Moral Effect of Perseus's Successes
When the report of the favourable result for Perseus of
The effect of the success of Perseus upon the Greeks.
the cavalry engagement, and of the victory of
the Macedonians, spread through Greece, the
inclination of the populace to the cause of
Perseus blazed out like a fire, most of them
having up to that time concealed their real feelings. Their
conduct, to my mind, was like what one sees at gymnastic
contests. When some obscure and far inferior combatant
descends into the arena with a famous champion reputed to
be invincible, the spectators immediately bestow their favour
upon the weaker of the two, and try to keep up his spirits by
applause, and eagerly second his efforts by their enthusiasm.
And if he succeeds so far as even to touch the face of his
opponent, and make a mark to prove the blow, the whole of
the spectators again show themselves on his side. Sometimes
they even jeer at his antagonist: not because they dislike or
undervalue him, but because their sympathies are roused by the
unexpected, and they are naturally inclined to take the weaker
side. But if any one checks them at the right moment, they
are quick to change and see their mistake. And this is what
Cleitomachus is said to have done.
the character of being an invincible athlete,
and, as his reputation was spread all over the
world, King Ptolemy is said to have been inspired with the
ambition of putting an end to it. He therefore had Aristonicus the boxer, who was thought to have unusual
physical capabilities for that kind of thing trained with extraordinary care, and sent to Greece. When he appeared on the
arena at Olympia a great number of the spectators, it seems,
immediately showed their favour for him, and cheered him on,
being rejoiced that some one should have had the courage to
make some sort of stand against Cleitomachus. But when, as
the fight went on, he showed that he was a match for his
antagonist, and even gave him a well-placed wound, there was
a general clapping of hands, and the popular enthusiasm
showed itself loudly on his side, the spectators calling out to
Aristonicus to keep up his spirits. Thereupon they say that
Cleitomachus stepped aside, and after waiting a short time to
recover his breath, turned to the crowd and asked them
"Why, they cheered Aristonicus, and supported him all they
could? Had they detected him in playing foul in the combat?
Or were they not aware that Cleitomachus was at that moment
fighting for the honour of Greece, Aristonicus for that of king
Ptolemy? Would they prefer an Egyptian to carry off the
crown by beating Greeks, or that a Theban and Boeotian
should be proclaimed victor in boxing over all comers?"
Upon this speech of Cleitomachus, they say that such a revulsion of feeling came over the spectators, that Aristonicus in
his turn was conquered more by the display of popular feeling
than by Cleitomachus.