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The Comparison of Philopoemen with Flamininus
Translated by John Dryden
First them, as for the greatness of the benefits which Titus conferred
on Greece, neither Philopoemen, nor many braver men than he, can make
good the parallel. They were Greeks fighting against Greeks, but Titus,
a stranger to Greece, fought for her. And at the very time when Philopoemen
went over into Crete, destitute of means to succour his besieged countrymen,
Titus, by a defeat given to Philip in the heart of Greece, set them
and their cities free. Again, if we examine the battles they fought,
Philopoemen, whilst he was the Achaeans' general, slew more Greeks
than Titus, in aiding the Greeks, slew Macedonians. As to their failings,
ambition was Titus's weak side, and obstinacy Philopoemen's in the
former, anger was easily kindled; in the latter, it was as hardly
quenched. Titus reserved to Philip the royal dignity; he pardoned
the Aetolians, and stood their friend; but Philopoemen, exasperated
against his country, deprived it of its supremacy over the adjacent
villages. Titus was ever constant to those he had once befriended;
the other, upon any offence, as prone to cancel kindnesses. He who
had once been a benefactor to the Lacedaemonians, afterwards laid
their walls level with the ground, wasted their country, and in the
end changed and destroyed the whole frame of their government. He
seems, in truth, to have prodigalled away his own life, through passion
and perverseness; for he fell upon the Messenians, not with that conduct
and caution that characterized the movements of Titus, but with unnecessary
and unreasonable haste.
The many battles he fought, and the many trophies he won, may make
us ascribe to Philopoemen the more thorough knowledge of war. Titus
decided the matter betwixt Philip and himself in two engagements;
but Philopoemen came off victorious in ten thousand encounters, to
all which fortune had scarcely any pretence, so much were they owing
to his skill. Besides, Titus got his renown, assisted by the power
of a flourishing Rome; the other flourished under a declined Greece,
so that his successes may be accounted his own; in Titus's glory Rome
claims a share. The one had brave men under him, the other made his
brave, by being over them. And though Philopoemen was unfortunate,
certainly, in always being opposed to his countrymen, yet this misfortune
is at the same time a proof of his merit. Where the circumstances
are the same, superior success can only be ascribed to superior merit.
And he had, indeed, to do with the two most warlike nations of all
Greece, the Cretans on the one hand, and the Lacedaemonians on the
other, and he mastered the craftiest of them by art and the bravest
of them by valour. It may also be said that Titus, having his men
armed and disciplined to his hand, had in a manner his victories made
for him; whereas Philopoemen was forced to introduce a discipline
and tactics of his own, and to new-mould and model his soldiers; so
that what is of greatest import towards insuring a victory was in
his case his own creation, while the other had it ready provided for
his benefit. Philopoemen effected many gallant things with his own
hand, but Titus none; so much so that one Archedemus, an Aetolian,
made it a jest against him that while he, the Aetolian, was running
with his drawn sword, where he saw the Macedonians drawn up closest
and fighting hardest, Titus was standing still, and with hands stretched
out to heaven, praying to the gods for aid.
It is true Titus acquitted himself admirably, both as a governor and
as an ambassador; but Philopoemen was no less serviceable and useful
to the Achaeans in the capacity of a private man than in that of a
commander. He was a private citizen when he restored the Messenians
to their liberty, and delivered their city from Nabis; he was also
a private citizen when he rescued the Lacedaemonians, and shut the
gates of Sparta against the general Diophanes and Titus. He had a
nature so truly formed for command that he could govern even the laws
themselves for the public good; he did not need to wait for the formality
of being elected into command by the governed, but employed their
service, if occasion required, at his own discretion; judging that
he who understood their real interests was more truly their supreme
magistrate, than he whom they had elected to the office. The equity,
clemency, and humanity of Titus towards the Greeks display a great
and generous nature; but the actions of Philopoemen, full of courage,
and forward to assert his country's liberty against the Romans, have
something yet greater and nobler in them. For it is not as hard a
task to gratify the indigent and distressed, as to bear up against
and to dare to incur the anger of the powerful. To conclude, since
it does not appear to be easy, by any review or discussion, to establish
the true difference of their merits and decide to which a preference
is due, will it be an unfair award in the case, if we let the Greek
bear away the crown for military conduct and warlike skill, and the
Roman for justice and clemency?
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