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It was not only against the inclinations of his good-will and personal favour that he was a most strenuous champion of justice, but also against those of his anger and hatred. At any rate a story is told, how he was once prosecuting an enemy in court, and after he had made his accusation the judges were loath to hear the defendant at all, and demanded that their vote be taken against him straightway; but Aristides sprang to his feet and seconded the culprit's plea for a hearing and the usual legal procedure. [2] And again, when he was serving as private arbitrator between two men, on one of them saying that his opponent had done Aristides much injury, ‘Tell me rather,’ he said, ‘whether he has done thee any wrong; it is for thee, not for myself, that I am seeking justice.’ When he was elected overseer of the public revenues, he proved clearly that large sums had been embezzled, not only by his fellow-officials, but also by those of former years and particularly by Themistocles:—

The man was clever, but of his hand had no control.

For this cause, Themistocles banded many together against Aristides, prosecuted him for theft at the auditing of his accounts, and actually got a verdict against him, according to Idomeneus. But the first and best men of the city were incensed at this, and he was not only exempted from his fine, but even appointed to administer the same charge again. Then he pretended to repent him of his former course, and made himself more pliable, thus giving pleasure to those who were stealing the common funds by not examining them or holding them to strict account, [4] so that they gorged themselves with the public moneys, and then lauded Aristides to the skies, and pleaded with the people in his behalf, eagerly desirous that he be once more elected to his office. But just as they were about to vote, Aristides rebuked the Athenians. ‘Verily,’ said he, ‘when I served you in office with fidelity and honor, I was reviled and persecuted; but now that I am flinging away much of the common fund to thieves, I am thought to be an admirable citizen. [5] For my part, I am more ashamed of my present honor than I was of my former condemnation, and I am sore distressed for you, because it is more honorable in your eyes to please base men than to guard the public moneys.’ By these words, as well as by exposing their thefts, he did indeed stop the mouths of the men who were then testifying loudly in his favour, but he won genuine and just praise from the best citizens.

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