At this time, it would seem, the plague laid hold of Pericles, not with a violent attack, as in the case of others, nor acute, but one which, with a kind of sluggish distemper that prolonged itself through varying changes, used up his body slowly and undermined the loftiness of his spirit.
Certain it is that Theophrastus, in his
‘Ethics,’ querying whether one's character follows the bent of one's fortunes and is forced by bodily sufferings to abandon its high excellence, records this fact, that Pericles, as he lay sick, showed one of his friends who was come to see him an amulet that the women had hung round his neck, as much as to say that he was very badly off to put up with such folly as that.
Being now near his end,1
the best of the citizens and those of his friends who survived were sitting around him holding discourse of his excellence and power, how great they had been, and estimating all his achievements and the number of his trophies,—there were nine of these which he had set up as the city's victorious general.
This discourse they were holding with one another, supposing that he no longer understood them but had lost consciousness. He had been attending to it all, however, and speaking out among them said he was amazed at their praising and commemorating that in him which was due as much to fortune as to himself, and which had fallen to the lot of many generals besides, instead of mentioning his fairest and greatest title to their admiration;
‘for,’ said he,
‘no living Athenian ever put on mourning because of me.’