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Timon of Athens – a Legendary Figure?

  • A. MacC. Armstrong

In his last days, after his defeat at Actium, M. Antonhis sojourned in solitude by the sea declaring that he was going to live like Timon, since the injuries and ingratitude which he hadsuffered from his friends had taught him, like Timon, to distrust and detest all mankind. So both Strabo (17.1.9) and Plutarch relate. Plutarch explains that this man Timon was a citizen of Athens who lived at the time of the Peloponnesian War, to judge from plays of Aristophanes and Plato Comicus, in which Timon was held up to ridicule as a surly misanthrope who repulsed all friendly advances but displayed unwonted cordiality towards the brilliant young politician Alcibiades, because he divined, and gleefully predicted, that Alcibiades would do infinite mischieftoAthens (Ant.69–70; Alc. 16). The reference to the ingratitude of Timon's friends is illumined by Lucian's dialogue Timon, or the Misanthrope, in which Timon, identified as son of Echecratides and demotes of Colyttus, has lavished his patrimony on flattering friends who abandon him once his funds are exhausted, and in consequence he has been reduced to labouring in the fields. Luckily he digs up a crock of gold, and when his former friends reappear one by one in the hope of battening on him again, he repulses them with blows and clods of earth.

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Greece & Rome
  • ISSN: 0017-3835
  • EISSN: 1477-4550
  • URL: /core/journals/greece-and-rome
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