The father of Lysander, Aristocleitus, is said to have been of the lineage of the Heracleidae, though not of the royal family. But Lysander was reared in poverty, and showed himself as much as any man conformable to the customs of his people; of a manly spirit, too, and superior to every pleasure, excepting only that which their good deeds bring to those who are successful and honored. To this pleasure it is no disgrace for the youth in Sparta to succumb.
Indeed, from the very first they wish their boys to be sensitive toward public opinion, distressed by censure, and exalted by praise; and he who is insensible and stolid in these matters, is looked down upon as without ambition for excellence, and a cumberer of the ground. Ambition, then, and the spirit of emulation, were firmly implanted in him by his Laconian training and and no great fault should be found with his natural disposition on this account.
But he seems to have been naturally subservient to men of power and influence, beyond what was usual in a Spartan, and content to endure an arrogant authority for the sake of gaining his ends, a trait which some hold to be no small part of political ability. And Aristotle, when he sets forth that great natures, like those of Socrates and Plato and Heracles, have a tendency to melancholy, writes also1
that Lysander, not immediately, but when well on in years, was a prey to melancholy.
But what is most peculiar in him is that, though he bore poverty well, and though he was never mastered nor even corrupted by money, yet he filled his country full of wealth and the love of wealth, and made her cease to be admired for not admiring wealth, importing as he did an abundance of gold and silver after the war with Athens, although he kept not a single drachma for himself.
And when Dionysius the tyrant sent his daughters some costly tunics of Sicilian make, he would not receive them, saying he was afraid they would make his daughters look more ugly. But a little later, when he was sent as ambassador to the same tyrant from the same city, and was presented by him with two robes, and ordered to choose which of them he would, and carry it to his daughter, he said that she could choose better herself, and went off with both of them.