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Phocion



An Athenian general, born about the end of the 5th century BC. He was of humble origin, but studied under Plato, Xenocrates, and perhaps Diogenes also. Phocion first attracted notice in the great naval battle at Naxos (376), where he commanded a division of the Athenian fleet. In 351, along with Evagoras, he undertook the conquest of Cyprus for the Persian monarch, Artaxerxes III, and was completely successful. In 341 he was successful in crushing the Macedonian party in Euboea and in restoring the ascendancy of Athens. To years before this he had achieved a similar result at Megara; and in 340, sent to the aid of the Byzantines against Philip, he forced Philip to abandon the siege, and even to evacuate the Chersonesus. Nevertheless, he advocated, even in the midst of his triumphs, the establishment of better relations with the enemy, because he had come under the influence of the philosophical reaction in favor of monarchy instead of a democracy of petty aims and degraded character. He had come to see that a voluntary acquiescence in the supremacy of an enlightened ruler was better for Athens and for Greece than a hopeless struggle in defense of a political system that had lost its virtue. His advice was not taken; but the fatal battle of Chaeronea, only two years later, in which the independence of the Greek republics was lost for ever, proved its soundness. After the murder of Philip in 336 we see him struggling at Athens to repress what appeared to him the reckless desire for war on the part of the fanatical patriots, on account of which he was regarded as a traitor; but his personal honor is above suspicion. On the death of Alexander in 323 the elderly Phocion endeavored, in vain, to hinder the Athenians from going to war with Antipater. After Antipater's death he was involved in the intrigue of Cassander, the rival of Polysperchon, and was forced to flee to Phocis, where Polysperchon handed him over to the Athenians. He was condemned by "a mixed mob of disenfranchised citizens, foreigners, and slaves" to drink hemlock. His body, flung unburied over the borders of the state, was carried by some of his friends to Eleusis, and burned there. The Athenians soon began to raise monuments to his memory. His life was written by Plutarch and Cornelius Nepos.