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Translated from the Greek




_Late Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge_,


_Formerly Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge_,










LIFE OF CRASSUS (_By G. Long_.) 36
LIFE OF SERTORIUS (_By G. Long_.) 94
LIFE OF POMPEIUS (_By G. Long_.) 195
LIFE OF C. CÆSAR (_By G. Long_.) 379
LIFE OF CATO (_By G. Long_.) 500



As it appears to me that the life of Nikias forms a good
parallel to that of Crassus, and that the misfortunes of
the former in Sicily may be well compared with those
of the latter in Parthia, I must beg of my readers to
believe that in writing upon a subject which has been
described by Thucydides with inimitable grace, clearness,
and pathos, I have no ambition to imitate Timæus, who,
when writing his history, hoped to surpass Thucydides
himself in eloquence, and to show that Philistius was but
an ignorant bungler, and so plunges into an account of
the speeches and battles of his heroes, proving himself
not merely one

"Who toils on foot afar
Behind the Lydian car,"

as Pindar has it, but altogether unfit for the office of historian,
and, in the words of Diphilus,

"Dull-witted, with Sicilian fat for brains."

He often seeks to shelter himself behind the opinions of Xenarchus, as
when he tells us that the Athenians thought it a bad omen that the
general whose name was Victory refused to command the expedition to
Sicily; and when he says that by the mutilation of the Hennas the gods
signified that the Athenians would suffer their chief disasters at the
hands of Hermokrates the son of Hermon; or, again, when he observes
that Herakles might be expected to take the side of the Syracusans
because of Proserpine, the daughter of Demeter, who gave him the dog
Kerberus, and to be angry with the Athenians because they protected
the people of Egesta, who were descended from the Trojans, whereas he
had been wronged by Laomedon, king of Troy, and had destroyed that
city. Timæus was probably led to write this sort of nonsense by the
same critical literary spirit which led him to correct the style of
Philistius, and to find fault with that of Aristotle and Plato. My own
opinion is that to pay too much attention to mere style and to
endeavour to surpass that of other writers, is both trifling and
pedantic, while any attempt to reproduce that of the unapproachable
masterpieces of antiquity springs from a want of power to appreciate
their real value. With regard, then, to the actions of Nikias
described by Thucydides and Philistius, more especially those which
illustrate his true character, having been performed under the stress
of terrible disasters, I shall briefly recapitulate them, lest I be
thought a careless biographer, adding to them whatever scattered
notices I have been able to collect from the writings of other
historians and from public documents and inscriptions; and of these
latter I shall quote only those which enable us to judge what manner
of man he was.

II. The first thing to be noted in describing Nikias is the saying of
Aristotle, that there had been in Athens three citizens of great
ability and patriotism, namely, Nikias, the son of Nikeratus,
Thucydides, the son of Melesias, and Theramenes, the son of Hagnon;
though the latter was not equal to the two former, but was reproached
with being a foreigner from the island of Keos; and, also, because he
was not a stable politician but always inclined to change sides, he
was nicknamed Kothornos, which means a large boot which will fit
either leg. Of these three statesmen the eldest was Thucydides, who
was the leader of the conservative opposition to Perikles; while
Nikias, who was a younger man, rose to a certain eminence during the
life of Perikles, as he acted as his colleague in the command of a
military force, and also filled the office of archon. On the death of
Perikles, Nikias at once became the foremost man in Athens, chiefly by
the favour of the rich and noble, who wished to make use of him to
check the plebeian insolence of Kleon; yet Nikias had the good-will
of the common people, and they were eager to further his interests.
Kleon, indeed, became very powerful by caressing the people and giving
them opportunities for earning money from the State, but in spite of
this, many of the lower classes whose favour he especially strove to
obtain, became disgusted with, his greed and insolence, and preferred
to attach themselves to Nikias. Indeed, there was nothing harsh or
overbearing in the pride of Nikias, which arose chiefly from his fear
of being thought to be currying favour with the people. By nature he
was downhearted and prone to despair, but in war these qualities were
concealed by his invariable success in whatever enterprise he
undertook; while in political life his retiring manner and his dread
of the vulgar demagogues, by whom he was easily put out of
countenance, added to his popularity; for the people fear those who
treat them with haughtiness, and favour those who respect and fear
them. The reason of this is that the greatest honour which the
populace can receive from a great man is not to be treated with
contempt by him.

III. Perikles, indeed, used to govern Athens by sheer force of
character and eloquence, and required no tricks of manner or plausible
speeches to gain him credit with the populace; but Nikias had no
natural gifts of this sort, and owed his position merely to his
wealth. As he could not vie with Kleon in the versatile and humorous
power of speech by which the latter swayed the Athenian masses, he
endeavoured to gain the favour of the people by supplying choruses for
the public dramatic performances and instituting athletic sports on a
scale of lavish expenditure which never before had been equalled by
any citizen. The statue of Pallas, erected by him in the Acropolis, is
standing at this day, although it has lost the gold with which it was
formerly adorned, and also the building which supports the choragic
tripods in the temple of Dionysus, for he often gained a victory when
choragus, and never was vanquished.

It is said that once during the performance of a play at his expense,
a slave of his appeared upon the stage habited as Dionysus; a tall and
handsome youth, and still beardless. The Athenians were charmed with
his appearance, and applauded for a long time, at the end of which
Nikias rose and said that he did not think it right that one whose
body was thus consecrated to a god should be a slave; and consequently
he gave him his freedom. Tradition also tells us how magnificently and
decorously he arranged the procession at Delos. In former times the
choruses sent by the cities of Ionia to sing to the glory of the god
used to sail up to the island in a disorderly fashion, and were at
once met by a rude mob, who called upon, them to sing, so that they
disembarked in a hurry, huddling on their garlands and robes with
unseemly haste and confusion. Nikias disembarked with his chorus upon
the little island of Rhenea close by, with all their vestments and
holy things, and then during the night bridged the strait - which is
very narrow - with a bridge of boats which he had had made at Athens
expressly, which was beautifully ornamented with gilding and rich
tapestry. Next morning at daybreak, he led the procession to the god
over this bridge, with his chorus very richly dressed, and singing as
they passed over the strait. After the sacrifice, the public games,
and the banquet, he set up the brazen palm-tree as an offering to the
god, and also set apart an estate which he had bought for ten thousand
drachmas, as sacred to the god. With the revenues of this land the
people of Delos were to offer sacrifice and to provide themselves with
a feast, and were to pray the gods to bestow blessings on Nikias. All
these injunctions to the people of Delos were inscribed upon a pillar
which he left there to guard his bequest. The palm-tree was afterwards
overturned by a high wind, and in its fall destroyed the great statue
which had been set up by the people of Naxos.

IV. These acts of Nikias may have been prompted by ambition and desire
for display, but when viewed in connection with his superstitious
character they seem more probably to have been the outcome of his
devotional feelings; for we are told by Thucydides that he was one who
stood greatly in awe of the gods, and was wholly devoted to religion.
In one of the dialogues of Pasiphon, we read that he offered sacrifice
daily, and that he kept a soothsayer in his house, whom he pretended
to consult upon affairs of state, but really sought his advice about
his own private concerns, especially about his silver mines. He had
extensive mines at Laurium, the working of which afforded him very
large profits, but yet was attended with great risks. He maintained a
large body of slaves at the works; and most of his property consisted
of the silver produced by them. For this reason he was surrounded by
hangers-on, and persons who endeavoured to obtain a share of his
wealth, and he gave money to all alike, both to those who might do him
harm, and to those who really deserved his liberality, for he gave to
bad men through fear, and to good men through good nature. We may find
proof of this in the writings of the comic poets. Telekleides,
speaking of some informer, says:

"Charikles a mina gave him, fearing he might say
Charikles himself was born in a suspicious way;
And Nikias five minas gave. Now, what his reasons were
I know full well, but will not tell, for he's a trusty fere."

Eupolis, too, in his comedy of Marikas has a scene where an informer
meets with a poor man who is no politician, and says:

"A. Say where you last with Nikias did meet.
B. Never. Save once I saw him in the street.
A. He owns he saw him. Wherefore should he say
He saw him, if he meant not to betray
His crimes?
C. My friends, you all perceive the fact,
That Nikias is taken in the act.
B. Think you, O fools, that such a man as he
In any wicked act would taken be."

Just so does Kleon threaten him in Aristophanes's play:

"The orators I'll silence, and make Nikias afraid."

Phrynichus, too, sneers at his cowardice and fear of the popular
demagogues, when he says:

"An honest citizen indeed he was,
And not a coward like to Nikias."

V. Nikias feared so much to give the mob orators grounds for
accusation against him, that he dared not so much as dine with his
follow citizens, and pass his time in their society. Nor did he have
any leisure at all for such amusements, but when general, he used to
spend the whole day in the War office, and when the Senate met he
would be the first to come to the house and the last to leave it. When
there was no public business to be transacted, he was hard to meet
with, as he shut himself up in his house and seldom stirred abroad.
His friends used to tell those who came to his door that they must
pardon him for not receiving them, as he was not at leisure, being
engaged on public business of great importance. One Hieron, whom he
had brought up in his house and educated, assisted him greatly in
throwing this air of mystery and haughty exclusiveness over his life.
This man gave out that he was the son of Dionysius, called Chalkus,
whose poems are still extant, and who was the leader of the expedition
to Italy to found the city of Thurii. Hiero used to keep Nikias
supplied with prophetic responses from the soothsayers, and gave out
to the Athenians that Nikias was toiling night and day on their
behalf, saying that when he was in his bath or at his dinner he was
constantly being interrupted by some important public business or
other, so that, said he, "His night's rest is broken by his labours,
and his private affairs are neglected through his devotion to those of
the public. He has injured his health, and besides losing his fortune,
has been deserted by many of his friends on account of his not being
able to entertain them and make himself agreeable to them; while other
men find in politics a means of obtaining both friends and fortune, at
the expense of the state." In very truth the life of Nikias was such
that he might well apply to himself the words of Agamemnon.

"In outward show and stately pomp all others I exceed,
And yet the people's underling I am in very deed."

VI. Perceiving that the Athenian people were willing enough to make
use of the talents of men of ability, and yet ever viewed them with
suspicion and checked them when in full career, as we may learn from
their condemnation of Perikles, their banishment of Damon by
ostracism, and their mistrust of Antiphon the Rhamnusian, and
especially in their treatment of Paches the conqueror of Lesbos, who
while his conduct as general was being enquired into, stabbed himself
in the open court - perceiving this, Nikias always avoided, as far as
he could, taking the command in any important military expedition.
Whenever he was employed as general, he acted with extreme caution,
and was usually successful. He was careful to attribute his success,
not to any skill or courage of his own, but to fortune, being willing
to lessen his glory to avoid the ill-will of mankind. His good fortune
was indeed shown in many remarkable instances: for example, he never
was present at any of the great defeats sustained by the Athenians at
that time, as in Thrace they were defeated by the Greeks of
Chalkidike, but on that occasion Kalliades and Xenophon were acting as
generals, while the defeat in Ætolia took place when Demosthenes was
in command, and at Delium, where a thousand men were slain, they were
led by Hippokrates. For the pestilence Perikles was chiefly blamed,
because he shut up the country people in the city, where the change of
habits and unusual diet produced disease among them. In all these
disasters Nikias alone escaped censure: while he achieved several
military successes, such as the capture of Kythera, an island
conveniently situated off the coast of Laconia, and inhabited by
settlers from that country. He also captured several of the revolted
cities in Thrace, and induced others to return to their allegiance. He
shut up the people of Megara in their city, and thereby at once made
himself master of the island of Minoa, by means of which he shortly
afterwards captured the port of Nisæa, while he also landed his troops
in the Corinthian territory, and beat a Corinthian army which marched
against him, killing many of them, and amongst others Lykophron their
general. On this occasion he accidentally neglected to bury the
corpses of two of his own men who had fallen. As soon as he discovered
this omission, he at once halted his army, and sent a herald to the
enemy to demand the bodies for burial, notwithstanding that by Greek
custom the party which after a battle demand a truce for the burial of
the dead, are understood thereby to admit that they have been
defeated, and it is not thought light for them to erect a trophy in
commemoration of their victory; for the victors remain in possession
of the field of battle, and of the bodies of the dead, and the
vanquished ask for their dead because they are not able to come and
take them. Nevertheless, Nikias thought it right to forego all the
credit of his victory rather than leave two of his countrymen
unburied. He also laid waste the seaboard of Laconia, defeated a
Lacedæmonian force which opposed him,and took Thyrea, which was
garrisoned by Æginetans, whom he brought prisoners to Athens.

VII. Now when Demosthenes threw up a fortification at Pylos, and after
the Peloponnesians had attacked him by sea and by land, some four
hundred Spartans wore left on the island of Sphakteria, the Athenians
thought that it was a matter of great importance, as indeed it was, to
take them prisoners. Yet, as it proved laborious and difficult to
blockade them on the island, because the place was desert and
waterless, so that provisions had to be brought from a great distance
by sea, which was troublesome enough in summer, and would be quite
impossible in winter, they began to be weary of the enterprise, and
were sorry that they had rejected the proposals for peace which had
shortly before been made by the Tasmanians. These proposals were
rejected chiefly because Kleon opposed them. Kleon's opposition was
due to his personal dislike to Nikias; and when he saw him
enthusiastically exerting himself on behalf of the Lacedæmonians, he
at once took the other side, and persuaded the people to reject the
proffered peace. Now as the blockade dragged on for a long time, and
the Athenians learned to what straits their army was reduced, they
became angry with Kleon. He threw the blame upon Nikias, asserting
that it was through his remissness and want of enterprise that the
Spartans still held out, and declaring that, were he himself in chief
command they would soon be captured. Upon this the Athenians turned
round upon him and said, "Why, then, do not you yourself proceed
thither and capture them?" Nikias at once offered to transfer his
command to Kleon, and bade him take what troops he thought necessary,
and, instead of swaggering at home where there was no danger, go and
perform some notable service to the state. At first Kleon was
confused by this unexpected turn of the debate, and declined the
command; but as the Athenians insisted upon it, and Nikias urged him
to do so, he plucked up spirit, accepted the office of general, and
even went so far as to pledge himself within twenty days either to
kill the Spartans on the island or to bring them prisoners to Athens.
The Athenians were more inclined to laugh at this boast than to
believe it; for they were well acquainted with the vainglorious
character of the man, and had often amused themselves at his expense.
It is said that once the public assembly met early and sat for a long
time waiting for Kleon, who came at last very late with a garland on
his head, and begged them to put off their debate till the next day.
"To-day," said he, "I am not at leisure, as I have just offered a
sacrifice, and am about to entertain some strangers at dinner." The
Athenians laughed at his assurance, and broke up the assembly.

VIII. However, on this occasion, by good fortune and good generalship,
with the help of Demosthenes, he brought home prisoners all those
Spartans who had not fallen in the battle, within the time which he
had appointed. This was a great reproach to Nikias. It seemed worse
even than losing his shield in battle that he should through sheer
cowardice and fear of failure give up his office of general, and give
his personal enemy such an opportunity of exalting himself at his
expense, depriving himself voluntarily of his honourable charge.
Aristophanes sneers at him in his play of the 'Birds,' where he says:

"We must not now, like Nikias, delay,
And see the time for action pass away."

And again in the play of the 'Farmers,' where this dialogue occurs:

"A. I want to till my farm.
B. And wherefore no?
A. 'Tis you Athenians will not let me go;
A thousand drachmas I would give, to be
From office in the state for ever free.
B. Your offer we accept. The state will have
Two thousand, with what Nikias just gave."

Moreover, Nikias did Athens much harm by permitting Kleon to attain
to such a height of power and reputation, which gave him such
exaggerated confidence in himself that he grew quite unmanageable, and
caused many terrible disasters, by which Nikias suffered as much as
any man. Kleon also was the first to break through the decorum
observed by former public speakers, by shouting, throwing back his
cloak, slapping his thigh, and walking up and down while speaking,
which led to the total disregard of decency and good manners among
public speakers, and eventually was the ruin of the state.

IX. About this time Alkibiades began to gain credit in Athens as a
public speaker, less licentious than Kleon, and like the soil of Egypt
described by Homer, which bears

"A mingled crop of good and bad alike."

Thus Alkibiades, with immense powers both for good and evil, produced
great changes in the affairs of Athens. Nikias, even if he had been
freed from the opposition of Kleon, could not now have quietly
consolidated the power of the state, for as soon as he had arranged
matters in a fair way to produce peace and quiet, Alkibiades, to
satisfy his own furious ambition, threw them again into confusion and
war. This was brought about by the following circumstances. The two
chief hindrances to peace were Kleon and Brasidas; as war concealed
the baseness of the former, and added to the glory of the latter.
Kleon was able to commit many crimes undetected, and Brasidas
performed many great exploits while the war lasted; wherefore, when
both of these men fell before the walls of Amphipolis, Nikias,
perceiving that the Spartans had long been desirous of peace, and that
the Athenians no longer hoped to gain anything by continuing the war,
and that both parties were weary of it, began to consider how he might
reconcile them, and also pacify all the other states of Greece, so as
to establish peace upon a durable and prosperous basis. At Athens, the
richer classes, the older men, and the country farmers all wished for
peace. By constantly arguing with the others he gradually made them
less eager for war, and at length was able to intimate to the Spartans
that there were good hopes of coming to terms. They willingly believed
him because of his high character for probity, and more especially
because he had shown great kindness to the Spartan prisoners taken at
Pylos. A truce for one year had already been arranged between them,
and during this they conversed freely with one another, and, enjoying
a life of leisure and freedom from the restraints and alarms of war,
began to long for an unbroken period of peace, and to sing:

"My spear the spider's home shall be,"

remembering with pleasure the proverb that in time of peace men are
awakened, not by trumpets, but by crowing cocks. They railed at those
who said that it was fated that the war should last thrice nine years,
and, having thus accustomed themselves to discuss the whole question,
they proceeded to make peace, and thought that now they were indeed
free from all their troubles. The name of Nikias was now in every
man's mouth, and he was called the favourite of heaven, and the man
chosen by the gods for his piety to confer the greatest of blessings
upon the Greeks. For they regarded the peace as the work of Nikias,
just as the war had been the work of Perikles. The latter, they
thought, for no adequate reasons, had involved the Greeks in the
greatest miseries, while the former had relieved them of their
troubles by persuading them to become friends. For this reason this
peace is to this day called the peace of Nikias.

X. The terms of the peace were that each party should restore the
cities and territory which it had taken, and that it should be
determined by lot which side should restore its conquests first. We
are told by Theophrastus that Nikias, by means of bribery, arranged
that the lot should fall upon the Lacedæmonians to make restitution
first. When, however, the Corinthians and Bœotians, dissatisfied with
the whole transaction, seemed likely by their complaints and menaces
to rekindle the war, Nikias induced Athens and Sparta to confirm the
peace by entering upon an alliance, which enabled them to deal with
the malcontents with more authority, and give them more confidence in
one another.

All these transactions greatly displeased Alkibiades, who was
naturally disinclined to peace, and who hated the Lacedæmonians

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