Lives, translated by Knightly Chetwood, 1683

Excerpt from Plutarch's Lives, translated by Knightly Chetwood, 1683


THere is ſo much incertainty in the
accounts which Hiſtorians have left
us of Lycurgus, the Law giver of
Sparta, that ſcarcely any thing is aſſerted
by one of them which is not call'd into
queſtion, or contradicted by the reſt. Their
ſentiments are quite different as to the Fa-
mily he came of, the Voyages he under-
took, the place, and manner of his death,
but moſt of all when they ſpeak of the Laws
he made, and the Commonwealth which
he founded. They cannot by any means
be brought to an agreement as to the very
Age in which this excellent perſon liv'd: for
ſome of them ſay that he flouriſhed in the
time of Iphitus, and that they two jointly
contrived the Ordinance for the ceſſation
of Arms during the Solemnity of the Olym-
Games. Of this opinion was Ariſtotle,
and for confirmation of it he alledges an in-
ſcription upon one of the copper Coits uſed
in thoſe Sports, upon which the name of
Lycurgus continued undefac'd to his time.
But Eracoſthenes and Apollodorus, two lear-
ned Chronologers, computing the time by
the ſucceſſions of the Spartan Kings, pre-
tend to demonſtrate that he was much more
ancient than the very Inſtitution of the O-
Games. Timæus conjectures that
there were two of this name, and in diverſe
times, but that the one of them being much
more famous than the other, men gave to
him the glory of both their exploits: the
elder of the two, according to him, was
not long after Homer, and ſome are ſo par-
ticular as to ſay that he had ſeen him too.
But that he was of great antiquity may be
gathered from a paſſage in Xenophon, where
he makes him contemporary with the He
: not but that the very laſt Kings of
Sparta were Heraclidæ too; but he ſeems in
that place to ſpeak of the firſt, and more im-
mediate ſucceſſours of Hercules. But not-
withſtanding this confuſion and obſcurity
of Writers who have gone before us in this
Subject, we ſhall endeavour to compoſe the
Hiſtory of his Life, ſetting down thoſe paſ-
ſages which are leaſt contradicted, and fol-
lowing thoſe Authours which are moſt
worthy of credit.
The Poet Simonides will needs have it
that Lycurgus was the Son of Prytanis, and
not of Eunomus; but in this opinion he is
ſingular, for all the reſt deduce the Genea-
logy of them both as follows:
Ariſtodemus, Prytanis
Eunomus who by his firſt
Patrocles, Wife had a Son nam'd
Sous, Polydectes and by his ſe-
cond Wife, Dianassa had this
Eurytion, Lycurgus,
whoſe Life is before us: but as Eutychidas
ſays, he was the ſixth from Patrocles, and
the eleventh from Hercules. Be this as it
will, Sous certainly was the moſt renown'd
of all his Anceſtours, under whoſe conduct
the Spartans subdued Ilotes, and made Slaves
of the Ilotes, and added to their Domini-
ons, by Conqueſt, a good part of Arcadia.
There goes a ſtory of this King Sous, that
being beſieged by the Clitorians in a dry
and ſtony place, ſo that he could come at
no water, he was at laſt conſtrained to a-
gree with them upon theſe hard terms, that
he would reſtore to them all his Conqueſts,
provided that Himſelf * and all his Men * A subtile promise.
ſhould drink of a Spring not far diſtant
from his Camp: after the uſual Oaths and
Ratifications, he call'd his Souldiers toge-
ther, and offered to him that would forbear
drinking half his Kingdom for a reward:
their thirſt was ſo much ſtronger than their
ambition, that not a man of them was able
to forbear: in ſhort, when they had all
drank their fill, at laſt comes King Sous
himſelf to the Spring, and, having ſprinkled
his face onely, without ſwallowing one
drop, he marched off in the face of his Ene-
mies, refuſing to yield up his Conqueſts,
becauſe himſelf, and all his men (according
to the Articles) had not drank of their water.