Cornelius Nepos : Life of Lysander

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.


V.   Cimon   


  [1] L   Lysander the Lacedaemonian left a great reputation, gained rather by good fortune than by merit. There is no doubt, indeed, that he put an end to the power of the Athenians, who had been warring against the Peloponnesians for twenty-six years, ** 2 but how it was that he effected it is no secret. As a matter of fact, it was due, not to the valour of his army, but to the lack of discipline of his opponents, who did not obey their generals, but, leaving their ships and scattering about the country, fell into the power of the enemy. ** As a result, the Athenians surrendered to the Lacedaemonians.   

  3 Lysander was elated by that victory, and while even before that he had always been reckless and given to intrigue, he now went so far that owing to him the Lacedaemonians came to be bitterly hated by all Greece. 4 For although they had insisted that their reason for making war was to put an end to the tyrannical rule of Athens, no sooner had Lysander captured the enemy's fleet at Aegospotamoi ** than it became his sole aim to hold all the Greek states under his control, pretending that he was acting in the interests of the Lacedaemonians. 5 To that end, having everywhere expelled those who favoured the Athenians, he had chosen in each state ten men to be entrusted with the chief power and the direction of all affairs; among that number only those were included who were connected with Lysander by ties of hospitality, or had taken oath that they would be his men.   

  [2] L   When decemviral authority had thus been established in all the cities, everything was done in accordance with Lysander's will. Of his cruelty and treachery it is enough to cite a single instance by way of illustration, rather than weary my readers by enumerating more of the same kind. 2 When he was returning from Asia after his victory, he turned aside to go to Thasos, because that city had been especially loyal to the Athenians; and quite forgetting that those who have been the most determined enemies are usually the strongest friends, he wished to destroy the city. 3 But he realised that unless he concealed his design, the Thasians would take flight and try to save their property . . . **  

  [3] L   Therefore the Lacedaemonians abolished that decemviral government which he had established; whereupon, inflamed with anger, he plotted to abolish the royal power at Lacedaemon. He was aware, however, that success was impossible without the help of the gods, since it was the custom of the Lacedaemonians to consult the oracles on all matters of state. 2 First he attempted to bribe the Delphic oracle. Failing in that, he made an attempt on Dodona. There too suffering repulse, he alleged that he had made vows which he must pay to Jupiter Hammon, supposing that he could succeed better with the Africans. 3 In that hope he went to Africa, but the priests of Jupiter greatly disappointed him; for far from allowing themselves to be seduced, they even sent envoys to Lacedaemon, to accuse Lysander of attempting to bribe the priests of the temple. 4 Arraigned on that charge, he was acquitted by the vote of the jurors; but being sent to help the people of Orchomenus, he was slain by the Thebans near Haliartus.   

  5 How well founded the charge against him was is shown by a speech which was found in his house after his death. In it he advises the Lacedaemonians to abolish the rule of kings and select a military leader from the whole body of citizens; but the speech was so worded that it appeared to be in conformity with the advice of the gods; and that advice he felt sure of securing, trusting to the power of money. The speech is said to have been written for him by Cleon of Halicarnassus.   

  [4] L   In this connection I must not fail to mention what was done by Pharnabazus, satrap of the king. ** After Lysander, while commander of the fleet, had committed many acts of cruelty and greed, and suspected that news of them had reached the ears of his countrymen, he asked Pharnabazus to give him a letter to present to the ephors, testifying to the scrupulous manner in which he had conducted the war and treated the allies, with a detailed account of his conduct; for he declared that the satrap's influence would carry great weight. 2 The Persian readily gave him his promise and wrote a weighty scroll in many words, praising Lysander in the highest terms. This the Spartan read and approved, but while it was being sealed, another scroll of equal size, so similar that the two could not be distinguished, had already been sealed and was substituted for the first one; and this contained a fully detailed account of Lysander's avarice and treachery. 3 When Lysander had returned home from Asia and had submitted his own account of his conduct before the chief magistrates, ** by way of proof he proffered the letter given him by Pharnabazus. When the ephors, after dismissing Lysander, had read the satrap's screed, they gave it to him to peruse. Thus the man, without knowing it, was his own accuser. 

VII.   Alcibiades →



1.   It was the twenty-seventh year of the war.   

2.   At the battle of Aegospotamoi, 404 B.C.   

3.   Or Goat's River.   

4.   All the manuscripts of Nepos have a lacuna at this point.   

5.   This happened after the battle at Aegospotamoi in 404 B.C.   

6.   See note on ii. 7. 4.   

VII.   Alcibiades →

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