Alcibiades, the nephew of Pericles and student of Socrates, once decided to test his friends, in order to discover which were true. To accomplish this, he had a mannequin constructed, which he then hid in his basement. One by one, he led his friends to the basement and showed them this mannequin, pretending it to be the corpse of someone whom he had slain, and asked them to help him hide the fact. Each of them refused, except Callias, who offered to take and hide the body. After this, Callias became and remained his most trusted and faithful friend.
In a war between Athens and the Dorians of the Peloponnesus, the Delphic Oracle proclaimed that the Athenians would have victory, if their king was slain by the Peloponnesians. Hearing of this prediction, the Peloponnesians gave word to every man in their army not to harm Codrus, King of Athens. Codrus, however, had other plans. He dressed himself as a wood-cutter and made his way towards the enemy army, where he came across some soldiers, and picked a fight with them, wounding some with his axe, until they slew him in annoyance. The Athenians then dispatched a herald to the enemy camp, requesting the body of their slain king. When they realized what they had done, the Peloponneisans retreated, leaving Athens victorious, in fear of the Oracle’s words.
Once, during the Pelopenessian War, the Athenians suffered a great defeat. A surviving soldier hurried home, and told the city that they had, in fact, won a great victory, instead. For three days, the city celebrated, until a messenger arrived with the unfortunate news. They had lost, and many of their young men were dead.
Furious, the city leaders asked the soldier why he had lied to them and led them to think what was contrary to fact. He replied that they would have found out about the defeat either way, but what hard had he done if, through his lie, he had given to them three days of happiness?
Athens had a practice known as ostracism, where the citizens could banish someone for ten years if they were thought to be harmful to the city. At one of the votes, an illiterate citizen approached Aristides, known as the Just, and asked him whether he could write down a name for him upon his shard (for that was how they voted.) Aristides agreed to do so, and asked the man for the name.
“Aristides,” replied the citizen, not recognizing to whom he spoke.
“How has Aristides wronged you, that you desire him exiled?” asked Aristides, having no memory of harming the man.
“Not at all,” replied the man, “but I am sick of always hearing him called the Just.”
Aristides said nothing, but wrote down his own name upon the citizen’s potsherd, proving his appellation.