Aristides, the son of Lysimachus, belonged to the tribe Antiochis, and to the deme Alopece. As regards his substance, stories differ, some having it that he passed all the days of his life in severe poverty, and that at his death he left behind him two daughters who for a long time were not sought in marriage because of their indigence.
But in contradiction of this story which so many writers give, Demetrius of Phalerum, in his
‘Socrates,’ says he knows of an estate in Phalerum which belonged to Aristides—the one in which he lies buried, and regards as proofs of his opulent circumstances, first, his office of Archon Eponymous, which only he could hold who obtained it by lot from among the families carrying the highest property assessments (these were called Pentacosiomedimni, or Five-hundred-bushellers);
second, his banishment in ostracism, for no poor men, but only men from great houses which incurred envy because of their family prestige, were liable to ostracism; third, and last, the fact that he left in the precinct of Dionysus as offerings for victory some choregic tripods, which, even in our day, were pointed out as still bearing the inscription:
‘The tribe Antiochis was victorious; Aristides was Choregus; Archestratus was Poet.’
Now this last argument, though it seems very strong, is really very weak. For both Epaminondas, who, as all men know, was reared and always lived in great poverty, and Plato the philosopher, took it upon themselves to furnish munificent public performances, the first, of men trained to play the flute, the second, of boys trained to sing and dance; but Plato received the money that he spent thereon from Dion of Syracuse, and Epaminonmas from Pelopidas.
Good men wage no savage and relentless war against the gifts of friends, but while they look upon gifts taken to be stored away and increase the receiver's wealth as ignoble and mean, they refuse none which promote an unselfish and splendid munificence.
However, as regards the tripods, Panaetius tries to show that Demetrius was deceived by identity of name.
From the Persian wars, he says, down to the end of the Peloponnesian war, only two Aristides are recorded as victorious choregi, and neither of them is identical with the son of Lysimachus. One was the son of Xenophilus, and the other lived long afterwards, as is proved by the inscription itself, which is written in the character used after Eucleides,1
as well as by the last name, Archestratus, of whom there is no record during the Persian wars, while during the time of the Peloponnesian war his name often appears as that of a choral poet.
This argument of Panaetius should be more closely examined as to its validity; but to banishment in ostracism every one was liable who was superior to the common run of men in reputation, or lineage, or eloquence. And so it was that Damon, the teacher of Pericles, was ostracized because he was thought to be rather extraordinary in his wisdom.2
Furthermore, Idomeneus says that Aristides obtained the office of archon, not by lot, but by the election of the Athenians.3
And if he was made archon after the battle of Plataea, as Demetrius himself has written, it is certainly very credible that in view of such a reputation and such successes as he there won, he should be deemed worthy, for his valor, of an office which men who drew lots for it obtained for their wealth.
In fact, Demetrius is clearly ambitious to rescue not only Aristides, but also Socrates from what he deems the great evil of poverty, for he says that Socrates owned not only his house, but also seventy minas out at interest with Crito.