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Part 1

This webpage reproduces part of the essay
De Mulierum Virtutibus


as published in Vol. III
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1931

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. III) Plutarch, Moralia

 p531  Bravery of Women
(Part 2 of 2)

253f XVI. Pieria​49

Some of the Ionians who came to Miletus, owing to lively disagreements with the sons of Neileus, went away to Myus and settled there, suffering many ills at the hands of the Milesians; for these made war upon  p533 them because of their defection. However, the war was not without truce or intercourse, but at certain festivals the women commonly went to Miletus from Myus. There was among the people of Myus a prominent man named Pythes, who had a wife named Iapygia and a daughter Pieria. As there was a festival in honour of Artemis, and a sacrifice, which they call Neleis,​50 254he sent his wife and daughter, who had asked that they might participate in the festival. The most influential of Neileus's sons, Phrygius by name, fell in love with Pieria, and tried to think what could be done on his part that would be most pleasing to her. And when she said, "If only you could make it possible for me to come here often and many with me," Phrygius was quick to understand that she wanted friendship and peace for the citizens, and stopped the war. bThere was, consequently, in both cities repute and honour for Pieria, so that the women of Miletus pray even to this day that their husbands may love them as Phrygius loved Pieria.

XVII. Polycrite​51

A war arose between the Naxians and Milesians on account of Neaera the wife of Hypsicreon of Miletus. cIt was because she fell in love with Promedon of Naxos and sailed away with him. He was a friend and guest of Hypsicreon, but yielded to Neaera's ardent advances, and then, as she was in fear of her husband, he took her away to Naxos, and placed her as a suppliant at the shrine of Hestia.  p535 When the Naxians, as a favour to Promedon, refused to give her up, though they advanced another excuse, her position as suppliant, the war arose. Besides the many others who fought on the side of the Milesians the Erythraeans were the most zealous among the Ionians; and the war dragged on and on, and brought great calamities. Then it came to an end through a woman's bravery, as it had arisen through a woman's badness.

Diognetus, the general of the Erythraeans, entrusted with the command of a stronghold, its natural advantages reinforced by fortification to menace the city of the Naxians, gathered much spoil from the Naxians, and captured some free women and maidens; with one of these, Polycrite, he fell in love and kept her, not as a captive, but in the status of a wedded wife. Now when a festival which the Milesians celebrate came due in the army, and all turned to drinking and social gatherings, dPolycrite asked Diognetus if there were any reason why she should not send some bits of pastry to her brothers. And when he not only gave her permission but urged her to do so, she slipped into a cake a note written on a sheet of lead, and bade the bearer tell her brothers that they themselves and no others should consume what she had sent. The brothers came upon the piece of lead and read the words of Polycrite, advising them to attack the enemy that night, as they were all in a state of carelessness from drink on account of the festival. Her brothers took this message to their generals and strongly urged them to set forth with themselves. eWhen the place had been taken and many slain, Polycrite begged for the life of Diognetus from her citizens, and saved him. When  p537 she herself arrived at the gates, and found herself confronting the citizens who came to meet her, welcoming her with joy and garlands and giving expression to their admiration for her, she could not bear the immensity of her joy, but fell down dead beside the gate; and there she is buried, and her tomb is called the Tomb of Envy, as though by some envious fortune Polycrite was begrudged the enjoyment of her honours.

This is the story which the Naxian writers record. fAristotle,​52 however, says that Polycrite was not taken captive, but that Diognetus, in some other way, saw her and fell in love with her, and stood ready to give or to do anything; and she agreed to come to him, if she might obtain just one thing, for which, as the philosopher asserts, she required an oath of Diognetus. And when he had given the required oath, she demanded in fulfilment that Delium be given to her (the place was called by this name), otherwise she would have nothing to do with him. He, because of his love and his oath, was carried quite away, and handed over the spot to Polycrite, and she in turn to the citizens. Following this, the Naxians were again put on an equal footing, and effected a reconciliation with the Milesians on such terms as they desired.

255 XVIII. Lampsace​53

There came from Phocaea twin brothers Phobus and Blepsus of the family of the Codridae, of whom Phobus was the first to throw himself into the sea from the Leucadian Rocks,​54 as Charon of Lampsacus  p539 has recorded.​55 Phobus, having influence and princely rank, sailed to Parium on some business of his own, and having become the friend and guest of Mandron, who was king of the Bebrycians who are called the Pityoessenians, he aided them by fighting on their side when they were being harassed by their neighbours. bWhen Phobus took his departure Mandron expressed the utmost regard for him, and, in particular, promised to give him a part of their land and city if Phobus wished to come to Pityoessa with Phocaean colonists. So Phobus prevailed on his citizens and sent out his brother with the colonists. And what Mandron had promised was at their disposal, as they expected.​56 But they, inasmuch as they made great gains for themselves through the spoils and booty which they took from the neighbouring barbarians, were first an object of envy, and later an object of fear also, to the Bebrycians, who, desiring to be rid of them, ccould not prevail on Mandron, who was a fair and just man in his treatment of the Greeks; but when he had gone away on a journey, they prepared to destroy the Phocians by treachery. But the daughter of Mandron, Lampsace, a young girl, learned of the plot beforehand, and tried first to dissuade her friends and relatives and to point out to them that they were undertaking to carry out a frightful and wicked deed in murdering men who were their benefactors and allies and now also their fellow-citizens. But when she could not prevail on them, she secretly told the Greeks what was afoot, and warned them to be on their guard. And they,  p541 having made ready a sacrifice and banquet, dinvited the Pityoessenians to come to it just outside the city; then, dividing themselves into two parties, with the one they took possession of the walls, and with the other made away with the men. Having gained control of the city in this manner, they sent for Mandron, and bade him be king jointly with one or another of their outnumber. Lampsace died as the result of an illness, and they buried her within the city most magnificently, and called the city Lampsacus after her name.​57 When Mandron, endeavouring to avoid any suspicion of treachery, asked to be released from dwelling with them, but asked as his right to take away with him the children and wives of the slain, they sent them forth, doing them no wrong. eThey rendered heroic honours to Lampsace at first; later they voted to offer sacrifice to her as to a goddess, and so they continue to do.

XIX. Aretaphila​58

Aretaphila, of Cyrene, was not born long years ago, but in the crucial times of Mithradates; she displayed, however, a bravery and an achievement which may well rival the counsel of the heroines of olden time. She was the daughter of Aeglator and the wife of Phaedimus, both men of note. She had beautiful features, and was reputed to be unusually sensible and not deficient in political wisdom, but the common misfortunes of her country brought her into prominence.

fNicocrates, having made himself despot over the  p543 people of Cyrene, not only ordered the murder of many persons, but killed with his own hand Melanippus the priest of Apollo, and took the priesthood himself. He also killed Phaedimus the husband of Aretaphila, and made Aretaphila his unwilling wife. In addition to his other unnumbered acts of lawlessness, he stationed guards at the gates, who maltreated the dead that were being borne to the grave, prodding them with daggers, and applying red-hot irons to them, so that none of the citizens should be secretly carried out in the guise of a corpse.

Even for Aretaphila her own troubles were hard enough to bear, 256although the despot, because of his love for her, granted her the fullest enjoyment of his power, for he was quite vanquished by her, and with her alone did he conduct himself civilly, being relentless and brutal in all else. But even so, the piteous and undeserved suffering of her country distressed her the more; for one citizen after another was slaughtered, and there was no hope of vengeance from any quarter; for the exiles, altogether weak and timid, were scattered here and there and everywhere. So Aretaphila, risking herself as the sole remaining hope for the common weal, and emulating the glorious and far-famed daring of Thebe​59 of Pherae, but being destitute of faithful supporters in the household, such as the circumstances provided for Thebe, undertook to dispatch her husband by poison. bIn preparing, procuring, and testing many potent mediums she did not go unnoticed, but was betrayed. And when proofs were presented,  p545 Calbia, Nicocrates's mother, who was by nature bloodthirsty and inexorable, felt that she ought to make away with Aretaphila after torturing her. But Nicocrates' love had the effect of tempering his anger with procrastination and weakness, and the fact that Aretaphila vigorously met the accusations and defended herself against them provided some excuse for his attitude. But when she was apprehended by the proofs, and saw that her preparations for the poisoning admitted no denial, cshe confessed, but said that she had prepared no fatal poisoning. "No, my dear," said she, "my striving is for very important things, your affection for me, and the repute and influence which I enjoy because of you, and so Iº am an object of envy to bad women. It was fear of their potions and devices that led me to counteract them. It was foolish and feminine perhaps, but not deserving of death, unless you as judge decide to put to death because of love-potions and charms a woman who yearns for more love than you are willing to grant her."

dIn spite of this defence of Aretaphila's, Nicocrates decided to have her put to the torture, and, with Calbia standing by, relentless and inexorable, he tested her in this way. She sustained herself with indomitable courage under the torments until even Calbia unwillingly gave over; and Nicocrates was convinced, and acquitted her, and was sorry that he had caused her to be tortured; and after no long time he came back again, impelled towards her by his passion for her, and resumed the old relations, and tried through honours and acts of kindness to regain her goodwill. But she, who had been triumphant  p547 over tortures and pain, had no intention of being vanquished by a show of favour, and, with eagerness for victory added to her eagerness for the honourable and good, she resorted to another device.

eShe was fortunate in having a daughter of marriageable age, rather good-looking. Her she dangled as a bait before the despot's brother, who was a young man and an easy prey to pleasures. There is much talk to the effect that Aretaphila, by using charms and love-potions on the girl, got the youth in hand and upset his reasoning powers. His name was Leander. When he had been captivated, and, by importuning his brother, had gained his consent to the marriage, the girl, on the one hand, instructed by her mother, tried to influence him and to induce him to set the city free, farguing that not even he himself was living as a free man under the despotism, and had not even warrant to contract a marriage or to keep to it; and, on the other hand, his friends, thinking to do a favour to Aretaphila, suggested to his mind certain prejudices and suspicions against his brother. When he discovered that Aretaphila was planning and working to the same end, he undertook the deed, and by urging on Daphnis a servant, through him he slew Nicocrates. For the rest, he no longer paid any attention to Aretaphila, but straightway showed by his deeds that he had made away with his brother, but not with the despot; for he ruled in a crazy and foolish way. 257Nevertheless there remained with him some respect for Aretaphila and some influence on her part, as she was not hateful to him and not directly hostile, but carried on her activities in his affairs unknown to him. First she secretly stirred up a war with the Africans for him by persuading a  p549 certain potentate Anabus to overrun the country and lead his army against the city; then she falsely accused to Leander his friends and generals, intimating that they were not zealous in carrying on the war, but wanted rather peace and quiet, which his circumstances and despotism required, as he wished to hold secure his power over the citizens. bShe said that she herself would effect the reconciliation, and would get Anabus to come to a conference with him, if he would but give the word, before the war should have wrought some irremediable ill. When Leander gave the word, she herself had a talk with the African beforehand, in which she desired him, on the promise of many presents and much money, to seize the despot when he should come to the conference with him. When the African had been won over, Leander was hesitant, but, abashed before Aretaphila, who said that she would be present herself, he went forth unarmed and unattended. When he came near and saw Anabus, he again felt uneasy, and wanted to wait for his bodyguard. cBut Aretaphila, who was there, at one moment encouraged him, and the next called him a coward. Finally, as a delay ensued, she, quite impulsively and boldly dragging him by the hand, brought him up to the barbarian and handed him over. Instantly he was seized and made a prisoner, and, after having been put in bonds, was kept under watch by the Africans, until Aretaphila's friends, who were bringing the money for her, arrived, accompanied by the rest of the citizens. For almost all of them, on hearing the news, ran out at the call. When they saw Aretaphila, they came near forgetting their anger against the despot, and considered vengeance upon him a  p551 secondary concern. dTheir first concern in the enjoyment of their freedom was to greet her with joy and tears, prostrating themselves before her as before the statue of a god. As the people surged on, one close upon another, it was with difficulty that by evening they took over Leander and returned to the city. When they had had their fill of honours and praises for Aretaphila, they then turned their attention to the despots. Calbia they burned alive, and Leander they sewed up in a leathern sack and sank in the depths of the sea. They asked that Aretaphila, as her proper due, should share with the best citizens in the control and management of the government. eBut she, as one who had played through a drama of varying sort and of many rôles up to the winning of the prize, when she saw the city free, withdrew at once to her own quarters among the women, and, rejecting any sort of meddling in affairs, spent the rest of her life quietly at the loom in the company of her friends and family.

XX. Camma​60

There were in Galatia two of the most powerful of the tetrarchs, distantly related to each other, Sinatus and Sinorix. One of these, Sinatus, had married a maiden, Camma by name, conspicuous for her form and beauty, fbut even more admired for her virtues. Not only was she modest and fond of her husband, but she was also quick-witted and high-minded,  p553 and unusually dear to her inferiors by reason of her kindness and benevolence. A thing that brought her into greater prominence was the fact that she was the priestess of Artemis, whom the Galatians especially reverence, and was seen magnificently attired always in connexion with the processions and sacrifices.

So Sinorix fell in love with her, and not being able to prevail upon her either by persuasion or force as long as her husband lived, he committed a horrible deed, and treacherously killed Sinatus. Then, without allowing much time to elapse, he commenced to woo Camma, 258who was spending time in the temple and bearing Sinorix's lawless transgression in no pitiful nor abject manner, but with a spirit that showed sense and bided its time. He was persistent in his suit, and seemed not to be at all at a loss for arguments that had some plausibility, to the effect that in all respects he had shown himself a better man than Sinatus, and had made away with him for love of Camma and not because of any other nefarious intent. The woman's denials at the first were not too peremptory, and later, little by little, she appeared to be softened; bfor her relatives and friends also brought pressure to bear upon her by way of service and favour to Sinorix, who held such very great power, and they tried to persuade and coerce her. Finally she yielded, and sent for him to come to her, on the ground that the consenting and pledging should take place in the presence of the goddess. When he had come, she received him kindly and, having led him to the altar, poured a libation from a bowl, then drank a portion herself and bade him drink the rest; it was poisoned mixture  p555 of milk and honey. When she saw that he had drunk, she uttered a clear cry of joy, and, prostrating herself before the goddess, said, "I call you to witness, goddess most revered, that for the sake of this day I have lived on after the murder of Sinatus, cand during all that time I have derived no comfort from life save only the hope of justice; and now that justice is mine, I go down to my husband. But as for you, wickedest of all men, let your relatives make ready a tomb instead of a bridal chamber and a wedding."

When the Galatian heard these words, and felt the poison already working and creating a disturbance in his body, he mounted a chariot as if to try shaking and jolting as a relief,​a but he got out almost immediately and changed over into a litter, and in the evening he died. Camma endured through the night, and when she learned that he had come to his end, she died cheerful and happy.

XXI. Stratonice

Galatia produced also Stratonice the wife of Deiotarus and Chiomara the wife of Ortiagon, dwomen that deserve to be remembered.

Stratonice, well knowing that her husband desired children from her to succeed to the kingdom, but having no child herself, prevailed upon him to have a child by another woman, and to connive at its being passed off as her own. Deiotarus thought highly of the idea, and did everything in dependence upon her judgement, and she procured a comely  p557 maiden from among the prisoners, Electra by name, and sealed her to Deiotarus. The children that were born she brought up with loving care and in royal state as if they had been her own.

XXII. Chiomara​61

It came to pass that Chiomara, the wife of Ortiagon, was made a prisoner of war along with the rest of the women at the time ewhen the Romans under Gnaeus​62 overcame in battle the Galatians in Asia. The officer​63 who obtained possession of her used his good fortune as soldiers do, and dishonoured her. He was, naturally, an ignorant man with no self-control when it came to either pleasure or money. He fell a victim, however, to his love of money, and when a very large sum in gold had been mutually agreed upon as the price for the woman, he brought her to exchange for the ransom to a place where a river, flowing between, formed a boundary. fWhen the Galatians had crossed and given him the money and received Chiomara, she, by a nod, indicated to one man that he should smite the Roman as he was affectionately taking leave of her. And when the man obediently struck off the Roman's head, she picked it up and, wrapping it in the folds of her garment, departed. When she came to her husband and threw the head down before him, he said in amazement, "A noble thing, dear wife, is fidelity." "Yes," said she, "but it is a nobler thing that only one man be alive who has been intimate with me."64

 p559  Polybius says that he had a conversation with this woman in Sardis, and that he admired her good sense and intelligence.

259 XXIII. A Woman of Pergamum

When Mithradates,​65 after sending for sixty of the noblest of Galatians to come to Pergamum as friends, seemed to comport himself arrogantly and despotically toward them, and all were indignant, Poredorix, a man of great bodily strength and of unusual spirit, tetrarch of the Tosiopians, undertook, when Mithradates should be hearing cases on the tribunal in a gymnasium, to seize hold of it suddenly and precipitate him, tribunal and all, down into the ravine. But by some chance Mithradates did not go up to the gymnasium on that day, but sent for the Galatians to come to his house, bwhereupon Poredorix urged them to keep up their courage and, when they all should be met together there, to rend Mithradates limb from limb, and kill him, by falling upon him from all sides at once. Knowledge of this came to Mithradates through the agency of some informer, and he delivered over the Galatians one by one to be executed. A little later, happening to remember a young man who, in comeliness and beauty, far surpassed those of his age, he felt sorry for him and changed his mind. It was plain that he was much distressed, since the youth had probably put to death among the first; yet he sent orders that, if the youth should be found alive, they should let him go. The young man's name was Bepolitanus, and a marvellous piece of luck befell him in this wise: when he was arrested he was wearing very beautiful and costly clothing, cwhich the executioner wished to  p561 keep, unstained by blood and unsullied, for himself, and he was stripping this off in a leisurely way, when he saw the messengers from the king running towards him and shouting the youth's name. So in the case of Bepolitanus, avarice, which has been the undoing of many a man, unexpectedly saved his life.

Poredorix was executed and his body cast forth unburied, and not one of his friends dared to go near him; but a woman of Pergamum, who for her loveliness had been known to the Galatian while he was living, took the risk of burying and covering up his body. dThe guards, noticing her, arrested her and took her before the king. It is said that Mithradates' emotions were stirred at the sight of her, as the girl appeared altogether young and innocent. A still stronger influence very likely came from his having learned that love was the reason behind it all; at any rate, he relented and granted her permission to remove and bury the corpse, and to take for it clothing and adornment from what belonged to him.

XXIV. Timocleia​66

Theagenes of Thebes, who had come to entertain the same aspirations for his city as Epameinondas and Pelopidas and the noblest of the Thebans, came to grief, involved in the general fortunes of Greece at Chaeroneia, when he was already over­powering and pursuing the opposing lines. eHe is the one who, in answer to a man who cried out, "How far is your pursuit to go?" said, "As far as Macedonia!"

 p563  A sister survived him to bear witness that by reason of the virtues of the family and his own natural endowment he was a great and splendid man. However, she had the advantage of getting some benefit from her virtues, so that she could bear more lightly so much of the general misfortunes as came upon her.

For when Alexander had over­powered the Thebans,​67 and some of his men were going to this part of the city, and others to that, and plundering, it happened that a man took possession of Timocleia's house who was not reasonable or civil but arrogant and foolish. He was commander of a certain Thracian troop, and bore the same name as the king, but was in no way like him; ffor, without showing the least respect for the ancestry or the estate of the woman, after he had guzzled his fill of wine, he summoned her after dinner to spend the night with him. And this was not the end; he asked for gold and silver, if any had been hidden away by her, at one time threatening to kill her, at another promising to keep her for all time in the position of a wife. She, seizing upon the hold he offered, said, "Would God I had been dead before this night rather than to be alive, 260so that I might at least, when all else is being ravaged, have preserved my honour. But, since what has been done is done, if I must look upon you as my protector, lord, and husband, by God's will, I will not deprive you of your own; for I see that I myself have become whatever your will shall decide. I did possess personal ornaments and silver fashioned into drinking-cups, and there was also some gold and money. When the city was being captured, I told  p565 my maid-servants to get this all together, and I threw it, or rather deposited it, into a dry well. bNor do many know of it; for there is a cover over the well, and a shady wood growing all around it. I hope you may be fortunate in obtaining it, and for me it will serve as proofs and tokens to you of the happy and splendid state of my house."

When the Macedonian heard this, he could not wait for daylight, but went straight to the place under the guidance of Timocleia, and, after ordering the garden to be shut close, so that nobody should find out what was going on, he climbed down into the well in his shirt only. An odious Fate led him on,​68 destined to work vengeance upon him at the hands of Timocleia standing over him at the top of the well. When she could tell by his voice that he had reached the bottom, she herself brought many of the stones, cwhile her maid-servants rolled in many big ones on top until they had beaten him down and completely buried him. When the Macedonians came to know of this and recovered the corpse, inasmuch as proclamation had been made before this to kill none of the Thebans, they arrested Timocleia and brought her to the king, and told of her daring deed. But he, seeing in the composure of her countenance and her unhurried step an indication of high rank and noble blood, first questioned her as to who she was among the women. She quite undauntedly and courageously said, "I had the good fortune to have a brother Theagenes, who was a general at Chaeroneia and fell there, fighting against you Macedonians for the freedom of Greece, that we might not have any such experience as we have had. But since we have had an experience undeserved  p567 by our family, we have no wish to escape death; dfor it were better, perhaps, not to live to experience another such night, unless you put a stop to this thing."

At this the most sympathetic of those present began to weep, but it did not occur to Alexander to pity the woman, for he felt that she was too great for that, but he marvelled at her bravery and her words, which touched him greatly, and he issued orders to his officers that they should take good care and be on the watch that no such insult should again be offered to a noted house. Timocleia he allowed to go free, both herself and all others who were found to be related to her.

XXV. Eryxo​69

Arcesilaus, the son of Battus who was nicknamed 'The Happy,' ewas not at all like his father in his ways. In fact, while his father was still living, he surrounded his house with a rampart, and was fined two hundred pounds by his father; and when his father had come to his end, for one thing Arcesilaus, being harsh by nature (and this gave him his nickname),​70 and for another consorting with a vicious friend Laarchus, instead of being a king became a despot. Laarchus, secretly scheming to become despot, banished or murdered the noblest among the men of Cyrene, and diverted all the blame for this from himself to Arcesilaus; fand finally he brought Arcesilaus into a wasting and grievous illness by a drink containing sea-hare,​71 and thus  p569 accomplished his death; then he took over the sovereign rule himself on the pretext that he was keeping it for Arcesilaus's son Battus. The boy, by reason of his lameness and his youth as well, was looked down upon, but to his mother many gave heed, for she was discreet and humane, and had many influential relatives. Wherefore Laarchus lavished attentions upon her, trying to win her as his wife, saying that it was only right and proper to make Battus his own son by marrying her, and to proclaim him colleague in the sovereignty. Eryxo (for that was the woman's name), after taking counsel with her brothers, 261bade Laarchus to have an interview with them, as if she herself looked with favour on the marriage. But when Laarchus interviewed them, and they purposely misled him and put off, Eryxo sent a maid-servant to him to tell him from her that at present her brothers declared themselves opposed, but if the union should be consummated, they would cease their dissent and give over; he must, therefore, come to her by night if he were willing; for if the beginning were once made, all the rest would be well.

This was joyful news to Laarchus, and, all excitement in view of the woman's compliant mood, he agreed to come bwhenever she should give the word. Eryxo carried out all this in consultation with Polyarchus the eldest of her brothers. When a time had been determined upon for the coming together, Polyarchus was secretly introduced into his sister's room, having with him two young men with sword in hand who were intent on avenging  p571 the murder of their father, whom Laarchus, a short time before, had put to death.

When Eryxo sent for Laarchus, he came in unattended, and, the young men falling upon him, he was run through by their swords and killed. His body they threw over the wall and, bringing forward Battus, they proclaimed him king in succession to his father's rights, and Polyarchus restored to the people of Cyrene their original form of government.

cIt happened that there were in the city numerous soldiers of Amasis, king of the Egyptians. These Laarchus had employed as trusty retainers, and they were not the least of his instruments through which he terrorized the citizens. These soldiers sent men to Amasis to accuse Polyarchus and Eryxo. He was much incensed and had thoughts of making war on the people of Cyrene, but just then it happened that his mother died, and it was during the days in which he was holding her funeral that messengers returned from Amasis with the tidings. dSo Polyarchus thought it best to go there to make his defence. When Eryxo would not be left behind, but expressed her wish to go with him and share the danger, their mother Critola, although well on in years, would not be left behind either. Her standing was of the highest, since she was the sister of Battus the Happy. When they came to Egypt, the people expressed wondrous approval of their exploit, and Amasis expressed extraordinary approval of the self-control and courage of the woman; and after honouring both Polyarchus and the women with presents and royal attentions he sent them back to Cyrene.

 p573  XXVI. Xenocrite

eNo less admiration might be expressed for Xenocrite of Cumae for her behaviour towards Aristodemus the despot,​72 who, some think, had the nickname of 'Mild' given to him, but they do not know the truth. The fact is that by the barbarians he was called 'Mild,' which, in their tongue, means 'childlike,' because, when he was a mere youth with others of his age who were still wearing their hair long (whom they called 'harassers,'​73 from their long hair presumably), in the wars against the barbarians he was conspicuous and brilliant, not merely by daring and the work of his hands, but showing himself to be above others in quickness of mind and forethought. Wherefore he advanced to the highest offices, being admired by his fellow-citizens, and he was sent to bring aid to the Romans fwhen they were besieged by the Etruscans who would restore Tarquinius Superbus to his kingdom. In this campaign, which lasted a long time, he gave in altogether to the citizens who were in the military service, and, by playing the part of a demagogue rather than that of a general, he persuaded them to join him in attacking the Senate and in driving into exile the noblest and most influential. Following upon this, he made himself despot, and in the ways in which he misconducted himself towards women and free-born youth he surpassed his former record for viciousness. In fact it is recorded in history that he imposed on boys the custom of wearing long hair and golden  p575 ornaments, and the girls he compelled to bob their hair and to wear boy's clothes and the short undergarment. 262However, he was singularly enamoured of Xenocrite, whom he kept, the daughter of an exiled father, without restoring her father to his country or winning his consent, but believing that somehow the girl was contented to be with him, inasmuch as she was envied and deemed happy by the citizens. But all this did not make any great impression on her. She was distressed at being partner to a union in which there had been no giving in marriage nor plighting of troth, and she longed for her country's freedom no less than did those who were the object of the despot's hatred.

It happened at that juncture that Aristodemus was extending a moat all the way round the country, ba work neither necessary nor useful, but the real reason was that he wished to wear out the citizens and waste their strength with toils and labours; for it was prescribed for each one to carry out a certain number of measures of earth. One woman, when she saw Aristodemus approaching, stepped well out of his way and covered her face with her garment. When he had gone, the young men made fun of her and asked her, in joke, why her modesty led her to avoid Aristodemus only, when she had no such feeling towards the rest of the men. She with a very serious purpose replied, "Because among all the people of Cumae Aristodemus is the only man!"

These few words thus spoken laid holding of them all, cand also incited the noble-minded, for very shame, to struggle for their liberty. It is said that when Xenocrite heard of it she said that she herself would  p577 rather carry earth for her father, if he were only in his own land, than be associated with Aristodemus in all his luxury and power. These things gave added strength to those who were banding together against Aristodemus, at the head of whom was Thymoteles. And when Xenocrite provided them with a safe way to get in and assurance that Aristodemus was unarmed and unattended, they forced their way in without much difficulty, and dispatched him. Thus the city of Cumae was made free by the bravery of two women, the one who put into their minds the thought and impulse for the deed, and the other who co-operated with them to bring about its conclusion.

Honours and great gifts were tendered to Xenocrite, dbut she would have none of them; one request only she made, to bury the body of Aristodemus, and this they granted her, and chose her to be priestess of Demeter, feeling that the honour would be no less pleasing to the goddess than appropriate for Xenocrite.

XXVII. The Wife of Pythes​74

It is said the wife of Pythes, contemporary with Xerxes, was wise and good. Pythes himself, as it appears, came by chance upon some gold mines,​75 and, delighting in the wealth from them not with moderation, but insatiably and beyond measure, he himself spent all his time over them, and put the citizens down there also, and compelled all alike to dig or carry or wash out the gold, eperforming no  p579 other work and carrying on no other activity. Many perished and all were completely exhausted, when the women, coming to the door of the wife of Pythes, made supplication. She bade them depart and not lose heart; then she summoned the goldsmiths whom she trusted most, secluded them, and ordered them to make golden loaves of bread, cakes of all sorts, fruit, fand whatever else in the way of dainties and food she knew Pythes liked best. When these had all been made, Pythes arrived home from abroad; for he had been travelling. And when he called for dinner, his wife caused a golden table to be set before him which contained nothing edible, but everything of gold. At first Pythes was delighted with the mimic food, but when he had gazed his fill, he called for something to eat; and she served to him a golden replica of whatever he chanced to express a desire for. By this time he was in a high dudgeon and shouted out that he was hungry, whereupon she said, "But it is you who have created for us a plentiful supply of these things, and of nothing else; 263for all skill in the trades has disappeared from among us; no one tills the soil, but we have forsaken the sowing and planting of crops in the soil and the sustaining food that comes from it, and we dig and delve for useless things, wasting our own strength and that of our people."

These things moved Pythes, and he did away with much of his activities at the mines, but not all, ordering a fifth of the citizens to work the mines in turn, and the remainder he transferred to agriculture and the trades.

When Xerxes​76 was on his way to invade Greece, Pythes, who had been most splendid in his entertainments  p581 and gifts, asked as a favour from the king that, as he had several sons, the king should exempt one from military duty, and leave him at home to be a comfort to Pythes in his old age. bXerxes, in his rage,​77 ordered that this one son for whom the father made his request should be killed and cut in two, and that the army should march between the two halves; the others he took with him, and all perished in the battles.

Because of this Pythes lost all spirit, and went through an experience similar to that of many bad and foolish men; for he was afraid of death and burdened with life. He wished not to live, and yet could not let go of life. As there was a great mound in the city, and also a river flowing through it, which they called the Pythopolites, he made ready a mausoleum in the mound, cand then turned the course of the stream so that the river was carried through the mound with its waters touching the tomb. Upon the completion of all this he went down into the mausoleum, committing the government and care of the whole city to his wife, and ordered her not to come near him, but to send his dinner for him every day, by placing it in a boat, until the time when the boat should pass by the tomb with the dinner untouched; then she should cease sending, taking it for granted that he was dead. He passed the remainder of his life in this way, and his wife administered the government excellently, and gave the citizens relief from their miseries.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

49 Cf. Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.35; Aristaenetus, Letters, I.15.

50 Cf. Roscher, Lexikon der griech. und röm. Mythologie, I p572, line 63.

51 Cf. Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.36; Parthenius, Love Stories, nos. 9 and 18.

52 Frag. 559 (ed. Rose) = Aulus Gellius, III.15.

53 Cf. Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.37.

54 As a remedy for love, at least in later times.

55 Cf. Müller, Frag. Histor. Graec. I. p33.

56 Cf. Strabo, XIII (589), and Stephanus of Byzantium under Lampsacus.

57 Cf. Strabo, XIII (589), and Stephanus of Byzantium under Lampsacus.º

58 Cf. Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.38.

59 Who killed her husband Alexander. Cf. Moralia, 856A; Xenophon, Hellenica, VI.4.35‑37; Diodorus, XVI.14; Cicero, De divinatione, I.25 (53), De inventione, II.49 (144) and De officiis, II.7 (25); Valerius Maximus, IX.13, ext. 4. Theopompus wrote an account of this (as Plutarch says, Moralia, 1093C).

60 The Cup, a drama by Alfred Lord Tennyson, follows closely Plutarch's story of Camma, which inspired it. The play (published in 1884) may be found in Tennyson's collected works. It was presented at the Lyceum Theatre in 1881 by Henry Irving and ran for over one hundred and thirty nights. Certainly the account of Camma's death does not lack dramatic quality.

Plutarch repeats the story in Moralia, 768B, and Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.39, also gives his version.

61 This is presented as one of the fragments of Polybius, XXI.38 (XXII.21), from whom it is possible that Plutarch copied the story. Cf. also Livy, XXXVIII.24; Valerius Maximus, VI.1, ext. 2; Florus, Epitome of Roman History, I.27.6 (II.11.6).

62 Gnaeus Manlius Vulso; the battle took place in 189 B.C.

63 A centurion, according to the Roman account.

64 "Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.

Thayer's Note: If, gentle reader, you have no Latin, you shouldn't be misled into thinking that this Latin tag is a translation of some bit of Plutarch's text. Rather, it's an editorial comment by the Loeb translator, Prof. Babbitt, to the effect that boy, have things changed. It makes me wonder just what happened to him that he should have felt so compelled as to insert this sour comment here.

65 Cf. Appian, The Mithradatic Wars, VII.46.

66 Plutarch tells of Timocleia more briefly in his Life of Alexander, chap. xii (671A). Cf. also Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.40; Hieronymus, Adversus Iovinianum, 35; Zonaras, IV.9 (185B).

67 In 335 B.C.

68 The poetic expression probably comes from some lyric or dramatic poet. It can hardly have been made up by Plutarch from Hesiod's Shield of Heracles, 258.

69 Cf. Herodotus, IV.160; Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.41; Müller, Frag. Histor. Graec. III p387, Nicolaus Damasc. Frag. 52.

70 He was nicknamed 'The Harsh.'

71 A kind of fish (Lepus marinus); Plutarch (Moralia, 983F) says that it is fatal to human beings.

Thayer's Note: as did Pliny a few years before him, N. H. IX.XLVIII (lxxii).155.

72 Cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, V.4‑12; Diodorus, VII.10.

73 Strollers who went about singing begging songs. Cf. Athenaeus, 359D-360B. "Harassers" as a corruption of "Hair-raisers" is no more weird than Plutarch's Greek etymology!

74 Cf. Polyaenus, Strategemata, VIII.42; Herodotus, VII.27‑29 and 38‑39, where the name is given as Pythius.

75 On the source of the gold of Pythes see T. Leslie Shear in the Classical Weekly, XVII p186.

76 Herodotus tells the story of Pythes' (Pythius's) relations with Xerxes at length in VII.27‑39.

77 Cf. Seneca, De ira, III.16; Pliny, Natural History, XXXIII.10 (47).

Thayer's Note:

a Rocking or shaking a patient was one of the standard medical treatments in Antiquity: see for example in some detail Celsus, de Medicina, II.15.

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