Comparison of Philopoemen and Flamininus, 1–3

Plutarch  translated by Bernadotte Perrin

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1Accordingly, in the magnitude of their benefactions to the Greeks, neither Philopoemen nor any one of the Greeks who were better men than Philopoemen is worthy of comparison with Titus. For they were Greeks and waged their wars against Greeks; whereas Titus was not a Greek and waged war in behalf of Greeks; and at a time when Philopoemen was unable to defend his own countrymen from the attacks of their enemies, and had gone off into Crete, at that very time Titus won a victory over Philip in the heart of Greece and set her peoples and all her cities free. 2And if we examine into the battles which each fought, we shall find that the Greeks slain by Philopoemen as general of the Achaeans were more in number than the Macedonians slain by Titus as helper of the Greeks.

And then as to their errors, in the one they were due to ambition, in the other to a spirit of contention. For Titus preserved Philip’s royal dignity and showed favour to the Aetolians; whereas the anger of Philopoemen led him to rob his native city of its supremacy over the surrounding villages. 3And further, the one was always constant towards his beneficiaries, while the other, to indulge his wrath, was ever ready to cancel a kindness. For instance, though he had once been a benefactor of Sparta, he afterwards tore down her walls, reduced her territory, and finally altered and destroyed her very constitution. And it would appear that he threw away his life in a fit of anger and contentiousness, by hastening to attack Messene before occasion offered and more quickly than was feasible; for he did not, like Titus, conduct all his military operations with deliberation and a due regard for safety.

2But surely the multitude of his wars and trophies put the military experience of Philopoemen on a firmer basis. For the campaign of Titus against Philip was decided by two conflicts, whereas Philopoemen was successful in countless battles and left no room for the claim that his victories were due to fortune rather than to skill. And besides, Titus, in his quest of fame, availed himself of the culminating power of Rome; whereas Philopoemen flourished when Greece was already in declension. Therefore the success of Philopoemen was his own work, while that of Titus was the result of a community of effort; for the latter was commander of good soldiers, while the former, as commander, had to make his soldiers good. 2And surely the fact that Philopoemen’s conflicts were with Greeks furnished a proof of his valour which was convincing even though unfortunate: for where other things are equal, they prevail who surpass in valour. And so it was that although he carried on war with the most warlike of the Greeks, namely, the Cretans and Lacedaemonians, he surpassed the first in wiles, though they were most crafty, and the second in daring, though they were most brave.

3In addition to this it may be said that Titus won his victories by using what lay ready to his hand, since he availed himself of styles of armour and formation which had come down to him, whereas Philopoemen won his successes by making contributions and changes of his own in these matters, so that in the one case what was most essential for victory did not exist and had to be discovered, while in the other it lay ready for service. In the way of personal prowess, moreover, Philopoemen performed much that was great, but Titus nothing at all; nay, an Aetolian named Archedemus mocked at him because, when he himself had drawn his sword and was running at full speed against the Macedonians who were holding together and fighting, Titus was standing with his hands stretched up towards heaven and praying for help.

3And further, Titus was either a commander or an ambassador when he did all his noble deeds, whereas Philopoemen showed himself no less active and effective for the Achaeans when he was a private citizen than when he was their general. For it was as a private citizen that he expelled Nabis from Messene and set the Messenians free, and as a private citizen that he shut the gates of Sparta against the coming of Diophanes the general and Titus, and so saved the Lacedaemonians. 2Having this natural gift of leadership, he not only knew how to use it in accordance with the laws, but also how to dominate the laws for the common good; he did not think it necessary to be appointed commander by the people, but took them under his command when occasion required it, considering that he who took wise counsel in their behalf, rather than he who had been elected by them, was their real general.

3Nobly generous, then, was the clemency and humanity which Titus showed to the Greeks, but more nobly generous was the firmness and love of freedom with which Philopoemen opposed the Romans; for it is easier to confer favours on suppliants than it is to vex with opposition those who are more powerful. But since, after this examination, the difference between the two men is hard to define, I leave it to my reader to say whether, if we award to the Greek the crown for military experience and generalship, and to the Roman that for justice and goodness of heart, we shall not make a fair decision.

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