Peripoltas the seer, who conducted King Opheltas with his subjects from Thessaly into Boeotia, left a posterity there which was in high repute for many generations. The greater part of them settled in Chaeroneia, which was the first city they won from the Barbarians. Now the most of this posterity were naturally men of war and courage, and so were consumed away in the Persian invasions and the contests with the Gauls, because they did not spare themselves.
There remained, however, an orphan boy, Damon by name, Peripoltas by surname, who far surpassed his fellows in beauty of body and in vigor of spirit, though otherwise he was untrained and of a harsh disposition.
With this Damon, just passed out of boy's estate, the Roman commander of a cohort that was wintering in Chaeroneia fell enamored, and since he could not win him over by solicitations and presents, he was plainly bent on violence, seeing that our native city was at that time in sorry plight, and neglected because of her smallness and poverty.
Violence was just what Damon feared, and since the solicitation itself had enraged him, he plotted against the man, and enlisted against him sundry companions,—a few only, that they might escape notice. There were sixteen of them in all, who smeared their faces with soot one might, heated themselves with wine, and at daybreak fell upon the Roman while he was sacrificing in the market-place, slew him, together with many of his followers, and departed the city.
During the commotion which followed, the council of Chaeroneia met and condemned the murderers to death, and this was the defence which the city afterwards made to its Roman rulers. But in the evening, while the magistrates were dining together, as the custom is, Damon and his men burst into the town hall, slew them, and again fled the city.
Now about that time1
it chanced that Lucius Lucullus passed that way, on some errand, with an army. Halting on his march and investigating matters while they were still fresh in mind, he found that the city was in no wise to blame, but rather had itself also suffered wrong.
So he took its garrison of soldiers and led them away with him. Then Damon, who was ravaging the country with predatory forays and threatening the city, was induced by embassies and conciliatory decrees of the citizens to return, and was appointed gymnasiarch. But soon, as he was anointing himself in the vapor-bath, he was slain. And because for a long while thereafter certain phantoms appeared in the place, and groans were heard there, as our Fathers tell us, the door of the vapor-bath was walled up, and to this present time the neighbors think it the source of alarming sights and sounds.
Descendants of Damon's family (and some are still living, especially near Stiris in Phocis, Aeolians in speech) are called
‘Besooted,’ because Damon smeared himself with soot before he went forth to do his deed of murder.