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Polybius (c.200-after 118 BCE):
The Destruction of Corinth, 146 BCE


The Histories, Book XXXVIII, Chapters 3-11

My thirty-eighth book embraces the consummation of the misfortunes of Greece. For though Greece as a whole, as well as separate parts of it, has on several occasions sustained grave disasters, yet to none of her previous defeats could the word "misfortune" be more properly applied, than to those which have befallen her in our time. For it is not only that the sufferings of Greece excite compassion: stronger still is the conviction, which a knowledge of the truth of the several occurrences must bring, that in all she undertook she was supremely unfortunate. At any rate, though the disaster of Carthage is looked upon as of the severest kind, yet one cannot but regard that of Greece as not less, and in some respects even more so. For the Carthaginians at any rate left something for posterity to say on their behalf; but the mistakes of the Greeks were so glaring that they made it impossible for those who wished to support them to do so. Besides, the destruction of the Carthaginians was immediate and total, so that they had no feeling afterwards of their disasters: but the Greeks, with their misfortunes ever before their eyes, handed down to their children's children the loss of all that once was theirs. And in proportion as we regard those who live in pain as more pitiable than those who lose their lives at the moment of their misfortunes, in that proportion must the disasters of the Greeks be regarded as more pitiable than those of the Carthaginians---unless a man thinks nothing of dignity and honor, and gives his opinion from a regard only to material advantage. To prove the truth of what I say, one has only to remember and compare the misfortunes in Greece reputed to be the heaviest with what I have just now mentioned.

Now, the greatest alarm that fortune ever brought upon the Greeks was when Xerxes invaded Europe: for at that time all were exposed to danger though an extremely small number actually suffered disaster. The greatest sufferers were the Athenians: for, with a prudent foresight of what was coming, they abandoned their country with their wives and children. That crisis then caused them damage; for the Barbarians took Athens and laid it waste with savage violence: but it brought them no shame or disgrace. On the contrary, they gained the highest glory in the eyes of all the world for having regarded everything as of less importance, in comparison with taking their share in the same fortune as the other Greeks. Accordingly, in consequence of their exalted conduct, they not only immediately recovered their own city and territory, but soon afterwards disputed the supremacy in Greece with the Lacedaemonians. Subsequently, indeed, they were beaten by the Spartans in war, and forced to submit to the destruction of their own city walls: but even this one might assert to be a reproach to the Lacedaemonians, for having used the power put into their hands with excessive severity, rather than to the Athenians. Then the Spartans once more, being beaten by the Thebans, lost the supremacy in Greece, and after that defeat were deprived of their outside rule and reduced to the frontiers of Laconia.

But what disgrace was there in having retired, while disputing for the most honorable objects, to the limits of their ancestral dominion? Therefore, these events we may speak of as failures, but not as misfortunes in any sense. The Mantineans again were forced to leave their city, being divided out and scattered into separate villages by the Lacedaemonians; but for this all the world blamed the folly, not of the Mantineans, but of the Lacedaemonians. The Thebans, indeed besides the loss of their army, saw their country de-populated at the time when Alexander, having resolved on the invasion of Asia, conceived that by making an example of Thebes he should establish a terror that would act as a check upon the Greeks, while his attention was distracted upon other affairs: but at that time all the world pitied the Thebans as having been treated with injustice and harshness, and no one was found to justify this proceeding of Alexander.

Accordingly, after a short time they obtained assistance, and once more inhabited their country in security. For the compassion of foreigners is no small benefit to those who are unjustly dispossessed; since we often see that, with the change of feeling among the many, Fortune also changes; and even the conquerors themselves repent, and make good the disasters of those who have fallen under undeserved misfortunes. Once more, at certain periods the Chalcidians and Corinthians and some other cities, owing to the advantages of their situation, were attacked by the kings of Macedonia, and had garrisons imposed on them: but when they were thus enslaved all the world were eager to do their best to liberate them, and loathed their enslavers and regarded them continually as their enemies. But above all, up to this time it was generally single states that were depopulated, and in single states that reverses were met with, in some cases while disputing for supremacy and empire, and in others from the treacherous attacks of despots and kings: so that, so far from their losses bringing them any reproach, they escaped even the name of misfortune. For we must look on all those who meet with incalculable disasters whether private or public as the victims of losses, and those only to be "unfortunate," to whom events through their own folly bring dishonor. Instances of this last are the Peloponnesians, Boeotians, Phocians, . . . and Locrians, some of the dwellers on the Ionian gulf, and next to these the Macedonians, . . . who all as a rule did not merely suffer loss, but were "unfortunate," with a misfortune of the gravest kind and for which they were themselves open to reproach: for they displayed at once want of good faith and want of courage, brought upon themselves a series of disgraces, lost all that could bring them honor, . . . and voluntarily admitted into their towns the Roman fasces and axes. They were in the utmost panic, in fact, owing to the extravagance of their own wrongful acts, if one ought to call them their own; for I should rather say that the peoples as such were entirely ignorant, and were beguiled from the path of right: but that the men who acted wrongly were the authors of this delusion.

[Shuckburgh: In the autumn of 150 B.C. the corrupt Menalchidas of Sparta was succeeded as Achaean Strategos by Diaeus, who, to cover his share in the corruption of Menalchidas, induced the League to act in the matter of some disputed claim of Sparta in a manner contrary to the decisions of the Roman Senate. The Spartans wished to appeal again to Rome; whereupon the Achaeans passed a law forbidding separate cities to make such appeals, which were to be only made by the League. The Lacedaemonians took up arms: and Diaeus professing that the League was not at war with Sparta, but with certain factious citizens of that city, named four of its chief men who were to be banished. They fled to Rome, where the Senate ordered their restoration. Embassies went from Achaia and from Sparta to Rome to state their respective cases; and on their return gave false reports---Diaeus assuring the Achaeans that the Senate had ordered the Spartans to obey the League; Menalchidas telling the Spartans that the Romans had released them from all connection with the League. War then again broke out in 148 B.C. Metellus, who was in Macedonia on the business of the rebellion of the Pseudo-Philip, sent legates to the Achaeans forbidding them to bear arms against Sparta, and announcing the speedy arrival of commissioners from Rome to settle the dispute. But the Achaean levies were already mustered under the Strategos Damocritus, and the Lacedaemonians seem almost to have compelled them to fight. The Spartans were beaten with considerable loss: and on Damocritus preventing a pursuit and a capture of Sparta, the Achaeans regarded him as a traitor and fined him fifty talents. He was succeeded in his office of strategos by Diaeus who promised Metellus to await the arrival of commissioners from Rome. But the Spartans now assumed their freedom from the League and elected a strategos of their own, Menalchidas; who provoked a renewal of the war by taking the town of Iasos on the Laconian frontier. In despair of resisting the attack of the Achaeans, and disowned by his fellow-citizens, he took poison. The Roman commissioners arrived in 147 B.C., and summoning the magistrates of the Achaean League and the Strategos Diaeus before them, announced the decree of the Senate---separating Lacedaemon, Corinth, Argos, Heraclea, and Orchomenos from the Achaean League, as not being related by blood, and only being subsequent additions. The magistrates, without answering, hastily summoned the league congress. The people, on hearing the Roman decision, pillaged the houses of the Lacedaemonians in Corinth, and savagely attacked all who were or who looked like Spartans. The Roman envoys attempted to restrain the popular fury, but were themselves somewhat roughly handled. ---Pausanius, VII.12-14; Livy, Ep.51].

When the commissioners with L. Aurelius Orestes arrived in Rome from the Peloponnese, they reported what had taken place, and declared that they had a narrow escape of actually losing their lives. They made the most of the occurrence and put the worst interpretation upon it; for they represented the violence which had been offered them as not the result of a sudden outbreak, but of a deliberate intention on the part of the Achaeans to inflict a signal insult upon them. The Senate was therefore more angry than it had ever been, and at once appointed Sextus Julius Caesar and other envoys with instructions to rebuke and upbraid the Achaeans for what had occurred, yet in terms of moderation, but to exhort them "not to listen to evil councillors, not to allow themselves to be betrayed into hostility with Rome, but even yet to make amends for their acts of folly by inflicting punishment on the authors of the crime." This was a clear proof that the Senate gave its instructions to Aurelius and his colleagues, not with the view of dismembering the league, but with the object of restraining the obstinacy and hostility of the Achaeans by terrifying and overawing them. Some people accordingly imagined that the Romans were acting hypocritically, because the Carthaginian war was still unfinished; but this was not the case. The fact is, that they had long regarded the Achaean league with favor, believing it to be the most trustworthy of all the Greek governments; and though now they were resolved to give it an alarm, because it had become too lofty in its pretensions, yet they were by no means minded to go to war or to have a serious quarrel with the Achaeans. . . .

As Sextus Julius Caesar and his colleagues were on their way from Rome to the Peloponnese, they were met by Thearidas and the other envoys, sent by the Achaeans to make their excuse and give commissioners in the Senate an explanation of the intemperate acts committed in regard to Aurelius Orestes. But Sextus Julius persuaded them to turn back to Achaia, on the ground that he and his colleagues were coming with full instructions to communicate with the Achaeans on all these points. When Sextus arrived in the Peloponnese, and in a conference with the Achaeans in Aegium spoke with great kindness, he made no mention of the injurious treatment of the legates, and scarcely demanded any defense at all, but took a more lenient view of what had happened than even the Achaeans themselves; and dwelt chiefly on the subject of exhorting them not to carry their error any further, in regard either to the Romans or the Lacedaemonians. Thereupon the more sober-minded party received the speech with satisfaction, and were strongly moved to obey the suggestions, because they were conscious of the gravity of what they had been doing, and had before their eyes what happened to opponents of Rome; but the majority, though they had not a word to say against the justice of the injunctions of Sextus Julius, and were quite silent, yet remained deeply tainted with disaffection. And Diaeus and Critolaus, and all who shared their sentiments---and they consisted of all the greatest rascals in every city, men at war with the gods, and pests of the community, carefully selected---took, as the proverb has it, with the left hand what the Romans gave with the right, and went utterly and entirely wrong in their calculations. For they supposed that the Romans, owing to the troubles in Libya and Iberia, feared a war with the Achaeans and would submit to anything and say anything.

Thinking, therefore, that the hour was their own, they answered the Roman envoys politely that "They would, nevertheless, send Thearidas and his colleagues to the Senate; while they would themselves accompany the legates to Tegea, and there in consultation with the Lacedaemonians would provide for some settlement of the war that would meet the views of both parties." With this answer they subsequently induced the unhappy nation to follow the senseless course to which they had long before made up their mind. And this result was only what might have been expected from the inexperience and corruption of the prevailing party.

But the finishing stroke to this ruinous policy was given in the following manner. When Sextus and his colleagues arrived at Tegea, and invited the attendance of the Lacedaemonians, in order to arrange terms between them and the Achaeans, both as to the satisfaction to be given for previous complaints and for putting a stop to the war, until the Romans should send commissioners to review the whole question, Critolaus and his party, having held a conference, decided that all the rest should avoid the meeting, and that Critolaus should go alone to Tegea. When Sextus and his fellow-commissioners therefore had almost given them up, Critolaus arrived; and when the meeting with the Lacedaemonians took place, he would settle nothing---alleging that he had no authority to make any arrangement without the consent of the people at large; but that he would bring the matter before the Achaeans at their next congress, which must be held six months from that time. Sextus and his fellow-commissioners, therefore, convinced of the ill disposition of Critolaus, and much annoyed at his conduct, dismissed the Lacedaemonians to their own country, and themselves returned to Italy with strong views as to the folly and infatuation of Critolaus.

After their departure Critolaus spent the winter in visiting the cities and holding assemblies in them, on the pretext that he wished to inform them of what he had said to the Lacedaemonians at Tegea, but in reality to denounce the Romans and to put an evil interpretation on everything they said; by which means he inspired the common people in the various cities with feelings of hostility and hatred for them. At the same time he sent round orders to the magistrates not to exact money from debtors, nor to receive prisoners arrested for debt, and to cause loans on pledge to be held over until the war was decided. By this kind of appeal to the interests of the vulgar everything he said was received with confidence; and the common people were ready to obey any order he gave, being incapable of taking thought for the future, but caught by the bait of immediate indulgence and relief.

When Quintus Caecilius Metellus heard in Macedonia of the commotion and disturbance going on in the Peloponnese, he despatched thither his legates Gneaus Papirius and the younger Popilius Laenas, along with Aulus Gabinius and Gaius Fannius; who, happening to arrive when the congress was assembled at Corinth, were introduced to the assembly, and delivered a long and conciliatory speech, much in the spirit of that of Sextus Julius, exerting themselves with great zeal to prevent the Achaeans from proceeding to an open breach with Rome, either on the pretext of their grievance against the Lacedaemonians, or from any feeling of anger against the Romans themselves. But the assembled people would not hear them; insulting words were loudly uttered against the envoys, and in the midst of a storm of yells and tumult they were driven from the assembly. The fact was that such a crowd of workmen and artisans had been got together as had never been collected before; for all the cities were in a state of driveling folly, and above all the Corinthians en masse; and there were only a very few who heartily approved of the words of the envoys.

Critolaus, conceiving that he had attained his purpose, in the midst of an audience as excited and mad as himself began attacking the magistrates, abusing all who were opposed to him, and openly defying the Roman envoys, saying that he vas desirous of being a friend of the Romans, but had no taste for them as his masters. And, finally, he tried to incite the people by saying that, if they acquitted themselves like men, they would have no lack of allies; but, if they betrayed womanish fears, they would not want for masters. By many other such words to the same effect, conceived in the spirit of a charlatan and huckster, he roused and excited the populace. He attempted also to make it plain that he was not acting at random in these proceedings, but that some of the kings and republics were engaged in the same policy as himself.

And when some of the Gerousia wished to check him, and restrain him from the use of such expressions, he ordered the soldiers surrounding him to retire, and stood up fronting his opponents, and bade any one of them come up to him, come near him, or venture to touch his chlamys. And, finally, he said that "He had restrained himself now for a long time; but would endure it no longer, and must speak his mind. The people to fear were not Lacedaemonians or Romans, but the traitors among themselves who co-operated with their foes: for there were some who cared more for Romans and Lacedaemonians than for their own country." He added, as a confirmation of his words, that Evagoras of Aegium and Stratius of Tritaea betrayed to Gnaeus Papirius and his fellow-commissioners all the secret proceedings in the meetings of the magistrates. And when Stratius acknowledged that he had had interviews with those men, and should do so again, as they were friends and allies, but asserted that he had told them nothing of what was said in the meetings of the magistrates, some few believed him, but the majority accepted the accusation as true. And so Critolaus, having inflamed the people by his accusations against these men, induced the Achaeans once more to decree a war which was nominally against the Lacedaemonians, but in effect was against the Romans; and he got another decree added, which was a violation of the constitution, namely, that whomsoever they should elect as Strategoi should have absolute power in carrying on the war. He thus got for himself something like a despotism.

Having carried these measures, he began intriguing to bring on an outbreak and cause an attack upon the Roman envoys. He had no pretext for doing this; but adopted a course which, of all possible courses, offends most flagrantly against the laws of gods and man. The envoys, however, separated; Gnaeus Papirius went to Athens and thence to Sparta to watch the turn of events; Aulus Gabinius went to Naupactus; and the other two remained at Athens, waiting for the arrival of Caecilius Metellus. This was the state of things in the Peloponnese. . .

[Shuckburgh: After the rejection of the orders conveyed by the legates of Metellus, Critolaus collected the Achaean levies at Corinth, under the pretext of going to war with Sparta; but he soon induced the league to declare themselves openly at war with Rome. He was encouraged by the adhesion of the Boeotarch Pytheas, and of the Chalcidians. The Thebans were the readier to join him because they had lately been ordered by Metellus, as arbiter in the dispute, to pay fines to the Phocians, Euboeans, and Amphissians. When news of these proceedings reached Rome in the spring of 146 B.C., the consul Mummius was ordered to lead a fleet and army against Achaea. But Metellus in Macedonia wished to have the credit of settling the matter himself; he therefore sent envoys to the Achaeans ordering them to release from the league the towns already named by the Senate---Sparta, Corinth, Argos, Heracleia, and Orchomenos, and advanced with his army from Macedonia through Thessaly by the coast road, skirting the Sinus Maliacus. Critolaus was already engaged in besieging Heracleia, to compel it to return to its obedience to the League, and when his scouts informed him of the approach of Metellus, he retreated to Scarphea on the coast of Locris, some miles south of the pass of Thermopylae. But before he could get into Scarphea Metellus caught him up, killed a large number of his men, and took one thousand prisoners. Critolaus himself disappeared; Pausanias seems to imagine that he was drowned in the salt marshes of the coast, but Livy says that he poisoned himself. ---Pausanias, 7, 14, 15; Livy, Ep., 52; Orosius, 5, 3.]


Book XXXIX, Chapters 7-17

Pytheas was a brother of Acatidas the runner, and son of Cleomenes. He had led an evil life, and was reported to have wasted the flower of his youth in unnatural debauchery. In political life Pytheas also he was audacious and grasping, and had been supported by Eumenes and Philataerus for these very reasons. . .

Critolaus the Achaean Strategos being dead, and the law providing that, in case of such an event befalling the existing Strategos, the Strategos of the previous year should succeed to the office until the regular congress of the league should meet, it fell to Diaeus to conduct the business of the League and take the head of affairs. Accordingly, after sending forward some troops to Megara, he went himself to Argos; and from that place sent a circular letter to all the towns ordering them to set free their slaves who were of military age, and who had been born and brought up in their houses, and send them furnished with arms to Corinth. He assigned the numbers to be furnished by the several towns quite at random and without any regard to equality, just as he did everything else. Those who had not the requisite number of home-bred slaves were to fill up the quota imposed on each town from other slaves. But seeing that the public poverty was very great, owing to the war with the Lacedaemonians, he compelled the richer classes, men and women alike, to make promises of money and furnish separate contributions. At the same time he ordered a levy en masse at Corinth of all men of military age. The result of these measures was that every city was full of confusion, commotion, and despair: they deemed those fortunate who had already perished in the war, and pitied those who were now starting to take part in it; and everybody was in tears as though they foresaw only too well what was going to happen. They were especially annoyed at the insolent demeanor and neglect of their duties on the part of the slaves---airs which they assumed as having been recently liberated, or, in the cause of others, because they were excited by the prospect of freedom. Moreover, the men were compelled to make their contribution contrary to their own views, according to the property they were reputed to possess; while the women had to do so, by taking the ornaments of their own persons or of their children, to what seemed deliberately meant for their destruction.

As these measures came all at once, the dismay caused by the hardship of each individually prevented people from attending to or grasping the general question; or they must have foreseen that they were all being led on to secure the certain destruction of their wives and children. But, as though caught in the rush of some winter torrent and carried on by its irresistible violence, they followed the infatuation and madness of their leader. The Eleians and Messenians indeed did not stir, in terror of the Roman fleet; for nothing could have saved them if the storm had burst when it was originally intended. The people of Patrae, and of the towns which were leagued with it, had a short time before suffered disasters in Phocis [in the battle with Metellus at Scarphea]; and their case was much the most pitiable one of all the Peloponnesian cities: for some of them sought a voluntary death; others fled from their towns through deserted parts of the country, with no definite aim in their wanderings, from the panic prevailing in the towns. Some arrested and delivered each other to the enemy, as having been hostile to Rome; others hurried to give information and bring accusations, although no one asked for any such service as yet; while others went to meet the Romans with suppliant branches, confessing their treason, and asking what penance they were to pay, although as yet no one was asking for any account of such things. The whole country seemed to be under an evil spell: everywhere people were throwing themselves down wells or over precipices; and so dreadful was the state of things, that as the proverb has it "even an enemy would have pitied" the disaster of Greece. For in times past the Greeks had met with reverses or indeed complete disaster, either from internal dissensions or from treacherous attacks of despots; but in the present instance it was from the folly of their leaders and their own lack of wisdom that they experienced the grievous misfortunes which befell them. The Thebans also, abandoning their city en masse, left it entirely empty; and among the rest Pytheas retired to the Peloponnese, with his wife and children, and there wandered about the country.

He came upon the enemy much to his surprise. But to my mind the proverb, "the reckonings of the foolish are foolishness" applies to him. And naturally to such men things clear as day come as a surprise. . . . He was even forming plans for getting back home, acting very like a man who, not having learnt to swim and being about to plunge into the sea, should not consider the question of taking the plunge; but, having taken it, should begin to consider how he is to swim to land....

[Shuckburgh: Having secured Boeotia, Metellus advanced to Megara, where the Achaean Alcamenes had been posted to Diaeus with five thousand men. Alcamenes hastily evacuated Megara and rejoined Diaeus at Corinth, the latter having meanwhile been re-elected Strategos. ---Pausanias, 7, 15, 10].

Diaeus having recently come to Corinth after being appointed Strategos by the vote of the people, Andronidas and others came from Caecilius Metellus. Against these men he spread a report that they were in alliance with the enemy, and gave them up to the mob, who seized on them with great violence and threw them into chains. Philo of Thessaly also came bringing many liberal offers to the Achaeans. And on hearing them, certain of the men of the country attempted to secure their acceptance; among whom was Stratius, now a very old man, who clung to Diaeus's knees and entreated him to yield to the offers of Metellus. But he and his party would not listen to Philo's proposals. For the fact was that they did not believe that the amnesty would embrace them with the rest; and, as they regarded their own advantage and personal security as of the highest importance, they spoke as they did, and directed all their measures on the existing state of affairs to this end: although, as a matter of fact, they failed entirely to secure these objects. For as they understood quite clearly the gravity of what they had done, they could not believe they would obtain any mercy from Rome; and as to enduring nobly whatever should befall on behalf of their country and the safety of the people, that they never once took into consideration; yet that was the course becoming men who cared for glory, and professed to be the leaders of Greece. But, indeed, how or whence was it likely that such a lofty idea should occur to these men? The members of this conclave were Diaeus and Damocritus, who had but recently been recalled from exile owing to the disturbed state of the times, and with them Alcamenes, Theodectes and Archicrates; and of these last I have already stated at length who they were, and have described their character, policy, and manner of life.

Such being the men with whom the decision rested, the determination arrived at was what was to be expected. They not only imprisoned Andronidas and Lagius and their friends, but even the sub-Strategos Sosicrates, on the charge of his having presided at a council and given his voting for sending an embassy to Caecilius Metellus, and in fact of having been the cause of all their misfortunes. Next day they empaneled judges to try them; condemned Sosicrates to death; and having bound him, racked him until he died, without, however, inducing him to say anything that they expected: but they acquitted Lagius, Andronidas and Archippus, partly because the people were scared at the lawless proceeding against Sosicrates, and partly because Diaeus got a talent from Andronidas and forty minae from Archippus; for this man could not relax his usual shameless and abandoned principles in this particular even "in the very pit," as the saying is. He had acted with similar cruelty a short time before also in regard to Philinus of Corinth. For on a charge of his holding communication with Menalcidas and favoring the Roman cause, he caused Philinus and his sons to be flogged and racked in each other's sight, and did not desist until the boys and Philinus were all dead. When such madness and ferocity was infecting everybody, as it would not be easy to parallel even among barbarians, it would be clearly very natural to ask why the whole nation did not utterly perish.

For my part, I think that Fortune displayed her resources and skill in resisting the folly and madness of the leaders; and, being determined at all hazards to save the Achaeans, like a good wrestler, she had recourse to the only trick left; and that was to bring down and conquer the Greeks quickly, as in fact she did. For it was owing to this that the wrath and fury of the Romans did not blaze out farther; that the army of Libya did not come to Greece; and that these leaders, being such men as I have described, did not have an opportunity, by gaining a victory, of displaying their wickedness upon their countrymen. For what it was likely that they would have done to their own people, if they had got any ground of vantage or obtained any success, may be reasonably inferred from what has already been said. And, indeed, everybody at the time had the proverb on his lips, "had we not perished quickly we had not been saved." . . .

Aulus Postumius deserves some special notice from us here. He was a member of a family and gens of the first rank, but in himself was garrulous and wordy, and exceedingly ostentatious. From his boyhood he had a great leaning to Greek studies and literature: but he was so immoderate and affected in this pursuit, that owing to him the Greek style became offensive to the elder and most respectable men at Rome. Finally, he attempted to write a poem and a formal history in Greek, in the preface to which he desired his readers to excuse him if, being a Roman, he could not completely command the Greek idiom or method in the handling of the subject. To whom M. Porcius Cato made a very pertinent answer. "I wonder," said he, "on what grounds you make such a demand. If the Amphictyonic council had charged you to write the history, you might perhaps have been forced to allege this excuse and ask for this consideration. But to write it of your own accord, when there was no compulsion to do so, and then to demand consideration, if you should happen to write bad Greek, is quite unreasonable. It is something like a man entering for the boxing match or pancratium in the public games, and, when he comes into the stadium, and it is his turn to fight, begging the spectators to pardon him if he is unable to stand the fatigue or the blows.' Such a man of course would be laughed at and condemned at once." And this is what such historiographers should experience, to prevent them spoiling a good thing by their rash presumption. Similarly, in the rest of his life, he had imitated all the worst points in Greek fashions; for he was fond of pleasure and averse from toil. And this may be illustrated from his conduct in the present campaign: for being among the first to enter Greece at the time that the battle in Phocis took place, he retired to Thebes on the pretense of illness, in order to avoid taking part in the engagement; but, when the battle was ended, he was the first to write to the Senate announcing the victory, entering into every detail as though he had himself been present at the conflict....

[Shuckburgh: On the arrival of the Consul Mummius, Metellus was sent back into Macedonia. Mummius was accompanied by L. Aurelius Orestes (who had been nearly murdered in the riot at Corinth), and, pitching his camp in the Isthmus, was joined by allies who raised his army to three thousand five hundred cavalry and twenty-six thousand infantry. The Achaeans made a sudden attack upon them and gained a slight success, which was a few days afterwards revenged by a signal defeat. Instead of retiring into Corinth, and from that stronghold making some terms with Mummius, Diaeus fled to Megalopolis, where he poisoned himself, after first killing his wife. The rest of the beaten Achaean army took refuge in Corinth, which Mummius took and fired on the third day after the battle with Diaeus. Then the commissioners were sent from Rome to settle the whole of Greece. ---Pausanius, 7, 16-17; Livy, Ep. 52].

The incidents of the capture of Corinth were melancholy. The soldiers cared nothing for the works of art and the consecrated statues. I saw with my own eyes pictures thrown on the ground and soldiers playing dice on them; among them was a picture of Dionysus by Aristeides---in reference to which they say that the proverbial saying arose, "Nothing to the Dionysus,"---and the Hercules tortured by the shirt of Deianeira. . .

Owing to the popular reverence for the memory of Philopoemen, they did not take down the statues of him in the various cities. So true is it, as it seems to me, that every genuine act of virtue produces in the mind of those who benefit by it an affection which it is difficult to efface. . . . One might fairly, therefore, use the common saying: "He has been foiled not at the door, but in the road.". . . There were many statues of Philopoemen, and many erections in his honor, voted by the several cities; and a Roman at the time of the disaster which befell Greece at Corinth, wished to abolish them all and to formally indict him, laying an information against him, as though he were still alive, as an enemy and ill-wisher to Rome. But after a discussion, in which Polybius spoke against this sycophant, neither Mummius nor the commissioners would consent to abolish the honors of an illustrious man. . . . Polybius, in an elaborate speech, conceived in the spirit of what has just been said, maintained the cause of Philopoemen. His arguments were that "This man had indeed been frequently at variance with the Romans on the matter of their injunctions, but he only maintained his opposition so far as to inform and persuade them on the points in dispute; and even that he did not do without serious cause. He gave a genuine proof of his loyal policy and gratitude, by a test as it were of fire, in the periods of the wars with Philip and Antiochus. For, possessing at those times the greatest influence of any one in Greece, from his personal power as well as that of the Achaeans, he preserved his friendship for Rome with the most absolute fidelity, having joined in the vote of the Achaeans in virtue of which, four months before the Romans crossed from Italy, they levied a war from their own territory upon Antiochus and the Aetolians, when nearly all the other Greeks had become estranged from the Roman friendship." Having listened to this speech and approved of the speaker's view, the ten commissioners granted that the complimentary erections to Philopoemen in the several cities should be allowed to remain. Acting on this pretext, Polybius begged of the Consul the statues of Achaeus, Aratus, and Philopoemen, though they had already been transported to Acarnania from the Peloponnese: in gratitude for which action people set up a marble statue of Polybius himself . . .

After the settlement made by the ten commissioners in Achaia, they directed the Quaestor, who was to superintend the selling of Diaeus's property, to allow Polybius to select anything he chose from the goods and present it to him as a free gift, and to sell the rest to the highest bidders. But, so far from accepting any such present, Polybius urged his friends not to covet anything whatever of the goods sold by the Quaestor anywhere:---for he was going a round of the cities and selling the property of all those who had been partisans of Diaeus, as well of such as had been condemned except those who left children or parents. Some of these friends did not take his advice; but those who did follow it earned a most excellent reputation among their fellow-citizens.

After completing these arrangements in six months, the ten commissioners sailed for Italy, at the beginning of spring, having left a noble monument of Roman policy for the contemplation of all Greece. They also charged Polybius, as they were departing, to visit all the cities and to decide all questions that might arise, until such plain time as they were grown accustomed to their constitution and laws. Which he did: and after a while caused the inhabitants to be contented with the constitution given them by the commissioners, and left no difficulty connected with the laws on any point, private or public, unsettled.

The Roman Proconsul, after the commissioners had left Achaia, having restored the holy places in the Isthmus and ornamented the temples in Olympia and Delphi, proceeded to make a tour of the cities, receiving marks of honor and proper gratitude in each. And indeed he deserved honor both public and private, for he conducted himself with self-restraint and disinterestedness, and administered his office with mildness, although he had great opportunities of enriching himself, and immense authority in Greece. And, in fact, in the points in which he was thought to have at all overlooked justice, he appears not to have done it for his own sake, but for that of his friends. And the most conspicuous instance of this was in the case of the Chalcidian horsemen whom he put to death. . . .

 


Source:

From: Polybius, The Histories of Polybius, 2 Vols., trans. Evelyn S. Shuckburgh (London: Macmillan, 1889), II.515-525, 530-540.

Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton. Prof. Arkenberg has modernized the text.


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© Paul Halsall, July 1998
halsall@murray.fordham.edu