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EXAMPLE 24. Timoclea.

Theagenes the Theban, who held the same sentiments with regard to his country's welfare with Epaminondas, Pelopidas, and the other most worthy Thebans, was slain in Chaeronea, in the common disaster of Greece, even then when he had conquered his enemies and was in pursuit of them. For it was he that answered one who cried out aloud to him, How far wilt thou pursue? Even (saith he) to Macedonia. When he was dead, his sister survived him, who gave testimony that he was nobly descended, and that he was naturally a great man and excellently accomplished. Moreover, this woman was so fortunate as to reap a great benefit by her prowess, so that the more public calamities fell upon her, so much the easier she bore them. For when Alexander took Thebes and the soldiers fell a plundering, some in one part and some in another, it happened that a man, neither civil nor sober but mischievous and mad, took up his quarters in Timoclea's house. He was a captain to a Thracian company, and the king's namesake, but nothing like him; for he having no regard either to the family or estate of this woman, when he had swilled himself in wine after supper, commanded her to come and lie with him. Neither ended he here, but enquired for gold and silver, whether she had not some hid by her; sometimes threatening as if he would kill her, sometimes flattering as if he would always repute her in the place of a wife. She, taking the occasion offered by him, said: ‘Would God I had died before this night came, rather than lived to it; that though all other things had been lost, I might have preserved my body free from abuse. But now seeing it is thus come to pass, and Divine Providence hath thus disposed of it that I must repute thee my guardian, lord, and husband, I will not hold any thing from thee that is thine own. And as for [p. 377] myself, I see I am at thy disposition. As for corporeal enjoyments, the world was mine, I had silver bowls, I had gold, and some money; but when this city was taken, I commanded my maids to pack it up altogether, and threw it, or rather put it for security, into a well that had no water in it. Neither do many know of it, for it hath a covering, and nature hath provided a shady wood round about it. Take then these things, and much good may they do thee; and they shall lie by thee, as certain tokens and marks of the late flourishing fortune and splendor of our family.’

When the Macedonian heard these things, he stayed not for day, but presently went to the place by Timoclea's conduct, commanding the garden-door to be shut, that none might perceive what they were about. He descended in his morning vestment. But the revengeful Clotho brought dreadful things upon him by the hand of Timoclea, who stood on the top of the well; for as soon as she perceived by his voice that he reached the bottom, she threw down abundance of stones upon him, and her maids rolled in many and great ones, till they had dashed him to pieces and buried him under them. As soon as the Macedonians came to understand this and had taken up the corpse, there having been late proclamation that none of the Thebans should be slain, they seized her and carried her before the king and declared her audacious exploit; but the king, who by the gravity of her countenance and stateliness of her behavior did perceive in her something that savored of the greatest worth and nobility, asked her first, What woman art thou? She courageously and undauntedly answered: Theagenes was my brother, who was a commander at Chaeronea, and lost his life fighting against you in defence of the Grecian liberty, that we might not suffer any such thing; and seeing I have suffered things unworthy of my rank, I refuse not to die; for it is better [p. 378] so to do than to experience another such a night as the last, which awaits me unless thou forbid it. All the most tender-spirited persons that were present broke out into tears; but Alexander was not for pitying her, as being a woman above pity. But he admired her fortitude and eloquence, which had taken strong hold on him, and charged his officers to have a special care and look to the guards, lest any such abuse be offered again to any renowned family; and dismissed Timoclea, charging them to have a special regard to her and all that should be found to be of her family.

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