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Marcus Junianus Justinus
Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus.
translated, with notes, by the Rev. John Selby Watson.
London: Henry G. Bohn, York Street, Convent Garden (1853).


Table of contents


Book III

Death of Xerxes; Artaxerxes; Artabanus, I.—Origin of the wars between the Athenians and Lacedaemonians; Lycurgus and the Spartan polity, II. III.—First and second wars between the Spartans and Messenians, IV., V.—Third war; commencement of the Peloponnesian war, VI.—Continuation of it; Pericles, VII.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

1 XERXES, king of Persia, once the terror of the nations around him, became, after his unsuccessful conduct of the war against Greece, an object of contempt even to his own subjects. Artabanus, his chief officer, conceiving hopes of usurping the throne, as the king’s authority was every day declining, entered one evening into the palace (which from his intimacy with Xerxes was always open to him), accompanied by his seven stout sons, and, having put the king to death, proceeded to remove by stratagem such of the king’s sons as opposed his wishes. Entertaining little apprehension from Artaxerxes, who was but a boy, he pretended that the king had been slain by Darius, who was of full age; that he might have possession of the throne the sooner, and instigated Artaxerxes to revenge parricide by fratricide. When they came to Darius's house, he was found asleep, and killed as if he merely counterfeited sleep.1 But seeing that one of the king’s sons was still uninjured by his villany, and fearing a struggle for the throne on the part of the nobles, he took into his councils a certain Bacabasus, who, content that the government should remain in the present family, disclosed the whole matter to Artaxerxes, acquainting him “by what means his father had been killed, and how his brother had been murdered on a false suspicion of parricide; and, finally, how a plot was laid for himself.” On this information, Artaxerxes, fearing the number of Artabanus’s sons, gave orders for the troops to be ready under arms on the following day, as if he meant to ascertain their strength, and their respective efficiency for the field. Artabanus, accordingly, presenting himself under arms among the rest, the king, pretending that his corslet was too short for him, desired Artabanus to make an exchange with him, and, while he was disarming himself, and defenceless, ran him through with his sword, ordering his sons, at the same time, to be apprehended. Thus this excellent youth at once took revenge for his father’s murder, and saved himself from the machinations of Artabanus.

2 During these transactions in Persia, all Greece, under the leadership of the Lacedaemonians and Athenians, was split into two parties, and turned their arms from foreign wars as it were against their own bowels. Of one people were formed two distinct bodies; and they who had so recently served in the same camp, were divided into two hostile armies. On the one side, the Lacedaemonians drew over to their faction the cities that had before been common auxiliaries to both. On the other side, the Athenians, renowned alike for their antiquity and their exploits, relied on their own strength. Thus the two most powerful people of Greece, made equal by the institutions of Solon and the laws of Lycurgus, rushed into war through envy of each other's power.

When Lycurgus had succeeded2 Polydectes his brother, king of the Lacedaemonians, and might have secured the kingdom for himself, he restored it, with the noblest integrity, to Charilaus, the posthumous son of Polydectes, as soon as he became of age; that all might see how much more the laws of integrity prevail with good men than all the charms of power. In the meantime, while the child was growing up, and he had the guardianship of him, he composed laws for the Spartans, who previously had had none. Nor was he more celebrated for the making of these laws, than for his exemplary conformity to them; for he imposed nothing by law upon others, of the observation of which he did not first give an example in his own conduct. He trained the people to be obedient to those in authority, and those in authority to be just in the exercise of their government. He enjoined frugality on all, thinking that the toils of war would be made more endurable by a constant observance of it. He ordered all purchases to be made, not with money, but by exchange of commodities. The use of gold and silver he prohibited, as being the origin of all evils.

3 He divided the administration of the government among the several orders; to the kings he gave the power of making war, to the magistrates the seats of justice in yearly succession; to the senate, the guardianship of the laws; to the people, the power of choosing the senate, or of creating what magistrates they pleased. The lands of the whole state he divided equally among all, that equality of possession might leave no one more powerful than another. He ordered all to take their meals in public, that no man might secretly indulge in splendour or luxury. He would not allow the young people to wear more than one dress in a year, nor anyone to walk abroad in finer garments than another, or to fare more sumptuously, lest imitation of such practices should lead to general luxury. He ordered boys to be carried, not into the forum, but into the field, that they might spend their early years, not in effeminate employments, but in hard labour and exertion; not suffering them to put any thing under them to sleep upon, or to live on high seasoned food, and forbidding them to return into the city till they arrived at manhood. He caused virgins to be married without portion that wives, not money, might be sought; and that husbands might govern their wives more strictly, being influenced by no regard to dowry. He ordained that the highest respect should be paid, not to the rich and powerful, but to the old, according to their degrees of seniority; nor had old age, indeed, a more honourable habitation anywhere than at Sparta.

But seeing that such laws would at first be thought severe, as the state of manners had previously been relaxed, he represented that Apollo of Delphi was the author of them, and that he had brought them from thence at the command of the deity, in order that reverence for religion might overbalance the irksomeness of compliance with them. And to secure perpetuity to his laws, he bound the city by an oath “to make no change in them till he should return,” pretending that he was going to ask the oracle at Delphi whether any thing seemed necessary to be added to his institutions, or changed in them. But he went in reality to Crete, and continued there in voluntary exile; and, when he was dying, ordered his bones to be thrown into the sea, lest, if they were taken back to Lacedaemon, the Spartans might think themselves absolved from their oath respecting alteration in his laws.

4 Under such a state of manners, the city acquired, in a short time,3 such a degree of strength, that, on going to war with the Messenians for offering violence to some of their maidens at a solemn sacrifice of that people, they bound themselves under a severe oath not to return till they had taken Messene, promising themselves so much either from their strength or good fortune. This occurrence was the commencement of dissension in Greece, and the origin and cause of a civil war. But being detained in the siege of this city, contrary to their expectation, for ten years, and called on to return by the complaints of their wives after so long a widowhood, and being afraid that by persevering in the war they might hurt themselves more than the Messenians (for, in Messene, whatever men were lost in the war, were replaced by the fruitfulness of their women, while they themselves suffered constant losses in battle, and could have no offspring from their wives in the absence of their husbands), they in consequence selected, out of the soldiers that had come, after the military oath was first taken,4 as recruits to the army, a number of young men; whom they sent back to Sparta with permission to form promiscuous connexions with all the women of the city, thinking that conception would be more speedy if each of the females made the experiment with several men. Those who sprung from these unions were called Partheniae,5 as a reflection on their mothers’ violated chastity; and, when they came to thirty years of age, being alarmed with the fear of want (for not one of them had a father to whose estate he could hope to succeed,) they chose a captain named Phalantus, the son of Aratus, by whose advice the Spartans had sent home the young men to propagate, that, as they had formerly had the father for the author of their birth, they might now have the son as the establisher of their hopes and fortunes. Without taking leave of their mothers, therefore, from whose adultery they thought that they derived dishonour, they set out to seek a place of settlement, and being tossed about a long time, and with various mischances, they at last arrived on the coast of Italy, where, after seizing the citadel of the Tarentines, and expelling the old inhabitants, they fixed their abode. But several years after, their leader Phalantus, being driven into exile by a popular tumult, went to Brundusium, whither the former inhabitants of Tarentum had retreated after they were expelled from their city. When he was at the point of death, he urged the exiles “to have his bones, and last relics, bruised to dust, and privately sprinkled in the forum of Tarentum; for that Apollo at Delphi had signified that by this means they might recover their city.” They, thinking that he had revealed the destiny of his countrymen to avenge himself, complied with his directions; but the intention of the oracle was exactly the reverse; for it promised the Spartans, upon the performance of what he had said, not the loss, but the perpetual possession of the city. Thus by the subtlety of their exiled captain, and the agency of their enemies, the possession of Tarentum was secured to the Partheniae for ever.

5 Meantime the Messenians, who could not be conquered by valour, were reduced by stratagem. For eighty years they bore the severe afflictions of slaves, as frequent stripes, and chains, and other evils of subjugation; and then, after so long an endurance of suffering, they proceeded to resume hostilities. The Lacedaemonians, at the same time, ran to arms with the greater ardour and unanimity, because they seemed to be called upon to fight against their own slaves, While ill-treatment, therefore, on the one side, and indignation on the other, exasperated their feelings, the Lacedaemonians consulted the oracle at Delphi concerning the event of the war, and were directed to ask the Athenians for a leader to conduct it. The Athenians, learning the answer of the oracle, sent, to express their contempt of the Spartans, a lame poet, named Tyrtaeus; who, being routed in three battles, reduced the Lacedaemonians to so desperate a condition, that, to recruit their army, they liberated a portion of their slaves, promising that they should marry the widows of those who were slain, and thus fill up, not merely the number of the lost citizens, but their offices, The kings of Sparta, however, lest, by contending against fortune, they should bring greater losses on their city, would have drawn off their army, had not Tyrtaeus interposed, and recited to the soldiers, in a public assembly, some verses of his own composition, in which he had comprised exhortations to courage, consolations for their losses, and counsels concerning the war. By this means he inspired the soldiers with such resolution, that, being no longer concerned for their lives, but merely for the rites of sepulture, they tied on their right arms tickets, inscribed with their names and those of their fathers, that if an unsuccessful battle should cut them off, and their features after a time become indistinct, they might be consigned to burial according to the indication of the inscriptions. When the kings saw the army thus animated, they took care that the state of it should be made known to the enemy; the report, however, raised in the Messenians no alarm, but a correspondent ardour. Both sides accordingly encountered with such fury, that there scarcely ever was a more bloody battle. But at last victory fell to the Lacedaemonians.

6 Some time after, the Messenians renewed the war a third time, when the Lacedaemonians, among their other allies, called also upon the Athenians for assistance; but afterwards, conceiving some mistrust of them, they prevented them from joining in the war, pretending that they had no need for their services. The Athenians, not liking this proceeding, removed the money, which had been contributed by the whole of Greece to defray the expense of the Persian war, from Delos to Athens, that, if the Lacedaemonians broke their faith as allies, it might not be an object of plunder to them. The Lacedaemonians, on the other hand, did not rest, for though they were engaged in the war with the Messenians, they set the people of the Peloponnesus to make war on the Athenians. The forces of the Athenians at home were at that time inconsiderable, as their fleet had been despatched into Egypt, so that, engaging in battle by sea, they were quickly worsted. Soon after, on the return of their fleet, being strengthened both by sea and land, they renewed the war; when the Lacedaemonians, leaving the Messenians at rest, turned their full force against the Athenians. Victory was long doubtful, and at last both parties gave over with equal loss. The Lacedaemonians being then recalled to the war with the Messenians, but not wishing to leave the Athenians in the meantime unmolested, bargained with the Thebans to restore them the supremacy of Boeotia, which they had lost in the time of the Persian war, if they would but take up arms against the Athenians. Such was the fury of the Spartans, that, though they were involved in two wars, they did not hesitate to occasion a third, if they might but raise up enemies against their enemies. The Athenians, therefore, to meet this storm of war, made choice of two eminent leaders, Pericles, a man of tried courage, and Sophocles, the writer of tragedies; who, dividing their forces, laid waste the lands of the Spartans, and brought many cities of Achaia6 under the power of the Athenians.

7 The Lacedaemonians, being humbled by these losses, agreed upon a peace for thirty years. But their hostile feelings did not allow of so long a period of repose. Hence, having broken the treaty before the fifteenth year was ended, they laid waste the territories of Attica in violation of their obligations towards the gods and towards men. And lest they should seem to have desired to plunder rather than to fight, they challenged the enemy to the field. But the Athenians, by the advice of their leader Pericles, deferred revenge for the spoliation of their lands to a fitter time of exacting it, thinking it needless to hazard a battle, when they could avenge themselves on the enemy without risk. Some days afterwards, accordingly, they embarked in their fleet, and, while the Lacedaemonians expected nothing of the kind, laid waste all Sparta,7 carrying off much more than they had lost; so that, in a comparison of their respective sufferings, the retaliation was much greater than the injury at first received. This expedition of Pericles was considered as greatly to his honour; but his disregard of his private property was far more honourable. The enemy, while they wasted the lands of others, had left his uninjured; hoping, by this means, either to bring danger on him by rendering him unpopular, or dishonour by making him suspected of treachery. But Pericles, foreseeing what would happen, had both foretold it to the people, and, to escape the effects of popular odium, had made over his lands to the state as a gift; and thus obtained the greatest honour from that by which his ruin had been intended. Some days afterwards, an engagement took place by sea; and the Lacedaemonians, being worsted, fled. Nevertheless they did not cease from fierce attacks on one another, by sea or land, with various success. At last, exhausted with disasters on both sides, they made peace for fifty years, which however they maintained only for six; for they broke the treaty which they had concluded on their own account, under pretence of assisting their allies; as if they were less guilty of perjury by aiding their dependants, than by engaging in open hostilities themselves.

The war was in consequence transferred into Sicily; but before I relate its progress, it is proper to give some account of the situation of that island.


Table of contents


1 Quasi somnum fingeret.] As if, being guilty, he had counterfeited himself to be asleep on purpose.—Codrington’s Translation.

2 Successisset.] That is, the Spartans would have accepted him as successor to his brother, had be not preferred to give the throne to his brother’s son.

3 Brevi ] Not in so very short a time, for Lycurgus published his laws 130 years before the foundation of Rome, and this war commenced eleven years after its foundation, i.e. 141 years after the promulgation of the laws.—Wetzel.

4 Post jusjurandum.] That is, after the enrolment of the army, when the soldiers took the oath of service.

5 From PARQE/NOS, virgo.] It answers exactly to the German ein Jungfraukind.—Berneccerus.

6 Achaiae.] So the northern coast of the Peloponnesus was called. Tauchnitz’s edition and Dübner’s have Asiae instead of Achaiae; but I know not whence they took it. Gronovius, and I believe all the older editors, read Achaiae.

7 Totam Spartam.] That is, all the neighbourhood of Sparta, all the lands of the Spartans; as in
xii.2, we find in Troja for in agro Trojano. Concerning this expedition, see Thucyd. ii. 19-46; Diod. Sic. ii. 42.


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The English translation of Justin's Epitome was entered by David Camden (2003) from Watson's 1853 edition. This text is in the public domain and may be copied and distributed for private and educational use, provided this original notice is kept intact. Any commercial use of this text, including print-publication and inclusion in subscription-based archives, is prohibited.

The Latin text and French translation, along with the secondary material written in French, are copyright © Marie-Pierre Arnaud-Lindet 2003, and are NOT in the public domain.

This material may only be used for private and educational use and provided that its copyright status is properly cited. Any modification, remote loading, publication, reproduction on another site, diffusion on the internet, or commercial use of these texts is strictly prohibited without the prior agreement of the author.