Plutarch's Life of Agis and Cleomenes
Text taken from Thomas North and/or John Dryden
Agis and Cleomenes (Third Century B.C.)
Reading for Lesson One
[omission for length]
When the love of gold and silver crept again into the city of Sparta, and with riches, covetousness also and misery, and by use, voluptuousness and licentious life: Sparta was then void of all honour and goodness, and was for a long time drowned in shame and dishonour, until Kings Agis and Leonidas came to reign there.
Agis was of the house of the Eurypontids, the son of Eudamidas, the sixth of lineal descent after Agesilaus (#1), who had been the greatest prince of all Greece in his time [omission].
Leonidas also, the son of Cleonymus, was of the other family, the Agiads; he was the eighth of succession after Pausanias, who slew Mardonius, the king's lieutenant-general of Persia, in the Battle of Plataea [omission]. Howbeit his manners and conditions were never liked by the people. For though there was at that time in Sparta a general decline in manners, yet a greater revolt from the old habits appeared in him than in others. For he had lived a long time among the great lords of Persia, and followed also Seleucus's court, from whence he had brought all the pride and pomp of those courts into Greece, where law and reason ruleth.
Agis, on the contrary part, did not only far excel Leonidas in honour and magnanimity of mind: but all others almost also which had reigned in Sparta, from the time of Agesilaus the Great (#1). So that when Agis was not yet twenty years old, and being daintily brought up with the fineness of two women, his mother Agesistrata, and Archidamia his grandmother, which had more gold and silver than all the Lacedaemonians else: he began to spurn against these womanish delights and pleasures, such as in making himself fair to be the better beliked, and to be fine and trim in his apparel; and instead to cast upon him a plain Spartan cape, taking pleasure in the diet, baths, and manner of the ancient Laconian life: and he openly boasted besides, that he would not desire to be king, but only for the hope he had to restore the ancient Laconian life by his authority.
A Short Flashback
The Lacedaemonians might date the beginning of their corruption from their conquest of Athens, when they had stored both themselves and their country with plenty of gold and silver. Yet, nevertheless, the number of houses which Lycurgus (#1) appointed still being maintained, and the law remaining in force by which everyone was obliged to leave his lot or portion of land entirely to his son, a kind of order and equality was thereby preserved, which still in some degree sustained the state amidst its errors in other respects. This lasted until the time of the authority of Epitadeus, one of the ephors, a seditious man, and of proud conditions: who bitterly falling out with his own son, proposed a decree that all men should have liberty to dispose of their land by gift in their lifetime, or by their last will and testament. Thus this man made this law to satisfy his anger, and others also did confirm it for covetousness' sake, and so overthrew a noble ordinance. For the rich men then began to buy lands of numbers, and so transferred it from the right and lawful heirs: whereby a few men in short time being made very rich, immediately after there fell out great poverty in the city of Sparta, which made all honest sciences to cease, and brought in thereupon unlawful occupations; and the poor envied them that were wealthy. Therefore, there remained not above seven hundred natural citizens of Sparta in all, and of them, not above a hundred that had lands and inheritance: for all the rest were poor people in the city, and were of no countenance nor calling. Besides that, they went unwillingly to the wars against their enemies, looking every day for stir and change in the city.
Agis therefore thinking it a notable good act (as indeed it was) to replenish the city of Sparta again, and to bring in the old equality, he moved the matter unto the citizens. He found the youth (against all hope) to give good ear unto him, and very well given unto virtue, easily changing their garments and life to recover their liberty again. But the old men, habituated and more confirmed in their vices, were most of them as alarmed at the very name of Lycurgus, as a fugitive slave to be brought back before his offended master. These men could not endure to hear Agis continually deploring the present state of Sparta, and wishing she might be restored to her ancient glory.
Howbeit Lysander the son of Libys, and Mandrocleides the son of Ecphanes, and Agesilaus (#2) also, greatly commended his noble desire, and persuaded him to go forward with it [omission]. Agesilaus was the king's uncle, by the mother's side; an eloquent man, but covetous and voluptuous, who was not moved by considerations of public good, but rather seemed to be persuaded in it by his son Hippomedon, whose courage and signal actions in war had gained him a high esteem and great influence among the young men of Sparta; though indeed the true motive was that he (Agesilaus) had many debts, and hoped by this means to be freed from them.
As soon as Agis had prevailed with his uncle, he sought by his means to gain his mother also, who had many friends and followers, and a number of persons in her debt in the city, and who took a considerable part in public affairs. At the first proposal she was very averse, and strongly advised her son not to engage in so difficult and so unprofitable an enterprise. But Agesilaus had told her what a notable act it would be, and how easily it might be brought to pass, with marvellous great profit; and King Agis began also to strain her with great entreaty, that she should willingly depart with her goods to win her son honour and glory. He told her he could not pretend to equal other kings in riches, the very followers and menials of the satraps and stewards of Seleucus or Ptolemy abounding more in wealth than all the Spartan kings put together; but if by contempt of wealth and pleasure, by simplicity and magnanimity, he could surpass their luxury and abundance; if he could restore their former equality to the Spartans; then he should be a great king indeed.
Reading for Lesson Two
In conclusion, the mother and the grandmother also were so taken, so carried away with the inspiration, as it were, of the young man's noble and generous ambition, that they not only consented, but were ready on all occasions to spur him on; and not only sent to speak on his behalf with the men with whom they had an interest, but addressed the other women also, knowing well that the Lacedaemonian wives had always a great power with their husbands, who used to impart to them their state affairs with greater freedom than the women would communicate with the men in the private business of their families. Which was indeed one of the greatest obstacles to this design: for the money of Sparta being most of it in the women's hands, it was their interest to oppose it, not only as depriving them of those superfluous trifles, in which, through want of better knowledge and experience, they placed all their felicity; but also, because they saw their honour and authority which they had by their riches, clean trodden underfoot.
Therefore they coming to Leonidas, they did persuade him to reprove Agis, because he was an elder man than he, and to put a stop to the ill-advised projects of a rash young man. Leonidas did what he could in favour of the rich; but fearing the common people, who desired nothing but alteration, he dared not openly speak against him, but underhand he did all he could to discredit and thwart the project, and to prejudice the chief magistrates against him; and on all occasions he craftily insinuated that it was at the price of letting him usurp arbitrary power that Agis thus proposed to divide the property of the rich among the poor, and that the object of these measures for cancelling debts and dividing the lands was not to furnish Sparta with citizens but to purchase him a tyrant's bodyguard.
This notwithstanding, King Agis having procured Lysander to be chosen one of the ephors, he presently preferred his law unto the council:
That such as were in debt should be cleared of all their debts; and that the lands also should be divided into equal parts; so that from the Valley of Pallena unto Mount Taugetus, and unto the cities of Malea and Sellasia, there should be four thousand five hundred parts; and without those bounds, there should be in all the rest, fifteen thousand parts, the which should be distributed unto their neighbours who were able to carry weapons; and the rest unto the natural Spartans. The number of them should be replenished with their neighbours and strangers in like manner, which should be very well brought up, and be able men besides to serve the commonwealth: all the which afterwards should be divided into fifteen companies, of the which, some should receive two hundred, and others four hundred men, and should live according to the old ancient institution observed by their ancestors.
This law being proposed in the council of the elders met there with opposition; whereupon Lysander himself assembled the great council of all the people, and there spoke unto them himself, and Mandrocleides and Agesilaus (#2) also, praying them not to suffer the honour of Sparta to be trodden underfoot for the vanity of a few [omission]. When every man else had spoken, King Agis rising up, briefly speaking unto the people, said that he would bestow great contributions for the reformation of this commonwealth, which he was desirous to restore again. For first of all, he would divide among them all his patrimony, which was of large extent in tillage and pasture; he would also give six hundred talents in ready money, and his mother, grandmother, and his other friends and relations, who were the richest of the Lacedaemonians, were ready to follow his example.
When the people heard what he said, they marvelled much at the noble mind of this young king, and were very glad of it, saying that for three hundred years' space together, the city of Sparta had not so worthy a king as he. But Leonidas contrarily assayed with all his power he could to resist him, thinking with himself that if King Agis's purpose took place, he should also be compelled to contribute money, and yet he should have no thanks, but King Agis would: because that all the Spartans indifferently should be compelled to make their goods in common, but the honour should be his only that first began it.
[Omission: the elders debated the proposal, but it was defeated by one vote.]
Wherefore Lysander, who was yet in office, attempted to accuse Leonidas by an ancient law, forbidding that none of the race of Hercules should marry with any foreign woman, nor beget children of her: because he had married a woman in Asia, and had two children by her; and afterwards being forsaken by her, he returned again into his country against his will, and so had possessed the kingdom for lack of lawful heir [omission]. So following his accusation in this manner, Lysander persuaded Cleombrotus to lay claim to the kingdom. He was of the royal family, and son-in-law to Leonidas; who, fearing now the event of this process, fled as a suppliant to the Temple of Athena, together with his daughter, the wife of Cleombrotus; for she in this occasion resolved to leave her husband, and to follow her father. Leonidas then being cited, and not appearing, they deposed him and made Cleombrotus king.
Soon after this revolution, Lysander concluded his year in office, and new ephors were chosen, who gave Leonidas assurance of safety; and cited Lysander and Mandrocleides to answer for having, contrary to law, cancelled debts, and designed a new division of lands.
[Omission for length: Lysander and Mandrocleides, seeing they were in trouble, went to the kings and pleaded for them to act together to resist the ephors. The kings began to do just that: they replaced the ephors with their own supporters, including Agesilaus (#2), and released many prisoners. Agesilaus used his new power to attempt to kill Leonidas as he fled to Tegea, but King Agis heard of the plot in time and made sure that Leonidas arrived safely.]
Thus their purpose taking effect, and no man contrarying them: one man only, Agesilaus, overthrew all, and dashed a noble Laconian law by a shameful vice, which was covetousness. For he, having the best lands of any man in the country, and owing a great sum of money besides, would neither pay his debts, nor let go his land. Therefore he persuaded Agis that if both these things should be put in execution at the same time, so great and so sudden an alteration might cause some dangerous commotion; but if debts were in the first place cancelled, the rich men would afterwards more easily be prevailed with to part with their land.
Lysander was also of this opinion, being deceived in like manner by the craft of Agesilaus: so that all men were presently commanded to bring in their bonds, or deeds of obligation, which the Lacedaemonians called claria, into the marketplace, where being laid together in a heap, they set fire to them. The wealthy, money-lending people, one may easily imagine, beheld it with a heavy heart; but Agesilaus, mocking them, said he never saw a brighter fire in his life.
Reading for Lesson Three
And now the people pressed earnestly for an immediate division of lands; the kings also had ordered it should be done; but Agesilaus (#2), sometimes pretending one difficulty, and sometimes another, delayed the execution, till an occasion happened to call Agis to the wars. The Achaeans, in virtue of a defensive treaty of alliance, sent to demand succours, as they expected every day that the Aetolians would attempt to enter Peloponnesus from the territory of Megara. They had sent Aratus, their general, to collect forces to hinder this incursion. Aratus wrote to the ephors, who immediately gave order that Agis should hasten to their assistance with the Spartan auxiliaries.
Agis was extremely pleased to see the zeal and bravery of those who went with him upon this expedition. They were for the most part young men, and poor; and being just released from their debts and set at liberty, and hoping on their return to receive each man his lot of land, they followed their king with wonderful alacrity. The cities through which they passed were in admiration to see how they marched from one end of Peloponnesus to the other, without the least disorder, and, in a manner, without being heard. It gave the Greeks occasion to discourse with one another, how great might be the temperance and modesty of a Laconian army in old time, under their famous captains Agesilaus (#1), Lysander, or Leonidas, since they saw such discipline and exact obedience under a leader who perhaps was the youngest man in all the army. They saw also how he was himself content to fare hardly, ready to undergo any labours, and not to be distinguished by pomp or richness of habit or arms from the meanest of his soldiers; and to people in general it was an object of regard and admiration. But rich men viewed the innovation with dislike and alarm, lest haply the example might spread, and work changes to their prejudice in their own countries as well.
Agis joined Aratus near the city of Corinth, where it was still a matter of debate whether or no it were expedient to give the enemy battle. Agis, on this occasion, showed great forwardness and resolution, yet without temerity or presumption. He declared it was his opinion they ought to fight, thereby to hinder the enemy from passing the gates of Peloponnesus; but nevertheless he would submit to the judgment of Aratus, not only as the elder and more experienced captain, but as he was general of the Achaeans, whose forces he would not pretend to command, but was only come thither to assist them.
[Omission for length: Plutarch explains that there was some question about which of the generals did want to go ahead, and which one wanted to hold off; but, however it happened, it was mutually agreed to end their alliance. The Spartans went home, and Aratus's troops ended up fighting the Aetolians themselves.]
Agis, not without having gained a great deal of honour, returned to Sparta, where he found the people in great broil and trouble, and a new revolution imminent. For Agesilaus (#2), now being one of the ephors, finding himself rid of the fear which before kept him under some restraint, cared not what injury or mischief he did to any citizen, so he might get money. Among other things, he exacted a thirteenth month's tax, whereas the usual cycle required at this time no such addition to the year. For these and other reasons, fearing those whom he injured, and knowing how he was hated by the people, he thought it necessary to maintain a guard, which always accompanied him to the magistrate's office. And presuming now on his power, he was grown so insolent, that of the two kings, the one he openly contemned; and if he showed any respect towards Agis, would have thought it rather an effect of his near relationship, than any duty or submission to the royal authority. He gave it out also that he was to continue as ephor the ensuing year.
His enemies, therefore, alarmed by this report, lost no time in risking an attempt against him; and, openly bringing back Leonidas from Tegea, they re-established him in the kingdom, to which even the people, highly incensed for having been defrauded in the promised division of lands, willingly consented. Agesilaus himself would hardly have escaped their fury, if his son Hippomedon, whose manly virtues made him dear to all, had not saved him out of their hands, and then privately conveyed him from the city.
During the commotion, the two kings fled: Agis to the Temple of Athena, and Cleombrotus to that of Neptune. For Leonidas was more incensed against his son-in-law; and leaving Agis alone, went with his soldiers to Cleombrotus's sanctuary, and there with great passion reproached him for having, though he was son-in-law, conspired with his enemies, usurped his throne, and forced him from his country. Cleombrotus, having little to say for himself, sat silent.
His wife, Chilonis, the daughter of Leonidas, had chosen to follow her father in his sufferings; for when Cleombrotus usurped the kingdom, she forsook him, and wholly devoted herself to comfort her father in his affliction; whilst he still remained in Sparta, she remained also, as a suppliant, with him; and when he fled, she fled with him, bewailing his misfortune, and extremely displeased with Cleombrotus.
But now, upon this turn of fortune, she changed in like manner; and was seen sitting now as a suppliant with her husband, embracing him with her arms, and having her two little children beside her. All men wondering, and weeping for pity to see the goodness and natural love of this lady, who, showing her mourning apparel, and the hair of her head flaring about her eyes, bareheaded, spoke in this sort:
"O father mine, this sorrowful garment and countenance is not for pity of Cleombrotus, but hath long remained with me, lamenting sore your former misery and exile: but now, which of the two should I rather choose, either to continue a mourner in this pitiful state, seeing you again restored to your kingdom, having overcome your enemies; or else putting on my princely apparel, to see my husband slain, unto whom you married me as a maid? Who, if he cannot move you to take compassion of him, and to obtain mercy, by the tears of his wife and children: he shall then abide more bitter pain of his evil counsel, than that which you intend to make him suffer . . . "
Leonidas after he had talked a little with his friends, commanded Cleombrotus to get him thence, and to leave the city as an exile; and prayed his daughter for his sake to remain with him, and not to forsake her father, that did so dearly love her, as for her sake he had saved her husband's life. This notwithstanding, she would not yield to his request, but rising up with her husband, gave him one of his sons, and herself took the other in her arms: and then making her prayer before the altar of the goddess, she went as a banished woman away with her husband. And truly the example of her virtue was so famous, that if Cleombrotus's mind had not been too much blinded with vainglory, he had cause to think his exile far more happy, to enjoy the love of so noble a wife as he had, than for the kingdom which he possessed without her.
[Omission for length: Finding it impossible to persuade Agis to leave his sanctuary, Leonidas decided to trap him instead. Some of his friends offered him their protection if he would go to the public baths with them; but one of them, having a personal grudge, betrayed Agis on the way back, and he was taken to prison.]
None of Agis's friends being near to assist him, or anyone by, they therefore easily got him into the prison, where Leonidas was already arrived, with a company of soldiers who strongly guarded all the avenues; the ephors also came in, with as many of the elders as they knew to be true to their party, being desirous to proceed with some semblance of justice. And thus they bade him give an account of his actions. The young man laughed at their hypocrisy. But Amphares told him that it was no laughing sport, and that he should pay for his folly. Another of the ephors, as though he would be more favourable, and offering as it were an excuse, asked him whether he was not forced to what he did by Agesilaus and Lysander. But Agis answered he had not been constrained by any man, nor had any other intent in what he did but only to follow the example of Lycurgus (#1), and to govern conformably to his laws.
Then the same ephor asked him again, if he did not repent him of that he had done. The young man boldly answered him, that he would never repent him of so wise and virtuous an enterprise, though he ventured his life for it. Then they condemned him to death, and bade the officers carry him to the Dechas, as it is called, a place in the prison where they strangle malefactors. And when the officers would not venture to lay hands on him, and the very mercenary soldiers declined it, believing it an illegal and a wicked act to lay violent hands on a king, Demochares, threatening and reviling them for it, himself thrust him into the room.
Now the rumour ran straight through the city, that King Agis was taken; and a multitude of people were at the prison doors with lights and torches. Thither came also Agis' mother and grandmother, shrieking out, and praying that the King of Sparta might yet be heard and judged by the people. For this cause, they hastened his death the sooner, and were afraid besides, lest the people in the night would take him out of their hands by force, if there came any more people thither.
Thus King Agis, being led to his death, spied a sergeant lamenting and weeping for him, unto whom he said: "Good fellow, I pray thee weep not for me, for I am honester man than they that so shamefully put me to death," and with those words he willingly put his head into the halter.
[The mother and grandmother of King Agis were put to death as well.]
So wicked and barbarous an act had never been committed in Sparta since first the Dorians inhabited Peloponnesus [omission]. Be it as it will, it is certain at least that Agis was the first king put to death in Lacedaemon by the ephors, for having undertaken a design noble in itself and worthy of his country, at a time of life when men's errors usually meet with an easy pardon. And if errors he did commit, his enemies certainly had less reason to blame him than had his friends for that gentle and compassionate temper which made him save the life of Leonidas, and believe in other men's professions.
Reading for Lesson Four
Thus fell Agis. His brother Archidamus was too quick for Leonidas, and saved himself by a timely retreat. But Agis's wife Agiatis, then mother of a young child, he forced from her own house, and compelled to marry his son Cleomenes, who was yet underage to marry: fearing lest this young lady should be bestowed elsewhere, being indeed a great heir, and of a rich house, and the daughter of Gylippus; besides that she was the fairest woman at that time in all Greece, and well-conducted in her habits of life. And therefore, they say, she did all she could that she might not be compelled to this new marriage.
But now being at length married unto Cleomenes, she ever hated Leonidas to the death, and yet was a good and loving wife unto her young husband: who immediately after he was married unto her, fell greatly in fancy with her, and for compassion's sake (as it seemed) he thanked her for the love she bore unto her first husband, and for the loving remembrance she had of him: insomuch as he himself many times would fall in talk of it, and would be inquisitive how things had passed, taking great pleasure to hear of Agis's wise counsel and purpose. For Cleomenes was as desirous of honour, and had as noble a mind as Agis, and was born also to temperance and moderation of life, as Agis in like manner was, but not so scrupulous, circumspect, and gentle. There was something of heat and passion always goading him on, and an impetuosity and violence in his eagerness to pursue anything which he thought good and just. To have men obey him of their own freewill, he conceived to be the best discipline; but likewise, to subdue resistance, and force them to the better course was, in his opinion, commendable and brave.
Furthermore, the manners of the citizens of Sparta, giving themselves over to idleness and pleasure, he did not like at all. The king let everything take its own way, thankful if nobody gave him any disturbance, nor called him away from the enjoyment of his wealth and luxury. The public interest was neglected, and each man was intent upon his private gain. It was dangerous, now Agis was killed, so much as to name such a thing as the exercising and training of their youth; and to speak of the ancient temperance, endurance, and equality was a sort of treason against the state.
They say also, that Cleomenes, whilst a boy, had heard some disputation of philosophy, when the philosopher Sphaerus, of the country of Borysthenes, came to Lacedaemon, and spent some time and trouble in instructing the youth. He was one of the chiefest scholars of Zeno of Citium, and delighted (as it seemed) in Cleomenes' noble mind, and had a great desire to prick him forward unto honour.
Upon the death of his father Leonidas, Cleomenes was come unto the crown; and observing the citizens of Sparta at that time were very dissolute, that the rich men followed their pleasure and profit taking no care of the commonwealth, that the poor men also for very want and need went with no good life and courage to the wars, neither cared for the bringing up of their children; and that he himself had but the name of a king, and the ephors all the power: he was resolved to change the posture of affairs. He had a friend named Xenares [omission for content], of whom he would commonly inquire what manner of king Agis was, by what means and by what assistance he began and pursued his designs. Xenares, at first, willingly complied with his request, and told him the whole story, with all the particular circumstances of the actions. But when he observed Cleomenes to be extremely affected at the relation, and more than ordinarily taken with Agis's new model of the government, and begging a repetition of the story, he at first scolded him, told him he was frantic, and at last left off all sort of familiarity [omission]; yet he never told any man the cause of their disagreement, but would only say, Cleomenes knew very well.
Cleomenes, finding Xenares averse to his designs, and thinking all others to be of the same disposition, consulted with none, but contrived the whole business by himself. And considering that it would be easier to bring about an alteration when the city was at war than when in peace, he engaged the commonwealth in a quarrel with the Achaeans, who had given them fair occasions to complain. For Aratus, a man of the greatest power amongst all the Achaeans, designed from the very beginning to bring all the Peloponnesians into one common body. And to effect this was the one object of all his many commanderships and his long political course, as he thought this the only means to make them a match for their foreign enemies. Pretty nearly all the rest agreed to his proposals; only the Lacedaemonians, the Eleans, and as many of the Arcadians as inclined to the Spartan interest, remained unpersuaded.
And so, as soon as Leonidas was dead, Aratus began to invade the cities of Arcadia, and wasted those especially that bordered on Achaea; by this means designing to try the inclinations of the Spartans, and despising Cleomenes as a youth, and of no experience in affairs of state or war. Thereupon the ephors sent Cleomenes to surprise the Athenaeum, near Belbina, which is a pass commanding an entrance into Laconia; howbeit the place at that time was in question betwixt the Megalopolitans and the Lacedaemonians. Cleomenes possessed himself of the place, and fortified it; at which action Aratus showed no public resentment, but marched by night to surprise Tegea and Orchomenus.
The design failed, for those that were to betray the cities into his hands turned afraid; so Aratus retreated, imagining that his design had been undiscovered. But Cleomenes wrote a sarcastic letter to him, and desired to know, as from a friend, whither he intended to march at night. Aratus returned answer again that, understanding Cleomenes meant to fortify Belbina, he meant to march thither to oppose him. Cleomenes rejoined that he did not dispute it, but begged to be informed, if he might be allowed to ask the question, why he carried those torches and ladders with him. Aratus laughed at the jest, and asked what manner of youth this was. Democritus, a Spartan exile, answered; "If thou hast anything to do against the Lacedaemonians, thou hadst need make haste, before this young cockerel have on his spurs." [Dryden uses a different metaphor: "begin before this young eagle's talons are grown."]
Reading for Lesson Five
Presently after this, Cleomenes, encamping in Arcadia with a few horse and three hundred foot, received orders from the ephors, who feared to engage in the war, commanding him to return home; but when upon his retreat Aratus took Caphyae, they commissioned him again. In this expedition he took Methydrium, and overran the country of the Argives; then the Achaeans, to oppose him, came out with an army of twenty thousand foot and one thousand horse, under the command of Aristomachus. Cleomenes faced them at Pallantium, and offered battle, but Aratus, being cowed by his bravery, would not suffer the general to engage; but retreated, amidst the reproaches of the Achaeans and the derision and scorn of the Spartans, who were not above five thousand.
Cleomenes' courage being now lifted up, and bravely speaking to his citizens: he reminded them of a saying of one of their ancient kings, that the Lacedaemonians never inquired what number their enemies were, but where they were.
Shortly after, the Achaeans making war with the Eleans, Cleomenes was sent to aid them, and met with the army of the Achaeans by the mountain Lycaeum as they were in their return. He, setting upon them, gave them the overthrow, slew a great number of them, and took many also prisoners, so that the rumour ran through Greece, how Aratus himself was slain. Aratus, wisely taking the occasion which this victory gave him, went straight to the city of Mantinea, and taking it upon a sudden, when no man knew of his coming, he put a strong garrison into it.
Upon this, the Lacedaemonians being quite discouraged, and opposing Cleomenes' designs of carrying on the war, he now exerted himself to have Archidamus, the brother of Agis, sent for from Messene; as he, of the other family, had a right to the kingdom, and besides, Cleomenes thought that the power of the ephors would be reduced when the kingly state was thus filled up, and raised to its proper position. But those that were concerned in the murder of Agis, perceiving the design, and fearing that upon Archidamus's return that they should be called to an account, received him on his coming privately into town, and joined in bringing him home, and presently after murdered him.
Whether Cleomenes was against it, as Phylarchus thinks, or whether he was persuaded by his friends, or let him (Archidamus) fall into their hands, is uncertain; however, they were most blamed, as having forced his consent. He, still resolving to remodel the state, bribed the ephors to send him out to war; and won the affections of many others by means of his mother Cratesiclea, who spared no cost and was very zealous to promote her son's ambition; and though of herself she had no inclination to marry, yet for his sake she accepted, as her husband, one of the chiefest citizens for wealth and power.
So Cleomenes leading his army into the field, won a place within the territory of Megalopolis, called Leuctra. The Achaeans also quickly came to their aid, led by Aratus: they straight fought a battle by the city itself, where Cleomenes had the worst on the one side of his army. Howbeit Aratus would not suffer the Achaeans to follow them, because of bogs and quagmires, but sounded the retreat. But Lydiadas, a Megalopolitan, being angry withal, caused the horsemen he had about him to follow the chase, who pursued so fiercely, that they came amongst vines, walls, and ditches, where he was driven to disperse his men, and yet could not get out.
Cleomenes perceiving it, sent some light horsemen of the Tarentines and Cretans against him: by whom Lydiadas, valiantly fighting, was slain. Then the Lacedaemonians, being courageous for this victory, came with great cries; and giving a fierce charge upon the Achaeans, overthrew their whole army, and slew a marvellous number of them. But yet Cleomenes, at their request, suffered them to take up the dead bodies of their men to bury them. For Lydiadas's corpse, he caused it to be brought unto him, and putting a purple robe upon it, and a crown on his head, sent it in this array unto the very gates of the city of Megalopolis [omission].
Cleomenes was very much elated by this success, and was persuaded that if matters were wholly at his disposal he should soon overcome the Achaeans. He persuaded Megistonus, his mother's husband, that it was necessary to take away the authority of the ephors, and to make division of the lands among the Spartans: thus Sparta, being restored to its old equality, might aspire again to the command of all Greece. Megistonus liked the design, and engaged two or three more of his friends [omission for length].
And carrying with him those whom he thought would be most against his project, Cleomenes took Heraea and Asea, two towns in league with the Achaeans, furnished Orchomenus with provisions, encamped before Mantinea, and with long marches up and down so harassed the Lacedaemonians that many of them, at their own request, were left behind in Arcadia, while he with the mercenaries went on toward Sparta; and by the way communicated his design to those whom he thought fitted for his purpose; and marched slowly, that he might catch the ephors at supper.
When he came near unto the city, he sent Eurycleides before, into the hall of the ephors, as though he brought them news out of the camp from him. After him, he sent also Thericion and Phoebis, and two others that had been brought up with him [omission], taking with them a few soldiers.
Now whilst Eurycleides was talking with the ephors, they also came in upon them with the swords drawn, and did set upon the ephors. Agesilaus (#2) was hurt first of all, and falling down, made as though he had been slain, but by little and little he crept out of the hall, and got secretly into a chapel consecrated unto Fear, which was normally kept shut, but then by chance was left open: when he was come in, he shut the door fast to him. The other four of the ephors were slain presently, and above ten more besides, which came to defend them. Furthermore, for them that sat still and stirred not, they killed not a man of them, neither did keep any man that was desirous to go out of the city: but moreover, they pardoned Agesilaus, who came the next morning out of the Chapel of Fear.
Amongst the Lacedaemonians in the city of Sparta, there are not only temples of Fear and Death, but also of Laughter, and of many other such passions of the mind. They do worship Fear, not as other spirits and devils that are hurtful: but because they are persuaded that nothing preserves a commonwealth better than fear. Therefore the ephors (Aristotle is my author), when they entered upon their government, made proclamation to the people, that they should shave their mustaches and be obedient to the laws, that the laws might not be hard upon them; making, I suppose, this trivial injunction to accustom their youth to obedience even in the smallest matters. And the ancients, I think, did not imagine bravery to be plain fearlessness, but a cautious fear of blame and disgrace. For those that show most timidity towards the laws are most bold against their enemies; and those are least afraid of any danger who are most afraid of a just reproach.
[omission for length]
Reading for Lesson Six
The next morning Cleomenes banished, by trumpet, eighty citizens of Sparta, and overthrew all the chairs of the ephors but one only, the which he reserved for himself to sit in to give audience. Then calling the people to council, he gave them a history lesson:
He reminded them that Lycurgus (#1) had joined the senators with the kings, and how the city had been governed a long time by them, without help of any other officers. Notwithstanding, afterwards the city having great wars with the Messenians, the kings being always employed in that war, whereby they could not attend the affairs of the commonwealth at home, did choose certain of their friends to sit in judgment in their steads to determine controversies of laws, which were called ephors, and they did govern long time as the kings' ministers, howbeit that afterwards, by little and little, they took upon them absolute government by themselves and abused that power [omission]. . .
Cleomenes continued his speech:
And therefore, if it had been possible to have banished all these foreign plagues out of Sparta, brought from foreign nations (pleasures, pastimes, money, debts, and usuries, poverty and riches), he might then have esteemed himself the happiest king that ever was, if like a good physician he had cured his country of that infection, without grief or sorrow. But in that he was constrained to begin with blood, he would follow Lycurgus's example: who being neither king nor other magistrate, but a private citizen only, taking upon him the authority of the king, boldly came into the marketplace with force and armed men, and made King Charilaus, that then reigned, so afraid that he was driven to take sanctuary in one of the temples.
But King Charilaus being a prince of a noble nature, and loving the honour of his country, took part with Lycurgus, adding to his advice and counsel for the alteration of the state of the government of the commonwealth, which he did confirm. Hereby, then, it appeareth that Lycurgus saw it was a hard thing to alter the commonwealth without force and fear: in the use of which he himself, he said, had been so moderate as to do no more than put out of the way those who opposed themselves to Sparta's happiness and safety.
For the rest of the nation, the whole land was now their common property; debtors should be cleared of their debts, and examination made of those who were not citizens, that the bravest men might thus be made free Spartans, and give aid in arms to save the city; "and we," he said, "may no longer see Laconia, for want of men to defend it, wasted by the Aetolians and Illyrians."
Then he himself first, with his step-father, Megistonus, and his friends, gave up all their wealth into one public stock, and all the other citizens followed the example. The land was divided, and everyone that he had banished had a share assigned him [as well]; for he promised to restore all as soon as things were settled and in quiet.
So when he had replenished the number of the citizens of Sparta, with the choicest, most honest men of their neighbours: he made four thousand footmen well-armed, and taught them to use their pikes with both hands, instead of their darts with one hand, and to carry their shields with a good strong handle, and not buckled with a leather thong. Afterwards he took order for the education of children, and to restore the ancient Laconian discipline again: and did all these things in manner by the help of Sphaerus the philosopher. Insomuch as he had quickly set up again schoolhouses for children, and also brought them to the older order of diet: and all but a very few, without compulsion, were willing to fall to their old institution of life. And, that the name of monarch might give them no jealousy, he made Eucleidas, his brother, partner in the throne; and that was the only time that Sparta had two kings of the same family.
Furthermore, understanding that the Achaeans and Aratus were of opinion that he would not venture out of Sparta and leave the city now unsettled in the midst of so great an alteration, he thought it great and serviceable to his designs to show his enemies the zeal and forwardness of his troops. And, therefore, making an incursion into the territories of Megalopolis, he wasted the country far and wide, and collected considerable spoils. And at last, taking a company of actors as they were travelling from Messene, he set up a stage within the enemy's country, offering a prize of forty minas for the victor; and sat a whole day to look upon them, not for the pleasure he took in the sight of it, but wishing to show his disregard for his enemies; and by a display of his contempt, to prove the extent of his superiority to them. For his alone, of all the Greek or royal armies, had no stage-players, no jugglers, no dancing or singing women attending it, but was free from all sorts of looseness, wantonness, and festivity; the young men being for the most part at their exercises, and the old men giving them lessons, or, at leisure times, diverting themselves with their native jests, and quick Laconian answers [omission].
But of all these things, the king himself was their schoolmaster and example; he was a living pattern of temperance before every man's eyes; and his course of living was neither more stately, nor more expensive, nor in any way more pretentious, than that of his people. And this was a considerable advantage to him in his designs on Greece. For the Grecians having cause of suit and negotiation with other kings and princes, did not wonder so much at the pomp and riches of those kings, as they did abhor and detest their pride and insolence, so disdainfully they would answer them that had to do with them. But contrarily, when they went unto Cleomenes, who was a king in name and deed as they were, finding no purple robes nor stately mantles, nor rich embroidered beds, nor a prince to be spoken to but by messengers, gentlemen ushers, and supplications, and yet with great ado: and seeing him also come plainly appareled unto them, with a good countenance, and courteously answering the matters they came for: he thereby did marvellously win their hearts and goodwill, that when they returned home, they said he only was the worthy king that came of the race of Hercules.
His common everyday meal was in an ordinary room, very sparing, and after the Laconic manner; and when he entertained ambassadors, or strangers, two more couches were added, and a little better dinner provided by his servants; not with pastry and conserves, but with more store of meat, and some better wine than ordinary. For he one day reproved one of his friends, that, bidding strangers to supper, he gave them nothing but black broth, and brown bread only, according to their Laconian manner: "Nay," said he, "we may not use strangers so hardly after our manner."
After the table was removed, a stand was brought in, whereupon they set a bowl of copper full of wine, two silver bowls, which held about a pint apiece, and a few silver cups, of which he that pleased might drink; but wine was not urged on any of the guests. Furthermore, there was no sport, nor any pleasant song, to make the company merry, nor was any required. For Cleomenes himself would entertain them with some pretty questions, or pleasant tale: whereby, as his talk was not severe and without pleasure, so was it also pleasant without insolence. For he was of opinion, that to win men by gifts or money, as other kings and princes did, was dishonest and artificial: but to seek their goodwills by courteous means, and pleasantries, and therewith to mean good faith, was that which he thought most fit and honourable for a prince. For this was his mind, that there was no other difference betwixt a friend and a mercenary: but that the one is won with money, and the other with civility and good entertainment [Dryden: character and conversation].
Reading for Lesson Seven
The Mantineans were the first that requested Cleomenes' aid; and when he entered their city by night, they aided him to expel the Achaean garrison, and put themselves under his protection. But he, referring them to the use and government of their own laws and liberty, departed from thence the same day, and went unto the city of Tegea. Shortly after, he compassed about Arcadia, and came unto Pherae in Arcadia, intending either to give the Achaeans battle, or to bring Aratus into disrepute for refusing to engage, and suffering him to waste the country. Hyperbatas was at that time general of the Achaeans, but Aratus did bear all the sway and authority, marching forth with their whole strength, and encamping in Dymae, near the Hecatombaeum. Cleomenes came up, and thinking it not advisable to pitch his camp between Dymae, a city of the enemies, and the camp of the Achaeans, he boldly dared the Achaeans, and forced them to a battle, overthrew them, made them flee, and slew a great number in the field, and took many of them also prisoners. Departing from thence, he went and set upon the city of Langon, and drove the garrison of the Achaeans out of it, and restored the city again unto the Eleans.
The Achaeans were then in very hard state. Aratus, who of custom was wont to be their general (or at the least once in two years), refused now to take the charge, although the Achaeans did specially pray and entreat him: the which was an ill act of him, to let another steer the rudder in so dangerous a storm and tempest. Cleomenes at first proposed fair and easy conditions by his ambassadors to the Achaeans; but afterwards he sent others, and required the chief command to be settled upon him; and that for all other matters he would deal reasonably with them, and presently deliver them up their towns and prisoners again, which he had taken of theirs. The Achaeans were willing to come to an agreement upon those terms, and invited Cleomenes to Lerna, where an assembly was to be held. But it chanced then that Cleomenes marching thither, being very hot, drank cold water, and fell of such a bleeding withal, that his voice was taken from him, and he almost stifled. Therefore being unable to continue his journey, he sent the chiefest of the captives to the Achaeans, and, putting off the meeting for some time, retired to Lacedaemon.
This ruined the affairs of Greece, which was just beginning in some sort to recover from its disasters, and to show some capability of delivering itself from the insolence and rapacity of the Macedonians. For Aratus, either for that he trusted not Cleomenes, or for that he was afraid of his power, or that he otherwise envied his honour and prosperity, to see him risen to such incredible greatness in so short a time; and thinking it also too great shame and dishonour to him, to suffer this young man in a moment to deprive him of his great honour and power which he had possessed so long time, by the space of thirty years together, ruling all Greece: first, he sought by force to terrify the Achaeans, and to make them break off from this peace. But in fine, finding that they little regarded his threats, and that he could not prevail with them, for that they were afraid of Cleomenes' valiantness and courage, whose request they thought reasonable, for that he sought but to restore Peloponnesus into her former ancient estate again: he fell then into a practice far unhonest for a Grecian, very infamous for himself, but most dishonourable for the former noble acts he had done. For Aratus brought Antigonus into Greece, and filled the country of Peloponnesus with Macedonians, whom he himself in his youth had driven thence, when he had taken from them the castle of Corinth.
[omission for length and content]
And furthermore, fleeing them that were contented with brown bread, and with the plain coarse capes of the Lacedaemonians, and that went about to take away riches (which was the chiefest matter they did accuse Cleomenes for), and to provide for the poor: he went and put himself and all Achaea into the crown and diadem, the purple robe, and proud imperious commandments of the Macedonians, fearing lest men should think that Cleomenes could command him. Furthermore his folly was such that, having garlands of flowers on his head, he did sacrifice unto Antigonus, and sing songs in praise of his honour, as if he had been a god, where he was but a rotten man, consumed away.
I write this not out of any design to disgrace Aratus, for in many things he showed himself a true lover of Greece, and a great man; but to make us see the frailty and weakness of man's nature: the which, though it have never so excellent virtues, cannot yet bring forth such perfect fruit, but that it hath ever some maim and blemish.
The Achaeans meeting again in assembly at Argos, and Cleomenes having come from Tegea, there were great hopes that all differences would be composed. But Aratus, Antigonus and he having already agreed upon the chief articles of their league, fearing that Cleomenes would carry all before him, and either win or force the multitude to comply with his demands, proposed that, having three hundred hostages put into his hands, he should come alone into the town, or bring his army to the place of exercise, called the Cyllarabium, outside the city, and treat there.
Then Cleomenes had heard their answer, he told them that they had done him wrong: for they should have advertised him of it before he had taken his journey, and not now when he was almost hard at their gates, to send him back again, with a flea in his ear. And writing a letter to the Achaeans about the same subject, the greatest part of which was an accusation of Aratus (while Aratus, on the other side, spoke violently against him to the assembly), he hastily dislodged, and sent a trumpeter to denounce war against the Achaeans: not to Argos, but to Aegium, as Aratus writes, that he might not give them notice enough to make provision for their defense. There had also been a movement among the Achaeans themselves, and the cities were eager for revolt; the common people expecting a division of the land, and a release from their debts, and the chief men being in many places ill-disposed to Aratus, and some of them angry and indignant with him for having brought the Macedonians into Peloponnesus.
Reading for Lesson Eight
Encouraged by [all this], Cleomenes invaded Achaea, and first took Pellene by surprise, and beat out the Achaean garrison, and afterwards brought over Pheneus and Penteleium to his side.
Now the Achaeans, suspecting some treacherous designs at Corinth and Sicyon, sent their horse and mercenaries out of Argos, to have an eye upon those cities; and they themselves went to Argos to celebrate the Nemean Games. Cleomenes thought (which fell out true) that if he went to Argos, he should find the city full of people that were come to see the feasts and games; and that, assailing them upon the sudden, he should put them in a marvellous fear. He marched with his army to the walls, and taking the quarter of the town called Aspis, which lies above the theatre, well-fortified and hard to be approached, he so terrified them that none offered to resist, and they agreed (first) to accept a garrison, (second) to give twenty citizens for hostages, (third) to assist the Lacedaemonians, and (fourth) that he should have the chief command.
This action considerably increased his reputation and his power; for the ancient Spartan kings, though they in many ways endeavoured to effect it, could never bring Argos to be permanently theirs. And Pyrrhus, the most experienced captain, though he entered the city by force, could not keep possession, but was slain himself, with a considerable part of his army. Therefore they admired the diligence and counsel of Cleomenes. And where every man did mock him before, for imitating, as they said, Solon and Lycurgus (#1), in releasing the people from their debts, and in equalizing the property of the citizens, were now forced to admit that this was the cause of the change in the Spartans. For before they were very low in the world, and so weak and out of heart that the Aetolians, invading Laconia, brought away fifty thousand slaves; so that one of the elder Spartans is reported to have said that their enemies had done them a great pleasure, to rid their country of such a rabble of rascals; and yet a little while after, by merely recurring once again to their native customs, and re-entering the track of other ancient discipline, they were able to give, as though it had been under the eyes and conduct of Lycurgus himself, the most signal instances of courage and obedience, raising Sparta to her ancient place as the commanding state of Greece, and recovering all Peloponnesus.
After Cleomenes had taken the city of Argos, the cities also of Cleoneae and Phlius did yield themselves unto him. Aratus in the meantime remained at Corinth, searching after some who were reported to favour the Spartan interest. But when news was brought to him that Argos was taken, and that he perceived also the city of Corinth did lean unto Cleomenes' part, and was willing to be rid of the Achaeans: he then calling the people to council in Corinth, secretly stole to one of the gates of the city, and causing his horse to be brought unto him, took his back, and fled to Sicyon.
When the Corinthians heard of it, they took to their horsebacks also, striving who should be there soonest, and posted in such haste unto Cleomenes at the city of Argos, that many of them (as Aratus writeth) killed their horses by the way; he adds that Cleomenes was very angry with the Corinthians for letting him escape; and that Megistonus came from Cleomenes to him, desiring him to deliver up the castle of Corinth, which was then garrisoned by the Achaeans, and offered him a considerable sum of money; and that he answered that matters were not now in his power, but he in theirs. Thus Aratus himself writes.
Now Cleomenes, departing from the city of Argos, overcame the Troezenians, the Epidaurians, and the Hermioneans. After that, he came unto Corinth, and presently entrenched the castle there round about; and sending for Aratus's friends and stewards, commanded them to keep Aratus's house and goods carefully for him, and sent Tritymallus the Messenian again unto Aratus, desiring that the castle might be equally garrisoned by the Spartans and Achaeans, and promising to Aratus himself double the pension that he received from King Ptolemy. But Aratus refusing it, sent his son unto Antigonus with other hostages, and persuaded the Achaeans to deliver up the castle of Corinth into Antigonus's hands.
Upon this Cleomenes invaded the territory of the Sicyonians, and by a decree of the Corinthians, accepted Aratus's estate as a gift.
In the meantime Antigonus, with a great army, was passing Geranea; and Cleomenes, thinking it more advisable to fortify and garrison, not the isthmus, but the mountains called Onea, and by a war of posts and positions to weary the Macedonians, rather than to venture a set battle with the highly disciplined phalanx, put his design into execution, and very much distressed Antigonus. For he had not brought victuals sufficient for his army; nor was it easy to force a way through whilst Cleomenes guarded the pass. He attempted by night to pass through Lechaeum, but failed and lost some men; so that Cleomenes and his army were mightily encouraged, and so flushed with the victory that they went merrily to supper.
Antigonus on the other side fell into despair, to see himself brought by necessity into such hard terms. He was proposing to march to the promontory of Heraeum, and thence transport his army in boats to Sicyon, which would take up a great deal of time, and require much preparation and means. But the same night there came some of Aratus's friends of the Argives, who coming from Argos by sea, brought news that the Argives were rebelled against Cleomenes. The practiser of this rebellion was one Aristoteles, and he had no hard task to persuade the common people; for they were all angry with Cleomenes for not releasing them from their debts as they expected. Accordingly, obtaining fifteen hundred of Antigonus's soldiers, Aratus sailed to Epidaurus; but Aristoteles, not staying for his coming, drew out the citizens, and fought against the garrison of the castle; and Timoxenus, with the Achaeans from Sicyon, came to his assistance.
Cleomenes heard the news about the second watch of the night. He sent for Megistonus in haste, and commanded him in anger speedily to go and set things right at Argos. Megistonus had passed his word for the Argives' loyalty, and had persuaded him not to banish the suspected. So sending him away forthwith with two thousand men, he himself kept watch upon Antigonus, and encouraged the Corinthians, pretending that there was no great matter in the commotions at Argos, but only a little disturbance raised by a few inconsiderable persons.
But when Megistonus, entering Argos, was slain, and the garrison could scarce hold out, and frequent messengers came to Cleomenes for succour, Cleomenes then being afraid that the enemies having taken Argos, would stop his way to return back into his country, who having opportunity safely to spoil Laconia, and also to besiege the city itself of Sparta, that had but a few men to defend it: he departed with his army from Corinth, and immediately lost that city, for Antigonus entered it, and garrisoned the town.
But when he saw Antigonus with his phalanx descending from the mountains into the plain, and the horse on all sides entering the city, he thought it impossible to maintain his post; and, gathering all his men together, he came safely down and made his retreat under the walls: having in so short a time possessed himself of great power, and in one journey, so to say, having made himself master of all Peloponnesus, and now lost all again in as short a time.
For some of his allies at once withdrew and forsook him; others also immediately after surrendered up their towns unto Antigonus. His hopes thus defeated, as he was leading back the relics of his forces, news came to him in the night from Lacedaemon, which grieved him as much as the loss of all his conquests: for he was advertised of the death of his wife Agiatis, whom he loved so dearly, that in the midst of his chiefest prosperity and victories, he made often journeys to Sparta to see her. It could not be but a marvellous grief unto Cleomenes, who being a young man, had lost so virtuous and fair a young lady, so dearly beloved of him: and yet he gave not place unto his sorrow, neither did grief overcome his noble courage, but he used the selfsame voice, apparel, and countenance, that he did before.
Then taking order with his private captains about his affairs, and having provided also for the safety of the Tegeans: he went the next morning by break of day unto Sparta. After he had privately lamented the sorrow of his wife's death, with his mother and children, he presently bent his mind again to public causes.
Reading for Lesson Nine
Now Cleomenes had sent unto Ptolemy (#1), the king of Egypt, who had promised him aid, but upon demand to have his mother and children in pledge. So he was a long time before he would for shame make his mother privy unto it, and went oftentimes of purpose to let her understand it: but when he first came, he had not the heart to break it to her. She first suspecting a thing, asked Cleomenes' friends, if her son had not somewhat to say unto her, that he dared not utter. At last, Cleomenes venturing to tell her, she fell a-laughing, and told him,
"Why, how cometh it to pass, that thou hast kept it thus long, and wouldst not tell me? Come, come," said she, "put me straight into a ship, and send me whither thou wilt, that this body of mine may do some good unto my country, before crooked age consumes my life without profit."
Then all things being prepared for the journey, they went by land, accompanied with the army, to Taenarus. Where, Cratesiclea being ready to embark, she took Cleomenes aside into the Temple of Neptune, and embracing and kissing him, perceiving that his heart yearned for sorrow of her departure, she said unto him:
"O King of Lacedaemon, let no man see for shame, when we come out of the temple, that we have wept and dishonoured Sparta. For that only is in our power, and for the rest, as it pleaseth the gods, so let it be."
When she had spoken these words, and composed her countenance: she went then to take her ship, with a little son of Cleomenes, and commanded the master of the ship to hoist sail.
Now when she was arrived in Egypt, and understood that Ptolemy received ambassadors from Antigonus, and were in talk to make peace with him: and hearing also that Cleomenes though the Achaeans invited and urged him to an agreement, was afraid, for her sake, to come to any, without Ptolemy's consent; she wrote unto him, that he should not spare to do anything that should be expedient for the honour of Sparta, without fear of displeasing Ptolemy, or for regards of an old woman and a young boy. Such was the noble mind of this worthy lady in her son Cleomenes' adversity.
Furthermore, Antigonus having taken the city of Tegea, and sacked the other cities of Orchomenum, and Mantinea: Cleomenes was shut up within the narrow bounds of Laconia; and making such of the helots as could pay five Attic pounds free of Sparta; and, by that means, getting together five hundred talents, and arming two thousand after the Macedonian fashion, that he might make a body fit to oppose Antigonus's "White Shields," there fell into his mind a marvellous great enterprise, unlooked for of every man.
The city of Megalopolis was at that time as great as Sparta. It had the forces of the Achaeans and of Antigonus encamping beside it; and it was chiefly the Megalopolitans' doing that Antigonus had been called in to assist the Achaeans. Cleomenes, resolving to snatch the city (no other word so well suits so rapid and so surprising an action), commanded his soldiers to victual themselves for five days, and marched to Sellasia, as though he had meant to have ravaged the country of the Argives; but from thence making a descent into the territories of Megalopolis, and refreshing his army about Rhoeteum, he suddenly took the road by Helicus, and advanced directly upon the city. When he was not far off the town, he sent Panteus, with two regiments, to surprise a portion of the wall between two towers, which he learnt to be the most unguarded quarter of the Megalopolitans' fortifications; and with the rest of his forces he followed leisurely. When Panteus came thither, finding not only that place of the wall without guard or watch which Cleomenes had told him of, but also the most part of that side without defense: he took some part of the wall at his first coming, and manned it, and overthrew another piece of it also, putting them all to the sword that did defend it.
Whilst he was thus busied, Cleomenes came up to him, and was got with his army within the city, before the Megalopolitans knew of the surprise. When, after some time, they learned their misfortune, some left the town immediately, taking with them what property they could; others armed and engaged the enemy; and though they were not able to beat them out, yet they gave their citizens time and opportunity safely to retire, so that there were not above one thousand persons taken in the town, all the rest flying, with their wives and children, and escaping to Messene.
The greatest number, also, of those that armed and fought the enemy were saved, and very few taken, amongst whom were Lysandridas and Thearidas, two men of great power and reputation amongst the Megalopolitans; and therefore the soldiers, as soon as they were taken, brought them to Cleomenes. And Lysandridas, when he saw Cleomenes a good way off, cried out aloud unto him: "O King of Lacedaemon, this day thou hast an occasion offered thee to do a more famous princely act, than that which thou hast already done, and that will make thy name also more glorious."
Cleomenes musing what he would request: "Well," quoth he, "what is that thou requirest? One thing I will tell thee beforehand, thou shalt not make me restore your city to you again."
"Yet," quoth Lysandridas, "let me request thus much then, that ye do not destroy it, but rather replenish it with friends and confederates, which hereafter will be true and faithful to you: and that shall you do, giving the Megalopolitans their city again, and preserving such a number of people as have forsaken it."
Cleomenes pausing awhile, answered that it was a hard thing to believe that. "But yet," quoth he, "let honour take place with us, before profit." Having said this, he sent the two men to Messene with a herald from himself, offering the Megalopolitans their city again, if they would forsake the Achaean interest, and be on his side.
But though Cleomenes made these generous and humane proposals, Philopoemen would not suffer them to break their league with the Achaeans; and accusing Cleomenes to the people, as if his design was not to restore the city, but to take the citizens too, he forced Thearidas and Lysander to leave Messene. (This was that Philopoemen who was afterwards chief of the Achaeans and a man of the greatest reputation amongst the Greeks, as I have related it in his own Life.)
This news coming to Cleomenes, though he had before taken strict care that the city should not be plundered, yet then, being in anger, and out of all patience, he despoiled the place of all the valuables, and sent the statues and the pictures to Sparta; and demolished a great part of the city. He then marched away for fear of Antigonus and the Achaeans; but they never stirred, for they were at Aegium, at a council of war. There Aratus mounted the speaker's place, and wept a long while, holding his mantle before his face; and at last, the company being amazed, and commanding him to speak, he said, "Megalopolis is destroyed by Cleomenes." The assembly instantly dissolved, the Achaeans being astounded at the suddenness and greatness of the loss; and Antigonus, intending to send speedy succours, when he found his forces gather very slowly out of their winter quarters, sent them orders to continue there still; and he himself marched to Argos with a small body of men.
Reading for Lesson Ten
And now the second enterprise of Cleomenes, though it had the look of a desperate and frantic adventure, yet in Polybius's opinion, was done with maturedeliberation and great foresight. For knowing very well that the Macedonians were dispersed into their winter quarters, and that Antigonus with his friends and a few mercenaries about him wintered in Argos: upon these considerations (Cleomenes) invaded the country of the Argives, hoping to shame Antigonus to a battle upon unequal terms, or else if he did not dare to fight, to bring him into disrepute with the Achaeans. And this accordingly happened. For Cleomenes wasting, plundering, and spoiling the whole country, the Argives, in grief and anger at the loss, gathered in crowds at the king's gates, crying out that he should either fight, or surrender his command to better and braver men.
But Antigonus, as became an experienced captain, accounting it rather dishonourable foolishly to hazard his army and quit his security, than merely to be railed at by other people, would not march out against Cleomenes, but stood firm to his convictions. Cleomenes, in the meantime, brought his army up to the very walls; and having without opposition spoiled the country, and insulted over his enemies, drew off again.
A little while after, being informed that Antigonus designed a new advance to Tegea, and thence to invade Laconia, Cleomenes rapidly took his soldiers, and marching by a side-road, appeared early in the morning before Argos, and wasted the fields about it. The corn he did not cut down, as is usual, with reaping-hooks and knives, but beat it down with great wooden staves made like broadswords, as if, in mere contempt and wanton scorn, while travelling on his way, without any effort or trouble, he spoiled and destroyed their harvest. But when they came to the exercise ground called Cyllabaris, certain of the soldiers going about to have set it afire, Cleomenes would not suffer them, and told them that the mischief he had done at Megalopolis was rather angrily than honestly done.
And when Antigonus, first of all, came hastily back to Argos, and then occupied the mountains and passes with his posts, he (Cleomenes) professed to disregard and despise it all; and sent heralds to him to desire the keys of the Temple of Juno, as if after he had done sacrifice, he would depart his way. And with this scornful pleasantry upon Antigonus, having sacrificed to the goddess under the walls of the temple, which was shut, he went to Phlius; and from thence driving out those that garrisoned Oligyrtus, he marched down to Orchomenus.
These enterprises not only encouraged the citizens, but made him appear to the very enemies to be a man worthy of high command, and capable of great things. For every man judged him to be a skillful soldier, and a valiant captain, that with the power of one only city, he did maintain war against the kingdom of Macedon, against all the people of Peloponnesus, and against the treasure of so great a king: and withal, not only to keep his own country of Laconia from being spoiled, but far otherwise to hurt his enemies' countries, and to take so many great cities of theirs [omission].
King Antigonus, coming to the war with great resources to spend, wore out Cleomenes, whose poverty made it difficult for him to provide the merest sufficiency of pay for the mercenaries, or of provisions for the citizens. For, in all other respects, time favoured Cleomenes; for Antigonus's affairs at home began to be disturbed. For the barbarians wasted and overran Macedonia while he was absent, and at that particular time a vast army of Illyrians had entered the country; to be freed from whose devastations, the Macedonians sent for Antigonus. If these letters had been brought to him but a little before the battle, Antigonus would have gone his way, and left the Achaeans.
But Fortune, that loves to determine the greatest affairs by a minute, in this conjecture showed such an exact niceness of time, that immediately after the Battle of Sellasia was over, and Cleomenes had lost his army and his city, the messengers came up and called for Antigonus; the which made the overthrow of King Cleomenes so much more lamentable. For if he had delayed battle but two days longer, when the Macedonians had been gone, he might have made what peace he would with the Achaeans: but for lack of money, he was driven (as Polybius writeth) to give battle with twenty thousand men against thirty thousand. And approving himself an admirable commander in this difficulty, his citizens showing an extraordinary courage, and his mercenaries bravery enough, he was overborne by the different way of fighting, and the weight of the heavy-armed phalanx.
Phylarchus also affirms that the treachery of some about him was the chief cause of Cleomenes' ruin. For Antigonus gave orders that the Illyrians and Acarnanians should march round by a secret way, and encompass the other wing, which Eucleidas, Cleomenes' brother, commanded; and then drew out the rest of his forces to the battle. And Cleomenes, from a convenient rising, viewing his order, and not seeing any of the Illyrians and Acarnanians, began to suspect that Antigonus had sent them upon some such design; and calling for Damoteles, who was at the head of those specially appointed to such ambush duty, he bade him carefully to look after and discover the enemy's designs upon the rear. Damoteles, that was bribed before (as it is reported) with money, told him that all was clear in the rearward, and bade him look to overthrow his enemies before him.
Cleomenes trusting this report, set forward against Antigonus, and in the end, his citizens of Sparta which he had about him gave such a fierce charge upon the squadron of the Macedonian footmen, that they drove them back about half a mile off. But then making a stand, and seeing the danger which the surrounding wing, commanded by his brother Eucleidas, was in, he cried out aloud: "Alas, good brother, thou art but slain, yet thou diest valiantly, and honestly, and thy death shall be a worthy example unto all posterity, and shall be sung by the praises of the women of Sparta."
So Eucleidas and his men being slain, the enemies came straight to set upon Cleomenes' wing. Cleomenes then seeing his men discouraged, and that they dared no longer resist the enemy, fled, and saved himself. Many of the mercenary soldiers also were slain at this battle; and of six thousand Spartans, there were left alive but only two hundred.
Now Cleomenes being returned unto Sparta, the citizens coming to see him, he gave them counsel to yield themselves unto Antigonus the conqueror; and for himself, if either alive or dead he could do anything for the honour and benefit of Sparta, that he would willingly do it. The women of the city also, coming unto them that fleeing had escaped with him, when he saw them unarm the men, and bring them drink to refresh them with; he also went home to his own house.
Then a maid of the house [omission] came unto him as her manner was, to refresh him coming hot from the battle: howbeit he would not drink though he was extreme dry, nor sit being very weary, but armed as he was, laid his arm across upon a pillar, and leaning his head upon it, reposed himself a little, and casting in his mind all the ways that were to be thought of; and then with his friends set out at once for the harbour of Gythium, and there having his ships which he had appointed for the purpose, he hoisted sail, and departed his way.
Immediately after his departure, came Antigonus into the city of Sparta, and treated courteously the citizens and inhabitants he found, and did offend no man, nor proudly despise the ancient honour and dignity of Sparta, but referring them to their own laws and government. When he had sacrificed to the gods for his victory, he departed from thence the third day. For he heard that there was a great war in Macedonia, and that the country was devastated by the barbarians.
[Antigonus died shortly after this.]
Reading for Lesson Eleven
Now Cleomenes, sailing from Cythera, went and cast anchor in another island, called Aegialia. Then determining to sail over to the city of Cyrene, Therycion, one of Cleomenes' friends (a man that in wars showed himself very valiant, but a boaster beside of his own doings) took Cleomenes aside, and said thus unto him:
"Truly O King, we have lost an honourable occasion to die in battle, though every man hath heard us vaunt and say that Antigonus should never overcome the king of Sparta alive, but dead. A second occasion yet is offered us to die, with much less honour and fame notwithstanding, than the first. Whither do we sail to no purpose? Why do we flee the death at hand, and seek it so far off?. . . let us save ourselves unto Antigonus, who in likelihood will better use us than Ptolemy, because the Macedonians are far more noble persons than the Egyptians. And if we disdain to be commanded by them which have overcome us in battle, why then will we make him lord of us, that hath not overcome us: instead of one, to make us inferior unto both, fleeing Antigonus, and serving King Ptolemy? Can we say that we go into Egypt, in respect to see your mother there? A joyful sight no doubt, when she shall show King Ptolemy's wives her son, that before was a king, a prisoner, and fugitive now. Were it not better for us, that having yet Laconia our country in sight, and our swords besides in our own hands, to deliver us from this great misery, and clear ourselves to those who at Sellasia died for the honour and defense of Sparta? Or, shall we sit lazily in Egypt, inquiring what news from Sparta, and whom Antigonus hath been pleased to make governor of Lacedaemon?"
Therycion ending his oration, Cleomenes answered him thus:
"Dost thou think it a glory for thee to seek death, which is the easiest matter, and the presentest unto any man, that can be? And yet, wretch that thou art, thou fleest now more cowardly and shamefully than from the battle. For divers valiant men, and far better than ourselves, have often yielded unto their enemies, either by some misfortune, or compelled by greater number and multitude of men: but he, say I, that submitteth himself unto pain and misery because of the reproach and praise of men, he cannot but confess that he is overcome by his own unhappiness. For, when a man will willingly kill himself, he must not do it to be rid of pains and labour, but it must have an honourable respect and action. For, to live or die for his own respect, that cannot but be dishonourable: the which now thou persuadest me unto, to make me flee this present misery we are in, without any honour or profit in our death. And therefore, I am of opinion, that we should not yet cast off the hope we have to serve our country in time to come: but when all hope faileth us, then we may easily make ourselves away when we list."
Thereunto Therycion gave no answer; but as soon as he found opportunity to slip from Cleomenes, he went to the seaside, and slew himself.
Cleomenes hoisting sail from Aegialia, landed in Libya, and was brought by the king's servants unto the city of Alexandria. King Ptolemy (#1), at his first coming, gave Cleomenes no special good, but indifferent entertainment. But when, upon trial, he found him a man of deep sense and great reason, and that his plain Laconic way of conversation carried with it a noble and becoming grace, that he did nothing unbecoming his birth, nor bent under fortune, and was evidently a more faithful counsellor than those who made it their business to please and flatter, he was ashamed, and repented that he had neglected so great a man, and suffered Antigonus to get so much power and reputation by ruining him. Then he began to comfort Cleomenes, and doing him as great honour as could be, promised that he would send him with ships and money into Greece, and put him again into his kingdom: and further, gave him an annual pension in the meantime, of four-and-twenty talents, with the which he simply and soberly entertained himself and his men about him: and bestowed all the rest in assisting his countrymen that came out of Greece into Egypt.
But the elder Ptolemy died before Cleomenes' affairs had received a full dispatch. His successor, Ptolemy IV Philopator (#2), was [omission] so given over to women and wine that when he was most sober, and in his best wits, he most disposed himself to make feasts and sacrifices [omission], and to gather people together, like a stage player or juggler, whilst his women did rule all the affairs of the state [omission].
But when he came to be king, it appeared he had need of Cleomenes: because he was afraid of his brother Magas, who by his mother's means, was very well esteemed of among the soldiers. Wherefore he called Cleomenes to him, and made him one of his privy council, and acquainted him with the design of taking off his brother. All other of his friends did counsel him to do it; but Cleomenes only vehemently dissuaded him from it, and told him, that if it were possible, rather more brethren should be begotten unto the king for the safety of his person, and for dividing of the affairs of the kingdom between them.
And Sosibius, the king's greatest favourite, replying that they were not secure of the mercenaries whilst Magas was alive, Cleomenes returned that he need not trouble himself about that matter; for amongst the mercenaries there were above three thousand Peloponnesians, which he knew, at the twinkling of an eye, would be at his commandment to come with their armour and weapons where he would appoint them. These words of Cleomenes at that time showed his faith and the good will he bore unto the king, and the force he was of besides.
But afterwards, Ptolemy's fearfulness increasing his mistrust (as it commonly happeneth, that they that lack wit, think it the best safety to be fearful of every wagging of a straw, and to mistrust every man), the remembrance of Cleomenes' words made him much suspected of the courtiers, understanding that he had too much interest with the mercenaries; and many had this saying in their mouths, that he was a lion amidst a flock of sheep. For, in fact, such he seemed to be in the court, quietly watching and keeping his eye upon all that went on.
Reading for Lesson Twelve
He therefore gave up all thought of asking for ships and soldiers from the king. But receiving news that Antigonus was dead, that the Achaeans were engaged in a war with the Aetolians, and that the affairs of Peloponnesus, being now in very great distraction and disorder, required and invited his assistance, he desired leave to depart only with his friends; but could not obtain that, the king not so much as hearing his petition, because he was continually entertained among ladies, with banquets, dancing, and masques.
But Sosibius, that ruled all the realm, thought that to keep Cleomenes against his will were a hard thing, and also dangerous: and to let him go also, knowing that he was a valiant man, and of a stirring mind, and one that knew the vices and imperfections of their government: he thought that also no safe way, since no gifts nor presents that could be offered him, could soften him [omission].
Now Cleomenes standing in these terms, there arrived in Alexandria one Nicagoras, a Messenian, who maliced Cleomenes in his heart, but pretended to be his friend. This Nicagoras on a time had sold Cleomenes certain land, but was not paid for it, either because he had no present money, or else by occasion of the wars which gave him no leisure to make payment. Cleomenes, one day by chance walking upon the sands, he saw Nicagoras landing out of his ship, being newly arrived, and knowing him, he courteously welcomed him, and asked what wind had brought him into Egypt. Nicagoras gently saluting him again, told him that he had brought King Ptolemy (#2) excellent horses of service. Cleomenes smiling, told him, "Thou hadst been better have brought him some [dancers and people to amuse him, my paraphrase], for they would have pleased the king better." Nicagoras faintly laughed at his answer; but within a few days after he did put him in remembrance of the land he sold him, and desired his money, protesting that he would not have troubled him if his merchandise had turned out as profitable as he had thought it would. Cleomenes answered him, that he had nothing left of all that had been given him. Nicagoras, being offended with this answer, went and told Sosibius of the mock Cleomenes gave the king. Sosibius was glad of this occasion, but yet desiring further matter to make the king offended with Cleomenes, he persuaded Nicagoras to write a letter to the king against Cleomenes, as though he had conspired to take the city of Cyrene, if the king had given him ships, money, and men of war. When Nicagoras had written this letter, he took ship, and hoisted sail. Four days after his departure, Sosibius brought his letter to the king, as though he had but newly received it; and excited the young man's fear and anger; upon which it was agreed that Cleomenes should be invited into a large house, and treated as formerly, but not suffered to go out again.
This grieved Cleomenes much, but yet he was worse afraid of that which was to come, by this occasion: Ptolemy the son of Chrysermus (#3), one of the king's familiars, who had oftentimes before been very conversant and familiar with Cleomenes, and did frankly talk together in all matters: Cleomenes one day sent for him, to pray him to come unto him. Ptolemy (#3) came at his request, and familiarly discoursing together, went about to dissuade him from all the suspicions he had, and excused the king also for that which he had done unto him: so taking his leave he left him, not thinking that Cleomenes followed him (as he did) to the gate, where he sharply took up the soldiers, saying, that they were very negligent and careless in looking to "such a fearful beast as he was," and so ill to be taken, if he once escaped their hands. Cleomenes heard what he said, and went into his lodging again, Ptolemy knowing nothing that he was behind him: and Cleomenes reported the very words again unto his friends.
Then all the Spartans converting their good hope into anger, determined to be revenged of the injury Ptolemy had done them, and to die like noble Spartans, and not stay till, like fatted sacrifices, they were butchered [omission].
They being fully resolved hereof, as you have heard: King Ptolemy (#2) by chance went unto the city of Canopus, and first they gave out in Alexandria, that the king minded to set Cleomenes at liberty. Then Cleomenes' friends observing the custom of the kings of Egypt, when they meant to set a prisoner at liberty (which was to send the prisoners meat and presents) did sent unto him such manner of presents, and so deceived the soldiers that had the keeping of him, saying that they brought those presents from the king. For Cleomenes himself did sacrifice unto the gods, and sent unto the soldiers that kept him, part of those presents that were sent unto him; and supping with his friends that night, made merry with them, every man being crowned with garlands [omission].
As soon as it was full moon, and all the keepers sleeping off their wine, he put on his coat, and opening his seam to bare his right shoulder, with his drawn sword in his hand, he issued forth, together with his friends provided in the same manner, making thirteen in all.
Amongst them there was one called Hippitas, who being lame, followed the first onset very well, but when he presently perceived that they were more slow in their advances for his sake, he prayed them to kill him, because they should not hinder their enterprise for him [omission]. By chance an Alexandrian was then riding by the door; him they threw off, and setting Hippitas on horseback, ran through the streets and cried to the people, "Liberty, liberty."
Now the people had no other courage in them, but only commended Cleomenes, and wondered at his valiantness: but otherwise to follow him, or to further his enterprise, not a man of them had any heart in them. Thus running up and down the town, they met with Ptolemy (#3) Chrysermus as he came out of the court: whereupon three of them setting on him, slew him presently. There was also another Ptolemy (#4) that was governor and lieutenant of the city of Alexandria: who hearing a rumour of this stir, came unto him in his coach. They went and met him, and first having driven away his guard and soldiers that went before him, they plucked him out of his coach, and slew him also.
After that they went towards the castle, with intent to set all the prisoners there at liberty to take their part; but the keepers were too quick for them, and secured the passages. Being baffled in this attempt, Cleomenes with his company roamed about the city, none joining with him, but all retreating from and fleeing his approach. Therefore, despairing of success, he said to his friends, "It is no marvel that women command such a cowardly people, that flee in this sort from their liberty." Thereupon he prayed them all to die like men, and like those that were brought up with him, and that were worthy of the fame of his so noble deeds.
Then the first man that made himself be slain was Hippitas, who died of a wound one of the young men of his company gave him with a sword, at his request. After him every man slew themselves, one after another, without any fear at all, saving Panteus, the same who first surprised Megalopolis. He was a fair young man, and had been very well brought up in the Laconian discipline, and better than any man of his years. Cleomenes did love him dearly, and commanded him that when he should see he were dead, and all the rest also, that then he should kill himself last of all. Panteus walked over them as they lay, and pricked every one with his dagger, to try whether any was alive; when he pricked Cleomenes on the heel amongst others, and saw that [omission] he was dead, he also slew himself, and fell upon him. Thus Cleomenes having reigned as king of Sparta sixteen years, being the same manner of man we have described him to be: he ended his days in this sort as ye hear.
[omission for length and content]
AmblesideOnline Plutarch Readings:
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey, Pt 1 Pompey, Pt 2 Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus
Aemilius Agis Alcibiades Alexander Aristides Brutus Julius Caesar Camillus Cato Cicero Coriolanus Crassus Demetrius Demosthenes Dion Fabius Gracchus Nicias Pericles Philopoemen Phocion Pompey, Pt 1 Pompey, Pt 2 Publicola Pyrrhus Solon Themistocles Timoleon Titus Flamininus