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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces the
Love Stories


as published in Vol. X
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1936

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!

(Vol. X) Plutarch, Moralia

p1 Love Stories


The work appears in pp1‑23 of Vol. X of the Loeb Classical Library's edition of the Moralia, first published in 1936. It is now in the public domain pursuant to the 1978 revision of the U. S. Copyright Code, since the copyright expired in 1964 and was not renewed at the appropriate time, which would have been that year or the year before. (Details here on the copyright law involved.)

p3 Loeb Edition Introduction

These five short stories are interesting to the modern reader chiefly as examples of the kind of tale which appealed to the readers of Plutarch's time; they were probably written during his lifetime, though not by him. In style and content they differ greatly from his genuine works. The elements of passion and of sentimental love are made to appear important in them rather on account of their dire consequences than for their own sake.

p5 [link to original Greek text] I

(771e)At Haliartus, in Boeotia, there was a girl of remarkable beauty, named Aristocleia, the daughter of Theophanes. She was wooed by Strato of Orchomenus and Callisthenes of Haliartus. FStrato was the richer and was rather the more violently in love with the maiden; for he had seen her in Lebadeia bathing at the fountain called Hercynê in preparation for carrying a basket1 in a sacred procession in honour of Zeus the King. 772 But Callisthenes had the advantage, for he was a blood-relation of the girl. Theophanes was much perplexed about the matter, for he was afraid of Strato, who excelled nearly all the Boeotians in wealth and in family connexions, and he wished to submit the choice to Trophonius;2 but Strato had been persuaded by the maiden's servants that she was more inclined towards him, so he asked that the choice be left to the bride-to‑be herself. But when Theophanes in the presence of everyone asked the maiden, and she chose Callisthenes, Bit was plain at once that Strato found the p7slight hard to bear. But he let two days go by and came to Theophanes and Callisthenes asking that the friendship between him and them be preserved, even though he had been deprived of the marriage by some jealous divinity. And they approved of what he said, so that they even invited him to the wedding-feast. But before he came he got ready a crowd of his friends and a considerable number of servants, who were scattered among the others present and were not noticed; but when the girl went, according to the ancestral custom, to the spring called Cissoessa to make the preliminary sacrifice to the nymphs, Cthen his men who were in ambush all rushed out at once and seized her. Strato also had hold of the maiden; and naturally Callisthenes and his supporters in turn took hold of her and held on until, although they did not know it at the time, she died in their hands as they pulled against each other. Callisthenes immediately disappeared, whether by committing suicide or by going away as an exile from Boeotia; at any rate nobody could tell what had happened to him. But Strato slew himself in sight of all upon the body of the maiden.

[link to original Greek text] II

DA man named Pheidon, who was striving to make himself ruler of the Peloponnesians and wished his own native city of Argos to be the leader of all the other states, plotted first against the Corinthians. He sent and asked of them the thousand young men who were the best in vigour and valour; and they sent the thousand, putting Dexander in p9command of them. Now Pheidon intended to make an onslaught upon these young men, that Corinth might be weakened and he might have the city in his power, for he considered that it would be the most advantageous bulwark of the whole Peloponnesus, and he confided this matter to some of his friends, Eamong whom was Habron. Now he was a friend of Dexander and told him of the plot, so before the onslaught was made the thousand young men escaped safely to Corinth; but Pheidon tried to discover the betrayer of his plot and searched for him with great care. So Habron was frightened and fled to Corinth with his wife and his servants, settling in Melissus, a village in Corinthian territory. There he begot a son whom he called Melissus from the name of the place. This Melissus had a son named Actaeon, the handsomest and most modest youth of his age, who had many lovers, chief of whom was Archias, of the family of the Heracleidae, in wealth and general influence the most outstanding man in Corinth. FNow when he could not gain the boy by persuasion, he determined to carry him off by force. So he got together a crowd of friends and servants, went as in a drunken frolic to the house of Melissus, and tried to take the boy away. But his father and his friends resisted, the neighbours also ran out and pulled against the assailants, 773 and so Actaeon was pulled to pieces and killed; the assailants thereupon went away. But Melissus took his son's body and exhibited it in the market-place of the Corinthians, demanding the punishment of the men who had done the deed; but the Corinthians merely pitied him and did nothing further. So, being unsuccessful, p11he went away and waited for the Isthmian festival,3 when he went up upon the temple of Poseidon, shouted accusations against the Bacchiadae,4 and reminded the people of his father Habron's benefactions, whereupon, calling upon the gods to avenge him, he threw himself down from the rocks. Not long afterwards the city was afflicted by drought and pestilence, Band when the Corinthians consulted the oracle concerning relief, the god replied that the wrath of Poseidon would not relax until they inflicted punishment for the death of Actaeon. Archias knew of this, for he was himself one of those sent to consult the oracle, and voluntarily refrained from returning to Corinth. Instead he sailed to Sicily and founded Syracuse. There he became the father of two daughters, Ortygia and Syracusa, and was treacherously murdered by Telephus, who had been his beloved and had sailed with him to Sicily in command of a ship.

[link to original Greek text] III

There was a poor man named Scedasus who lived at Leuctra; that is a village of the country of the Thespians. This man had two daughters, Ccalled Hippo and Miletia, or, as some say, Theano and Euxippê. Now Scedasus was a worthy man and friendly to strangers, though he was not very well off. So when two Spartan youths came to his house he received them gladly. They fell in love with the maidens, but were restrained from overboldness by p13the worthy character of Scedasus, and the next day went away to Delphi, for that was the place for which they were bound. And when they had consulted the god about the matters which concerned them, they went back again towards home, and passing through Boeotia they stopped again at the house of Scedasus. DNow he, as it happened, was not at Leuctra; but his daughters, in accordance with their usual custom, received the strangers, who, finding the maidens unprotected, ravished them; and then, seeing that they were exceedingly distressed by the violent wrong they had suffered, they killed them, threw their bodies into a well, and went away. When Scedasus came home, he missed the girls, but found everything that he had left in the house undisturbed, and so he did not know what to make of it all until, because his dog kept whimpering and often running up to him and from him to the well, he guessed the truth, and so drew up the bodies of his daughters. And finding out from his neighbours Ethat on the previous day they had seen going into his house the Lacedaemonians who had been entertained there shortly before, he guessed that they had done the deed, because during their previous visit they had constantly been praising the girls and talking of the happiness of their future husbands.

Scedasus set out for Lacedaemon to see the ephors, and when he was in the territory of Argos night came upon him, so he put up at an inn, and at the same inn was another elderly man, a native of the city of Oreus in the territory of Hestiaea. FScedasus heard him groaning and uttering curses against the Lacedaemonians, so he asked him what harm the Lacedaemonians had done him. Then he proceeded to p15tell that he was a subject of Sparta and that Aristodemus, who had been sent by the Lacedaemonians to Oreus as governor, had shown himself very lawless and cruel. "For," said he, "he fell in love with my young son and, when he could not gain him by persuasion, he tried to take him from the palaestra by force. But the teacher of gymnastics interfered, and many young fellows came out to help, so for the time being Aristodemus went away; but the next day he manned a ship of war, seized the boy, sailed from Oreus to the opposite shore, and tried to rape him; then when the boy would not submit, he cut his throat and killed him, after which he went back to Oreus and gave a dinner-party. 774 But as for me," he said, "I learned of the deed, performed the funeral rites over the body, then went to Sparta and had an audience with the ephors; but they paid no attention to me." When Scedasus heard this he was disheartened, for he suspected that the Spartans would pay no attention to him either; and he in turn told the stranger of his own misfortune. Then the stranger advised him not even to go to see the ephors, but to turn back to Boeotia and build his daughters' tomb. Scedasus, however, did not take this advice, but went to Sparta and spoke with the ephors. BThey paid no attention to him, so he hurried to the kings, and from them he went up to every one of the citizens and told his tale of woe. And when nothing did any good, he ran through the midst of the city stretching up his hands towards the sun, and again he beat upon the ground and summoned up the Erinyes, and finally he put an end to his life.

Later, however, the Lacedaemonians certainly paid p17the penalty. For when they were rulers of all the Greeks and had placed their garrisons in the cities, Epaminondas the Theban first slaughtered the garrison of the Lacedaemonians in his own city, Cand when thereupon the Lacedaemonians made war upon the Thebans, the latter met them at Leuctra,5 thinking it a place of good omen, because at an earlier time they had gained their freedom there, when Amphictyon, having been driven into exile by Sthenelus, came to the city of the Thebans and, finding them tributaries of the Chalcidians, freed them from the tribute by killing Chalcodon, king of the Euboeans. Now it happened that the utter defeat of the Lacedaemonians took place precisely in the vicinity of the tombstone of the daughters of Scedasus. And the story goes that before the battle Pelopidas, one of the generals of the Theban army, Dwas disturbed by some omens which were considered unfavourable and that in his sleep Scedasus came and stood over him and told him to be of good courage, for the Lacedaemonians were coming to Leuctra to pay the penalty to him and his daughters; and he enjoined upon him one day before fighting the Lacedaemonians to make ready a white colt and sacrifice it at the tomb of the maidens. So Pelopidas, while the Lacedaemonians were still in camp at Tegea, sent some men to Leuctra to find out about this tomb, and when he learned about it from the inhabitants of the place, he led out his army with confidence and was victorious.

p19 [link to original Greek text] IV

EPhocus was by birth a Boeotian, for he was from the town of Glisas, and he was the father of Callirhoë, who excelled in beauty and modesty. She was wooed by thirty young men, the most highly esteemed in Boeotia; but Phocus found one reason after another for putting off her marriage, for he was afraid that violence would be done to him;6 at last, however, he yielded to their demands, but asked to leave the choice to the Pythian oracle. The suitors were incensed by the proposal, rushed upon Phocus, and killed him. In the confusion the maiden got away and fled through the country, but the young men pursued her. FShe came upon some farmers making a threshing-floor, and found safety with them, for the farmers hid her in the grain, and so her pursuers passed by. But she waited in safety until the festival of the Pamboeotia, when she went to Coroneia, took her seat on the altar of Athena Itonia,7 and told of the lawless act of the suitors, giving the name and birthplace of each. So the Boeotians pitied the maid and were angry with the young men. When they learned of this, they fled for refuge to Orchomenus, and when the Orchomenians refused to receive them, they forced their way into Hippotae, 775 a village lying on the slope of Mount Helicon between Thisbê and Coroneia. There they were received. Then the Thebans sent and demanded the slayers of Phocus, and when the people of Hippotae refused to deliver them, the Thebans, along with the rest of the p21Boeotians, took the field under the command of Phoedus, who at that time administered the government of Thebes. They besieged the village, which was well fortified, and when they had overcome the inhabitants by thirst, they took the murderers and stoned them to death and made slaves of the villagers; then they pulled down the walls and the houses Band divided the land between the people of Thisbê and of Coroneia. It is said that in the night, before the capture of Hippotae, there was heard many times from Helicon a voice of someone saying "I am here," and that the thirty suitors recognized the voice as that of Phocus. It is said also that on the day when they were stoned to death the old man's monument at Glisas ran with saffron; and that as Phoedus, the ruler and general of the Thebans, was returning from the battle, he received the news of the birth of a daughter and, thinking it of good omen, he named her Nicostrata.8

[link to original Greek text] V

CAlcippus was a Lacedaemonian by birth; he married Damocrita and became the father of two daughters. Now since he was a most excellent counsellor to the state and conducted affairs to the satisfaction of the Lacedaemonians, he was envied by his political opponents, who misled the ephors by false statements to the effect that Alcippus wished to destroy the constitution, and they thereby brought about his exile. So he departed from Sparta, but when his wife Damocrita, with their daughters, p23wished to follow her husband, she was prevented from doing so, and moreover his property was confiscated, that the girls might not be provided with dowries. DAnd when even so there were some suitors who wooed the girls on account of their father's high character, his enemies got a bill passed forbidding anyone to woo the girls, saying that their mother Damocrita had often prayed that her daughters might speedily bear sons who should grow up to be their father's avengers. Damocrita, being harassed on all sides, waited for a general festival in which married women along with unmarried girls, slaves, and infant children took part, and the wives of those in authority passed the whole night in a great hall by themselves. Then she buckled a sword about her waist, took the girls, and went by night into the sacred place, Ewaiting for the moment when all the women were performing the mysteries in the hall. Then, after the entrances had all been closed, she heaped a great quantity of wood against the doors (this had been prepared by the others for the sacrifice belonging to the festival) and set it on fire. And when the men came running up to save their wives, Damocrita killed her daughters with the sword and then herself over their dead bodies. But the Lacedaemonians, not knowing how to vent their anger, threw the bodies of Damocrita and her daughters out beyond the boundaries; and they say that because the god was offended by this the great earthquake9 came upon the Lacedaemonians.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Processions were common in Greek worship, and often young women, chosen usually for their good birth and their beauty, formed part of them, carrying baskets in which were offerings or utensils for use in sacrifices.

Thayer's Note: For fuller details, see the article Canephoros in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.

2 A hero whose oracular shrine was at Lebadeia.

3 The famous Isthmian games in honour of Poseidon, for victors in which Pindar composed some of his odes.

4 The noble family which ruled Corinth in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C. Periander is its most famous member.

5 A village in Boeotia. The battle, which ended the Spartan hegemony, took place in 371 B.C.

6 i.e. by the disappointed suitors.

7 The cult of Athena Itonia was brought to Boeotia by the Ionians when they were driven out by the Thessalians. Her sanctuary near Coroneia was the place of the Pamboeotia, the festival of the united Boeotians.

8 i.e. "She of the conquering host."

9 Probably the earthquake of 464 B.C. is meant.

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Page updated: 14 Jun 09