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Rhodian Ambassadors Argue Against War

There also came embassies from Rhodes, the first headed
Fresh embassies from Rhodes, B. C. 167. See 29, 27.
by Philocrates, the second by Philophron and Astymedes. For when the Rhodians received the answer given to the embassy of Agesipolis immediately after the battle of Pydna, they understood the anger and threatening attitude of the Senate towards them, and promptly despatched these embassies. Astymedes and Philophron, observing in the course of public and private conversations the suspicions and anger entertained towards them at Rome, were reduced to a state of great discouragement and distress.
Terror of the Rhodian envoys at the threat of war.
But when one of the praetors mounted the Rostra and urged the people to declare war against Rhodes, then indeed they were beside themselves with terror at the danger that threatened their country. They assumed mourning garments, and in their various interviews with their friends dropped the tone of persuasion or demand, and pleaded instead, with tears and prayers, that they would not adopt any measure of supreme severity towards them. A few days afterwards Antony, one of the tribunes, introduced them to the Senate, and dragged the praetor who advised the war down from the Rostra. Philophron spoke first, and was followed by Astymedes; and, having thus uttered the proverbial "swan's song," they received an answer which, while freeing them from actual fear of war, conveyed a bitter and stern rebuke from the Senate for their conduct. Now Astymedes considered himself to have made a good speech on behalf of his country, but did not at all satisfy the Greeks visiting or residing at Rome.
A criticism on the speech of the Rhodian Astymedes.
For he afterwards published the speech containing his argument in defence, which, to all those into whose hands it fell, appeared absurd and quite unconvincing. For he rested his plea not alone on the merits of his country, but still more on an accusation of others. Comparing the good services done and the co-operation undertaken by the others, he endeavoured to deny or minimise them; while he exaggerated those of Rhodes as far above their actual amount as he could. The errors of others, on the contrary, he inveighed against in bitter and hostile terms, while those of the Rhodians he attempted to cloak and conceal, in order that, by this comparison, those of his own country might appear insignificant and pardonable, those of others grave and beyond excuse, "all of whom," he added, "had already been pardoned before." But this sort of pleading can in no circumstances be considered becoming to a statesman. Take the case of the betrayal of secrets. It is not those who, for fear or gain, turn informers that we commend; but those who endure any torture and punishment rather than involve an accomplice in the same misfortune. These are the men whom we approve and consider noble. But a man who, from some undefined alarm, exposes to the view of the party in power all the errors of others, and who recalls what time had obliterated from the minds of the ruling people, cannot fail to be an object of dislike to all who hear of it.

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167 BC (1)
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  • Commentary references to this page (2):
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, book 45, commentary, 45.20
    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, book 45, commentary, 45.25
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