Agesilaus II, king of Sparta, c.444-360 BC

Agesilaus II, king of Sparta, c.444-360 BC


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Agesilaus II, king of Sparta, c.444-360 BC

Agesilaus II, king of Sparta (c.444-360 BC) was a successful general who was unable to prevent the slow decline of Sparta from its position of dominance at the end of the Great Peloponnesian War. He was a member of the Eurypontid house, one of the two royal families of Sparta, and was the son of King Archidamus II. He came to the throne in 399, after the death of King Agis II, with the support of Lysander, the dominant Spartan commander of the last years of the Great Peloponnesian War. He hadn’t been the obvious candidate for the throne, having been born with a club foot, but the Spartans decided that Agis's son was illegitimate, and Lysander supported Agesilaus's claim to the throne.

In 397 the Spartan system was threatened by a plot to kill the full Spartan citizens, who were massively outnumbered by the other elements in the Spartan population. Agesilaus suppressed this potential plot, killing most of the plotters.

By the time Agesilaus came to the throne Sparta was at war with her former ally Persia (Persian-Spartan War, 400-387). Sparta had offered limited support to the revolt of Cyrus the Younger, which had been defeated at Cunaxa in 401. In the aftermath of this revolt the Persians began to attack the Greek cities of Asia Minor, and they turned to Sparta for help. The Spartans decided to intervene and sent an army to Asia Minor. At first the fighting was on a fairly small scale, but when the Persians began to commit more troops the Spartans decided to send reinforcements. Agesilaus offered to lead an army of 30 Spartiates, two thousand freed helots and six thousand allies to Asia. As had happened earlier in the war, Corinth and Thebes refused to contribute troops, and this time Athens also refused to help. The Thebans further alienated Agesilaus by interrupting his attempt to sacrifice to Artemis at Aulis (copying Agamemnon before the attack on Troy).

Agesilaus arrived at Ephesus in 396. His first action was to negotiate a three month truce with the Persians, which he used to manoeuvre Lysander into leaving for a different theatre. After the truce expired, Agesilaus raided into Phrygia, after convincing the satrap Tissaphernes that he was actually heading for Caria. One of his officers during this campaign was the historian Xenophon, who had recently helped lead the '10,000' as they escaped from the heart of the Persian Empire after the battle of Cunaxa. Xenophon was very impressed with Agesilaus, and later made him the subject of several of his books.

In 395 Agesilaus raided Lydia and defeated a Persian force outside Sardis. He then raided into Mysia, Phrygia and Paphlagonia, where he briefly won over local support before losing most of again. However the same year saw the outbreak of the Corinthian War (395-386), which saw Sparta face a powerful coalition of Greek states, including Thebes, Athens, Argos and Corinth.

In 394 Agesilaus planned another major expedition, possibly in the hope of advancing further east across Asia Minor, but he was then recalled to fight in Greece after the Spartan leader Lysander was killed at the battle of Nemea (395) during an invasion of Boeotia. Agesilaus was thus not involved in the major Spartan naval defeat at Cnidus (394), where a Persian fleet commanded by the Athenian admiral Conon destroyed Spartan naval power.

Agesilaus returned to Greece at the head of a fairly powerful but rather mixed army. He had no problem convincing the Greeks of Asia Minor to join his army, but the troops from mainland Greece (including a force of enfranchised helots) were less keen on fighting fellow Greeks. Agesilaus used the promise of prizes for the best contingent to get them to move. His army also included a contingent of survivors from the '10,000', commanded by Herippidas.

Agesilaus chose to return via the overland route. He had to fight his way through Thrace, where he learnt that the Spartans had won a significant victory at Nemea near Corinth, and again as he moved south through Thessaly. Here he used his own cavalry to inflict a defeat on the famous cavalry of Thessaly.

Back in Greece Agesilaus won a victory over the allies at Coronea in Boeotia in 394, defeating an army that was attempting to block his path, but the defeat at Cnidus meant that this victory had little impact. News of the defeat at Cnidus reached Agesilaus just before the battle of Coronea, but he lied to his men, telling them that the Spartans had won. Most of the anti-Spartan allied troops performed badly in this battle, although the Thebans broke their immediate opponents and reached the Spartan camp before they realised they were dangerously isolated. Agesilaus formed a new line to stop them reaching safety, and was wounded in the heavy fighting that followed. The Thebans eventually broke through the Spartan lines, but only after suffering significant casualties. However the allied army remained largely intact, and Agesilaus was forced to retreat west into Locris, where he disbanded his army, crossed the Gulf of Corinth and returned to Sparta.

In the spring of 391 Agesilaus led the first invasion of Argive territory, then quickly returned to Corinth where he recaptured the Long Walls that linked the city to the Corinthian Gulf. These had been taken by the Spartans as a result of civil strife within Corinth, but then retaken by a major allied army. After Agesilaus recaptured the walls and the port of Lechaeum they stayed in Spartan hands for the rest of the war.

In 390 Agesilaus invaded Corinthian territory, campaigning in the Piraeum peninsula, where the Corinthians had their main herds of cattle. His successes here encouraged the Boeotians to suggest peace talks, but before anything came of this a Spartan hoplite regiment suffered a major defeat outside Lechaeum, when they were caught by Iphicrates's light peltasts. Agesilaus was forced to temporarily abandon the expedition, and when he returned the idea of peace talks had disappeared.

In 389 Agesilaus was forced to campaign in Acarnania, to the north-west of the Gulf of Corinth. Sparta's Achaean allies had taken control of Calydon in the south-west of Aetolia, but this was now being threatened by the Acarnanians and their Boeotian and Athenian allies. Agesilaus was sent to support the Achaeans. He was able to raid the Acarnanian countryside, but failed to take any of their cities and almost suffered an embarrassing defeat when he attempted to chase them into the mountains. He left in the early autumn, before disrupting the planting season. His argument was that the Acarnanians were more likely to seek peace if they had a crop to protect, and when he announced his plan to return in 388 he was proved right as they sued for peace.

In 387-6 the Persian-Spartan War and the Corinthian War were both ended by the King's Peace. A key clause of this treaty was the granting of autonomy to all Greek cities. Agesilaus used this to force Thebes to disband the Boeotian League, leaving Sparta as the dominant military power in Greece.

In 385 the Spartans turned against Mantinea, having decided that they had been disloyal during the Corinthian War. Agesipolis led the Spartan troops that ravaged Mantinean territory and besieged the city, and eventually defeated the defenders by diverting a stream so that it flooded the city. The Mantineans were forced to abandon the city and return to the original five villages it had been formed from.

In 381-380 the Spartans intervened at Phlius, north-west of Argos, supporting a group of exiled friends of Agesilaus. He took command of the siege, which lasted for a year and eight months. On this occasion he was rather more merciful- the city was left intact and a group of 50 of the exiles and 50 of the defenders were ordered to create a new constitution.

In 382 a passing Spartan army seized power in Thebes. This turned out to be a disastrous mistake. Sparta soon found herself facing an alliance of Thebes and Athens (Theban-Spartan War, 379-371). At first Sparta held the advantage, almost besieging Thebes in 378 and 377. Agesilaus wasn't involved in the earliest campaigns, but he took command of the army in 378. He advanced almost to Thebes, where he was faced by a major Boeotian and Athenian army, and eventually decided not to fight. He also led the campaign of 377, but later in the year a vein in his leg ruptured, leaving him bedridden for some time.

Eventually events turned against the Spartans and in 371 they entered into peace negotiations. Once again Agesilaus refused to allow Thebes to speak for the Boeotian League, and Epaminondas, the Theban leader, withdrew from the negotiations. Agesilaus's co-ruler, King Cleombrotus, led a Spartan army into Boeotian, but suffered a crushing defeat at Leuctra (371 BC).

This battle marked the end of the period of Spartan military supremacy. Thebes became the dominant Greek power for the next decade. Agesilaus was able to prevent the Thebans from directly threatening Sparta, and led the defence of the city when Epaminondas threatened it in 370, putting up enough of a defence to discourage a direct attack on the city and defeating two internal threats.

He saved the city for a second time in 362 when Epaminondas attacked for a second time. He wasn’t present at the battle of Mantinea (362), another Theban victory and Spartan defeat. However the most important outcome of this battle was the death of Epaminondas. With their great leader gone, the Theban hegemony collapsed. Spartan prestige had also been crushed, and the field was open for Philip II of Macedonia.

Agesilaus was also involved in the Satrap's Revolt of the 360s, a series of rebellions against the authority of Artaxerxes II of Persia. He helped lift the siege of Adramyttium, where the rebel satrap Ariobarzanes was being besieged by Autophradates.

Agesilaus himself was away from Sparta at this point, fighting on behalf of Pharaoh Teos (or Tachos), who was attempting to regain Egypt's long lost provinces. Agesilaus then fell out with Tachos after the Pharaoh insisted in taking personal commander of an army campaigning in Phoenicia, and supported his rival Nectanbo II (r.360-343), who came to the throne with Greek support. Agesilaus helped defeat an attempt to overthrow Nectanbo and then set out for home, but died in 360 before reaching Sparta.


Agesilaus II

Agesilaus II, or Agesilaos II (Ancient Greek: Ἀγησίλαος ) (444–360 BCE) was a Eurypontid king of the Ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, ruling from approximately 400 BCE to 360 BCE, during most of which time he was, in Plutarch's words, "as good as thought commander and king of all Greece," and was for the whole of it greatly identified with his country's deeds and fortunes. Ώ] Small in stature and lame from birth, Agesilaus became ruler somewhat unexpectedly in his mid-forties. His early reign saw successful military incursions into various states in what is now Turkey, although several diplomatic decisions resulted in Sparta becoming increasingly isolated prior to his death at the age of 84 in Cyrenaica (part of modern Libya).


Agesilaus

Agesilaus II., king of Sparta, of the Eurypontid family, was the son of Archidamus II. and Eupolia, and younger stepbrother of Agis II., whom he succeeded about 401 B.C. Agesilaus' success was largely due to Lysander, who hoped to find in him a willing tool for the furtherance of his political designs in this hope, however, Lysander was disappointed, and the increasing power of Agesilaus soon led to his downfall.

A GESILAUS AND P HARNABAZUS

In 396 Agesilaus was sent to Asia with a force of 2000 Neodamodes (enfranchized Helots) and 6000 allies to secure the Greek cities against a Persian attack. On his arrival at Ephesus a three months' truce was concluded with Tissaphernes, the satrap of Lydia and Caria, but negotiations conducted during that time proved fruitless, and on its termination Agesilaus raided Phrygia, where he easily won immense booty since Tissaphernes had concentrated his troops in Caria. After spending the winter in organizing a cavalry force, he made a successful incursion into Lydia in the spring of 395. Tithraustes was thereupon sent to replace Tissaphernes, who paid with his life for his continued failure. An armistice was concluded between Tithraustes and Agesilaus, who left the southern satrapy and again invaded Phrygia, which he ravaged until the following spring. He then came to an agreement with the satrap Pharnabazus and once more turned southward.

It was said that he was planning a campaign in the interior, or even an attack on Artaxerxes himself, when he was recalled to Greece owing to the war between Sparta and the combined forces of Athens, Thebes, Corinth, Argos and several minor states. A rapid march through Thrace and Macedonia brought him to Thessaly, where he repulsed the Thessalian cavalry who tried to impede him. Reinforced by Phocian and Orchomenian troops and a Spartan army, he met the confederate forces at Coronea in Boeotia, and in a hotly contested battle was technically victorious, but the success was a barren one and he had to retire by way of Delphi to the Peloponnese. Shortly before this battle the Spartan navy, of which he had received the supreme command, was totally defeated off Cnidus by a powerful Persian fleet under Conon and Pharnabazus.

Subsequently Agesilaus took a prominent part in the Corinthian war, making several successful expeditions into Corinthian territory and capturing Lechaeum and Piraeum. The loss, however, of a mora, which was destroyed by Iphicrates, neutralized these successes, and Agesilaus returned to Sparta. In 389 he conducted a campaign in Acarnania, but two years later the Peace of Antalcidas, which was warmly supported by Agesilaus, put an end to hostilities. When war broke out afresh with Thebes the king twice invaded Boeotia (378, 377), and it was on his advice that Cleombrotus was ordered to march against Thebes in 371. Cleombrotus was defeated at Leuctra and the Spartan supremacy overthrown. In 370 Agesilaus tried to restore Spartan prestige by an invasion of Mantinean territory, and his prudence and heroism saved Sparta when her enemies, led by Epaminondas, penetrated Laconia that same year, and again in 362 when they all but succeeded in seizing the city by a rapid and unexpected march. The battle of Mantinea (362), in which Agesilaus took no part, was followed by a general peace: Sparta, however, stood aloof, hoping even yet to recover her supremacy. In order to gain money for prosecuting the war Agesilaus had supported the revolted satraps, and in 361 he went to Egypt at the head of a mercenary force to aid Tachos against Persia. He soon transferred his services to Tachos's cousin and rival Nectanabis, who, in return for his help, gave him a sum of over 200 talents. On his way home Agesilaus died at the age of 84, after a reign of some 41 years.

A man of small stature and unimpressive appearance, he was somewhat lame from birth, a fact which was used as an argument against his succession, an oracle having warned Sparta against a "lame reign." He was a successful leader in guerilla warfare, alert and quick, yet cautious—a man, moreover, whose personal bravery was unquestioned. As a statesman he won himself both enthusiastic adherents and bitter enemies, but of his patriotism there can be no doubt. He lived in the most frugal style alike at home and in the field, and though his campaigns were undertaken largely to secure booty, he was content to enrich the state and his friends and to return as poor as he had set forth. The worst trait in his character is his implacable hatred of Thebes, which led directly to the battle of Leuctra and Sparta's fall from her position of supremacy.


Selected quotes

When someone was praising an orator for his ability to magnify small points, he said, "In my opinion it's not a good cobbler who fits large shoes on small feet."

Another time he watched a mouse being pulled from its hole by a small boy. When the mouse turned around, bit the hand of its captor and escaped, he pointed this out to those present and said, "When the tiniest creature defends itself like this against aggressors, what ought men to do, do you reckon?"

Certainly when somebody asked what gain the laws of Lycurgus had brought Sparta, he answered, "Contempt for pleasures."

Asked once how far Sparta's boundaries stretched, he brandished his spear and said, "As far as this can reach."

On noticing a house in Asia roofed with square beams, he asked the owner whether timber grew square in that area. When told no, it grew round, he said, "What then? If it were square, would you make it round?"

Invited to hear an actor who could perfectly imitate the nightingale, Agesilaus declined, saying he had heard the nightingale itself.


Contents

Ancient Greeks named males after their fathers, producing a patronymic with the infix -id- for example, the sons of Atreus were the Atreids. For royal houses, the patronymic was formed from the name of the founder or of an early significant figure of a dynasty. A ruling family might thus have a number of dynastic names for example, Agis I named the Agiads, but he was a Heraclid and so were his descendants.

If the descent was not known or was scantily known, the Greeks made a few standard assumptions based on their cultural ideology. Agiad people were treated as a tribe, presumed to have descended from an ancestor bearing its name. He must have been a king, who founded a dynasty of his name. That mythologizing extended even to place names. They were presumed to have been named after kings and divinities. Kings often became divinities, in their religion.

Lelegids Edit

The Lelegid were the descendants of Lelex (a back-formation), ancestor of the Leleges, a Pelasgian tribe inhabiting the Eurotas valley before the Greeks, who, according to the mythological descent, amalgamated with the Greeks

Year Lelegid Other notable information
c. 1600 BC Lelex son of Poseidon or Helios, or he was said to be autochthonous
c. 1575 BC Myles son of Lelex
c. 1550 BC Eurotas son of Myles, father of Sparta

Lacedaemonids Edit

The Lacedaemonids contain Greeks from the age of legend, now treated as being the Bronze Age in Greece. In the language of mythologic descent, the kingship passed from the Leleges to the Greeks.

Year Lacedaemonid Other notable information
c. Lacedaemon son of Zeus, husband of Sparta
c. Amyklas son of Lacedaemon. He founded Amyklai
c. Argalus son of Amyklas
c. Kynortas son of Amyklas
c. Perieres son of Kynortas
c. Oibalos son of Kynortas
c. Tyndareos (First reign) son of Oibalos and father of Helen
c. Hippocoon son of Oibalos and brother of Tyndareos
c. Tyndareos (Second reign)
Years with no dates (only "c.") are unknown

Atreids Edit

The Atreidai (Latin Atreidae) belong to the Late Bronze Age, or the Mycenaean Period. In mythology, they were the Perseides. As the name of Atreus is attested in Hittite documents, this dynasty may well be protohistoric.

Year Atreid Other notable information
c. 1250 BC Menelaus son of Atreus and husband of Helen
c. 1150's BC Orestes son of Agamemnon and nephew of Menelaus
c. Tisamenos son of Orestes
c. 1100 BC Dion husband of Iphitea, the daughter of Prognaus
Years with no dates (only "c.") are unknown

The Spartan kings as Heracleidae claimed descent from Heracles, who through his mother was descended from Perseus. Disallowed the Peloponnesus, Hercules embarked on a life of wandering. The Heracleidae became ascendant in the Eurotas valley with the Dorians who, at least in legend, entered it during an invasion called the Return of the Heracleidae driving out the Atreids and at least some of the Mycenaean population.

Year Heraclid Other notable information
c. Aristodemos son of Aristomachus and husband of Argeia
c. Theras (regent) son of Autesion and brother of Aristodemus's wife Argeia [n 2] served as regent for his nephews, Eurysthenes and Procles.
Years with no dates (only "c.") are unknown

Agiad dynasty Edit

The dynasty was named after its second king, Agis.

Year Agiad Other notable information
c. 930 BC Eurysthenes Return of the Heracleidae
c. 930 – 900 BC [n 3] Agis I Subjugated the Helots
c. 900 – 870 BC Echestratus Expelled the Cynurensians [n 4] that were in power.
c. 870 – 840 BC Labotas [n 5]
c. 840 – 820 BC Doryssus
c. 820 – 790 BC Agesilaus I
c. 790 – 760 BC Archelaus
c. 760 – 740 BC Teleclus Killed by the Messenians
c. 740 – 700 BC Alcamenes First Messenian War begins
c. 700 – 665 BC Polydorus First Messenian War ends killed by the Spartan nobleman Polemarchus [5]
c. 665 – 640 BC Eurycrates
c. 640 – 615 BC Anaxander
c. 615 – 590 BC Eurycratides
c. 590 – 560 BC Leon
c. 560 – 520 BC Anaxandridas II Battle of the Fetters
c. 520 – 490 BC Cleomenes I Greco-Persian Wars begins
c. 490 – 480 BC Leonidas I Battle of Thermopylae
c. 480 – 459 BC Pleistarchus First Peloponnesian War begins
c. 459 – 445 BC, 426 – 409 BC Pleistoanax Second Peloponnesian War begins
c. 445 – 426 BC, 409 – 395 BC Pausanias Helped restore democracy in Athens Spartan hegemony
c. 395 – 380 BC Agesipolis I Corinthian War begins
c. 380 – 371 BC Cleombrotus I
c. 371 – 369 BC Agesipolis II [n 6]
c. 369 – 309 BC Cleomenes II Third Sacred War begins
c. 309 – 265 BC Areus I Killed in battle against Aristodemus, the tyrant of Megalopolis
c. 265 – 262 BC Acrotatus II
c. 262 – 254 BC Areus II [6]
c. 254 – 242 BC Leonidas II Briefly deposed while in exile avoiding trial
c. 242 – 241 BC Cleombrotus II
c. 241 – 235 BC Leonidas II
c. 235 – 222 BC Cleomenes III Exiled after the Battle of Sellasia
Following the Battle of Sellasia, the dual monarchy remained vacant until Cleomenes III's death in 219.
c. 219 – 215 BC Agesipolis III last Agiad, deposed by the Eurypontid Lycurgus

Eurypontid dynasty Edit

The dynasty is named after its third king Eurypon. Not shown is Lycurgus, the lawgiver, a younger son of the Eurypontids, who served a brief regency either for the infant Charilaus (780–750 BC) or for Labotas (870–840 BC) the Agiad.


Agesilaus, the Military Commander

In his capacity as a military commander, Agesilaus’ first campaign was against the Persians in Anatolia, with the task of liberating the Greek city states there. This decision to wage war against the Persians was in part due to Lysander’s intention of aiding his friend there, whom he had placed in positions of power. As Plutarch wrote, “Now, Lysander was eager to be sent again into Asia, and to aid his friends there. These he had left governors and masters of the cities, but owing to their unjust and violent conduct of affairs, they were being driven out by the citizens, and even put to death. He therefore persuaded Agesilaus to undertake the expedition and make war in behalf of Hellas.”


Agesilaus II, King of Sparta

Agesilaus was the younger son of Archidamus, one of the two kings of Sparta. His mother was called Eupolia. After Archidamus died Agesilaus’ older brother, Agis, succeeded him as one of the kings. Because Agesilaus was not expected to become king, he went through the same austere training as other Spartan boys.

Agis would normally have been succeeded by his son, Leotychidas. However, there was some doubt about whether Leotychidas was actually Agis’ son since Agis himself only acknowledged him on his deathbed (399 BC). According to gossip, the Athenian general Alcibiades, who had been in Sparta at the right time, was Leotychidas’ biological father. The controversy was complicated by an oracle that a lame kingship would be disastrous for Sparta – and Agesilaus was lame.

Agesilaus did have the support, however, of Lysander, the Spartan general who had defeated Athens (404), thus putting an end to a long drawn-out war and establishing Sparta as the undisputed leading city-state of Greece. Lysander argued that the lame kingship in the oracle referred to Leotychidas’ illegitimacy rather than Agesilaus’ lameness. This argument was accepted by the Spartans, and so Agesilaus became king.

Soon after his accession, Agesilaus was persuaded by Lysander to undertake an expedition to Asia (now Western Turkey), where the Persians were trying to re-assert their authority (396). The Spartan expedition set sail from Aulis – the same departure point as Agamemnon had used in his expedition against Troy. When Agesilaus wanted to perform a sacrifice to the gods before leaving, the Boeotians disrupted the ceremony, throwing the sacrificial victim’s thighs off the altar, on the grounds that only they were permitted to sacrifice there. Agesilaus never forgave the Thebans.

When Agesilaus reached Ephesus, he found that Lysander was highly regarded by some and greatly feared by others. Agesilaus himself, the king, was very casually treated in comparison despite his nominal superiority. He at once set about making his superior position a reality by turning down all requests and plans he knew Lysander had a hand in and favouring anyone who Lysander was against. Relations between the two deteriorated until Lysander’s death in Boeotia the next year.

Although Tissaphernes, the satrap of Persia, seemed to be willing to assist the Spartans, and promised to detach the Greek cities of Asia from the Persian empire, this was just a ruse while he built up his forces. Agesilaus replied with another ruse, pretending that he was going to attack Caria, until Tissaphernes gathered his troops there, at which point Agesilaus’ real target, Phrygia, became apparent.

Forced to withdraw from Phrygia with a great deal of booty because of his lack of cavalry, Agesilaus returned to Ephesus and set about forming a cavalry force during the winter, when campaigning usually stopped. The next year (395), he gave out that he was planning an attack on Lydia. Tissaphernes was afraid of another trap, and again collected his troops in Caria. Unfortunately, this time Agesilaus had been telling the truth. After marching from Caria, Tissaphernes was defeated by Agesilaus near Sardis, and then executed on the Persian king’s orders.

Agesilaus then received a commission from Sparta to take over command of the fleet as well. He appointed Pisander, his brother-in-law as admiral and planned to march against Pharnabazus, satrap of Phrygia. In an attempt to get rid of Agesilaus, Pharnabazus had been encouraging the Greek cities to launch an joint attack against Sparta. Lysander was unable to bring Pharnabazus to a pitched battle, and started moving inland against the Persian royal cities of Ecbatana and Susa. (394).

It was at this point that Agesilaus was recalled by Sparta to take command in the war Pharnabazus had successfully stirred up. On his overland march through Greece from the Hellespont, he received orders to invade Boeotia. At Coronea he met the combined Boeotian-Argive army. Agesilaus was wounded in the battle that ensued, but the Spartans won. The historian Xenophon, who was there fighting under Agesilaus, says that there was no other battle of his day like it (Agesilaus II.9). After the battle some of the Theban forces sought sanctuary in a nearby temple of Athena. Although urged to do so, Agesilaus refused to violate sanctuary by attacking them and granted them safe conduct to leave.

When Agesilaus arrived back in Sparta after the battle of Coronea (394), he gained in popularity by quickly settling back into the Spartan way of life rather than adopting any foreign mannerisms. He did persuade his sister Cynisca to enter a team for the chariot race in the Olympics, the first time a woman had done so – and she won. Agesilaus said that this proved that anyone could win in the Olympics if they had enough money.

He also set about increasing his power and influence in Sparta by appointing his opponents to positions they were unsuited to, and then coming to their defence when they were put on trial, thus winning them over to become his supporters. He also won over the other king of Sparta, Agesipolis, by helping him with his love life.

Agesilaus launched an expedition against Corinth, which was under Argive control (391). He arrived in Corinth at the time of the Isthmian games, which he allowed the Corinthians to celebrate under his protection. When he withdrew his forces, however, the Argives regained control of Corinth and repeated the games. Some of the athletes won again, but others won first time round but not in the repeat games.

While he was in Corinth Agesilaus received news of a major defeat of a Spartan division by Athenian forces under Iphicrates. Agesilaus collected the survivors and took them back with him to Sparta in a series of night marches (390).

The Spartan fleet under Pisander, Agesilaus’ brother-in-law, had been defeated by a combined Persian-Athenian fleet, and Pharnabazus continued to stir up trouble for the Spartans by helping the Athenians re-fortify their city. Since their coastal districts were vulnerable to naval raids, the Spartans decided to make peace with the Persian king and sent Antalcides, a political opponent of Agesilaus to make peace with Persia (386). Antalcides was very eager for a peace to be concluded because he felt that war benefited Agesilaus. Under the terms of the peace, the Greek cities in Asia were handed back to the Persians, and all Greek cities in Greece proper were declared independent of each other, a move that was directed against the Thebans who would lose their control over the other cities in Boeotia.

In 382, Phoebidas, a Spartan commander with troops on their way to Thrace, took advantage of an invitation from some Theban discontents to seize control of the Cadmeia, the Theban citadel. It was suspected that Phoebidas was acting under Agesilaus’ instructions. Certainly, Agesilaus fully supported Phoebidas after the fact. When the Thebans revolted against the Spartan-supported regime and drove out the Spartan garrison, Agesilaus declared war against Thebes (379).

Inspired by Phoebidas’ example, another Spartan called Sphodrias, one of Agesilaus’ political opponents, attempted a surprise night-time attack on the Piraeus in an attempt to cut off Athenian access to the sea, but dawn found him still en route for the Piraeus, and so, after raiding the countryside, he retreated back to Thespiae on the Boeotian-Athenian border. The Athenians sent a delegation to Sparta to protest, but when the delegation got there, they found that Sphodrias had already been indicted. However, Sphodrias’ son was Agesilaus’ son’s lover, and family feeling overruled political disagreement and international outrage, and Sphodrias was acquitted.

Agesilaus decided that Cleombrotus, now the other Spartan king, was not pursuing the war against Thebes vigorously enough and took to the field himself (378). The Thebans were learning from their frequent wars against Sparta, and so the war did not go as well as Agesilaus hoped. While on campaign, Agesilaus seems to have suffered from a blood clot in his leg, and lost a lot of blood when the doctors tried to relieve his symptoms by bleeding him (377). He was taken back to Sparta and was unable to undertake military expeditions for a long time.

While Agesilaus was out of action, Sparta suffered serious defeats from the Thebans. A peace conference was held at Sparta, with delegates from all over Greece (371). There was a major row between Agesilaus and the leader of the Theban delegation, Epaminondas, which resulted in Agesilaus dismissing the rest of the delegates and declaring war on Thebes again. Cleombrotus, who was in Phocis at the time, led his forces to attack Thebes. The Spartans suffered a crushing defeat at the battle of Leuctra, with the loss of a thousand men. Sparta’s time as a major military power was over, and Theban ascendancy began.

When the news of Leuctra reached Sparta (371), the relatives of the fallen were full of pride while the relatives of the survivors behaved as if they were in mourning. The survivors were in grave danger of being declared cowards and subject to various legal and social penalties. However, Agesilaus declared that the laws should be suspended for one day so that the survivors would not have to stand trial. Morale in Sparta was very low and many remembered the oracle about the lame king. However, Agesilaus was still popular and the Spartans continued to trust him as a leader in war and in international relations. To help restore confidence, Agesilaus led an expedition into Arcadia, where the Spartans captured a small town (370).

In the winter of 370-369, however, Epaminondas led an invasion of Spartan territory reaching the outskirts of Sparta itself. The Thebans were unable to dislodge Agesilaus from his defensive position in the centre of the city and proceeded to lay waste the countryside. Within Sparta itself there was an attempted coup, and the insurgents took control of a easily defensible spot called the Issorium. Agesilaus persuaded the majority of those involved to disband and take up positions elsewhere. Then he arrested the ringleaders and put them to death.

Eventually the Thebans left and went back to Boeotia (369), although it is not clear why. One explanation given is that the weather turned nasty. Plutarch quotes a writer called Theopompus, who said that Agesilaus bribed the Thebans into leaving (Agesilaus 32). However, the Spartans had lost control of the territory of Messene, which had financially underpinned their whole way of life. Agesilaus refused to accept this loss and so continued the war against Thebes.

The Spartans sent an army to the aid of Mantinea, which was rebelling against the Thebans (362). While the Spartans under Agesilaus were on their way to Mantinea, Epaminondas and the Thebans marched against Sparta. Agesilaus was warned of what was happening and hastily returned to Sparta, where he fought off the Thebans. Two days later the Spartans and Thebans fought again at Mantinea, and in this battle Epaminondas was killed. A peace conference was held, but Agesilaus and the Spartans still refused to recognise Messenian independence, and so the war continued.

Sparta was getting seriously short of funds, and so, even though he was now over 80, Agesilaus hired himself out as a military commander to Tachos of Egypt, who was rebelling against Artaxerxes of Persia (361). Agesilaus was expecting to be put in command of the whole army, but in fact he was only put in charge of the mercenaries. Tachos’ cousin, Nectanebis was planning a coup against Tachos. Both sides sent delegations to Sparta asking for help, but the Spartans left the question of which to support to discretion of Agesilaus as the man on the spot. He duly switched sides and joined Nectanebis. Tachos fled and took refuge with Artaxerxes.

However, Necatanebis’ hold over Egypt was not secure, and another claimant for the throne rose up in Mendes. The Mendesian made approaches to Agesilaus with the result that Nectanebis grew suspicious. Agesilaus stayed with Nectanebis and after being besieged by the enemy, he defeated them. Agesilaus decided that his work in Egypt was finished and wanted to return to Sparta. He died on the way home at the age of 83 (359), and his body was transported back to Sparta embalmed in wax. He was succeeded as king by his son, Archidamus.

When the news reached Sparta, the relatives of the fallen were full of pride while the relatives of the survivors behaved as if they were in mourning. The survivors were in grave danger of being declared cowards and subject to various legal and social penalties. However, Agesilaus declared that the laws should be suspended for one day so that the survivors would not have to stand trial. Morale in Sparta was very low and many remembered the oracle about the lame king. However, Agesilaus was still popular and the Spartans continued to trust him as a leader in war and in international relations. To help restore confidence, Agesilaus led an expedition into Arcadia, where the Spartans captured a small town (370).

In the winter of 370-369, however, Epaminondas led an invasion of Spartan territory reaching the outskirts of Sparta itself. The Thebans were unable to dislodge Agesilaus from his defensive position in the centre of the city and proceeded to lay waste the countryside. Within Sparta itself there was an attempted coup, and the insurgents took control of a easily defensible spot called the Issorium. Agesilaus persuaded the majority of those involved to disband and take up positions elsewhere. Then he arrested the ringleaders and put them to death.

Eventually the Thebans left and went back to Boeotia (369), although it is not clear why. One explanation given is that the weather turned nasty. Plutarch quotes a writer called Theopompus, who said that Agesilaus bribed the Thebans into leaving (Agesilaus 32). However, the Spartans had lost control of the territory of Messene, which had financially underpinned their whole way of life. Agesilaus refused to accept this loss and so continued the war against Thebes.

The Spartans sent an army to the aid of Mantinea, which was rebelling against the Thebans (362). While the Spartans under Agesilaus were on their way to Mantinea, Epaminondas and the Thebans marched against Sparta. Agesilaus was warned of what was happening and hastily returned to Sparta, where he fought off the Thebans. Two days later the Spartans and Thebans fought again at Mantinea, and in this battle Epaminondas was killed. A peace conference was held, but Agesilaus and the Spartans still refused to recognise Messenian independence, and so the war continued.

Sparta was getting seriously short of funds, and so, even though he was now over 80, Agesilaus hired himself out as a military commander to Tachos of Egypt, who was rebelling against Artaxerxes of Persia (361). Agesilaus was expecting to be put in command of the whole army, but in fact he was only put in charge of the mercenaries. Tachos’ cousin, Nectanebis was planning a coup against Tachos. Both sides sent delegations to Sparta asking for help, but the Spartans left the question of which to support to discretion of Agesilaus as the man on the spot. He duly switched sides and joined Nectanebis. Tachos fled and took refuge with Artaxerxes.

However, Necatanebis’ hold over Egypt was not secure, and another claimant for the throne rose up in Mendes. The Mendesian made approaches to Agesilaus with the result that Nectanebis grew suspicious. Agesilaus stayed with Nectanebis and after being besieged by the enemy, he defeated them. Agesilaus decided that his work in Egypt was finished and wanted to return to Sparta. He died on the way home at the age of 83 (359), and his body was transported back to Sparta embalmed in wax. He was succeeded as king by his son, Archidamus.

When the news reached Sparta, the relatives of the fallen were full of pride while the relatives of the survivors behaved as if they were in mourning. The survivors were in grave danger of being declared cowards and subject to various legal and social penalties. However, Agesilaus declared that the laws should be suspended for one day so that the survivors would not have to stand trial. Morale in Sparta was very low and many remembered the oracle about the lame king. However, Agesilaus was still popular and the Spartans continued to trust him as a leader in war and in international relations. To help restore confidence, Agesilaus led an expedition into Arcadia, where the Spartans captured a small town (370).

In the winter of 370-369, however, Epaminondas led an invasion of Spartan territory reaching the outskirts of Sparta itself. The Thebans were unable to dislodge Agesilaus from his defensive position in the centre of the city and proceeded to lay waste the countryside. Within Sparta itself there was an attempted coup, and the insurgents took control of a easily defensible spot called the Issorium. Agesilaus persuaded the majority of those involved to disband and take up positions elsewhere. Then he arrested the ringleaders and put them to death.

Eventually the Thebans left and went back to Boeotia (369), although it is not clear why. One explanation given is that the weather turned nasty. Plutarch quotes a writer called Theopompus, who said that Agesilaus bribed the Thebans into leaving (Agesilaus 32). However, the Spartans had lost control of the territory of Messene, which had financially underpinned their whole way of life. Agesilaus refused to accept this loss and so continued the war against Thebes.

The Spartans sent an army to the aid of Mantinea, which was rebelling against the Thebans (362). While the Spartans under Agesilaus were on their way to Mantinea, Epaminondas and the Thebans marched against Sparta. Agesilaus was warned of what was happening and hastily returned to Sparta, where he fought off the Thebans. Two days later the Spartans and Thebans fought again at Mantinea, and in this battle Epaminondas was killed. A peace conference was held, but Agesilaus and the Spartans still refused to recognise Messenian independence, and so the war continued.

Sparta was getting seriously short of funds, and so, even though he was now over 80, Agesilaus hired himself out as a military commander to Tachos of Egypt, who was rebelling against Artaxerxes of Persia (361). Agesilaus was expecting to be put in command of the whole army, but in fact he was only put in charge of the mercenaries. Tachos’ cousin, Nectanebis was planning a coup against Tachos. Both sides sent delegations to Sparta asking for help, but the Spartans left the question of which to support to discretion of Agesilaus as the man on the spot. He duly switched sides and joined Nectanebis. Tachos fled and took refuge with Artaxerxes.

However, Necatanebis’ hold over Egypt was not secure, and another claimant for the throne rose up in Mendes. The Mendesian made approaches to Agesilaus with the result that Nectanebis grew suspicious. Agesilaus stayed with Nectanebis and after being besieged by the enemy, he defeated them. Agesilaus decided that his work in Egypt was finished and wanted to return to Sparta. He died on the way home at the age of 83 (359), and his body was transported back to Sparta embalmed in wax. He was succeeded as king by his son, Archidamus.


Further Reading

Ancient sources on Agesilaus II are Xenophon's Agesilaus and Hellenica "Life of Agesilaus" in Plutarch's Lives and "Agesilaus" in The Lives of Cornelius Nepos. Modern works which discuss Agesilaus II include J. B. Bury, A History of Greece to the Death of Alexander the Great (1900 3d rev. ed. 1951) M.L.W. Laistner, A History of the Greek World from 479 to 323 B.C. (1936 3d rev. ed. 1957) N.G.L. Hammond, A History of Greece to 322 B.C. (1959 2d ed. 1967) and A. H. M. Jones, Sparta (1967).


Agesilaus II

Agesilaus II (444/443-359): king of Sparta (r.400-359).

Agesilaus was born in the Eurypontid family, one of the two royal dynasties of Sparta, in 444/443, as the second son of king Archidamus II (477-426). Agesilaus' elder half-brother was Agis II, whose reign started in 426 and lasted until 400.

Agis' normal successor would have been his son Leotychidas, but he was generally considered to be a child of Alcibiades, an Athenian adventurer who had stayed at Sparta as an exile. For some time, there was a lot of quarreling going on. Agesilaus objected to Leotychidas' reign, saying that he was a mere bastard the prince replied by saying that there was an oracle that warned against a 'lame king' - and wasn't Agesilaus lame? The debate was concluded when Lysander, Sparta's best commander and a personal friend (and former lover) of Agesilaus, declared that the true meaning of the oracle had been that the 'lame king' was the king who was a bastard. So, in 400, Agesilaus was accepted as king by the Spartans.

Of course, the new king had to pay a prize. Lysander was the proponent of a militant and aggressive foreign policy, and from now on Agesilaus had to follow this policy too. In the year of his accession, he sent a general named Thibron to what is now Turkey in order to protect the Greek towns against oppression by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes. The expeditionary force consisted of some 5,000 members of the Spartan alliance, 300 Athenians, and the 6,000 surviving Greek mercenaries of the army that had been used by the Persian pretender Cyrus the Younger to attack his brother, king Artaxerxes II Mnemon. Extra power was added to Thibron's force by an alliance with Egypt, which had once been a Persian satrapy but had recently become independent under Amyrtaeus, a new pharaoh.

The size of the expeditionary force was considerable, but the army's movements were not well coordinated with that of the navy. Thibron and (after 399) his successor Dercyllidas wasted their time in Hellespontine Phrygia, fighting against the forces of satrap Pharnabazus. Finally, Dercyllidas' army moved to the south and invaded Caria, where it could have united with the Spartan navy and might have expelled the Persian navy from the Aegean, but now Pharnabazus and the satrap of Lydia, Tissaphernes, united their forces and lured the Spartans to the north. Shortly before the two armies joined battle, an armistice was concluded near Magnesia (397).

The two governments might have concluded a peace treaty on the terms agreed by Dercyllidas and Tissaphernes: Sparta would evacuate Asia, and Persia would recognize the independence of the Greek towns in Ionia. However, during the negotiations, the Persians continued to build a large navy in Phoenicia, and king Agesilaus concluded that the Persian peace offer was not seriously meant. (In fact, it is possible that the navy was to be directed against Egypt.) Now, Agesilaus decided to invade Asia personally. Lysander would be his assistant. They took 8,000 soldiers with him.

In the spring of 396, Agesilaus sacrificed at Aulis in Boeotia, praying for a safe crossing of the Aegean Sea. The site was well chosen: this was the place where, according to well-known legends, the Mycenaean king Agamemnon had once sacrificed before he went to Troy. Unfortunately, Agesilaus' sacrifice was soiled by the behavior of Boeotian cavalry men, and reinforcements that had been promised by Sparta's Greek allies did not turn up. The omens were bad.

Nevertheless, Agesilaus' campaign started successfully. He first sailed to Ephesus and concluded a truce with satrap Tissaphernes, which gave him a free hand to attack Pharnabazus. Lysander did the job. (Tissaphernes agreed to the truce because he expected reinforcements.)

The citadel of Sardes

In the winter of 396/395, Agesilaus recruited extra soldiers among the Ionian Greeks, and in the spring, he defeated Tissaphernes in the neighborhood of Sardes. The spoils were very large, and Tissaphernes was killed by one Tithraustes, who was sent as the new satrap of Caria and Ionia. He was a clever diplomat, who paid a large amount of money to Agesilaus, under the condition that he went back to the north and attacked Pharnabazus.

When Agesilaus was marching to the north again, he received new instructions from the Spartan government: he had to sail to and attack Caria -which was suffering from the change of satrap- and continue to the east, to Cilicia. This strategy made sense. It had been employed by the Athenians in the fifth century, and was a better way to expel the Persians from the Aegean region than fighting against the satraps of Hellespontine Phrygia and Caria/Ionia. Alexander the Great was to do the same thing in 333.

Unfortunately, Agesilaus was unable to do this. He raided the satrapy of Pharnabazus (as he had promised to Tithraustes) and acquired large spoils. But the satrap of Hellespontine Phrygia did not come to terms, and therefore, the naval offensive had to be postponed. Agesilaus decided on a march to the interior of Asia along the Royal road. However, his progress was slow because he was unable to capture the towns - the Spartans were famous for their inability to conduct siege warfare. This gave the Persians opportunity to build up a new navy, and -even worse to the Spartan case- to find a capable admiral, the Athenian Conon.

In 395, Conon and the Persian navy captured Rhodes, which was to be their base for operations in the Aegean Sea. (A large grain fleet that Egypt had sent to Sparta was captured, because its admiral did not know of the capture of Rhodes.) Next year, Conon was ready to strike. But so was Agesilaus, who had by now reached Gordium. However, the summer of 395 had seen several risings against the Spartan hegemony in the mainland of Greece, especially in Boeotia. This forced the Spartan government to recall Agesilaus in the spring of 394.

We may speculate what would have happened if the Spartan hegemony in Greece had remained unchallenged. In that case, the situation would have been more or less identical to that of the year 333, when the Macedonian king Alexander the Great raided the interior of Asia and the Persian admiral Pharnabazus conducted operations in the Aegean Sea. The result was a Macedonian victory, and the same may have been true for Agesilaus. On the other hand, Alexander knew how to conduct a siege, something that the Spartan king did not.

However this may be, Agesilaus was forced to return to the Greek mainland -he carried 1,000 talents of loot with him- where he defeated the Boeotians on 14 August 394, near Coronea.

By now, the Corinthian War had started: Sparta had to fight against the Boeotians, Corinthians, Athenians, and the Persian navy. They had gathered at Corinth to invade the Peloponnese, but the Spartans had defeated the invaders in June or July. Agesilaus' victory at Coronea was a further Spartan success. Twenty-three years were to pass until a Greek army dared to oppose the Spartans.

In 392-390, Agesilaus was the most important Spartan general in an inconclusive war that concentrated on the region surrounding Corinth. In 389, he was fighting in Acarnania in the west, which he forced into surrender. However, the Spartans were unable to break their opponents' strength, and the enemy coalition was incapable of pushing back the Spartans. Both sides used mercenaries, which marked the beginning of a professionalisation of the conduct of war.

Meanwhile, Conon and the Persian navy were master of the Aegean Sea and ravaged the coasts of the Peloponnese. Persian gold sponsored Thebes and Corinth. The Spartans understood that Persia was their real enemy, and opened negotiations with Tiribazus, who had succeeded Tithraustes as satrap of Ionia and Caria. At a peace congress, the Spartan envoy Antalcidas suggested the cession of all Greek towns in Asia and requested the independence and autonomy of the Greek towns in Europe.

By now, Athens had become dangerous for the Persian king Artaxerxes: it had rebuilt parts of its empire and was threatening Cyprus. Besides, it had concluded an alliance with the Egyptian king Achoris. Therefore, the king agreed to Antalcidas' proposal. He was to side with Sparta for such time as Athens refused to sign a peace treaty. Antalcidas now seized the Athenian possessions near the Hellespont and a second Spartan fleet blockaded Athens. Ultimately, Athens gave in, and the King's Peace was concluded: all Greek towns were to be independent and autonomous, and the common peace was to be guaranteed by Sparta (387/386). In other words, the war-weary towns on the Greek mainland accepted Sparta as their leader, and the Greek towns in Asia were sacrificed to the great king.

For almost a decade, Greece remained more or less at peace. However, in the last week of 379, Thebes revolted and expelled its Spartan garrison. At Sparta, the conduct of the war was entrusted to Agesilaus. He took his task very seriously, improved the recruiting system of the Spartan army, and invaded Boeotia in the autumn of 378. However, he was unable to conduct a siege, the Thebans did not offer battle, and he was forced to return to Sparta, having looted the country. The same happened in 377. The garrisons that he left behind in Boeotia, were expelled one by one by the Thebans.

The Theban successes in Boeotia covered Athens, which reorganized its empire in the Second Athenian Confederacy. The Athenians were just as successful as the Thebans (377). When Athens had regained its former naval superiority, it concluded a peace treaty with Sparta, which grudgingly gave in to have its hands free in Boeotia (July 374).

In the summer of 371, the Spartan king Cleombrotus, Agesilaus' younger colleague, invaded Boeotia with a large army that was to settle all accounts. At Leuctra, it met the Theban army of Epaminondas, which was perhaps half the size of the Spartan army. However, the Thebans placed their troops at an angle with the Spartan troops, and were able to concentrate their forces on one section of the Spartan battle line. They broke through the Spartan lines, and their victory was complete. For the first time, the Spartans had been defeated by an army smaller than their own. Even worse, it had hardly any soldiers left, and the next decades it was to look for money to buy mercenaries

Immediately, the Spartan coalition began to disintegrate. The Spartans gave Agesilaus, now 73 or 74 years old, full powers to reform the constitution and strengthen the army, but he did not have the imagination to find new ways.

In the winter of 370/369, the Boeotians again did the impossible: they invaded the Peloponnese and attacked Sparta at home. The Spartan populace wanted to attack the army of Epaminondas, but Agesilaus convinced them that they were no match for the Thebans. However, he managed to defend Sparta itself - or so it seemed. Probably, Epaminondas knew that looting Sparta was unnecessary, because there was nothing to take away from this poor village. Meanwhile, Agesilaus renewed the peace treaty with Athens.

In 368, Sparta was really defeated - without a battle. This time, the Thebans managed to liberate the helots of Messenia, which had always been the work force of the Spartans. This meant the economic collapse of Sparta. Agesilaus sent envoys to Persia, but they did not obtain the money Sparta needed to buy mercenaries. On the contrary, the great king wanted the King's Peace to be renewed, with Thebes as supreme Greek power. To Athens and Sparta, this was unacceptable.

Agesilaus now started a career as a mercenary leader. In 367, he joined forces with Ariobarzanes, a satrap revolting against the great king. In this way, he hoped to earn the money Sparta needed. He was not unsuccessful, and when the Thebans again invaded the Peloponnese in 362, he managed to prevent the capture of Sparta. However, when the Spartans and Athenians attacked the Theban expeditionary force at Mantinea, they were defeated.

The result was a stalemate, because the Theban leader Epaminondas died in action. In the winter, a League of Greek City-States was formed, which swore to observe a general peace. Unfortunately, Sparta was unable to join. It could not accept the loss of Messenia and would try to force its inhabitants back into servitude.

However, it lacked the financial means to reorganize its army. Therefore, Agesilaus again became a mercenary leader, this time siding with the Egyptian king Teos, who was preparing an attack on the Persian territories in Syria. However, when his expeditionary force had reached Phoenicia, news arrived that Teos' brother Tjahapimu, the governor of Egypt, had revolted and had offered the throne to Nectanebo II (360). Almost immediately, Agesilaus sided with the new pharaoh.

One of the problems the new king had to cope with, was another would-be king at Mendes in the eastern Delta, but the mercenaries of Agesilaus made quick work of him. It was the last victory of the old man. Nectanebo no longer needed him, and sent him back with a bonus of 250 talents. When Agesilaus reached Cyrene, he fell ill and died. Nectanebo kindly ordered that the corpse would be royally embalmed before it would be sent to Sparta.

This was the end of Agesilaus. He had been a courageous and disciplined soldier, whose bad fortune it was that he had survived the era in which courage and discipline were the road to success. In the fourth century, generals had to be more creative, and this was precisely the quality he was lacking. Agesilaus also lacked the imagination to reform the Spartan constitution after the defeat at Leuctra. In spite of his personal courage, he was the wrong man to lead Sparta after 371.


Agis II

Agis II (Greek: Ἄγις died c. 401 BC) was the 18th Eurypontid king of Sparta, the eldest son of Archidamus II by his first wife, and half-brother of Agesilaus II. [1] He ruled with his Agiad co-monarch Pausanias. [2]

Agis II
King of Sparta
Reign427–401/400 BC
PredecessorArchidamus II
SuccessorAgesilaus II
BornSparta
Died401 BC
Sparta
SpouseTimaea, Queen of Sparta
IssueLeotychides (possibly illegitimate)
DynastyEurypontid
FatherArchidamus II

Agis succeeded his father Archidamus II in 427 BC, and reigned a little more than 26 years. In the summer of 426 BC, he led an army of Peloponnesians and their allies as far as the isthmus, with the intention of invading Attica but they were deterred from advancing farther by a succession of earthquakes. [3] In the spring of the following year he led an army into Attica, but ceased his advance fifteen days after he had entered Attica. [4] In 419 BC, the Argives, at the instigation of Alcibiades, attacked Epidaurus and Agis with a large force from Lacedaemon set out and marched to the frontier city of Leuctra. No one, Thucydides tells us, knew the purpose of this expedition. It was probably to make a diversion in favour of Epidaurus. [5]

At Leuctra the unfavourable outcome of various sacrifices deterred Agis from proceeding. He therefore led his troops back, and sent around a notice to the allies to be ready for an expedition at the end of the sacred month of the Carnean festival. When the Argives repeated their attack on Epidaurus, the Spartans again marched to the frontier town, Caryae, and again turned back, supposedly on account of the aspect of the victims. In the middle of the following summer of 418 BC the Epidaurians being still hard pressed by the Argives, the Lacedaemonians with their whole force and some allies, under the command of Agis, invaded Argolis. By a skilful manoeuvre he succeeded in intercepting the Argives, and posted his army advantageously between them and the city. But just as the battle was about to begin, the Argive generals Thrasyllus and Alciphron met with Agis and prevailed on him to conclude a truce for four months.

Agis, without disclosing his motives, pulled his army back. On his return he was severely censured in Sparta for having thus thrown away the opportunity of reducing Argos, especially as the Argives had seized the opportunity afforded by his return and taken Orchomenus. It was proposed to pull down his house, and inflict on him a fine of 100,000 drachmas. But on his earnest entreaty they contented themselves with appointing a council of war, consisting of 10 Spartans, who needed to be present before he could lead an army out of the city. [6] Shortly afterwards they received intelligence from Tegea, that, if not promptly reinforced, the party favourable to Sparta in that city would be compelled to surrender. The Spartans immediately sent their whole force under the command of Agis. He restored stability at Tegea, and then marched to Mantineia. By turning the waters to flood the lands of Mantineia, he succeeded in drawing the army of the Mantineans and Athenians down to the level ground. A battle ensued, in which the Spartans were victorious. The Battle of Mantinea was reckoned one of the most important battles ever fought between the Grecian states. [7]

In 417 BC, when the news reached Sparta of the counter-revolution at Argos, in which the oligarchical and Spartan faction was overthrown, an army was sent there under Agis. He was unable to restore the defeated party, but he destroyed the long walls which the Argives had begun to extend down to the sea, and took Hysiae. [8] In the spring of 413 BC, Agis entered Attica with a Peloponnesian army, and fortified Decelea [9] and in the winter of the same year, after the news of the disastrous fate of the Sicilian expedition had reached Greece, he marched northwards to levy contributions on the allies of Sparta, for the purpose of constructing a fleet. While at Decelea he acted largely independent of the Spartan government, and received embassies from the disaffected allies of the Athenians, as from the Boeotians and other allies of Sparta. [10] He seems to have remained at Decelea until the end of the Peloponnesian War. In 411 BC, during the administration of the Four Hundred, he made an unsuccessful attempt on Athens itself. [11] Afterwards the focus of the Peloponnesian War shifted to Asia Minor, and Lysander assumed a greater role in the siege of Athens. After victory was secured, Agis voted to charge his Agiad co-monarch Pausanias with treason, but Pausanias was acquitted. [12]

In 401 BC, the command of the war against the notoriously disloyal Elis was entrusted to Agis, who in the third year compelled the Eleans to sue for peace, acknowledge the freedom of their Perioeci (Triphylians and others), and allow Spartans to take part in the Olympic Games and sacrifices. [2] As he was returning from Delphi, where he had gone to consecrate a tenth of the spoil, he fell sick at Heraea in Arcadia, and died a few days after he reached Sparta. [13] He was buried in Sparta, with unparalleled solemnity and pomp. [2]

Agis left a son, Leotychides. However, he was excluded from the throne, as there was some suspicion with regard to his legitimacy. A common legend states that while Alcibiades was in Sparta, Agis II suspected that Alcibiades had slept with his queen, Timaea (and that Alcidbiades had fathered Leotychides). [14] [15] It was probably at the suggestion of Agis that orders were sent out to Astyochus to put him to death. Alcibiades, however, received warning (according to some accounts from Timaea herself), and evaded the Spartans. [16] [17] However, others claim that, judging from the sources, Leotychides was a man at the time of Agis' death, and Alcibiades as his father was a later replacement for a now unknown lover. [18]


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