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Moral Effect of Perseus's Successes

When the report of the favourable result for Perseus of
The effect of the success of Perseus upon the Greeks.
the cavalry engagement, and of the victory of the Macedonians, spread through Greece, the inclination of the populace to the cause of Perseus blazed out like a fire, most of them having up to that time concealed their real feelings. Their conduct, to my mind, was like what one sees at gymnastic contests. When some obscure and far inferior combatant descends into the arena with a famous champion reputed to be invincible, the spectators immediately bestow their favour upon the weaker of the two, and try to keep up his spirits by applause, and eagerly second his efforts by their enthusiasm. And if he succeeds so far as even to touch the face of his opponent, and make a mark to prove the blow, the whole of the spectators again show themselves on his side. Sometimes they even jeer at his antagonist: not because they dislike or undervalue him, but because their sympathies are roused by the unexpected, and they are naturally inclined to take the weaker side. But if any one checks them at the right moment, they are quick to change and see their mistake. And this is what Cleitomachus is said to have done.
A scene at Olympia.
He had the character of being an invincible athlete, and, as his reputation was spread all over the world, King Ptolemy is said to have been inspired with the ambition of putting an end to it. He therefore had Aristonicus the boxer, who was thought to have unusual physical capabilities for that kind of thing trained with extraordinary care, and sent to Greece. When he appeared on the arena at Olympia a great number of the spectators, it seems, immediately showed their favour for him, and cheered him on, being rejoiced that some one should have had the courage to make some sort of stand against Cleitomachus. But when, as the fight went on, he showed that he was a match for his antagonist, and even gave him a well-placed wound, there was a general clapping of hands, and the popular enthusiasm showed itself loudly on his side, the spectators calling out to Aristonicus to keep up his spirits. Thereupon they say that Cleitomachus stepped aside, and after waiting a short time to recover his breath, turned to the crowd and asked them "Why, they cheered Aristonicus, and supported him all they could? Had they detected him in playing foul in the combat? Or were they not aware that Cleitomachus was at that moment fighting for the honour of Greece, Aristonicus for that of king Ptolemy? Would they prefer an Egyptian to carry off the crown by beating Greeks, or that a Theban and Boeotian should be proclaimed victor in boxing over all comers?" Upon this speech of Cleitomachus, they say that such a revulsion of feeling came over the spectators, that Aristonicus in his turn was conquered more by the display of popular feeling than by Cleitomachus.

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    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 41-42, commentary, 42.63
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