), tyrant of Pherae and Tagus of Thessaly (Dict. of Antiq. s. v. Tagus
), was probably the son of LYCOPHRON, who established a tyranny on the ruins of aristocracy at Pherae, about the end of the Peloponnesian war, and aimed at dominion overall the Thessalians. (Xen. Hell. 2.3.4
; Diod. 14.82
.) From this passage of Diodorus we know that Lycophron was still alive in B. C. 395, but we cannot fix the exact time at which Jason succeeded him, nor do we find anything recorded of the latter till towards the close of his life. Wyttenbach, however (ad Plut. Mor.
p. 89c.), may possibly be right in his conjecture that the Prometheus who is mentioned by Xenophon as engaged in struggles against the old aristocratic families of Thessaly, with the aid of CRITIAS, was no other than Jason. (Xen. Mem. 1.2.24
2.3.36; Schneid. ad loc.
) It is at least certain that the surname in question could not have been applied more appropriately.
He not only adopted, but expanded the ambitious designs of Lycophron, and he advanced towards the fulfilment of his schemes ably, energetically, and unscrupulously. In B. C. 377 we find him aiding Theogenes to seize the Acropolis of Histiaea in Euboea, from which, however, the latter was afterwards dislodged by the Lacedaemonians under Therippidas or Herippidas. (Diod. 15.30
; Palm. and Wess. ad loc. ;
Casaub. ad Polyaen.
2.21.) In B. C. 375 all the Thessalian towns had been brought under Jason's dominion, with the exception of Pharsalus, which had been entrusted by the citizens to the direction of POLYDAMAS. Alcetas I., king of Epeirus, was associated with him rather as a dependent than an ally, and Thebes was leagued with him from enmity to Sparta, from which latter state, though it had supported Lycophron (Diod. 14.82
), he held aloof, probably because of its connection with Pharsalus (Xen. Hell.
vi. L §§ 2, 13), and also from the policy of taking the weaker side.
He already kept in his pay 6000 picked mercenaries, with whose training he took personally the greatest pains; and if he could unite Thessaly under himself as Tagus, it would furnish him, in addition, with a force of 6000 cavalry and more than 10,000 foot.
The neighbouring tribes would yield him a body of lightarmed troops, with which no others could cope. The Thessalian Penestae would effectually man his ships, and of these he would be able to build a far larger number than the Athenians, as he might calculate on possessing as his own the resources of Macedonia and all its ship-timber. If once therefore the lord of Thessaly, he might fairly hope to become the master of Greece; and when Greece was in his power, the weakness of the Persian empire, as shown especially by the retreat of the Ten Thousand and the campaigns of Agesilaus in Asia, opened to him an unbounded and glorious field of conquest. (Xen. Hell. 6.1
. §§ 4-12 ; comp. Isocr. ad Phil.
p. 106c. d.; Diod. 15.60
; V. Max. 9.10
, Ext. 2.)
But the first step to be taken was to secure the dominion of Pharsalus.
This he had the means of effecting by force, but he preferred to carry his point by negotiation, and accordingly, in a personal conference with Polydamas, he candidly set before him the nature and extent of his plans and his resources, represented to him that opposition on the part of Pharsalus would be fruitless, and urged him therefore to use his influence to bring over the town to submission, promising him the highest place, except his own, in power and dignity. Polydamas answered that he could not honourably accept his offer without the consent of Sparta, with which he was in alliance ; and Jason, with equal frankness, told him to lay the state of the case before the Lacedaemonians, and see whether they could adequately support Pharsalus against his power. Polydamas did so, and the Lacedaemonians replied that they were unable to give the required help, and advised him to make the best terms he could for himself and his state. Polydamas then acceded to the proposal of Jason, asking to be allowed to retain the citadel of Pharsalus for those who had entrusted it to him, and promising to use his endeavors to bring the town into alliance with him, and to aid him in getting himself chosen Tagus. Soon after this, probably in B. C. 374, Jason was elected to the office in question, and proceeded to settle the contingent of cavalry and heavy-armed troops which each Thessalian city was to furnish, and the amount of tribute to be paid by the περίοικοι
, or subject people.
He also entered into an alliance with Amyntas II., king of Macedonia. (Xen. Hell. 6.1
. §§ 2-19; Diod. 15.60
; Plut. Pol. Praec.
24, Reg. et Imp. Apoph. Epam.
13.). In B. C. 373 Jason and Alcetas I., king of Epeirus, came to Athens, with which they were both in alliance at the time, to intercede on behalf of TIMOTHEUS, who was acquitted, on his trial, in a great measure through their influence. (Dem. c. Tim.
pp. 1187, 1190; Corn. Nep. Tim.
4; comp. Rehdantz, Vit. Iphicr., Chabr., Tim.
p. 91.) In B. C. 371, after the battle of Leuctra, the Thebans sent intelligence of it to Jason, as their ally, requesting his aid. Accordingly, he manned some triremes, as if he meant to go to the help of the Thebans by sea; and having thus thrown the Phocians off their guard, marched repidly through their country, and arrived safely at Leuctra. Here the Thebans were anxious that he should join them in pressing their victory over the enemy; but Jason (who had no wish to see Thebes any more than Sparta in a commanding position) dissuaded them, by setting forth the danger of driving the Lacedaemonians to despair.
The latter he persuaded to accept a truce, which would enable them to secure their safety by a retreat, representing himself as actuated by a kindly feeling towards them, as his father had been on terms of friendship with their state, and he himself still stood to them in the relation of proxenus. Such is the account of Xenophon. (Hell.
According to that of Diodorus, Jason arrived before the battle, and prevailed on both parties to agree to a truce, in consequence of which the Spartan king, Cleombrotus, drew off his army; but Archidamus had been sent to his aid with a strong reinforcement, and the two commanders, having united their forces, returned to Boeotia, in defiance of the compact, and were then defeated at Leuctra. (Diod. 15.54
This statement, however, cannot be depended on. (See Wess. ad Diod. l.c. ;
vol. v. p. 78, note; comp. Schneid. ad Xen. Hell.
6.4.5.) On his return through Phocis, Jason took Hyampolis and ravaged its land, leaving the rest of the country undisturbed.
He also demolished the fortifications of the Lacedaemonian colony of Heracleia in Trachinia, which commanded the passage from Thessaly into southern Greece, evidently (says Xenophon) entertaining no fear of an attack on his own country, but wishing to keep open a way for himself should he find it expedient to march to the south. (Xen. Hell. 6.4.27
; comp. Diod. 15.57
, who refers the demolition of Heracleia to B. C. 370.) Jason was now in a position which held out to him every prospect of becoming master of Greece. The Pythian games were approaching, and he proposed to march to Delphi at the head of a body of Thessalian troops, and to preside at the festival. Magnificent preparations were made for this, and much alarm and suspicion appear to have been excited throughout Greece. The Delphians, fearing for the safety of the sacred treasures, consulted the oracle on the subject, and received for answer that the god himself would take care of them. (Comp. Hdt. 8.36
; Suid. s. v. ἐμοί μελήσει ταῦτα καὶ λευκᾶς κόραις
.) Jason, having made all his preparations, had one day reviewed his cavalry, and was sitting in public to give audience to all comers, when he was murdered by seven youths, according to Xenophon and Ephorus, who drew near under pretence of laying a private dispute before him. Two of the assassins were slain by the body guard, the rest escaped, and were received with honour in all the Grecian cities to which they came--a sufficient proof of the general fear which the ambitious designs of Jason had excited.
The fact, however, that his dynasty continued after his death shows how fully he had consolidated his power in Thessaly. (Xen. Hell. 6.4
. §§ 28-32.)
It does not clearly appear what motive his murderers had for the deed. Ephorus (apud Diod.
15.60) ascribed it to the desire of distinction, which seems to point to a strong political feeling against his rule; and this is confirmed by the anecdote of a former attempt to assassinate him, which accidentally saved his life by opening an impostume from which he was suffering, and on which his physicians had tried their skill in vain. (Cic. de Nat. Deor.
3.28; V. Max. 1.8
. Ext. 6; comp. Xen. Hell. 6.1.14
; Diod. 15.57
.) Valerius Maximus (9.10, Ext. 2) tells us that the youths who murdered him were excited by revenge because they had been punished with blows for an assault on one Taxillus, a gymnasiarch.
According to Diodorus (15.60
), some accounts mentioned Jason's own brother and successor, Polydorus, as his murderer.
An insatiable appetite for power--to use his own metaphor--was Jason's ruling passion (Arist. Pol.
3.4, ed. Bekk. ἔφη πεινῇν ὅτε μὴ τυραννοῖ
); and to gratify this, he worked perseveringly and without the incumbrance of moral scruples, by any and every means.
With the chief men in the several states of Greece, as e. g. with Timotheus and Pelopidas (Plut. Pel. 28
), he cultivated friendly relations ; and the story told by Plutarch and Aelian of the rejection of his presents by Epaminondas, shows that he was ready to resort to corruption, if he saw or thought he saw an opportunity. (Plut. de Gen. Soc. 14, Apoph. Reg. et Imp. Epam.
13 ; Ael. VH 11.9
.) We find also on record a maxim of his, that a little wrong is justifiable for the sake of a great good. (Arist. Rh/et.
1.12.31 ; Plut. Pol. Praec.
He is represented as having all the qualifications of a great general and diplomatist--as active, temperate, prudent, capable of enduring much fatigue, and no less skilful than Themistocles in concealing his own designs and penetrating those of his enemies. (Xen. Hell. 6.1.6
; Diod. 15.60
; Cic. de Off.
1.30.) Pausanias tells us that he was an admirer of the rhetoric of Gorgias; and among his friends he reckoned Isocrates, whose cherished vision of Greece united against Persia made him afterwards the dupe of Philip. (Paus. 6.17
; Isocr. Ep. ad Jas. Fil.