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Pictures from Greek Life and Story - Alfred J. Church

Spoilt by Prosperity

It cannot be said that Pausanias displayed any special skill in his strategy at Platæa. From first to last it was a soldiers' battle, won by the superior force and more effective arms and armour of the Greeks. But it brought, as such battles often do, an enormous access of reputation to the general in command. And this was increased rather than diminished by the way in which he bore the hour of victory. He behaved with chivalrous courtesy to a Greek woman who was found in the Persian camp. She had been carried off from her home, which was in the island of Cos, by the Persians, and she besought Pausanias to rescue her from a dishonourable captivity. "I am always ready," he answered, "to hear the prayer of a suppliant, much more when the suppliant is the daughter of my old friend, Hegetorides of Cos." To an adviser who suggested, that he should impale the dead body of Mardonius by way of revenging the indignities to which Xerxes had subjected the corpse of Leonidas, he replied that such advice was more suited to barbarians than to Greeks; as for Leonidas and the Three Hundred, they had had an ampler and more noble vengeance in the thousands of Persians who had fallen on the field of battle. "Never come to me again," he added, "with such counsel, and think yourself fortunate that even now you have not suffered for it what you deserve." On the evening of the battle he is said to have given his colleagues in command a practical illustration of what seemed to him the lesson of the event. "Xerxes had left his war-tent with Mardonius when he fled from Greece," this is the fashion in which Herodotus tells the story, "and when Mardonius saw it, with its adornments of gold and silver and its hangings of divers colours, he gave commandment to the bakers and the cooks that they should prepare for him a banquet, such as they had been wont to serve up to Mardonius. So they made ready, as was commanded. And when Pausanias saw the couches of gold and silver fairly furnished, and tables of gold and silver, and all the splendid furniture of the feast, he was astonished at the good things that he beheld. Then, by way of jest, he bade his own servants prepare a meal in Spartan fashion, and because there was a notable difference between the one furnishing and the other, he sent for the leaders of the Greeks. When the men were assembled, Pausanias, pointing to the setting forth of the two meals, said, 'Men of Greece, it is for this purpose I sent for you, to show you the folly of these Persians, who having such things at their command, came to rob us whose possessions are so poverty-stricken.'"

All this was in true Spartan fashion. But nothing is more manifest in Greek history than that the Spartan training did not, as a rule, enable its pupils to resist the temptations of prosperity. Frugal and self-restrained at home, they were too often notorious for their luxury and self-indulgence abroad. So it was with Pausanias. The spoils of the Persian army amounted, as may be supposed, to a very large treasure, in spite of the numerous peculations of the Helots, who had been set to collect it. A tenth was set apart for the Delphian Apollo; offerings were made to the other gods; every soldier who had taken part in the battle had his share. But the portion reserved for Pausanias was very large; "ten specimens of every kind of thing," says Herodotus. This sudden wealth did much to spoil him.

The corrupting process was not, indeed, manifest at once. An opportunity of still further enriching himself soon offered itself, and his integrity seems to have excited surprise. The first act of the victorious Greeks was to punish the traitorous conduct of the Thebans. Thebes had exerted itself energetically to advance the Persian cause. Other states had yielded to superior force, and had at the worst been guilty of want of courage, but Thebes had done its very best to bring about the subjugation of Greece. Pausanias now demanded that the political leaders who were responsible for this misconduct should be surrendered to him for punishment. The demand was refused, and he proceeded to lay siege to the city and to ravage its territory. The accused persons then offered to give themselves up. One of them, indeed, escaped, but the others were surrendered. They counted, Herodotus tells us, on being regularly tried, and were confident that they would be able to secure an acquittal by bribing their judges. Spartan corruption was already notorious in Greece, and the accused men doubtless relied on purchasing the good will of Pausanias, who would, of course, be president of the court. This expectation the Spartan chief disappointed. He treated his prisoners as men manifestly guilty, whom it would be a waste of time to try, took them to the Isthmus, and there promptly executed them.

The battle of Platæa was fought in the month of September. That year nothing more was done, but the next spring Pausanias sailed with the fleet of the confederates to Cyprus. After conquering the greater part of the island, he made his way to Byzantium, a Greek colony which had fallen into the hands of the Persians. The Persian garrison made an obstinate resistance, but, in the end, the town was taken. And now the poison began to work in the mind of the Spartan chief. He had already given offence to his countrymen by the vainglorious inscription which he had caused to be inscribed on the offering made out of the spoils of Platæa to the Delphian Apollo. This ran as follows: "Pausanias, leader of the Greeks, having destroyed the army of the Medes, offers this memorial to Phœbus." The authorities of Sparta commanded that these words should be erased, and that a list of the states which took part in the battle of Platæa should be substituted for it. He now conceived the idea of making himself supreme in Greece by help of the Persian king. The first step was to send to Xerxes some Persian prisoners of importance who had been captured in Byzantium. His colleagues in command were given to understand that these men had escaped. He then sent a confidential agent, one Gongylus, a citizen of Eretria, with a letter which ran as follows: "Pausanias, chief of Sparta, sends thee these prisoners of war desiring to do thee a pleasure. I have it in my mind, if it seems good to thee also, to marry thy daughter, and to make Sparta and the rest of Greece subject to thee. And this I count myself able to do, by taking counsel with thee. If, therefore, any of these things please thee, send down to the sea some trusty man, through whom we may do business hereafter." That the letter is not an exact transcript of Pausanias's communication is clear from the fact that the dialect used is Attic. Otherwise it has a very natural look, especially in the changes from the third person to the first, a very likely thing to be done by a person unaccustomed to writing.

Xerxes was greatly pleased, it would seem, at the suggestion. He sent Artabazus, who had held high command in the army left in Greece, with instructions to take over the Satrapy which included the north-western coasts of Asia Minor. Artabazus was the bearer of a letter which Thucydides has preserved. "Thus saith King Xerxes to Pausanias. As for the men whom thou didst save over the sea in Byzantium, the benefit is laid up in our house recorded for ever; as for thy words, I am pleased with them, let not night or day stay thee that thou shouldst fail to do the things that thou promisest, and be not hindered for any spending of gold or silver or for lack of men, if such thou shouldst need. Fear not to do with Artabazus, a trusty man, whom I send to thee, all that concerns both thy business and mine, so that all profit and honour may come to both of us."

The Spartan's head was fairly turned by this communication from the great King. The simple frugal life in which he had been trained from childhood ceased to content him. He adopted the gorgeous Persian dress; Indian and Egyptian bodyguards accompanied him in his progresses through Thrace. His table was served in the very same oriental fashion with which he had pointed the moral of contentment for his colleagues at Platæa. His demeanour became haughty and insolent to all with whom he came in contact, while he began to affect the seclusion which was commonly practised by oriental rulers. Crimes, far worse than these follies, were laid to his charge. The Spartan authorities at home promptly recalled him. He obeyed the summons, but went out again in a private capacity. His conduct again gave rise to the same suspicions. The Athenians forcibly expelled him from Byzantium. Instead of returning home he took up his residence on the Troad, and continued his old intrigues. The Spartans sent a herald after him with a positive injunction that he was to accompany the messenger. In default he would be declared a public enemy. Anxious not to push the matter to extremities, he returned, hoping, not, we are compelled to believe without good reason, that by a judicious use of money he could secure acquittal. On his arrival he was thrown into prison. Obtaining his release, he challenged his accusers to put him on his trial. The authorities had no absolute proofs, and they were unwilling, in default of these, to proceed against a man of much personal distinction, who was also acting as regent for his nephew, the young son of Leonidas. Then some Helots with whose loyalty he had tampered informed against him. He had promised them their freedom, they said, if they would help him to overturn the existing constitution of Sparta. But even this testimony did not suffice. To be available against a man of such a position, the proof must be beyond all question. At last such proof was found. Pausanias had employed a certain Argibius to act as his messenger to Artabazus. Argibius had observed that none of those who had been employed before him in this service had returned. He broke the seal of the letter, read it, and discovered an injunction that the messenger was to be put to death. He carried the letter to the Ephors. These magistrates were at last convinced. They laid a plot to get Pausanias to convict himself out of his own mouth. The messenger was instructed to seek sanctuary at the Temple of Poseidon on the promontory of Tanarum. The magistrates thought it probable that Pausanias would seek an interview with him, as the fact of his having taken sanctuary was compromising to himself. Accordingly they contrived a shelter for themselves from which they might hear any conversation that took place. What they expected happened. Pausanias hurried to the Temple, and asked his servant the reason for his conduct. The man reproached him with the instructions given in the letter, reminded him that he had always done his part in the negotiations with the king prudently and complained that he had been condemned to the same fate which had overtaken his predecessor. Pausanias, in answer, confessed the wrong that he had done, begged for forgiveness, pledged his word not to harm him, if he would leave the sanctuary, and entreated him to do his errand with all speed, and not retard the negotiations. The magistrates could no longer doubt. They resolved to arrest Pausanias as soon as he had returned to Sparta. But before the arrest was effected, the guilty man detected on the face of one of the magistrates the errand on which he had come. Another of them indicated by a significant nod that he should take refuge in the Temple of Athené of the Brazen House, the sacred enclosure of which was close at hand. Pausanias just managed to escape his pursuers, but this did but prolong his life for a few days. He had taken refuge in a small chapel attached to the Temple. The magistrates took off the roof and the doors and built him up. When he was on the point of dying of hunger, they carried him out; a few moments afterwards he expired. Their first intention was to cast his corpse into the pit reserved for the bodies of criminals. On second thoughts they gave it decent burial near the Temple. One tragic addition to the story represents that the traitor's aged mother laid the first brick when he was built up. She came and went in silence. She was a Spartan, but she could not wholly forget that she was a mother.