Aristides, The Just

, surnamed The Just, one of the most virtuous characters in ancient history, was the son of Lysimachus, and a native of Athens. He was educated in the principles of Lycurgus, the Lacedemonian legislator, and had Themistocles for his rival. These two celebrated men, although brought up from their infancy together, discovered very different qualities as they advanced in life. Aristides was all candour and concern for the public good: Themistocles was artful, deceitful, and ambitious. Aristides wished to remove such a character from any share in the government, but the intrigues of his enemy prevailed so far as to procure the banishment of Aristides about the year 483 B. C. The practice of ostracism was employed on this occasion, and it is said that a citizen who did not know Aristides came to him, and asked him to write the name of Aristides on his shell. Surprised at this, he asked the man, if Aristides had ever injured him, “Not at all,” replied the other, “but I am weary of | hearing him perpetually called The JustAristides immediately wrote his name on the shell, and gave it to the man; The Athenians, however, soon repented having banished such a patriot, and recalled him, upon which he went to Themistocles, to engage him to act in concert for the welfare of the state, and his old enemy received this offer with a better grace than his character promised. Aristides persuaded the Greeks to unite against the Persians, and displayed his personal courage at the battles of Marathon, Salamis, and Platsea. He besides established a military chest for the support of the war, and the equity with which he levied taxes for this purpose made his administration be termed the golden age. He died so poor that the republic found it necessary to defray the expences of his funeral, and provide for his son and daughters. The time of his death is not known. Themistocles, Cimpn, and Pericles, filled Athens with superb buildings, vast porticoes, and rich statues, but Aristides adorned it by his virtues. Such is the testimony of Plato, and of impartial posterity. The name of Just was frequently confirmed to him during his life-time, and he appears by every testimony to have been a man of great and inflexible integrity. Plutarch hints at the only blemish in his character, when he informs us that the enmity between him and Themistocles began first in a love affair. 1


Plutarch’s Life of Aristides. Gen. Dict.