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By Plutarch

(died 241 B.C.E.)

Translated by John Dryden

The fable of Ixion, who, embracing a cloud instead of Juno, begot
the Centaurs, has been ingeniously enough supposed to have been invented
to represent to us ambitious men, whose minds, doting on glory, which
is a mere image of virtue, produce nothing that is genuine or uniform,
but only, as might be expected of such a conjunction, misshapen and
unnatural actions. Running after their emulations and passions, and
carried away by the impulses of the moment, they may say with the
herdsmen in the tragedy of Sophocles- 

"We follow these, though born their rightful lords, 
And they command us, though they speak no words." For this is indeed
the true condition of men in public life, who, to gain the vain title
of being the people's leaders and governors, are content to make themselves
the slaves and followers of all the people's humours and caprices.
For as the lookout men at the ship's prow, though they see what is
ahead before the men at the helm, yet constantly look back to the
pilots there, and obey the orders they give; so these men, steered,
as I may say, by popular applause, though they bear the name of governors,
are in reality the mere underlings of the multitude. The man who is
completely wise and virtuous has no need at all of glory, except so
far as it disposes and eases his way to action by the greater trust
that it procures him. A young man, I grant, may be permitted, while
yet eager for distinction, to pride himself a little in his good deeds;
for (as Theophrastus says) his virtues, which are yet tender and,
as it were, in the blade, cherished and supported by praises, grow
stronger, and take the deeper root. But when this passion is exorbitant,
it is dangerous in all men, and in those who govern a commonwealth,
utterly destructive. For in the possession of large power and authority,
it transports men to a degree of madness; so that now they no more
think what is good, glorious, but will have those actions only esteemed
good that are glorious. As Phocion, therefore, answered King Antipater,
who sought his approbation of some unworthy action, "I cannot be your
flatterer, and your friend," so these men should answer the people,
"I cannot govern and obey you." For it may happen to the commonwealth,
as to the serpent in the fable, whose tail, rising in rebellion against
the head, complained, as of a great grievance, that it was always
forced to follow, and required that it should be permitted by turns
to lead the way. And taking the command accordingly, it soon inflicted,
by its senseless courses, mischiefs in abundance upon itself, while
the head was torn and lacerated with following, contrary to nature,
a guide that was deaf and blind. And such we see to have been the
lot of many, who, submitting to be guided by the inclinations of an
uninformed and unreasoning multitude, could neither stop, nor recover
themselves out of the confusion. 

This is what has occurred to us to say of that glory which depends
on the voice of large numbers, considering the sad effects of it in
the misfortunes of Caius and Tiberius Gracchus, men of noble nature,
and whose generous natural dispositions were improved by the best
of educations, and who came to the administration of affairs with
the most laudable intentions; yet they were ruined, I cannot say by
an immoderate desire of glory, but by a more excusable fear of disgrace.
For being excessively beloved and favoured by the people, they thought
it a discredit to them not to make full repayment, endeavouring by
new public acts to outdo the honours they had received, and again,
because of these new kindnesses, incurring yet further distinctions;
till the people and they, mutually inflamed, and vying thus with each
other in honours and benefits, brought things at last to such a pass
that they might say that to engage so far was indeed a folly, but
to retreat would now be a shame. 

This the reader will easily gather from the story. I will now compare
with them two Lacedaemonian popular leaders, the kings Agis and Cleomenes.
For they, being desirous also to raise the people, and to restore
the noble and just form of government, now long fallen into disuse,
incurred the hatred of the rich and powerful, who could not endure
to be deprived of the selfish enjoyment to which they were accustomed.
These were not indeed brothers by nature, as the two Romans, but they
had a kind of brotherly resemblance in their actions and designs,
which took a rise from such beginnings and occasions as I am now about
to relate. 

When the love of gold and silver had once gained admittance into the
Lacedaemonian commonwealth, it was quickly followed by avarice and
baseness of spirit in the pursuit of it, and by luxury, effeminacy,
and prodigality in the use. Then Sparta fell from almost all her former
virtue and repute, and so continued till the days of Agis and Leonidas,
who both together were kings of the Lacedaemonians. 

Agis was of the royal family of Eurypon, son of Eudamidas, and the
sixth in descent from Agesilaus, who made the expedition into Asia,
and was the greatest man of his time in Greece. Agesilaus left behind
him a son called Archidamus, the same who was slain at Mandonium,
in Italy, by the Messapians, and who was then succeeded by his eldest
son Agis. He being killed by Antipater near Megalopolis, and leaving
no issue, was succeeded by his brother Eudamidas; he by a son called
Archidamus; and Archidamus by another Eudamidas, the father of this
Agis of whom we now treat. 

Leonidas, son of Cleonymus, was of the other royal house of the Agiadae,
and the eighth in descent from Pausanias, who defeated Mardonius in
the battle of Plataea. Pausanias was succeeded by a son called Plistoanax;
and he by another Pausanias who was banished, and lived as a private
man at Tegea, while his eldest son, Agesipolis, reigned in his place.
He, dying without issue, was succeeded by a younger brother, called
Cleombrotus, who left two sons; the elder was Agesipolis, who reigned
but a short time, and died without issue; the younger, who then became
king, was called Cleomenes, and had also two sons, Acrotatus and Cleonymus.
The first died before his father, but left a son called Areus, who
succeeded, and being slain at Corinth, left the kingdom to his son
Acrotatus. This Acrotatus was defeated, and slain near Megalopolis,
in a battle against the tyrant Aristodemus; he left his wife big with
child, and on her being delivered of a son, Leonidas, son of the above-named
Cleonymus, was made his guardian, and as the young king died before
becoming a man, he succeeded in the kingdom. 

Leonidas was a king not particularly suitable to his people. For though
there were at that time at Sparta a general decline in manners, yet
a greater revolt from the old habits appeared in him than in others.
For having lived a long time among the great lords of Persia, and
been a follower of King Seleucus, he unadvisedly thought to imitate,
among Greek institutions and in a lawful government, the pride and
assumption usual in those courts. Agis, on the contrary, in fineness
of nature and elevation of mind, not only far excelled Leonidas, but
in a manner all the kings that had reigned since the great Agesilaus.
For though he had been bred very tenderly, in abundance and even in
luxury, by his mother Agesistrata and his grandmother Archidamia,
who were the wealthiest of the Lacedaemonians, yet, before the age
of twenty, he renounced all indulgence in pleasures. Withdrawing himself
as far as possible from the gaiety and ornament which seemed becoming
to the grace of his person, he made it his pride to appear in the
coarse Spartan coat. In his meals, his bathings, and in all his exercises,
he followed the old Laconian usage, and was often heard to say, he
had no desire for the place of king, if he did not hope by means of
that authority to restore their ancient laws and discipline.

The Lacedaemonians might date the beginning of their corruption from
their conquest of Athens, and the influx of gold and silver among
them that thence ensued. Yet, nevertheless, the number of houses which
Lycurgus appointed being still maintained, and the law remaining in
force by which every one was obliged to leave his lot or portion of
land entirely to his son, a kind of order and equality was thereby
preserved, which still in some degree sustained the state amidst its
errors in other respects. But one Epitadeus happening to be ephor,
a man of great influence, and of a willful, violent spirit, on some
occasion of a quarrel with his son, proposed a decree, that all men
should have liberty to dispose of their land by gift in their lifetime,
or by their last will and testament. This being promoted by him to
satisfy a passion of revenge, and through covetousness consented to
by others, and thus enacted for a law, was the ruin of the best state
of the commonwealth. For the rich men without scruple drew the estate
into their own hands, excluding the rightful heirs from their succession;
and all the wealth being centered upon the few, the generality were
poor and miserable. Honorable pursuits, for which there was no longer
leisure, were neglected; the state was filled with sordid business,
and with hatred and envy of the rich. There did not remain above seven
hundred of the old Spartan families, of which, perhaps, one hundred
might have estate in land, the rest were destitute alike of wealth
and of honour, were tardy and unperforming in the defence of their
country against its enemies abroad, and eagerly watched the opportunity
for change and revolution at home. 

Agis, therefore, believing it a glorious action, as in truth it was,
to equalize and repeople the state, began to sound the inclinations
of the citizens. He found the young men disposed beyond his expectation;
they were eager to enter with him upon the contest in the cause of
virtue, and to fling aside, for freedom's sake, their old manner of
life, as readily as the wrestler does his garment. But the old men,
habituated and more confirmed in their vices, were most of them as
alarmed at the very name of Lycurgus, as a fugitive slave to be brought
back before his offended master. These men could not endure to hear
Agis continually deploring the present state of Sparta, and wishing
she might be restored to her ancient glory. But on the other side,
Lysander, the son of Libys, Mandroclidas, the son of Ecphanes, together
with Agesilaus, not only approved his design, but assisted and confirmed
him in it. Lysander had a great authority and credit with the people;
Mandroclidas was esteemed the ablest Greek of his time to manage an
affair and put it in train, and, joined with skill and cunning, had
a great degree of boldness. Agesilaus was the king's uncle, by the
mother's side; an eloquent man, but covetous and voluptuous, who was
not moved by considerations of public good, but rather seemed to be
persuaded in it by his son Hippomedon, whose courage and signal actions
in war had gained him a high esteem and great influence among the
young men of Sparta, though indeed the true motive was, that he had
many debts, and hoped by this means to be freed from them.

As soon as Agis had prevailed with his uncle, he endeavoured by his
mediation to gain his mother also, who had many friends and followers,
and a number of persons in her debt in the city, and took a considerable
part in public affairs. At the first proposal she was very averse,
and strongly advised her son not to engage in so difficult and so
unprofitable an enterprise. But Agesilaus endeavoured to possess her,
that the thing was not so difficult as she imagined, and that it might,
in all likelihood, redound to the advantage of her family; while the
king, her son, besought her not for money's sake to decline assisting
his hopes of glory. He told her he could not pretend to equal other
kings in riches, the very followers and menials of the satraps and
stewards of Seleucus or Ptolemy abounding more in wealth than all
the Spartan kings put together; but if by contempt of wealth and pleasure,
by simplicity and magnanimity, he could surpass their luxury and abundance;
if he could restore their former equality to the Spartans, then he
should be a great king indeed. In conclusion, the mother and the grandmother
also were so taken, so carried away with the inspiration, as it were,
of the young man's noble and generous ambition, that they not only
consented, but were ready on all occasions to spur him on to a perseverance,
and not only sent to speak on his behalf with the men with whom they
had an interest, but addressed the other women also, knowing well
that the Lacedaemonian wives had always a great power with their husbands,
who used to impart to them their state affairs with greater freedom
than the women would communicate with the men in the private business
of their families. Which was indeed one of the greatest obstacles
to this design; for the money of Sparta being most of it in the women's
hands, it was their interest to oppose it, not only as depriving them
of those superfluous trifles, in which, through want of better knowledge
and experience, they placed their chief felicity, but also because
they knew their riches were the main support of their power and credit.

Those, therefore, who were of this faction had recourse to Leonidas
representing to him how it was his part, as the elder and more experienced,
to put a stop to the ill-advised projects of a rash young man. Leonidas,
though of himself sufficiently inclined to oppose Agis, durst not
openly, for fear of the people, who were manifestly desirous of this
change; but underhand he did all he could to discredit and thwart
the project, and to prejudice the chief magistrates against him, and
on all occasions craftily insinuated that it was at the price of letting
him usurp arbitrary power that Agis thus proposed to divide the property
of the rich among the poor, and that the object of these measures
for cancelling debts and dividing the lands, was not to furnish Sparta
with citizens, but purchase him a tyrant's body guard. 

Agis, nevertheless, little regarding these rumours, procured Lysander's
election as ephor; and then took the first occasion of proposing through
him his Rhetra to the council, the chief articles of which were these:
That every one should be free from their debts: all the lands to be
divided into equal portions, those that lay betwixt the watercourse
near Pellene and Mount Taygetus, and as far as the cities of Malea
and Sellasia, into four thousand five hundred lots, the remainder
into fifteen thousand; these last to be shared out among those of
the country people who were fit for service as heavy-armed soldiers,
the first among the natural-born Spartans, and their number also should
be supplied from any among the country people or strangers who had
received the proper breeding of freemen, and were of vigorous body
and of age for military service. All these were to be divided into
fifteen companies, some of four hundred, and some of two, with a diet
and discipline agreeable to the laws of Lycurgus. 

This decree being proposed in the council of Elders, met there with
opposition; so that Lysander immediately convoked the great assembly
of the people, to whom he, Mandroclidas, and Agesilaus made orations
exhorting them that they would not suffer the majesty of Sparta to
remain abandoned to contempt, to gratify a few rich men, who lorded
it over them; but that they should call to mind the oracles in old
times which had forewarned them to beware of the love of money, as
the great danger and probable ruin of Sparta, and, moreover, those
recently brought from the temple of Pasiphae. This was a famous temple
and oracle at Thalamae; and this Pasiphae, some say, was one of the
daughters of Atlas, who had by Jupiter a son called Ammon; others
are of opinion it was Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam, who dying
in this place, was called Pasiphae, as the revealer of oracles to
all men. Phylarchus says, that this was Daphne, the daughter of Amyclas,
who, flying from Apollo, was transformed into a laurel, and honoured
by that god with the gift of prophecy. But be it as will, it is certain
the people were made to apprehend that this oracle had commanded them
to return to their former state of equality settled by Lycurgus. As
soon as these had done speaking, Agis stood up, and after a few words,
told them he would make the best contribution in his power to the
new legislation, which was proposed for their advantage. In the first
place, he would divide among them all his patrimony, which was of
large extent in tillage and pasture; he would also give six hundred
talents in ready money, and his mother, grandmother, and his other
friends and relations, who were the richest of the Lacedaemonians,
were ready to follow his example. 

The people were transported with admiration of the young man's generosity,
and with joy that, after three hundred years' interval, at last there
had appeared a king worthy of Sparta. But, on the other side, Leonidas
was now more than ever averse, being sensible that he and his friends
would be obliged to contribute with their riches, and yet all the
honour and obligation would redound to Agis. He asked him then before
them all, whether Lycurgus were not in his opinion a wise man, and
a lover of his country. Agis answering he was, "And when did Lycurgus,"
replied Leonidas, "cancel debts, or admit strangers to citizenship,-
he who thought the commonwealth not secure unless from time to time
the city was cleared of all strangers?" To this Agis replied, "It
is no wonder that Leonidas, who was brought up and married abroad,
and has children by a wife taken out of a Persian court, should know
little of Lycurgus or his laws. Lycurgus took away both debts and
loans, by taking away money; and objected indeed to the presence of
men who were foreign to the manners and customs of the country, not
in any case from an ill-will to their persons, but lest the example
of their lives and conduct should infect the city with the love of
riches, and of delicate and luxurious habits. For it is well known
that he himself gladly kept Terpander, Thales, and Pherecydes though
they were strangers, because he perceived they were in their poems
and in their philosophy of the same mind with him. And you that are
wont to praise Ecprepes, who, being ephor, cut with his hatchet two
of the nine strings from the instrument of Phrynis the musician, and
to commend those who afterwards imitated him, in cutting the strings
of Timotheus's harp, with what face can you blame us for designing
to cut off superfluity and luxury and display from the commonwealth?
Do you think those men were so concerned only about a lute-string,
or intended anything else than to check in music that same excess
and extravagance which rule in our present lives and manners, and
have disturbed and destroyed all the harmony and order of our city?"

From this time forward, as the common people followed Agis, so the
rich men adhered to Leonidas. They besought him not to forsake their
cause; and with persuasions and entreaties so far prevailed with the
council of Elders, whose power consisted in preparing all laws before
they were proposed to the people, that the designed Rhetra was rejected,
though but by only one vote. Whereupon Lysander, who was still ephor,
resolving to be revenged on Leonidas, drew up an information against
him, grounded on two old laws: the one forbids any of the blood of
Hercules to raise up children by a foreign woman, and the other makes
it capital for a Lacedaemonian to leave his country to settle among
foreigners. Whilst he set others on to manage this accusation, he
with his colleagues went to observe the sign, which was a custom they
had, and performed in this manner. Every ninth year, the ephors, choosing
a starlight night, when there is neither cloud nor moon, sit down
together in quiet and silence, and watch the sky. And if they chance
to see the shooting of a star, they presently pronounce their king
guilty of some offence against the gods, and thereupon he is immediately
suspended from all exercise of regal power, till he is relieved by
an oracle from Delphi or Olympia. 

Lysander, therefore, assured the people he had seen a star shoot,
and at the same time Leonidas was cited to answer for himself. Witnesses
were produced to testify he had married an Asian woman, bestowed on
him by one of King Seleucus's lieutenants: that he had two children
by her, but she so disliked and hated him, that against his wishes,
flying from her, he was in a manner forced to return to Sparta, where
his predecessor dying without issue, he took upon him the government.
Lysander, not content with this, persuaded also Cleombrotus to lay
claim to the kingdom. He was of the royal family, and son-in-law to
Leonidas; who, fearing now the event of this process, fled as a suppliant
to the temple of Minerva of the Brazen House, together with his daughter,
the wife of Cleombrotus; for she in this occasion resolved to leave
her husband, and to follow her father. Leonidas being again cited,
and not appearing, they pronounced a sentence of deposition against
him, and made Cleombrotus king in his place. 

Soon after this revolution, Lysander, his year expiring, went out
of his office, and new ephors were chosen, who gave Leonidas assurance
of safety, and cited Lysander and Mandroclidas to answer for having,
contrary to law, cancelled debts, and designed a new division of lands.
They, seeing themselves in danger, had recourse to the two kings,
and represented to them how necessary it was for their interest and
safety to act with united authority, and bid defiance to the ephors.
For, indeed, the power of the ephors, they said, was only grounded
on the dissensions of the kings, it being their privilege, when the
kings differed in opinion, to add their suffrage to whichever they
judged to have given the best advice; but when the two kings were
unanimous, none ought or durst resist their authority, the magistrate,
whose office it was to stand as umpire when they were at variance,
had no call to interfere when they were of one mind. Agis and Cleombrotus,
thus persuaded, went together with their friends into the market-place,
where removing the ephors from their seats, they placed others in
their room, of whom Agesilaus was one; proceeding then to arm a company
of young men, and releasing many out of prison; so that those of the
contrary faction began to be in great fear of their lives; but there
was no blood spilt. On the contrary, Agis, having notice that Agesilaus
had ordered a company of soldiers to lie in wait for Leonidas, to
kill him as he fled to Tegea, immediately sent some of his followers
to defend him, and to convey him safely into that city. 

Thus far all things proceeded prosperously, none daring to oppose;
but through the sordid weakness of one man, these promising beginnings
were blasted, and a most noble and truly Spartan purpose overthrown
and ruined by the love of money. Agesilaus, as we said, was much in
debt, though in possession of one of the largest and best estates
in land; and while he gladly joined in this design to be quit of his
debts, he was not at all willing to part with his land. Therefore
he persuaded Agis, that if both these things should be put in execution
at the same time, so great and so sudden an alteration might cause
some dangerous commotion; but if debts were in the first place cancelled,
the rich men would afterwards more easily be prevailed with to part
with their land. Lysander, also, was of the same opinion, being deceived
in like manner by the craft of Agesilaus; so that all men were presently
commanded to bring in their bonds, or deeds of obligation, by the
Lacedaemonians called Claria, into the market-place, where being laid
together in a heap they set fire to them. The wealthy, money-lending
people, one may easily imagine, beheld it with a heavy heart; but
Agesilaus told them scoffingly, his eyes had never seen so bright
and so pure a flame. 

And now the people pressed earnestly for an immediate division of
lands; the kings also had ordered it should be done; but Agesilaus,
sometimes pretending one difficulty, and sometimes another, delayed
the execution, till an occasion happened to call Agis to the wars.
The Achaeans, in virtue of a defensive treaty of alliance, sent to
demand succours, as they expected every day that Aetolians would attempt
to enter Peloponnesus, from the territory of Megara. They had sent
Aratus, their general, to collect forces to hinder this incursion.
Aratus wrote to the ephors, who immediately gave order that Agis should
hasten to their assistance with the Lacedaemonian auxiliaries. Agis
was extremely pleased to see the zeal and bravery of those who went
with him upon this expedition. They were, for the most part young
men, and poor; and being just released from their debts and set at
liberty, and hoping on their return to receive each man his lot of
land, they followed their king with wonderful alacrity. The cities
through which they passed were in admiration to see how they marched
from one end of Peloponnesus to the other, without the least disorder,
and, in a manner, without being heard. It gave the Greeks occasion
to discourse with one another, how great might be the temperance and
modesty of a Laconian army in old time, under their famous captains:
Agesilaus, Lysander, or Leonidas, since they saw such discipline and
exact obedience under a leader who perhaps was the youngest man in
all the army. They saw also how he was himself content to fare hardly,
ready to undergo any labours, and not to be distinguished by pomp
or richness of habit or arms from the meanest of his soldiers; and
to people in general it was an object of regard and admiration. But
rich men viewed the innovation with dislike and alarm, lest haply
the example might spread, and work changes to their prejudice in their
own countries as well. 

Agis joined Aratus near the city of Corinth, where it was still a
matter of debate whether or no it were expedient to give the enemy
battle. Agis, on this occasion, showed great forwardness and resolution,
yet without temerity or presumption. He declared it was his opinion
they ought to fight, thereby to hinder the enemy from passing the
gates of Peloponnesus, but nevertheless he would submit to the judgment
of Aratus, not only as the elder and more experienced captain, but
as he was general of the Achaeans, whose forces he would not pretend
to command, but was only come thither to assist them. I am not ignorant
that Baton of Sinope relates it in another manner; he says, Aratus
would have fought, and that Agis was against it; but it is certain
he was mistaken, not having read what Aratus himself wrote in his
own justification, that knowing the people had well-nigh got in their
harvest, he thought it much better to let the enemy pass than put
all to the hazard of a battle. And, therefore, giving thanks to the
confederates for their readiness, he dismissed them. And Agis, not
without having gained a great deal of honour, returned to Sparta,
where he found the people in disorder, and a new revolution imminent,
owing to the ill-government of Agesilaus. 

For he, being now one of the ephors, and freed from the fear which
formerly kept him in some restraint, forbore no kind of oppression
which might bring in gain. Among other things, he exacted a thirteenth
month's tax, whereas the usual cycle required at this time no such
addition to the year. For these and other reasons fearing those whom
he injured, and knowing how he was hated by the people, he thought
it necessary to maintain a guard, which always accompanied him to
the magistrate's office. And presuming now on his power, he was grown
so insolent, that of the two kings, the one he openly contemned, and
if he showed any respect towards Agis, would have it thought rather
an effect of his near relationship, than any duty or submission to
the royal authority. He gave it out also that he was to continue ephor
the ensuing year. 

His enemies, therefore, alarmed by this report, lost no time in risking
an attempt against him; and openly bringing back Leonidas from Tegea,
re-established him in the kingdom, to which even the people, highly
incensed for having been defrauded in the promised division of lands,
willingly consented. Agesilaus himself would hardly have escaped their
fury, if his son, Hippomedon, whose manly virtues made him dear to
all, had not saved him out of their hands, and then privately conveyed
him from the city. 

During the commotion, the two kings fled, Agis to the temple of the
Brazen House, and Cleombrotus to that of Neptune. For Leonidas was
more incensed against his son-in-law; and leaving Agis alone, went
with his soldiers to Cleombrotus's sanctuary, and there with great
passion reproached him for having, though he was son-in-law, conspired
with his enemies, usurped his throne, and forced him from his country.
Cleombrotus, having little to say for himself, sat silent. His wife,
Chilonis, the daughter of Leonidas, had chosen to follow her father
in his sufferings; for when Cleombrotus usurped the kingdom, she forsook
him, and wholly devoted herself to comfort her father in his affliction;
whilst he still remained in Sparta, she remained also, as a suppliant,
with him, and when he fled, she fled with him, bewailing his misfortune,
and extremely displeased with Cleombrotus. But now, upon this turn
of fortune, she changed in like manner, and was seen sitting now,
as a suppliant, with her husband, embracing him with her arms, and
having her two little children beside her. All men were full of wonder
at the piety and tender affection of the young woman, who pointing
to her robes and her hair, both alike neglected and unattended to,
said to Leonidas, "I am not brought, my father, to this condition
you see me in, on account of the present misfortunes of Cleombrotus;
my mourning habit is long since familiar to me. It was put on to condole
with you in your banishment; and now you are restored to your country,
and to your kingdom, must I still remain in grief and misery? Or would
you have me attired in my royal ornaments, that I may rejoice with
you, when you have killed, within my arms, the man to whom you gave
me for a wife? Either Cleombrotus must appease you by mine and my
children's tears, or he must suffer a punishment greater than you
propose for his faults, and shall see me, whom he loves so well, die
before him. To what end should I live, or how shall I appear among
the Spartan women, when it shall so manifestly be seen, that I have
not been able to move to compassion either a husband or a father?
I was born, it seems, to participate in the ill-fortune and in the
disgrace, both as a wife and a daughter, of those nearest and dearest
to me. As for Cleombrotus I sufficiently surrendered any honourable
plea on his behalf, when I forsook him to follow you; but you yourself
offer the fairest excuse for his proceedings, by showing to the world
that for the sake of a kingdom it is just to kill a son-in-law, and
be regardless of a daughter." Chilonis, having ended this lamentation,
rested her face on her husband's head, and looked round with her weeping
and woe-begone eyes upon those who stood before her. 

Leonidas, touched with compassion, withdrew a while to advise with
his friends; then returning, bade Cleombrotus leave the sanctuary
and go into banishment; Chilonis, he said, ought to stay with him
it not being just she should forsake a father whose affection had
granted to her intercession the life of her husband. But all he could
say would not prevail. She rose up immediately, and taking one of
her children in her arms, gave the other to her husband; and making
her reverence to the altar of the goddess, went out and followed him.
So that, in a word, if Cleombrotus were not utterly blinded by ambition,
he must surely choose to be banished with so excellent a woman rather
than without her to possess a kingdom. 

Cleombrotus thus removed, Leonidas proceeded also to displace the
ephors, and to choose others in their room; then he began to consider
how he might entrap Agis. At first, he endeavoured by fair means to
persuade him to leave the sanctuary, and partake with him in the kingdom.
The people, he said, would easily pardon the errors of a young man,
ambitious of glory, and deceived by the craft of Agesilaus. But finding
Agis was suspicious, and not to be prevailed with to quit his sanctuary,
he gave up that design; yet what could not then be effected by the
dissimulation of an enemy, was soon after brought to pass by the treachery
of friends. 

Amphares, Damochares, and Arcesilaus often visited Agis, and he was
so confident of their fidelity that after a while he was prevailed
on to accompany them to the baths, which were not far distant, they
constantly returning to see him safe again in the temple. They were
all three his familiars; and Amphares had borrowed a great deal of
plate and rich household stuff from Agesistrata, and hoped if he could
destroy her and the whole family, he might peaceably enjoy those goods.
And he, it is said, was the readiest of all to serve the purposes
of Leonidas, and being one of the ephors, did all he could to incense
the rest of his colleagues against Agis. These men, therefore, finding
that Agis would not quit his sanctuary, but on occasion would venture
from it to go to the bath, resolved to seize him on the opportunity
thus given them. And one day as he was returning, they met and saluted
him as formerly, conversing pleasantly by the way, and jesting, as
youthful friends might, till coming to the turning of a street which
led to the prison, Amphares, by virtue of his office, laid his hand
on Agis, and told him, "You must go with me, Agis, before the other
ephors, to answer for your misdemeanours." At the same time Damochares,
who was a tall, strong man, drew his cloak tight round his neck, and
dragged him after by it, whilst the others went behind to thrust him
on. So that none of Agis's friend being near to assist him, nor any
one by, they easily got him into the prison, where Leonidas was already
arrived, with a company of soldiers, who strongly guarded all the
avenues; the ephors also came in, with as many of the Elders as they
knew to be true to their party, being desirous to proceed with some
semblance of justice. And thus they bade him give an account of his
actions. To which Agis, smiling at their dissimulation, answered not
a word. Amphares told him it was more seasonable to weep, for now
the time was come in which he should be punished for his presumption.
Another of the ephors, as though he would be more favourable, and
offering as it were an excuse, asked him whether he was not forced
to what he did by Agesilaus and Lysander. But Agis answered, he had
not been constrained by any man, nor had any other intent in what
he did but only to follow the example of Lycurgus, and to govern conformably
to his laws. The same ephor asked him whether now at least he did
not repent his rashness. To which the young man answered that though
he were to suffer the extremest penalty for it, yet he could never
repent of so just and so glorious a design. Upon this they passed
sentence of death on him, and bade the officers carry him to the Dechas,
as it is called, a place in the prison where they strangle malefactors.
And when the officers would not venture to lay hands on him, and the
very mercenary soldiers declined it, believing it an illegal and a
wicked act to lay violent hands on a king, Demochares, threatening
and reviling them for it, himself thrust him into the room.

For by this time the news of his being seized had reached many parts
of the city, and there was a concourse of people with lights and torches
about the prison gates, and in the midst of them the mother and the
grandmother of Agis, crying out with a loud voice that their king
ought to appear, and to be heard and judged by the people. But this
clamour, instead of preventing, hastened his death; his enemies fearing,
if the tumult should increase, he might be rescued during the night
out of their hands. 

Agis, being now at the point to die, perceived one of the officers
bitterly bewailing his misfortune; "Weep not, friend," said he, "for
me, who die innocent, by the lawless act of wicked men. My condition
is much better than theirs." As soon as he had spoken these words,
not showing the least sign of fear, he offered his neck to the noose.

Immediately after he was dead, Amphares went out of the prison gate,
where he found Agesistrata, who, believing him still the same friend
as before, threw herself at his feet. He gently raised her up, and
assured her, she need not fear any further violence or danger of death
for her son, and that if pleased she might go in and see him. She
begged her mother might also have the favour to be admitted, and he
replied, nobody should hinder it. When they were entered, he commanded
the gate should again be locked, and Archidamia, the grandmother,
to be first introduced. She was now grown very old, and had lived
all her days in the highest repute among her fellows. As soon as Amphares
thought she was despatched, he told Agesistrata she might now go in
if she pleased. She entered, and beholding her son's body stretched
on the ground, and her mother hanging by the neck, the first thing
she did was, with her own hands, to assist the officers in taking
down the body; then covering it decently, she laid it out by her son's,
whom then embracing and kissing his cheeks, "O my son," said she,
"it was thy too great mercy and goodness which brought thee and us
to ruin." Amphares, who stood watching behind the door, on hearing
this, broke in, and said angrily to her, "Since you approve so well
of your son's actions, it is fit you should partake in his reward."
She, rising up to offer herself to the noose, said only, "I pray that
it may redound to the good of Sparta." 

The three bodies being now exposed to view, and the fact divulged,
no fear was strong enough to hinder the people from expressing their
abhorrence of what was done, and their detestation of Leonidas and
Amphares, the contrivers of it. So wicked and barbarous an act had
never been committed in Sparta since first the Dorians inhabited Peloponnesus;
the very enemies in war, they said, were always cautious in spilling
the blood of a Lacedaemonian king, insomuch that in any combat they
would decline, and endeavour to avoid them, from feelings of respect
and reverence for their station. And certainly we see that in the
many battles fought betwixt the Lacedaemonians and the other Greeks,
up to the time of Philip of Macedon, not one of their kings was ever
killed, except Cleombrotus by a javelin-wound at the battle of Leuctra.
I am not ignorant that the Messenians affirm, Theopompus was also
slain by their Aristomenes; but the Lacedaemonians deny it, and say
he was only wounded. 

Be it as it will, it is certain at least that Agis was the first king
put to death in Lacedaemon by the ephors, for having undertaken a
design noble in itself and worthy of his country, at a time of life
when men's errors usually meet with an easy pardon. And if errors
he did commit, his enemies certainly had less reason to blame him
than had his friends for that gentle and compassionate temper which
made him save the life of Leonidas and believe in other men's professions.



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