I’m currently rereading Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers as my bedtime book. This evening I came across a curious passage in the life of Plato (III, 24):
There is a story that he [Plato] pleaded for Chabrias the general when he was tried for his life, although no one else at Athens would do so, and that, on this occasion, as he was going up to the Acropolis with Chabrias, Crobylus the informer met him and said, “What, are you come to speak for the defence? Don’t you know that the hemlock of Socrates awaits you?” To this Plato replied, “As I faced dangers when serving in the cause of my country, so I will face them now in the cause of duty for a friend.”
I noted the words, “Crobylus the informer”, and I wondered what Greek word ‘informer’ represented. For we think of informers — delatores — as a feature of Roman society. So I looked across the page — I’m reading this in the Loeb edition — and was amused to read Κρωβύλος ὁ συκοφάντες – “Crobylus the sycophant“.
I had never associated sycophancy with tale-bearing and informing, but of course the link is an obvious one.