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This webpage reproduces a portion of the
De Genio Socratis


published in Vol. VII
of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1959

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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(Vol. VII) Plutarch, Moralia

De Genio Socratis

 p485  (594) 25 1 When Theanor had done, Epameinondas looked at me and said: "Caphisias, it is time, I believe, for you to go to the gymnasium and not disappoint your companions; Bwhen we decide to break up this gathering, we will look after Theanor ourselves."

"That I shall do," I replied; "but I think Theocritus here would like a few words with you, in the presence of Galaxidorus and myself."

"He shall have them; and good luck attend!" he said, rising and leading us to the angle in the colonnade. We gathered about and endeavoured to prevail upon him to join in the attack. He was perfectly well informed, he replied, of the day appointed for the exiles' return; indeed Gorgidas and he had organized their friends for the occasion.​149 But he would never put a countryman to death without trial unless driven to it by extreme necessity. Apart from this it was to the interest of democratic government at Thebes Cthat there should be some men not chargeable with the guilt of what was done: these would enjoy the greater confidence of the people, as their counsels would be less suspected of bias. With this we agreed; and he returned to Simmias and the company while I went down to the gymnasium and joined my friends. Shifting partners as we wrestled, we exchanged information and made arrangements  p487 for the execution of the plot. We also saw Archias and Philippus, freshly anointed, going off to dinner; for when Archias had returned after escorting Lysanoridas, DPhyllidas immediately took him into his house, fearing that Amphitheüs might be put to death before we could prevent it; and leading Archias to hope that the married woman he desired would come to the banquet, he prevailed on him to dismiss his cares and relax with the usual companions of his debauches.150

26 1 It was now late and growing colder, as a wind had arisen; and most of the townspeople had on this account withdrawn into their houses earlier than usual, when our group met and picked up Damocleidas, Pelopidas, and Theopompus, and other groups picked up the rest (for they had separated as far back as the crossing of Cithaeron); Eand the bad weather allowed them to muffle up their faces and pass through the city without fear. Some, as they entered the gates, saw a flash of lightning on the right, not followed by thunder; and the sign was taken to portend safety and glory — our acts would be brilliant and yet unattended with danger.151

27 1 Now when we were all in the house, to the number of forty-eight,​152 and Theocritus was taking sacrificial omens off in a room by himself, there came a loud pounding at the door. It was shortly announced that two officers of Archias, Fdispatched  p489 on urgent business to Charon, were knocking at the outer door and ordering it to be opened, and showed impatience at the delay in answering.​153 Charon, in great alarm, gave orders to open it at once, and going to meet them in person, with a chaplet on his head, as if he was in the midst of drinking after a sacrifice, asked the officers what they wanted.

The one replied: "Archias and Philippus have sent us with orders for you to report to them at once."

When Charon asked to what urgency this summons at such an hour was due and whether anything serious had happened, the messenger answered: "That is all we know. What shall we tell them?"

"Why, tell them," said Charon, "that I am laying my chaplet aside this moment and putting on my cloak and following after; for if I accompany you at this hour some people will take alarm, supposing me under arrest."

595 "Do so," the man answered; "it so happens that we have an order from the authorities to convey to the guards at the foot of the citadel."

With that they left. When Charon rejoined us with the news we were all struck with consternation, imagining ourselves betrayed; and most of us suspected that Hippostheneidas, after using Chlidon in his attempt to prevent the exiles' return, when this failed and the crisis was upon us, had in his fear denounced the plot (being a man who would be credited); for he had not come to the house with the rest and  p491 had on all counts, it was felt, shown himself base and treacherous. Still, we all felt that Charon should go Bin obedience to the summons he had received from the magistrates. He gave orders for his son to enter, the most handsome boy in Thebes, Archedamus, and most diligent in athletic exercise; he was, I should say, about fifteen years old, but far stronger and taller than others of his age. "Gentlemen," he said, "this is my only child, and very dear to me, as you know; I place him in your hands, adjuring all of you in the name of gods and daemons: if it should appear that I have played you false, kill him, show no mercy. For the rest, face what has befallen like the brave men you are; Cdo not surrender your bodies to unmanly and inglorious destruction by your bitterest foes, but fight back, keeping your souls unconquered​154 for your country's sake."

As Charon said this we were filled with admiration for his high heart and noble mind, but indignant at the thought of suspicion, and told him to take the boy away.

"In any case, Charon, said Pelopidas, "I think you were ill-advised in not removing your son to another house; for why should he be exposed to danger by being shut up with us here? Even now he should be sent away, so that, if anything happens to us, he may grow up in our place to be our noble avenger upon the tyrants."

D"That may not be," replied Charon; "here he shall stay and meet the danger with you; for him  p493 too it would be no honour to fall into the hands of the enemy. But, my son, be brave in this first trial before your age of the real business of fighting, and encounter peril at the side of many brave countrymen, with freedom and virtue as the prize; much hope yet remains, and doubtless some god is watching over us as we struggle for the right."

28 1 Tears came to the eyes of many of us, Archedamus, at his words; but he was dry-eyed himself and unmoved as he put his son into the charge of Pelopidas and passed through the door, taking every one by the hand and speaking words of encouragement. Even more admirable would you have found the boy's own radiance and fearlessness in face of danger; Elike Neoptolemus,​155 he neither blenched nor was dismayed, but drew Pelopidas' sword and studied it with care.

Meanwhile Cephisodorus, son of Diogeiton, one of our party, arrived, armed with a sword and wearing an iron corslet under his cloak. When he heard that Charon had been summoned by Archias, he blamed our delay and spurred us on to proceed to the houses at once; we should thus be upon them before they could attack, and failing that, it was better to get out into the open and engage with an enemy unorganized and scattered like ourselves than to remain where we were, Fconfining ourselves in a small room for them to collect like a swarm of bees. Theocritus the diviner also urged us to act, as his sacrifice promised deliverance and triumph and assured our safety.

 p495  29 1 We were arming and preparing for combat when Charon returned with a cheerful and smiling face, and looking us straight in the eye told us to be of good courage; there was nothing to fear, and our plans were working smoothly.​156 "When Archias and Philippus," he said, "heard that I had answered the summons, 596 they were already heavy with drink and their minds, like their bodies, had lost their vigour; it was all they could do to get up and come out to the door. 'We hear, Charon,' said Archias, 'that exiles have slipped into the city and are lying concealed.' At this I felt no ordinary alarm and asked: 'Where are they reported to be, and who are they?' 'We do not know,' he replied'; 'that is why we sent for you, to see if you had heard any more definite news.'

"Recovering my wits somewhat as from a blow, I reflected that the report was mere hearsay; Bthat our plot had not been denounced by anyone privy to it (for if someone knowing the true state of affairs had betrayed us, they would not be ignorant of the house); and that a mere suspicion or vague report circulating in the city had reached them. And so I replied: 'When Androcleidas​157 was alive I understand that spates of such idle rumours and false reports often gave us trouble, but at present,' I said, 'I have heard nothing of the sort, Archias; I shall however investigate the story, if you so direct, and if I hear of anything alarming it will be brought to your attention.'

 p497  " 'By all means do so, Charon,' said Phyllidas; 'omit no search or inquiry into this matter; Cfor what is to keep us from making light of nothing, but being everywhere cautious and vigilant? Forethought and circumspection are an excellent thing.' With this he took Archias in hand and led him back to the dining hall where they are now carousing.

"Then let us not delay, gentlemen," he said; "but address our prayers to the gods and go forth." When Charon had thus spoken we began praying to the gods and cheering one another on.

30 1 It was the hour when people are mostly at dinner; and the wind, growing stronger, had begun to bring on a fall of snow mixed with a thin drizzle, so that we found very few people abroad as we passed through the streets. The party appointed to attack Leontiades and Hypates, who lived near one another, went out in their mantles, taking none of their weapons but a knife each; Damong them were Pelopidas, Damocleidas, and Cephisodorus. Charon and Melon and their party, who were to set upon Archias, went out wearing the front plates of their corslets and crowned with bushy chaplets, some of silver fir and some of pine; a few were dressed in women's clothing. Thus the party represented a band of tipsy revellers in the company of women.158

Our worse fortune, Archedamus, which would have made all the indolence and blindness of the enemy  p499 a match for all our daring and preparation, and which had from the outset been enlivening the course of our enterprise, Elike the action of a play, with perilous incidents, now joined issue with us in the very moment of execution, involving us in a sudden and terrible ordeal that threatened unlooked-for disaster to our hopes. When Charon, on returning home from his encounter with Archias and Philippus, was disposing us for the attack, a letter came from Archias the hierophant here at Athens to the Archias at Thebes, his friend it appears and host, revealing the exiles' return, Ftheir plot, the house they had entered, and their confederates.​159 Archias, now quite overcome with wine and all agog, too, with his expectation of the women, took the letter in his hand, but when the messenger said that it concerned important business, remarked, "If business is important it can wait till tomorrow,"​160 and slipped it under his cushion. Calling for a beaker he ordered it filled and every moment kept sending Phyllidas to the street to see if the women were coming.

31 1 These were the hopes that had beguiled them over the wine when we came up and, forcing a way at once through the servants to the banqueting hall, stood for a moment at the door, looking over each of the company reclining there. 597 The sight of our chaplets and dress deceived them about our presence in  p501 the city and kept them quiet;​161 but when Melon, the first to make a move, set out through their midst, his hand on his sword hilt, Cabirichus, the magistrate appointed by lot, caught his arm as he passed and shouted: "Isn't this Melon, Phyllidas?" Melon, however, disengaged himself, drawing his sword as he did so, and rushing at Archias, who was having trouble getting to his feet, did not slacken his blows until he had killed him.

Philippus was wounded by Charon near the neck, and as he defended himself with the goblets set before him, BLysitheüs threw him from his couch to the ground and dispatched him.

We endeavoured to quiet Cabirichus, adjuring him not to lend aid to the tyrants but help us set his country free, as his person was sacred and consecrated to the gods in that country's behalf. But as he was not easily to be won over to the wiser course by an appeal to reason, the wine also having its effect, but was getting to his feet, excited and confused, and couching the spear our magistrates are accustomed to keep always with them, I seized it in the middle and raising it above my head shouted to him to let go and save himself, as he would otherwise be cut down; but Theopompus came up at his right and struck him with his sword, saying: C"Lie there with these you toadied to: may you never wear the chaplet when Thebes is free and never sacrifice again  p503 to the gods before whom you have invoked so many curses on your country in your many prayers for her enemies." When Cabirichus had fallen, Theocritus (who was standing near) caught up the sacred spear from the blood, while we dispatched the few servants who had ventured to fight back and locked up the rest, who made no resistance, in the banqueting hall, as we did not wish them to slip away and report what had been done Duntil we knew whether the other party had been successful.

32 1 That action too was carried out as I will describe. Pelopidas' party quietly went up to Leontiades' outer door and knocked, telling the slave who answered that they came from Athens with a letter for Leontiades from Callistratus.​162 The slave took the message and was ordered to open. When he had removed the bolt and partly opened the door, they all burst in together, bowled the fellow over, and dashed through the courtyard to the bedchamber. Leontiades guessed the truth at once, Eand drawing his dagger, prepared to defend himself; he was, it is true, an unjust and tyrannical man, yet firm of soul and stout of arm. He did not, however, determine to dash the lamp to the ground and close with his assailants in the dark, but was visible to them in the lamplight as he struck Cephisodorus in the side the instant the door opened and engaging with Pelopidas, who came next, called loudly for his servants. But these were held back by Samidas and the men with him, and did not risk coming to blows with opponents who were the most illustrious citizens  p505 of Thebes and excellent fighters. FPelopidas struggled and fenced with Leontiades in the doorway of the chamber; as the passage was narrow and Cephisodorus had fallen between the folding doors and lay there dying, the rest were kept from coming to his aid. Finally our champion, after receiving a slight wound in the head and dealing out many, struck Leontiades to the ground and killed him over the body of Cephisodorus, still warm with life, who saw his enemy fall, gave Pelopidas his hand, and when he had saluted the rest, serenely breathed his last. This done they turned their attention to Hypates, and gaining admittance by a similar stratagem, killed him as he fled over a roof-top to the neighbouring house.

33 1 598 From there they made haste to join us and met us outside the Porch of Many Columns. After exchanging greetings and talk we proceeded to the prison. Phyllidas called the gaoler out and said: "Archias and Philippus order you to bring Amphitheüs to them at once." The man, observing the unusual hour and that Phyllidas was not talking to him coolly, but was flushed with the combat and in a ferment, saw through the trick and asked: B"When have the polemarchs ever sent for a prisoner at such an hour? And when through you? What token of authority do you bring?" "This is my authority," said Phyllidas, and, as he said it, ran him through the body with a cavalry lance he held, striking down a  p507 vile fellow, on whom not a few women trod and spat the next day.

We then split down the gaol door and first called out the name of Amphitheüs and then those of the rest with whom we were severally connected. Recognizing our voices they leapt joyfully from their pallets, dragging their chains; and those whose feet were confined in the stocks stretched out their arms and cried out, begging not to be left behind. CWhile these were released, not a few of the people who lived near by were already joining us, getting wind of what was afoot and elated with it. The women, as one after another heard news of someone close to her, ran out into the streets to meet one another, unmindful of our Boeotian manners, and made inquiries of the passers-by. Those who had found a father or husband followed along, no one stopping them; for all who met them were mightily swayed by their own pity and the tears and entreaties of decent women.

34 1 This was the situation when I heard that Epameinondas and Gorgidas were already Dassembling with their friends at the temple of Athena and went to find them. Many brave citizens had gathered there and more and more kept arriving.​163 When I had given them a full account of what had passed, urging them to go to the market place and reinforce us, all of them at once set to summoning the citizenry to rally to the cause of liberty. The crowds that then formed found weapons in the colonnades, which were  p509 full of trophies of all kinds, and in the workshops of the cutlers who dwelt near by. Hippostheneidas too appeared with his friends and servants, bringing the trumpeters who happened to be in town for the festival of Heracles. EThey at once set to blowing their trumpets, some in the market place, others elsewhere, from all sides filling our opponents with alarm as if the whole city had risen. The partisans of Sparta fled from the town to the Cadmeia, drawing along with them the so‑called "Incomparables," a body of men whose custom it was to bivouac nightly at the foot of the citadel. The garrison on the height, with this disordered and terrified rout pouring in, and with us visible to them down in the market place, no quarter remaining quiet, but noises and the sounds of tumult being borne up to them from all sides, Fwere in no mood to descend into the town, although fifteen hundred strong, but were terror-struck and took refuge in the pretext that they were waiting for Lysanoridas, who had promised to return that day.​164 For this reason he was later sentenced by the Spartan Elders to a large fine; Herippidas and Arcesus were put to death by them the moment they were apprehended in Corinth.​165 They surrendered the Cadmeia to us under a truce and set about withdrawing with their forces.

The Editor's Notes:

149 Epameinondas and Gorgidas appear on the scene with their band of followers after the assassinations: cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. xii.2 (284B) and 598C, infra.

150 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. ix.4 (282B).

151 Cf. Xenophon, Hell. V.4.3 ff.

152 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. ix.3 (282A).

153 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. ix.8 (282C).

154 The Stoics defined eupsychia (valour) as a science that keeps the soul unconquered (Stoicorum Vet. Frag. III.264, p64.38 f., 269, p66.19 von Arnim).

155 The son of Achilles: cf. Homer, Od. XI.528‑530:

"Him never have I seen

Blench from his ruddy hue, or from his cheek

Brush off the coward tears."

156 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. x.1‑5 (282F-283A).

157 A Theban exile assassinated at Athens at Leontiades' command: cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. vi.3 (280E).

158 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. xi.1‑2 (283C‑D).

159 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. x.6‑10 (283B‑C); Nepos, Pelopidas, chap. iii; Paroem. Gr. I, p404.

160 Cf. Mor. 619D‑E.

161 In the Life of Pelopidas (chap. xi.3, 283D) the appearance of the supposed women is greeted with shouts and applause.

162 Doubtless the well-known Athenian statesman. That he was no friend of Thebes can be gathered from Mor. 810F.

163 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. xii.1‑4 (284A‑C) for the remaining scenes of the night.

164 Lysanoridas had gone to Haliartus: cf. 578A, supra.

165 Cf. Life of Pelopidas, chap. xiii.3 (284D).

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