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This webpage reproduces a Book of
The Histories


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

The text is in the public domain.

This text has not yet been proofread.
If you find a mistake though,
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(Vol. V) Polybius
The Histories

 p487  Fragments of Book XXVII

I. The War with Perseus

(Cp. Livy XLII.43.4)

1 1 At this time Lases and Calleas came as envoys from Thespiae and Ismenias on the part of Neon,​1 2 the former to put their city in the hands of the Romans, at the discretion of the legates. 3 This was quite the contrary of what Marcius and the other legates wished, it suiting their purpose far better to keep the Boeotian cities apart. 4 So that while they very gladly received Lases and made much of him, as well as of the envoys from Chaeronea and Lebadea, 5 they exposed Ismenias to contempt, fighting shy of him and treating him with neglect. 6 On one occasion some of the exiles attacked Ismenias, and came very near stoning him, but he took refuge under the porch of the Roman mission. 7 At the same period there were quarrels and disturbances in Thebes, where one party maintained that they ought to surrender the city at discretion to the Romans; 8 but the people of Coronea  p489 and Haliartus flocking to Thebes, still claimed a part in the direction of affairs, and said that they ought to remain faithful to their alliance with Perseus. 9 For a time the rival views maintained an equilibrium; but upon Olympichus of Coronea being the first to change his attitude and to advise joining the Romans, the balance of popular opinion entirely shifted. 10 They first of all compelled Dicetas to go as their envoy to Marcius and offer his excuses for their having allied themselves with Perseus. 11 In the next place they expelled Neon and Hippias, going in a crowd to their houses and ordering them to go and defend their conduct of affairs, since it was they who had arranged the alliance. 12 Upon Neon and Hippias giving way, they at once assembled in a formal meeting, and after in the first place voting honours to the Romans, ordered their magistrates to take steps to form the alliance; 13 and, last of all, they appointed envoys to put the city in the hands of the Romans and bring back their own exiles.

2 1 While these proceedings were taking place in Thebes, the exiles in Chalcis appointed Pompides as their representative to accuse Ismenias, Neon, and Dicetas. 2 As the offence of all three was clearly proved, and the Romans lent their support to the exiles, 3 Hippias and his friends were in the last stage of distress, and their lives even were in danger from the violence of the populace, until the Romans took some slight thought for their safety, and put restraint  p491 on the hostility of the mob. 4 When the Thebans appeared, bearers of the decrees I mentioned announcing the honours conferred, the reaction in all matters was swift to spread, the cities lying all quite close to each other. 5 Marcius and his colleagues on receiving the Thebans thanked the city, and advised them to bring home the exiles, ordering all the representatives of the towns to repair at once to Rome and separately announce the submission of each several city. 7 When all fell out as they desired — their object being to break up the Boeotian League and damage the popularity of the House of Macedon — 8 the legates, sending for Servius Cornelius Lentulus from Argos, left him at Chalcis and went on to the Peloponnesus, but after a few days Neon left for Macedonia. 9 Ismenias and Dicetas were now led off to prison and shortly afterwards took their own lives. 10 Thus the Boeotian people after remaining for many years faithful to their League and after many marvellous escapes from various perils, now by rashly and inconsiderately espousing the cause of Perseus, and giving way to insensate and childish excitement were broken up and dispersed among their several cities.

11 Aulus Atilius and Quintus Marcius on arriving at Argos sat in council with the magistrates of the Achaean League. They asked Archon, the strategus, to dispatch a thousand soldiers to Chalcis to guard the  p493 city until the crossing of the Romans, 12 and on his readily complying, these legates, after making the above arrangements in Greece during the winter, joined Publius Cornelius Lentulus and took ship for Rome.

The Rhodians support Rome

(Cp. Livy XLII.45)

3 1 At the same time the legates, Tiberius Claudius, Aulus Postumius, and Marcus Junius, visited the islands and the Asiatic cities, exhorting the people to take the part of Rome. 2 They spent a good part of their time at other places, but most of it at Rhodes, 3 although the Rhodians at that period had no need of such exhortation. For Hagesilochus, their prytanis, a man of much influence, who subsequently came as their envoy to Rome, had previously, when it became evident that the Romans were about to make war on Perseus, exhorted the people in general to make common cause with the Romans, and had advised the equipment of forty ships; 4 so that, if circumstances required their help, they might not have to make preparations to meet the demand of the Romans, but, being in a state of readiness, might be able to act instantly in any way they decided. 5 He now, by informing the Romans of this and actually exhibiting his preparations, sent them off highly pleased with Rhodes. Having thus gratefully accepted the kind offices of Rhodes the envoys sailed back to Rome.

Perseus and Rhodes

(Cp. Livy XLII.45)

4 1 Perseus, after his conference with the Romans, sent identical letters to various Greek states, in which he drew up a statement of all questions of right, and quoted the arguments used on both sides, with the double purpose of making it appear that in point of right his position was superior, and of sounding the intentions of the several states. 3 To other peoples he sent the letters in charge of the couriers alone; but to Rhodes he sent also Antenor and Philippus as envoys. 4 On arriving there they delivered the letter to the magistrates, and after a few days appeared before the Rhodian senate and begged the Rhodians to remain for the present quiet spectators of what would happen; but, should the Romans attack Perseus and the Macedonians in violation of the treaty, they asked them to attempt to effect a reconciliation. This they said was in the interest of all; but the Rhodians were the most proper people to undertake the task. For the more they were the champions of equality and freedom of speech, and the constant protectors not only of their own liberty, but of that of the rest of Greece, the more they should do all in their power to provide and guard against the victory of principles contrary to these. 8 When the envoys had spoken thus and further in the same sense what they said pleased everybody; 9 but, prepossessed as the people were by their friendly feeling for Rome, better counsels prevailed, and while they gave a kind reception to the envoys in other respects they begged Perseus in their answer to request them to do nothing which might seem to be  p497 in opposition to the wishes of the Romans. 10 Antenor and Philippus did not therefore receive the answer they wished, but after thanking the Rhodians for their kindness in other respects sailed back to Macedonia.

Perseus and Boeotia

(Cp. Livy XLII.46.7)

5 1 Perseus, on learning that some of the Boeotian cities were still favourably disposed to him, sent on an embassy there Antigonus, the son of Alexander. 2 On arriving in Boeotia he left the other cities alone, as he found no pretext for making approaches; 3 but visiting Coronea, Thisbae, and Haliartus, he begged the citizens to attach themselves to the Macedonian cause. 4 His advances were readily received, and they voted to send envoys to Macedonia; upon which the Macedonian envoy took ship, and when he met the king reported to him how things stood in Boeotia. 5 Shortly afterwards the envoys arrived, and begged the king to send help to the towns that had taken the side of Macedonia, as the Thebans were putting powerful pressure and inflicting annoyance on them, because they would not agree with them in supporting the Romans. 7 Perseus, after listening to them, replied that it was quite impossible for him to send armed help to anyone owing to his truce with Rome, 8 but he gave them the general advice to defend themselves against the Thebans as well as they could, but, rather than fight with the Romans, to remain quiet.

6 1 The Romans, when their legates returned from Asia, on hearing their report about Rhodes and the  p499 other towns, summoned the envoys of Perseus, Solon and Hippias. 2 They made some attempt to discuss the general question and conciliate the Senate, but most of their speech was a defence of their conduct in the matter of the alleged plot against Eumenes. 3 When their attempted justification was over, the Senate, which had already decided on war, ordered them and all other Macedonian residents to quit Rome at once and Italy within the space of thirty days. 4 After this they summoned the consuls, and urged them to take the matter in hand at once and not to lose time.

Attitude of Rhodes

(Cp. Livy XLII.48.8; LVI.6)º

7 1 Gaius Lucretius, while still anchored off Cephallenia, wrote to the Rhodians asking them to dispatch ships, entrusting the letter to a certain Socrates, a gymnastic trainer. 2 Upon the arrival of the letter in Rhodes at the time when Stratocles was prytanis for the second half-year, 3 and upon the resolution being proposed, Agathagetus, Rhodophon, and Astymedes, and a good many others were in favour of sending the ships and at once taking part in the war from the very beginning without any hesitation. 4 Deinon, however, and Polyaratus, who were dissatisfied with the favour already shown to Rome, now, under shelter of a grievance against Eumenes in person, began to try to shake the resolve of the majority. 5 For in the first place there had been at Rhodes a certain suspicion of Eumenes and hostility to him, ever since the war with Pharnaces, when, Eumenes having stationed his fleet at the mouth of the Hellespont  p501 to prevent the entrance of vessels bound for the Euxine, the Rhodians checked the king's project, and prevented him; and a short time ago this sore had been reopened on the question of Lycia, owing to a dispute concerning certain forts and a strip of territory situated on the borders of the Rhodian Peraea, and subject to constant damage on the part of the lieutenants of Eumenes. 7 All this made the Rhodians ready to lend an ear to anything that was said against the king; 8 and now Deinon and the others, availing themselves of this prejudice, cast aspersions on the letter, saying that it did not come from the Romans but from Eumenes, who wished by any and every means to drag them into the war, and to impose unnecessary expense and suffering on the people. 9 As a proof of their assertion they adduced the low station of the man who had arrived bearing the letter, the Romans not being in the habit of proceeding thus, but, as regards their communications on such matters, employing excessive care and ceremony. 10 They said this, well knowing Lucretius to be the author of the letter, but for the purpose of persuading the people never to do things readily for the Romans, but always to make difficulties and give cause for offence and dissatisfaction. 11 For their object was to alienate the people from their attachment to Rome, and, as far as was in their power, to induce them to contract friendship with Perseus. 12 These men were adherents of Perseus owing to the fact that Polyaratus, who was a somewhat assuming and vain fellow, had burdened his property, while  p503 Deinon, who was avaricious and unscrupulous, had always been disposed to look to kings and princes for advancement. 13 Upon this Stratocles the prytanis got up, and after saying many things against Perseus and in favour of the Romans, exhorted the people to ratify the decree relating to the dispatch of the vessels. 14 Having at once fitted out six quadriremes, they sent off five for Chalcis under the command of Timagoras, and one to Tenedos commanded by Nicagoras. 15 The latter, finding in Tenedos Diophanes the envoy of Perseus to Antiochus, failed to capture him, but captured his crew. 16 Lucretius, after giving a kind reception to all the allies who had arrived by sea, relieved them of their service, saying that as things were no naval assistance was required.

Attitude of Rhodes

(Cp. Livy XLII.58, 62)

8 1 After the victory of the Macedonians Perseus held a conference in which some of his friends suggested to him that he should send an embassy to the Roman general, 2 consenting still to pay the same tribute to Rome that his father on his defeat engaged to pay, and to evacuate the same places. 3 For, they said, if they accepted these terms, the result of the war would be in favour of the king after his success in the field; and the Romans after their experience of the bravery of the Macedonians, would be more cautious about making unjust and severe demands upon Macedonia. 4 But if they did not accept, out of vexation  p505 for what had happened, they would increase the just wrath of Heaven; while the king by his moderation would earn the support of gods and men alike. 5 Such was the opinion of most of his friends; and, on Perseus agreeing, Pantauchus the son of Balacrus and Midon of Beroea were at once dispatched as envoys. 6 Upon their arrival at the camp of Licinius, he at once called a council. When the envoys had explained themselves according to their instructions, the Romans requested Pantauchus and his colleague to withdraw, and consulted about the message. 7 It was unanimously decided to give as severe a reply as possible, it being in all cases the traditional Roman custom to show themselves most imperious and severe in the season of defeat, and most lenient after success. 9 That this is noble conduct every one will confess, but perhaps it is open to doubt if it is possible under certain circumstances. 10 In the present case, then, their answer was as follows. They ordered Perseus to submit absolutely, giving the senate authority to decide as they saw fit about the affairs of Macedonia. 11 The envoys, on receiving this answer, returned and reported it to Perseus and his friends, some of whom, astonished at the pride of the Romans, chafed at it, and advised the king to send no further embassies or any other communications about anything whatever. 13 Perseus, however, was by no means so disposed, but sent several times to Licinius, always offering a larger sum. But as he made no progress, 14 and most of his  p507 friends found fault with him and told him, that now he was victorious, he was acting as if he were unsuccessful and indeed utterly defeated, 15 he was obliged to give up these embassies, and to transfer his camp again to Sycyrium. Such was the situation there.

Position of Perseus in Greece

(Cp. Livy XLII.63.1)

9 1 When after the Macedonian victory the news of the cavalry engagement was spread abroad in Greece, the attachment of the people to Perseus, which had been for the most part concealed, burst forth like fire. 2 The state of their feelings was, I think, more or less as follows. The phenomenon was very like what happens in boxing contests at the games. 3 For there, when a humble and much inferior combatant is matched against a celebrated and seemingly invincible athlete, the sympathy of the crowd is at once given to the inferior man. They cheer him on, and back him up enthusiastically; 4 and if he manages to touch his opponent's face, and gets in a blow that leaves any mark, there is at once again the greatest excitement among them all. 5 They sometimes even try to make fun of the other man, not out of any dislike for him or disapproval but from a curious sort of sympathy and a natural instinct to favour the weaker. 6 If, however, one calls their attention at the right time to their error, they very soon change their minds and correct it. 7 This was what Clitomachus did, as is told. He was considered to be a quite invincible boxer, and his fame had spread over the whole world, when Ptolemy, ambitious  p509 to destroy his reputation, trained with the greatest care and sent off the boxer Aristonicus, a man who seemed to have a remarkable natural gift for this sport. 8 Upon this Aristonicus arriving in Greece and challenging Clitomachus at Olympia, the crowd, it seems, at once took the part of the former and cheered him on, delighted to see that some one, once in a way at least, ventured to pit himself against Clitomachus. 9 And when, as the fight continued, he appeared to be his adversary's match, and once or twice landed a telling blow, two great clapping of hands, and the crowd became delirious with excitement, cheering on Aristonicus. 10 At this time they say that Cleitomachus,º after withdrawing for a few moments to recover his breath, turned to the crowd and asked them what they meant by cheering on Aristonicus and backing him up all they could. 11 Did they think he himself was not fighting fairly, or were they not aware that Cleitomachus was now fighting for the glory of Greece and Aristonicus for that of King Ptolemy? 12 Would they prefer to see an Egyptian conquer the Greeks and win the Olympian crown, or to hear a Theban and Boeotian proclaimed by the herald as victor in the men's boxing-match? 13 When Cleitomachus had spoken thus, they say there was such a change in the sentiment of the crowd that now all was reversed, and Aristonicus was beaten rather by the crowd than by Cleitomachus.

10 1 Very similar to this was the present feeling of  p511 the multitude towards Perseus. 2 For if anyone had secured their attention, and asked them frankly if they really would wish to see the supreme power in so absolute a form fall into the hands of a single man and to experience the rule of an absolutely irresponsible monarch, I fancy they would very soon have come to their senses and, changing their tune, have undergone a complete revulsion of feeling. 3 And if one had reminded them even briefly of all the hardships that the house of Macedon had inflicted on Greece, and of all the benefits she had derived from Roman rule, I fancy the reaction would have been most sudden and complete. 4 But now, when they gave way to their first unreflecting impulse, the delight of the people at the news was conspicuous, hailing, as they did, owing to the very strangeness of the fact, the appearance of some one at least who had proved himself a capable adversary of Rome. 5 I have been led to speak of this matter at such length lest anyone, in ignorance of what is inherent in human nature, may unjustly reproach the Greeks with ingratitude for being in this state of mind at the time.

The Cestrus or Cestrosphendone

(Suid.; cp. Livy XLII.65.9)

11 1 The so‑called cestrus was a novel invention at the time of the war with Perseus. 2 The form of the missile was as follows. It was two cubits long,​a the tube being of the same length as the point. Into the former was fitted a wooden shaft a span in length and a finger's breadth in thickness, and to the middle of this were firmly attached three quite short wing-shaped  p513 sticks. 5 The thongs of the sling from which the missile was discharged were of unequal length, and it was so inserted into the loop between them that it was easily freed. 6 There it remained fixed while the thongs were whirled round and taut, but when at the moment of discharge one of the thongs was loosened, it left the loop and was shot like a leaden bullet from the sling, and striking with great force inflicted severe injury on those who were hit by it.

Cotys, King of the Odrysae

(Suid.; cp. Livy XLII.67.3)

12 1 Cotys was a man of striking appearance and remarkably skilled in warfare, 2 and also in character he was not at all like a Thracian; 3 for he was sober, and one noticed in him a certain gentleness and depth of sentiment distinctive of a gentleman.

 p515  II. Affairs of Egypt

13 1 Ptolemy, the Egyptian commander in Cyprus, was not at all like an Egyptian, but gifted with good sense and capacity. 2 For having taken charge of the island when the king was still an infant, he applied himself diligently to the collection of revenue, and never gave away a penny to anybody, although the royal governors were frequent beggars, and he was bitterly abused for never opening his purse. 3 Upon the king attaining his majority, he put together a considerable sum of money, and sent it off, 4 so that the king and the members of the court now approved of his former close-fistedness and refusal to part with money.

III. The War with Perseus º

14 1 At the time when Perseus had retired from the war with Rome, Antenor, the envoy sent by him to ransom the prisoners who were in the same ship with Diophanes, reached Rhodes, and public men there were in great doubt as to what course to take, 2 Philophron and Theaedetus by no means wishing to involve themselves in such a negotiation, while Deinon and Polyaratus were in favour of it. Finally they made an arrangement with Perseus about ransoming the prisoners.

Epirot Statesman to Perseus

15 1 Cephalus, who now came from Epirus, had previously had relations with the royal house of Macedon, and was now forced by circumstances to take the part of Perseus. 2 The reason for what happened was as follows. There was a certain Epirot called Charops, a man well principled in general and a friend of the Romans. At the time when Philip held the passes to Epirus, it was by his agency that the king had to abandon Epirus, and that Flamininus became master of it and worsted the Macedonians. 3 He had a son named Machatas who had a son also named Charops. 4 Upon the death of his father this Charops, while still a boy, was sent by his grandfather Charops with a retinue that befitted his rank to Rome to learn to speak and write Latin. 5 The boy made many acquaintances, and returned home after a  p517 certain time. 6 The elder Charops soon departed this life; and the young man, who was naturally ambitious and full of all kinds of cunning, became presumptuous and tried to thwart the leading men. 7 At first no notice was taken of him, but Antinous and the others, his superiors in age and reputation, administered public affairs as they thought best. 8 But when the war with Perseus broke out, the young man at once began to traduce these statesmen to the Romans, taking advantage of their former relations with the house of Macedon, 9 and now by scrutinizing all their actions, and putting the worst interpretation on all they said or did, suppressing some things and adding others, he made out a plausible case against them. 10 Cephalus, who was in general a wise and consistent man, had now also at this crisis adopted the very best attitude. 11 For at first he had prayed to Heaven that there should be no war and no such decision of the issues; 12 and now, during the course of the war, he desired to act justly by Rome according to the terms of their alliance, but beyond this neither to fall foul of the Romans by any unworthy action nor to be unduly subservient to them. 13 When Charops continued to be active in his accusations against Cephalus, and represented everything that occurred contrary to the wish of the Romans as the result of his deliberate malice, Cephalus at first made light of it, as he was not conscious of having acted in any way in a manner inimical to Rome; 14 but when he saw that Hippolochus, Nicander, and Lochagus the Aetolians were arrested and carried to Rome after the cavalry action for no valid reason, and that  p519 credence was given to the false accusations brought against them by Lyciscus, who was pursuing in Aetolia the same course as Charops in Epirus; 15 then foreseeing what would happen, he took thought for his own safety. He resolved, in consequence, to take any measures rather than allow himself to be arrested and sent to Rome without trial, owing to the false accusations of Charops. 16 This is why, against his conviction, Cephalus found himself compelled to side with Perseus.

Attempt to seize the Consul

16 1 Theodotus and Philostratus in the opinion of all were guilty of a wicked and treacherous action. 2 For learning that Aulus Hostilius the Roman consul was present in Epirus on his way to his army in Thessaly, and thinking that if they delivered him up to Perseus they would be giving the king a signal pledge of their fidelity and would inflict great present injury on the Romans, they wrote repeatedly to Perseus to hasten his arrival. 3 The king wished to advance at once and join them; but as the Molotti had occupied the bridge over the river Aoüs, his design was checked, and he was forced in the first place to fight with this tribe. 4 Hostilius, as it happened, had reached Phanata, and was staying there with Nestor the Cropian, which gave an excellent opportunity to his enemies; and, had not a mere chance determined for the better, I do not think he could have escaped. 5 But now, in some mysterious manner, Nestor divined what was brewing, and made him at once leave for Gitana by night. 6 Renouncing, henceforth, his design of marching through Epirus,  p521 he took ship, and sailing to Anticyra started from there for Thessaly.

IV. Affairs of Asia º

Pharnaces, King of Pontus

17 1 Pharnaces surpassed all previous kings in his contempt for laws.

Attalus and Eumenes

18 1 Attalus was wintering in Elatea, and well knowing that his brother Eumenes was exceedingly hurt by all the most brilliant distinctions conferred on him having been cancelled by a public decree of the Peloponnesians, but that he concealed from every one the state of his feelings, decided on sending a message to certain Achaeans with the object of procuring by his own action the restoration not only of his brother's statues but of the inscriptions in his honour. 3 This he did with the conviction that he would thus not only be conferring a very great favour on his brother, but would give the Greeks by this action a signal proof of his brotherly love and nobility of sentiment.

The War between Ptolemy and Antiochus

19 1 Antiochus, seeing that at Alexandria preparations were being made for the war concerning Coele-Syria, sent Meleager as his envoy to Rome with orders to inform the Senate and protest that Ptolemy was entirely unjust in attacking him.

20 1 Possibly in all human affairs we should regulate  p523 all our actions by opportunity, for opportunity is more powerful than anything else; and this is especially true in war, 2 for there it is that the balance shifts most abruptly from one side to the other. Not to avail oneself of this is the greatest of mistakes.

3 Many men, it would seem, are desirous of doing what is good, but few have the courage to attempt it, and very few indeed of these who do attempt it fully accomplish their duty in every respect.

The Loeb Editor's Note:

1 Possibly the son of Brachylles. He was a leader of the Macedonian party in Boeotia.

Thayer's Note:

a The English translation is faulty here; my thanks to George M. Hollenback for pointing it out. The Greek has — my emphasis —

τὸ δὲ βέλος τοιοῦτον· διπάλαιστον ἦν, ἴσον ἔχον τὸν αὐλίσκον τῇ προβολῇ. τούτῳ ξύλον ἐνήρμοστο τῷ μὲν μήκει σπιθαμιαῖον, τῷ δὲ πάχει δακτυλιαίαν ἔχον τῆν διάμετρον.

where διπάλαιστον is two palms (about 15 cm), not two cubits (about 90 cm). The error is confirmed by the Suda Online, Adler # Κ1434.

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Page updated: 29 Mar 22