Callias (in Greek Kαλλιας), son of Hipponicus by the woman who married Pericles1, third head of one of the most distinguished Athenian families to bear the name of Callias, was said to be notorious for his extravagance and profligacy. (Historians sometimes designate him "Callias III" to distinguish him from his grandfather Callias ("Callias II") and from his grandfather's grandfather Callias ("Callias I").)
Callias must have acceeded to the family's fortune in 424 BC, which is not perhaps irreconcileable with the mention of him in the comedy the Flatterers of Eupolis, 421 BC, as having recently entered on the inheritance.2 In 400 BC, he was engaged in the attempt to crush Andocides by a charge of profanation, in having placed a supplicatory bough on the altar of the temple at Eleusis during the celebration of the mysteries3; and, if we may believe the statement of the accused, the bough was placed there by Callias himself, who was provoked at having been thwarted by Andocides in a very disgraceful and profligate attempt. In 392 BC, we find him in command of the Athenian heavy-armed troops at Corinth on the occasion of the famous defeat of a Spartan regiment, or Mora, by Iphicrates.4 He was hereditary proxenus (roughly the equivalent of the modern consul) of Sparta, and, as such, was chosen as one of the envoys empowered to negotiate peace with that state in 371 BC, on which occasion Xenophon reports an absurd and self-glorifying speech of his.5 He dissipated all his ancestral wealth on sophists, flatterers, and women; and so early did these propensities appear in him, that he was commonly spoken of, before his father's death, as the "evil genius" of his family.6 The scene of Xenophon's Banquet, and also that of Plato's Protagoras, is laid at his house; and in the latter especially his character is drawn with some vivid sketches as a dilettante highly amused with the intellectual fencing of Protagoras and Socrates.7 He is said to have ultimately reduced himself to absolute beggary, to which the sarcasm of Iphicrates8 in calling him metragyrtes instead of daduchos obviously refers; and he died at last in actual want of the common necessaries of life.9 He left a legitimate son named Hipponicus.10
Smith, William (editor); Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, "Callias III", Boston, (1867)
This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology by William Smith (1867).
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