The World of Christian Cameron

Get the books!


Lycurgus (Greek: Λυκοΰργος, 396 – 323 BC), an Attic orator, was born at Athens about 396 BC, and was the son of Lycophron, who belonged to the noble family of the Eteobutadae.

In his early life he devoted himself to the study of philosophy in the school of Plato, but afterwards became one of the disciples of Isocrates, and entered upon public life at a comparatively early age. He was appointed three successive times to the office of manager of the public revenue, and held his office each time for five years, beginning with 337 BC. The conscientiousness with which he discharged the duties of this office enabled him to raise the public revenue to the sum of 1200 talents. This, as well as the unwearied activity with which he labored both for increasing the security and splendour of the city of Athens, gained for him the universal confidence of the people. This confidence extended to such a degree that when Alexander the Great demanded, in 335 BC, the surrender of Lycurgus among the other opponents of the Macedonian interest, the people of Athens clung to him, and boldly refused to deliver him up although he had, in conjunction with Demosthenes, exerted himself against the intrigues of Macedonia as early as the reign of Philip.

He was further entrusted with the superintendence (φυλαχη) of the city and the keeping of public discipline; and the severity with which he watched over the conduct of the citizens became almost proverbial. He had a noble taste for every thing that was beautiful and grand, as he showed by the buildings he erected or completed both for the use of the citizens and the ornament of the city. His integrity was so great that even private persons deposited with him large sums of money, which they wished to be kept in safety.

He was also the author of several legislative enactments, of which he enforced the strictest observance. One of his laws forbade women to ride in chariots at the celebration of the mysteries; and when his own wife transgressed this law, she was fined. Another ordained that bronze statues should be erected to Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides, and that copies of their tragedies should be made and preserved in the public archives. He often appeared as a successful accuser in the Athenian courts, but he himself was as often accused by others, though he always, and even in the last days of his life, succeeded in silencing his enemies. Thus we know that he was attacked by Philinus, Dinarchus, Aristogeiton, Menesaechmus, and others.

He died while holding the office of director (επιστατης) of the theatre of Dionysus, in 323 BC. A fragment of an inscription containing the account which he rendered to the state of his administration of the finances is still extant. At his death he left behind three sons, including one named Abron or Habron, by his wife Callisto, who were severely persecuted by Menesaechmus and Thrasycles, but were defended by Hypereides and Democles. Among the honours which were conferred upon him was a bronze statue ordered by the archon Anaxicrates to be erected to him in the Ceramicus, and that he and his eldest son should be entertained in the prytaneum at the public expense.