DAMON'S PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE, CA. 87 BC
The story of Damon of Chaironeia was recounted only by the Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch. It is the only passage of Greek love interest in his life of Kimon, an Athenian general and statesman of the 5th century BC, written at the beginning of the second century AD, as one of his Parallel Lives.
The relevance of Damon’s story to Kimon’s is extremely remote. The Roman whose life was recounted by Plutarch as a parallel to that of Kimon was Lucullus, whom Plutarch wished to honour because he had saved his native city of Chaironeia from punishment for the deeds of Damon. The story can only be dated through the presence of Lucullus in Boiotia, which could have been in 87 or 74 BC, though the former is much more likely.
The translation is by Bernadotte Perrin in the Loeb Classical Library volume XLVII (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1914). Latinised names have been replaced by romanisations of the Greek.
Peripoltas the seer, who conducted King Opheltas with his subjects from Thessaly into Boiotia, left a posterity there which was in high repute for many generations. The greater part of them settled in Chaironeia, which was the first city they won from the Barbarians. Now the most of this posterity were naturally men of war and courage, and so were consumed away in the Persian invasions and the contests with the Gauls, because they did not spare themselves.
There remained, however, an orphan boy, Damon by name, Peripoltas by surname, who far surpassed his fellows in beauty of body and in vigour of spirit, though otherwise he was untrained and of a harsh disposition. With this Damon, just passed out of boy's estate, the Roman commander of a cohort that was wintering in Chaironeia fell enamoured, and since he could not win him over by solicitations and presents, he was plainly bent on violence, seeing that our native city was at that time in sorry plight, and neglected because of her smallness and poverty.
Violence was just what Damon feared, and since the solicitation itself had enraged him, he plotted against the man, and enlisted against him sundry companions, — a few only, that they might escape notice. There were sixteen of them in all, who smeared their faces with soot one night, heated themselves with wine, and at daybreak fell upon the Roman while he was sacrificing in the market-place, slew him, together with many of his followers, and departed the city.
[I.1] Περιπόλτας ὁ μάντις ἐκ Θετταλίας εἰς Βοιωτίαν Ὀφέλταν τὸν βασιλέα καὶ τοὺς ὑπ᾿ αὐτῷ λαοὺς καταγαγὼν γένος εὐδοκιμῆσαν ἐπὶ πολλοὺς χρόνους κατέλιπεν, οὗ τὸ πλεῖστον ἐν Χαιρωνείᾳ κατῴκησεν, ἣν πρώτην πόλιν ἔσχον ἐξελάσαντες τοὺς βαρβάρους. οἱ μὲν οὖν πλεῖστοι τῶν ἀπὸ τοῦ γένους φύσει μάχιμοι καὶ ἀνδρώδεις γενόμενοι καταναλώθησαν ἐν ταῖς Μηδικαῖς ἐπιδρομαῖς καὶ τοῖς Γαλατικοῖς ἀγῶσιν ἀφειδήσαντες ἑαυτῶν·
 λείπεται δὲ παῖς ὀρφανὸς γονέων, ὄνομα Δάμων, παρωνύμιον δὲ Περιπόλτας, πολὺ δή τι καὶ σώματος κάλλει καὶ ψυχῆς φρονήματι τοὺς καθ᾿ αὑτὸν ὑπεραίρων νέους, ἄλλως δ᾿ ἀπαίδευτος καὶ σκληρὸς τὸ ἦθος. Τούτου Ῥωμαῖος ἡγεμὼν σπείρας τινὸς ἐν Χαιρωνείᾳ διαχειμαζούσης ἐρασθεὶς ἄρτι τὴν παιδικὴν ἡλικίαν παρηλλαχότος, ὡς οὐκ ἔπειθε πειρῶν καὶ διδούς, δῆλος ἦν οὐκ ἀφεξόμενος βίας, ἅτε δὴ καὶ τῆς πατρίδος ἡμῶν τότε λυπρὰ πραττούσης καὶ διὰ μικρότητα καὶ πενίαν παρορωμένης.
 τοῦτο δὴ δεδιὼς ὁ Δάμων, καὶ τὴν πεῖραν αὐτὴν δι᾿ ὀργῆς πεποιημένος, ἐπεβούλευε τῷ ἀνδρὶ καὶ συνίστη τῶν ἡλικιωτῶν τινας ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν, οὐ πολλοὺς ἕνεκα τοῦ λαθεῖν, ἀλλ᾿ οἱ σύμπαντες ἑκκαίδεκα γενόμενοι χρίονται μὲν αἰθάλῳ τὰ πρόσωπα νυκτός, ἐμπιόντες δὲ ἄκρατον ἅμ᾿ ἡμέρᾳ προσπίπτουσι τῷ Ῥωμαίῳ κατ᾿ ἀγορὰν θύοντι, καὶ καταβαλόντες αὐτόν τε καὶ τῶν περὶ αὐτὸν 4οὐκ ὀλίγους ἐκ τῆς πόλεως μετέστησαν.
 See the discussion in Robert Morstein Kallet-Marx’s Hegemony to Empire: The Development of the Roman Imperium in the East from 148 to 62 B.C. (Berkeley, 1996) p. 280, note 77.
 The Boiotians, led by their King Opheltas, were believed to have come from Thessaly and settled in the 12th century BC in what was in historical times called Boiotia.
If you would like to leave a comment on this webpage, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, mentioning in the subject line either the title or the url of the page so that the editor can add it.