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This webpage reproduces a portion of
The Library of History

Diodorus Siculus

published in Vol. XI
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1957

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,
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(Vol. XI) Diodorus Siculus
Library of History

 p203  Fragments of Book XXVII

1 1 Nabis,​1 the tyrant of Sparta, put to death Pelops, the son of the late king Lycurgus, who was at this time still a boy. This was a measure of precaution lest when he came of age the youth, emboldened by his noble birth, should some day restore his country's freedom. Nabis personally selected and put to death those Lacedaemonians who were most accomplished, and gathered from all sides hirelings of the basest stamp to defend his régime. As a result temple-robbers, thieves, pirates, and men under sentence of death streamed into Sparta from every direction. For since it was by impious deeds that Nabis had made himself tyrant, he supposed that only by such men could he be most securely guarded.

2 Nabis, the tyrant of Sparta, devised many forms of punishment​2 for the citizens, in the belief that by degrading his country he would enhance his own position. Indeed, when a knave comes to power he is not, I think, likely to bear his good fortune as a mortal should.

2 1 As pontifex maximus he was obliged by reason of  p205 his religious duties not to absent himself from the vicinity of Rome.3

2a In like manner Scipio, according to the account of Diodorus, set before the Sicilian aristocrats the choice of joining him in the expedition to Libya or of handing over to his men their horses and slaves.4

3 1 With a fleet of seven ships the Cretans began to engage in piracy, and plundered a number of vessels. This had a disheartening effect upon those who were engaged in commerce by sea, whereupon the Rhodians, reflecting that this lawlessness would affect them also, declared war upon the Cretans.

4 1 Pleminius, whom Scipio had appointed as governor of Locri,​5 tore down the treasure houses of Persephonê, for he was indeed an impious man, and he plundered and carried off their wealth. The Locrians, deeply outraged by this, appealed for protection to the pledged word of the Romans. Moreover, two of the military tribunes affected to be shocked at the offence. Their behaviour, however, was not motivated by any indignation at what was occurring; on the contrary, it was because they had failed to receive their share in the plunder that they now brought charges against Pleminius. 2 Divine Providence speedily inflicted upon one and all the punishment that their wickedness deserved. For  p207 indeed this temple of Persephonê is said to be the most renowned in all Italy and to have been kept inviolate by the men of the land at all times. 3 So, for example, when Pyrrhus brought over his forces from Sicily to Locri and, faced with his soldiers' demand for pay, was driven by lack of funds to lay hand on the treasures, it is said that such a tempest arose as he was putting out again to sea that he and all his fleet suffered shipwreck; Pyrrhus, smitten with fear and awe, thereupon made propitiation to the goddess, and delayed his departure until he had restored the treasures.

4 The tribunes, to resume, with pretence of righteous indignation now stood forth as champions of the Locrians, and began to inveigh against Pleminius and threaten to bring him to justice. The railings growing apace, they finally came to blows, and the tribunes, having knocked him to the ground, bit off his ears and nose and split open his lips. 5 Pleminius put the tribunes under arrest, subjected them to severe torture, and did away with them. The religious fears of the Roman senate were strongly aroused by the pillaging of the temple; moreover, the political opponents of Scipio, having found a suitable occasion for discrediting him, charged that Pleminius had acted throughout in accordance with his wishes. 6 The senate sent out an aedile and two tribunes of the people as commissioners, with orders to bring Scipio post-haste back to Rome if they should find that the sacrilege had been committed with his approval; otherwise, they were to allow  p209 him to transport his armies to Libya. While the commissioners were yet on the way, Scipio summoned Pleminius, put him in chains, and busied himself with training his army. The tribunes of the people were amazed at this,​6 and praised Scipio. 7 As for Pleminius, he was taken back to Rome, placed in custody by the senate, and, while still in prison, died; the senate confiscated his property and, after making up from the public treasury any deficiency in what had been stolen from the temple, dedicated it to the goddess. It was also decreed that the Locrians should be free, and that any soldiers possessing property belonging to Phersis​7 should, if they failed to restore it, be liable to death.

8 After these measures concerning the Pleminius affair had been voted as a gesture of goodwill towards the Locrians,​8 the men who had stolen most of the votive offerings and who now perceived the retribution which had befallen the tribunes and Pleminius fell a prey to superstitious fear. Such is the punishment that one who is conscious of wrongdoing suffers in secret, even though he succeed in hiding his guilt from other mortals. So now these men, tortured in spirit, cast away their plunder in an effort to appease the gods.

 p211  5 1 A lie told in the proper circumstances is sometimes productive of great benefits.9

6 1 When Syphax​10 and the others were brought before him in chains, Scipio promptly burst into tears at the sight, as he thought of the man's former prosperity and kingly state. After a short time, in keeping with his resolve to practise moderation even in the midst of success, he ordered Syphax to be loosed from his bonds, gave him back his tent, and allowed him to retain his retinue. While still holding him prisoner, though in free custody,​11 he treated him with kindness and frequently invited him to his table.

2 Scipio, having taken King Syphax prisoner, released him from his bonds and treated him with kindness.​12 The personal enmities of war should, he felt, be maintained up to the point of victory, but since a prisoner's lot had now befallen one of royal rank, he himself, being but human, should do nothing amiss. For there is, it would seem, a divine Nemesis that keeps watch over the life of man and swiftly reminds those whose presumption passes mortal bounds of their own weakness. Who then, with an eye to the fear and terror that Scipio inspired in the enemy, while his own heart was overcome by pity  p213 for the unfortunate, could fail to praise such a man? It is generally true, in fact, that men dreaded by their opponents in combat are apt to behave with moderation towards the defeated. So on this occasion Scipio soon won from Syphax gratitude for his considerate treatment.

7 1 Sophonba,​13 who was the wife first of Masinissa, then of Syphax, and who finally, as a result of her captivity, was reunited with Masinissa, was comely in appearance, a woman of many varied moods, and one gifted with the ability to bind men to her service. As a partisan of the Carthaginian cause she daily urged and entreated her husband with great importunity to revolt from Rome, for she was, indeed, deeply devoted to her country. Now Syphax knew this and informed Scipio about the woman, urging him to be on his guard. Since this tallied with the advice of Laelius as well, Scipio ordered her brought before him, and when Masinissa attempted to intercede, rebuked him sharply. Warily, Masinissa then bade him send his men to fetch her, but went himself to her tent, handed his wife a deadly potion, and forced her to drink it.

8 1 By his compassion towards those who had  p215 blundered,​14 Scipio rendered the alliance with Masinissa secure ever after.

9 1 Hannibal, having called together his allies, told them that it was now necessary for him to cross over into Libya, and offered any who might wish it his permission to accompany him. Some chose to cross with Hannibal; those, however, who were set on remaining in Italy he encircled with his army, and having first given his soldiers leave to take anyone they wished as a slave, he then slaughtered the rest, some twenty thousand men, as well as three thousand horses and innumerable pack animals.15

10 1 Four thousand cavalry, men who after the defeat of Syphax had gone over to Masinissa, now deserted to Hannibal. In an access of anger, Hannibal encircled them with his army, shot them all down, and distributed their horses to his own soldiers.16

11 1 Carthage being hard pressed for food, those citizens who were disgruntled and desired the abrogation of the treaty of peace​17 incited the populace to attack the ships and bring into port the cargo of provisions. And though the senate forbade them to  p217 violate the agreement, no one paid heed: "Bellies," they said, "have no ears."

2 Wrongdoing bore the semblance of right.

12 1 Scipio sent envoys to the Carthaginians,​18 and the mob all but put them to death. Men of wiser counsel, however, rescued them and sent them off with an escort of triremes. But the leaders of the mob at Carthage urged the admiral​19 to attack the envoys at sea after the escorting triremes turned back, and to kill them all. The attack took place, but the envoys managed to escape to the shore, and made their way safely back to Scipio. The gods swiftly made manifest their power to the wilful sinners. For the Carthaginian envoys who had been sent to Rome were driven by a storm on their return voyage to the very place where the Romans lay at anchor; and when they had been brought before Scipio there was a general outcry to retaliate on the oath-breakers. Scipio, however, declared that they must not commit the very crimes of which they were accusing the Carthaginians. Accordingly the men were released and made their way in safety to Carthage, marvelling at the piety of the Romans.

2 The Carthaginians, having previously wronged the Romans, were on a certain occasion driven by a storm into the hands of Scipio. Though there was a general outcry to retaliate on the oath-breakers, Scipio  p219 declared that they must not commit the very crimes of which they were accusing the Carthaginians.

13 1 To persuade men to a noble course of action is, in my opinion, of all things the most difficult, whereas words designed to please have wondrous power to suggest a semblance of advantage, even though they lead to the ruin of those who adopt such counsel.20

14 1 There is no honour in conquering the world by force of arms only to be overcome by anger directed against hapless wretches; nor yet in nursing a bitter hatred against the overweening if in prosperity we do the very things for which we blame others. Glory is the true portion of those who win success only when the conqueror bears his good fortune with moderation. When such men are mentioned everyone remarks that they are worthy of their laurels, but envy dogs those who forget their common mortality, and taints the glory of their success. It is no great thing to slay the suppliant at one's feet, no wondrous exploit to destroy the life of a defeated enemy. Not without reason do men win an ill repute when unmindful of the frailty of all things human they abolish the refuge that is the common privilege of all unfortunates.

15 1 An act of kindness avails men more than revenge, and gentle treatment of a fallen foe more than savage cruelty.

2 The more favourable the tide of fortune, the more one must beware of the Nemesis that watches over the life of man.

 p221  3 In the affairs of men nothing remains stable, neither the good nor the ill, since Fortune, as if of set purpose, keeps all things in constant change. It becomes us, therefore, to put aside our high conceits, and profit by the misfortunes of others to make our own lives secure; for the man who has used the fallen gently most richly deserves whatever consideration he himself meets in the vicissitudes of life. Undying praise commonly attends such men even from those not affected, and those who have actually received the favour cherish a feeling of gratitude such as it merits. Even a bitter enemy, in fact, if he find mercy, is transformed by the act of kindness, and straightway becomes a friend as he sees his own fault.

16 1 The intelligent man should see to it that his friendships are immortal, his enmities mortal. Thus most surely will it ensue that his friends will be legion, while those who are ill disposed will be fewer in number.

2 It is less essential that men who aspire to exercise authority should be superior to their fellows in other respects than that they should altogether surpass them in clemency and moderation. For whereas the fear engendered by conquest makes the conquerors an object of hatred, consideration for the defeated is productive of goodwill, and will be a stable bond of empire. It follows from this that the greater our concern for the future welfare of our country, the more we must beware of taking some harsh and irremediable action against those who have made voluntary submission to us. For everyone pities those who have succumbed to overwhelming misfortunes, even though there be no personal bond, and everyone hates  p223 those who make arrogant use of good fortune, even though they be allies. Each of us, I suppose, regards whatever is done as though it were done to him; he shares the resentment of the unfortunate, and begrudges the prosperity of the successful.

17 1 Whenever a city of the highest renown is thus pitilessly ravaged, then indeed do the current notions about these people​21 spread even more readily throughout the world, since men are never so ready to agree in praising noble actions as to join with one accord in hating those who behave savagely towards a fallen foe.

2 The failure to carry with due moderation whatever good fortune the gods grant usually produces many ill consequences.

3 Any occasion whatsoever is sufficient to prompt a change for the worse when men are unable to carry their good fortune with due moderation. Be warned, then, and see to it that we do not force these men, made desperate, into a display of bravery. Why, even the most cowardly beasts, which turn and run if a way be open, put up an incredible struggle when cornered; in like manner the Carthaginians continue to give way as long as they retain some hopes of safety, but once driven to desperation will stand and face any possible danger in battle. If death lies in store for them whether they flee or fight, death with honour will seem to them preferable to death and disgrace.

4 Life is full of the unexpected. In times of misfortune, therefore, men should take risks and pursue their venture even at great peril. But when the  p225 stream of fortune flows smoothly, it is not well to put oneself in jeopardy.

5 No one who has won control over a foreign people willingly resigns to others the command of his army.22

18 1 There is a vast difference, to my mind, between misfortune and misdoing, and we should deal with each of them in the way that is appropriate to it, as befits men of wise counsel. So, for example, a man who has blundered but yet has committed no great wrong may justly take refuge in the compassion that is extended to all unfortunates. On the other hand, the man who has sinned deeply and who has perpetrated deeds overcome and brutality that are, as they say, "unutterable," puts himself wholly beyond the pale of such human feelings. It is impossible that one who has proved cruel towards others should meet with compassion when he in turn blunders and falls, or that one who has done all in his power to abolish pity among men should find refuge in the moderation of others. To apply to each the law that he has set for others is no more than just.

2 One who in the name of the whole people has exacted vengeance from the common foe may, quite clearly, be considered a public benefactor. Just as those who destroy the more dangerous beasts win praise for contributing to the welfare of all, so now those who have curbed the savage cruelty of the Carthaginians and the bestial strain in humanity will by common consent gain the highest renown.

 p227  3 Everyone faces danger bravely when the hope of victory is well founded, but for one who knows in advance that he will be defeated safety lies only in flight and escape.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Nabis gained control of Sparta some time after the death of Machanidas at Mantinea in 207 B.C. Of royal blood, he was the most radical of the revolutionaries who arose in Sparta. Despite our uniformly hostile accounts, it is clear that he enjoyed broad popular support. The account is based on Polybius, 13.6‑8.

2 Including the notorious Image of Apega (named for his wife), an instrument of torture similar to the "Iron Maiden"; cp. Polybius, 13.7.

3 This refers to P. Licinius Crassus Dives, who was chosen as Scipio's colleague in the consulate for 205 B.C. in order to give Scipio a free hand as military commander. Livy (28.38.12) says only that the pontifex maximus was restricted to Italy, and, in fact, Crassus was assigned the region of the Bruttii as his province.

4 Cp. Livy, 29.1.

5 After the city had been recovered from the Carthaginians, Q. Pleminius, as legatus pro praetore representing Scipio, had led the liberating attack. The story given here is told in greater detail by Livy (29.8‑9 and 16‑22).

6 Rumour had it that Scipio's behaviour was "un-Roman" and that he had allowed military discipline to relax: cp. Livy, 29.19.10‑13 and 29.22.1‑6.

7 Phersis is probably an authentic form of the divine name: cp. F. Altheim, Archiv f. Religionswissenschaft, 27 (1929), 45.

8 This is the probable sense of the passage, which seems to have suffered excessive and inexpert condensation. As it stands in the Greek, the phrase "being well disposed towards the Locrians," is made to agree with "the men who had stolen."

9 This may refer to Scipio's false representations to his troops that Syphax had requested Roman aid in Libya; cp. Livy, 29.24.4‑7.

10 King of the Masaesyli in western Numidia. Though earlier at odds with Carthage, he later became her ally and was a determined opponent of the Romans.

11 The libera custodia of the Romans: see note in Vol. II, p487.

12 This sentence is apparently the excerptor's summary of the preceding fragment. The rest of the excerpt probably followed without a gap.

13 The daughter of Hasdrubal Gisgo, elsewhere called Sophoniba or Sophonisba. According to Zonaras (9.11) she was betrothed to Masinissa but then, for reasons of state, married to Syphax. Livy (30.12.11) implies that she first met Masinissa when he took her prisoner at Cirta. For the story of her death see Livy, 30.13.8‑15.8.

14 Livy. 30.15.9‑12, describes his efforts to console the impetuous Masinissa. Masinissa, now in his mid-thirties, was to remain the loyal friend of Rome and the implacable foe of Carthage till his death in 149 B.C. As king of Massylian or eastern Numidia, he was the hereditary enemy of his neighbour Syphax.

15 Cp. Livy, 30.20, and Appian, Hann. 59. The story of the massacre is probably fictitious, or at least grossly exaggerated.

16 Cp. Appian, Pun. 33.

17 The treaty was dictated by Scipio and accepted by Carthage in the autumn of 203 B.C. While the peace terms were being ratified in Rome, Hannibal returned to Africa, followed by Mago. The peace party in Carthage was then overthrown, and the attack on the Roman supply ships anchored in the Gulf of Tunes was the signal for a renewal of hostilities.

18 To demand redress for the attack on the ships: cp. Polybius, 15.1‑2; Livy, 30.25; Appian, Pun. 34‑35.

19 Hasdrubal, whose fleet was stationed near Utica: cp. Polybius, 15.2.

20 This and the following excerpts seem to be derived from the speeches of various parties in the Roman senate, and perhaps in part from those of the Carthaginian envoys. Cp. in general the debate at Syracuse in 413 B.C. over the Athenian prisoners (Book 13.20 ff.).

21 Probably the Romans, though the word could also be neuter, "these matters."

22 The text is difficult and possibly corrupt. The passage may refer to Scipio's reluctance to see another conclude the peace that he had won (cp. Livy, 30.36.11).

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