Herodotus, VI.121-31: The Alcmaeonidae

Herodotus: VI.121-31:

Now the Alcmaeonidae fell not a whit short of this person in their
hatred of tyrants, so that I am astonished at the charge made against
them, and cannot bring myself to believe that they held up a shield;
for they were men who had remained in exile during the whole time
that the tyranny lasted, and they even contrived the trick by which
the Pisistratidae were deprived of their throne. Indeed I look upon
them as the persons who in good truth gave Athens her freedom far
more than Harmodius and Aristogeiton. For these last did but exasperate
the other Pisistratidae by slaying Hipparchus, and were far from doing
anything towards putting down the tyranny: whereas the Alcmaeonidae
were manifestly the actual deliverers of Athens, if at least it be
true that the Pythoness was prevailed upon by them to bid the Lacedaemonians
set Athens free, as I have already related.

But perhaps they were offended with the people of Athens; and therefore
betrayed their country. Nay, but on the contrary there were none of
the Athenians who were held in such general esteem, or who were so
laden with honours. So that it is not even reasonable to suppose that
a shield was held up by them on this account. A shield was shown,
no doubt; that cannot be gainsaid; but who it was that showed it I
cannot any further determine.

Now the Alcmaeonidae were, even in days of yore, a family of note
at Athens; but from the time of Alcmaeon, and again of Megacles, they
rose to special eminence. The former of these two personages, to wit,
Alcmaeon, the son of Megacles, when Croesus the Lydian sent men from
Sardis to consult the Delphic oracle, gave aid gladly to his messengers,
assisted them to accomplish their task. Croesus, informed of Alcmaeon's
kindnesses by the Lydians who from time to time conveyed his messages
to the god, sent for him to Sardis, and when he arrived, made him
a present of as much gold as he should be able to carry at one time
about his person. Finding that this was the gift assigned him, Alcmaeon
took his measures, and prepared himself to receive it in the following
way. He clothed himself in a loose tunic, which he made to bag greatly
at the waist, and placing upon his feet the widest buskins that he
could anywhere find, followed his guides into the treasure-house.
Here he fell to upon a heap of gold-dust, and in the first place packed
as much as he could inside his buskins, between them and his legs;
after which he filled the breast of his tunic quite full of gold,
and then sprinkling some among his hair, and taking some likewise
in his mouth, he came forth from the treasure-house, scarcely able
to drag his legs along, like anything rather than a man, with his
mouth crammed full, and his bulk increased every way. On seeing him,
Croesus burst into a laugh, and not only let him have all that he
had taken, but gave him presents besides of fully equal worth. Thus
this house became one of great wealth; and Alcmaeon was able to keep
horses for the chariot-race, and won the prize at Olympia.

Afterwards, in the generation which followed, Clisthenes, king of
Sicyon, raised the family to still greater eminence among the Greeks
than even that to which it had attained before. For this Clisthenes,
who was the son of Aristonymus, the grandson of Myron, and the great-grandson
of Andreas, had a daughter, called Agarista, whom he wished to marry
to the best husband that he could find in the whole of Greece. At
the Olympic Games, therefore, having gained the prize in the chariot
race, he caused public proclamation to be made to the following effect:-
"Whoever among the Greeks deems himself worthy to become the son-in-law
of Clisthenes, let him come, sixty days hence, or, if he will, sooner,
to Sicyon; for within a year's time, counting from the end of the
sixty days, Clisthenes will decide on the man to whom he shall contract
his daughter." So all the Greeks who were proud of their own merit
or of their country flocked to Sicyon as suitors; and Clisthenes had
a foot-course and a wrestling-ground made ready, to try their powers.

From Italy there came Smindyrides, the son of Hippocrates, a native
of Sybaris- which city about that time was at the very height of its
prosperity. He was a man who in luxuriousness of living exceeded all
other persons. Likewise there came Damasus, the son of Amyris, surnamed
the Wise, a native of Siris. These two were the only suitors from
Italy. From the Ionian Gulf appeared Amphimnestus, the son of Epistrophus,
an Epidamnian; from Aetolia, Males, the brother of that Titormus who
excelled all the Greeks in strength, and who wishing to avoid his
fellow-men, withdrew himself into the remotest parts of the Aetolian
territory. From the Peloponnese came several- Leocedes, son of that
Pheidon, king of the Argives, who established weights and measures
throughout the Peloponnese, and was the most insolent of all the Grecians-
the same who drove out the Elean directors of the Games, and himself
presided over the contests at Olympia- Leocedes, I say, appeared,
this Pheidon's son; and likewise Amiantus, son of Lycurgus, an Arcadian
of the city of Trapezus; Laphanes, an Azenian of Paeus, whose father,
Euphorion, as the story goes in Arcadia, entertained the Dioscuri
at his residence, and thenceforth kept open house for all comers;
and lastly, Onomastus, the son of Agaeus, a native of Elis. These
four came from the Peloponnese. From Athens there arrived Megacles,
the son of that Alcmaeon who visited Croesus, and Tisander's son,
Hippoclides, the wealthiest and handsomest of the Athenians. There
was likewise one Euboean, Lysanias, who came from Eretria, then a
flourishing city. From Thessaly came Diactorides, a Cranonian, of
the race of the Scopadae; and Alcon arrived from the Molossians. This
was the list of the suitors.

Now when they were all come, and the day appointed had arrived, Clisthenes
first of all inquired of each concerning his country and his family;
after which he kept them with him a year, and made trial of their
manly bearing, their temper, their accomplishments, and their disposition,
sometimes drawing them apart for converse, sometimes bringing them
all together. Such as were still youths he took with him from time
to time to the gymnasia; but the greatest trial of all was at the
banquettable. During the whole period of their stay he lived with
them as I have said; and, further, from first to last he entertained
them sumptuously. Somehow or other the suitors who came from Athens
pleased him the best of all; and of these Hippoclides, Tisander's
son, was specially in favour, partly on account of his manly bearing,
and partly also because his ancestors were of kin to the Corinthian

When at length the day arrived which had been fixed for the espousals,
and Clisthenes had to speak out and declare his choice, he first of
all made a sacrifice of a hundred oxen, and held a banquet, whereat
he entertained all the suitors and the whole people of Sicyon. After
the feast was ended, the suitors vied with each other in music and
in speaking on a given subject. Presently, as the drinking advanced,
Hippoclides, who quite dumbfoundered the rest, called aloud to the
flute-player, and bade him strike up a dance; which the man did, and
Hippoclides danced to it. And he fancied that he was dancing excellently
well; but Clisthenes, who was observing him, began to misdoubt the
whole business. Then Hippoclides, after a pause, told an attendant
to bring in a table; and when it was brought, he mounted upon it and
danced first of all some Laconian figures, then some Attic ones; after
which he stood on his head upon the table, and began to toss his legs
about. Clisthenes, notwithstanding that he now loathed Hippoclides
for a son-in-law, by reason of his dancing and his shamelessness,
still, as he wished to avoid an outbreak, had restrained himself during
the first and likewise during the second dance; when, however, he
saw him tossing his legs in the air, he could no longer contain himself,
but cried out, "Son of Tisander, thou hast danced thy wife away!"
"What does Hippoclides care?" was the other's answer. And hence the
proverb arose.

Then Clisthenes commanded silence, and spake thus before the assembled

"Suitors of my daughter, well pleased am I with you all; and right
willingly, if it were possible, would I content you all, and not by
making choice of one appear to put a slight upon the rest. But as
it is out of my power, seeing that I have but one daughter, to grant
to all their wishes, I will present to each of you whom I must needs
dismiss a talent of silver, for the honour that you have done me in
seeking to ally yourselves with my house, and for your long absence
from your homes. But my daughter, Agarista, I betroth to Megacles,
the son of Alcmaeon, to be his wife, according to the usage and wont
of Athens."

Then Megacles expressed his readiness; and Clisthenes had the marriage

Thus ended the affair of the suitors; and thus the Alcmaeonidae came
to be famous throughout the whole of Greece. The issue of this marriage
was the Clisthenes named after his grandfather the Sicyonian- who
made the tribes at Athens, and set up the popular government. Megacles
had likewise another son, called Hippocrates, whose children were
a Megacles and an Agarista, the latter named after Agarista the daughter
of Clisthenes. She married Xanthippus, the son of Ariphron; and when
she was with child by him had a dream, wherein she fancied that she
was delivered of a lion; after which, within a few days, she bore
Xanthippus a son, to wit, Pericles.