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Book XII

This webpage reproduces a Book of
The Histories


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

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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Book XIV

(Vol. IV) Polybius
The Histories

 p411  Fragments of Book XIII

I. Affairs of Greece

The Aetolians

1 1 The Aetolians, owing to the long continuance of hostilities and owing to their extravagant way of living, became deeply in debt before anyone else or even they themselves were aware of it. 2 Being therefore naturally fond of making innovations in their own constitution they chose Dorimachus and Scopas to draw up laws, 3 as they saw that both of these men had revolutionary tendencies and that their fortunes were compromised in many financial transactions. Having been invested with this authority they drafted laws. . . .

1a Alexander of Aetolia, during the legislation of Dorimachus and Scopas, opposed their proposal, showing from many instances that where this weed​1 once took root it never stopped its growth until it had inflicted the greatest disaster on those who had once introduced it. 2 He begged them therefore not to keep their eyes only on their present relief from the obligations they had incurred but to look to the future too. 3 For it was, he says, strange indeed that on the battle-field they should give even their lives for the sake of their children's safety, but in the  p413 council chamber should take no thought for future times. . . .

2 1 Scopas, the strategus of the Aetolians, when he fell from the office by power of which he ventured to draft these laws, turned eagerly towards Alexandria for help, convinced that if his expectations in that quarter were realized he would repair his damaged fortunes and satisfy his soul's longing for gain. 2 He was unaware that as in the case of a dropsy the thirst of the sufferer never ceases and is never allayed by the administration of liquids from without, unless we cure the morbid condition of the body itself, so it is impossible to satiate the greed for gain, unless we correct by reasoning the vice inherent in the soul. The most conspicuous case of this was that of the very man of whom we are now speaking. 3 For when he reached Alexandria, in addition to the profit he drew from the force in the field which had been placed absolutely at his disposal, the king assigned him personally a daily pay of ten minae, while those serving under him in any command received one mina each. 4 Still he was not satisfied with this, but from the very first was so devoted to gain that at the end, arousing by his insatiate greed the aversion 5 of those even who ministered to it, he delivered his soul over to money.

Philip's treacherous Policy

3 1 Philip became addicted to that kind of treacherous dealings which no one indeed would say in any way became a king but which some maintain to be necessary in practical politics, owing to the  p415 present prevalence of treachery. 2 The ancients, as we know, were far removed from such malpractices. For so far were they from plotting mischief against their friends with the purpose of aggrandizing their own power, that they would not even consent to get the better of their enemies by fraud, 3 regarding no success as brilliant or secure unless they crushed the spirit of their adversaries in open battle. For this reason they entered into a convention among themselves to use against each other neither secret missiles nor those discharged from a distance, and considered that it was only a hand-to‑hand battle at close quarters which was truly decisive. Hence they preceded war by a declaration, and when they intended to do battle gave notice of the fact and of the spot to which they would proceed and array their army. But at the present they say it is a sign of poor general­ship to do anything openly in war. Some slight traces, however, of the ancient principles of warfare survive among the Romans. For they make declaration of war, they very seldom use ambuscades, and they fight hand-to‑hand at close quarters. 8 These reflections are occasioned by the excessive prevalence among our present leaders both in the conduct of public affairs and in that of war of a keenness for double dealing.

4 1 Philip, as if giving Heracleides a proper subject for the exercise of his talents, ordered him to think of the best means of damaging and destroying the navy of Rhodes, and at the same time sent envoys to Crete to provoke the Cretans and incite them to make war on Rhodes. 3 Heracleides, a born mischief-maker,  p417 thinking this commission a godsend and forming some kind of scheme in his mind, waited a little and then set out on his voyage and appeared at Rhodes. 4 This Heracleides was of Tarentine origin, his parents were vulgar mechanics and he possessed advantages admirably qualifying him to be a daredevil and arrant knave. 5 For he, to begin with, in his early years he had openly prostituted his person, but later he showed great sharpness and an excellent memory, and while he was a terrible bully and most bold-faced in dealing with his inferiors he was most obsequious to his superiors. He was originally expelled from his native town as he was suspected of a design of betraying Tarentum to the Romans, not that he had any political power, but because he was an architect and owing to some repairs they were making in the wall had been entrusted with the keys of the gate leading to the interior. He then took refuge with the Romans, but later when he was detected in sending letters and messages from the Roman camp to Tarentum and to Hannibal, he foresaw what would be the result and this time sought safety with Philip, 8 at whose court he acquired such credit and power that he was almost the chief instrument of the ruin of that mighty kingdom. . . .

5 1 The prytaneis of Rhodes, who already distrusted Philip owing to his treacherous conduct in the Cretan question, suspected that Heracleides also was involved. . . .


2 He appeared before them and offered an explanation of the reasons why he had deserted Philip.

3 "Philip," he says, "would put up with anything rather than that his design in this matter should be  p419 revealed to the Rhodians." By this means he also freed Heracleides from suspicion. . . .

4 In my opinion Nature has proclaimed to men that Truth is the greatest of gods and has invested her with the greatest power. 5 At least when all are trying to suppress her and all probabilities are on the side of falsehood, she somehow finds her own means of penetrating into the hearts of men and sometimes shows her power at once, sometimes after being darkened for years at last by her own force prevails and crushes falsehood, as happened in the case of Heracleides, King Philip's messenger to Rhodes. . . .

7 Damocles, who was sent with Pythion as a spy to Rome, was a handy tool, full of resources in the management of affairs.

Nabis, Tyrant of Sparta

6 1 Nabis, tyrant of the Lacedaemonians, who had now been in power for over two years, had not yet ventured to attempt any important enterprise, the defeat of Machanidas by the Aetolians being so recent, 2 but was occupied in laying the foundations of a lasting and oppressive tyranny. 3 For he utterly exterminated those of the royal houses​2 who survived in Sparta, and banishing those citizens who were distinguished for their wealth and illustrious ancestry, gave their property and wives to the chief of his own supporters and to his mercenaries, 4 who were for the most part murderers, rippers, highwaymen, and burglars. For such kind of people flocked sedulously to his court from all over the world, people who  p421 dared not set foot in their own countries owing to their crimes against God and man. 5 As he constituted himself their protector and employed these men as satellites and members of his bodyguard, it was evident that his rule would long be memorable for its wickedness. 6 Besides the abuses I have mentioned, not content with banishing the citizens, he left no place safe for them in their exile and no refuge secure. 7 For he sent men after some to slay them on their journey and killed others as they were returning from their country seats. 8 Finally, in the towns, renting through unsuspected agents the houses next door to those in which the exiles resided, he introduced Cretans into them, who breaking down the walls and shooting through the existing windows slew the exiles in their own houses either when standing or reposing, so that for the unhappy Spartans there was no place to fly to and no moment at which their lives were safe. 10 It was by these means that he destroyed the greater number of them. 7 1 He had also constructed a machine, if one can call such a thing a machine. 2 It was in fact an image of a woman richly dressed and was a very good likeness of the wife of Nabis. 3 Whenever he summoned any of the citizens before him with the design of extracting money from him he would begin by addressing him in kind terms, 4 pointing out the danger to which the city and country were exposed from the Achaeans and calling attention to the number of the mercenaries he was obliged to maintain to ensure the safety of his subjects, as well as to the amount spent on religious ceremonies and  p423 the public outlay of the city. If they yielded to these arguments it was sufficient for his purpose. 6 But if anyone refused and objected to pay the sum imposed, he would continue somewhat as follows: "Very possibly I shall not be able to persuade you, but I think this Apega of mine may do so" — this being his wife's name — 7 and even as he spoke in came the image I have described. 8 When the man offered her his hand he made the woman rise from her chair and taking her in his arms drew her gradually to his bosom.​3 Both her arms and hands as well as her breasts were covered with iron nails concealed under her dress. So that when Nabis rested his hands on her back and then by means of certain springs drew his victim towards her and increasing the pressure brought him at all in contact with her breasts he made the man thus embraced say anything and everything. 11 Indeed by this means he killed a considerable number of those who denied him money.

8 1 The rest of his conduct during his rule was similar and on a level with this. 2 For he participated in the acts of piracy of the Cretans, and through the whole of the Peloponnese he had plunderers of temples, highwaymen, and assassins, the profits of whose misdeeds he shared and allowed them to make Sparta their base of operations and their refuge. 3 But in one case some foreign soldiers from Boeotia who were paying a visit to Sparta tried to induce one of Nabis's grooms to leave with them, bringing away a white horse supposed to be the best bred animal in the tyrant's stables. 4 Upon the  p425 groom consenting and doing as they wished, Nabis's men pursued them as far as Megalopolis and catching them there at once took away the horse and the groom, no one offering any objection. When, in the next place, they tried to lay hands on the foreigners, the Boeotians at first demanded to be brought before the magistrates, and when no one paid any attention to their request, one of them called out "Help." 6 Upon this the populace collected and protested that the men should be brought before the magistrates, and now Nabis's men were compelled to release their prisoners and take their departure. 7 Nabis had been long on the look-out for some pretended grievance and a specious pretext for a rupture, and taking hold of this at once raided the cattle of Protagoras and some others. This was the origin of the war.

II. Affairs of Asia

Chattenia and the Gerraeans

9 1 Chattenia in the Persian Gulf is the third district belonging to the Gerraeans. It is a poor district in other respects, but villages and towers have been established in it for the convenience of the Gerraeans who cultivate it. . . .

4 The Gerraeans begged the king not to abolish the gifts the gods had bestowed on them, perpetual peace and freedom. The king, when the letter had been interpreted to him, said that he granted their request. . . .

5 When their freedom had been established, the Gerraeans passed a decree honouring Antiochus with  p427 the gift of five hundred talents of silver, a thousand talents of frankincense, and two hundred talents of the so‑called "stacte".​4 He then sailed to the island of Tylus and left for Seleucia. The spices were from the Persian Gulf.

[From the place-names quoted from this book it seems that it dealt chiefly with the war in Bruttium against Hannibal just before he left Italy, with Cretan affairs, and with a war waged by Philip in Thrace.]

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 We must understand χρεῶν ἀποκοραί, the cancelling of debts.

2 Some definition of λοιπούς has obviously dropped out.

3 The description of this "Maiden" has evidently been shortened by the epitomator, thus confusing the persons.

4 Oil of myrrh or cinnamon.

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Page updated: 29 Mar 22