Aristides (nicknamed Aristides the Just) was an Athenian statesman and general during the Persian Wars. He led the Athenians at the Battle of Marathon; fought at Salamis; and then led the Athenian forces at Plataea, the final battle against the Persians. Aristides was a creative and gifted leader, whose concern with justice led him to solve problems in unusual ways.
Plutarch begins this Life with a question: was Aristides rich or poor, and what evidence do we have on either side? For instance, someone says that Aristides must have been rich because he sponsored theatrical performances. Plutarch answers that it wasn’t uncommon in those days for someone like Aristides both to receive gifts of money and to spend them on something for the public benefit.
As another example, Aristides was ostracized at one time; and, as Plutarch says, ostracism (oddly enough) was considered too good for common people; so some would think that Aristides must have belonged to a wealthy family. But Plutarch says that “everyone was liable to it whom his reputation, birth, or eloquence raised above the common level.”
So was Aristides one of the privileged upper class, or someone who rose by his own merits (or by the hand of “Fortune”)? This story will attempt to answer that question.
Read more in The Plutarch Project Volume Six (coming soon).