Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 7/Chapter 3

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1But on this topic enough, perhaps, has been said to demonstrate the loyalty of the men of Phlius to their friends, their bravery in war, and, lastly, their steadfastness in maintaining their alliance in spite of famine.

B.C. 367-366. It seems to have been somewhere about this date that Aeneas the Stymphalian,[1] who had become general of the Arcadians, finding that the state of affairs in Sicyon was intolerable, marched up with his army into the acropolis. Here he summoned a meeting of the Sicyonian aristocrats already within the walls, and sent to fetch those others who had been banished without a decree of the people.[2] 2Euphron, taking fright at these proceedings, fled for safety to the harbour-town of Sicyon. Hither he summoned Pasimelus from Corinth, and by his instrumentality handed over the harbour to the Lacedaemonians. Once more reappearing in his old character, he began to pose as an ally of Sparta. He asserted that his fidelity to Lacedaemon had never been interrupted; for when the votes were given in the city whether Sicyon should give up her allegiance to Lacedaemon, "I, with one or two others," said he, "voted against the measure; 3but afterwards these people betrayed me, and in my desire to avenge myself on them I set up a democracy. At present all traitors to yourselves are banished--I have seen to that. If only I could get the power into my own hands, I would go over to you, city and all, at once. All that I can do at present, I have done; I have surrendered to you this harbour." That was what Euphron said to his audience there, but of the many who heard his words, how many really believed his words is by no means evident. 4However, since I have begun the story of Euphron, I desire to bring it to its close.

Faction and party strife ran high in Sicyon between the better classes and the people, when Euphron, getting a body of foreign troops from Athens, once more obtained his restoration. The city, with the help of the commons, he was master of, but the Theban governor held the citadel. Euphron, perceiving that he would never be able to dominate the state whilst the Thebans held the acropolis, collected money and set off to Thebes, intending to persuade the Thebans to expel the aristocrats and once again to hand over the city to himself. 5But the former exiles, having got wind of this journey of his, and of the whole intrigue, set off themselves to Thebes in front of him.[3] When, however, they saw the terms of intimacy on which he associated with the Theban authorities, in terror of his succeeding in his mission some of them staked their lives on the attempt and stabbed Euphron in the Cadmeia, where the magistrates and senate were seated. The magistrates, indeed, could not but indict the perpetrators of the deed before the senate, and spoke as follows:

6"Fellow-citizens, it is our duty to arraign these murderers of Euphron, the men before you, on the capital charge. Mankind may be said to fall into two classes: there are the wise and temperate,[4] who are incapable of any wrong and unhallowed deed; and there are the base, the bad, who do indeed such things, but try to escape the notice of their fellows. The men before you are exceptional. They have so far exceeded all the rest of men in audacity and foul villiany that, in the very presence of the magistrates and of yourselves, who alone have the power of life and death, they have taken the law into their own hands,[5] and have slain this man. But they stand now before the bar of justice, and they must needs pay the extreme penalty; for, if you spare them, what visitor will have courage to approach the city? Nay, what will become of the city itself, if license is to be given to any one who chooses to murder those who come here, before they have even explained the object of their visit? It is our part, then, to prosecute these men as arch-villains and miscreants, whose contempt for law and justice is only matched by the supreme indifference with which they treat this city. It is your part, now that you have heard the charges, to impose upon them that penalty which seems to be the measure of their guilt."

7Such were the words of the magistrates. Among the men thus accused, all save one denied immediate participation in the act. It was not their hands that had dealt the blow. This one not only confessed the deed, but made a defence in words somewhat as follows:

"As to treating you with indifference, men of Thebes, that is not possible for a man who knows that with you lies the power to deal with him as you list. Ask rather on what I based my confidence when I slew the man; and be well assured that, in the first place, I based it on the conviction that I was doing right; next, that your verdict will also be right and just. I knew assuredly how you dealt with Archias[6] and Hypates and that company whom you detected in conduct similar to that of Euphron: you did not stay for formal voting, but at the first opportunity within your reach you guided the sword of vengeance, believing that by the verdict of mankind a sentence of death had already been passed against the conspicuously profane person, the manifest traitor, and him who lays to his hand to become a tyrant. 8See, then, what follows. Euphron was liable on each of these several counts: he was a conspicuously profane person, who took into his keeping temples rich in votive offerings of gold and silver, and swept them bare of their sacred treasures; he was an arrant traitor--for what treason could be more manifest than Euphron's? First he was the bosom friend of Lacedaemon, but presently chose you in their stead; and, after exchange of solemn pledges between yourselves and him, once more turned round and played the traitor to you, and delivered up the harbour to your enemies. Lastly, he was most undisguisedly a tyrant, who made not free men only, but free fellow-citizens his slaves; who put to death, or drove into exile, or robbed of their wealth and property, not malefactors, note you, but the mere victims of his whim and fancy; and these were ever the better folk. 9Once again restored by the help of your sworn foes and antagonists, the Athenians, to his native town of Sicyon, the first thing he did was to take up arms against the governor from Thebes; but, finding himself powerless to drive him from the acropolis, he collected money and betook himself hither. Now, if it were proved that he had mustered armed bands to attack you, I venture to say, you would have thanked me that I slew him. What then, when he came furnished with vile moneys, to corrupt you therewith, to bribe you to make him once more lord and master of the state? How shall I, who dealt justice upon him, justly suffer death at your hands? For to be worsted in arms implies injury certainly, but of the body only: the defeated man is not proved to be dishonest by his loss of victory. But he who is corrupted by filthy lucre, contrary to the standard of what is best,[7] is at once injured and involved in shame.

10"Now if he had been your friend, however much he was my national foe, I do confess it had been scarce honourable of me to have stabbed him to death in your presence: but why, I should like to ask, should the man who betrayed you be less your enemy than mine? 'Ah, but,' I hear some one retort, 'he came of his own accord.' I presume, sir, you mean that had he chanced to be slain by somebody at a distance from your state, that somebody would have won your praise; but now, on the ground that he came back here to work mischief on the top of mischief, 'he had the right to live'![8] In what part of Hellas, tell me, sir, do Hellenes keep a truce with traitors, double-dyed deserters, and tyrants? 11Moreover, I must remind you that you passed a resolution--if I mistake not, it stands recorded in your parliamentary minutes--that 'renegades are liable to be apprehended[9] in any of the allied cities.' Now, here is a renegade restoring himself without any common decree of the allied states: will any one tell me on what ground this person did not deserve to die? What I maintain, sirs, is that if you put me to death, by so doing you will be aiding and abetting your bitterest foe; while, by a verdict sanctioning the justice of my conduct, you will prove your willingness to protect the interests not of yourselves only, but of the whole body of your allies."

12The Thebans on hearing these pleadings decided that Euphron had only suffered the fate which he deserved. His own countrymen, however, conveyed away the body with the honours due to a brave and good man, and buried him in the market-place, where they still pay pious reverence to his memory as "a founder of the state." So strictly, it would seem, do the mass of mankind confine the term brave and good to those who are the benefactors of themselves.

  1. Is this man the famous writer {o taktikos}, a portion of whose works, the "Treatise on Siege Operations," has been preserved [recently re-edited by Arnold Hug--"Commentarius Poliorceticus," Lips. Trubner, 1884]? So Casaubon supposed. Cf. "Com. Pol." 27, where the writer mentions {paneia} as the Arcadian term for "panics." Readers of the "Anabasis" will recollect the tragic end of another Aeneas, also of Stymphalus, an Arcadian officer. On the official title {strategos} (general), Freeman ("Hist. Fed. Gov." 204) notes that "at the head of the whole League there seems to have been, as in so many other cases, a single Federal general." Cf. Diod. xv. 62.
  2. See above, VII. i. 46.
  3. Or, "on an opposition journey."
  4. Lit. "the sound of soul."
  5. Or, "they have been judge and jury both, and executioners to boot."
  6. See above, V. iv. 2.
  7. Or, as we should say, "in violation of conscience."
  8. Or, "he was wrongfully slain."
  9. For this right of extradition see Plut. "Lys." xxvii.