Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 4 (of 4)

Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 4 (of 4)


Author: Plutarch, 46-120?
Greece — Biography — Early works to 1800
Rome — Biography — Early works to 1800
Plutarch’s Lives, Volume 4 (of 4)
Transcriber’s note:
Chapter numbers in the Index with question marks do not exist in the previous volumes.
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.


Translated from the Greek
Late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,


Formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,





Life of Agis 1
Life of Kleomenes 19
Life of Tiberius Gracchus (by G. Long ) 53
Life of Caius Gracchus (by G. Long ) 90
Comparison of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus with Agis and Kleomenes 115
Life of Demosthenes 119
Life of Cicero (by G. Long ) 146
Comparison of Demosthenes and Cicero 211
Life of Demetrius 215
Life of Antonius (by G. Long ) 263
Comparison of Demetrius and Antonius 348
Life of Dion 352
Life of Brutus (by G. Long ) 398
Comparison of Dion and Brutus 454
Life of Artaxerxes 458
Life of Aratus 485
Life of Galba 530
Life of Otho 556
Index 573



I. Many writers have very naturally conceived that the myth of Ixion, who is fabled to have embraced a cloud instead of Hera, and so to have begotten the centaurs, is really typical of ambitious men; for, although they aim at obtaining glory, and set before themselves a lofty ideal of virtue, yet they never succeed in producing any very distinct result, because all their actions are coloured by various human passions and prejudices, just as the herdsmen with their flocks say in Sophokles’s play:—

“We needs must serve them, though their lords we be,
And to their mute commands obedience pay.”

These verses really represent the state of those who, in order to obtain the empty title of statesmen and popular leaders, govern a country by following the caprices and impulses of the people. Just as the men stationed in the bows of a ship see what is coming before the steersmen, but yet look up to them as their chiefs and execute their orders; so they who govern with a view solely to their own popularity, although they may be called rulers, are, in truth, nothing more than slaves of the people.
II. An absolutely perfect man would not even wish for popularity, except so far as it enabled him to take part in politics, and caused him to be trusted by the people; yet a young and ambitious man must be excused if he feels pride in the glory and reputation which he gains by brilliant exploits. For, as Theophrastus says, the virtue which buds and sprouts in youthful minds is confirmed by praise, and the high spirit thus formed leads it to attempt greater things. On the other hand, an excessive love of praise is dangerous in all cases, but, in statesmen, utterly ruinous; for when it takes hold of men in the possession of great power it drives them to commit acts of sheer madness, because they forget that honourable conduct must increase their popularity, and think that any measure that increases their popularity must necessarily be a good one. We ought to tell the people that they cannot have the same man to lead them and to follow them, just as Phokion is said to have replied to Antipater, when he demanded some disgraceful service from him, “I cannot be Antipater’s friend and his toady at the same time.” One might also quote the fable of the serpent’s tail which murmured against the head and desired sometimes to take the lead, and not always follow the head, but which when allowed to lead the way took the wrong path and caused the head to be miserably crushed, because it allowed itself to be guided by that which could neither see nor hear. This has been the fate of many of those politicians who court the favour of the people; for, after they have once shared their blind impulses, they lose the power of checking their folly, and of restoring good discipline and order. These reflections upon the favour of the people occurred to me when I thought of its power, as shown in the case of Tiberius and Caius Gracchus, men who were well born, well educated, and began their political career with great promise, and yet were ruined, not so much by an excessive craving for popular applause as by a very pardonable fear of disgrace. They both received at the outset great proofs of their countrymen’s goodwill, but felt ashamed to remain as it were in their debt, and they ever strove to wipe out their obligations to the people by legislation on their behalf, and by their beneficent measures continually increased their popularity, until, in the heat of the rivalry thus created, they found themselves pledged to a line of policy in which they could not even pause with honour, and which they could not desist from without disgrace. The reader, however, will be able to form his own opinion about them from their history, and I shall now write, as a parallel to them, the lives of that pair of Laconian reformers, Agis and Kleomenes, kings of Sparta, who, like the Gracchi, increased the power of the people, and endeavoured to restore an admirable and just constitution which had fallen into desuetude; but who, like them, incurred the hatred of the governing class, who were unwilling to relinquish their encroachments and privileges. These Lacedæmonians were not indeed brothers, yet they pursued a kindred policy, with the same objects in view.
III. After the desire for silver and gold had penetrated into Sparta, the acquisition of wealth produced greed and meanness, while the use and enjoyment of riches was followed by luxury, effeminacy, and extravagance. Thus it fell out that Sparta lost her high and honoured position in Greece, and remained in obscurity and disgrace until the reign of Agis and Leonidas. Agis was of the Eurypontid line, the son of Eudamidas, and the sixth in descent from king Agesilaus, who invaded Asia, and became the most powerful man in Greece. This Agesilaus had a son named Archidamus, who fell in battle against the Messapians at the battle of Mandurium1 in Italy. He was succeeded by his eldest son Agis, who, being killed by Antipater near Megalopolis, and leaving no issue, was succeeded by his brother, Eudamidas; he, by a son named Archidamus; and Archidamus by another Eudamidas, the father of Agis, the subject of this memoir.
Leonidas, the son of Kleonymus, was of the other royal family, that of the Agiadæ, and was eighth in descent from Pausanias who conquered Mardonius at the battle of Plataea. Pausanias had a son named Pleistoanax, whose son was again named Pausanias. This Pausanias2 fled for his life from Sparta to Tegea, and was succeeded by his eldest son Agesipolis; and he, dying childless, by his younger brother Kleombrotus. Kleombrotus left two sons, Agesipolis and Kleomenes, of whom Agesipolis reigned but a short time, and left no children. Kleomenes succeeded his brother Agesipolis on the throne. Of his two sons, the elder, Akrotatus, died during his father’s lifetime, and the younger, Kleonymus, never reigned, as the throne was occupied by Areus3 the grandson of Kleomenes, and the son of Akrotatus. Areus perished in battle before Corinth, and was succeeded by his son Akrotatus. This Akrotatus was defeated and slain near the city of Megalopolis by the despot Aristodemus, leaving his wife pregnant. When she bore a son, Leonidas the son of Kleonymus was appointed his guardian, and, as the child died before reaching manhood, he succeeded to the throne although he was far from being an acceptable personage to his countrymen; for, though the Spartans at this period had all abandoned their original severe simplicity of living, yet they found the manners of Leonidas in offensive contrast to their own. Indeed, Leonidas, who had spent much of his life at the courts of Asiatic potentates, and had been especially attached to that of Seleukus, seemed inclined to outrage the political feeling of the Greeks by introducing the arrogant tone of an Oriental despot into the constitutional monarchy of Sparta.
IV. On the other hand, the goodness of heart and intellectual power of Agis proved so greatly superior not only to that of Leonidas, but of every king since Agesilaus the Great, that before he arrived at his twentieth year, in spite of his having been brought up in the greatest luxury by his mother Agesistrata and his grandmother Archidamia, the two richest women in Sparta, he abjured all frivolous indulgence, laid aside all personal ornament, avoided extravagance of every kind, prided himself on practising the old Laconian habits of dress, food, and bathing, and was wont to say that he would not care to be king unless he could use his position to restore the ancient customs and discipline of his country.
V. The corruption of the Lacedæmonians began at the time when, after having overthrown the Athenian empire, they were able to satiate themselves with the possession of gold and silver. Nevertheless, as the number of houses instituted by Lykurgus was still maintained, and each father still transmitted his estate to his son, the original equal division of property continued to exist and preserved the state from disorder. But a certain powerful and self-willed man, named Epitadeus, who was one of the Ephors, having quarrelled with his son, proposed a rhetra permitting a man to give his house and land to whomsoever he pleased, either during his life, or by his will after his death. This man proposed the law in order to gratify his own private grudge; but the other Spartans through covetousness eagerly confirmed it, and ruined the admirable constitution of Lykurgus. They now began to acquire land without limit, as the powerful men kept their relatives out of their rightful inheritance; and as the wealth of the country soon got into the hands of a few, the city became impoverished, and the rich began to be viewed with dislike and hatred. There were left at that time no more than seven hundred Spartans, and of these about one hundred possessed an inheritance in land, while the rest, without money, and excluded from all the privileges of citizenship, fought in a languid and spiritless fashion in the wars, and were ever on the watch for some opportunity to subvert the existing condition of affairs at home.
VI.. Agis, therefore, thinking that it would be an honourable enterprise, as indeed it was, to restore these citizens to the state and to re-establish equality for all, began to sound the people themselves as to their opinion about such a measure. The younger men quickly rallied round him, and, with an enthusiasm which he had hardly counted upon, began to make ready for the contest; but most of the elder men, who had become more thoroughly tainted by the prevailing corruption, feared to be brought back to the discipline of Lykurgus as much as a runaway slave fears to be brought back to his master, and they bitterly reviled Agis when he lamented over the condition of affairs and sighed for the ancient glories of Sparta. His enthusiastic aspirations, however, were sympathised with by Lysander the son of Libys, Mandrokleidas the son of Ekphanes, and Agesilaus. Lysander was the most influential of all the Spartans, while Mandrokleidas was thought to be the ablest politician in Greece, as he could both plot with subtlety and execute with boldness. Agesilaus was the uncle of King Agis and a fluent speaker, but of a weak and covetous disposition. It was commonly supposed that he was stirred to action by the influence of his son Hippomedon, who had gained great glory in the wars and was exceedingly popular among the younger citizens; but what really determined him to join the reformers was the amount of his debts, which he hoped would be wiped out by a revolution. As soon as Agis had won over this important adherent, he began to try to bring over his mother to his views, who was Agesilaus’s sister, and who, from the number of her friends, debtors, and dependants, was very powerful in the state, and took a large share in the management of public affairs.
VII. When she first heard of Agis’s designs she was much startled, and dissuaded the youth from an enterprise which she thought neither practicable nor desirable. However, when Agesilaus pointed out to her what a notable design it was, and how greatly to the advantage of all, while the young king himself besought his mother to part with her wealth in order to gain him glory, arguing that he could not vie with other kings in riches, as the servants of Persian satraps, and the very slaves of the intendants of Ptolemy and Seleukus possessed more money than all the kings that ever reigned in Sparta; but that, if he could prove himself superior to those vanities by his temperance, simplicity of life, and true greatness of mind, and could succeed in restoring equality among his fellow-countrymen, he would be honoured and renowned as a truly great king. By this means the youth entirely changed his mother’s mind, and so fired her with his own ambition, as if by an inspiration from heaven, that she began to encourage Agis and urge him on, and invited her friends to join them, while she also communicated their design to the other women, because she knew that the Lacedæmonians were in all things ruled by their women, and that they had more power in the state than the men possessed in their private households. Most of the wealth of Lacedæmon had fallen into female hands at this time, and this fact proved a great hindrance to the accomplishment of Agis’s schemes of reform; for the women offered a vehement opposition to him, not merely through a vulgar love for their idolised luxury, but also because they saw that they would lose all the influence and power which they derived from their wealth. They betook themselves to Leonidas, and besought him, as being the elder man, to restrain Agis, and check the development of his designs. Leonidas was willing enough to assist the richer class, but he feared the people, who were eager for reform, and would not openly oppose Agis, although he endeavoured secretly to ruin his scheme, and to prejudice the Ephors against him, by imputing to him the design of hiring the poor to make him despot with the plunder of the rich, and insinuating that by his redistribution of lands and remission of debts he meant to obtain more adherents for himself instead of more citizens for Sparta.
VIII. In spite of all this, Agis contrived to get Lysander appointed one of the Ephors, and immediately brought him to propose a rhetra before the Gerusia, or Senate, the main points of which were that all debts should be cancelled; that the land4 should be divided, that between the valley of Pellene and Mount Taygetus, Malea, and Sellasia into four thousand five hundred lots, and the outlying districts into fifteen thousand: that the latter district should be distributed among the Periœki of military age, and the former among the pure Spartans: that the number of these should be made up by an extension of the franchise to Periœki or even foreigners of free birth, liberal education, and fitting personal qualifications: and that these citizens should be divided into fifteen companies some of four hundred, and some of two hundred, for the public meals, and should conform in every respect to the discipline of their forefathers.

IX. When, this rhetra was proposed, as the Senate could not agree whether it should become law, Lysander convoked a popular assembly and himself addressed the people. Mandrokleidas and Agesilaus also besought them not to allow a few selfish voluptuaries to destroy the glorious name of Sparta, but to remember the ancient oracles, warning them against the sin of covetousness, which would prove the ruin of Sparta, and also of the responses which they had recently received from the oracle of Pasiphae. The temple and oracle of Pasiphae at Thalamae was of peculiar sanctity. Pasiphae is said by some writers to have been one of the daughters of Atlas, and to have become the mother of Ammon by Zeus, while others say that Kassandra the daughter of Priam died there, and was called Pasiphae because her prophecies were plain to all men. Phylarchus again tells us that Daphne the daughter of Amyklas, while endeavouring to escape from the violence of Apollo, was transformed into the laurel,5 which bears her name, and was honoured by the god and endowed by him with the gift of prophecy. Be this as it may, the oracular responses which were brought from this shrine bade the Spartans all become equal according as Lykurgus had originally ordained. After these speeches had been delivered, King Agis himself came forward, and, after a few introductory words, said that he was giving the strongest possible pledges of his loyalty to the new constitution; for he declared his intention of surrendering to the state, before any one else, his own property, consisting of a vast extent of land, both arable and pasture, besides six thousand talents of money; and he assured the people that his mother and her friends, the richest people in Sparta, would do the same.
X. The people were astounded at the magnanimity of the youth, and were filled with joy, thinking that at last, after an interval of three hundred years, there had appeared a king worthy of Sparta. Leonidas, on the other hand, opposed him as vigorously as he could, reflecting that he would be forced to follow his example, and divest himself of all his property, and that Agis, not he, would get the credit of the act. He therefore inquired of Agis whether he thought Lykurgus to have been a just and well-meaning man. Receiving an affirmative reply, he again demanded, “Where, then, do we find that Lykurgus approved of the cancelling of debts, or of the admission of foreigners to the franchise, seeing that he did not think that the state could prosper without a periodical expulsion of foreigners?” To this Agis answered, that it was not to be wondered at if Leonidas, who had lived in a foreign country, and had a family by the daughter of a Persian satrap, should be ignorant that Lykurgus, together with coined money, had banished borrowing and lending from Sparta, and that he had no hatred for foreigners, but only for those whose profession and mode of life made them unfit to associate with his countrymen. These men Lykurgus expelled, not from any hatred of their

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