Since the Athenians viewed with alarm the rising power of Philip, they came to the assistance of any people who were attacked by the king, by sending envoys to the cities and urging them to watch over their independence and punish with death those citizens who were bent on treason, and they promised them all that they would fight as their allies, and, after publicly declaring themselves the king’s enemies, engaged in an out-and-out war against Philip. The man who more than any other spurred them on to take up the cause of Hellas was the orator Demosthenes, the most eloquent of the Greeks of those times. Even his city was, however, unable to restrain its citizens from their urge toward treason, such was the crop, as it were, of traitors that had sprung up at that time throughout Hellas. Hence the anecdote that when Philip wished to take a certain city with unusually strong fortifications and one of the inhabitants remarked that it was impregnable, he asked if even gold could not scale its walls. For he had learned from experience that what could not be subdued by force of arms could easily be vanquished by gold. So, organizing bands of traitors in the several cities by means of bribes and calling those who accepted his gold “guests” and “friends,” by his evil communications he corrupted the morals of the people. (tr. Charles L. Sherman)
Sardanapallus, the thirtieth in succession from Ninus, who founded the empire, and the last king of the Assyrians, outdid all his predecessors in luxury and sluggishness. For not to mention the fact that he was not seen by any man residing outside the palace, he lived the life of a woman, and spending his days in the company of his concubines and spinning purple garments and working the softest of wool, he had assumed the feminine garb and so covered his face and indeed his entire body with whitening cosmetics and the other unguents used by courtesans, that he rendered it more delicate than that of any luxury-loving woman. He also took care to make even his voice to be like a woman’s, and at his carousals not only to indulge regularly in those drinks and viands which could offer the greatest pleasure, but also to pursue the delights of love with men as well as women; for he practised sexual indulgence of both kinds without restraint, showing not the least concern for the disgrace attending such conduct. To such an excess did he go of luxury and of the most shameless sensual pleasure and in temperance, that he composed a funeral dirge for himself and commanded his successors upon the throne to inscribe it upon his tomb after his death; it was composed by him in a foreign language but was afterwards translated by a Greek as follows:
Knowing full well that thou wert mortal born,
Thy heart lift up, take thy delight in feast;
When dead no pleasure more is thine. Thus I,
Who once o’er mighty Ninus ruled, am naught
But dust. Yet these are mine which gave me joy
In life—the food I ate, my wantonness,
And love’s delights. But all those other things
Men deem felicities are left behind.
Because he was a man of this character, not only did he end his own life in a disgraceful manner, but he caused the total destruction of the Assyrian Empire, which had endured longer than any other known to history. (tr. Charles Henry Oldfather)
An old saying has been handed down that it is not men of average ability but those of outstanding superiority who destroy democracies. For this reason some cities, suspecting those of their public men who are the strongest, take away from them their outward show of power. It seems that the step to the enslavement of the fatherland is a short one for men who continue in positions of power, and that it is difficult for those to abstain from monarchy who through eminence have acquired hopes of ruling; for it is natural that men who thirst for greatness should seek their own aggrandizement and cherish desires that know no bounds. The Athenians, for example, exiled the foremost of their citizens for this reason, having established by law what was known among them as ostracism; and this they did, not to inflict punishment for any injustice previously committed, but in order that those citizens who were strong enough to disregard the laws might not get an opportunity to do wrong at the expense of their fatherland. Indeed, they used to recite as an oracle that saying of Solon in which, while foretelling the tyranny of Peisistratus, he inserts this couplet: “Destruction cometh upon a city from its great men; and through ignorance the people fall into slavery to a tyrant.” (tr. Russel M. Geer)
The animal which the Ethiopians call the crocottas* has a nature which is a mixture of that of a dog and that of a wolf, but in ferocity it is more to be feared than either of them, and with respect to its teeth it surpasses all animals; for every bone, no matter how huge in size, it easily crushes, and whatever it has gulped down its stomach digests in an astonishing manner. And among those who recount marvellous lies about this beast there are some who relate that it imitates the speech of men, but for our part they do not win our credence.