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Rome and the Achaean League

In regard to these men, it should not be a matter of surprise if we leave for a while the ordinary method and spirit of our narrative to give a clearer and more elaborate exposition of their character. I am aware that some may be found, regarding it as their first duty to cast a veil over the errors of the Greeks, to accuse us of writing in a spirit of malevolence. But for myself, I conceive that with right-minded persons a man will never be regarded as a true friend who shrinks from and is afraid of plain speech, nor indeed as a good citizen who abandons the truth because of the offence he will give to certain persons at the time. But a writer of public history above all deserves no indulgence whatever, who regards anything of superior importance to truth. For in proportion' as written history reaches larger numbers, and survives for longer time, than words spoken to suit an occasion, both the writer ought to be still more particular about truth, and his readers ought to admit his authority only so far as he adheres to this principle. At the actual hour of danger it is only right that Greeks should help Greeks in every possible way, by protecting them, veiling their errors or deprecating the wrath of the sovereign people,—and this I genuinely did for my part at the actual time: but it is also right, in regard to the record of events to be transmitted to posterity, to leave them unmixed with any falsehood: so that readers should not be merely gratified for the moment by a pleasant tale, but should receive in their souls a lesson which will prevent a repetition of similar errors in the future. Enough, however, on this subject. . . .

In the autumn of B. C. 150 the corrupt Menalchidas of Sparta was succeeded as Achaean Strategus by Diaeus, who, to cover his share in the corruption of Menalchidas, induced the league to act in the matter of some disputed claim of Sparta in a manner contrary to the decisions of the Roman Senate. The Spartans wished to appeal again to Rome; whereupon the Achaeans passed a law forbidding separate cities to make such appeals, which were to be only made by the league. The Lacedaemonians took up arms: and Diaeus professing that the league was not at war with Sparta, but with certain factious citizens of that city, named four of its chief men who were to be banished. They fled to Rome, where the Senate ordered their restoration. Embassies went from Achaia and from Sparta to Rome to state their respective cases; and on their return gave false reports,—Diaeus assuring the Achaeans that the Senate had ordered the Spartans to obey the league; Menalchidas telling the Spartans that the Romans had released them from all connexion with the league. War then again broke out (B.C. 148). Metellus, who was in Macedonia on the business of the Pseudo-Philip, sent legates to the Achaeans forbidding them to bear arms against Sparta, and announcing the speedy arrival of commissioners from Rome to settle the dispute. But the Achaean levies were already mustered under the Strategus Damocritus, and the Lacedaemonians seem to have almost compelled them to fight. The Spartans were beaten with considerable loss: and on Damocritus preventing a pursuit and a capture of Sparta, the Achaeans regarded him as traitor and fined him fifty talents. He was succeeded in his office of Strategus by Diaeus (autumn B.C. 148 - B. C. 147) who promised Metellus to await the arrival of the commissioners from Rome. But the Spartans now assumed their freedom from the league and elected a Strategus of their own, Menalchidas; who provoked a renewal of the war by taking the tow of Iasos on the Laconian frontier. In despair of resisting the attack of the Achaeans, and disowned by his fellow-citizens, he took poison. The Roman commissioners arrived, led by L. Aurelius Orestes, in B.C. 147, and summoning the magistrates of the Achaean towns and the Strategus Diaeus before them at Corinth, announced the decision of the Senate—separating Lacedaemon, Corinth, Argos, Heraclea near Aete, and Orchomenus in Arcadia from the Achaean league, as not being united by blood, and only being subsequent additions. The magistrates, without answering, hastily summoned the league congress. The people, on hearing the Roman decision, pillaged the houses of the Lacedaemonian residents in Corinth, and savagely attacked all who were or who looked like Spartans. The Roman envoys endeavoured to restrain the popular fury. But they were somewhat roughly handled themselves; and the people could not be persuaded to release the Spartans whom they had arrested: though they let all others go, and sent an embassy to Rome, which, however, meeting the former embassy on its return, and learning the hopelessness of support in Rome, returned home. It is this outbreak which is referred to in the next fragment. See Pausanias, vii. 12-14; Livy, Ep. 51.

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    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 7.12
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