Cornelius Nepos : Life of Pausanias

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.


III.   Aristides   


  [1] L   Pausanias the Lacedaemonian was a great man, but untrustworthy in all the relations of life; for while he possessed conspicuous merits, yet he was overloaded with defects. 2 His most famous exploit was the Battle of Plataea ; for it was under his command that Mardonius, a Mede by birth, satrap and son-in-law of the king, ** among the first of all the Persians in deeds of arms and wise counsel, with an army of two hundred thousand foot-soldiers that he himself had selected man by man, and twenty thousand horsemen, was routed by a comparatively small force of Greeks; and in that battle the leader himself fell. 3 Puffed up by this victory, Pausanias began to engage in numerous intrigues and form ambitious designs. But first of all he incurred criticism by consecrating at Delphi from the spoils a golden tripod, on which was a metrical inscription to this purport: that it was under his lead that the barbarians had been destroyed at Plataea and that because of that victory he gave that gift to Apollo. Those verses the Lacedaemonians erased and put in their place only the names of the cities with whose help the Persians had been defeated. **   

  [2] L   After that battle Pausanias again commanded the allied Greeks, being sent with a fleet to Cyprus and the Hellespont to dislodge the garrisons of the barbarians from those regions. 2 Having enjoyed equal good fortune in that expedition, he began to act still more arrogantly and to entertain still loftier ambitions. In fact, having at the taking of Byzantium captured several Persian nobles, including some relatives of the king, he secretly sent them back to Xerxes, pretending that they had escaped from the state prison; and with them he dispatched Gongylus the Eretrian, who was to deliver to the king a letter, which, as Thucydides has told us, contained the following message: 3 "Pausanias, the Spartan general, as soon as he learned that certain prisoners that he took at Byzantium were your relatives, has sent them to you as a gift, and desires to ally himself with your family. Therefore, if it please you, give him your daughter to wife. 4 If you do so, he guarantees that with your help he will bring Sparta and all Greece under your sway. If you desire to consider this proposal, see that you send him a trustworthy man with whom he may confer."   

  5 The king, greatly pleased at the recovery of so many intimate relatives, at once sent Artabazus to Pausanias with a letter, in which he thanked the Spartan and begged him to spare no pains to accomplish what he promised, saying that if he succeeded, there was nothing that the king would refuse him. 6 When Pausanias knew the monarch's intentions, he devoted himself with greater energy to perfecting his plans, and thus excited the suspicions of the Lacedaemonians. In consequence, he was recalled and tried for his life, and although he escaped death, he was compelled to pay a fine, and because of that he was not sent back to the fleet.   

  [3] L   But not long afterwards Pausanias returned to the army on his own account, ** and there he revealed his designs in a manner that was rather insane than adroit. ** For he abandoned, not only the customs of his country, but even its manner of life and dress. 2 He assumed royal splendour, the Medic garb; Persian and Egyptian attendants followed him. He dined in the Persian fashion, more extravagantly than his associates could tolerate. 3 He refused to give audience to those who wished to meet him, returned haughty answers, and exercised his authority cruelly. He refused to return to Sparta, but went to Colonae, a place in the region of the Troad; there he nourished plans that were ruinous not only to his country but to himself.   

  4 As soon as the Lacedaemonians learned of his conduct, they sent envoys to him with the staff, ** on which it was written after their fashion that if he did not return home, they would condemn him to death. 5 Troubled by this message, and hoping that even then he could avert the threatening danger by his money and his prestige, he returned to Sparta. On his arrival he was imprisoned by the ephors; for according to the laws of Sparta any ephor ** may so treat a king. ** However, he succeeded in effecting his release, but he was none the less under suspicion; for the opinion persisted that he had an understanding with the Persian king.   

  6 There is a class of men called Helots, who are very numerous; they till the fields of the Lacedaemonians and perform the duties of slaves. These too Pausanias was believed to be tempting by the promise of freedom. 7 But because, in spite of these circumstances, there was no direct charge which could be brought against him, the Lacedaemonians thought that a man of his position and distinction ought not to be brought to trial because of mere suspicions, but that they ought to wait until the truth revealed itself.   

  [4] L   Meanwhile a young man of Argilus, with whom when a boy Pausanias had had a love affair, having received from him a letter for Artabazus, suspected that it contained some allusion to himself, since none of the messengers who had been sent on similar errands ** had ever returned. Accordingly, he loosened the cord of the letter, broke the seal, and found that if he should deliver it, he was doomed to death; 2 the letter also contained references to the agreement between Pausanias and the king. This letter the young man handed over to the ephors.   

  3 We must not fail to observe the deliberateness of the Lacedaemonians on this occasion. Even this man's testimony did not lead them to arrest Pausanias, but they thought that no violence ought to be offered him until he actually betrayed himself. Accordingly, they made known to this informer what he was to do. 4 There is at Taenarum a temple of Neptune, which the Greeks deem it impious to violate. To this that informer fled and seated himself upon the altar. Near by they made a subterranean chamber, from which anyone who talked with the Argilian could be overheard, and there some of the ephors concealed themselves. 5 When Pausanias heard that the Argilian had taken refuge at the altar, he went there in a state of great anxiety; and finding him seated on the altar in the attitude of a suppliant of the god, he asked his reason for such a sudden determination. The youth told him what he had learned from the letter. 6 Pausanias, still more ** disturbed, began to beg him not to betray one who had always deserved well of him; adding that if he would do him that favour and aid him in the great difficulty in which he found hims elf, he would reward him generously.   

  [5] L   Upon getting this evidence the ephors thought it would be better to arrest him in Sparta. ** When they had left the place, and Pausanias, having won over the Argilian, as he thought, was on his way to Lacedaemon, in the course of the journey, just as he was on the point of being arrested, from the expression of one of the ephors, who wished to warn him, he perceived that they had designs upon him. 2 Accordingly, he took refuge in the temple of Minerva, surnamed Chalkioikos, ** outstripping his pursuers by only a few steps. To prevent his leaving the place, the ephors at once blocked up the doors of the temple and destroyed its roof, ** in order that he might the sooner die from exposure to the open heavens. 3 It is said that Pausanias' mother was living at the time, and that having learned of her son's guilt, in spite of her great age she was among the first to bring a stone to the entrance of the temple, to immure her own child. 4 He was half dead when taken from the precinct and at once breathed his last. Thus it was that Pausanias dishonoured his glorious career by a shameful end. 5 After his death some said that his body ought to be taken to the spot set apart for the burial of criminals; ** but the majority opposed this, and he was buried at a distance from the place where he had died. ** Later, in consequence of an oracle of Delphic Apollo, he was exhumed and interred on the very spot where he had ended his life.  

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1.   In reality he was a Persian and son-in-law of Darius, father of Xerxes. 

2.   The bronze serpents that supported the tripod, inscribed on their coils with the names of the  cities, are now in Constantinople. Thucydides (i. 132. 2) does not say that the tripod was of gold; that adjective is from Diodorus (xi. 33).   

3.   That is, without being appointed commander.   

4.   Nepos' striving for antithesis carries him too far, but no change seems necessary.   

5.   The skytalē, a means of secret communication used by the Spartan ephors. When a king or general left home, he was given a staff, or cylindrical piece of wood, exactly similar to one in the possession of the ephors. When they wished to communicate with him, they wound a narrow strip of leather in a spiral around the staff, and wrote their message on it along the length of the staff. When the thong was unrolled, only detached letters or fragments of words were seen; hut the person addressed could read the message by using his staff. See Gellius, xvii. 9. 6 ff.   

6.   It could be done only by the entire college of ephors (five in number), and at the time when Nepos wrote there were no kings at Sparta.   

7.   Pausanias was guardian of the young king Pleistachus, and hence acting as regent.   

8.   Super, = de, is suspicious; Wagner's emendation ('whenever there was any occasion') is attractive.   

9.   For this use of modo Halm compared Sallust, Jug. 47. 3 and 75. 1; or it may simply mean 'then' ('now' transferred to the past).   

10.   Since they did not venture to violate the shrine ; see 4. 4.   

11.   Lady of the Brazen House, so called because her temple was overlaid with plates of bronze. The goddess was Athena, but Nepoa, as usual, uses the Roman equivalent.   

12.   According to Thucydides (i. 134), it was not the temple, but a building within the sacred precinct, in which Pausanias sought asylum.  

13.   A ravine near Sparta, called kaiadas.   

14.   The passage is obscure and perhaps corrupt. Since Thucydides says that Pausanias was first buried near the kaiadas, procul may mean 'hard by,' as in Horace, Sat. ii. 6. 105 and Epist. i. 7. 32, and quo erat mortuus may be a gloss. The death of Pausanias took place soon after the condemnation of Themistocles; see ii. 8. 2, and note.  

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