Cornelius Nepos : Life of Iphicrates

Translated by J.C. Rolfe (1929). Click on the L symbols to go to the Latin text of each chapter.   Click on ** to go to the translator's footnotes.


X.   Dion   


  [1] L   Iphicrates, the Athenian, gained renown by his great deeds, but still more by his knowledge of the art of war; for not only was he a leader comparable with the greatest of his own time, but not even among the men of earlier days was there anyone who surpassed him. 2 Indeed, a great part of his life was spent in warfare, he often commanded armies, and he never lost a battle through his own fault. It was always by knowledge of war that he gained his victories, and his knowledge was so great that he introduced many novelties in military equipment, as well as many improvements. 3 For example, he changed the arms of the infantry. While before he became commander they used very large shields, short spears and little swords, 4 he on the contrary exchanged peltae, or Thracian shields, ** for the round ones (for which reason the infantry have since been called peltasts), in order that the soldiers might move and charge more easily when less burdened. He doubled the length of the spear and increased that of the swords; he changed the character of their breastplates, giving them linen ones in place of bronze cuirasses or chain armour. In that way he made the soldiers more active; for while he diminished the weight of their armour, he contrived to protect their bodies equally well without overloading them.   

  [2] L   He waged war with the Thracians; he restored Seuthes, an ally of the Athenians, to his throne. At Corinth ** such was the strictness of his command of the army, that no troops in Greece were better drilled or more obedient to their leader; 2 and he made them form the habit, when the signal for battle had been given by the commander, without waiting for an officer's command to take their places in such good order that each man seemed to have been assigned his position by a most skilful general. 3 It was with that army that he annihilated a regiment ** of the Lacedaemonians, a feat which was highly praised all over Greece. On another occasion in that same war he put all their forces to flight, an exploit by which he gained great glory. 4 When Artaxerxes wished to make war on the king of Egypt, he asked the Athenians for Iphicrates as one of his generals, to command an army of twelve thousand mercenaries. That army the Athenian trained so thoroughly in all varieties of military discipline, that just as in days of old the soldiers of Fabius ** were called true Romans, so 'soldiers of Iphicrates' became a title of the greatest honour among the Greeks. 5 Again, having gone to the aid of the Lacedaemonians, he thwarted the designs of Epaminondas; for if his arrival had not been imminent, the Thebans would not have left Sparta until they had taken and burned the city. **  

  [3] L   He had, in addition to nobility of soul and great size of body, the aspect of one born to command, so that his appearance alone inspired admiration in all men; 2 but, as Theopompus has recorded, he was not steadfast enough in effort and he lacked endurance: nevertheless, he was a good citizen and the soul of honour. This was manifest both on other occasions and especially in protecting the children of Amyntas, the Macedonian; for after his death Eurydice, the mother of Perdiccas and Philippus, took refuge with Iphicrates with these two boys, and was defended with all his power. 3 He lived to a good old age, enjoying the devotion of his fellow-citizens. Only once did he have occasion to defend himself against a capital charge; that was during the war with the allies, ** in company with Timotheus, and he was acquitted.   

  4 He left a son Mnestheus, the offspring of a Thracian woman, the daughter of King Cotus. ** When Mnestheus was once asked whether he thought more of his father or of his mother, he answered: "My mother." When everyone expressed surprise at his reply, he added: "I have good reason for that; for my father did everything in his power to make me a Thracian; my mother, on the contrary, made me an Athenian." 

XII.   Chabrias →



1.   The clipeus and parma were round shields; the pelle, a light, crescent-shaped shield. Nepos apparently uses pro parma, instead of pro clipeo, for the sake of the alliteration.   

2.   In the Corinthian war, 393 to 391 B.C.   

3.   A mora consisted of from 400 to 900 men.   

4.   Doubtless referring to Q. Fabius Maximus Cunctator, the opponent of Hannibal. Wagner cites Livy xxii. 14. 11, vir ac vere Romanus. Romani alone sometimes has the same force; e.g . Livy vii. 13, 9, etc.   

5.   Cf. xvii. 6. 1, where Agesilaus, more justly, has credit for this.  

6.   The so-called Social War, 357-355 B.C. See xiii. 3. 1.   

7.   Cotys (Cotyis) is the proper form of the name.   

XII.   Chabrias →

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