Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, translated by Thomas North, 1579

Excerpt from Plutarch'sLives of the Noble Grecians and Romanes, translated by Thomas North, 1579


A MAN can not ſpeake any thing at all of Lycurgus, who made the
lawes of the LACEDÆMONIANS, but he ſhall finde great contra-
rietie of him amongeſt the hiſtoriographers. For, of his parentage &
trauaill out of his countrie, of his deathe and making of lawes, of his
forme and gouernment, and order of executing the ſame, they haue
written diuerſely. And yet aboue all things, concerning him, they a-
gree worſt about the time he liued in. For ſome of them (and Ari-
is of that number) will needes haue him to haue bene in the time
of Iphytus, and that he dyd helpe him to ſtabliſh the ordinaunce that
all warres ſhould ceaſe during the feaſt of the games olympicall: for a teſtimonie whereof,
they alledge the copper coyte which was vſed to be throwen in thoſe games, and had founde
grauen vpon it, the name of Lycurgus. Other compting the dayes and time of the ſucceſſion of
the kings of LACEDÆMON (as Eratosthenes, and Apollodorus) ſaye he was many yeres before
the firſt Olympiades. Timæus alſo thincketh there were two of this name, and in diuers times:
howbeit the one hauing more eſtimation then the other, men gaue this Lycurgus the glorie of
both their doings. Some ſaye the eldeſt of the twaine, was not longe after Homer: and ſome
write they ſawe him. Xenophon ſheweth vs plainely he was of great antiquitie: ſaying he was in
the time of the Heraclides, who were neereſt of bloude by deſcent to Hercules. For it is likely
Xenophon ment not thoſe Heraclides, which deſcended from Hercules ſelf: for the laſt kings of
SPARTA were of Hercules progenie, aſwell as the firſt. Therefore he meaneth thoſe Heraclides,
which doubtles were the firſt and neareſt before Hercules time. Neuertheles though the hiſto-
riographers haue written diuerſely of him, yet we will not leaue to collect that which we finde
written of him in auncient hiſtories, and is leaſt to be denied, and by beſt teſtimonies moſt to be
prooued. And firſt of all, the poet Simonides ſayeth, his father was called Prytanis and not Euno-
: and the moſt parte doe write the pettigree otherwiſe, aſwell of Lycurgus ſelf, as of Eunomus.
For they ſaye, that Patrocles the ſonne of Aristodemus begate Sous, and Sous begate Eurytion, and
Eurytion begate Prytanis, and Prytanis begat Eunomus, and Eunomus begat Polydectes of his firſt
wife, and Lycurgus of the ſecond wife, called Dianaſſa: yet Euthychidas an other writer, maketh
Lycurgus the ſixte of deſcent in the right line from Polydectes, and the eleuenth after Hercules.
But of all his aunceſters, the nobleſt was Sous, in whoſe time the cittie of SPARTA ſubdued the
Ilotes, and made them ſlaues, and dyd enlarge and increaſe their dominion, with the lands and
poſſeſſions they had got by conqueſt of the Arcadians. And it is ſayed that Sous him ſelf being
on a time ſtraightly beſieged by the CLITORIANS, in a hard drye grounde, where no water
could be founde: offered them thereupon to reſtore all their lands againe that he had gotten
from them, if he and all his companie dyd drincke of a fountaine that was there not farre of.
The CLITORIANS dyd graunte vnto it, and peace alſo was ſworne betweene them. Then he
called all his ſouldiers before him, and tolde them if there were any one amongeſt them that
would refrayne from drincking, he would reſigne his kingdome to him: howbeit there was not
one in all his companie that could (or would) forbeare to drincke, they were ſo ſore a thirſt. So
they all drancke hartely except him ſelf, who being the laſt that came downe, dyd no more but
a litle moyſte his mowthe without, and ſo refreſhed him ſelf, the enemies ſelues ſtanding by,
and drancke not a droppe. By reaſon whereof, he refuſed afterwards to reſtore their lands he
had promiſed, alledging they had not all droncke.