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Character of Aratus

Aratus had many of the qualities of a great ruler. He could speak, and contrive, and conceal his purpose: no one surpassed him in the moderation which he showed in political contests, or in his power of attaching friends and gaining allies: in intrigue, stratagem, and laying plots against a foe, and in bringing them to a successful termination by personal endurance and courage, he was pre-eminent. Many clear instances of these qualities may be found; but none more convincing than the episodes of the capture of Sicyon and Mantinea, of the expulsion of the Aetolians from Pellene, and especially of the surprise of the Acrocorinthus.1 On the other hand whenever he attempted a campaign in the field, he was slow in conception and timid in execution, and without personal gallantry in the presence of danger. The result was that the Peloponnese was full of trophies which marked reverses sustained by him; and that in this particular department he was always easily defeated. So true is it that men's minds, no less than their bodies, have many aspects. Not only is it the case that the same man has an aptitude for one class of activities and not for another; it often happens that in things closely analogous, the same man will be exceedingly acute and exceedingly dull, exceedingly courageous and exceedingly timid. Nor is this a paradox: it is a very ordinary fact, well known to all attentive observers. For instance you may find men who in hunting show the greatest daring in grappling with wild beasts, and yet are utter cowards in the presence of an armed enemy. Or again, in actual war some are active and skilful in single combats, who are yet quite ineffective in the ranks. For example, the Thessalian cavalry in squadron and column are irresistible, but when their order is once broken up, they have not the skill in skirmishing by which each man does whatever the time and place suggests: while, on the other hand, exactly the reverse of this is the case with the Aetolians. The Cretans, again, either by land or sea, in ambushes and piratical excursions, in deceiving the enemy, in making night attacks, and in fact in every service which involves craft and separate action, are irresistible; but for a regular front to front charge in line they have neither the courage nor firmness; and the reverse again is the case with the Achaeans and Macedonians.

I have said thus much, that my readers may not refuse me credit if I have at times to make contradictory statements about the same men and in regard to analogous employments. To return to my narrative.

1 The capture of Sicyon and expulsion of the tyrant Nicocles was the earliest exploit of Aratus, B. C. 251. Plutarch, Arat. 4-9. The taking of the Acrocorinthus from the Macedonian garrison was in B. C. 23, ib. ch. 19-24. For the affair at Pellene see ib. 31. The capture of Mantinea was immediately after a defeat by Cleomenes. See Plutarch, Cleom 5.

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