Phocion was a successful politician of Athens. He believed that an extreme frugality was the condition for virtue and lived in accord with this; consequently, he was popularly known as "The Good." Further, people thought that Phocion was the most honest member of the Athenian Assembly. However, within this chamber, Phocion's tendency to strong opposition relegated him to a solitary stand against the entire political class. Nonetheless, by both his individual prestige and his military expertise, which was acquired by the side of Chabrias, Phocion was elected Strategos numerous times, with a 45 tenure record. Thus, during most of his 84 years of life, Phocion occupied the most important Athenian offices.
In the late 320s BC, when Macedon gained complete control of Athens (with Antipater), though somewhat compromised Phocion defended both the urban center and its citizens. He even refused to comply with some dishonest requests of the enemy. However, his stance placed Phocion against both most free Athenians and Polyperchon, the next ruler of Macedonia, who arranged his execution in Athens.
During his youth, Phocion sought to study liberal notions. He was both Plato's pupil and Xenocrates' friend. Through such philosophical education, Phocion was of virtuous moral character and he used to give prudent advice. This academic training left its mark upon him, but it was as a soldier rather than as a philosopher that he first came into notice.
Phocion believed that the frugality proved his own virtue. He was never seen at the public baths. Both on the Athenian streets and on campaign, he walked around wearing a simple tunic and without shoes. He only made an exception in extreme cold, wearing a cloak, so other soldiers said that Phocion gave a meteorological indication.
Throughout his life Phocion lived in a home which was humble, with spare decoration, located at the Melite neighborhood, southward from the Acropolis. His wife cooked their everyday bread, and Phocion drew water, pumping it with his own hands.
Phocion was first married to a woman whose father was a maker of clay [[statues]. His second wife was famous in Athens for her humility. Once she said that her sole adornment was Phocion's twentieth Strategos appointment.
Phocion's son was Phocus. As during his early life, he had a licentious life and he was addicted to wine, Phocion sent him off to Sparta (which was famous for frugal lifestyles) for some time.
In 376 BC, Phocion's distinguished participation was crucial in the Athenian naval victory of Naxos, commanding the leading left wing. Since it was the first clear Athenian victory since the Peloponnesian War, the Athenians greatly honoured its military leaders. The battle took place on the main day of the Eleusinian Mysteries and was remembered for years.
Phocion was also sent to the Aegean Sea by Chabrias, to collect the regional tributes for the Athenian Empire. As representatives of Athens were unpopular among their 'subject' allies, Phocion had been empowered with 20 battleships. Nonetheless, he rejected these, Phocion's comment was that "if he was being sent to fight the islanders he would need a larger force, but if he was visiting them as allies, one ship was enough." So he departed just with his own trireme. At each city, Phocion negotiated each fee so diplomatically that he returned home with a large allied fleet, which protected their treasury.
After Chabrias died, Phocion took care of his family and particularly of his son, Ctesippus. However, Phocion could barely cope with Ctesippus' rather slow character. At last he exclaimed "O Chabrias, did ever a man show so much gratitude as I do in putting up with your son"
On the other hand, Phocion never harmed anyone he disliked. Indeed, he was so kind that he helped a political rival if he was in some difficulty. Additionally, Phocion was exercised that Athenian public functions had became split into two groups. Whereas the politicians dealt eminently with civilian matters, the generals attended military issues exclusively. He campaigned for Athens to regain its old tradition, with politicians who could manage both affairs.
Parrying the eloquence of his opponents, Phocion resorted both to wise concepts and pithy sayings, which were famous in antiquity. Yet he avoided demagogic style and his tone was harsh and demanding, with few embellishments. Another distinguishing quality was that Phocion used to compress large amounts of ideas, into short phrases. Before any presentation, he spent much time considering how to shorten his concepts. One of his friends said "You seem to be thinking about something, Phocion" he replied "Yes, I am considering whether I can shorten the speech I am going to make."
Phocion was heavily attacked by the entire assembly, and requested that Archibiades, a man who liked imitating the Spartan lifestyle, might support his stand. However, the man took the popular side, declaring against Phocion as well. Then Phocion grabbed his Spartan beard, saying: "Oh! It's time for you to shave!"
Another assemblyman, Aristogiton, was famous because he usually called for war. However, a muster was called and he happened to appear wearing bandages around his legs and walking with a cane. Phocion gor up and shouted to the enrolling officer: "Put down Aristogiton too, as lame and unfit for service." Some time afterward, Aristogiton was jailed and at his own request, Phocion visited him often. His friends criticized him for it, but he said: "Come on! There is there no better place to visit Aristogiton"
In 348 BC, with Macedonian support, the Euboean general Callias brought his armies to attack the camp. Phocion decided to offer many religious sacrifices before battle, until the gods werefavourable. However uch activities demanded much time, and the forces of the Euboean mercenaries attacked the enemy, their general thinking Phocion was a coward and hoping to force his hand. The Athenian cavalry was ill-disciplined, and not wishing to remain idle, raced out to meet the enemy, but with no formation and in scattered groups, so that they were easily beaten and routed. However, the Euboeans defeated the mercenaries and they began ravaging the Athenian camp. After Phocion could interpret his sacrifices favorably (or alternatively to draw the enemy in), he led his main lines into battle while the enemy where surging up the palisade thinking they had defeated Phocions forces. This resulted in Phocion cutting down and routing the enemy forces. Just with his best men while the main body of the army rallyed some of the previously dispersed troops, Phocion engaged the enemy's chief divisions, in a ferocious battle. Phocion was victorious but, then, he freed the captured enemies, fearing a too severe punishment from the Athenians against them.
Subsequently, Phocion captured the fort of Zaretra, which was at Euboea island's narrowest portion. Then, he returned to Athens.
Then, in 339 BC, Phocion was sent to the region. To Phocion's great fame, it contributed that Leon, a personal friend from the academy, a well known Byzantine for his courage personally guaranteed the Athenian's good faith. Thus, particularly there, the new expedition was amicably received and, even, Phocion who planned to camp outside the walls was welcomed into the city where the Athenian soldiers acted with exemplary discipline and courtesy. Besides, the Athenian soldiers behave correctly and they fought bravely, defending the site. Then, Phocion attacked the Macedonians around the region, liberating many cities, which withdrew their Macedonian garrisons. Eventually, Macedonia was temporarily forced, out from the region.
However, Phocion was wounded so he returned to Athens.
Phocion was touring the Aegan colonies when Athens commanded his generals, to confront Philip. However, the attempt was utterly defeated at Cheronea, in 338 BC. Then, the Athenian aristocracy supported the nomination of Phocion, for Strategos, and the Areopagus passed it.
However, Phocion delayed the inevitable bestowment of the defeated Athens, as long as possible. Initially, he refused joining the new Greek Congress, in which Macedon was the leading member. Nonetheless, Demades offered this directly to Philip and the Athenians approved it. Soon, Philip profited up, using both the navy and the cavalry, from Athens. As the Athenians expressed repentance, Phocion said: "I was opposing such motion, fearing this. Now, the mistake is done. We shouldn't feel completely hopeless, though. Our ancestors have occasionally suffered similar subjections but they carried on and both Athens and the whole Greece survived." Later, after Philip died (336 BC), Phocion banned all celebratory sacrifice, saying: "It isn't enough worthy that the army, which defeated us at Cheronea, has lost just one of its soldiers."
Thebes was destroyed and Alexander demanded the delivery of the opposing Athenian's, among whom Demosthenes was. The Assembly called upon Phocion repeatedly by name until he stood on his feet. Beside him, Phocion called Nicocles, his best friend, saying: "We have been brought to a pass. I would deliver Nicocles if they might request it. We must reduce the wrath of our conqueror, before opposing." Nonetheless, the Athenian Assembly passed the denying decree.
Then, when Alexander refused to see Athenian ambassadors Phocion was sent. As Phocion was regarded as a respectable person, by Philip, his son received him attentively, listening his proposals. Indeed, Alexander asked for some advice and Phocion said: "If Macedonia wishes peace, it should abandon the war. If Macedonia desires glory, it should turn against Persia, instead of oppressing Greece."
Eventually, Phocion became a favorite of the King, even before many other Macedonians. After Alexander defeated the Persian Emperor Darius III, Phocion was among the few individuals, who were saluted with the word greeting, by the king, in his correspondence.
During this period, Phocion maintained his policy of peace. Alexander requested a lot of Athenian warships and Phocion supported the Macedonian initiative, saying: "Either you should possess superior strength or side with those that do."
Leosthened inquired about which historical achievements Phocion had attained. Phocion responded: "Do you think it is nothing then that our citizens are all buried at home in their own tombs?" Other assemblymen asked him whether the military preparations were enough or not. Phocion said: "They will be sufficient for a sprint. However, if it is to be a long race, then i fear for Athens for she has no reserves of either men, supplies or warships."
Phocion was ordered, to lead the military actions against Boeotia. Cleverly, he called, to enroll all Athenians whose ages were under 60 years. The elder people protested but Phocion responded: "This is fair! Although I am 80 years old, I will lead the attack." Effectively, this calmed the people down.
On the other front, Antipater retreated and he ended surrounded by the Greeks, around Lamia. The Athenians were exultant. Phocion said: "I would have wished being the general who achieved this victory. Nonetheless, still I would have counseled, as before." As more good news arrived, Phocion said: "I am expecting when the good news will end." Leosthenes died, near Lamia. A new Strategos, Antiphilus, was appointed, to counterbalance Phocion.
In 322 BC, Phocion rushed against Mikion, who had disembarked at Rhamnus with an army which comprised Macedonians and many mercenaries. This where the saying "Heracles, how many genereals is see and how few soldiers!" then he attacked the enemy and utterly routed them. Simultaneously, the Greeks defeated the Macedonians, at Thessaly. However, Craterus brought a large army, from Asia, and the Greeks were defeated at Cranon, also in 322 BC.
Soon, Antipater got near Athens. Demades, who was other peace defender, was the lone other Athenian leader who didn't flee. He proposed that an embassy should demand peace. Phocion commented: "If I might have been listened to before, the Athenians wouldn't be discussing, about such things." At Thebes, both met Antipater, who expected invading Attica imminently. Phocion was well received. When Phocion asked Antipater to cease his advance and listen to peace proposals, Craterus protested that it was unfair that the army should sit idle in allied lands inflicting damgae on their economy while the enemy lands could be so easily ravaged. Antipater's lone demand was the discretional surrendering of Athens. In a second encounter, at which Antipater scorned the presence of Xenocrates up, Phocion heard the Macedonian terms of peace:
Phocion discussed against the garrisoning but nothing could be done. However, Phocion knew its Macedonian commander, Menyllus, personally.
Soon, Antipater proved that he was one of the worst Macedonian tyrants, in history. 12,000 Athenians were disfranchised and many people migrated to Thrace. Phocion helped by securing them a citizenship in the Peloponnesus area. Phocion became the virtual ruler of Athens and he strove, to keep the peace. By his influence, only just individuals were appointed magistrates and the people, who were too rebellious, weren't allowed for the public function. However, Phocion refused when Antipater requested too dishonest things, commenting: "I can't be his friend and his flatterer, a once." Additionally, he protected the refugee Harpalus.
Athens divided, between two parties. Phocion was in the aristocratic one, which was on Cassander's side. The popular party supported Polyperchon. Still as Strategos, Phocion began supporting Nicanor openly. He spurned an insistent rumor that Nicanor would attempt invading Athens. At Piraeus, Phocion was holding a conference with Nicanor when Athenian soldiers irrupted, to jail the Macedonian general. Nonetheless, Phocion helped his escape, declaring: "I don't believe that he might harm Athens although, still, I would defend him if he may wrong us." Subsequently, the Athenian Assembly commanded that Phocion should attack Nicanor, at Munychia. Initially, Phocion refused. Then, effectively, Nicanor used the troops of the Macedonian garrison, to seize Piraeus. When Phocion decided to attack them, the Athenian soldiers had already rebelled, against his command of Strategos.
In 318 BC, Polyperchon decided defining the Athenian politics, in his own favor. Favoring the popular party, the king restored all liberties. His son, Alexander, arrived to Athens, with the Macedonian army, whilst a rabid multitude of Athenians returned home, expecting revenge against the politicians who had exiled them. Personally, Pholyperchon expected that, thus, Phocion would be forced, to leave the urban center. Moreover, the Macedonians would seize Athens definitively. Immediately, Phocion was deposed as Strategos, by an informal assembly.
The Athenian demagogue Agnonides accused Phocion formally, of treachery, for he had refused attacking Nicanor. Phocion slighted this and decided meeting Polyperchon, personally. For this, Phocion gathered an entourage, which comprised politicians who were well regarded by the Macedonian ruler. However, their voyage was delayed, by the illness of one member. During those days, Agnonides proposed other embassy (to accuse Phocion formally, before the regent) and the Athenian Assembly passed the motion. Both delegations arrived simultaneously, before the Macedonian throne, at Phocis.
After the regent arrested and tortured one politician of Phocion's cortege, he expected listening to both groups. As all people attempted speaking simultaneously, Polyperchon smiled briefly. When Phocion could speak, the ruler began interrupting him so annoyingly that Phocion struck the floor with his staff and he refused uttering another word. Then, Polyperchon ordered his detention whilst his embassy escaped, out of from the court.
By a written bidding, Polysperchon announced that the treacherous prisoners would be judged, by the now free people of Athens. Phocion was brought back home where he was carted, to the Ceramicus. There, he waited that a massive assembly was gathered. The Athenian Archons conducted it. Any Athenian could participate in it, including slaves, foreigners, and formerly disfranchised ones.
The letter of Polysperchon was read whilst the entire multitude cried, against the oligarchs, who were the enemies of freedom. Phocion demanded: "Do you wish to condemn us justly? Then, you should listen to our defense." Phocion insisted: "I admit that I have wronged and my political actions deserve my condemnation. However, these other individuals don't." Some people responded that they should be condemned, for being his friends. Then, Phocion gave up. Subsequently, Agnonides read the condemning motion. In unison, the whole crowd raised, up from their sits. Thus, Phocion and ten acquaintances were sentenced, to death.
They were conducted to a prison. The people harassed them, throughout the way. Phocion was spat on his face and he said to the Archons: "You should force that these people might comport." By their request, all the friends of Phocion drank the poison firstly. As the executioner was left without poison hemlock, he refused preparing more unless he may receive 12 drachmas (the price for the weight of the plant). Phocion called a friend, commenting: "For a man, it is hard to die in Athens without paying for it." The friend paid the sum to the executioner. Phocion drank his poison and, then, he died. It was May 19, of 318 BC. This coincided with the traditional Athenian parade of Zeus.
The Macedonians decided that the corpse wouldn't be buried, in Attica. Neither, it could be touched by anyone. A hired man brought it, behind the Megarian frontier. There, the cadaver was burnt. Phocion's wife piled an earth mound up, simulating a tomb, and she took the bones and the heart of Phocion. At their house, she buried these. Soon afterward, they were properly reburied, at public charge, and a brazen statue was built. Also, whereas Hagnonides was executed, Phocus then tracked down and killed the other two conspirators.
Philip II offered much money to him and the Macedonian heralds mentioned the future needs of his sons. Phocion said: "If my sons are like me, my farm, which has enabled my present eminence, will suffice for them. If, instead, they might end spoilt by luxury, the individual, who will be guilty for that, won't be me."
Alexander presented 100 talents, to Phocion, but he refused, saying: "I am an honorable man. I would not harm either Alexander's reputation or mine." After the king insisted, Phocion requested the release of some prisoners, who were promptly liberated. Then, the king insisted, with whichever, which may exist whether at Cius, Gertithus, Mylasa, or Elaea. Phocion refused and, soon afterward, Alexander died (323 BC).
In 322 BC, Harpalus arrived to Athens, from Asia, seeking refuge. He attempted presenting 700 talents, to Phocion, who rejected this. Phocion warned that he shouldn't attempt corrupting Athens or he would be punished. Consequently, with his bribes, the angry Harpalus turned the whole assembly, against Phocion. However, as Phocion kept helping him (with good will but within ethical limits), Harpalus approached Phocion's son-in-law, Charicles, becoming a friend. Harpalus died soon after and Charicles was investigated. Phocion refused helping him, before the court, saying: "I haven't chosen you, for son-in-law, for dishonorable purposes."
Also, Phocion refused presents, from Menyllus. Phocion said: "You are not a better man than Alexander so no reason exists, for accepting your gifts." With his bribes, Menyllus then became a friend of Phokus.
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