It was due, therefore, to this last political device above all, that the wealthy citizens were incensed against Lycurgus, and banding together against him, denounced him publicly with angry shouts and cries; finally many pelted him with stones, so that he ran from the market-place. He succeeded in reaching sanctuary before the rest laid hands on him; but one young man, Alcander, otherwise no mean nature, but hasty and passionate, pressed hard upon him, and as he turned about, smote him with his staff and put out one of his eyes.
Lycurgus, however, was far from yielding in consequence of this calamity, but confronted his countrymen, and showed them his face besmeared with blood and his eye destroyed. Whereupon they were so filled with shame and sorrow at the sight, that they placed Alcander in his hands, and conducted him to his house with sympathetic indignation. Lycurgus commended them for their conduct, and dismissed them, but took Alcander into the house with him, where he did the youth no harm by word or deed, but after sending away his customary servants and attendants, ordered him to minister to his wants.
The youth, who was of a noble disposition, did as he was commanded, without any words, and abiding thus with Lycurgus, and sharing his daily life, he came to know the gentleness of the man, the calmness of his spirit, the rigid simplicity of his habits, and his unwearied industry. He thus became a devoted follower of Lycurgus, and used to tell his intimates and friends that the man was not harsh nor self-willed, as he had supposed, but the mildest and gentlest of them all.
Such, then, was the chastisement of this young man, and such the penalty laid upon him, namely, to become, instead of a wild and impetuous youth, a most decorous and discreet man. Lycurgus, moreover, in memory of his misfortune, built a temple to Athena Optilitis, so called from
‘optilus,’ which is the local Doric word for eye
. Some writers, however, of whom one is Dioscorides, who wrote a treatise on the Spartan civil polity, say that although Lycurgus was struck in the eye, his eye was not blinded, but he built the temple to the goddess as a thank-offering for its healing. Be that as it may, the Spartan practice of carrying staves into their assemblies was abandoned after this unfortunate accident.