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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. IV
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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(Vol. IV) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

 p3  Fragments of Book IX

1 [link to original Greek text] 1 Solon was the son of Execestides and his family was of Salamis in Attica; and in wisdom and learning he surpassed all the men of his time.1 Being by nature far superior as regards virtue to the rest of men, he cultivated assiduously a virtue that wins applause;2 for he devoted much time to every branch of knowledge and became practised in every kind of virtue. 2 While still a youth, for instance, he availed himself of the best teachers, and when he attained to manhood he spent his time in the company of the men who enjoyed the greatest influence for their pursuit of wisdom. As a consequence, by reason of his companionship and association with men of this kind, he came to be called one of the Seven Wise Men and won for himself the highest rank in sagacity, not only among the men just mentioned, but also among all who were regarded with admiration.

 p5  3 The same Solon, who had acquired great fame by his legislation, also in his conversations and answers to questions as a private citizen became an object of wonder by reason of his attainments in learning.

4 The same Solon, although the city3 followed the whole Ionian manner of life and luxury and a carefree existence had made the inhabitants effeminate, worked a change in them by accustoming them to practise virtue and to emulate the deeds of virile folk. And it was because of this that Harmodius and Aristogeiton,4 their spirits equipped with the panoply of his legislation, made the attempt to destroy the rule of the Peisistratidae.5

2 [link to original Greek text] 1 Croesus,6 the king of the Lydians, who was possessed of great military forces and had purposely amassed a large amount of silver and gold, used to call to his court the wisest men from among the Greeks, spend some time in their company, and then send them away with many presents, he himself having been greatly aided thereby toward a life of virtue. And on one occasion he summoned Solon, and showing him his military forces and his wealth he asked him whether he thought there was any other man more blest than he. 2 And Solon replied, with the freedom of speech customary among lovers of wisdom, that no man while yet living was blest; for the man who waxes haughty over his prosperity and thinks that he has Fortune as his helpmeet does not know whether she will remain with him to the last. Consequently, he continued, we must look to the  p7 end of life, and only of the man who has continued until then to be fortunate may we properly say that he is blest. 3 And at a later time, when Croesus had been taken prisoner by Cyrus and was about to be burned upon a great pyre,7 he recalled the answer Solon had given him. And so, while the fire was already blazing about him, he kept continually calling the name of Solon. 4 And Cyrus sent men to find out the reason for his continual calling of the name of Solon; and on learning the cause Cyrus changed his purpose, and since he believed that Solon's reply was the truth, he ceased regarding Croesus with contempt, put out the burning pyre, saved the life of Croesus, and counted him henceforth as one of his friends.

5 Solon believed that the boxers and short-distance runners and all other athletes contributed nothing worth mentioning to the safety of states, but that only men who excel in prudence and virtue are able to protect their native lands in times of danger.

3 [link to original Greek text] 1 When there was a dispute about the golden tripod,8 the Pythian priestess delivered the following oracle:

Miletus' son, dost ask Apollo's will

About the tripod? Who is first of all

In wisdom, his the tripod is, I say.

2 But some writers have a different account, as follows: War had broken out among the Ionians, and when the tripod was brought up in their seine by some fishermen, they inquired of the god how they might  p9 end the war. And the priestess replied

Never shall cease the war twixt Meropes

And Iones, until that golden stand

Hephaestus worked with skill ye send away;

And it shall come to that man's dwelling-place

Who in his wisdom hath foreseen the things

That are and likewise things that are to be.

3 The Milesians, wishing to follow the injunction of the oracle, desired to award the prize to Thales of Miletus. But Thales said that he was not the wisest of all and advised them to send it to another and wiser man. And in this manner the other six of the Seven Wise Men likewise rejected the tripod, and it was given to Solon, who was thought to have surpassed all men in both wisdom and understanding. And Solon advised that it be dedicated to Apollo, since he was wiser than all of them.

4 [link to original Greek text] 1 Solon, seeing toward the end of his life how Peisistratus, to please the masses, was playing the demagogue and was on the road to tyranny,9 tried at first by arguments to turn him from his intention; and when Peisistratus paid no attention to him, he once appeared in the market-place arrayed in full armour, although he was already a very old man. 2 And when the people, the sight being so incongruous, flocked to him, he called upon the citizens to seize their arms and at once make an end of the tyrant. But no man paid any attention to him, all of them concluding that he was mad and some declaring that he was in his dotage. Peisistratus, who had already gathered a guard of a few spearmen, came  p11 up to Solon and asked him, "Upon what resources do you rely that you wish to destroy my tyranny?" And when Solon replied, "Upon my old age," Peisistratus, in admiration of his common sense, did him no harm.

5 [link to original Greek text] 1 The man who puts his hands to lawless and unjust deeds may never properly be considered wise.

6 [link to original Greek text] 1 We are told that the Scythian Anacharsis, who took great pride in his wisdom, once came to Pytho and inquired of the oracle who of the Greeks was wiser than he. And the oracle replied:

A man of Oeta, Myson, they report,

Is more endowed than thou with prudent brains.

Myson was a Malian and had his home on Mt. Oeta in a village called Chenae.

7 [link to original Greek text] 1 Myson was a man of Malis who dwelt in a village called Chenae, and he spent his entire time in the country and was unknown to most men. He was included among the Seven Wise Men in the place of Periander of Corinth, who was rejected because he had turned into a harsh tyrant.

8 [link to original Greek text] 1 Solon was curious to see the place where Myson spent his days, and found him at the threshing-floor fitting a handle to a plow. And to make trial of the man Solon said, "Now is not the season for the plow, Myson." "Not to use it," he replied, "but to make it ready."

9 [link to original Greek text] 1 In the case of Chilon10 his life agreed with his teaching, a thing one rarely finds. As for the philosophers of our time, for instance, most of them are to be seen uttering the noblest sentiments, but  p13 following the basest practices, and the solemnity and sagacity expressed in their pronouncements are refuted when the speakers are put to the proof. But as for Chilon, not to mention the virtue which he displayed in every deed throughout his life, he thought out and expressed many precepts which are worthy of record.

10 [link to original Greek text] 1 When Chilon came to Delphi he thought to dedicate to the god the firstlings, as it were, of his own wisdom, and engraved upon a column these three maxims: "Know thyself"; "Nothing overmuch"; and the third, "A pledge, and ruin is nigh." Each of these maxims, though short and laconic,11 displays deep reflection. 2 For the maxim "Know thyself" exhorts us to become educated and to get prudence, it being only by these means that a man may come to know himself, either because it is chiefly those who are uneducated and thoughtless that think themselves to be very sagacious — and that, according to Plato, is of all kinds of ignorance the worst12 — or because such people consider wicked men to be virtuous, and honest men, on the contrary, to be of no account; for only in this one way may a man know himself and his neighbour — by getting an education and a sagacity that are superior.

3 Likewise, the maxim "Nothing overmuch" exhorts us to observe due measure in all things and not to make an irrevocable decision about any human affairs, as the Epidamnians once did. This people, who dwelt on the shores of the Adriatic, once quarrelled among themselves, and casting red-hot  p15 masses of iron right into the sea they swore an oath that they would never make up their mutual enmity until the masses of iron should be brought up hot out of the sea.13 And although they had sworn so severe an oath and had taken no thought of the admonition "Nothing overmuch," later under the compulsion of circumstances they put an end to their enmity, leaving the masses of iron to lie cold in the depths of the sea.

4 And as for the maxim "A pledge, and ruin is nigh," some have assumed that by it Chilon was advising against marriage; for among most Greek peoples the agreement to marry is also called a "pledge," and this is confirmed by the common experience of men in that the worst and most numerous ills of life are due to wives. But some writers say that such an interpretation is unworthy of Chilon, because if marriage were destroyed life could not continue, and that he declares that "ruin" is nigh to such pledges as those made in connection with contracts and with agreements on other matters, all of which are concerned with money. As Euripides14 says:

No pledge I give, observing well the loss

Which those incur who of the pledge are fond;

And writings there at Pytho say me nay.

5 But some also say that it is not the meaning of Chilon nor is it the act of a good citizen, not to come to the aid of a friend when he needs help of this kind; but rather that he advises against strong asseverations, against eagerness in giving pledges, and against irrevocable decisions in human affairs, such as the Greeks once made in connection with their victory over Xerxes. For they took oath at Plataea15 that they would hand down enmity to the Persians as an inheritance even to their children's children, so long  p17 as the rivers run into the sea, as the race of men endures, and as the earth brings forth fruit; and yet, despite the binding pledge they had taken against fickle fortune, after a time they were sending ambassadors to Artaxerxes, Xerxes' son, to negotiate a treaty of friendship and alliance.16

6 Chilon's precepts, though brief, embrace the entire counsel necessary for the best life, since these pithy sayings of his are worth more than all the votive offerings set up in Delphi. The golden ingots of Croesus17 and other handiwork like them have vanished and were but great incentives to men who chose to lift impious hands against the temple; but Chilon's maxims are kept alive for all time, stored up as they are in the souls of educated men and constituting the fairest treasure, on which neither Phocians nor Gauls would be quick to lay their hands.18

11 [link to original Greek text] 1 Pittacus19 of Mitylenê was not only admired of men for his wisdom, but he was also such a citizen as the island never produced again, nor, in my opinion, could produce in time to come — not until it bears wine both more abundant and more delicious. For he was an excellent law-giver, in his dealings with individual citizens affable and kindly, and he freed his native land from the three greatest evils, from tyranny, civil strife, and war.

2 Pittacus was a man of consequence, gentle and inclined to self-disparagement. Consequently he was regarded by all as a man who, beyond dispute, was  p19 perfect in respect of every virtue: for as to his legislation, he showed himself statesmanlike and prudent, as to keeping his plighted faith strictly just, as to his distinction in armed combat, courageous, and as to his greatness of soul in the matter of lucre, having no trace of avarice.

12 [link to original Greek text] 1 When the inhabitants of Mitylenê offered to Pittacus the half of the land for which he had fought in single combat,20 he would not accept it, but arranged to assign to every man by lot an equal part, uttering the maxim, "The equal share is more than the greater."21 For in measuring "the greater" in terms of fair dealing, not of profit, he judged wisely; since he reasoned that equality would be followed by fame and security, but greediness by opprobrium and fear, which would speedily have taken away from him the people's gift.

2 Pittacus acted consistently with these principles toward Croesus also, when the latter offered him as much money from his treasury as Pittacus might desire to take. For on that occasion, we are told, in refusing the gift he said that he already had twice as much as he wished. And when Croesus expressed his surprise at the man's freedom from avarice and inquired of him the meaning of his reply, Pittacus said, "My brother died childless and I inherited his estate, which was the equal of my own, and I have experienced no pleasure in having received the extra amount."

3 The poet Alcaeus, who had been a most confirmed enemy of Pittacus and had reviled him most bitterly  p21 in his poems,22 once fell into his hands, but Pittacus let him go free, uttering the maxim: "Forgiveness is preferable to punishment."

13 [link to original Greek text] 1 The inhabitants of Priene recount that Bias23 ransomed from robbers some maidens of distinguished families of Messenia and reared them in honour, as if they were his own daughters. And after some time, when their kinsfolk came in search of them, he gave the maidens over to them, asking for neither the cost of their rearing nor the price of their ransom, but on the contrary giving them many presents from his own possessions. The maidens, therefore, loved him as a father, both because they had lived in his home and because he had done so much for them, so that, even when they had departed together with their own families to their native land, they did not forget the kindness they had received in a foreign country.

2 Some Messenian fishermen, when casting their net, brought up nothing at all except a brazen tripod, which bore the inscription, "To the wisest." And they took the tripod out of the sea and gave it to Bias.

3 Bias was a most able speaker, and surpassed in this respect all his contemporaries. But he used his great eloquence far otherwise than do many men; for he employed it, not to gain fees or income, but to give aid to those who were being wronged. Rarely indeed is a thing like this to be found.

14 [link to original Greek text] 1 It is no great thing to possess strength, whatever kind it is, but to use it as one should. For of what advantage to Milo of Croton was his enormous strength of body?24

 p23  2 The death of Polydamas, the Thessalian, when he was crushed by the rocks,25 made clear to all men how precarious it is to have great strength but little sense.

15 [link to original Greek text] 1 This Polydamas was of the city of Scotusa, and he used to slay lions with his bare hands as if they were sheep and easily outstrip swift-running chariots with winged feet. He also endeavoured to support with his hand the crumbling roof of a cave, as Diodorus the Sicilian recounts the story.

16 [link to original Greek text] 1 After the people of Cirrha had been besieged for a long time because they had attempted to plunder the oracle,26 some of the Greeks returned to their native cities, but others of them inquired of the Pythian priestess and received the following response:

Ye shall not seize and lay in ruins the tower

Of yonder city, before the plashing wave

Of dark-eyed Amphitritê inundates

My sacred precinct, here on these holy cliffs.

17 [link to original Greek text] 1 It should be known that Solon27 lived in Athens in the period of the tyrants before the Persian wars, and that Draco lived forty-seven years before him, as Diodorus says.

18 [link to original Greek text] 1 The sculptor Perilaüs made a brazen bull for Phalaris the tyrant28 to use in punishing his own people, but he was himself the first to make trial of that terrible form of punishment. For, in general,  p25 those who plan an evil thing aimed at others are usually snared in their own devices.

19 [link to original Greek text] 1 This Phalaris burned to death Perilaüs, the well-known Attic worker in bronze, in the brazen bull. Perilaüs had fashioned in bronze the contrivance of the bull, making small sounding pipes in the nostrils and fitting a door for an opening in the bull's side; and this bull he brings as a present to Phalaris. And Phalaris welcomes the man with presents and gives orders that the contrivance be dedicated to the gods. Then that worker in bronze opens the side, the evil device of treachery, and says with inhuman savagery, "If you ever wish to punish some man, O Phalaris, shut him up within the bull and lay a fire beneath it; by his groanings the bull will be thought to bellow and his cries of pain will give you pleasure as they come through the pipes in the nostrils." When Phalaris learned of this scheme, he was filled with loathing of the man and says, "Come then, Perilaüs, do you be the first to illustrate this; imitate those who will play the pipes and make clear to me the working of your device." And as soon as Perilaüs had crept in, to give an example, so he thought, of the sound of the pipes, Phalaris closes up the bull and heaps fire under it. But in order that the man's  p27 death might not pollute the work of bronze, he took him out, when half-dead, and hurled him down the cliffs. This tale about the bull is recounted by Lucian of Syria, by Diodorus, by Pindar, and countless others beside them.29

20 [link to original Greek text] 1 Solon the law-giver once entered the assembly and urged the Athenians to overthrow the tyranny before it became all-powerful. And when no man paid attention to him, he put on his full armour and appeared in the market-place, although an old man, and calling upon the gods as witnesses he declared that by word and deed, so far as in him lay, he had brought aid to the fatherland when it was in peril. But since the populace did not perceive the design of Peisistratus, it turned out that Solon, though he spoke the truth, was disregarded. 2 And it is said that Solon also predicted the approaching tyranny to the Athenians in elegiac verse:30

From cloud is born the might of snow and hail

And from bright lightning's flash the thunder comes.

And from great men a city finds its doom;

The people in their ignorance have bowed

In slavery to a monarch's single rule.

For him who puts too far from shore 'tis hard

The harbour later on to make; but now

At once one needs must think of everything.

3 And later, when the tyranny was already established, he said:31

If now you suffer grievous things because

Of your own cowardice, charge not this fate

 p29  Unto the gods' account; for you yourselves

Exalted these men's power by giving them

A guard, and on this count have you put on

The yoke of evil slavery. Each by each

With fox's steps you move, but meeting all

Together trifling judgement do you show.

For to man's tongue and shifty word you look,

But to the deed he does you ne'er give heed.

4 Peisistratus urged Solon to hold his peace and to share with him in the advantages arising from the tyranny. And when he could find no means to change Solon's purpose, but saw in fact that he was ever more and more aroused and steadfastly threatening to bring him to punishment, he asked him upon what resources he relied in his opposition to his designs. And we are told that Solon replied, "Upon my old age."

[Herodotus, who lived in the time of Xerxes, gives this account:32 After the Assyrians had ruled Asia for five hundred years they were conquered by the Medes, and thereafter no king arose for many generations to lay claim to supreme power, but the city-states, enjoying a regimen of their own, were administered in a democratic fashion; finally, however, after many years a man distinguished for his justice, named Cyaxares, was chosen king among the Medes. He was the first to try to attach to himself the neighbouring peoples and became for the Medes the founder of their universal empire; and after him each of his successive descendants extended the kingdom by adding a great deal of the adjoining country, until the reign of Astyages, who was conquered by Cyrus and the Persians.33 We have for the present given only the most important of these  p31 events in summary and shall later give a detailed account of them one by one when we come to the periods in which they fall; for it was in the second year of the Seventeenth Olympiad,34 according to Herodotus, that Cyaxares was chosen king of the Medes.]

[When Astibaras, the king of the Medes, died of old age in Ecbatana, his son Aspandas, whom the Greeks call Astyages, succeeded to the throne. And when he had been defeated by Cyrus the Persian, the kingdom passed to the Persians. Of them we shall give a detailed and exact account at the proper time.]

21 [link to original Greek text] 1 Cyrus became king of the Persians in the opening year of the Fifty-fifth Olympiad,35 as may be found in the Library of Diodorus and in the histories of Thallus and Castor and Polybius and Phlegon and all others who have used the reckoning by Olympiads. For all these writers agree as to the date.

22 [link to original Greek text] 1 Cyrus, the son of Cambyses and Mandanê, the daughter of Astyages who was king of the Medes, was pre-eminent among the men of his time in bravery and sagacity and the other virtues; for his father had reared him after the manner of kings and had made him zealous to emulate the highest achievements. And it was clear that he would take hold of great affairs, since he revealed an excellence beyond his years.

23 [link to original Greek text] 1 When Astyages, the king of the Medes, had been defeated and was in disgraceful flight, he vented his wrath upon his soldiers; and he displaced all who had been assigned positions of command, appointing  p33 others in their stead, and he picked out all who were responsible for the flight and put them to the sword, thinking that by punishing them in that way he could force the rest to show themselves brave fighters in times of danger, since he was a cruel man and, by nature, hard. Nevertheless, the people were not dismayed at the harsh treatment he meted out; on the contrary, every man, hating his violent and lawless manner, yearned for a change of affairs. Consequently there were gatherings of small groups and seditious conversations, the larger number exhorting one another to take vengeance on him.

24 [link to original Greek text] 1 Cyrus, we are told, was not only a courageous man in war, but he was also considerate and humane in his treatment of his subjects. And it was for this reason that the Persians called him Father.

25 [link to original Greek text] 1 Croesus was once building ships of war, we are told, with the intention of making a campaign36 against the islands. And Bias, or Pittacus,37 who happened to be visiting Lydia at the time and was observing the building of the ships, was asked by the king whether he had heard of any news among the Greeks. And when he was given the reply that all the islanders were collecting horses and were planning a campaign against the Lydians, Croesus is said to have exclaimed, "Would that some one could persuade the islanders to fight against the Lydians on horseback!" For the Lydians are skilled horsemen and Croesus believed that they would come off victorious on land. 2 Whereupon Pittacus, or Bias, answered him, "Well, you say that the Lydians, who live on the mainland, would  p35 be eager to catch islanders on the land; but do you not suppose that those who live on the islands have prayed the gods that they may catch Lydians on the sea, in order that, in return for the evils which have befallen the Greeks on the mainland, they may avenge themselves at sea on the man who has enslaved their kinsmen?" Croesus, in admiration of this reply, changed his purpose at once and stopped building the ships.

26 [link to original Greek text] 1 Croesus used to send for the most distinguished wise men from Greece, to display to them the magnitude of his felicity, and would honour with rich gifts those who lauded his good fortune. And he also sent for Solon as well as for such others as enjoyed the greatest fame for their love of wisdom, wishing to have the witness of these men set the seal of approval upon his own felicity. 2 And there came to him Anacharsis the Scythian and Bias and Solon and Pittacus, to whom he showed the highest honour at banquets and at his council, and he displayed his wealth before them and the magnitude of his own power. 3 Now in those days men of learning sought brevity of speech. And Croesus, after he had displayed to the men the felicity of his kingdom and the multitude of the peoples subject to him, asked Anacharsis, who was older than the other men of wisdom, "Whom do you consider to be the bravest of living beings?" He replied, "The wildest animals; for they alone willingly die in order to maintain their freedom." 4 And Croesus, believing that he had erred in his reply, and that a second time he would give an answer to please him, asked him, "Whom do you  p37 judge to be the most just of living beings?" And Anacharsis again answered, "The wildest animals; for they alone live in accordance with nature, not in accordance with laws; since nature is a work of God, while law is an ordinance of man, and it is more just to follow the institutions of God than those of men." 5 Then Croesus, wishing to make Anacharsis appear ridiculous, inquired of him, "And are the beasts, then, also the wisest?" And Anacharsis agreed that they were, adding this explanation: "The peculiar characteristic of wisdom consists in showing a greater respect to the truth which nature imparts than to the ordinance of the law." And Croesus laughed at him and the answers he had given, as those of one coming from Scythia and from a bestial manner of living.

27 [link to original Greek text] 1 And Croesus asked Solon who of all living beings he had seen enjoyed the most felicitous life, thinking that Solon would by all means concede this distinction to him. But Solon replied, "I cannot justly apply this term to anyone, since I have not seen the end of life of anyone still living; for until that time no one may properly be considered to be blest. For it often happens that those who have been regarded before then as blest of Fortune all their lives have at the very close of their lives fallen upon the greatest misfortunes." 2 The king then said, "Do you not judge me to be the wealthiest?" And Solon made the same reply, explaining that not those who have the greatest possessions, but those who consider wisdom to be the most valuable of all possessions, are to be regarded as the wealthiest; and that wisdom, seeing that there is nothing which can be balanced against it, confers upon those who value it  p39 highly, and upon them alone, a wealth which is the greatest and most secure.

3 Croesus then asked Bias whether, in his opinion, Solon had answered correctly or had erred. And he replied, "Correctly; for he wishes to make his decision after he has seen the possessions you have in yourself, whereas up to now he has seen only the possessions which lie about you; and it is through the former, not the latter, that men have felicity." The king said, "But even if you do not give first honour to wealth in gold, at least you see my friends, so great a multitude as no other man possesses." But Bias answered, "Even the number of friends is uncertain because of your good fortune."

4 And Croesus, we are told, asked Pittacus, "What is the best form of government you have seen?" And he replied, "That of the painted wood," referring to the laws.

28 [link to original Greek text] 1 Aesop flourished in the same period of time as the Seven Wise Men, and he remarked once, "These men do not know how to act in the company of a ruler; for a man should associate with rulers either as little as possible, or with the best grace possible."

29 [link to original Greek text] 1 Adrastus, a man of Phrygia, while out hunting with Atys, as he was called, the son of the Lydian king, Croesus, unwittingly struck and killed the boy while hurling his spear at a boar. And although he had slain the boy unwittingly, he declared that he did not deserve to live; consequently he urged the king not to spare his life, but to slay him at once upon the tomb of the dead youth. 2 Croesus at first was enraged at Adrastus for the murder, as he considered it, of his son, and threatened to burn him  p41 alive; but when he saw that Adrastus was ready and willing to give his life in punishment for the dead boy, he thereupon abandoned his anger and gave up his thought of punishing the slayer, laying the blame upon his own fortune and not upon the intent of Adrastus. Nevertheless Adrastus, on his own initiative, went to the tomb of Atys and slew himself upon it.

30 [link to original Greek text] 1 Phalaris, seeing a multitude of doves being pursued by a single hawk, remarked, "Do you observe, sirs, how fear will make so great a multitude flee before a single pursuer? And yet if they should summon the courage to turn about, they would easily overcome their pursuer." (But it was Phalaris himself who was falsifying; for the victory was won by courage and not by superiority of numbers.)38 And as a result of this speech Phalaris lost his dominion, as it is recorded in the section "On the Succession of Kings."

31 [link to original Greek text] 1 When Croesus was taking the field39 against Cyrus the Persian, he made inquiry of the oracle. And the answer ran:

If Croesus crosses Halys, a mighty realm

Will he destroy.

He received and interpreted the ambiguous answer of the oracle in the light of his own purpose and so came to grief.

2 Croesus inquired a second time whether he was to enjoy a rule of long duration. And the oracle spoke the following verses:

The day a mule becomes the king of Medes,

 p43  Then, tender-footed Lydian, do thou flee

Along the pebbly bed of Hermus, nor

Abide, nor be ashamed a coward to be.

By a "mule" Cyrus was meant, because his mother was a Mede and his father a Persian.

3 Cyrus, the king of the Persians, appeared with all his host at the passes of Cappadocia and sent messengers to Croesus both to spy out his power and to declare to him that Cyrus would forgive his previous misdeeds and appoint him satrap of Lydia, provided he presented himself at Cyrus' court and acknowledged, as others did, that he was his slave. But Croesus answered the messengers that it would be more fitting if Cyrus and the Persians should submit to be the slaves of Croesus, reminding them that theretofore they had been slaves of the Medes and that he had never yet taken orders from another.

32 [link to original Greek text] 1 Croesus, the king of the Lydians, under the guise of sending to Delphi, dispatched Eurybatus of Ephesus to the Peloponnesus, having given him money with which to recruit as many mercenaries as he could from among the Greeks. But this agent of Croesus went over to Cyrus the Persian and revealed everything to him. Consequently the wickedness of Eurybatus became a by-word among the Greeks, and to this day whenever a man wishes to cast another's knavery in his teeth he calls him a Eurybatus.

33 [link to original Greek text] 1 Although evil men may avoid for the moment punishment at the hands of those whom they have wronged, yet the evil report of them is preserved for all time and punishes them so far as possible even after death.

 p45  2 We are told that Croesus, on the eve of his war with Cyrus, dispatched ambassadors to Delphi to inquire by what means it would be possible for his son40 to speak; and that the Pythian priestess replied:

O thou of Lydian stock, o'er many king,

Thou great fool Croesus, never wish to hear

Within thy halls the much-desired sound

Of thy son speaking. Better far for thee

That he remain apart; for the first words

He speaks shall be upon a luckless day.41

3 A man should bear good fortune with moderation and not put his trust in the successes such as fall to human beings, since they can take a great shift with a slight turn of the scale.

4 After Croesus had been taken prisoner and the pyre42 had been quenched, when he observed that the city was being plundered and that much silver and gold, besides everything else, were being carried off, he asked Cyrus, "What are the soldiers doing?" Cyrus laughingly replied, "They are making plunder of your wealth"; whereupon Croesus said, "Not so, by Zeus, but of yours; for Croesus has no longer a thing of his own." And Cyrus, impressed by his words, at once changed his purpose, and putting a stop to the plundering of the soldiers he took the possessions of the inhabitants of Sardis for the Royal Treasury.

34 [link to original Greek text] 1 Cyrus, believing Croesus to be a pious man because a rainstorm had burst forth and quenched  p47 the flame, and calling to mind the reply of Solon,43 kept Croesus at his side in a position of honour. He gave him a place also in his council, believing him to be a person of sagacity by reason of his having associated with many men of learning and wisdom.

35 [link to original Greek text] 1 Harpagus had been appointed commander on the sea by Cyrus the Persian, and when the Greeks of Asia sent an embassy to Cyrus44a for the purpose of making a treaty of friendship with him, Harpagus remarked to them that what they were doing was very much like a former experience of his own. 2 Once when he wished to marry he had asked a girl's father for the hand of his daughter. At first, however, her father decided that he was not worthy to marry his daughter and betrothed her to a man of higher position, but later, observing that Harpagus was being honoured by the king, he offered him his daughter; but he replied that he would no longer have her as his wife, but would consent to take her as a concubine. 3 By such words he pointed out to the Greeks that formerly, when Cyrus had urged them to become friends of the Persians, they had been unwilling, but now, after matters had taken a different turn and they were anxious to agree upon relations of friendship, Cyrus would make no terms with them as with allies, but he would receive them as slaves if they would throw themselves upon the good-faith of the Persians.

36 [link to original Greek text] 1 When the Lacedaemonians learned that the Greeks of Asia were in peril, they sent a message to Cyrus44b stating that the Lacedaemonians, being kinsmen of the Greeks of Asia, forbade him to enslave  p49 the Greek cities. And Cyrus, marvelling at such words, remarked that he would judge of their valour when he should send one of his own slaves to subdue Greece.

2 When the Lacedaemonians were setting out to conquer Arcadia,45 they received the following oracle:

Arcadia dost thou demand of me?

A high demand, nor will I give it thee.

For many warriors, acorn-eaters all,

Dwell in Arcadia, and they will ward

Thee off. Yet for my part I grudge thee not.

Tegea's land, smitten with tripping feet,

I'll give to thee, wherein to dance and plot

The fertile plain with measuring-line for tilth.

3 The Lacedaemonians sent to Delphi to inquire in what place the bones of Orestes, the son of Agamemnon, were buried. And the oracle replied in this wise:

A certain Tegea there is of Arcady

In a smooth and level plain, where two winds blow

Before a stern necessity, to stroke

Comes answering stroke, and bane is heaped on bane.

There the life-giving earth holds fast the son

Of Agamemnon; bring thou him thence and then

The overlord of Tegea thou shalt be.

It was a smithy that was referred to, and the oracle means by the two winds the bellows,46 signifying by "stroke" the anvil and the hammers, and by "bane heaped on bane," the iron upon iron; for iron is called a "bane" because the discovery of it has worked to the hurt of mankind.

4 It is better to die, than to live and witness yourself  p51 and your kinsmen meeting misfortune as bad as death.

37 [link to original Greek text] 1 Once when the daughter of Peisistratus was carrying the sacred basket in procession47 and she was thought to excel all others in beauty, a young man stepped up and with a superior air kissed the maiden. The girl's brothers, on learning what had been done, were incensed at the youth's insolence, and leading him to their father they demanded that he be punished. But Peisistratus laughingly said, "What shall we do then to those who hate us, if we heap punishments on those who love48 us?"

2 Once when Peisistratus was journeying through the country he saw a man on the slopes of Hymettus working in a field where the soil was exceedingly thin and stony. And wondering at the man's zeal for the work, he sent some of his company to inquire of him what return he got from working ground like that. 3 And when the men had carried out the command, the farmer replied that he got from the field only grievous pains; but he did not care, since he gave the tenth part of them to Peisistratus. And the ruler, on hearing the reply, laughed, and made the field exempt from taxation, whence arose the proverb, Even spasms49 give tax-exemption.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The following fragments on the Seven Wise Men may be compared with the fuller accounts in Diogenes Laertius (tr. by Hicks in the L. C. L.).

2 Or "a virtue that comes by education"; see critical note.

3 Athens.

4 The famous Tyrannicides of Athens; Harmodius killed Hipparchus, son of Peisistratus. See following note, and pp78‑79 and notes.

5 Peisistratus was tyrant, with one or two interruptions, 560‑527 B.C.; his two sons continued the tyranny until the assassination of Hipparchus in 514 and the forced retirement of Hippias in 510.

6 Cp. Herodotus, 1.53 ff.

7 546 B.C.

8 The tripod, found in the sea by fishermen, was to be given to the wisest man, and passed through the hands of each of the Seven Wise Men, each insisting that another was wiser than himself. Cp. chap. 13.2 infra and Plutarch, Solon, 4.

9 Shortly before 560 B.C.

10 One of the Seven Wise Men.

11 Chilon was a Spartan (Laconian) ephor in 556 B.C.

12 The ignorance, Plato would say, that mistakes itself for knowledge.

13 According to Herodotus (1.165) the Phocaeans emphasized in a similar manner their resolve never to return to their native city.

14 Frag. 923, Nauck2.

15 In 479 B.C.

16 This would probably refer to the Peace of Callias in 448 (or earlier), but in it there was no question of an alliance. However, in 412 Sparta made a treaty with Persia against Athens.

17 See Herodotus, 1.50.

18 The reference is to the sack of Delphi by the Phocians in 356‑346 B.C. and by the Gauls in 279 B.C.

19 Another of the Seven Wise Men.

20 He slew Phrynon, the Athenian general, when the Mitylenaeans and Athenians were fighting for possession of Sigeum on the Hellespont.

21 Diogenes Laertius (1.75) gives it, "The half is more than the whole" (τὸ ἥμισυ τοῦ παντὸς πλεῖον); cp. Hesiod, Works and Days, 1.40 νήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός.

22 For references see Edmonds, Lyra Graeca, I, pp309 ff. (in the L. C. L.), and the Index to the volume.

23 Of Prienê, and another of the Seven Wise Men.

24 How Milo's strength brought about his death is told in Strabo, 6.1.12.

25 Polydamas, a famous athlete, was in a cave when the roof began to crack. His companions fled to safety, but Polydamas thought he could support the roof (cp. Pausanias, 6.5.4 ff.).

26 Delphi. About 590 B.C.

27 Solon lived c. 640‑558 B.C.

28 Of Acragas, c. 570-c. 554 B.C.

29 Lucian, Phalaris, 1.1; Pindar, Pyth. 1.95.

30 Frag. 10 (Diehl), Edmonds, Elegy and Iambus, I, p122. The date was about 562 B.C.

31 Frag. 8 (Diehl), Edmonds, loc. cit.

32 See note to Book 2.32.

33 In 549 B.C.

34 711‑710 B.C.

35 560‑559 B.C.

36 c. 560‑559 B.C.

37 Herodotus (1.27) says that the story was told of both men.

38 Obviously a scholiast's comment.

39 547 B.C.

40 He was dumb from birth.

41 Herodotus (1.85) recounts that the boy first spoke on the day the Persians took Sardis.

42 Which had been prepared for his burning. See above, chap. 2.

43 Probably the one to the effect that no man could be called blest before the end of his life (cp. chaps. 2.2; 27.1).

44a 44b 545 B.C.

45 c. 560 B.C.

46 The translation has been expanded, for the Greek is elliptic. The oracle and a detailed explanation of it are given in Herodotus (1.67‑68).

47 In the Panathenaic festival and procession.

48 φιλεῖν has the two meanings of "love" and "kiss."

49 According to Suidas, the man had replied that he got from the land "pains and spasms."

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