Plutarch: Life of Phocion

Chapters 19 - 38

Translated by John & William Langhorne (1770). A few words and spellings have been changed.
The chapter numbers are shown in red.

Phocion was an Athenian statesman and general, who was prominent from 348 B.C. onwards, until he was condemned to death in 318 B.C.

← Previous chapters (1 - 18)

[19] Of his first wife we have no account, except that she was sister to Cephisodotus the statuary. The other was a woman, no less celebrated among the Athenians for her modesty, prudence, and simplicity of manners, than Phocion himself was for his probity. 2 It happened one day, when some new tragedians were to act before a full audience, one of the players, who was to personate the queen, demanded a suitable mask (and attire), together with a large train of attendants, richly dressed; and as all these things were not granted him, he was out of humour, and refused to make his appearance, by which means the whole business of the theatre was at a stand. 3 But Melanthius, who was at the charge of the exhibition, pushed him in and said, " You see the wife of Phocion appear in public with one maid-servant only, and do you come here to show your pride, and to spoil our women?" As Melanthius spoke loud enough to be heard, the audience received what he had said with a thunder of applause. 4 When this second wife of Phocion entertained in her house an Ionian lady, one of her friends, the lady showed her her bracelets, and necklaces, which had all the magnificence that gold and jewels could give them. Upon which the good woman said, " Phocion is my ornament, who is now called the twentieth time to the command of the Athenian armies."

[20] The son of Phocion was ambitious of trying his skill in the games of the Panathenaea, and his father permitted him to make the trial, on condition that it was in the foot-races; not that he set any value upon the victory, but he did it that the preparations and previous exercise might be of service to him; for the young man was of a disorderly turn, and addicted to drinking. 2 Phocus (that was his name) gained the victory, and a number of his acquaintances desired to celebrate it by feasts at their houses; but that favour was granted only to one. 3 When Phocion came to the house, he saw everything prepared in the most extravagant manner, and, among the rest, that wine mingled with spices was provided for washing the feet of the guests. He therefore called his son to him, and said, " Phocus, why do you suffer your friends thus to sully the honour of your victory ?"

4 In order to correct in his son entirely that inclination to luxury, he carried him to Lacedaemon, and put him among the young men, who were brought up in all the rigour of the ancient discipline. 5 This gave the Athenians no little offence, because it showed in what contempt he held the manners and customs of his own country. 6 Demades one day said to him, " Why do not we, Phocion, persuade the people to adopt the Spartan form of government? If you choose it, I will propose a decree for it, and support it in the best manner I am able." " Yes, indeed," said Phocion; " it would become you much, with all those perfumes about you, and that pride of dress, to launch out in praise of Lycurgus and the Lacedaemonian frugality."

[21] Alexander wrote to the Athenians for a supply of ships, and the orators opposing it, the senate asked Phocion his opinion. " I am of opinion," said he, " that you should either have the sharpest sword, or keep upon good terms with those who have."

2 Pytheas the orator, when he first began to speak in public, had a torrent of words and the most consummate assurance. Upon which Phocion said, " Is it for you to chatter so, who are but a novice amongst us?"

3 When Harpalus had treacherously carried off Alexander's treasures from Babylon, and came with them from Asia to Attica, a number of the mercenary orators flocked to him, in hopes of sharing in the spoil. He gave these some small taste of his wealth but to Phocion he sent no less than 700 talents; assuring him, at the same time, that he might command his whole fortune, if he would take him into his protection. 4 But his messengers found a disagreeable reception : Phocion told them that " Harpalus should repent it, if he continued thus to corrupt the city." And the traitor, dejected at his disappointment, stopped his hand. A few days after, a general assembly being held on this affair, he found that the men who had taken his money, in order to exculpate themselves, accused him to the people, while Phocion, who would accept of nothing, was inclined to serve him, as far as might be consistent with the public good. 5 Harpalus, therefore, paid his court to him again, and took every method to shake his integrity, but he found the fortress on all sides impregnable. Afterwards he applied to Charicles, Phocion's son-in-law, and his success with him gave just cause of offence ; for all the world saw how intimate he was with him, and that all his business went through his hands.

[22] Upon the death of his mistress Pythionice, who had borne him a daughter, he even employed Charicles to get a superb monument built for her, and for that purpose furnished him with vast sums. 2 This commission, dishonourable enough in itself, became more so by the manner in which he acquitted himself of it. For the monument is still to be seen at Hermos, on the road between Athens and Eleusis ; and there appears nothing in it answerable to the charge of 30 talents, which was the cost that Charicles claimed. 3 After the death of Harpalus, Charicles and Phocion took his daughter under their guardianship, and educated her with great care. 4 At last, Charicles was called to account by the public for the money he had received of Harpalus ; and he desired Phocion to support him with his interest, and to appear with him in the court. But Phocion answered, " I made you my son-in-law only for just and honourable purposes."

5 The first person that brought the news of Alexander's death was Asclepiades the son of Hipparchus. Demades desired the people to give no credit to it: " For," said he, " if Alexander were dead, the whole world would smell the carcass." And Phocion, seeing the Athenians elated, and inclined to raise new commotions, endeavoured to keep them quiet. 6 Many of the orators, however, ascended the rostrum, and assured the people that the tidings of Asclepiades were true. " Well then," said Phocion, " if Alexander is dead to-day, he will be so to-morrow, and the day following; so that we may deliberate on that event at our leisure, and take our measures with safety."

[23] When Leosthenes, by his intrigues, had involved Athens in the Lamian war, and saw how much Phocion was displeased at it, he asked him in a scoffing manner, " What good he had done his country during the many years that he was general ?" " And do you think it nothing then," said Phocion, " for the Athenians to be buried in the sepulchres of their ancestors?" 2 As Leosthenes continued to harangue the people in the most arrogant and pompous manner, Phocion said, "Young man, your speeches are like cypress trees, large and lofty, but without fruit." 3 Hypereides rose up and said, " Tell us then, what will be the proper time for the Athenians to go to war." Phocion answered, " I do not think it advisable till the young men keep within the bounds of order and propriety, the rich become liberal in their contributions, and the orators forbear robbing the public."

4 Most people admired the forces raised by Leosthenes; and when they asked Phocion his opinion of them, he said, " I like them very well for a short race, but I dread the consequence of a long one. The supplies, the ships, the soldiers, are all very good; but they are the last we can produce." 5 The event justified his observation. Leosthenes at first gained great reputation by his achievements ; for he defeated the Boeotians in a pitched battle, and drove Antipater into Lamia. 6 On this occasion the Athenians, borne upon the tide of hope, spent their time in mutual celebrations and in sacrifices to the gods. Many of them thought, too, they had a fine opportunity to play upon Phocion, and asked him, " Whether he should not have wished to have done such great things?" " Certainly I should," said Phocion ; " but still I should advise not to have attempted them." 7 And when letters and messengers from the army came one after another, with an account of further success, he said, "When shall we have done conquering?"

[24] Leosthenes died soon after, and the party which was for continuing the war, fearing that if Phocion was elected general he would be for putting an end to it, instructed a man that was little known to make a motion in the assembly, importing, " That as an old friend and school-fellow of Phocion, he desired the people to spare him, and preserve him for the most pressing occasions, because there was not another man in their dominions to be compared to him." At the same time he was to recommend Antiphilus for the command. 2 The Athenians embracing the proposal, Phocion stood up and told them," He never was that man's school-fellow, nor had he any acquaintance with him; but from this moment," said he, turning to him," I shall number you amongst my best friends, since you have advised what is most agreeable to me."

3 The Athenians were strongly inclined to prosecute the war with the Boeotians, and Phocion at first as strongly opposed it. His friends represented to him, that this violent opposition of his would provoke them to put him to death. " They may do it if they please," said he; " it will be unjustly, if I advise them for the best; but justly if I should prevaricate." 4 However, when he saw that they were not to be persuaded, and that they continued to besiege him with clamour, he ordered a herald to make proclamation, "That all the Athenians above the age of puberty, who were not more than sixty years, should take five days' provisions and follow him immediately from the assembly to the field."

5 This raised a great tumult, and the old men began to exclaim against the order, and to walk off. Upon which Phocion said, " Does this disturb you, when I, who am eighty years old, shall be at the head of you ?" That short remonstrance had its effect: it made them quiet and tractable. [25] When Micion marched a considerable corps of Macedonians and mercenaries to Rhamnus, and ravaged the sea-coast and the adjacent country, Phocion advanced against him with a body of Athenians. 2 On this occasion a number of them were very impertinent in pretending to dictate or advise him how to proceed. One counselled him to secure such an eminence, another to send his cavalry to such a post, and a third pointed out a place for a camp. " Heavens !" said Phocion, " how many generals we have, and how few soldiers! "

3 When he had drawn up his army, one of the infantry advanced before the ranks, but when he saw an enemy stepping out to meet him, his heart failed him, and he drew back to his post. Whereupon Phocion said, " Young man, are you not ashamed to desert your station twice in one day: that in which I had placed you, and that in which you had placed yourself?" 4 Then he immediately attacked the enemy, routed them, and killed great numbers, among whom was their general, Micion. 5 The confederate army of the Greeks in Thessaly likewise defeated Antipater in a great battle, though Leonatus and the Macedonians from Asia had joined him. In this action Antiphilus commanded the foot, and Menon the Thessalian horse; Leonatus was among the slain.

[26] Soon after this Craterus passed over from Asia with a numerous army, and another battle was fought in which the Greeks were worsted. The loss, indeed, was not great; and it was principally owing to the disobedience of the soldiers, who had young officers that did not exert a proper authority. But this, joined to the practice of Antipater upon the cities, made the Greeks desert the league, and shamefully betray the liberty of their country. 2 As Antipater marched directly towards Athens, Demosthenes and Hypereides fled out of the city. 3 As for Demades, he had not been able, in any degree, to pay off the fines that had been laid upon him; for he had been convicted seven times for proposing edicts contrary to law. He had also been stripped of his rights, and banned from speaking in the assembly. But now, finding himself at full liberty, he moved for an order that ambassadors should be sent to Antipater with full powers to treat of peace. 4 The people, alarmed at their present situation, called for Phocion, declaring that he was the only man they could trust. Upon which he said, " If you had followed the counsel I gave you, we should not have had now to deliberate on such an affair." 5 Thus the decree passed, and Phocion was despatched to Antipater, who then lay with his army in Cadmeia, and was preparing to enter Attica.

His first request was, that Antipater would finish the treaty before he left the camp in which he then lay. 6 Craterus said, it was an unreasonable demand that they should remain there to be troublesome to their friends and allies, when they might subsist at the expense of their enemies. But Antipater took him by the hand, and said, " Let us indulge Phocion so far." 7 As to the conditions, he insisted that the Athenians should leave them to him, as he had done at Lamia to their general Leosthenes.

[27] Phocion went and reported this preliminary to the Athenians, which they agreed to out of necessity; and then returned to Thebes with other ambassadors, the principal of whom was Xenocrates the philosopher. 2 For the virtue and reputation of the latter were so great and illustrious that the Athenians thought there could be nothing in human nature so insolent, savage, and ferocious as not to feel some impressions of respect and reverence at the sight of him. 3 It happened, however, otherwise with Antipater, through his extreme brutality and antipathy to virtue ; for he embraced the rest with great cordiality, but would not even speak to Xenocrates ; which gave him occasion to say, " Antipater does well in being ashamed before me, and me only, of his injurious designs against Athens."

4 Xenocrates afterwards attempted to speak, but Antipater, in great anger, interrupted him, and would not allow him to proceed. 5 To Phocion's speech, however, he gave attention, and answered that he should grant the Athenians peace, and consider them as his friends, on the following conditions:- " In the first place," said he, " they must deliver up to me Demosthenes and Hypereides. In the next place, they must put their government on the ancient footing: when none but the rich were advanced to the great offices of state. A third article is, that they must receive a garrison into Munychia ; and a fourth, that they must pay the expenses of the war." 6 All the new deputies, except Xenocrates, thought themselves happy in these conditions. That philosopher said, " Antipater deals favourably with us if he considers us as his slaves; but hardly, if he looks upon us as freemen." 7 Phocion begged for a remission of the article of the garrison; and Antipater is said to have answered, " Phocion, we will grant you everything, except what would be the ruin of both us and you." 8 Others say, that Antipater asked Phocion, " Whether, if he excused the Athenians as to the garrison, he would undertake for their observing the other conditions, and raising no new commotions?" 9 As Phocion hesitated at this question, Callimedon, surnamed Carabus, a violent man, and an enemy to popular government, started up and said, " Antipater, why do you suffer this man to amuse you? If he should give you his word, would you depend upon it, and not abide by your first resolutions?"

[28] Thus the Athenians were obliged to receive a Macedonian garrison, which was commanded by Menyllus, a man of great moderation, and the friend of Phocion. But that imposition appeared to be dictated by a wanton vanity - rather an abuse of power arising from insolence than a measure necessary for the conqueror's affairs. 2 It was more severely felt by the Athenians on account of the time the garrison entered, which was the 20th day of the month of Boedromion, when they were celebrating the great mysteries, and the very day that they carried the [statue of] Iacchus in procession from the city to Eleusis. The disturbances they saw in the ceremonies gave many of the people occasion to reflect on the difference of the divine dispensations with respect to Athens in the present and in ancient times. 3 " Formerly," said they, " mystic visions were seen, and voices heard, to the great happiness of the republic, and the terror and astonishment of our enemies. But now, during the same ceremonies, the gods look without concern upon the severest misfortunes that can happen to Greece, and suffer the holiest, and what was once the most agreeable time in the year, to be profaned, and rendered the date of our greatest calamities."

4 A few days before, the Athenians had received an oracle from Dodona, which warned them to secure the promontories of Artemis against strangers. 5 And about this time, upon washing the sacred fillets with which they bind the mystic boxes, instead of the lively purple they used to have, they changed to a faint dead colour. What added to the wonder was, that all the linen belonging to private persons, which was washed in the same water, retained its former lustre.6 And as a priest was washing a pig in that part of the port called Cantharus, a large fish seized the hinder parts, and devoured them as far as the belly; by which the gods plainly announced, that they would lose the lower parts of the city next the sea, and keep the upper.

7 The garrison commanded by Menyllus did no sort of injury to the citizens. But the number excluded by another article of the treaty, on account of their poverty, from a share in the government, was upwards of 12,000. Such of these as remained in Athens appeared to be in a state of misery and disgrace; and such as migrated to a city and lands in Thrace assigned them by Antipater, looked upon themselves as no better than a conquered people transported into a foreign country.

[29] The death of Demosthenes in Calauria, and that of Hypereides at Cleonae, made the Athenians remember Alexander and Philippus with a regret which seemed almost inspired by affection. 2 The case was the same with them now as it was with the countryman afterwards upon the death of Antigonus. Those who killed that prince and reigned in his stead were so oppressive and tyrannical, that a Phrygian peasant who was digging the ground, being asked what he was seeking, said, with a sigh, " I am seeking for Antigonus." 3 Many of the Athenians expressed equal concern now, when they remembered the great and generous turn of mind in those kings, and how easily their anger was appeased: whereas Antipater, who endeavoured to conceal his power under the mask of a private man, a shabby cloak, and a plain diet, was infinitely more rigorous to those under his command, and, in fact, an oppressor and a tyrant. 4 Yet, at the request of Phocion, he recalled many persons from exile; and to such as he did not choose to restore to their own country, granted a satisfactory situation; for, instead of being forced to reside, like other exiles, beyond the Ceraunian mountains, and the promontory of Taenarus, he allowed them to remain in Greece and settle in Peloponnese. Of this number was Hagnonides the informer.

5 In some other instances he governed with equity. He directed the government of Athens in a just and candid manner ; raising the modest and the good to the most important positions, and excluding the uneasy and the seditious from all offices; so that, having no opportunity to excite troubles, the spirit of faction died away; and he taught them by little and little to love the country, and apply themselves to agriculture. 6 Observing one day that Xenocrates paid a tax as a stranger, he offered to make him a present of his freedom; but he refused it, and assigned this reason :- "I will never be a member of that government, to prevent the establishment of which I acted in a public character."

[30] Menyllus was pleased to offer Phocion a considerable sum of money. But he said, " Neither is Menyllus a greater man than Alexander, nor have I greater reason to receive a present now than I had then." 2 The governor pressed him to take it at least for his son Phocus; but he answered, " If Phocus becomes sober, his father's estate will be sufficient for him; and if he continues dissolute, nothing will be so." 3 He gave Antipater a more severe answer, when he wanted him to do something inconsistent with his probity. " Antipater"," said he, " cannot have me both for a friend and a flatterer." 4 And Antipater himself used to say, " I have two friends in Athens, Phocion and Demades : it is impossible either to persuade the one to anything, or to satisfy the other." 5 Indeed, Phocion had his poverty to show as a proof of his virtue; for, though he so often commanded the Athenian armies, and was honoured with the friendship of so many kings, he remained poor throughout his life; whereas Demades paraded with his wealth even in instances that were contrary to law; 6 for there was a law at Athens, that no foreigner should appear in the choruses upon the stage under the penalty of 1000 drachmas, to be paid by the person who gave the entertainment. Yet Demades in his exhibition produced none but foreigners, and he paid 1000 drachmas' fine for each, though their number was 100. 7 And when his son Demeas was married, he said, "When I married your mother, the next neighbour hardly knew it; but kings and princes contribute to the expense of your nuptials."

8 The Athenians were continually urging Phocion to persuade Antipater to withdraw the garrison; but whether it was that he despaired of success, or rather because he perceived that the people were more sober and submissive to government, under fear of that rod, he always declined the commission. The only thing that he asked and obtained of Antipater was, that the money which the Athenians were to pay for the charges of the war should not be insisted on immediately, but a longer term granted. 9 The Athenians, finding that Phocion would not meddle with the affair of the garrison, applied to Demades, who readily undertook it. In consequence of this, he and his son took a journey to Macedonia. It should seem, his evil genius led him thither, for he arrived just at the time when Antipater was in his last illness, and when Cassander, now absolute master of everything, had intercepted a letter written by Demades to Antigonus in Asia, inviting him to come over and seize Greece and Macedonia, " which," he said, " hung only upon an old rotten stalk," - so he contemptuously called Antipater. Cassander no sooner saw him, than he ordered him to be arrested; 10 and first he killed his son before his eyes, and so near, that the blood spouted upon him and filled his bosom; then, after having reproached him with his ingratitude and perfidiousness, he slew him likewise.

[31] Antipater, a little before his death, had appointed Polyperchon general, and made Cassander a chiliarch. But Cassander, far from being satisfied with such an appointment, hastened to seize the supreme power, and immediately sent Nicanor to take the command of the garrison from Menyllus, and to secure Munychia before the news of his father's death got abroad. 2 This scheme was carried into execution, and a few days after, the Athenians being informed of the death of Antipater, accused Phocion of being privy to that event, and concealing it out of friendship to Nicanor. 3 Phocion, however, was not concerned about it; on the contrary, he conversed familiarly with Nicanor, and by his efforts not only rendered him kind and obliging to the Athenians, but inspired him with an ambition to distinguish himself by exhibiting games and shows to the people.

[32] Meantime Polyperchon, to whom the care of the king's person was committed, in order to confound Cassander, wrote letters to the citizens, stating, " That the king restored to all Athenians their ancient and democratic form of government." 2 This was a snare he laid for Phocion; for, being desirous of making himself master of Athens (as soon appeared from his actions), he was sensible that he could not effect anything while Phocion was in the way. 3 He saw, too, that his expulsion would be no difficult task, when all who had been excluded from a share in the administration were restored, and the orators and public informers were once more masters of the tribunals.

4 As these letters raised great commotions among the people, Nicanor was desired to speak to them on that subject in the Peiraeus; and for that purpose entered their assembly, trusting his person with Phocion. 5 Dercyllus, who commanded for the king in the adjacent country, laid a scheme to seize him; but Nicanor, getting timely information of his design, guarded against it, and soon showed that he would wreak his vengeance on the city. 6 Phocion then was blamed for letting him go when he had him in his hands; but he answered, " He could confide in Nicanor's promises, and saw no reason to suspect him of any ill design." " However," said he, " be the issue what it may, l had rather be found suffering than doing what is unjust."

7 This answer of his, if we examine it with respect to himself only, will appear to be entirely the result of fortitude and honour; but when we consider that he hazarded the safety of his country, and, what is more, that he was general and a magistrate, I know not whether he did not violate a stronger and more respectable obligation. 8 It is in vain to allege that Phocion was afraid of involving Athens in a war, and for that reason would not seize the person of Nicanor; and that he only urged the obligations of justice and good faith that Nicanor, by a grateful sense of such behaviour might be prevailed upon to be quiet, and think of no injurious attempt against the Athenians. 9 For the truth is, he had such confidence in Nicanor, that when he had accounts brought him from several hands of his designs upon the Peiraeus, of his ordering a body of mercenaries to Salamis, and of his bribing some of the inhabitants of the Peiraeus, he would give no credit to any of those things. 10 Moreover, when Philomedes, of the borough of Lampra, got an edict made that all the Athenians should take up arms and obey the orders of Phocion, he took no care to act in pursuance of it till Nicanor had brought his troops out of Munychia and carried his trenches round the Peiraeus. [33] Then Phocion would have led the Athenians against him; but by this time they were become mutinous, and looked upon him with contempt.

At this juncture arrived Alexander, the son of Polyperchon, with an army, under pretence of assisting the city against Nicanor, but in reality to avail himself of its fatal divisions, and to seize it, if possible, for himself; 2 for the exiles who entered the town with him, the foreigners, and such citizens as had been stripped of their rights, with other mean people, resorted to him, and altogether made up a strange, disorderly assembly, by whose suffrages the command was taken from Phocion, and other generals appointed. 3 Had not Alexander been seen alone near the walls in conference with Nicanor, and by repeated interviews given the Athenians cause of suspicion, the city could not have escaped the danger it was in. 4 Immediately the orator Hagnonides singled out Phocion and accused him of treason, which so much alarmed Callimedon and (?) Charicles that they fled out of the city. Phocion, with such of his friends as did not forsake him, repaired to Polyperchon. 5 Solon of Plataea and Deinarchus of Corinth, who passed for the friends and confidants of Polyperchon, out of regard to Phocion, desired to be of the party ; 6 but Deinarchus falling ill by the way, they were obliged to stop many days at Elateia. In the meantime, Archestratus proposed a decree, and Hagnonides got it passed, that deputies should be sent to Polyperchon with an accusation against Phocion.

7 The two parties came up to Polyperchon at the same time, as he was upon his march with the king, near Pharygae, a town of Phocis, situated at the foot of Mount Acrorium, now called Galate. 8 Then Polyperchon placed the king under a golden canopy, and his friend on each side of him; and before he proceeded to any other business, gave orders that Deinarchus should be put to the torture and afterwards despatched. This done, he gave the Athenians audience ; 9 but as they filled the place with noise and tumult, interrupting each other with mutual accusations to the council, Hagnonides pressed forward and said, " Put us all in one cage, and send us back to Athens, to give account of our conduct there." The king laughed at the proposal; but the Macedonians who attended on that occasion, and the strangers who were drawn thither by curiosity, were desirous of hearing the cause, and therefore made signs to the deputies to argue the matter there. 10 However, it was far from being conducted with impartiality. Polyperchon often interrupted Phocion, who at last was so provoked, that he struck his staff upon the ground, and would speak no more. 11 Hegemon said Polyperchon himself could bear witness to his affectionate regard for the people, and that general answered, "Do you come here to slander me before the king?" Upon this the king started up, and was going to run Hegemon through with his spear; 12 but Polyperchon prevented him, and the council broke up immediately.

[34] The guards then surrounded Phocion and his party, except a few, who, being at some distance, disguised themselves and fled. 2 Cleitus carried the prisoners to Athens, under colour of having them tried there, but, in reality, only to have them put to death, as persons already condemned. 3 The manner of conducting the thing made it a more melancholy scene. The prisoners were carried in carts through the Cerameicus to the theatre, where Cleitus shut them up till the archons had assembled the people. From this assembly neither slaves, nor foreigners, nor persons who had been stripped of their rights, were excluded; the tribunal and the theatre were open to all. 4 Then the king's letter was read, the purport of which was, " That he had found the prisoners guilty of treason; but that he left it to the Athenians, as freemen, who were to be governed by their own laws, to pass sentence upon them."

5 At the same time Cleitus presented them to the people. The best of the citizens, when they saw Phocion, appeared greatly dejected, and, covering their faces with their mantles, began to weep. One, however, had the courage to say, " Since the king leaves the determination of so important a matter to the people, it would be proper to command all slaves and strangers to depart." 6 But the populace, instead of agreeing to that motion, cried out, " It would be much more proper to stone all the favourers of oligarchy, all the enemies of the people ;" after which no one attempted to offer anything in behalf of Phocion. 7 It was with much difficulty that he obtained permission to speak. At last, silence being made, he said, " Do you design to take away my life justly or unjustly ?" Some of them answering, " Justly," he said, " How can you know whether it will be justly if you do not hear me first ?" 8 As he did not find them inclined in the least to hear him, he advanced some paces forward, and said, " Citizens of Athens, I acknowledge I have done you injustice, and for my faults in the administration adjudge myself guilty of death ; but why will you put these men to death who have never injured you ?" 9 The populace made answer, " Because they are friends to you ;" upon which he drew back and resigned himself quietly to his fate.

Hagnonides then read the decree he had prepared, according to which the people were to declare by their suffrages whether the prisoners appeared to be guilty or not; and if they appeared so, they were to suffer death. [35] When the decree was read, some called for an additional clause for putting Phocion to the torture before execution; and insisted, that the rack and its managers should be sent for immediately. 2 But Hagnonides, observing that Cleitus was displeased at that proposal, and looking upon it himself as a barbarous and detestable thing, said, " When we take that villain Callimedon, let us put him to the torture; but, indeed my fellow-citizens, I cannot consent that Phocion should have such hard measure." 3 Upon this, one of the better disposed Athenians cried out, " You are certainly right; for if we torture Phocion, what must we do to you ?" 4 There was, however, hardly anyone who remained seated when the sentence of death was proposed: all the people stood to condemn them; and some of them even crowned themselves with flowers, as if it had been a matter of festivity. 5 With Phocion, there were Nicocles, Thudippus, Hegemon, and Pythocles. As for Demetrius of Phalerum, Callimedon, Charicles, and some others, who were absent, the same sentence was passed upon them.

[36] After the assembly was dismissed, the convicts were sent to prison. The embraces of their friends and relations melted them into tears; and they all went on bewailing their fate except Phocion. His countenance was the same as when the people sent him out to command their armies; and the beholders could not but admire his invincible firmness and magnanimity. 2 Some of his enemies, indeed, reviled him as they went along; and one of them even spat in his face; upon which, he turned to the magistrates, and said, " Will nobody correct this fellow's rudeness?" 3 Thudippus, when he saw the executioner pounding the hemlock, began to lament what hard fortune it was for him to suffer unjustly on Phocion's account. " What then !" said the venerable sage, " do you not think it an honour to die with Phocion?" 4 One of his friends asking him whether he had any commands to Phocus, his son; " Yes," said he, " by all means, tell him from me, to forget the ill treatment I have had from the Athenians." 5 And when Nicocles, the most faithful of his friends, begged that he would let him drink the poison before him ; " This," said he, " Nicocles, is a hard request; and the thing must give me great uneasiness ; but since I have obliged you in every instance through life, I will do the same in this."

6 When they came all to drink, the quantity proved not sufficient ; and the executioner refused to prepare more, except he had 12 drachmas paid him, which was the price of a full draught. 7 As this occasioned a troublesome delay, Phocion called one of his friends, and said, " Since one cannot die on free cost at Athens, give the man his money." [37] This execution was on the 19th day of the month of Munychion, when there was a procession of horsemen in honour of Zeus. As the cavalcade passed by, some took off their chaplets from their heads ; others shed tears as they looked at the prison doors; 2 all who had not hearts entirely savage, or were not corrupted by rage and envy, looked upon it as a most impious thing not to have reprieved them at least for that day, and so to have kept the city unpolluted on the festival.

3 However, the enemies of Phocion, as if something had been wanting to their triumph, got an order that his body should not be suffered to remain within the bounds of Attica, nor that any Athenian should furnish fire for the funeral pile. 4 Therefore no friend dared touch it; but one Conopion, who lived by such services, for a sum of money carried the corpse out of the territories of Eleusis, and got fire for the burning of it in those of Megara. 5 A woman of Megara, who happened to assist at the ceremony with her maid-servants, raised a cenotaph upon the spot, and performed the customary libations. The bones she gathered up carefully into her lap, carried them by night to her own house, and interred them under the hearth. At the same time she thus addressed the domestic gods: "You guardians of this place, to you I commit the remains of this good man. Do you restore them to the sepulchre of his ancestors, when the Athenians shall once more listen to the dictates of wisdom."

[38] The time was not long before the situation of their affairs taught them how vigilant a magistrate, and how excellent a guardian of the virtues of justice and sobriety they had lost. The people erected his statue in brass, and buried his remains at the public expense. 2 Hagnonides, his principal accuser, they put to death, in consequence of a decree for that purpose. Epicurus and Demophilus, the other two, fled from Athens, but afterwards fell into the hands of Phocion's son, who punished them as they deserved. 3 This son of his was, in other respects, a worthless man. He was in love with a girl who was in a state of servitude, and belonged to a trader in such matters ; and happening one day to hear Theodorus the atheist maintain this argument in the Lyceium, "That if it is no shame to ransom a friend, it is no shame to redeem a mistress," 4 the discourse was so flattering to his passion, that he went immediately and released his female friend.

5 The proceedings against Phocion put the Greeks in mind of those against Socrates. The treatment of both was equally unjust, and the calamities thence entailed upon Athens were perfectly similar.

Attalus' home page   |   29.02.16   |   Any comments?