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The remarkable speeches of some obscure men amongst the Spartans.

WHEN the Samian ambassadors had made a long harangue, the Spartans answered, We have forgot the first part, and so cannot understand the last. To the Thebans violently contesting with them about something they replied, Your spirit should be less, or your forces greater. A Lacedaemonian being asked why he kept his beard so long; That seeing my gray hairs, he replied, I may do nothing [p. 433] but what becomes them. One commending the best warriors, a Spartan that overheard said, At Troy. Another, hearing that some forced their guests to drink after supper, said, What! not to eat too? Pindar in his poems having called Athens the prop of Greece, a Spartan said, Greece would soon fall if it leaned on such a prop. When one, seeing the Athenians pictured killing the Spartans, said, The Athenians are stout fellows; Yes, subjoined a Spartan, in a picture. To one that was very attentive to a scandalous accusation a Spartan said, Pray, sir, be not prodigal of your ears against me. And to one under correction that cried out, I offend against my will, another said, Therefore suffer against thy will. One seeing some journeying in a chariot said, God forbid that I should sit where I cannot rise up to reverence my elders. Some Chian travellers vomiting after supper in the consistory, and dunging in the very seats of the Ephors, first they made strict inquiry whether the offenders were citizens or not; but finding they were Chians, they publicly proclaimed that they gave the Chians leave to be filthy and uncivil.

When one saw a merchant sell hard almonds at double the price that others were usually sold at, he said, Are stones scarce? Another pulling a nightingale, and finding but a very small body, said, Thou art voice and nothing else. Another Spartan, seeing Diogenes the Cynic in very cold weather embrace a brazen statue, asked whether he was not very cold; and he replying, No, he rejoined, What great matter then is it that you do? A Metapontine, being jeered by a Spartan for cowardice, replied, Nay, sir, we are masters of some of the territories of other states; Then, said the Spartan, you are not only cowards but unjust. A traveller at Sparta, standing long upon one leg, said to a Lacedaemonian, I do not believe you can do as much; True, said he, but every goose can. To one valuing himself upon his skill in oratory a Spartan said, By heaven, there never [p. 434] was and never can be any art without truth. An Argive saying, We have the tombs of many Spartans amongst us; a Spartan replied, But we cannot show the grave of one Argive; meaning that they had often invaded Argos, but the Argives never Sparta. A Spartan that was taken captive and to be sold,—when the crier said, Here's a Spartan to be sold,—stopped his mouth, saying, Cry a captive. One of the soldiers of Lysimachus, being asked by him whether he was a true Spartanor one of the Helot slaves, replied, Do you imagine a Lacedaemonian would serve you for a groat a day? The Thebans, having beaten the Lacedaemonians at Leuctra, marched to the river Eurotas itself, where one of them boasting said, Where are the Spartans now? To whom a captive replied, They are not at hand, sir, for if they had been, you had not come so far. The Athenians, having surrendered their own city to the Spartans, requested that they might be permitted to enjoy Samos only; upon which the Spartans said, When you are not at your own disposal, would you be lords of others? And hence came that proverb, He that is not master of himself begs Samos.

When the Lacedaemonians had taken a town by storm, the Ephors said, The exercise of our youth is lost, for now they will have none to contend with them. The Persian offering to raze a city that had frequent quarrels and skirmishes with the Spartans, they desired him to forbear and not take away the whetstone of their youth. They appointed no masters to instruct their boys in wrestling, that they might contend not in sleights of art and little tricks, but in strength and courage; and therefore Lysander, being asked by what means Charon was too hard for him, replied, By sleights and cunning. When Philip, having entered their territories, sent to know whether he should come as an enemy or a friend, the Spartans returned, Neither. Hearing that the ambassador they had sent to [p. 435] Antigonus the son of Demetrius had called him king, they fined him, though he had obtained of him in a time of scarcity a bushel of wheat for every person in the city. A vicious person giving excellent good counsel, they received it, but took it from him and attributed it to another, a man regular and of a good life. When some brothers differed, they fined the father for neglecting his sons and suffering them to be at strife. They fined likewise a musician that came amongst them, for playing the harp with his fingers. Two boys fighting, one wounded the other mortally with a hook. And when his acquaintance, just as he was dying, vowed to revenge his death and have the blood of him that killed him; By no means, saith he, it is unjust, for I had done the same thing if I had been stout and more speedy in my stroke. Another boy, at the time when freemen's sons are allowed to steal what they can and it is a disgrace to be discovered, when some of his companions had stolen a young fox and delivered it to him, and the owners came to search, hid it under his gown; and though the angry little beast bit through his side to his very guts, he endured it quietly, that he might not be discovered. When the searchers were gone and the boys saw what had happened, they chid him roundly, saying, It had been better to produce the fox, than thus to conceal him by losing your own life; No, no! he replied, it is much better to die in torments, than to let my softness betray me and suffer a life thai had been scandalous. Some meeting certain Spartans upon the road said, Sirs, you have good luck, for the robbers are just gone. Faith, they replied, they have good luck that they did not meet with us. A Lacedaemonian, being asked what he knew, answered, To be free. A Spartan boy, being taken by Antigonus and sold, obeyed his master readily in every thing that he thought not below a freeman to do; but when he was commanded to bring a chamber-pot, unable to contain he said, I will not serve; [p. 436] but his master pressing him, he ran to the top of the house, and saying, You shall find what you have bought, threw himself down headlong and died. Another being to be sold, when the chapman asked him, Wilt thou be towardly if I buy thee? Yes, he returned, and if you do not buy me. Another captive, when the crier said, Here's a slave to be sold, cried out, You villain, why not a captive? A Spartan, who had a fly engraven on his shield no bigger than Nature hath made that creature, when some jeered him as if he did it on purpose that he might not be taken notice of, replied: It is that I may be known; for I advance so near my enemies that they can well perceive my impress, as little as it is. Another, when at an entertainment a harp was brought in, said, It is not the custom of the Spartans to play the fool. A Spartan being asked whether the way to Sparta was safe or not, replied: That is according as you go down thither; for lions that approach rue their coming, and hares we hunt in their very coverts. A Spartan wrestling, when he could not make his adversary that had got the upper hand of him loose his hold, and was unable to avoid the fall, bit him by the arm; and the other saying, Spartan, thou bitest like a woman; No, said he, but like a lion. A lame man, marching out to war and being laughed at, said, There is no need of those that can run away, but of those that can stand to it and defend their post. Another being shot through said with his last breath: It doth not trouble me that I die, but that I should be killed by a woman before I had performed some notable exploit. One coming into an inn and giving the host a piece of meat to make ready for him,—when the host demanded some cheese and oil besides,—What! says the Spartan, if I had cheese should I want meat? When one called Lampis of Aegina happy, because he seemed a rich man, having many ships of his own at sea, a Spartan said, I do not like that happiness that hangs by [p. 437] a cord. One telling a Spartan that he lied, the Spartan returned: True, for we are free; but others, unless they speak truth, will suffer for it. When one had undertaken to make a carcass stand upright, and tried every way to no purpose; Faith, said he, there wants something within. Tynnichus bore his son Thrasybulus's death very patiently. and there is this epigram made upon him:—

Stout Thrasybulus on his shield was brought
From bloody fields, where he had bravely fought;
The Argives beat, and as he stoutly prest,
Seven spears, and Death attending, pierced his breast.
The father took the corpse, and as he bled,
He laid it on the funeral pile, and said:
Be cowards mourned, I'll spend no tear nor groan,
Whilst thus I burn a Spartan and my son.
The keeper of the bath allowing more water than ordinary to Alcibiades the Athenian, a Spartan said, What! is he more foul, that he wants more than others? Philip making an inroad upon Sparta, and all the Spartans expecting to be cut off, he said to one of them, Now what will you Spartans do? And he replied: What, but to die bravely? for only we of all the Greeks have learned to be free and not endure a yoke. When Agis was beaten and Antipater demanded fifty boys for hostages, Eteocles, one of the then Ephors, answered: Boys we will not give, lest swerving from the customs of their country they prove slothful and untoward, and so incapable of the privilege of citizens; but of women and old men you shall have twice as many. And when upon refusal he threatened some sharp afflictions, he returned: If you lay upon us somewhat worse than death, we shall die the more readily. An old man in the Olympic games being desirous to see the sport, and unprovided of a seat, went about from place to place, was laughed and jeered at, but none offered him the civility; but when he came to the Spartans' quarter, all the boys and some of the men rose from their seats, and made him room. At this, all the Greeks clapped and praised their [p. 438] behavior; upon which the good old man shaking his hoary hairs, with tears in his eyes, said: Good God! how well all the Greeks know what is good, and yet only the Lacedaemonians practise it! And some say the same thing was done at Athens. For at the great solemnity of the Athenians, the Panathenaic festival, the Attics abused an old man, calling him as if they designed to make room for him, and when he came putting him off again; and when after this manner he had passed through almost all, he came to that quarter where the Spartan spectators sat, and all of them presently rose up and gave him place; the whole multitude, extremely taken with this action, clapped and shouted; upon which one of the Spartans said: By Heaven, these Athenians know what should be done, but are not much for doing it. A beggar asking an alms of a Lacedaemonian, he said: Well, should I give thee any thing, thou wilt be the greater beggar, for he that first gave thee money made thee idle, and is the cause of this base and dishonorable way of living. Another Spartan, seeing a fellow gathering charity for the Gods' sake, said, I will never regard those as Gods that are poorer than myself. Another, having taken one in adultery with an ugly whore, cried out, Poor man, how great was thy necessity! Another, hearing an orator very lofty and swelling in his speech, said, Faith, this is a brave man, how excellently he rolls his tongue about nothing! A stranger being at Sparta, and observing how much the young men reverenced the old, said, At Sparta alone it is desirable to be old. A Lacedaemonian, being asked what manner of poet Tyrtaeus was, replied, Excellent to whet the courage of our youth. Another that had very sore eyes listed himself a soldier; when some said to him, Poor man, whither in that condition, and what wilt thou do in a fight? He returned, If I can do nothing else, I shall blunt the enemies' sword. Buris and Spertis, two Lacedaemonians, going voluntarily [p. 439] to Xerxes the Persian to suffer that punishment which the oracle had adjudged due to Sparta for killing those ambassadors the King had sent, as soon as they care desired Xerxes to put them to death as he pleased, that they might make satisfaction for the Spartans. But he, surprised at this gallantry, forgave the men and desired their service in his court; to which they replied, How can we stay here, and leave our country, our laws, and those men for whom we came so far to die? Indarnes the general pressing them to make peace, and promising them equal honors with the King's greatest favorites, they returned, Sir, you seem to be ignorant of the value of liberty, which no man in his wits would change for the Persian empire. A Spartan in a journey, when a friend of his had purposely avoided him the day before, and the next day, having obtained very rich furniture, splendidly received him, trampled on his tapestry saying, This was the cause why I had not so much as a mat to sleep upon last night. Another coming to Athens, and seeing the Athenians crying salt-fish and dainties to sell up and down the streets, others gathering taxes, keeping stews, and busied about a thousand such dishonest trades, and looking on nothing as base and unbecoming; after his return, when his acquaintance enquired how things were at Athens, he replied, All well; intimating by this irony that all things there were esteemed good and commendable, and nothing base. Another, being questioned about something, denied it; and the enquirer rejoining, Thou liest, he replied: And art not thou a fool to ask me what you know yourself very well? Some Lacedaemonians being sent ambassadors to the tyrant Lygdamis, pretending sickness he deferred their audience a long time. They said to one of his officers, Pray, sir, assure him that we did not come to wrestle but to treat with him. A priest initiating a Spartan in holy mysteries asked him what was the greatest wickedness he was ever [p. 440] guilty of. And he replying, The Gods know very well, and the priest pressing him the more and saying he must needs discover, the Spartan asked, To whom? to thee or the God? And the priest saying, To the God, he rejoined, Then do you withdraw. Another at night passing by a tomb and imagining he saw a ghost, made towards it with his spear, and striking it through cried out, Whither dost thou fly, poor twice dead ghost? Another having vowed to throw himself headlong from the Leucadian rock, when he came to the top and saw the vast precipice, he went down again; upon which being jeered by an acquaintance, he said, I did not imagine that one vow needed another that was greater. Another in a battle had his sword lifted up to kill his enemy, but the retreat being sounded, he did not let the blow fall; and when one asked him why, when his enemy was at his mercy, he did not use the advantage, Because, said he, it is better to obey my leader than kill my enemy. One saying to a Spartan that was worsted in the Olympic games, Spartan, thy adversary was the better man; No, he replied, but the better tripper.

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