Cornelius Nepos : on Kings

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.


XX.   Timoleon  

  XXI.   ON KINGS   

  [1] L   These have been about all the generals of the Greek nation who seem worthy of mention, with the exception of kings; for upon kings I have been unwilling to touch, because the history of all of them has been related in another place. ** 2 But, after all, these ** are not very numerous. Now Agesilaus, the Lacedaemonian, had the title, but not the power, of a king, as was true of the other Spartans of that rank.   

  But of those who joined to their title absolute dominion, the most eminent in my estimation were the Persians Cyrus and Darius, son of Hystaspes, both of whom were private citizens who attained royal power through merit. Of these the former fell in battle in the land of the Massagetae; Darius died of old age. 3 There are besides three other eminent kings of the same nation: Xerxes and the two Artaxerxes, surnamed Macrochir, or 'Long-hand,' and Mnemon, or 'of Good Memory.' ** Xerxes owes his fame in particular to having made war on Greece by land and sea with the greatest armies within the memory of man; 4 but Macrochir is principally known for his imposing and handsome figure, which he enhanced by incredible valour in war; for no one of the Persians excelled him in deeds of arms. Mnemon, on the contrary, was celebrated for his justice; for when he had lost his wife through the crime of his mother, he confined the indulgence of his resentment within the bounds of filial piety. ** 5 Of these kings the two that bore the same name paid their debt to nature as the result of disease; the third was murdered by his prefect Artabanus.   

  [2] L   Now, among the people of Macedonia two kings far surpassed the rest in the glory of their deeds: Philip, son of Amyntas, and Alexander the Great. Of these the latter died a natural death at Babylon; Philip was murdered by Pausanias at Aegiae near the theatre, when he was on his way to see the plays. There was one celebrated Epirote king, Pyrrhus, who made war upon the Romans. 2 When he was attacking Argos, a town in the Peloponnese, he was killed by a blow from a stone. ** There was also one great Sicilian king, the elder Dionysius; for he was personally valiant and skilled in warfare, and besides - a quality rarely found in a tyrant - he was free from licentiousness, extravagance and avarice, in a word, from all passions except that for absolute and permanent dominion. That, however, led to cruelty; for in his desire to make his power secure he spared no one whom he suspected of threatening it. 3 Having made himself tyrant by valour, he retained his power with great good fortune. ** He was more than sixty years old when he died, leaving his realm in a prosperous condition. And in all those years he did not witness the death of any one of his descendants, although he had begotten children from three wives and had a great number of grandchildren.  

  [3] L   There were besides many kings among the friends of Alexander the Great, who assumed their power after his death, including Antigonus and his son Demetrius, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy. 2 Of these Antigonus was slain in battle, fighting against Seleucus and Lysimachus. A like death overtook Lysimachus at the hands of Seleucus; for they broke off their alliance and warred with each other. 3 But Demetrius, after giving his daughter in marriage to Seleucus, without thereby ensuring the permanence of their friendship, was taken captive and died a natural death in the custody of his son-in-law. 4 And not very long after that Seleucus was treacherously killed by Ptolemy, surnamed Ceraunus or 'the Thunderbolt,' to whom, when he was exiled by his father from Alexandria and was in need of help from others, Seleucus had given asylum. But Ptolemy himself, having made over his kingdom to his son while still living, by him, they say, was put to death.   

  5 Since I think that I have said enough about these kings, ** it seems fitting not to pass over Hamilcar and Hannibal, who are generally admitted to have surpassed all men of African birth in greatness of soul and in sagacity. 

XXII.   Hamilcar →



1.   In the book entitled De Regibus Exterarum Gentium; see Introduction, p. 357. In his second edition (see Introd., p. 359) Nepos here added an account of some kings who were also great generals.   

2.   That is, kings who were also generals.   

3.   Macrochir reigned from 464 to 426; Mnemon, from 405 to 359 B.C.   

4.   He banished her to Babylon.   

5.   It was a tile, hurled from a housetop by a woman.

6.   See x, passim.   

7.   In the book De Regibus Exterarum Gentium.   

XXII.   Hamilcar →

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