus. Harassed by a war, in which they found themselves inferior to the enemy, they sent an embassy to sue for peace, accompanied by Metrodorus the son of Satyrus, who was offered as a hostage. She granted them peace, on stipulated terms, which they bound themselves by oath to observe. But no sooner had they made the oath, than they planned schemes to break it. Satyrus prevailed on two of his friends, to revolt to her, and put themselves under her protection; so as the more easily to find an opportunity to assassinate her. On their revolt, Satyrus wrote a letter, to ask for them to be handed over; which she answered, by alleging that the law of nations justified her in protecting those, who had placed themselves under her protection. The two men, who had revolted, one day requested an audience of her. While one distracted her with a pretended matter of importance, the other levelled a blow at her with a drawn sword, which fell upon her girdle; and the guards immediately seized and imprisoned them. They were afterwards examined by torture, and confessed the whole plot; upon which, Tirgatao ordered the hostage to be executed, and laid waste the territories of Satyrus with fire and sword. Stung with remorse for the calamities he had brought upon himself and his country, Satyrus died in the midst of an unsuccessful war; leaving his son Gorgippus to succeed him in the throne. He renounced his father's proceedings, and sued for peace, which she granted on payment of a tribute, and put and end to the war.

[56]   Amage.

Amage, the wife of Medosaccus king of the Sarmatians, who inhabit the coast of the Euxine sea, observed her husband to be totally given up to luxury, and took the reins of government into her own hands. She judged causes, stationed garrisons, repulsed the invasions of enemies, and directed everything with so great ability, that her fame extended through all Scythia. The inhabitants of the Tauric Chersonesus, who had been greatly harassed by a king of the neighbouring Scythians, had heard of Amage's fame, and they requested an alliance with her. In consequence of a treaty formed between the two nations, she wrote to the Scythian prince, requesting him not to repeat his ravages in the Chersonesus. When he treated her prohibition with contempt, she marched against him with a hundred and twenty men of tried courage, and extraordinary strength, each of them provided with three horses. In one night and day she covered a distance of twelve hundred stades, and arriving unexpectedly at the palace, she slew all the guards. And while the Scythian, bewildered by this moment of sudden danger, conceived her force to be much greater than it really was, Amage rushed into the palace, where she had had made her first attack, and slew the Scythian, along with his friends and relations. She put the inhabitants of Chersonesus back in free possession of their country, and gave his hereditary dominions to the son of the Scythian prince; warning him to take a warning from his father's death, and not to invade the territories of the neighbouring Greeks and barbarians.

[57]   Arsinoe.

After the death of Arsinoe's husband Lysimachus, the city of Ephesus was distracted with seditions, and the faction in favour of Seleucus knocked down the walls, and set open the gates. Arsinoe placed a slave in the royal litter, whom she dressed in her own robes, and posted a strong guard around her. Then dressing herself in ragged clothes, and disfiguring her face, she passed through a private door, ran to the ships, and going on board immediately weighed anchor and made her escape. In the meantime Menecrates, one of her opponents' generals, attacked the litter and slew the servant she had left in it, mistaking her for Arsinoe.

[58]   Cratesipolis.

Cratesipolis, who had long fought in vain for an opportunity of betraying Acrocorinth to Ptolemaeus, having been repeatedly assured by the mercenaries, who composed the guard, that the place could be defended, applauded their fidelity and bravery; however, said she, it may be wise to send for reinforcements from Sicyon. For this purpose, she openly sent a letter of request to the Sicyonians; and privately an invitation to Ptolemaeus. Ptolemaeus' troops were dispatched in the night, admitted as the Sicyonian allies, and put in possession of Acrocorinth without the agreement or knowledge of the guards.

[59]   The Priestess.

During the siege of Pellene, which was conducted by the Aetolians, the priestess of Athene, on the occasion of the festival of the goddess, led the procession of the day from a high hill, opposite to the tower where the men of Pellene used to arm. She was the tallest and handsomest maiden who could be picked out, and she was attired in a full suit of elegant armour and a three-plumed helmet. The Aetolians, seeing a maiden come out in arms from the temple of Athene, and advance at the head of the armed citizens, supposed that she was the goddess herself, who had come to the protection of the city. They immediately raised the siege, and the men of Pellene pursued them in their retreat, and killed many of them.

[60]   Cynane.

Cynane, the daughter of Philippus, was famous for her military knowledge; she commanded armies, and in the field charged at the head of them. In an engagement with the Illyrians, she herself slew their queen with a fatal blow to the throat; and she defeated the Illyrian army with great slaughter. She married Amyntas, son of Perdiccas; and, losing him soon after, never would take a second husband. By Amyntas she had an only daughter named Eurydice: to whom she gave a military education, and instructed her in the science of war. Upon Alexander's death, his generals parcelled out his dominions among themselves, in exclusion of the royal family. But Cynane crossed the Strymon, forcing her way in the face of Antipater, who disputed her passage over it. She then passed the Hellespont, to meet the Macedonian army, and Alcetas with a powerful force advanced to give her battle. The Macedonians at first paused at the sight of Philippus' daughter, and the sister of Alexander; but after reproaching Alcetas with ingratitude, undaunted at the number of his forces, and his formidable preparations for battle, she bravely advanced to fight against him. She resolved upon a glorious death, rather than, stripped of her dominions, accept a private life, unworthy of the daughter of Philippus.

[61]   Mysta.

When Seleucus, surnamed Callinicus, was defeated by the Gauls at Ancyra, and fell into the hands of the enemy, his wife Mysta threw aside her royal robe, put on the ragged dress of a lowly servant, and as such was sold amongst the prisoners. After having been conveyed amongst the rest of the slaves to Rhodes, there she revealed her true identity. The Rhodians immediately re-purchased her from the buyer, dressed her in a manner suitable to her rank, and conducted her to Antioch.

[62]   Epicharis.

Piso and Seneca were accused of a conspiracy against Nero; and Mela, a brother of Seneca, had a mistress whose name was Epicharis. Nero examined her by torture, to discover what she might know of the plot; but she resolutely bore the torture without revealing anything. She was therefore dismissed for the present; but three days afterwards she was ordered to be brought back in a litter. While she was being carried in it, she pulled off her girdle, and strangled herself with it. As soon as the men, who were in charge of the litter, had brought it to the place of torture, they set it down, and told Epicharis to come out; but on looking inside the litter, they found only a dead corpse. This circumstance exceedingly irritated the tyrant, who found himself thus outwitted by a prostitute. [see also: Tacitus, Ann.15.57]

[63]   The Milesian Women.

A general despondency once possessed the young women of Miletus; many of whom killed themselves for no visible reason. A Milesian woman eventually advised that those, who were guilty of suicide, should be dragged [naked] through the forum. The advice was followed, and had its desired effect; for dread of the ignominy, that would attend their bodies after death, prevented them from ending their life, even though the horrors of death itself had failed to do so. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.249]

[64]   The Melian Women.

After the Melians under the conduct of Nymphaeus had established themselves in Caria, the Carians, who were settled at Cryassus, grew jealous of their power, and anxious to get rid of them. With that in view, they held a public entertainment, and invited the Melians to take part in it. But a Carian maiden, who had fallen in love with Nymphaeus, revealed their plot to him. He then answered to the invitation of the Carians, that it was the custom of the Greek never to attend an entertainment without their wives. They were therefore requested to bring their wives with them. The Melians accordingly went in their tunics, and unarmed; but each of their wives carried a sword in her bosom, and placed herself by her husband. In the midst of the entertainment, observing a Carian give a signal, the women instantly opened their bosoms, and gave every man his sword. The men fell upon the barbarians, and cut them to pieces; then they took possession of their city and domains. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.246]

[65]   The Phocian Women.

The Phocians and Thessalians fought a war with such animosity, that the Thessalians made a resolution to give no quarter to any Phocian who bore arms, and to reduce their wives and children to slavery. Before the battle, Phocian women collected a great quantity of wood, which they piled up, and mounted it with their children; they vowed that, as soon as they saw their husbands defeated, they would set fire to the pile, and expire in the flames. This resolution of the women produced corresponding bravery in the men; they fought obstinately, and obtained the victory. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.244]

[66]   The Chian Women.

When the Chians and Erythraeans had long been at war about the possession of Leuconia, the Chians, finding the enemy too powerful for them, demanded a truce, and promised to evacuate the place, taking only their cloak and tunic with them. The Chian women were enraged at the terms; and pressed the men not to relinquish their arms. The men told them, that they had promised by oath to do it. The women persisted in their advice, that they should by no means part with their arms. They proposed to them, that in observance of their oath, they should say that by their cloak and tunic they meant their spear and shield; for it was the custom of their country to call their spear a cloak, and their sword a tunic. The Chians followed the women's advice; and by thus showing their determination to defend themselves, they afterwards became more formidable to the Erythraeans. [See also: Plutarch, Mor.244]

[67]   The Thasian Women.

The Thasians were closely besieged, and lacked cords to tie together the machines, which they erected on their walls against the enemy's siege works. The women shaves their heads, and by twisting their hair formed it into bands, which were used in binding their machines.

[68]   The Argive Women.

Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, was invited by Aristeus the Argive to undertake an expedition against Argos. The Argives assembled in arms at the marketplace; while the women attacked the Epirots from the house tops with stones and bricks, and forced them to retreat. Pyrrhus himself was killed in the attack, by the blow from a brick, which struck him on the head. The Argive women obtained immortal reputation on this occasion, through the conquest and death of Pyrrhus, who was the most warlike prince of the age.

[69]   The Acarnanian Women.

The Aetolians, after a long war with the Acarnanians, were at last let into the city by treachery. The Acarnanians fought bravely in the hour of danger, but were overpowered. The women got up onto the tops of the houses; and from there hurled down stones and bricks, which killed many of the enemy. When the men were forced to retreat before superior numbers, the women rallied them by the exhortations, remonstrances and supplications, and brought them back to the battle. And at last, when every effort failed, and those who survived the carnage were captured, the women clung to their husbands, parents and brothers, and held them so close, that the enemy were unable to separate them, and were forced to kill both men and women together.

[70]   The Women of Cyrene.

When Ptolemaeus made war on the inhabitants of Cyrene, they committed to Lycopus, an Aetolian general, the whole conduct of the war. And while the men engaged in the field of war, the women also took their share of duty: they made the palisades, dug the trenches, supplied the men with missiles, took care of the wounded, and prepared their provisions. The men at length were most of them cut down, and Lycopus changed the constitution into a monarchy; for which the women so censured him with their reproaches, that he ordered many of them to execution, to which they cheerfully and gladly ran.

[71]   The Lacedaemonian Women.

The daughters of the Lacedaemonians married the Minyans, who were descended from the Argonauts. And in consequence of these marriages, the Minyans were admitted by the Lacedaemonians into a share of the government. But not content with that, the Minyans attempt to make themselves absolute masters of the state. The Spartans thereupon seized them, and threw them into prison. Their daughters ....

{ The manuscripts of Polyaenus end at this point; the rest of the story of the Lacedaemonian women is told by Herodotus, 4.145 }.


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