Ancient History & Civilisation


Introduction to Phocion

[402–318 BC]

Phocion was an Athenian statesman and general. He was almost twenty years older than Demosthenes and outlived him by four years. Plutarch claims that Phocion was elected to the generalship forty-five times over his career, a staggering number and, if true, probably more than any other Athenian. He was present at the battle of Naxos against the Spartans in 376 BC, but the next we hear of him is in the 340s when he led Athenian expeditionary forces to Euboea (348), Megara (?343), Euboea again (341) and Byzantium (340). The latter two of these expeditions, and possibly the second, were directed against Philip of Macedon or his allies. In 338 Phocion commanded a fleet operating against Philip in the Aegean, and in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of Athens and Thebes at Chaeronea in Boeotia organized the defence of Athens. But in the years that followed he pursued a policy of accommodation to Macedonian rule. He advised against Athenian involvement in Thebes’ disastrous revolt of 335. He also argued against involvement in the Lamian War of 323–2, though this time unsuccessfully: when news of Alexander’s death in Asia arrived in Greece, Athens and a number of allies moved to expel Macedonian forces from southern Greece. The allied forces were defeated at Crannon, and the task fell to Phocion, together with the orator Demades, to negotiate terms with Antipater, Alexander’s regent and commander of Macedonian forces in Europe. Under these terms, a Macedonian garrison was installed on the hill of Munychia, thus allowing control of Piraeus, and full political rights were restricted to those with sufficient wealth to pass a new property qualification. The institutions of the democracy themselves continued to function, but the franchise was now much more limited and many poor Athenians were excluded from political life.

Phocion played a prominent role in this reconfigured Athens in the period from 322 to 318 BC. His downfall occurred amid the confused and dramatic events following the death of Antipater in 319. A power-struggle ensued in Macedonia between Cassander, Antipater’s son, who might have expected to take over his father’s position, and Polyperchon, a hardened general who had seen service under both Philip and Alexander, and whom Antipater had designated as his successor. Phocion collaborated with Cassander’s man, Nicanor, commander of the garrison in Munychia, and failed to act against him when he seized Piraeus. Meanwhile Polyperchon, in a bid to win the Athenian masses to his side, called for the restoration of full democracy. The restored assembly, now including again the poor citizens excluded by Antipater, blamed Phocion both for the disenfranchisement of many poor Athenians and for his cooperation with the Macedonian occupation of Piraeus. In scenes which, in Plutarch’s telling, have for a modern reader something about them of the Terror following the French Revolution, the assembly condemned Phocion to death by a simple vote, i.e., unconstitutionally and without a trial. He and his associates were executed forthwith. The triumph was short-lived. In the following year (317) Cassander defeated Polyperchon, a property qualification was reimposed on Athens (though this time the bar was set somewhat lower), and the wealthy Athenian Demetrius of Phaleron was installed by Cassander as the leader of a pro-Macedonian regime. One of Demetrius’ first acts was to rehabilitate Phocion: he was given a state burial, a statue was erected in his honour and those held chiefly responsible for his execution were killed or driven abroad.

Plutarch paints a very sympathetic picture of Phocion. In Plutarch’s telling, he was a brave and skilled general, who put the interests of his country first and who, unlike the popular leaders who flattered and pandered to the whims of the masses, spoke the truth as he saw it, even if it would be unpopular. Cooperation with Macedonia after Chaeronea could so easily have been presented as self-serving and revealing of a lack of principle. But Plutarch is careful to show that Phocion opposed Philip while there was still hope of maintaining Athens’ independence, and, indeed, fought bravely; after Chaeronea his cooperation with the Macedonians is presented as sensible and moderate. That Phocion is presented as treading a rational middle course is brought out by comparison both with Demades, who is presented by Plutarch as a disgraceful toady of the Macedonians, and with those politicians who favoured resistance to Macedon even after Chaeronea, and who come across as deluded rabble-rousers. Similarly, the restored democracy of 318, which had Phocion executed, is presented as an unruly mob. The death scene, furthermore, in which Phocion and his companions drink hemlock in prison, is made in Plutarch’s telling to recall the death eighty years earlier of the philosopher Socrates, likewise unfairly executed by a restored democracy.

The rather anti-democratic tone of the Life almost certainly owes something to Plutarch’s sources, especially Demetrius of Phaleron’s own account of his ten-year rule in Athens; although Plutarch never specifies Demetrius as a source in this Life, he was almost certainly used here, as he was for Demosthenes. The only other extant version of these events, that in Diodorus, Book 18, is much less favourable to Phocion and presents the democratic leaders in a more positive light. Plutarch’s pro-Phocionic stance here may also reflect his own political instincts: like many ancient writers – by definition members of a wealthy elite – he was suspicious about unfettered popular sovereignty. In his treatise entitled Political advice, he spends a good deal of time advising how the wealthy should control and guide the people, and he tends in other Lives to take an ‘elitist’ view of Athenian democracy: it is good when strong leaders, like Pericles or Phocion, control and guide the people; but the masses, when stirred up instead by demagogues, are dangerous and unpredictable.

But we should be careful about assuming that the sympathetic presentation of Phocion and his policies in this Life simply reflects the political views of Plutarch or his sources. In other Lives, notably the Demosthenes, which deals with the same period, Plutarch is equally sympathetic to those who, like Demosthenes, resisted Macedon; Demosthenes’ death is also moving and noble, and his Life, like Phocion’s, ends with a statue being erected in his honour. In general, then, whatever his own political assumptions, Plutarch tends, within each Life, to be rather sympathetic to its subject, and to evaluate them against the background of the political situation with which they were faced. And Plutarch’s sympathy does baulk at one act of Phocion: in a rare narratorial intervention in chapter 32, Plutarch criticizes at length Phocion’s acquiescence in the seizure of Piraeus by Nicanor’s troops.

This Life is a particularly anecdotal one, and there is accordingly less chronological narrative than in many Plutarchan Lives. Plutarch relies on his reader’s already knowing the basic outline of the history of this period, perhaps partly through having in mind his own Demosthenes. The first eleven chapters, although they do contain some information on Phocion’s early commands, are not arranged chronologically but designed rather to give an impression of his character and political conduct over his whole career. Even when chronological narrative gets going in chapter 12, it is often interrupted by short episodes which are not related chronologically to their context. Much space is devoted to the last few years of Phocion’s life; indeed, the four years from 322 to 318 fill almost half the Life (chs. 23–37), including the dramatic description of Phocion’s condemnation and death (chs. 34–7).

The Life of Phocion is paired with the Life of Cato the Younger. Cato (95–46 BC) was well known for his uncompromising opposition to Julius Caesar; he famously committed suicide after the destruction of the Republican cause, refusing to accept the pardon which Caesar would most probably have offered him. Like Phocion’s, Cato’s death is treated at length by Plutarch and forms the focal point of the Life; it is also modelled heavily on Socrates’ death in Plato; indeed parallels with Socrates abound in Cato the Younger. In the prologue to the two Lives, which immediately precedes Phocion, Plutarch remarks on the fact that both men had the misfortune to be statesmen at a time of national defeat. Such times of crisis, Plutarch explains, provide particular difficulties to the statesman in his dealings with the people: speaking out too boldly against the popular will can elicit their anger, but flattering them and speaking only to please can lead to the ruin of all. The wise statesman will attempt to tread a difficult middle course, making concessions where necessary ‘while demanding in return an obedience and cooperation which will benefit the whole community’ (ch. 2). Plutarch also makes in the prologue a distinction between the statesman’s personal virtue and the circumstances with which he was confronted. Phocion and Cato, then, had to battle against circumstances and their Lives show how even under the most difficult conditions it is still possible to act virtuously. But, as Plutarch portrays it, there is one major difference between the two men: Phocion compromised with Macedonia after resistance became futile, and so, in Plutarch’s telling, saved Athens; Cato, on the other hand, refused to compromise his own personal principles and in doing so harmed the Republican cause and brought about its destruction. Thus, by comparison with Cato, Phocion’s collaboration with Macedonia appears moderate and reasonable, and the Lives of Phocion and Cato the Younger could be read as a case-study in the virtues of moderation and the dangers of extremism.

Prologue to the Lives of Phocion and Cato the Younger

1. Demades the orator,1 who rose to power in Athens by serving the interests of Antipater and the Macedonians, was in consequence obliged to propose and support many measures which were contrary to the city’s dignity and traditions. He often made the excuse that by the time he came to the helm, the ship of state was already a wreck. It may have been an exaggeration for Demades to say this; but it has more of the ring of truth if it is applied to the career of Phocion. Indeed, Demades himself was the mere flotsam of public life: his course of conduct both in personal and in public life was so outrageous as to make Antipater remark of him that in his old age he had become like a victim which has been dismembered for sacrifice – there was nothing left but the tongue and the stomach.2 It was Phocion’s lot, on the other hand, to carry on an unequal struggle against the violent and distressing events through which he lived, when the misfortunes suffered by Greece caused his virtue to be overshadowed and undervalued. For we need not agree with Sophocles’ rendering of virtue as weak when he says, ‘Reason, my lord, may dwell within a man and yet abandon him when troubles come.’3 But we must admit that when Fortune is ranged against good men, she prevails to the extent that she often brings upon them slanders and false accusations instead of the honour and gratitude which they deserve, and in this way undermines the world’s belief in their virtue.

2. And yet it is often held that a people is more inclined to insult and humiliate its best men when the nation’s affairs are going well, because it then feels buoyed up by a sense of ascendancy and power, but equally the opposite has been known to happen. Misfortunes cause men’s dispositions to become bitter, intolerant and ready to take offence at trifles, they grow peevish and unwilling to listen and are angry with any counsellor who gives them forthright advice. If he makes criticisms, they think he is insulting them on account of their misfortunes, and if he speaks his mind freely, they feel that he is despising them. Just as honey can irritate wounded and ulcerated parts of the body, so also does truthful and reasoned advice sting and provoke people who are in trouble, unless it is offered in a kindly and soothing manner. It is no doubt for this reason that Homer uses the word menoeikes4 to signify that which is pleasant because it yields to that part of the soul which experiences pleasure, and does not fight with or oppose it. Just as an eye that is inflamed finds most relief in colours which are subdued and lack lustre, and turns away from those which are brilliant and dazzling, so too a city which is passing through a crisis in its fortunes becomes too timid and sensitive to endure plain-speaking at the very moment that it needs it most badly, because the situation may offer no chance of retrieving the mistakes that have been made. Therefore it is in a state of this kind that political life is most dangerous: here the man who speaks only to please the people may be involved in their ruin, but the man who refuses to indulge them may be destroyed even sooner.

Now the sun, so the mathematicians tell us, does not move in the same path as the rest of the heavenly bodies, nor yet in a completely opposite direction, but pursues an oblique course at a slight angle to theirs: it follows a spiral progression with gentle and easy curves, and by this means all created things are kept in their place, and the most suitable blending of the elements is maintained. So, too, in political affairs, a method of government which is too rigid and opposes the popular will on every occasion will be resented as harsh and overbearing, but on the other hand, to acquiesce in all the demands of the people, and share in their mistakes, is a dangerous, sometimes a catastrophic, policy. The art of wise administration consists in making certain concessions and granting that which will please the people, while demanding in return an obedience and cooperation which will benefit the whole community – and men will cooperate readily and usefully in many ways provided they are not treated harshly and despotically all the time. This is the style of government which ensures the security of the state, but its practice is arduous and beset with difficulties, and it must combine those elements of severity and benevolence which are so hard to balance. But if such a happy mixture can be achieved, it provides the most complete and perfect blending of all rhythms and all harmonies. It is in this fashion, we are told, that God governs the universe, introducing his ultimate purpose not by force but by reason and persuasion.

3. This situation applied also to Cato the Younger. He lacked the power of persuasion, his manner did not endear him to the people and he never attained much popularity in his political career. Cicero tells us that he was defeated when he stood for the consulship because he acted as if he had been living in Plato’s republic, not among the dregs of Romulus,5 but I should rather say that he suffered in the same way as certain kinds of fruit do when they appear out of season: people gaze at them with wonder and delight, but do not eat them. In the same way, when the old style of virtue which had vanished for many years was reincarnated in the person of Cato, amid a general climate of depraved lives and corrupted manners, it won great fame and estimation. But it proved quite unsuited to men’s needs: its nature was grand but ponderous, and therefore out of harmony with the age in which he lived. Cato did not find the ship of state already listing dangerously, as Phocion did, but beset by storms and heavy seas. In politics he could serve her only by lending a hand with the sails and ropes, and by giving his support to those with greater influence, since he himself was kept away from the helm, but nevertheless he gave Fortune a hard struggle. It did indeed seize and overthrow the Roman constitution by means of other men, but this only came about slowly, with difficulty, and after a long struggle in which the cause of the Republic almost prevailed through Cato and his virtue.

With Cato’s virtue we compare that of Phocion, though not because of their general resemblances in that they were both good men devoted to the public interest. It is certainly true that two men may possess the same attribute in different forms:6 the courage of Alcibiades differs from that of Epaminondas, the wisdom of Themistocles from that of Aristides, and the justice of Numa from that of Agesilaus. But in the case of Cato and Phocion, it is clear that their virtues bore the same stamp, shape and colour down to the most minute particulars. Both, alike, displayed the same blend of kindness and severity, of caution and daring, of solicitude for the safety of others and disregard for their own; both, alike, abhorred dishonour, but were indefatigable in the pursuit of justice. We shall therefore need a most finely adjusted instrument of reason, so to speak, to discover and define the points of difference between them.

Life of Phocion

4. It is generally agreed that Cato’s origins were noble, as shall be described later,7 but Phocion’s too, so far as I can judge, were by no means lowly or undistinguished. If his father had really been a pestle-maker, as Idomeneus8 makes out, we may be sure that Glaucippus, the son of Phocion’s opponent Hypereides, would not have missed the opportunity of mentioning his humble birth in the speech he composed which cast so many aspersions on Phocion’s character. Nor, in that case, would Phocion have enjoyed a life of leisure or the excellent education which enabled him to become a pupil of Plato when he was only a boy, in later life a disciple of Xenocrates in the Academy, and to devote himself to the noblest pursuits from the very beginning of his career. Hardly any Athenian ever saw him laugh or shed tears, so Douris9 has recorded, nor did he make use of the public bath or take his hand from under his cloak10 – that is when he wore a cloak. Indeed, whenever he was in the country or on active service, he wore neither shoes nor an outer garment, unless the cold was unendurably bitter, and after a while his soldiers used to make a joke of this habit and say that when Phocion put on his cloak it was the sign of a hard winter.11

5. By nature he was one of the kindest and most considerate of men, but his appearance was stern and forbidding, so that those who did not know him intimately were discouraged from talking to him alone. Chares raised a laugh at Phocion’s expense in one of his speeches by referring to his lowering brow, whereupon Phocion retorted, ‘At least this brow of mine has never caused you any harm, but the laughter of those who are now sneering at me has given the city plenty to cry about.’

In the same way, Phocion’s choice of words brought great benefit to his listeners, since it was full of keen insight which often led to successful action, but it also had a brevity which made his expression peremptory, severe and altogether lacking in charm. Zeno12used to say that a philosopher should steep his words in meaning before he utters them, and Phocion’s speeches followed this principle, in that they used the fewest possible words to convey the strongest concentration of meaning. This characteristic of his is probably what Polyeuctus of Sphettus had in mind when he said that Demosthenes was the best orator, but Phocion the most effective speaker, for just as the coins which are very small in bulk are those which are very great in value, so effectiveness of speech may be judged by the ability to communicate the maximum of meaning within the smallest possible compass. Indeed, there is a story that once, when the audience was beginning to fill up the theatre, Phocion was seen walking about behind the stage lost in thought. One of his friends remarked, ‘You seem to be pondering something, Phocion.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I am thinking out whether I can shorten the speech I am going to make to the Athenians.’ Demosthenes himself, who had a very low opinion of the other orators, used to say quietly to his friends whenever Phocion rose to speak, ‘Here comes the chopper of my speeches.’ But this remark should perhaps be taken as referring to Phocion’s character, since a mere word or a nod from a good man carries more weight than any number of elaborate pieces of reasoning or long sentences.

6. As a young man Phocion attached himself to Chabrias,13 the general, and followed him on his campaigns. In these operations he gained plenty of experience of action, and also on occasion he was able to check the irregularities of Chabrias’ temperament, which was both inconsistent and liable to fly to extremes. Normally, Chabrias was phlegmatic and difficult to move, but once in action his spirits would be roused and kindled, and he would rush into the thick of the battle and expose himself unnecessarily. This was in fact what happened at Chios,14 where he undoubtedly sacrificed his life by being the first to run his trireme on shore in the effort to force a landing in the face of the enemy. On these occasions Phocion, who knew how to temper courage and initiative with prudence, would urge on Chabrias when he was slow to act, but would restrain his impetuosity when this was out of place. The result was that Chabrias, who was a good-natured and upright man, became much attached to Phocion and promoted him to a number of enterprises and commands. In this way, he was employed in most of the important military operations of the time and his name became known throughout Greece. In particular, on the occasion of the sea-battle off Naxos,15 he gave Phocion the opportunity to distinguish himself and enhance his reputation: he placed him in command of the left wing, and it was here that the fighting raged most fiercely and the issue was quickly decided.16 This was the first sea-battle in which the Athenians, on their own, had fought successfully against Greek opponents since the capture of their city,17 and they were incredibly pleased with Chabrias and came to regard Phocion as a man with the qualities of a leader. The battle was won at the time when the Great Mysteries18 were being celebrated, and to commemorate this Chabrias made it his custom to provide the Athenians with wine for the festival every year on the sixteenth day of the month of Boedromion.19

7. After this, Chabrias sent out Phocion to collect the contributions which were due from a number of islands20 and gave him an escort of twenty ships. It is said that Phocion commented that if he was being sent to fight the islanders, he would need a larger force, but that if he was visiting them as allies, one ship was enough. He sailed in his own trireme, discussed the purpose of his mission with the cities, dealt in a frank yet considerate manner with their leading men and returned home with a large fleet which the allies themselves dispatched to carry the money to Athens. Phocion not only honoured and showed his regard for Chabrias as long as the older man was alive, but when he died he took good care of his family. He paid particular attention to Chabrias’ son Ctesippus, whom he tried to make into a good man, and although he found the youth stupid and intractable, he persevered in trying to correct and cover up his faults. But on one occasion, when the young man was serving on an expedition, he continually vexed Phocion by asking him tiresome questions and offering him ill-timed advice, as though he were in a position to criticize the general and share in his command. Then at last, Phocion exclaimed, ‘O Chabrias, Chabrias, did ever a man show so much gratitude for your friendship as I do in putting up with your son?’

Phocion recognized that the politicians of his time had divided between themselves the duties of the general and of the orator, almost as if they had cast lots for them. Thus, some men such as Eubulus, Aristophon, Demosthenes, Lycurgus and Hypereides did nothing but make speeches before the people and introduce measures, while others such as Diopeithes, Menestheus, Leosthenes and Chares pursued their careers by holding the office of general and directing campaigns. Phocion wished to revive the kind of public service that had been rendered by Pericles, Aristides and Solon, which was at once comprehensive and well-balanced, so that it included both political and military service to the state. For each of these men had proved himself, in the words of Archilochus, ‘both a servant of the War-God and skilled in the gift of the lovely Muses’,21and Phocion saw that Athena was a goddess of both war and politics, and was addressed as such.22

8. Having adopted this principle, Phocion’s policies were always aimed at preserving a state of peace; yet, in spite of this, he held the office of general more frequently not only than any of his contemporaries, but even than any of his predecessors. He never sought nor campaigned for the post, but neither did he shun, or decline it when his city called upon him. For it is generally agreed that he held the office of general forty-five times, yet he never once attended the election, but was always absent when the people sent for him and chose him. As a result, people who lack understanding are amazed at the behaviour of the Athenian people, since Phocion opposed their wishes more often than any other leader and never said or did anything to win their favour. The truth is that just as kings are supposed to call in their flatterers after dinner has been served, so the Athenians would listen to the most sprightly and sophisticated of their demagogues by way of entertainment; but when they wanted a commander, they would switch to a more sober and serious mood and would call upon the wisest and most austere of their citizens, the man who alone, or at least more than all the rest, stood fast in opposing their impulses and wishes. Indeed, when an oracle from Delphi was read out one day in the assembly, which declared that the rest of the Athenians were unanimous in their opinions and that there was only one man who dissented from them, Phocion came forward and told them that they need look no further: he himself was the man in question, for it was only he who disapproved of everything that they did. And on another occasion, when he uttered some sentiment which was greeted with applause and saw that the whole assembly had accepted his argument, he turned to his friends and asked them, ‘Can it be that I have been arguing on the wrong side without knowing it?’

9. Once the Athenians were collecting money for a public sacrifice. Everybody else put in their contribution, but Phocion after he had several times been invited to follow suit, remarked, ‘I suggest you appeal to these rich men. I should be ashamed to give you anything before I have paid my debt to this man here,’ and he pointed to Callicles, the money-lender. On another occasion, when his listeners would not stop clamouring and trying to shout him down, he told them this story: ‘A cowardly man was once setting out for a war. Some ravens began to croak around him, whereupon he laid down his arms and sat still. After a while he picked them up and started again. Then, when the ravens croaked once more, he stopped and said, “You may croak to your hearts’ content, but you shall never make a meal of me.” ’23

On another occasion when the Athenians urged him to lead them out against the enemy, and called him a coward and a man of no spirit because he refused, he retorted, ‘You cannot make me bold, and I cannot make you cowards. But we know very well what each of us really is.’ Then at a time of crisis for Athens, when the people were showing great hostility towards him and demanding an inquiry into his generalship, Phocion’s advice was, ‘My friends, first of all make sure of your own safety.’ Again when the people had been humble and submissive during a war, but as soon as peace had been proclaimed became overbearing and denounced him for having robbed them of victory, he told them, ‘You are lucky to have a general who knows you – otherwise you would have been ruined long ago.’ When there was a territorial dispute with Boeotia,24 about which the Athenians refused to negotiate but insisted on going to war, he recommended them to fight by using words, in which they had the advantage, not weapons, in which they were inferior. When he was addressing the assembly and the people refused to take his advice or even to give him a hearing, he told them, ‘You can make me act against my wishes, but you shall never make me speak against my judgement.’

When Demosthenes, one of the orators who opposed his policies, said to him, ‘The Athenians will kill you,’ Phocion replied, ‘Yes, if they lose their senses, but they will kill you, if they get them back again.’25 Once, on a very hot day, he saw Polyeuctus of Sphettus urging the Athenians to declare war on Philip of Macedon. The speaker was gasping as he was a very fat man, the sweat was pouring off him and he was gulping down great draughts of water, whereupon Phocion remarked, ‘It is most fitting that you should vote for war on the strength of this man’s advice. What sort of figure do you think he will cut when the enemy are close at hand and he is carrying a shield and a breast-plate? Even the effort of making a prepared speech to you is enough to suffocate him!’ On another occasion, Lycurgus showered abuse on him in the public assembly, and was particularly bitter because, when Alexander of Macedon had demanded that ten orators should be surrendered to him, Phocion had supported the request.26 Phocion’s reply was, ‘I have often given this people good advice, but they will not listen to me.’

10. There was a certain Archibiades who was nicknamed ‘Laconist’, because he aped the Spartans by growing a huge beard, wearing a short cloak and going about with a permanent scowl on his face.27 At a meeting of the Council, Phocion was greeted with a stormy reception, and so he appealed to this man to testify in his favour. However, when Archibiades rose to speak, he merely gave the advice which he thought would please the Athenians, whereupon Phocion seized him by the beard and exclaimed, ‘Archibiades, you might just as well have shaved this off!’28 Aristogeiton the informer was well known in the assembly as a warmonger who was always trying to urge the people into action, but when the lists of those to be selected for military service had to be drawn up, he arrived hobbling with the aid of a staff and with both legs bandaged. Phocion, who was on the rostrum, caught sight of him in the distance and cried out, ‘Put down Aristogeiton as lame and unfit for service.’ All these sayings of his make it astonishing that a man who created such a harsh and austere impression should ever have earned the nickname of ‘The Good’.

It is certainly difficult, though not, I think, impossible for the same man to be at once sweet and sharp, as a wine can be. In the same way, other men and other wines may at first appear agreeable, but in the end prove both unpleasant and harmful to those who use them. And yet we are told that Hypereides once said to the people: ‘Men of Athens, do not ask yourself whether I am harsh, but whether I am paid to be harsh.’ In other words, his question implied that the populace would only fear or attack men because they were avaricious, and not because they used their power to gratify their insolence, their envy, their anger or their ambition. Phocion, then, never harmed any of his fellow-citizens out of personal spite, nor did he regard a single one of them as his enemy; whenever he showed himself to be harsh or stubborn or inexorable, it was only to the extent that he was forced to struggle against those who opposed his efforts to save his country. In all his other dealings, he was benevolent, accessible and considerate to everyone, indeed he even came to the rescue of his opponents when they were in trouble or in danger of being put on trial for their actions. Once, when his friends reproached him for appearing on behalf of some worthless individual who had been accused, he retorted that good men need no defenders. Again, when Aristogeiton the informer had been condemned and begged Phocion to visit him, he responded to the appeal and set out for the prison. His friends tried to prevent him, whereupon he said to them, ‘Let me go, my friends: after all, where would one rather meet Aristogeiton than in prison?’

11. Certainly, if the Athenians sent out emissaries under the command of any general other than Phocion, the allies and inhabitants of the islands would always treat them as enemies. They would strengthen their walls, block their harbours, and bring back their herds, their slaves, their wives and their children from the countryside into their cities. But whenever Phocion was in command, they would come far out to sea to meet him in their ships, put garlands on their heads and escort him to their shores with joy.

12. Philip was infiltrating Euboea, bringing troops over from Macedonia and, through his support of tyrants there, bringing its cities into his sphere of influence. Plutarch of Eretria appealed to the Athenians and begged them to save the island from falling under the rule of Macedon; so Phocion was sent out in command of a small expedition on the assumption that the people of the island would rally enthusiastically to his support.29 But he found that Euboea was in a bad way; it was full of traitors and undermined by bribes, and in consequence Phocion’s own situation was extremely dangerous. He occupied a ridge that was separated by a deep ravine from the plains which surrounded the city of Tamynae, and there he established himself and concentrated the best of his troops. As for the disorderly, argumentative and untrustworthy soldiers in his force who were apt to steal out of his lines and desert, he told his officers to make no effort to keep them: he calculated that if they remained in his camp, they would be useless because of their lack of discipline and would only demoralize those soldiers who were reliable, while if they returned to Athens, the memory of their cowardice would make them less likely to denounce him and would deter them from making false accusations.

13. As the enemy advanced, Phocion ordered his men to stand to arms, but to remain quiet until he had finished sacrificing, then waited a long time, possibly because the omens were unfavourable, or because he wanted to draw the enemy closer to his position. At this, Plutarch the Eretrian, who imagined that Phocion’s backwardness in engaging was due to cowardice, first charged the enemy at the head of his mercenaries; then when the cavalry saw Plutarch advance, they could not bear to remain idle but at once rode at their opponents, galloping out of the camp in scattered groups and without formation. The result was that first the leading ranks were repulsed, then the whole body of troops broke and Plutarch himself took to his heels. Some of the enemy reached the palisade of Phocion’s camp and, imagining that they were masters of the field, started trying to tear up the stakes from which it was built and break through. But the sacrifices had been completed in the meantime and the Athenians attacked and at once drove the enemy from the camp and cut down most of them among the fortifications as they strove to escape. Phocion ordered his phalanx to halt and hold its ground, so that the soldiers who had been scattered in the earlier action could rally to it and re-form; meanwhile, he himself with his picked troops launched a fresh attack on the enemy. There followed a fierce engagement in which all the Athenians fought with great courage and gallantry: on this occasion, Thallus the son of Cineas and Glaucus the son of Polymedes, who fought side by side with Phocion, distinguished themselves most conspicuously. However, Cleophanes also made a name for himself in the battle. It was he who halted the cavalry in their headlong flight, and by shouting at them to rally to their general, who was in great danger, he made them ride back and complete the victory which had been won by the hoplites. After this battle, Phocion expelled Plutarch from Eretria, and he also captured a fortress named Zaretra, which commands the narrowest part of the island where the sea reduces it to a mere neck of land. He also released all his Greek prisoners, for he was afraid that the demagogues at Athens might give way to a fit of anger and persuade the people to pass some cruel sentence on them.

14. After these successes Phocion sailed home, but all too soon the allies were to feel the absence of his high principles and just conduct, and the Athenians the loss of the experience and vigour he had just shown. For his successor, Molossus, carried on the war so ineptly that he was actually captured by the enemy.30

When Philip reached the Hellespont31 with all his forces, he had great hopes of subduing the Chersonese and making himself master of Perinthus and Byzantium at the same time. The Athenians were anxious to help these cities, but thanks to the efforts of the demagogues it was Chares who was appointed to command the expedition. When he arrived there he achieved nothing worthy of the size of his force, and the cities even refused to allow his fleet to enter their harbours. They all regarded him with suspicion and he was reduced to roaming about the country, where he extorted money from the Athenians’ allies and was treated with contempt by their enemies. At length, the people in Athens, urged on by the demagogues, became exasperated with him and began to regret that they had ever sent help to the Byzantines. But then Phocion rose in the assembly and declared that they had no right to blame the allies for withholding their trust: the fault lay with their own generals who had failed to inspire it. ‘These men’, he declared, ‘make you feared even by those who need your help to save them.’

The people were so impressed by this speech that they again changed their minds. They ordered Phocion to raise another army and set out to help the allies on the Hellespont. It was this decision, above all, which saved Byzantium. For Phocion’s credit already stood high there, but more important still Leon, one of their leading citizens who was well known among the Byzantines for his virtue and who had been a close friend of Phocion’s at the Academy, personally guaranteed the Athenian’s good faith. The citizens would not let Phocion encamp outside their walls as he had intended, but opened their gates, welcomed the Athenians into their homes and fraternized with them. After this gesture of confidence, the Athenians not only behaved with exemplary discipline and courtesy inside the city but fought with great spirit to defend it. The result was that in this campaign Philip was driven out of the Hellespont and his previous reputation as an unbeatable commander suffered a severe setback. Besides this, Phocion captured several of Philip’s ships and recaptured some cities which the Macedonian king had garrisoned. He also made landings at a number of points on Philip’s territory, plundered and overran it; finally, when an enemy force was mustered for its defence, he was wounded and sailed back home.

15. On one occasion, the people of Megara appealed secretly to Athens for help.32 Phocion was afraid that the Boeotians might discover this and prevent the Athenians from sending help, and so he summoned a meeting of the assembly early in the morning and explained the communication from Megara. Then, as soon as the necessary decree had been approved, he had the trumpet sounded, ordered his men to leave the assembly and immediately marched them away under arms. The Megarians received him with enthusiasm, and he proceeded to fortify their harbour at Nisaea and to build two long walls running down to it from the city;33 in this way, he made Megara’s communications with the sea so secure that she had no need to fear her enemies by land and could be connected with Athens by sea.

16. Athens was now in a state of total hostility to Philip, and in Phocion’s absence other generals were elected to take charge of the war. However, when Phocion returned with his fleet from the islands, he at first tried to persuade the people not to go to war and to accept Philip’s terms, in view of the fact that the king was peaceably inclined and greatly feared the dangers which were likely to ensue from a war. One of the Athenians, who made his living by hanging about the law-courts and acting as an informer, opposed Phocion and asked, ‘Do you dare to try to dissuade the Athenians from going to war when they are already under arms?’ ‘Certainly I do,’ retorted Phocion, ‘and I am not forgetting that if we go to war, it is I who will be in charge, while if we remain at peace, it will be you.’ In the event Phocion could not make his point of view prevail. It was Demosthenes who carried the day and urged the Athenians to engage Philip as far away from Athens as possible.34 At this Phocion declared: ‘The problem is not where we are going to fight, my good sir, but how we are to win the battle. If we can do that, we shall keep the war at a distance anyhow, but it is the loser who finds that the horrors of war are on his very doorstep.’ But when Athens was defeated35 and the most discontented and revolutionary elements among the people dragged Charidemus to the public platform and clamoured for him to be appointed general, the more reputable citizens were filled with alarm. With the aid of the Council of the Areopagus in the assembly, they managed through tears and entreaties to persuade the Athenians to entrust the city to Phocion.

Phocion considered that the terms which Philip was offering to Athens were generous and humane, and that the Athenians should accept them. But when Demades proposed a motion that the city should associate herself with the common peace and take part in the congress for all the states,36 Phocion would not support it until he had first discovered what demands Philip would make upon the Greeks. His advice was overruled because of the critical situation in which Athens stood, but as soon as he saw that the Athenians were beginning to regret their choice, because they were being called upon to supply Philip with cavalry and triremes, he said to them, ‘This is exactly what I was afraid of when I resisted your proposals, but since you made the choice, you must not allow yourselves to become disappointed or cast down. You must remember that your ancestors sometimes gave the orders, and at other times had to submit to them; but because they acted with honour in both situations, they saved their city and the rest of the Greeks.’ When Philip was assassinated,37 the people’s first impulse was to offer up sacrifice for the good news, but Phocion opposed this. He said it would show an ignoble spirit to rejoice at what had happened, and reminded them that the army which had opposed them at Chaeronea had been weakened by the loss of no more than one man.

17. Again, when Demosthenes was speaking abusively of Alexander, even while the king was already advancing upon Thebes, Phocion said to him ‘Foolhardy man, why seek to provoke a man whose temper is savage38 and who is reaching out after greater glory? Or do you wish, when there is already a fearful conflagration on our borders, to make the flames spread to our city too? My whole object in taking up the burden of office was to prevent this, and I shall not allow my fellow-citizens to destroy themselves, even if they wish it.’

After Thebes had been destroyed,39 Alexander demanded that Demosthenes, Lycurgus, Hypereides, Charidemus and several others should be handed over to him. When the people heard this proposal, the whole assembly turned their gaze upon Phocion and called upon him repeatedly by name. Phocion then rose to his feet. He beckoned to his side one of his closest friends, whom he loved and confided in above all others, and said, ‘These men, whom Alexander has demanded, have brought our city to such a pass that for my part, even if the king were to ask for my friend Nicocles, I should urge you to give him up. And if I myself could sacrifice my life to save you all, I should count this a happy fate. I feel pity too, men of Athens, for the Thebans who have fled here for shelter, but it is enough for Greece to have to mourn the destruction of Thebes. For this reason it is better to ask for mercy and to intercede with the victors, both for you and for them, than to fight.’

It is said that when the first decree was presented to Alexander, he flung it from him, turned his back on the envoys and left the room. But the second decree, which was brought by Phocion, he accepted, since he had learnt from the older Macedonians that Philip had always admired this man. Alexander not only consented to receive Phocion and hear his petition, but he actually listened to his advice, which was as follows. If it was peace that Alexander wanted above all, then he should make an end of the fighting, but if it was glory, then he should transfer the theatre of the war and turn his arms away from Greece and against the barbarians. Phocion spoke at length and his words were well chosen to fit Alexander’s character and aspirations, with the result that he quite transformed the king’s mood and allayed his resentment against the Athenians.40 In this frame of mind, Alexander told Phocion that the Athenians ought to watch the course of events with great care, since, if anything happened to him, they were the people who should become the leaders of Greece. In private, too, he welcomed Phocion as his friend and guest, and treated him with greater honour than even most of his closest associates enjoyed. At any rate, the historian Douris tells us that after Alexander had become great and had conquered Darius, he left out the customary word of greeting, chairein,41 in all his letters, except when he wrote to Phocion. For two men alone, Phocion and Antipater, he used the word: this detail is also recorded by Chares.42

18. As regards the story of the money offered to Phocion, it is generally agreed that Alexander sent him a present of 100 talents. When this arrived in Athens, Phocion asked those who brought it why, when there were so many Athenians to choose from, Alexander should have singled out him as the recipient of such a huge sum. They answered, ‘Because Alexander considers that only you are a good and honourable man.’ Phocion’s reply was, ‘In that case let him allow me to continue in that state and to enjoy that reputation always.’ But when the messengers followed him to his house and saw his frugal way of life, how his wife kneaded the bread, while Phocion with his own hands drew water from the well and washed their feet, they were indignant, and pressed him even more insistently to accept the money; they exclaimed that it was monstrous that Phocion, who was an honoured friend of the king, should live in such poverty. Phocion caught sight of a poor old man who was walking by dressed in a squalid cloak, and so he asked them which of the two they thought inferior, himself or the old man. They begged him not to make such a comparison, whereupon Phocion replied, ‘Well, this man has less to live on than I have, and yet he finds it quite enough. In other words,’ he went on, ’either I make no use of this enormous sum, or if I do, I shall destroy my good name with the Athenians and with the king as well.’

So the treasure went back from Athens to where it had come from, after it had served to prove to the Greeks that the man who did not need such a sum was richer than the man who had offered it. Alexander was annoyed and wrote back to Phocion that he did not consider those who refused to accept anything from him to be his friends. But even then Phocion would not take the money, though he did ask for the release of Echecratides the sophist, Athenodorus of Imbros and two Rhodians, Demaratus and Sparton, who had been arrested on various charges and imprisoned at Sardis. Alexander immediately set these men free, and years later, when he sent Craterus back to Macedonia,43 he ordered him to make over to Phocion the revenue of whichever one of four cities in Asia he might choose.44 The cities were Cius, Gergithus, Mylasa and Elaea, and he insisted even more vehemently than before that he would be angry if Phocion did not accept this gift. But Phocion again declined, and soon afterwards Alexander died. Phocion’s house, which is in the quarter of Athens known as Melite, can be seen to this day. It is decorated with a number of plates of bronze, but in other respects it is simple and unpretentious.

19. As for Phocion’s wives, we have no record of the first, except for the fact that she was a sister of Cephisodotus the sculptor. But his second wife was as celebrated among the Athenians for her modesty and simplicity as was Phocion for his integrity. On one occasion, when the Athenians were watching a performance of some new tragedies, the actor who was to play the part of the queen asked the choregos, the sponsor of the festival, to provide him with a large number of women attendants, all of them dressed in expensive costumes. When the sponsor declined to provide these, the actor became indignant and kept the audience waiting by refusing to make his entrance. At this the sponsor, whose name was Melanthius, pushed him onto the stage, shouting out at the same time, ‘Don’t you see Phocion’s wife, who always goes out with only one maidservant to wait on her? Why should you give yourself these airs and turn all our wives’ heads with your extravagance?’ His words could be heard by the whole audience and were greeted with loud applause. It was Phocion’s wife, too, who remarked, when an Ionian woman who was staying with her showed off her gold ornaments and her collars and necklaces glittering with jewels, ‘My ornament is Phocion, who is just now serving his twentieth year as a general of Athens.’

20. When Phocion’s son Phocus was anxious to take part in the Panathenaic Games as an equestrian acrobat, Phocion gave him permission. This was not because he cared whether or not his son won a prize, but rather because he hoped that the young man would benefit from the exercise and physical training that were needed for the race, for in general Phocus had led a disorderly life and was fond of drinking. He won the race and received many invitations from friends who wished to celebrate his victory in their houses, but Phocion allowed only one host to have this honour, and declined all the other invitations. When Phocion came to the house and saw the magnificence of the preparations, he was particularly struck by the basins of spiced wine which were provided to wash the feet of the guests as they arrived, and he called his son and said, ‘Phocus, won’t you prevent your friend from spoiling your victory?’ Wishing to remove his son altogether from that style of living, he took him to Sparta and placed him among the young men who were undergoing the traditional course of Spartan discipline.45 This annoyed the Athenians, since it implied that Phocion had a poor opinion of their own customs and institutions, and on one occasion Demades said to him, ‘Phocion, why don’t we try to persuade the Athenians to adopt the Spartan constitution? If you give me the word, I am quite ready to introduce the necessary legislation.’ ‘Yes, why not?’ replied Phocion. ‘With all these exotic perfumes and lotions you put on, you would be just the man to sing the praises of Lycurgus and sell the Athenians the idea of plain food and state-controlled dining halls.’46

21. When Alexander wrote requesting the Athenians send him triremes47 and the other orators opposed the idea, the Council invited Phocion to give his opinion. ‘My advice,’ he said, ‘is that you should either possess superior strength yourselves, or be on good terms with those who do possess it.’ When Pytheas, who at that time was just beginning to speak in public, reeled off a long harangue with complete self-confidence, Phocion remarked, ‘You had better hold your tongue and remember that you are a slave of the people, and newly bought at that.’ Again when Harpalus, Alexander’s treasurer,48 landed in Attica, and those of the demagogues who were in the habit of trading their political influence rushed to him and vied eagerly for his favours, he scattered a few trifles among them from his hoard to whet their appetite. But he immediately sent a message to Phocion, offered him 700 talents and placed himself and the whole of his property at his disposal in return for his protection. Phocion answered sharply that Harpalus would regret it if he did not give up his attempts to corrupt the city, and for the moment the man was abashed and ceased his efforts. But soon afterwards, when the Athenians met to consider his case, he discovered that those who had accepted money from him were now changing sides and denouncing him to prevent themselves from being found out, while Phocion, who had refused to accept anything, was showing some regard for his safety, if this could be reconciled with the public interest. This encouraged Harpalus to try to ingratiate himself with Phocion a second time, but he found him completely impervious to bribes and as unassailable on every side as a fortress. However, he succeeded in making a friend and associate of Phocion’s son-in-law, Charicles: Harpalus trusted him and employed him in all his affairs, with the result that he ruined Charicles’ reputation.

22. For example, Harpalus had been passionately in love with the courtesan Pythonice, who had borne him a daughter. When Pythonice died,49 Harpalus resolved to build a magnificent monument to her memory and entrusted the supervision of the work to Charicles. This was a disreputable enough assignment in itself, but it was made even more so by the appearance of the tomb when it was completed. For the monument can still be seen at Hermeium on the way from Athens to Eleusis, but there is nothing in its character to justify the sum of 30 talents, which Charicles is said to have charged Harpalus for its construction. And yet after Harpalus’ death, Charicles and Phocion took his daughter under their protection and educated her with every care. On the other hand, when Charicles was prosecuted for his dealings with Harpalus and appealed to Phocion to appear with him in court and speak on his behalf, Phocion refused and said, ‘When I made you my son-in-law, Charicles, it was only for honourable purposes.’

When Asclepiades, the son of Hipparchus, broke the news of Alexander’s death in Athens,50 Demades urged the people not to believe it: if Alexander were really dead, he declared, the stench of the corpse would have filled the whole world long before. But Phocion, who immediately saw that the people were bent on revolution, tried his utmost to calm them down and restrain them. And when many of them rushed to the public platform and shouted that the report which Asclepiades had brought was true, Phocion merely said, ‘Very well then, if he is dead today, he will be dead tomorrow and the day after. We shall have all the more quiet to debate the matter, and all the more safety to decide what we should do.’

23. When Leosthenes had involved the Athenians in the Greek War,51 and saw that Phocion strongly disapproved of his action, he scornfully asked him what good he had done the city in all the years he had served her as general. ‘Do you think it is nothing, then,’ retorted Phocion, ‘that our citizens are all buried at home in their own tombs?’ On another occasion, when Leosthenes was making a boastful and arrogant speech in the assembly, Phocion said, ‘Your speeches, young man, remind me of cypress trees. They are towering and stately, but they bear no fruit.’ And when Hypereides once rose and demanded of Phocion, ‘Will the time ever come when you will advise Athens to go to war?’ Phocion retorted, ‘Yes, she can go to war when I see the young men willing to observe discipline, the rich to make contributions and the demagogues to refrain from embezzling public funds.’ Many people admired the force which Leosthenes had assembled,52 and they asked Phocion what he thought of the preparations. ‘They are good enough for a sprint,’ he said; ‘but if it is to be a long race, then I fear for Athens, since we have no reserves, either of money, or of ships, or of hoplites.’53 And events proved him right. At first Leosthenes achieved some brilliant successes, defeating the Boeotians in a pitched battle and driving Antipater into Lamia. At this point, the Athenians are said to have been buoyed up with high hopes and constantly holding festivals and offering sacrifices to the gods to celebrate the good news. Some of the citizens thought they could prove to Phocion that he had been wrong, and asked him whether he would not have been glad to have achieved these successes. ‘Certainly I would,’ he said, ‘but I am still glad to have given the advice I did.’ And again when one dispatch after another arrived, either in writing or by messenger from the camp, he remarked, ‘I wonder when we shall stop winning victories.’

24. But when Leosthenes was killed,54 those who were afraid that, if Phocion were elected general, he would put an end to the war, arranged with an obscure person that he should rise to speak in the assembly. He was to make out that he was a friend and intimate associate of Phocion and urge the people to spare him and keep him safe since they had no one else like him in Athens. They should, therefore, not send him into the field, but appoint Antiphilus to command the army. The Athenians approved his proposal, whereupon Phocion came forward and declared that he had never been associated with the man, and, so far from his being a close friend, he had not the slightest knowledge of him. ‘But from this day,’ he went on, ‘I shall regard you as my friend and companion, for you have given advice which suits me very well.’

When the Athenians were eager to invade Boeotia,55 Phocion began by opposing the plan, and some of his friends warned him that he would be put to death if he continually came into conflict with his fellow-countrymen. ‘That will be an injustice’, he said, ‘so long as I am acting in their interests; but it will be just if I lead them astray.’ Later, when he saw that the people would not give up the project but continued to clamour for it, he ordered the herald to make a proclamation that all Athenian citizens under the age of sixty should take rations for five days and follow him immediately out of the assembly. At this there was an instant uproar, as the older citizens leaped to their feet and shouted their disagreement.56 ‘There is nothing extraordinary about this,’ Phocion told them; ‘after all, I who am to lead you am in my eightieth year.’ For the moment, then, he held them back and persuaded them to give up their intention.

25. When the sea-coast of Attica was being ravaged by Micion, who had landed at Rhamnus57 with a large force of Macedonians and mercenaries and was overrunning the countryside nearby, Phocion led out the Athenian army against him. As they marched, men kept running up to him from all sides and telling him what to do. One advised him to occupy a hill on this side, another to send his cavalry round that way, a third to launch an attack on the enemy. ‘Heracles!’ Phocion exclaimed, ‘how many generals I see around me and how few soldiers!’ Again, when he had drawn up his hoplites in battle, one of his soldiers ran a long way out in front of the ranks, was overcome with fear when an opponent ran out to meet him and raced back again to his position. ‘Young man,’ said Phocion sternly, ‘you ought to be ashamed at deserting your post twice in one day, first the position which I gave you and then the one you gave yourself.’ He then immediately attacked the enemy and utterly routed them, killing Micion their commander along with many others. The Greek army in Thessaly also defeated Antipater, although he had been reinforced by Leonnatus and his Macedonian troops from Asia. The Greek infantry were commanded by Antiphilus and the cavalry by Menon the Thessalian: in this battle Leonnatus was killed.

26. A little later, Craterus crossed over from Asia with a large army and another pitched battle was fought at Crannon, in which the Greeks were beaten.58 This was not a crushing defeat, nor were many men killed. But the Greek commanders were young men and were too lenient to maintain a strict discipline, while at the same time Antipater made tempting offers to a number of the Greek cities from which the confederate army had been drawn: the result was that the troops melted away and disgracefully betrayed the cause of Greek freedom. Antipater at once marched upon Athens, and Demosthenes and Hypereides fled from the city. As for Demades, he had found it impossible to pay any part of the fines which had been imposed on him by the city: he had been convicted of putting forward illegal proposals on seven occasions, had been deprived of his civic rights and was, therefore, disqualified from speaking in the assembly. But he discovered that at a moment of crisis these disabilities were ignored, and so he brought forward a proposal that delegates should be sent to Antipater with full powers to sue for peace. However, the people were afraid and called upon Phocion, declaring that he was the only man in whom they felt confidence. ‘If you had trusted me in the first place,’ he reminded them, ‘we should not now be debating this question at all.’ When the motion had thus been passed, Phocion was sent to Antipater,59 who was encamped in the Cadmeia,60 and was preparing to invade Attica at once. Phocion’s first request was that Antipater should stay where he was and arrange terms. Craterus protested that it was unfair of Phocion to try to persuade the Macedonians to remain in the territory of a friend and ally, thereby inflicting all the damage which is caused by an occupying army, when they were quite free to plunder the territory of their enemy; but Antipater took his colleague by the hand and said, ‘We must grant Phocion this favour.’ However, as for the remainder of the terms of peace, Antipater told the Athenians that these must be dictated by the victors: this was exactly what he in his turn had been told by Leosthenes at Lamia.61

27. Accordingly, when Phocion returned to Athens and reported these demands, the people accepted them, since they had no choice. Phocion then visited Thebes again with the rest of the Athenian delegation, which had now been reinforced by the philosopher Xenocrates.62 For Xenocrates’ reputation for virtue, together with his fame and prestige, could not fail to command consideration: no man’s heart, it was generally believed, could be so full of pride, or anger, or cruelty, that it would not at the mere sight of the man be moved to a feeling of reverence and a desire to do him honour. But in this case the opposite happened, owing to a certain ruthlessness and antagonism to virtue in Antipater’s disposition. In the first place, he refused to salute Xenocrates at all, although he greeted the other ambassadors, at which Xenocrates is said to have remarked, ‘Antipater does well to feel ashamed before me alone for his ruthless designs towards our city.’ Then, when Xenocrates began to speak, Antipater would not listen to him, brutally interrupted him and reduced him to silence. Finally, after Phocion had spoken, Antipater replied that the Athenians could be admitted to friendship and alliance with him on the following conditions. First, they must deliver up Demosthenes and Hypereides; secondly, they must revert to their ancestral constitution, whereby the franchise was limited to those who possessed a property qualification;63 thirdly, they must admit a garrison into Munychia;64 and fourthly, they must pay the whole expense of the war, as well as a fine.

The other delegates considered these terms tolerable, and even humane, but Xenocrates remarked that Antipater was treating the Athenians leniently if he regarded them as slaves, but harshly if as free men. Phocion begged Antipater not to install a garrison in Athens, to which Antipater, so we are told, replied, ‘Phocion, we are ready to do you any favour which will not bring ruin on you and on ourselves.’ However, some people give a different account. They say that Antipater asked whether, if he made a concession to the Athenians in the matter of the garrison, Phocion could give him a guarantee that the city would abide by the terms of the peace and not stir up trouble. They also report that when Phocion was silent and hesitated as to how to answer, a certain Callimedon,65nicknamed ‘The Stag-beetle’, who was an arrogant man and a hater of democracy, leaped to his feet and shouted out, ‘But even if this fellow goes on talking nonsense, Antipater, and gives you his promise, will you believe him and not carry out what you have already decided?’

28. In this way, the Athenians were obliged to admit a Macedonian garrison; it was commanded by Menyllus, who was a fair-minded man and a friend of Phocion. But the posting of a garrison was regarded as a demonstration of power which was deliberately carried out to humiliate the Athenians, and not as the occupation of a strong-point which was dictated by necessity. Moreover, the moment that was chosen for this action was even more galling for the Athenians, for the garrison was installed on the twentieth day of the month of Boedromion, while the Mysteries were being celebrated.66 It is on that day that the god Iacchus is conducted from the city to Eleusis,67 and this disturbance of the ceremony caused the people to compare the present celebration of the rites with those of years gone by. In those earlier days, mystic apparitions had been seen and voices heard, which had coincided with the city’s most glorious successes and had struck terror and dismay into the hearts of their enemies.68 But now, even in the midst of these same observances, the gods apparently looked down unmoved, while the most crushing misfortunes fell upon Greece. So the desecration of this season, which hitherto had been the most hallowed and beloved in the eyes of the Athenians, henceforth made them associate its name with their greatest disasters. And in fact a few years before this, the priestess of Dodona had sent an oracle to Athens warning the people to ‘guard the heights of Artemis’69 and make sure that no strangers should seize them. Again, on this occasion, when they dyed the fillets which are twined around the sacred chests that are carried in the procession, instead of taking on their usual purple colour, they turned a pale and deathly hue; and, more ominous still, all the articles belonging to private individuals which were dyed with them at the same time retained their natural colour. Besides this, one of the initiates, who was washing a pig in the harbour of Cantharus,70 was seized by a shark, which devoured all the lower parts of his body as far as the belly: by this omen the gods were believed to be making a clear prophecy that the Athenians would lose the lower parts of the city which bordered on the sea, but would keep the upper city.

Now the garrison at Munychia did not harm the citizens in any way, thanks to the influence of Menyllus. But the Athenians who were deprived of the vote because they were too poor to possess the property qualification, numbered more than twelve thousand.71Those of them who remained in Athens were considered to have received harsh and humiliating treatment; on the other hand, those who because of this measure left the capital and migrated to the town and the territory which Antipater provided for them in Thrace were regarded as no better than the exiles of a captured city.

29. The death of Demosthenes at Calauria and of Hypereides at Cleonae, which I have described elsewhere,72 caused the Athenians to look back on the times of Philip and Alexander with regret and almost to long for their return. At a later period, after Antigonus had been killed in battle, and those who had taken his life had begun to oppress and tyrannize their subjects, a peasant in Phrygia who was digging on his farm was asked by a passer-by what he was doing, and replied with a sigh, ‘I am searching for Antigonus.’ So now the same sentiments occurred to the Athenians, when they recalled the greatness and generosity of those kings, and how these qualities made their anger easy to appease. By contrast, Antipater, although he tried to conceal his power by counterfeiting the appearance of a private citizen who dressed meanly and followed a simple mode of life, was really a harsher and more tyrannical master to those who had to endure his rule. However, by pleading with Antipater, Phocion managed to save many Athenians from banishment, while for those who were obliged to go into exile he obtained the concession of living in the Peloponnese, instead of being banished from Greece to live beyond the Ceraunian mountains or Cape Taenarus, as was the fate of many of those who were expelled from other Greek cities.73 One of these men was Hagnonides, the informer.

Phocion also succeeded in regulating the city’s internal affairs so that government was carried on mildly and in a law-abiding fashion. He found means to keep the men of education and culture continuously in office, while the agitators and busybodies, by the very fact of their being constantly excluded from power, gradually faded into insignificance and ceased to trouble the state; instead, he encouraged such men to find satisfaction in staying at home and cultivating the soil. He noticed that Xenocrates paid tax as a resident alien and offered to enrol him as a citizen, but the philosopher declined, saying that he could not acknowledge a regime the establishment of which he had been publicly delegated to oppose.

30. When Menyllus offered him a gift of money, Phocion replied that Menyllus was no better a man than Alexander, and that there was no stronger reason for him to accept it now than on the previous occasion when he had refused the present from Alexander. But Menyllus pressed him to accept the money, if only for the benefit of his son Phocus, whereupon Phocion said, ‘If Phocus becomes converted to a modest style of living, then his inheritance will be enough for him, but as he is now, nothing will satisfy him.’ However, when Antipater wished him to perform some service which he considered dishonourable, Phocion answered him sharply and said, ‘Antipater cannot have me as a friend and a flatterer at once.’ Antipater himself declared, so we are told, that he had two friends at Athens, Phocion and Demades: he could never influence the one, whatever he offered him, or satisfy the other, whatever he gave him. Indeed, Phocion could point to his poverty as the most conspicuous evidence of his virtue: he had served Athens times without number as a general, he had enjoyed the friendship of kings and now he had reached old age and was still a poor man, whereas Demades prided himself on his wealth and on his contempt for the laws which had enabled him to acquire it. For example, there was a law in force in Athens at this time which forbade the sponsor of a choric festival to include a foreigner in his chorus, on pain of a fine of 1,000 drachmas. So Demades presented a chorus of a hundred, every one of whom were foreigners, and at the same time brought into the theatre the fine of 1,000 drachmas for each of them. Again, on the occasion of the marriage of his son Demeas, he said to him, ‘My boy, when I married your mother, not even our next-door neighbours knew about it, but at your wedding you will have presents from kings and princes.’

The presence of the garrison was a standing grievance to the Athenians, and the people plagued Phocion with requests that he should appeal to Antipater to remove it. Whether it was that he had no hope of persuading Antipater to agree, or because he saw that the fear which it inspired obliged the Athenians to conduct their affairs in a more reasonable and law-abiding fashion, at any rate, he continually contrived to put off the task. However, he succeeded in persuading Antipater not to insist on immediate payment of the fine that had been inflicted on the city, but to allow a moratorium. So the people turned to Demades and appealed to him on the subject of the garrison; he willingly accepted the mission and set off for Macedonia, taking his son with him. He arrived, as if by some divine dispensation, at the precise moment when Antipater had fallen sick, and when his son Cassander, who had taken charge of affairs, had just discovered a letter written by Demades to Antigonus in Asia. In this he had urged Antigonus74 to appear suddenly in Greece and Macedonia, for these territories were hanging by an old and rotten thread, as he scornfully referred to Antipater. So as soon as Cassander saw Demades after his arrival in Macedonia, he placed him under arrest. First of all he had Demades’ son slaughtered in his presence: the two were standing so close that the young man’s blood poured into the folds of his father’s tunic and filled them;75 then he reviled and abused Demades for his ingratitude and treachery, and dispatched him in the same fashion.

31. Shortly before he died, Antipater appointed Polyperchon commander-in-chief and Cassander second in command.76 Cassander, however, soon overturned this arrangement and hastened to seize power for himself. He sent out Nicanor77 with all speed to relieve Menyllus of the command of the garrison in Athens, and ordered him to take over at Munychia before Antipater’s death had become publicly known. These orders were carried out, and when the Athenians learnt a few days later that Antipater was dead, they indignantly blamed Phocion, alleging that he had received information in advance, but had kept quiet as a favour to Nicanor. Phocion ignored these accusations and instead held discussions with Nicanor, and secured lenient and considerate treatment for the Athenians; in particular, he persuaded Nicanor to become president of the games and undertake considerable expenditure in that capacity.78

32. Meanwhile Polyperchon, who had the king79 in his personal charge and who was opposing Cassander’s schemes, sent a letter to Athens. In this he announced that the king had restored to all the Athenians their democratic form of government and called upon the citizens to exercise their political rights according to their ancestral constitution. This was a plot designed to destroy Phocion. Polyperchon’s plan, as his actions revealed later, was to win over the city to his side. He had little hope of achieving his design unless he could secure Phocion’s banishment, but he calculated that this might well come about if the mass of disfranchised citizens overwhelmed the government and the assembly was once more dominated by demagogues and public informers.

Nicanor saw that the Athenians were intensely excited by this communication from Macedon, and he was anxious to address them. A meeting of the Council was held at Piraeus and he appeared before it, his personal safety having been previously guaranteed by Phocion. Dercylus, the Athenian general responsible for the countryside, tried to arrest him, but Nicanor, who had got wind of this in time, eluded the attempt and soon made it clear that he intended to make reprisals against the city. When Phocion was blamed for failing to detain Nicanor and allowing him to escape, he replied that he had confidence in the Macedonian and had no reason to suspect him of any harmful intention, but that in any case he preferred to be seen suffering wrong than doing it. Now, such a sentiment may, on reflection, seem honourable and high-minded if a man is speaking for his own interests alone, but if he endangers his country’s safety, especially when he is a commander and magistrate, it seems to me that he violates an even more important and more sacred obligation: that is, his duty towards his fellow-citizens. It is not a good enough defence that Phocion refrained from arresting Nicanor because he was afraid of plunging the city into war, and that he justified his unwillingness to act by his professions of good faith and fair-dealing in the hope that Nicanor would respect these obligations and do no harm to the Athenians. The truth seems to have been that Phocion was firmly convinced that Nicanor was trustworthy: he believed this so strongly that even when many people warned him against the Macedonian and alleged that he was plotting to seize Piraeus, that he had sent mercenary troops over to Salamis and had corrupted a number of the inhabitants of Piraeus, Phocion would not believe the report or even pay any attention to it. Indeed, even after Philomelus of Lamptrae had introduced a decree that all Athenians should take up arms and await orders from Phocion, as their general, he still took no action until Nicanor marched his troops out of Munychia and began to surround Piraeus with a trench.80

33. When matters had reached this pass, Phocion was willing to lead out the Athenians, but by now he was shouted down and treated with contempt. Then Alexander, the son of Polyperchon, arrived with his army. He had come ostensibly to bring help to the citizens in their struggle against Nicanor, but his real purpose was to seize the city if he could, now that it was fatally divided. The exiled Athenians, who had accompanied him when he invaded Attica, quickly made their way into the city. A horde of foreigners and disfranchised citizens hurried in to join them, and a motley and disorderly assembly of the people was held, at which Phocion was removed from his command and other generals were elected. And but for the fact that Alexander and Nicanor were seen to be meeting alone near the walls, and that these conferences were so frequent that they roused the Athenians’ suspicions, the city would not have escaped the danger in which it stood. The orator Hagnonides81 then attacked Phocion and denounced him as a traitor, and this so much alarmed Callimedon and Charicles82 that they fled from the city, while Phocion and those of his friends who remained loyal to him set out to visit Polyperchon. They were accompanied out of regard for Phocion by Solon of Plataea and Deinarchus of Corinth,83 both of whom were believed to be close friends of Polyperchon. However, Deinarchus fell sick and his party was detained for many days at Elateia, and during this time the people of Athens passed a decree, proposed by Archestratus and supported by Hagnonides, as a result of which they dispatched a delegation to denounce Phocion. The two parties reached Polyperchon simultaneously, as he was on the march with the king and had arrived at a village named Pharygae in Phocis: this lies at the foot of Mount Acrurium, which is now known as Galata.

Here Polyperchon set up the throne with the golden canopy and had the king and his friends seated beneath it. As soon as Deinarchus came forward, he ordered him to be seized, tortured and put to death, and then he gave audience to the delegation from Athens. However, they quickly reduced the interview to chaos by shouting, accusing and contradicting one another in the council, until at last Hagnonides came forward and said, ‘Best pack us all into one cage and send us back to Athens to be tried.’ At this the king burst out laughing, but the Macedonians and foreigners who happened to be in attendance at the council, and had nothing else to do, were curious to listen, and nodding to the delegates they encouraged both sides to state their case. But in fact the hearing was very far from impartial. When Phocion tried to speak, he was continually interrupted by Polyperchon, until at last he struck the ground with his staff, turned away and did not utter another word. Again, when Hegemon84 claimed that Polyperchon could testify to his goodwill towards the people, Polyperchon exclaimed angrily, ‘Be so good as not to slander me to the king,’ while the king himself jumped to his feet and made as if to run Hegemon through with a spear. But Polyperchon quickly threw his arms around the king and the council immediately broke up.

34. Phocion and his companions were placed under guard, and at the sight of this his friends who were standing some way apart covered their faces and made their escape. Cleitus then took the prisoners back to Athens: it was given out that they were to be tried, but in reality they had already been condemned to death. The manner in which this was done created a particularly distressing scene, for they were transported in carts through the Cerameicus85 to the theatre, where Cleitus kept them in custody until the archons had summoned the assembly. This gathering included slaves, foreigners and those who had recently been disfranchised: all alike, both men and women, were allowed free access to the theatre and the rostrum. First a letter from the king of Macedon was read aloud, in which he declared that he personally was convinced that the men were traitors, but that he left it to their fellow-countrymen to pass judgement upon them, since they were free individuals governed by their own laws, and then Cleitus led the men in. At the sight of Phocion, the best of the citizens covered their faces, lowered their heads and wept. But one of them rose to his feet and had the courage to say that since the king had entrusted so important a trial to the citizens of Athens, it would be well for all foreigners and slaves to leave the assembly. The mob would not allow this, but shouted out, ‘Down with the oligarchs and the enemies of the people.’ Nobody tried to speak on Phocion’s behalf, but at last he succeeded with great difficulty in making himself heard and asked, ‘Do you wish to put us to death justly or unjustly?’ and when some voices answered ‘Justly!’ he rejoined, ‘And how will you do that without hearing me?’ The people showed no sign of being any more ready to hear him and so, coming closer, he said, ‘I admit my own guilt, and I propose the penalty of death for my political actions,86 but why, men of Athens, should you put to death these others, who have done no wrong?’ ‘Because they are your friends,’ a chorus of voices answered him, and at this Phocion turned away and said no more. Hagnonides then read the motion he had prepared, according to which the people were to decide by a show of hands whether they considered the accused guilty, and the men, if found guilty, were to be put to death.

35. When the decree was read, there were some who demanded an additional clause sentencing Phocion to be tortured before he was put to death, and they urged that the rack should be brought and the executioners summoned. However, Hagnonides saw that even Cleitus was disgusted at this proposal and considered it detestable, and he said, ‘Whenever we catch that villain Callimedon, men of Athens, let us put him to the torture, but I will not propose anything of the kind for Phocion.’ At this, one of the more scrupulous citizens shouted out, ‘And quite right too, for if we are to torture Phocion, what should we do to you?’ So it was that the decree was confirmed, and when the show of hands was taken, nobody remained seated but the entire assembly rose to their feet, many of them wearing garlands of flowers, and condemned the men to death. These, besides Phocion, were Nicocles, Thoudippus, Hegemon and Pythocles, while Demetrius of Phaleron, Callimedon, Charicles and various others were condemned to death in their absence.

36. After the assembly had broken up and the condemned men were being led to the prison, the others walked along lamenting and shedding tears, while their friends and relatives clung about them. As for Phocion, his expression looked exactly the same as it had in the days when he served as general and had often been escorted back from the assembly, and as men gazed at him they marvelled at his grandeur of spirit and composure. But some of his enemies ran along by his side shouting abuse at him, and one even came up and spat in his face. At this, we are told, Phocion turned towards the archons and said, ‘Will nobody make this fellow behave himself?’ Later, when they were in the prison, Thoudippus, as he watched the executioner crushing the hemlock, grew angry and cried out aloud against his hard fate, protesting that he did not deserve to lose his life with Phocion. ‘What then?’ the old man asked. ‘Is it nothing to you to die in Phocion’s company?’ And when one of his friends asked if he had any message for his son Phocus, Phocion said, ‘Yes, certainly, my message is that he should not hold my death as a grievance against the Athenian people.’ When Nicocles, the most loyal of all his friends, begged from him the privilege of drinking the poison first, he replied, ‘My friend, that is a hard thing you ask, and it is painful to me to grant it, but since I have never refused you anything in my life, I agree to this too.’ But when all the rest had drunk it, the poison ran short, and the executioner refused to crush another portion unless he were paid 12 drachmas, which was the price of the weight that was needed. After some delay, Phocion sent for one of his friends. He remarked that it was hard if a man could not even die at Athens without paying for it, and told him to give the executioner the fee.87

37. The day of Phocion’s death was the nineteenth of the month of Munychion,88 and the horsemen who took part in the sacred procession in honour of Zeus had to ride past the prison. Some of them took off their garlands and others wept as they looked towards the door of the prison. All those who were still capable of humanity, and whose better feelings had not been swept away by rage or jealousy, felt that it was sacrilege not to postpone the execution for a single day and thus preserve the city from the pollution incurred by carrying out a public execution while a festival was being celebrated.89 However, Phocion’s enemies, as if they were still not satisfied with their triumph, had a resolution passed that Phocion’s body should be taken beyond the frontiers of Attica, and that no Athenian should provide fire for his funeral. The result was that no friend dared to touch the body, but a man named Conopion, who was accustomed to provide such services for payment, carried the body beyond Eleusis, had fire brought from Megarian territory and burned it. Phocion’s wife, who was present at the ceremony with her maid-servants, raised a mound on the spot and poured the customary libations on it. Then she took Phocion’s bones to her bosom and brought them back to her house by night. There she buried them by the hearth with these words: ‘To you, my beloved hearth, I entrust these remains of a good man. Restore them to the tomb of his fathers when the Athenians recover their senses.’

38. And, indeed, only a short time elapsed before the course of events taught the Athenians how great a protector and champion of moderation and justice they had lost. Then they set up a statue of him and gave his bones a public burial.90 As for his accusers, the Athenians themselves condemned Hagnonides and put him to death, while Epicurus and Demophilus, who had fled from the city, were tracked down by Phocion son, who took his revenge on them. This son of Phocion, we are told, turned out to be a man of little worth in most respects. On one occasion, he had fallen in love with a girl who earned her living in a brothel. He happened to have heard a discussion in the Lyceum in which Theodorus the atheist put forward the argument that if there is no disgrace in ransoming a friend, the same should be true of a girl-friend: if the principle applies to a comrade, it applies equally to a mistress. Accordingly, he determined to use the argument to justify his passion and so bought the girl’s freedom.

But Phocion’s fate reminded the Greeks once more of that of Socrates: they felt that in each case the wrong which the city of Athens had done and the misfortune she had suffered were almost identical.91

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