CHAPTER XIV. THE THIRTY TYRANTS, AND THE DEATH OF SOCRATES, B.C. 404-399.
The fall of Athens brought back a host of exiles, all of them the enemies of her democratical constitution. Of these these most distinguished was Critias, a man of wealth and family, the uncle of Plato, and once the intimate friend of Socrates, distinguished both for his literary and political talents, but of unmeasured ambition and unscrupulous conscience. Critias and his companions soon found a party with which they could co-operate; and supported by Lysander they proposed in the assembly that a committee of thirty should be named to draw up laws for the future government of the city, and to undertake its temporary administration. Among the most prominent of the thirty names were those of Critias and Theramenes. The proposal was of course carried. Lysander himself addressed the Assembly, and contemptuously told them that they had better take thought for their personal safety, which now lay at his mercy, than for their political constitution. The committee thus appointed soon obtained the title of the Thirty Tyrants, the name by which they have become known in all subsequent time. After naming an entirely new Senate, and appointing fresh magistrates, they proceeded to exterminate their most obnoxious opponents. But Critias, and the more violent party among them, still called for more blood; and with the view of obtaining it, procured a Spartan garrison, under the harmost Callibius, to be installed in the Acropolis. Besides this force, they had an organized band of assassins at their disposal. Blood now flowed on all sides. Many of the leading men of Athens fell, others took to flight.
Thus the reign of terror was completely established. In the bosom of the Thirty, however, there was a party, headed by Theramenes, who disapproved of these proceedings. But his moderation cost him his life. One day as he entered the Senate- house, Critias rose and denounced him as a public enemy, and ordered him to be carried off to instant death. Upon hearing these words Theramenes sprang for refuge to the altar in the Senate-house; but he was dragged away by Satyrus, the cruel and unscrupulous head of the "Eleven," a body of officers who carried into execution the penal sentence of the law. Being conveyed to prison, he was compelled to drink the fatal hemlock. The constancy of his end might have adorned a better life after swallowing the draught, he jerked on the floor a drop which remained in the cup, according to the custom of the game called COTTABOS, exclaiming, "This to the health of the GENTLE Critias!"
Alcibiades had been included by the Thirty in the list of exiles; but the fate which now overtook him seems to have sprung from the fears of the Lacedaemonians, or perhaps from the personal hatred of Agis. After the battle of AEgospotami, Pharnabazus permitted the Athenian exile to live in Phrygia, and assigned him a revenue for his maintenance. But a despatch came out from Sparta, to Lysander, directing that Alcibiades should be put to death. Lysander communicated the order to Pharnabazus, who arranged for carrying it into execution. The house of Alcibiades was surrounded with a band of assassins, and set on fire. He rushed out with drawn sword upon his assailants, who shrank from the attack, but who slew him from a distance with their javelins and arrows. Timandra, a female with whom he lived, performed towards his body the last offices of duty and affection. Thus perished miserably, in the vigour of his age, one of the most remarkable, but not one of the greatest, characters in Grecian history. With qualities which, properly applied, might have rendered him the greatest benefactor of Athens, he contrived to attain the infamous distinction of being that citizen who had inflicted upon her the most signal amount of damage.
Meantime an altered state of feeling was springing up in Greece. Athens had ceased to be an object of fear or jealousy, and those feelings began now to be directed towards Sparta. Lysander had risen to a height of unparalleled power. He was in a manner idolized. Poets showered their praises on him, and even altars were raised in his honour by the Asiatic Greeks. In the name of Sparta he exercised almost uncontrolled authority in the cities he had reduced, including Athens itself. But it was soon discovered that, instead of the freedom promised by the Spartans, only another empire had been established, whilst Lysander was even meditating to extort from the subject cities a yearly tribute of one thousand talents. And all these oppressions were rendered still more intolerable by the overweening pride and harshness of Lysander's demeanour.
Even in Sparta itself the conduct of Lysander was beginning to inspire disgust and jealousy. Pausanias, son of Plistoanax, who was now king with Agis, as well as the new Ephors appointed in September, B.C. 404, disapproved of his proceedings. The Thebans and Corinthians themselves were beginning to sympathise with Athens, and to regard the Thirty as mere instruments for supporting the Spartan dominion; whilst Sparta in her turn looked upon them as the tools of Lysander's ambition. Many of the Athenian exiles had found refuge in Boeotia: and one of them Thrasybulus, with the aid of Ismenias and other Theban citizens, starting from Thebes at the head of a small band of exiles, seized the fortress of Phyle in the passes of Mount Parnes and on the direct road to Athens. The Thirty marched out to attack Thrasybulus, at the head of the Lacedaemonian garrison and a strong Athenian force. But their attack was repulsed with considerable loss.