Gylippus, then, after adding a deed so disgraceful and ignoble as this to his previous great and brilliant achievements, removed himself from Lacedaemon. And the wisest of the Spartans, being led by this instance in particular to fear the power of money, which they said was corrupting influential as well as ordinary citizens, reproached Lysander, and fervently besought the ephors to purify the city of all the silver and the gold, as imported curses. The ephors deliberated on the matter.
And it was Sciraphidas, according to Theopompus, or Phlogidas, according to Ephorus, who declared that they ought not to receive gold and silver coinage into the city, but to use that of the country. Now this was of iron, and was dipped in vinegar as soon as it came from the fire, that it might not be worked over, but be made brittle and intractable by the dipping.1
Besides, it was very heavy and troublesome to carry, and a great quantity and weight of it had but little value.
Probably, too, all the ancient money was of this sort, some peoples using iron spits for coins, and some bronze; whence it comes that even to this day many small pieces of money retain the name of
‘spits’, and six
‘oboli’ make a
‘handful’, since that was as many as the hand could grasp.
But since Lysander's friends opposed this measure, and insisted that the money remain in the city, it was resolved that money of this sort could be introduced for public use, but that if any private person should be found in possession of it, he should be punished with death; just as though Lycurgus had feared the coin, and not the covetousness which the coin produced. And this vice was not removed by allowing no private person to possess money, so much as it was encouraged by allowing the city to possess money, its use thereby acquiring dignity and honor.
Surely it was not possible for those who saw money publicly honored, to despise it privately as of no service; or to consider as worthless for the individual's private use that which was publicly held in such repute and esteem. Moreover, it takes far less time for public practices to affect the customs of private life, than it does for individual lapses and failings to corrupt entire cities.
For it is natural that the parts should rather be perverted along with the whole, when that deteriorates; but the diseases which flow from a part into the whole find many correctives and aids in the parts which remain sound. And so these magistrates merely set the fear of the law to guard the houses of the citizens, that money might have no entrance there, but did not keep their spirits undaunted by the power of money and insensible to it; they rather inspired them all with an emulous desire for wealth as a great and noble object of pursuit. On this point, however, we have censured the Lacedaemonians in another treatise.2