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Bill Thayer

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Life of

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Life of

This webpage reproduces a section of
The Parallel Lives


published in Vol. IX
of the Loeb Classical Library edition,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. IX) Plutarch, The Parallel Lives

 p333  Comparison of Demetrius and Antony

956 1 1 Since, then, both these men experienced great reversals of fortune, let us first observe, with regard to their power and fame, that in the one case these were acquired for him by his father and inherited, since Antigonus became the strongest of Alexander's successors, and before Demetrius came of age had attacked and mastered the greater part of Asia; 2 Antony, on the contrary, was the son of a man who, though otherwise gifted, was yet no warrior, and could leave him no great legacy of reputation; and  p335 yet Antony had the courage to seek the power of Caesar, to which his birth gave him no claim, and to all that Caesar had wrought out before him he made himself the rightful successor. And so great strength did he attain, in reliance upon his own resources alone, that, after forcing a division of the empire into two parts, he chose one, and took the more splendid one of the two; and though absent himself, through his assistants and lieutenant-generals he defeated the Parthians many times, and drove the barbarous tribes about the Caucasus as far as the Caspian Sea. 3 Moreover, even the things that brought him ill-repute bear witness to his greatness. For Antigonus was well pleased to have his son Demetrius marry Phila, the daughter of Antipater, in spite of her disparity in years, because he thought her a greater personage; whereas Antony's marriage to Cleopatra was a disgrace to him, although she was a woman who surpassed in power and splendour all the royalties of her time except Arsaces. But he made himself so great that men thought him worthy of greater things than he desired.

2 1 As regards their resolution to win empire, this was blameless in the case of Demetrius, who sought to subdue and reign as king over men who were accustomed to subjection and kings; but in the case of Antony it was harsh and tyrannical, since he tried to enslave the Roman people when it had just escaped from the sole rule of Caesar. 2 Moreover, as regards the greatest and most brilliant of his achievements, namely, the war against Cassius and Brutus, it was to deprive his country and his fellow citizens of their liberty that the war was waged. But Demetrius, even before he felt the constraints of adversity, kept on  p337 liberating Greece and expelling their garrisons from her cities, unlike Antony, whose boast was that he had slain in Macedonia the men who had given liberty to Rome. 3 And besides, as regards their love of giving and the largeness of their gifts, one of the things for which Antony is lauded, Demetrius far surpassed in this, and bestowed more upon his enemies than Antony ever gave to his friends. It is true that for ordering the body of Brutus to be robed and buried Antony won a good name; but Demetrius gave obsequies to all his enemy's dead, and sent his prisoners back to Ptolemy with money and gifts.1

3 1 Both were insolent in prosperity, and abandoned themselves to luxury and enjoyment. But it cannot be said that Demetrius, for all his pleasures and amours, ever let slip the time for action, nay, it was only when his leisure was abundant that he introduced his pleasures; and his Lamia, like the creature of fable,a he made his pastime only when he was sportive or drowsy. 2 But when he got ready for war, his spear was not tipped with ivy, nor did his helmet smell of myrrh, nor did he go forth to his battles from the women's chamber, sleek and blooming, but quieting down and stopping the revels and orgies of Bacchus, he became, in the words of Euripides,2 a "minister of unhallowed Ares," and got not a single slip or fall because of his indolence or pleasures.

3 Antony, on the contrary, like Heracles in paintings where Omphalé is seen taking away his club and stripping off his lion's skin, was often disarmed by Cleopatra, subdued by her spells, 957and persuaded to  p339 drop from his hands great undertakings and necessary campaigns, only to roam about and play with her on the sea-shores by Canopus and Taphosiris. 4 And at last, like Paris, he ran away from the battle and sank upon her bosom; although, more truly stated, Paris ran away to Helen's chamber after he had been defeated; but Antony ran away in chase of Cleopatra, and thereby threw away the victory.

4 1 Further, Demetrius, in making several marriages, did not do what was prohibited, but what had been made customary for the kings of Macedonia by Philip and Alexander; he did just what Lysimachus and Ptolemy did, and held all his wives in honour. Antony, on the contrary, in marrying two wives at once, in the first place did what no Roman had ever dared to do; and in the second place, he drove away his Roman and lawfully wedded wife, in order to gratify the foreigner, with whom he was living contrary to law. Hence marriage brought no harm to Demetrius, but to Antony the greatest of his evils.

2 On the other hand, the lascivious practices of Antony are marked by no such sacrilege as are those of Demetrius. For historians tell us that bitches are excluded from the entire acropolis, because these animals couple without the least concealment; but the very Parthenon itself saw Demetrius cohabiting with harlots and debauching many Athenian women. 3 And that vice which one would think least associated with such wanton enjoyments, namely, the vice of cruelty, this enters into Demetrius' pursuit of pleasure, since he suffered, or rather compelled, the lamentable death of the most beautiful and the most chaste of Athenians, who thus sought to escape his shameful treatment. In a word, Antony wronged  p341 himself by his excesses, while Demetrius wronged others.

5 1 Again, towards his parents Demetrius was in all respects blameless; whereas Antony surrendered his mother's brother for the privilege of killing Cicero, a deed in itself so abominable and cruel that Antony would hardly have been forgiven had Cicero's death been the price of his uncle's safety.

2 Further, as regards violations of oaths and treaties by both, in the seizure of Artabazus by the one, and the killing of Alexander by the other, for Antony there is the excuse which men admit to be valid, namely, that he had been deserted in Media by Artabazus and betrayed; but Demetrius, as many say, invented false accusations, upon which he acted, and denounced one who had been wronged by him; the murder was not retaliation for wrongs done to him.

And again, Demetrius was himself the author of his successes; Antony, on the contrary, won his greatest and fairest victories through his generals, on fields where he was not present.

6 1 But the downfall of both was due to themselves, though the manner of it differed. Demetrius was deserted by others, for the Macedonians went away from him; whereas Antony deserted others, for he ran away from those who were risking their lives for him. Demetrius may therefore be blamed for making his soldiers so hostile to him, and Antony for abandoning a goodwill and confidence which was so much in evidence.

2 As for their deaths, neither is to be commended, but that of Demetrius is the more to be censured. For he suffered himself to be taken prisoner, and  p343 was well content to add to his life three years of imprisonment. He was tamed, like a wild beast, by way of his belly and by wine. Whereas Antony took himself off, — in a cowardly, pitiful, and ignoble way, it is true, but at least before his enemy became master of his person.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 See the Demetrius, xvii.1.

2 Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag.2 p679.

Thayer's Note:

a This will mystify some, but it is cleverly appropriate; see Diodorus, XX.41.3‑6.

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