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A king of Thrace, who, when Bacchus was passing through his country, assailed him so furiously that the god was obliged to take refuge with Thetis. Bacchus avenged himself by driving Lycurgus mad, and the latter thereupon killed his own son Dryas with a blow of an axe, taking him for a vine-branch. The land became, in consequence, sterile; and his subjects, having been informed by an oracle that it would not regain its fertility until the monarch was put to death, bound Lycurgus, and left him on Mount Pangaeus, where he was destroyed by wild horses (Apollod. iii.5.1).


King in Arcadia, son of Aleus and Neaera, brother of Cepheus and Augé, husband of Cleophilé, Eurynomé, or Antinoë, and father of Ancaeus, Epochus, Amphidamas, and Iasus. Lycurgus killed Areïthoüs, who used to fight with a club. Lycurgus bequeathed this club to his slave Ereuthalion, his sons having died before him.


Son of Pronax and brother of Amphithea, the wife of Adrastus. He took part in the war of the Seven against Thebes, and fought with Amphiaraüs. He is mentioned among those whom Aesculapius called to life again after their death.


King of Nemea, son of Pheres and Periclymene, brother of Admetus, husband of Eurydicé or Amphithea, and father of Opheltes.


A Spartan legislator of whose personal history we have no certain information; and there are such discrepancies respecting him in the ancient writers that many modern critics have denied his real existence altogether. The more generally received account about him was as follows: Lycurgus was the son of Eunomus, king of Sparta, and brother of Polydectes. The latter succeeded his father as king of Sparta, and afterwards died, leaving his queen with child. The ambitious woman proposed to Lycurgus to destroy her offspring if he would share the throne with her. He seemingly consented; but when she had given birth to a son (Charilaüs), he openly proclaimed him king, and as next of kin acted as his guardian. But to avoid all suspicion of ambitious designs, with which the opposite party charged him, Lycurgus left Sparta, and set out on his celebrated travels, which had been magnified to a fabulous extent. He is said to have visited Crete, and there to have studied the wise laws of Minos. Next he went to Ionia and Egypt, and is reported to have penetrated into Libya, Iberia, and even India. In Ionia he is said to have met either with Homer himself, or at least with the Homeric poems, which he introduced into the mother-country. The return of Lycurgus to Sparta was hailed by all parties. Sparta was in a state of anarchy and turbulence, and he was considered as the man who alone could cure the growing diseases of the State. He undertook the task; yet before he set to work he strengthened himself with the authority of the Delphic oracle and with a strong party of influential men at Sparta. The reform seems not to have been carried altogether peaceably. The new division of the land among the citizens must have violated many existing interests. But all opposition was overborne, and the whole constitution, military and civil, was remodelled. After Lycurgus had obtained for his institutions an approving oracle of the national god of Delphi, he exacted a promise from the people not to make any alterations in his laws before his return, and then he left Sparta to finish his life in voluntary exile, in order that his countrymen might be bound by their oath to preserve his constitution inviolate forever. Where and how he died nobody could tell. He vanished from the earth like a god, leaving no traces behind him but his spirit; and he was honoured as a god at Sparta with a temple and yearly sacrifices down to the latest times. The date of Lycurgus is variously given, but it is impossible to place it later than B.C. 825. Lycurgus was regarded through all subsequent ages as the legislator of Sparta, and therefore almost all the Spartan institutions were ascribed to him as their author. See Sparta.


An Athenian orator, and one of the warmest supporters of the democratic faction in the contest with Philip of Macedon. The time of his birth is uncertain, but he was older than Demosthenes; and if his father was put to death by order of the Thirty Tyrants, he must have been born previous to B.C. 404. But the words of the biographer are, as Clinton has justly remarked, ambiguous (Fast. Hell. ii. p. 151), and may imply that it was his grandfather who was put to death by the Thirty. Lycurgus is said to have derived instruction from Plato and Isocrates. He took an active part in the management of public affairs, and was one of the Athenian ambassadors who succeeded (B.C. 343) in counteracting the designs of Philip against Ambracia and the Peloponnesus. He filled the office of treasurer of the public revenue for three periods of five years (Diod. Sic.xvi. 88); and was noted for the integrity and ability with which he discharged the duties of his office. Böckh considers that Lycurgus was the only statesman of antiquity who had a real knowledge of the management of finance. He raised the revenue to twelve hundred talents, and also erected, during his administration, many public buildings, and completed the docks, the armory, the theatre of Bacchus, and the Panathenaic course. So great confidence was placed in the honesty of Lycurgus that many citizens confided to his custody large sums; and, shortly before his death, he had the accounts of his public administration engraved on stone, and set up in a part of the wrestling-school. An inscription, preserved to the present day, containing some accounts of a manager of the public revenue, is supposed by Böckh to be a part of the accounts of Lycurgus. After the battle of Chaeronea (B.C. 388), Lycurgus conducted the accusation against the Athenian general Lysicles. He was one of the orators demanded by Alexander after the destruction of Thebes (B.C. 335). He died about B.C. 323, and was buried in the Academia (Pausan. i. 29, 15). Fifteen years after his death, upon the ascendency of the democratic faction, a decree was passed by the Athenian people that public honours should be paid to Lycurgus. A brazen statue of him was erected in the Ceramicus, which was seen by Pansanias (i. 8, 3), and the representative of his family was allowed the privilege of dining in the Prytaneum. This decree, which was proposed by Stratocles, has come down to us at the end of the lives of the Ten Orators. Lycurgus is said to have published fifteen orations, of which only one has been preserved. This oration, which was delivered B.C. 331, is an accusation of Leocrates (Κατὰ Λεωκράτους), as Athenian citizen, for abandoning Athens after the battle of Chaeronea, and settling in another Grecian State. The best editions of Lycurgus are those of Osann (Jena, 1821), Mätzner (1836), Kiessling and Meier (1847), Rehdantz (1876), and Thalheim (1880). See also Dürrbach, L'Orateur Lycurgue (1890). Another excellent text is that of Bekker, in his Oratores Attici. The oration of Lycurgus is also found in the collections of Reiske and Dobson.

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  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Pseudo-Apollodorus, Library, 3.5.1
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 16.88
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