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Aratus Poisoned

Though regarding the Messenians as open enemies, Philip was unable to inflict serious damage upon them, in spite of his setting to work to devastate their territory; but he was guilty of abominable conduct of the worst description to men who had been his most intimate friends. For on the elder Aratus showing disapproval of his proceedings at Messene, he caused him not long afterwards to be made away with by poison, through the agency of Taurion who had charge of his interests in the Peloponnese.
Death of Aratus, B. C. 213.
The crime was not known at the time by other people; for the drug was not one of those which kill on the spot, but was a slow poison producing a morbid state of the body. Aratus himself however was fully aware of the cause of his illness; and showed that he was so by the following circumstance. Though he kept the secret from the rest of the world, he did not conceal it from one of his servants named Cepholon, with whom he was on terms of great affection. This man waited on him during his illness with great assiduity, and having one day pointed out some spittle on the wall which was stained with blood, Aratus remarked, 'That is the reward I have got for my friendship to Philip." Such a grand and noble thing is disinterested virtue, that the sufferer was more ashamed, than the inflicter of the injury, of having it known, that, after so many splendid services performed in the interests of Philip, he had got such a return as that for his loyalty.1

In consequence of having been so often elected Strategus

Seventeen times Strategus. Plutarch, Aratus, 53.
of the Achaean league, and of having performed so many splendid services for that people, Aratus after his death met with the honours he deserved, both in his own native city and from the league as a body. They voted him sacrifices and the honours of heroship, and in a word every thing calculated to perpetuate his memory; so that, if the departed have any consciousness, it is but reasonable to think that he feels pleasure at the gratitude of the Achaeans, and at the thought of the hardships and dangers he endured in his life. . . .

1 The accusation of administering slow poisons is a very common one, as readers of mediæval history know. But the ignorance of the conditions of health was too great to allow us to accept them without question. It is doubtful whether drugs, acting in this particular way, were known to the ancients; and certainly spitting blood would be no conclusive evidence of the presence of poison. See Creighton's History of the Papacy, vol. iv. Append.

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    • Titus Livius (Livy), Ab urbe condita libri, erklärt von M. Weissenborn, books 31-32, commentary, 32.21
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    • Plutarch, Aratus, 53
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