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Philip Dissuaded from Taking Messene

Philip, king of the Macedonians, being desirous of
Philip V. of Macedon at Messene, B. C. 215. See Plutarch, Arat. 49-50.
seizing the acropolis of Messene, told the leaders of the city that he wished to see it and to sacrifice to Zeus, and accordingly walked up thither with his attendants and joined in the sacrifice. When, according to custom, the entrails of the slaughtered victims were brought to him, he took them in his hands, and, turning round a little to one side, held them out to Aratus and asked him "what he thought the sacrifices indicated? To quit the citadel or hold it?" Thereupon Demetrius struck in on the spur of the moment by saying, "If you have the heart of an augur,—to quit it as quick as you can: but if of a gallant and wise king, to keep it, lest if you quit it now you may never have so good an opportunity again: for it is by thus holding the two horns that you can alone keep the ox under your control." By the "two horns" he meant Ithome and the Acrocorinthus, and by the "ox" the Peloponnese. Thereupon Philip turned to Aratus and said, "And do you give the same advice?" Aratus not making any answer at once, he urged him to speak his real opinion. After some hesitation he said, "If you can get possession of this place without treachery to the Messenians, I advise you to do so; but if, by the act of occupying this citadel with a guard, you shall ruin all the citadels, and the guard wherewith the allies were protected when they came into your hands from Antigonus" (meaning by that, confidence), "consider whether it is not better to take your men away and leave the confidence there, and with it guard the Messenians, and the other allies as well." As far as his own inclination was concerned, Philip was ready enough to commit an act of treachery, as his own subsequent conduct proved: but having been sharply rebuked a little while before by the younger Aratus for his destruction of human life; and seeing that, on the present occasion, the elder spoke with boldness and authority, and begged him not to neglect his advice, he gave in from sheer shame, and taking the latter by his right hand, said, "Then let us go back the same way we came."

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215 BC (1)
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    • Plutarch, Aratus, 49
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