Translated by John Dryden
Archidamus, the son of Zeuxidamus, having
reigned gloriously over the Lacedaemonians, left behind him two sons, Agis the
elder, begotten of Lampido, a noble lady, Agesilaus, much the younger, born of Eupolia,
the daughter of Melesippidas. Now the succession belonging to Agis by law,
Agesilaus, who in all probability was to be but a private man, was educated
according to the usual discipline of the country, hard and severe, and meant to
teach young men to obey their superiors. Whence it was that, men say, Simonides
While he was yet a boy, bred up in one of what are called the flocks, or classes, he attracted the attachment of Lysander, who was particularly struck with the orderly temper that he manifested. For though he was one of the highest spirits, emulous above any of his companions, ambitious of pre-eminence in everything, and showed an impetuosity and fervour of mind which irresistibly carried him through all opposition or difficulty he could meet with; yet, on the other side, he was so easy and gentle in his nature, and so apt to yield to authority, that though he would do nothing on compulsion, upon ingenuous motives he would obey any commands, and was more hurt by the least rebuke or disgrace than he was distressed by any toil or hardship.
He had one leg shorter than the other, but this deformity was little observed in the general beauty of his person in youth. And the easy way in which he bore (he being the first always to pass a jest upon himself) went far to make it disregarded. And indeed his high spirit and eagerness to distinguish himself were all the more conspicuous by it, since he never let his lameness withhold him from any toil or any brave action. Neither his statue nor picture are extant, he never allowing them in his life, and utterly forbidding them to be made after his death. He is said to have been a little man, of a contemptible presence; but the goodness of his humour, and his constant cheerfulness and playfulness of temper, always free from anything of moroseness or haughtiness, made him more attractive, even to his old age, than the most beautiful and youthful men of the nation. Theophrastus writes that the Ephors laid a fine upon Archidamus for marrying a little wife, "For," said they, "she will bring us a race of kinglets, instead of kings."
Whilst Agis, the elder brother, reigned, Alcibiades, being
then an exile from Athens, came from Sicily to Sparta; nor had he stayed long
there before his familiarity with Timaea, the king's wife, grew suspected,
insomuch that Agis refused to own a child of hers, which, he said, was
Alcibiades's, not his. Nor, if we may believe Duris, the historian, was Timaea
much concerned at it, being herself forward enough to whisper among her helot
maid-servants that the infant's true name was Alcibiades, not Leotychides.
Meanwhile it was believed that the amour he had with her was not the effect of
his love but of his ambition, that he might have Spartan kings of his
posterity. This affair being grown public, it became needful for Alcibiades to
Agesilaus was upon these allegations declared king, and soon possessed himself of the private estate of Agis, as well as his throne, Leotychides being wholly rejected as a bastard. He now turned his attention to his kindred by the mother's side, persons of worth and virtue, but miserably poor. To them he gave half his brother's estate, and by this popular act gained general good-will and reputation, in the place of the envy and ill-feeling which the inheritance might otherwise have procured him. What Xenophon tells us of him, that by complying with, and, as it were, being ruled by his country, he grew into such great power with them, that he could do what he pleased, is meant to apply to the power he gained in the following manner with the Ephors and Elders. These were at that time of the greatest authority in the state; the former, officers annually chosen; the Elders, holding their places during life; both instituted, as already told in the life of Lycurgus, to restrain the power of the kings. Hence it was that there was always from generation to generation a feud and contention between them and the kings. But Agesilaus took another course. Instead of contending with them, he courted them in all proceedings he commenced by taking their advice, was always ready to go, nay almost run, when they called him; if he were upon his royal seat, hearing causes, and the Ephors came in, he rose to them; whenever any man was elected into the Council of Elders he presented him with a gown and an ox. Thus, whilst he made a show of deference to them, and of a desire to extend their authority, he secretly advanced his own, and enlarged the prerogatives of the kings by several liberties which their friendship to his person conceded.
To other citizens he so behaved himself as to be less blamable in his enmities than in his friendships; for against his enemy he forbore to take any unjust advantage, but his friends he would assist, even in what was unjust. If an enemy had done anything praiseworthy, he felt it shameful to detract from his due, but his friends he knew not how to reprove when they did ill, nay, he would eagerly join with them, and assist them in their misdeed, and thought all offices of friendship commendable, let the matter in which they were employed be what it would. Again, when any of his adversaries was overtaken in a fault, he would be the first to pity him; and he soon entreated to procure his pardon, by which he won the hearts of all men. Insomuch that his popularity grew at last suspected by the Ephors, who laid a fine on him, professing that he was appropriating the citizens to himself who ought to be the common property of the state. For as it is the opinion of philosophers, that could you take away strife and opposition out of the universe, all the heavenly bodies would stand still, generation and motion would cease in the mutual concord and agreement of all things, so the Spartan legislator seems to have admitted ambition and emulation among the ingredients of his commonwealth, as the incentives of virtue, distinctly wishing that there should be some dispute and competition among his men of worth, and pronouncing the mere idle, uncontested, mutual compliance to unproved deserts to be but a false sort of concord. And some think Homer had an eye to this when he introduces Agamemnon well pleased with the quarrel arising between Ulysses and Achilles, and with the "terrible words" that passed between them, which he would never have done, unless he had thought emulation and dissensions between the noblest men to be of great public benefit. Yet this maxim is not simply to be granted, without restriction, for if animosities go too far they are very dangerous to cities and of most pernicious consequence.
When Agesilaus was newly entered upon the government, there
came news from
Whilst the army was collecting to the rendezvous at Geraestus, Agesilaus went with some of his friends to Aulis, where in a dream he saw a man approach him, and speak to him after this manner: "O king of the Lacedaemonians, you cannot but know that, before yourself, there hath been but one general captain of the whole of the Greeks, namely, Agamemnon; now, since you succeed him in the same office and command the same men, since you war against the same enemies, and begin your expedition from the same place, you ought also to offer such a sacrifice as he offered before he weighed anchor." Agesilaus at the same moment remembered that the sacrifice which Agamemnon offered was his own daughter, he being so directed by the oracle. Yet was he not at all disturbed by it, but as soon as he arose, he told his dream to his friends, adding that he would propitiate the goddess with the sacrifices a goddess must delight in, and would not follow the ignorant example of his predecessor. He therefore ordered an hind to be crowned with chaplets, and bade his own soothsayer perform the rite, not the usual person whom the Boeotians, in ordinary course, appointed to that office. When the Boeotian magistrates understood it, they were much offended, and sent officers to Agesilaus to forbid his sacrificing contrary to the laws of the country. These, having delivered their message to him, immediately went to the altar and threw down the quarters of the hind that lay upon it. Agesilaus took this very ill, and without further sacrifice immediately sailed away, highly displeased with the Boeotians, and much discouraged in his mind at the omen, boding to himself an unsuccessful voyage and an imperfect issue of the whole expedition.
When he came to Ephesus, he found the power and interest of Lysander, and the honours paid to him, insufferably great; all applications were made to him, crowds of suitors attended at his door, and followed upon his steps, as if nothing but the mere name of commander belonged, to satisfy the usage, to Agesilaus, the whole power of it being devolved upon Lysander. None of all the commanders that had been sent into Asia was either so powerful or so formidable as he; no one had rewarded his friends better, or had been more severe against his enemies; which things having been lately done, made the greater impression on men's minds, especially when they compared the simple and popular behaviour of Agesilaus with the harsh and violent and brief-spoken demeanour which Lysander still retained. Universal preference was yielded to this, and little regard shown to Agesilaus. This first occasioned offence to the other Spartan captains, who resented that they should rather seem the attendants of Lysander, than the councillors of Agesilaus. And at length Agesilaus himself, though not perhaps an envious man in his nature, nor apt to be troubled at the honours redounding upon other men, yet eager for honour and jealous of his glory, began to apprehend that Lysander's greatness would carry away from him the reputation of whatever great action should happen. He therefore went this way to work. He first opposed him in all his counsels; whatever Lysander specially advised was rejected, and other proposals followed. Then whoever made any address to him, if he found him attached to Lysander, certainly lost his suit. So also in judicial cases, any one whom he spoke strongly against was sure to come off with success, and any man whom he was particularly solicitous to procure some benefit for might think it well if he got away without an actual loss.
These things being clearly not done by chance, but constantly and of a set purpose, Lysander was soon sensible of them, and hesitated not to tell his friends, that they suffered for his sake, bidding them apply themselves to the king, and such as were more powerful with him than he was. Such sayings of his seeming to be designed purposely to excite ill-feeling, Agesilaus went on to offer himself a more open affront, appointing him his meat-carver, and would in public companies, scornfully say, "Let them go now and pay their court to my carver." Lysander, no longer able to brook these indignities, complained at last to Agesilaus himself, telling him that he knew very well how to humble his friends. Agesilaus answered, "I know certainly how to humble those who pretend to more power than myself." "That," replied Lysander, "is perhaps rather said by you, than done by me: I desire only that you will assign me some office and place in which I may serve you without incurring your displeasure."
Upon this Agesilaus sent him to the Hellespont, whence he
procured Spithridates, a Persian of the
Tisaphernes, being at first afraid of Agesilaus, treated with him about setting the Grecian cities at liberty, which was agreed on. But soon after finding a sufficient force drawn together, he resolved upon war, for which Agesilaus was not sorry. For the expectation of this expedition was great, and he did not think it for his honour that Xenophon with ten thousand men should march through the heart of Asia to the sea, beating the Persian forces when and how he pleased, and that he at the head of the Spartans, then sovereigns both at sea and land, should not achieve some memorable action for Greece. And so to be even with Tisaphernes, he requites his perjury by a fair stratagem. He pretends to march into Caria, whither, when he has drawn Tisaphernes and his army, he suddenly turns back, and falls upon Phrygia, takes many of their cities, and carries away great booty, showing his allies that to break a solemn league was a downright contempt of the gods, but the circumvention of an enemy in war was not only just but glorious, a gratification at once and an advantage.
Being weak in horse, and discouraged by ill-omens in the
sacrifices, he retired to
When by Agesilaus's order the prisoners he had taken in
The season of the year being come, he boldly gave out that
he would invade Lydia; and this plain dealing of his was now mistaken for a
stratagem by Tisaphernes, who by not believing Agesilaus, having been already
deceived by him, overreached himself. He expected that he should have made
Having removed his camp into Pharnabazus's province, he not only met with great plenty of provisions, but also raised great sums of money, and marching on to the bounds of Paphlagonia, he soon drew Cotys, the king of it, into a league, to which he of his own accord inclined, out of the opinion he had of Agesilaus's honour and virtue. Spithridates, from the time of his abandoning Pharnabazus, constantly attended Agesilaus in the camp whithersoever he went. This Spithridates had a son, a very handsome boy, called Megabates, of whom Agesilaus was extremely fond, and also a very beautiful daughter that was marriageable. Her Agesilaus matched to Cotys, and taking of him a thousand horse, with two thousand light-armed foot, he returned into Phrygia, and there pillaged the country of Pharnabazus, who durst not meet him in the field, nor yet trust to his garrisons, but getting his valuables together, got out of the way and moved about up and down with a flying army, till Spithridates, joining with Herippidas the Spartan, took his camp and all his property. Herippidas being too severe an inquirer into the plunder with which the barbarian soldiers had enriched themselves, and forcing them to deliver it up with too much strictness, so disobliged Spithridates with his questioning and examining that he changed sides again, and went off with the Paphlagonians to Sardis. This was a very great vexation to Agesilaus, not only that he had lost the friendship of a gallant commander, and with him a considerable part of his army, but still more that it had been done with the disrepute of a sordid and petty covetousness, of which he always had made it a point of honour to keep both himself and his country clear. Besides these public causes, he had a private one, his excessive fondness for the son, which touched him to the quick, though he endeavoured to master it, and, especially in presence of the boy, to suppress all appearance of it; so much so that when Megabates, for that was his name, came once to receive a kiss from him, he declined it. At which, when the young boy blushed and drew back, and afterward saluted him at a more reserved distance, Agesilaus soon repenting his coldness, and changing his mind, pretended to wonder why he did not salute him with the same familiarity as formerly. His friends about him answered, "You are in the fault, who would not accept the kiss of the boy, but turned away in alarm; he would come to you again if you would have the courage to let him do so." Upon this Agesilaus paused a while, and at length answered, "You need not encourage him to it; I think I had rather be master of myself in that refusal, than see all things that are now before my eyes turned into gold." Thus he demeaned himself to Megabates when present, but he had so great a passion for him in his absence, that it may be questioned whether, if the boy had returned again, all the courage he had would have sustained him in such another refusal.
After this Pharnabazus sought an opportunity of conferring with Agesilaus, which Apollophanes of Cyzicus, the common host of them both, procured for him. Agesilaus coming first to the appointed place, threw himself down upon the grass under a tree, lying there in expectation of Pharnabazus, who, bringing with him soft skins and wrought carpets to lie down upon, when he saw Agesilaus's posture, grew ashamed of his luxuries, and made no use of them, but laid himself down upon the grass also, without regard for his delicate and richly dyed clothing. Pharnabazus had matter enough of complaint against Agesilaus, and therefore, after the mutual civilities were over, he put him in mind of the great services he had done the Lacedaemonians in the Attic war, of which he thought it an ill recompense to have his country thus harassed and spoiled by those men who owed so much to him. The Spartans that were present hung down their heads, as conscious of the wrong they had done to their ally. But Agesilaus said, "We, O Pharnabazus, when we were in amity with your master the king, behaved ourselves like friends, and now that we are at war with him, we behave ourselves as enemies. As for you, we must look upon you as a part of his property, and must do these outrages upon you, not intending the harm to you, but to him whom we wound through you. But whenever you will choose rather to be a friend to the Grecians than a slave of the King of Persia, you may then reckon this army and navy to be all at your command, to defend both you, your country, and your liberties, without which there is nothing honourable or indeed desirable among men." Upon this Pharnabazus discovered his mind, and answered, "If the king sends another governor in my room, I will certainly come over to you, but as long as he trusts me with the government I shall be just to him, and not fail to do my utmost endeavours in opposing you." Agesilaus was taken with the answer and shook hands with him; and rising, said, "How much rather had I have so brave a man my friend than my enemy."
Pharnabazus being gone off, his son staying behind, ran up
to Agesilaus, and smilingly said, "Agesilaus, I make you my guest;"
and thereupon presented him with a javelin which he had in his hand. Agesilaus
received it, and being much taken with the good mien and courtesy of the youth,
looked about to see if there were anything in his train fit to offer him in
return; and observing the horse of Idaeus, the secretary, to have very fine
trappings on, he took them off, and bestowed them upon the young gentleman. Nor
did his kindness rest there, but he continued ever after to be mindful of him,
so that when he was driven out of his country by his brothers, and lived in
Another year of the war being spent, Agesilaus's fame still increased, insomuch that the Persian king received daily information concerning his many virtues, and the great esteem the world had of his temperance, his plain living, and his moderation. When he made any journey, he would usually take up his lodging in a temple, and there make the gods witnesses of his most private actions, which others would scarce permit men to be acquainted with. In so great an army you should scarce find a common soldier lie on a coarser mattress than Agesilaus: he was so indifferent to the varieties of heat and cold that all the seasons, as the gods sent them, seemed natural to him. The Greeks that inhabited Asia were much pleased to see the great lords and governors of Persia, with all the pride, cruelty, and luxury in which they lived, trembling and bowing before a man in a poor threadbare cloak, and, at one laconic word out of his mouth, obsequiously deferring and changing their wishes and purposes. So that it brought to the minds of many the verses of Timotheus-
"Mars is the tyrant, gold
Many parts of Asia now revolting from the Persians, Agesilaus restored order in the cities, and without bloodshed or banishment of any of their members re-established the proper constitution in the governments, and now resolved to carry away the war from the seaside, and to march further up into the country, and to attack the King of Persia himself in his own home in Susa and Ecbatana; not willing to let the monarch sit idle in his chair, playing umpire in the conflicts of the Greeks, and bribing their popular leaders. But these great thoughts were interrupted by unhappy news from Sparta; Epicydidas is from thence sent to remand him home, to assist his own country, which was then involved in a great war:-
Nothing was greater or nobler than the behaviour of
Agesilaus on this occasion, nor can a nobler instance be found in story of a
ready obedience and just deference to orders.
The coin of
Having passed the Hellespont, he marched by land through
When he came into
Here Diphridas, the Ephor, met him, and delivered his
Agesilaus having gained Thermopylae, and passed quietly
through Phocis, as soon as he had entered Boeotia, and pitched his camp near
When he came near to Coronea, and was within view of the
enemy, he drew up his army, and giving the left wing to the Orchomenians, he
himself led the right. The Thebans took the right wing of their army, leaving
the left to the Argives. Xenophon, who was present, and fought on Agesilaus's
side, reports it to be the hardest-fought battle that he had seen.
The beginning of it was not so, for the Thebans soon put the Orchomenians to
rout, as also did Agesilaus the Argives. But both parties having news of the
misfortune of their left wings, they betook themselves to their relief. Here
Agesilaus might have been sure of his victory had he contented himself not to
charge them in the front, but in the flank or rear; but being angry and heated
in the fight he would not wait the opportunity, but fell on at once, thinking
to bear them down before him. The Thebans were not behind him in courage, so
that the battle was fiercely carried on on both sides, especially near
Agesilaus's person, whose new guard of fifty volunteers stood him in great
stead that day, and saved his life. They fought with great valour, and
interposed their bodies frequently between him and danger, yet could they not
so preserve him, but that he received many wounds through his armour with
lances and swords, and was with much difficulty gotten off alive by their
making a ring about him, and so guarding him, with the slaughter of many of the
enemy, and the loss of many of their own number. At length, finding it too hard
a task to break the front of the Theban troops, they opened their own files,
and let the enemy march through them (an artifice which in the beginning they
scorned), watching in the meantime the posture of the enemy, who, having passed
through, grew careless, as esteeming themselves past danger, in which position
they were immediately set upon by the Spartans. Yet were they not then put to
rout, but marched on to
Agesilaus, sore wounded as he was, would not be borne to his tent till he had been first carried about the field, and had seen the dead conveyed within his encampment. As many of his enemies as had taken sanctuary in the temple he dismissed. For there stood near the battlefield the temple of Minerva the Itonian, and before it a trophy erected by the Boeotians, for or victory which, under the conduct of Sparton, their general, they obtained over the Athenians under Tolmides, who himself fell in the battle. Next morning early, to make trial of the Theban courage, whether they had any mind to a second encounter, he commanded his soldiers to put on garlands on their heads, and play with their flutes, and raise a trophy before their faces; but when they, instead of fighting, sent for leave to bury their dead, he gave it them; and having so assured himself of the victory, after this he went to Delphi, to the Pythian games, which were then celebrating, at which feast he assisted, and there solemnly offered the tenth part of the spoils he had brought from Asia, which amounted to a hundred talents.
Thence he returned to his own country, where his way and
habits of life quickly excited the affection and admiration of the Spartans;
for, unlike other generals, he came home from foreign lands the same man that
he went out, having not so learned the fashions of other countries, as to
forget his own, much less to dislike or despise them. He followed and respected
all the Spartan customs, without any change either in the manner of his
supping, or bathing, or his wife's apparel, as if he had never travelled over
the river Eurotas. So also with his household furniture and his own armour,
nay, the very gates of his house were so old that they might well be thought of
Aristodemus's setting up. His daughter's Canathrum, says Xenophon, was no
richer than that of any one else. The Canathrum, as they call it, is a chair or
chariot made of wood, in the shape of a griffin, or tragelaphus, on which the children
and young virgins are carried in processions. Xenophon has not left us the name
of this daughter of Agesilaus; and Dicaearchus expresses some indignation,
because we do not know, he says, the name of Agesilaus's daughter, nor of
Epaminondas's mother. But in the records of
there was a vanity he observed
among the Spartans, about keeping running horses for the Olympic games, upon
which he found they much valued themselves. Agesilaus regarded it as a display
not of any real virtue, but of wealth and expense; and to make this evident to
the Greeks, induced his sister, Cynisca, to send a chariot into the course. He
kept with him Xenophon, the philosopher, and made much of him, and proposed to
him to send for his children, and educate them at
Agesipolis, his fellow-king, was under the disadvantage of
being born of an exiled father, and himself young,
modest, and inactive, meddled not much in affairs. Agesilaus took a course of
gaining him over and making him entirely tractable. According
to the custom of
Having thus established his power in the city, he easily
obtained that his half-brother Teleutias might be chosen admiral, and thereupon
making an expedition against the Corinthians, he made himself master of the
long walls by land, through the assistance of his brother at sea. Coming thus
upon the Argives, who then held
When Agesilaus marched off, the Argives returned and
celebrated the games over again, when some who were victors before became
victors a second time; others lost the prizes which before they had gained.
Agesilaus thus made it clear to everybody that the Argives must in their own
eyes have been guilty of great cowardice since they set such a value on
presiding at the games, and yet had not dared to fight for it. He himself was
of opinion that to keep a mean in such things was best; he assisted at the sports
and dances usual in his own country, and was always ready and eager to be
present at the exercises either of the young men or of the girls, but things
that many men used to be highly taken with he seemed not at all concerned
about. Callippides, the tragic actor, who had a great name in all
Whilst Agesilaus was in the Corinthian territories, having
just taken the Heraeum, he was looking on while his soldiers were carrying away
the prisoners and the plunder, when ambassadors from
After this, at the request of the Achaeans, he marched with them into Acarnania, and there collected great spoils, and defeated the Acarnanians in battle. The Achaeans would have persuaded him to keep his winter quarters there, to hinder the Acarnanians from sowing their corn; but he was of the contrary opinion, alleging that they would be more afraid of a war next summer, when their fields were sown, than they would be if they lay fallow. The event justified his opinion; for next summer, when the Achaeans began their expedition again, the Acarnanians immediately made peace with them.
When Conon and Pharnabazus with the Persian navy were grown
masters of the sea, and had not only infested the coast of Laconia, but also
rebuilt the walls of Athens at the cost of Pharnabazus, the Lacedaemonians
thought fit to treat of peace with the King of Persia. To that end, they sent
Antalcidas to Tiribazus, basely and wickedly betraying the Asiatic Greeks, on
whose behalf Agesilaus had made the war. But no part of this dishonour fell upon
Agesilaus, the whole being transacted by Antalcidas, who was his bitter enemy,
and was urgent for peace upon any terms, because war was sure to increase his
power and reputation. Nevertheless, once being told by way of reproach that the
Lacedaemonians had gone over to the Medes, he replied, "No, the Medes had
come over to the Lacedaemonians." And when the Greeks were backward to
submit to the agreement, he threatened them with war, unless they fulfilled the
King of Persia's conditions, his particular end in this being to weaken the
Thebans; for it was made one of the articles of peace that the country of
This excited strong suspicion that what Phoebidas did was by Agesilaus's order, which was corroborated by after-occurrences. For when the Thebans had expelled the garrison, and asserted their liberty, he, accusing them of the murder of Archias and Leontidas, who indeed were tyrants, though in name holding the office of Polemarchs, made war upon them. He sent Cleombrotus on that errand, who was now his fellow-king, in the place of Agesipolis, who was dead, excusing himself by reason of his age for it was forty years since he had first borne arms, and he was consequently exempt by the law; meanwhile the true reason was, that he was ashamed, having so lately fought against tyranny in behalf of the Phliasians, to fight now in defence of a tyranny against the Thebans.
One Sphodrias, of
This Sphodrias had a son of great beauty named Cleonymus, to whom Archidamus, the son of Agesilaus, was extremely attached. Archidamus, as became him, was concerned for the danger of his friend's father, but yet he durst not do anything openly for his assistance, he being one of the professed enemies of Agesilaus. But Cleonymus having solicited him with tears about it, as knowing Agesilaus to be of all his father's enemies the most formidable, the young man for two or three days followed after his father with such fear and confusion that he durst not speak to him. At last, the day of sentence being at hand, he ventured to tell him that Cleonymus had entreated him to intercede for his father. Agesilaus, though well aware of the love between the two young men, yet did not prohibit it, because Cleonymus from his earliest years had been looked upon as a youth of very great promise; yet he gave not his son any kind or hopeful answer in the case, but coldly told him that he would consider what he could honestly and honourably do in it, and so dismissed him. Archidamus being ashamed of his want of success, forbore the company of Cleonymus, whom he usually saw several times every day. This made the friends of Sphodrias to think his case desperate, till Etymocles, one of Agesilaus's friends, discovered to them the king's mind; namely, that he abhorred the fact, but yet he thought Sphodrias a gallant man such as the commonwealth much wanted at that time. For Agesilaus used to talk thus concerning the cause, out of a desire to gratify his son. And now Cleonymus quickly understood that Archidamus had been true to him, in using all his interests with his father; and Sphodrias's friend ventured to be forward in his defence. The truth is, that Agesilaus was excessively fond of his children; and it is to him the story belongs, that when they were little ones, he used to make a horse of a stick, and ride with them; and being caught at this sport by a friend, he desired him not to mention it till he himself were the father of children.
Meanwhile, Sphodrias being acquitted, the Athenians betook themselves to arms, and Agesilaus fell into disgrace with the people; since to gratify the whims of a boy he had been willing to pervert justice, and make the city accessory to the crimes of private men, whose most unjustifiable actions had broken the peace of Greece. He also found his colleague, Cleombrotus, little inclined to the Theban war; so that it became necessary for him to waive the privilege of his age, which he before had claimed, and to lead the army himself into Boeotia; which he did with variety of success, sometimes conquering, and sometimes conquered; insomuch that receiving a wound in a battle, he was reproached by Antalcidas, that the Thebans had paid him well for the lessons he had given them in fighting. And, indeed, they were now grown far better soldiers than ever they had been, being so continually kept in training by the frequency of the Lacedaemonian expeditions against them. Out of the foresight of which it was that anciently Lycurgus, in three several laws, forbade them to make any wars with the same nation, as this would be to instruct their enemies in the art of it. Meanwhile, the allies of Sparta were not a little discontented at Agesilaus, because this war was commenced not upon any fair public ground of quarrel, but merely out of his private hatred to the Thebans; and they complained with indignation that they, being the majority of the army, should from year to year be thus exposed to danger and hardship here and there, at the will of a few persons. It was at this time, we are told, that Agesilaus, to obviate the objection, devised this expedient, to show the allies were not the greater number. He gave orders that all the allies, of whatever country, should sit down promiscuously on one side, and all the Lacedaemonians on the other: which being done, he commanded a herald to proclaim, that all the potters of both divisions should stand out; then all the blacksmiths; then all the masons; next the carpenters; and so he went through all the handicrafts. By this time almost all the allies were risen, but of the Lacedaemonians not a man, they being by law forbidden to learn any mechanical business; and now Agesilaus laughed and said, "You see my friends, how many more soldiers we send out than you do."
When he brought back his army from Boeotia through
Meanwhile, the Spartan fortune was but ill; they received many losses both by sea and land; but the greatest was that at Tegyrae, when for the first time they were beaten by the Thebans in a set battle.
All the Greeks were, accordingly, disposed to a general
peace, and to that end ambassadors came to
The Ephors upon this despatched their orders to Cleombrotus,
who was at that time in Phocis, to march directly into
This unexpected blow, which fell so heavy upon the
Lacedaemonians, brought greater glory to
But the people in general, when their allies now began to desert them, and Epaminondas, in all the confidence of victory, was expected with an invading army in Peloponnesus, began to think again of Agesilaus's lameness, and to entertain feelings of religious fear and despondency, as if their having rejected the sound-footed, and having chosen the halting king, which the oracle had specially warned them against, was the occasion of all their distresses. Yet the regard they had to the merit and reputation of Agesilaus so far stilled this murmuring of the people that, notwithstanding it, they intrusted themselves to him in this distress, as the only man that was fit to heal the public malady, the arbiter of all their difficulties, whether relating to the affairs of war or peace. One great one was then before them concerning the runaways (as their name is for them) that had fled out of the battle, who being many and powerful, it was feared that they might make some commotion in the republic, to prevent the execution of the law upon them for their cowardice. The law in that case was very severe; for they were not only to be debarred from all honours, but also it was a disgrace to intermarry with them; whoever met any of them in the streets might beat him if he chose, nor was it lawful for him to resist; they, in the meanwhile, were obliged to go about unwashed and meanly dressed, with their clothes patched with divers colours, and to wear their beards half shaved, half unshaven. To execute so rigid a law as this, in a case where the offenders were so many, and many of them of such distinction, and that in a time when the commonwealth wanted soldiers so much as then it did, was of dangerous consequence. Therefore they chose Agesilaus as a sort of new lawgiver for the occasion. But he, without adding to or diminishing from or any way changing the law, came out into the public assembly, and said that the law should sleep for to-day, but from this day forth be vigorously executed. By this means he at once preserved the law from abrogation and the citizens from infamy; and that he might alleviate the despondency and self-distrust of the young men, he made an inroad into Arcadia, where, carefully avoiding all fighting, he contended himself with spoiling the territory, and taking a small town belonging to the Mantineans, thus reviving the hearts of the people, letting them see that they were not everywhere unsuccessful.
Epaminondas now invaded
When the enemy essayed to get over the river, and thence to attack the town, Agesilaus, abandoning the rest, betook himself to the high places and strongholds of it. But it happened Eurotas at that time was swollen to a great height with snow that had fallen and made the passage very difficult to the Thebans, not only by its depth, but much more by its extreme coldness. Whilst this was doing, Epaminondas was seen in the front of the phalanx, and was pointed out to Agesilaus, who looked long at him, and said but these words, "O bold man!" But when he came to the city, and would have fain attempted something within the limits of it that might raise him a trophy there, he could not tempt Agesilaus out of his hold, but was forced to march off again, wasting the country as he went.
Meanwhile, a body of long discontented and bad citizens,
about two hundred in number, having got into a strong part of the town called
the Issorion, where the
At this time, also, many of the helots and country people, who were in the army, ran away to the enemy, which was a matter of great consternation to the city. He therefore caused some officers of his, every morning, before day, to search the quarters of the soldiers, and where any man was gone, to hide his arms, that so the greatness of the number might not appear.
Historians differ about the cause of the Thebans' departure
Agesilaus being now in years, gave
over all military employments; but his son, Archidamus, having received help
from Dionysius of Sicily, gave a great defeat to the Arcadians, in the fight
known by the name of the Tearless Battle, in which there was a great slaughter
of the enemy without the loss of one Spartan. Yet this victory, more than
anything else, discovered the present weakness of
When Epaminondas restored
Agesilaus had intelligence sent him by Euthynus, the
Thespian, as Callisthenes says, but Xenophon says by a Cretan; and immediately
despatched a horseman to
Isadas, however, the son of Phoebidas, must have been, I think, the admiration of the enemy as well as of his friends. He was a youth of remarkable beauty and stature, in the very flower of the most attractive time of life, when the boy is just rising into the man. He had no arms upon him and scarcely clothes; he had just anointed himself at home, when, upon the alarm, without further awaiting, in that undress, he snatched a spear in one hand and a sword in the other, and broke his way through the combatants to the enemies, striking at all he met. He received no wound, whether it were that a special divine care rewarded his valour with an extraordinary protection, or whether his shape being so large and beautiful, and his dress so unusual, they thought him more than a man. The Ephors gave him a garland; but as soon as they had done so, they fined him a thousand drachmas for going out to battle unarmed.
A few days after this there was another battle fought near Mantinea, in which Epaminondas, having routed the van of the Lacedaemonians, was eager in the pursuit of them, when Anticrates, the Laconian, wounded him with a spear, says Dioscorides; but the Spartans to this day call the posterity of this Anticrates, swordsmen, because he wounded Epaminondas with a sword. They so dreaded Epaminondas when living, that the slayer of him was embraced and admired by all; they decreed honours and gifts to him, and an exemption from taxes to his posterity, a privilege enjoyed at this day by Callicrates, one of his descendants.
Epaminondas being slain, there was a general peace again concluded,
from which Agesilaus's party excluded the Messenians, as men that had no city,
and therefore would not let them swear to the league; to which when the rest of
the Greeks admitted them, the Lacedaemonians broke off, and continued the war
alone, in hopes of subduing the Messenians. In this Agesilaus was esteemed a
stubborn and headstrong man, and insatiable of war, who took such pains to
undermine the general peace, and to protract the war at a time when he had not
money to carry it on with, but was forced to borrow of his friends and raise
subscriptions, with much difficulty, while the city, above all things, needed
repose. And all this to recover the one poor town of
But it added still more to his ill-repute when he put
himself into the service of Tachos, the Egyptian. They thought it too unworthy
of a man of his high station, who was then looked upon as the first commander
in all Greece, who had filled all countries with his renown, to let himself out
to hire to a barbarian, an Egyptian rebel (for Tachos was no better), and to
fight for pay, as captain only of a band of mercenaries. If, they said, at
those years of eighty and odd, after his body had been worn out with age, and
enfeebled with wounds, he had resumed that noble undertaking, the liberation of
the Greeks from Persia, it had been worthy of some reproof. To make an action
honourable, it ought to be agreeable to the age and other circumstances of the
person; since it is circumstance and proper measure that give an action its
character, and make it either good or bad. But Agesilaus valued not other men's
discourses; he thought no public employment dishonourable; the ignoblest thing
in his esteem was for a man to sit idle and useless at home, waiting for his
death to come and take him. The money, therefore, that he
received from Tachos, he laid out in raising men, with whom, having
filled his ships, he took also thirty Spartan counsellors with him, as formerly
he had done in his Asiatic expedition, and set sail for
As soon as he arrived in
When he joined with Tachos, he found his expectation of
being general-in-chief disappointed. Tachos reserved that place for himself,
making Agesilaus only captain of the mercenaries, and Chabrias, the Athenian,
commander of the fleet. This was the first occasion of his discontent, but
there followed others; he was compelled daily to submit to the insolence and
vanity of this Egyptian, and was at length forced to attend him into Phoenicia,
in a condition much below his character and dignity, which he bore and put up
with for a time, till he had opportunity of showing his feelings. It was
afforded him by Nectanabis, the cousin of Tachos, who commanded a large force
under him, and shortly after deserted him, and was proclaimed king by the
Egyptians. This man invited Agesilaus to join his party, and the like he did to
Chabrias, offering great rewards to both. Tachos, suspecting it, immediately
applied himself both to Agesilaus and Chabrias, with great humility beseeching
their continuance in his friendship. Chabrias consented to it, and did what he
could by persuasion and good words to keep Agesilaus with them. But he gave
this short reply, "You, O Chabrias, came hither a volunteer, and may go
and stay as you see cause; but I am the servant of Sparta, appointed to head
the Egyptians, and therefore I cannot fight against those to whom I was sent as
a friend, unless I am commanded to do so by my country." This being said,
he despatched messengers to
Tachos, being thus deserted by the mercenaries, fled for it; upon which a new king of the Mendesian province was proclaimed his successor, and came against Nectanabis with an army of one hundred thousand men. Nectanabis, in his talk with Agesilaus, professed to despise them as newly raised men, who, though many in number, were of no skill in war being most of them mechanics and tradesmen, never bred to war. To whom Agesilaus answered, that he did not fear their numbers, but did fear their ignorance, which gave no room for employing stratagem against them. Stratagem only avails with men who are alive to suspicion, and, expecting to be assailed, expose themselves by their attempts at defence; but one who has no thought or expectation of anything, gives as little opportunity to the enemy as he who stands stock-still does to a wrestler. The Mendesian was not wanting in solicitations of Agesilaus, insomuch that Nectanabis grew jealous. But when Agesilaus advised to fight the enemy at once, saying it was folly to protract the war and rely on time, in a contest with men who had no experience in fighting battles, but with their great numbers might be able to surround them, and cut off their communications by entrenchments, and anticipate them in many matters of advantage, this altogether confirmed him in his fears and suspicions. He took quite the contrary course, and retreated into a large and strongly fortified town. Agesilaus, finding himself mistrusted, took it very ill, and was full of indignation, yet was ashamed to change sides back again, or to go away without effecting anything, so that he was forced to follow Nectanabis into the town.
When the enemy came up, and began to draw lines about the town, and to entrench, the Egyptian now resolved upon a battle out of fear of a siege. And the Greeks were eager for it, provisions growing already scarce in the town. When Agesilaus opposed it, the Egyptians then suspected him much more, publicly calling him the betrayer of the king. But Agesilaus, being now satisfied within himself, bore these reproaches patiently, and followed the design which he had laid, of over-reaching the enemy, which was this.
The enemy were forming a deep ditch and high wall, resolving to shut up the garrison and starve it. When the ditch was brought almost quite round and the two ends had all but met, he took the advantage of the night and armed all his Greeks. Then going to the Egyptian, "This, young man, is your opportunity," said he, "of saving yourself, which I all this while durst not announce, lest discovery should prevent it; but now the enemy has, at his own cost, and the pains and labour of his own men, provided for our security. As much of this wall as is built will prevent them from surrounding us with their multitude, the gap yet left will be sufficient for us to sally out by; now play the man, and follow the example the Greeks will give you, and by fighting valiantly save yourself and your army; their front will not be able to stand against us, and their rear we are sufficiently secured from by a wall of their own making."
Nectanabis, admiring the sagacity of Agesilaus, immediately placed himself in the middle of the Greek troops, and fought with them; and upon the first charge soon routed the enemy. Agesilaus having now gained credit with the king, proceeded to use, like a trick in wrestling, the same stratagem over again. He sometimes pretended a retreat, at other times advanced to attack their flanks, and by this means at last drew them into a place enclosed between two ditches that were very deep and full of water. When he had them at this advantage, he soon charged them, drawing up the front of his battle equal to the space between the two ditches, so that they had no way of surrounding him, being enclosed themselves on both sides. They made but little resistance; many fell, others fled and were dispersed.
Nectanabis, being thus settled and fixed in his kingdom,
with much kindness and affection invited Agesilaus to spend his winter in
His son, Archidamus, succeeded him on his throne; so did his
posterity successively to Agis, the fifth from Agesilaus; who was slain by
Leonidas while attempting to restore the ancient discipline of