Home | Texts by category | | Quick Search:   
Works by Plutarch
Pages of Pericles

Previous | Next


having won the battle, and taken several of the men prisoners, and
disabled several of the ships, were masters of the sea, and brought
into port all necessaries they wanted for the war, which they had
not before. Aristotle says, too, that Pericles had been once before
this worsted by this Melissus in a sea-fight.
The Samians, that they might requite an affront which had before been
put upon them, branded the Athenians, whom they took prisoners, in
their foreheads, with the figure of an owl. For so the Athenians had
marked them before with a Samaena, which is a sort of ship, low and
flat in the prow, so as to look snub-nosed, but wide and large and
well-spread in the hold, by which it both carries a large cargo and
sails well. And it was so called, because the first of that kind was
seen at Samos, having been built by order of Polycrates the tyrant.
These brands upon the Samians' foreheads, they say, are the allusion
in the passage of Aristophanes, where he says-
"For, oh, the Samians are a lettered people."
Pericles, as soon as news was brought him of the disaster that had
befallen his army, made all the haste he could to come in to their
relief, and having defeated Melissus, who bore up against him, and
put the enemy to flight, he immediately proceeded to hem them in with
a wall, resolving to master them and take the town, rather with some
cost and time than with the wounds and hazards of his citizens. But
as it was a hard matter to keep back the Athenians, who were vexed
at the delay, and were eagerly bent to fight, he divided the whole
multitude into eight parts, and arranged by lot that that part which
had the white bean should have leave to feast and take their ease
while the other seven were fighting. And this is the reason, they
say, that people, when at any time they have been merry, and enjoyed
themselves, called it white day, in allusion to this white bean.
Ephorus the historian tells us besides, that Pericles made use of
engines of battery in this siege, being much taken with the curiousness
of the invention, with the aid and presence of Artemon himself, the
engineer, who, being lame, used to be carried about in a litter, where
the works required his attendance, and for that reason was called
Periphoretus. But Heraclides Ponticus disproves this out of Anacreon's
poems, where mention is made of this Artemon Periphoretus several
ages before the Samian war, or any of these occurrences. And he says
that Artemon, being a man who loved his ease, and had a great apprehension
of danger, for the most part kept close within doors, having two of
his servants to hold a brazen shield over his head, that nothing might
fall upon him from above; and if he were at any time forced upon necessity
to go abroad, that he was carried about in a little hanging bed, close
to the very ground, and that for this reason he was called Periphoretus.
In the ninth month, the Samians surrendering themselves and delivering
up the town, Pericles pulled down their walls, and seized their shipping,
and set a fine of a large sum of money upon them, part of which they
paid down at once, and they agreed to bring in the rest by a certain
time, and gave hostages for security. Duris the Samian makes a tragical
drama out of these events, charging the Athenians and Pericles with
a great deal of cruelty, which neither Thucydides, nor Ephorus, nor
Aristotle have given any relation of, and probably with little regard
to truth; how, for example, he brought the captains and soldiers of
the alleys into the market-place at Miletus, and there having bound
them fast to boards for ten days, then, when they were already all
but half dead, gave order to have them killed by beating out their
brains with clubs, and their dead bodies to be flung out into the
open streets and fields, unburied. Duris however, who, even where
he has no private feeling concerned, is not wont to keep his narratives
within the limits of truth, is the more likely upon this occasion
to have exaggerated the calamities which befell his country, to create
odium against the Athenians. Pericles however, after the reduction
of Samos, returning back to Athens, took care that those who died
in the war should be honourably buried, and made a funeral harangue,
as the custom is, in their commendation at their graves, for which

Previous | Next
Site Search