Cornelius Nepos : Life of Cimon

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.


IV.   Pausanias  

  V.   CIMON   

  [1] L   Cimon, the Athenian, son of Miltiades, in his early youth suffered great trouble; for since his father had been unable to pay the fine imposed upon him by the people, and therefore had died in the state prison, ** the son also was kept in confinement; and the laws of Athens did not allow him to be set at liberty unless he paid the amount of his father's fine. ** 2 Now, he had married his own sister Elpinice, led as much by the custom of his country as by affection; ** for it is lawful for the Athenians to marry sisters born of the same father. ** 3 His wife's hand was sought by a certain Callias, who was rich but not of high birth and had made a great deal of money from the mines. ** He pleaded with Cimon to give Elpinice to him as his wife, saying that on that condition he would pay the fine. 4 Cimon scorned such a proposal, but Elpinice declared that she would not allow the son of Miltiades to die in the state prison, when she had the power to prevent it, but that she would marry Callias, if he would keep his promise.   

  [2] L   Having in this way gained his freedom, Cimon quickly rose to the first rank in the state; for he had a fair amount of eloquence, extreme generosity, and wide knowledge both of civil law and of the military art, since from boyhood he had accompanied his father on his campaigns. He therefore gained control over the city populace and had great influence with the army.   

  2 In his first command he routed a large force of Thracians at the river Strymon, and founded the town of Amphipolis, to which he sent ten thousand Athenians to establish a colony. On a second occasion, off Mycale, ** he totally defeated a fleet of two hundred Cypriote and Phoenician ships, and captured them. On the same day he had equal good fortune on land; 3 for after taking the ships of the enemy, he at once landed his soldiers and in a single onset annihilated a huge force of barbarians. 4 As he was on his way home, having acquired a great amount of booty by his victory, he found that some of the islands had already revolted because of the severity of the Athenian rule; whereupon he assured the loyalty of those that were well disposed and compelled the disaffected to renew their allegiance. 5 Scyros, which at that time was inhabited by the Dolopians, he emptied of its population, because of their arrogant conduct, driving the earlier occupants from the city and from the island and dividing their lands among citizens of Athens. He broke the power of the Thasians, self-confident because of their wealth, by his mere arrival, ** and from the proceeds of the booty ** he fortified the south side of the Athenian acropolis.   

  [3] L   Having become through these exploits the most distinguished man of his city, he incurred the same  distrust as his father and the other leading men of Athens, and by the shard-vote, ** which they call ostracism, he was banished for a term of ten years.   

  2 But the Athenians repented of their action sooner than he did himself; for after he had shown his fortitude by yielding to the suspicions of his ungrateful fellow-citizens, the Lacedaemonians began war with the Athenians, who at once felt the need of Cimon's well-known prowess. 3 Therefore Cimon was recalled to his native land only four years after his banishment. Then, having a guest-friendship ** with the Lacedaemonians, and thinking it better to go to Lacedaemon, he set out on his own responsibility and brought about peace between two powerful states. ** 4 Afterwards, but not much later, being sent as commander-in-chief to Cyprus with two hundred ships, after conquering the greater part of the island he was taken ill and died in the town of Citium. **   

  [4] L   For a long time the Athenians missed Cimon, not only in war, but in peace as well. For he was so generous that, having estates and gardens in numerous places, he never set a guard over them to protect the fruits, since he did not wish to prevent anyone from enjoying any part of his property that he wished. ** 2 Pages always followed him with money, so that if anyone had need of immediate help he might have something to give at once, for fear that by delay he might seem to refuse. Often, when he chanced to have met a man who was ill-treated by fortune and poorly clad, he gave him his cloak. 3 Every day he had such an abundant dinner prepared that he could entertain all whom he saw in the market-place who had not been invited by others ** ; and this he never failed to do each day. No one asked in vain for his protection, no one for his services, no one for his financial aid; he enriched many, and buried at his own expense a great number who had died so poor that they had left nothing to pay for their funerals. 4 Such being his conduct, it is not surprising that his life was free from trouble and his death deeply regretted. 

VI.   Lysander →



1.   See i. 7. 6, and the note.   

2.   This is not true; he suffered atimia, which deprived him of most of the privileges of citizenship.   

3.   It seems impossible to reproduce the word-play, amore . . . more.   

4.   Cf. praef. 4.   

5.   See note on ii. 2. 2.   

6.   This was not at Mycale, but at the river Eurymedon in Pamphylia in 468 B.C.; the victory at Mycale was won by Leotychides and Xanthippus in 479 B.C.   

7.   As a matter of fact they resisted from 467 to 466 B.C.   

8.   On the difference between praeda and manubiae see Gellius xiii. 25.   

9.   See note on ii. 8. 1.   

10.   See note on ii. 8. 3.   

11.   Cimon's recall was in 457 B.C., the peace with Lacedaemon not until 451.   

12.   It was during the siege of that town in 449 B.C.   

13.   The same story is told by Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 27 3, who says that this liberality was a political device, to strengthen him against his chief rival, Pericles.   

14.   Another exaggeration; according to Plut. Cim. 10, he entertained only the poor of his own deme (Lakiadai) who came to Athens; cf. Aristotle, l.c.   

VI.   Lysander →

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