Letter VIII, To the Rulers of Mytilene.
5. To the Rulers of Mytilene.
[Ep. VIII.]—The democracy at Mytilene had lately been overthrown by an oligarchy. But the victorious oligarchs were
now showing their moderation by recalling many of the democratic exiles. This letter prays the government of Mytilene to receive back their fellow-citizen Agênor1
, a distinguished musician, with his father and his brothers.
The revolt of the allies from Athens was followed, at the close of the Social War (355 B.C.), by revolutions in many of the cities. Oligarchies arose at Corcyra, Chios, Kos, Rhodes, and in the cities of Lesbos—Antissa, Methymna, and Mytilene2
. We know that, in 351 B.C., the government of Mytilene was oligarchical3
. And in § 8 of this Letter we read that, ‘if Konon and Timotheos were living, and if Diophantos had come back from Asia,’ they would interest themselves for Agênor. Timotheos, son of Konon, died in 354 B. C. And Diodoros names ‘Diophantos the Athenian’ and ‘Lamios the Spartan’ as serving Nectanebis, king of Egypt, against Artaxerxes Ochos in a campaign which occupied the winter of 350—351 B.C.4
Now there can be little
doubt that it was by this struggle that Diophantos was detained in the East. The date of this Letter is probably 350 B.C.5
‘My grandsons, the sons of Aphareus, have asked me to
write to you on behalf of Agênor, formerly their master in music; and to beg that, when you have restored some other exiles, you will allow him, his father and his brothers, to return to Mytilene. I objected that I, a stranger to you, could not reasonably ask so great a favour; but at length I yielded to their importunity. You have done wisely in being reconciled to your fellow-citizens, and in seeking, like Athens, to efface the memory of faction. But, even if you had received back no other exiles, Agenor and his family would deserve a pardon. Mytilene, a city famous in the history of culture, ought not to keep in banishment the man who excels all contemporaries in his art. (§ 4.) Other eities give their franchise to men distinguished in noble pursuits; you ought not to suffer your own countryman to be a sojourner among strangers. Such as he do more lasting honour to their city than successful athletes. (§§ 3—6.)
‘It will perhaps be said that this request is just, but that I have no claim to make it. I have not, indeed, been a statesman or public speaker; but I have been the adviser of the speakers truest to you and to our other allies; and have myself written more in defence of Greek liberty than all the ranters of the platform put together. Were Konon and Timotheos alive—had Diophantos returned from Asia—they
would support my request. Think, then, by whom and for whom the favour is asked; and, if you can grant it, let Agênor and his brothers understand that they owe it, in some measure, to my mediation.’ (§§ 7—10.)