Cornelius Nepos : Life of Chabrias

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.


XI.   Iphicrates   


  [1] L   Chabrias, the Athenian. This man also was rated as one of the greatest of commanders and did many deeds worthy of record. But especially brilliant among these was his device in the battle which he fought near Thebes, when he came to the aid of the Boeotians. 2 On that occasion, though the consummate leader Agesilaus felt sure of victory, since he had already put to flight the throngs of mercenaries, Chabrias checked him, forbade the phalanx, which was left ** unsupported, to abandon its position, and instructed the soldiers to receive the enemy's onset with buckler on knee and lance advanced. On seeing these novel tactics, Agesilaus did not dare to attack, but although his forces had already begun the charge, he sounded the recall. 3 This manoeuvre became so famous all over Greece that, when a statue was publicly erected to Chabrias in the agora at Athens, he chose to be represented in that position. The result was that after that time athletes, and artists as well, adopted appropriate attitudes for the statues which were set up in their honour when they had won victories.   

  [2] L   Now Chabrias carried on many wars in Europe as general of the Athenians; in Egypt he made war on his own responsibility. For having gone to the aid of Nectenebis, he secured for him the possession of his throne. 2 He did the same thing in Cyprus, but in that case he was officially appointed by the Athenians to aid Euagoras; and he did not leave the island until he had completely conquered it, an exploit by which the Athenians gained great fame. 3 In the meantime war broke out between the Egyptians and the Persians. The Athenians had an alliance with Artaxerxes; the Lacedaemonians sided with the Egyptians, from whom their king Agesilaus was making large sums of money. ** Chabrias, seeing this, and not wishing to yield the palm to Agesilaus in anything, went on his own responsibility to the aid of the Egyptians and was made commander of their fleet, while Agesilaus led the land forces.   

  [3] L   Then the prefects of the Persian king sent envoys to Athens, to remonstrate because Chabrias was warring against their king, acting as an ally of the Egyptians. The Athenians appointed a fixed time for Chabrias to return home, declaring that if he did not obey, they would condemn him to death. In consequence of this threat he returned to Athens, but remained there no longer than was absolutely necessary. 2 For he did not care to be under the eyes of his fellow-citizens, because he was living elegantly and indulging himself too generously to be able to avoid the distrust of the common people. 3 In fact, it is a common fault of great states which enjoy freedom that jealousy waits upon glory and that the people take pleasure in humbling those whom they see rising above the level of their fellows. Those of moderate means cannot regard with patience the good fortune of others who are rich. And it was for that reason that Chabrias, as long as he was able to do so, frequently absented himself.   

  4 And Chabrias was not the only one who was glad to leave Athens, but almost all the leading men felt as he did, believing that they would be free from suspicion to the extent that they withdrew from the sight of their countrymen. Accordingly, Conon spent a good part of his life in Cyprus, Iphicrates in Thrace, Timotheus in Lesbos, and Chares at Sigeum; it is true that Chares differed from the others in actions and character, but nevertheless he was both honoured and influential in Athens.   

  [4] L   Now Chabrias lost his life during the Social War ** in the following manner. The Athenians were attacking Chios. With the fleet was Chabrias in a private capacity , ** but his influence was greater than that of all who held command, and the soldiers looked to him rather than to their chiefs. 2 That position of influence hastened his death; for desiring to be the first to enter the port, he ordered his steersman to direct his ship to that point. In that way he brought about his own destruction; for when he had forced his way in, the rest of the ships did not follow. Consequently he was surrounded by the enemy coming from all sides, and although he fought valiantly, his ship was rammed and began to sink. 3 Even then Chabrias might have escaped by throwing himself into the sea, since the Athenian fleet was at hand to pick up swimmers; but he preferred to die rather than throw away his arms and abandon the ship in which he had sailed. The rest did not share that feeling, but saved themselves by swimming. He, however, thinking an honourable death preferable to a shameful life, was slain by the enemy's weapons in hand-to-hand combat. 

XIII.   Timotheus →



1.   Reliquam phalangem obviously does not mean 'the rest of the phalanx,' but the 'rest (of the army, namely) the phalanx'; cf. reliquos Pisidas, xiv. 6. 7. Alius is sometimes used in the same way; see Class. Phil. xxiii. pp. 60 ff.   

2.   See xvii. 7. 2 and 8. 6. The narration of events in 2 and 3. 1 is confused and inexact.   

3.   In 356 B.C. ; see note to xi. 3. 3.   

4.   That is, he was not commander-in-chief; he seems to have commanded a trireme.   

XIII.   Timotheus →

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