Sparta’s Imperialism and Collapse


To the Peace of Antalcidas: Lysander, Pausanias, Agesilaus

After the defeat of Athens in the Peloponnesian War, the member states of the Delian League were not liberated but taken over by Sparta: tribute was collected (Diod. Sic. XIV. 10. ii, claiming over 1,000 talents a year, cf. Isoc. XII. Panath. 67–9, Polyb. VI. 49. x), and oligarchic constitutions were imposed. Sparta in general favoured oligarchies, but the rule of small cliques is associated particularly with Lysander: he was behind decarchies, rule by boards of ten, in many cities, and the Thirty in Athens (Nep. VI. Lys. 1. v, Plut.Lys. 13. v-ix, but ephors’ orders Diod. Sic. XIV 13. i; for Athens see below). In Byzantium the Spartan commander Clearchus made himself tyrant, but the Spartans drove him out (Diod. Sic. XIV. 12). Coins issued by a number of east Greek cities, with Heracles strangling two snakes, and EYN (for symmachikon, ‘alliance’), on the obverse and the city’s normal design on the reverse, are best attributed to supporters of Lysander c. 40 5–400. Lysander himself, as the man who had won the war for Sparta, received extravagant honours (cf. p. 159).

For a while there was a reaction against Lysander. In 403, when the Thirty in Athens withdrew to Eleusis, he supported them, but king Pausanias won the backing of a majority of the ephors, and arranged a reconciliation between the men in the city and the returning democrats (cf. p. 295). For that Pausanias was brought to trial before the gerousia and the ephors, and was narrowly acquitted, with king Agis voting against him but all the ephors for him (Paus. III. 5. ii). Around the Aegean Lysander’s decarchies were replaced by patriot politeiai, ‘traditional constitutions’, on the orders of the ephors. Diodorus has a story that, after setting up oligarchies elsewhere, for Sparta itself Lysander plotted to replace the hereditary kings with elected kings. He tried to buy the support of oracles, was denounced by the oracle of Ammon (in north Africa) and was tried but acquitted; a speech advocating the plan was discovered among his papers after his death - a detail which, even if invented, must have seemed plausible, though we tend to think of the Spartans as particularly uninterested in written texts (Diod. Sic. XIV. 13, cf. Plut. Lys. 19. vii, 20, 24–5, 30. iii-v). However, when Lysander’s friend Cyrus prepared to revolt against Artaxerxes II, in 402, he employed Clearchus, who became the principal commander of his mercenaries, and Sparta sent a substantial contribution and a commander, Chirisophus (Xen. Anab. I. iv. 2–3 less clear than Hell. III. i. 1, Diod. Sic. XIV 19. ii-v).

Sparta still resented its exclusion from the Olympic games by Elis in 420 (cf. p. 133), and Elis was among the states which defied Sparta by harbouring democratic exiles from Athens in 404–403. Probably in 402–400, after demanding the autonomy of theperioikoi living to the south and east of Elis proper, Agis fought a three-year war. In the second year he called on Sparta’s allies, and Boeotia and Corinth refused; in the third year Elis capitulated, and was required to leave the perioikoi autonomous (the southern cities united in a Triphylian federation: cf. SEG xxxv 389, xl 392 = R&O 15. A, B), but not to give up the superintendence of Olympia, ‘since the Spartans thought the rival claimants were rustics and not competent to superintend’; also to give up its triremes, and to leave its harbours of Phea and Cyllene, to which Sparta wanted access, unfortified (Xen. Hell. II. ii. 21–31; Diod. Sic. XrV 17. iv-xii, 34. i, has two campaigns and Pausanias as commander). Sparta then expelled the Messenians who had been living in Naupactus since the 450’s and in Cephallenia since 421 (Diod. Sic. XIV 34. ii-vi, cf. pp. 50, 132).

About 400, after his victory in Elis, Agis died. He had a son, Leotychidas, but Lysander successfully supported rumours that Leotychidas’ father was Alcibiades (cf. p. 152) and obtained the throne for Agis’ half-brother Agesilaus (Xen. Hell. III. iii. 1–4, Plut. Ale.23. vii-ix, Ages. 3, Lys. 22. vi-xiii). Lysander hoped to rule through a grateful Agesilaus, but Agesilaus proved to be one of Sparta’s strongest kings; he also stressed his attachment to traditional Spartan virtues, refusing a statue when other leading Spartans were setting up ostentatious monuments, and refusing divine honours in Thasos (Xen. Ages. xi. 7, Plut. Spartan Sayings 210 C-D). Soon after his accession a revolt was planned by Cinadon, a hypomeion (‘inferior’, perhaps a man of Spartiate ancestry who had been downgraded for inability to provide his mess contributions) who hoped to unite all the unprivileged classes against the homoioi (‘equals’, a term perhaps introduced when full Spartiates needed to be distinguished from ‘inferiors’). He was dealt with firmly, and in a typically Spartan way (sent out of the city with a detachment of men who had orders to arrest him); but the episode, though not necessarily the tip of an already large iceberg, reminds us that Sparta was becoming more fragile (Xen. Hell. III. iii. 4–11, Arist. Pol. V. 1306 B 34–6, Polyaenus Strat. II. 14. i).

Fig. 4 Fourth-century Spartan kings and a regent


Sparta’s citizen numbers were suffering an irreversible decline, owing in particular to the earthquake of c.464 (cf. p. 32) and losses during the Peloponnesian War, but also to a social structure which was not conducive to the frequent fathering of children. Ancient texts allege that there was a moral decline, attributable especially to the influx of foreign wealth at the end of the Peloponnesian War, and claim that previously coinage in precious metals had been totally banned but after the war it was conceded that coinage could be held by the state but not by individuals (Xen. Lac. Pol.vii. 6, Plut. Lys. 17, Posidonius FGrH 87 F 48. c ~ Fornara 167). The truth appears to be that, although Sparta did not issue coins, possession had not previously been banned, but the ban on private possession was a response to the suddenly increased quantity after the war, enforced at first but not for long. Plutarch’s life of the third-century Agis claims that originally Spartans had not been able to dispose of their kleros, their ‘allotment’ of land, and this was first allowed by the rhetra (literally ‘saying’: used of Spartan laws) of an ephor called Epitadeus (Plut. Agis 5. iii-iv), a change which scholars have tended to date to this period; but more probably Spartans were never forbidden to dispose of their land, and the original ban and the rhetra were invented by third-century reformers, perhaps under the influence of Plato. However, it remains true that in the fourth century a small number of families, and often women where there were no male heirs, got possession of an increasing proportion of the land (cf. Arist. Pol. II. 1270 A 15–29), and Sparta’s shortage of citizens was due to the downgrading of potential citizens as well as to a shortage of citizen births (cf. Arist. Pol. II. 1271 B 26–37). There were some attempts to stimulate the birth rate within the existing social framework (e.g. wife-sharing; privileges for fathers of many sons); sons of ‘inferiors’ and some others could be brought up with the ‘equals’ as mothakes (cf. pp. 144, 156, 157); but this was not enough, and the Spartan army relied increasingly on perioikoi and liberated helots (cf. below, esp. pp. 251–2).

When Tissaphernes returned to Sardis, he claimed the Greek cities of Asia Minor; they appealed to Sparta and Sparta agreed to support them. In autumn 400 Sparta sent not a citizen army but an army of liberated helots and allies (including Athenians), commanded by a man called Thibron: the term harmost (harmostes, ‘arranger’) is used, especially by Xenophon, of such commanders of non-citizen forces, whether employed for campaigning or for garrison duties. This force was joined by the survivors of Cyrus’ mercenary force; it penetrated further inland than the Athenians had done (for the likelihood that Sparta would do this cf. Alcibiades in Thuc. VIII. 48. iii), but, although Thibron appears less incompetent in Diodorus’ account than in Xenophon’s, he did not make much progress in liberating the Asiatic Greeks (Xen. Hell. III. i. 3–7, Diod. Sic. XIV. 35. vi-37. iv).

In spring 399Thibron was recalled, and fined and exiled for letting his troops ravage the land of the Greeks he had gone to help. His successor was Dercylidas (the first of a series of men linked with Lysander), described as deceitful and unSpartan, and as liking to be away from home (EphorusFGrH 70 F 71, cf. Xen. Hell. III. i. 8; Hell. IV. iii. 2). He made a truce with Tissaphernes in order to concentrate on Pharnabazus, the satrap of Dascylium; he had considerable success, and made a truce with Pharnabazus before wintering in Bithynia (Xen. Hell. III. i. 8-ii. 5, Diod. Sic. XrV. 38. vi-vii). In 398 three inspectors, headed by another man connected with Lysander, reappointed Dercylidas: he renewed his truce with Pharnabazus and went to the Chersonese to fortify that against Thracian attacks; and he besieged and captured Atarneus, on the Asiatic coast opposite Mytilene (Xen. Hell. III. ii. 6–11, Diod. Sic. XIV. 38. vi-vii). In 397 he was probably inspected and appointed again; in response to another appeal from the Asiatic Greeks, Sparta ordered him to move south into Caria to put pressure on Tissaphernes, and Pharax, again connected with Lysander, was sent with ships to support him. Pharnabazus joined Tissaphernes; but when a battle was about to be fought near Ephesus, Tissaphernes offered a truce to discuss a deal by which the Spartans would withdraw and the Asiatic Greeks would be autonomous (Xen. Hell. II. iii. 12–20, Diod. Sic. XIV 39. iv-vi; for the truce cf. p. 227). However, in 398 Pharnabazus had gone to the King and had obtained permission to raise a fleet to be commanded by the Athenian Conon (who since the end of the Peloponnesian War had been with Evagoras in Cyprus: cf. p. 158); in 397/6 Conon with a first contingent of ships was besieged in Caunus, north-east of Rhodes, by Pharax but was relieved by Pharnabazus, after which Rhodes defected to him from the Spartans (Diod. Sic. XIV. 39. i, 79. iv-vii, Philoch. FGrH 328 F 144 ~ Harding 12. B).

The war continued, and in 396 Sparta sent reinforcements, and Agesilaus as commander. He still did not have Spartiate soldiers, but he had a board of thirty Spartiate assistants including Lysander; of Sparta’s allies, Boeotia, Corinth and Athens all refused to serve. Seeing himself as a successor to Agamemnon in the Trojan War, Agesilaus went to Aulis to sacrifice before crossing the Aegean, but the Boeotians interfered, an act for which he never forgave them. On arrival at Ephesus he accepted Tissaphernes’ offer of a truce to discuss terms, but Tissaphernes asked the King for an army (cf. p. 227). Lysander hoped to control Agesilaus, but Agesilaus got him out of the way to the Hellespont, where he won over Spithridates, a subordinate of Pharnabazus. Agesilaus campaigned against Tissaphernes, was hampered at first by a lack of cavalry but proceeded to raise a force (Xen. Hell. III. iv. 1–15, Diod. Sic. XrV. 79. i-iii, Plut. Ages. 6–9). In 395 Agesilaus’ thirty Spartiates were replaced by a new board. He defeated the Persians in a battle near Sardis of which we have very different accounts from Xenophon and the other tradition: either in the absence of Tissaphernes he won a straightforward cavalry battle (Xenophon) or he ambushed a force which Tissaphernes was commanding. He was unable to take the city; but Tissaphernes was executed and replaced by Tithraustes, the King’s grand vizier (the decision will have been taken before the battle). Tithraustes announced the King’s terms: that Sparta should withdraw and the Asiatic Greeks should be autonomous but pay ‘the ancient tribute’ (cf. p. 227). Agesilaus said he could not agree without authority from Sparta, but let Tithraustes pay him to move against Pharnabazus (Xen.Hell. III. iv. 16–29, Hell. Oxy. 14–17, Diod. Sic. XIV. 80, Plut. Ages. 10). He then engaged in campaigning and diplomacy. Agesilaus hoped with Spithridates’ help to win over the king of Paphlagonia (east of Pharnabazus’ satrapy), but his plans were wrecked when his subordinate Herippidas won a victory but took all the booty for Sparta. After ravaging Pharnabazus’ estates Agesilaus had a meeting at which he urged Pharnabazus to defect from the King, and Pharnabazus replied that if he were made subordinate to another commander he would defect, but if he were made commander himself he would fight for the King. Agesilaus then moved south, intending in spring 394 to advance into the interior (Xen. Hell. IV i, Hell. Oxy. 24–5, Plut. Ages. 11–15. i).

What were the two sides trying to achieve? For Persia, which suggested the compromises, the terms always included the withdrawal of Spartan forces; and if the Asiatic Greeks paid tribute a formal concession of autonomy would not make much difference to the ways in which Persian power was actually exercised. Agesilaus’ attempt to sacrifice at Aulis was a strong gesture, and there are passages suggesting that he had extensive ambitions for conquest (Xen. Hell. TV. i. 41, Ages. i. 8, 36, Hell. Oxy. 25. iv, Diod. Sic. XIV 80. v, Plut. Ages. 15. i-iii), yet at first he like Dercylidas before him was prepared to consider the compromise. He had to satisfy the authorities in Sparta, who may well have been divided in their attitudes to adventures in Asia, and indeed he had Spartiate advisers with him; probably his own ambitions increased as he campaigned successfully, but it is not clear how far he hoped to go, or what kind of demarcation he wanted to establish or could have established between a reduced Persian empire and the territories detached from it.

Agesilaus’ high point came after his meeting with Tithraustes, when the Spartans gave him authority at sea as well as on land, and he gave the naval command to his inexperienced brother-in-law Pisander (Xen. Hell. III. iv. 27–9). But Conon had been building up the fleet he commanded for Pharnabazus (Hell. Oxy. 12. ii, Diod. Sic. XIV. 79. viii). In 395 he supported a democratic revolution in Rhodes (Hell. Oxy. 18, Androtion FGrH 324 F 46; cf. Athenian honours for a Rhodian in 394/3, IG ii2 19), obtained funding from Tithraustes and dealt with a mutiny of Cypriots in his fleet(Hell. Oxy. 22–3); then he visited the King and obtained full support from him (Diod. Sic. XrV. 81. iv-vi). In August 394 (dated by an eclipse) Conon and Pharnabazus defeated and killed Pisander in a major battle off Cnidus (Xen. Hell. TV. iii. 10–12, Diod. Sic. XIV. 83. iv-vii, Philoch. FGrH328 F 145 ~ Harding 12. B). This ended Sparta’s control of the Aegean: Conon and Pharnabazus won over mainland and island cities, expelling Spartan garrisons and promising autonomy (Xen. Hell. TV. viii. 1–6, Diod. Sic. XIV 84. iii-iv). Although the victory was technically a Persian one, Athens honoured both Conon and Evagoras, and fragments of the decree for Evagoras show him represented as fighting as a Greek for the freedom and autonomy of the Greeks (R&O 11). By then Agesilaus had had to return to Greece.

In 404 Sparta had dealt with Athens as it wanted, not as its allies had wanted (cf. p. 159); it seemed to have monopolised the profits of victory, and it had not liberated but had taken over the Delian League. Boeotia and several Peloponnesian states harboured Athenian democrats in 404–403, and Boeotia and Corinth refused to join Pausanias’ expedition (cf. p. 295); the war of revenge on Elis harmed Sparta’s reputation, and Boeotia and Corinth abstained from that conflict; Athens began to show signs of independence from 397 (cf. pp. 261–2); and in 396 Boeotia, Corinth and Athens abstained from Agesilaus’ expedition and the Boeotians interfered with his sacrifices. Sparta’s ambitions at this time were widespread: the first Spartan mentioned in connection with Dionysius of Syracuse was a freelance, but later Dionysius was given official support (cf. pp. 314, 318). Another area of interest was northern Greece: Sparta expelled the Messenians from Naupactus (cf. p. 50), put down a revolt in its colony at Heraclea and installed a garrison at Pharsalus, inThessaly (Diod. Sic. XIV 38. iv-v, 82. vi; cf. below). Timocrates brought money from Pharnabazus to encourage Sparta’s enemies (cf. p. 227).

In 395 the Boeotians engineered a dispute between Locris (probably eastern Locris, towards Thermopylae) and Phocis; Phocis appealed to Sparta and Boeotia was joined by Athens in backing Locris; and so began what is called the Corinthian War since after the first two years the war was centred on Corinth (Xen. Hell. III. v. 3–16, Hell. Oxy. 20–1, Diod. Sic. XIV. 81. i-ii, cf. Athenian alliances, IG if2 14, 15 = R&O 6, Tod 102 ~ Harding 14. A, 16). Sparta sent Lysander to Boeotia via Phocis and Pausanias via the Megarid: Lysander won over Orchomenus, in north-western Boeotia, but fought a battle at Haliartus before Pausanias (perhaps reluctant to cooperate) had joined him, and was defeated and killed. Pausanias withdrew under a truce, for which he was condemned in absence: he retired to Tegea (where he wrote a book on Sparta’s legendary reformer, Lycurgus) and was succeeded by his son Agesipolis I (Xen. Hell. III. v. 67, 17–25, Diod. Sic. XIV. 81. ii-iii, Plut. Lys. 28–30. i). Sparta’s enemies were joined by Corinth and Argos, the Euboeans and states in northern Greece; in Thessaly they enabled Larisa to take Pharsalus from the Spartans, and Heraclea was returned to the neighbouring Trachinians (Diod. Sic. XrV. 82: Heraclea perhaps after Agesilaus’ march in 394).

Sparta therefore recalled Agesilaus, who left Asia but hoped to return. In July 394 Aristodemus, regent for Agesipolis, defeated the alliance at the River Nemea, west of Corinth: Dercylidas, travelling east to Abydus, where after Cnidus he assembled a number of expelled harmosts, met Agesilaus and gave him the news (Xen. Hell. IV ii. 9–23, iii. 1–3, Diod. Sic. XIV 82. x-83. ii). Agesilaus travelled through Thrace and Thessaly to Boeotia; in August, on hearing the news of Cnidus, for the sake of morale he announced that Pisander was dead but victorious; he then gained a far from decisive victory at Coronea and after it abandoned Greece north of the Isthmus (Xen. Hell. TV. iii. 3-iv. 1, Ages. ii. 1–13, Diod. Sic. XIV. 83. iv-v, 84. i-ii, Plut. Ages. 17–19. iv).

In 393 Conon and Pharnabazus sailed to Greece. They raided Laconia and occupied Cythera, and took money to Corinth, which spent it on ships to fight against Sparta in the Gulf of Corinth, and to Athens, where it helped to pay for the rebuilding of the walls which was already under way (Xen. Hell. TV. viii. 7–11, Diod. Sic. XIV 84. iv-v, Philoch. FGrH 328 F 146 ~ Harding 12. B). Conon also established a force of light-armed mercenaries, based in Corinth but commanded by Athenians: at first Iphicrates, later Chabrias (Androtion FGrH 324 F 48 = Philoch. FGrH 328 F 150 ~ Harding 22. A). Corinth became the base of the anti-Spartan alliance and Sicyon the Spartans’ base. In spring 392 the enemies of Sparta in Corinth engineered a massacre of their opponents, and shortly after that, to strengthen the position of the anti-Spartan party, some kind of political union was made between Corinth and Argos, perhaps isopoliteia, ‘equal citizenship’, by which citizens of each had the rights of citizens in the other. Some survivors of the massacre left Corinth but returned under an amnesty, and enabled a Spartan force to capture Corinth’s long walls and the harbour town of Lechaeum (Xen. Hell. TV. i. 1–13, Diod. Sic. XrV. 86. i-iii).

Things were not going well for the Spartans, either in Greece or in the Aegean, so in 392 they tried to win by diplomacy what they could not win by fighting, and Antalcidas obtained the first draft of a common peace treaty by which the Asiatic Greeks would be returned to Persia and all other cities and islands would be autonomous. When this was rejected by their opponents, the Spartans offered modified terms at a conference in 392/1, with concessions to Athens and Boeotia but not to Corinth and Argos, but Athens as well as Corinth and Argos still objected, and no peace was made (cf. pp. 227–8).

Fighting continued in the north-eastern Peloponnese, particularly over Corinth’s long walls and Lechaeum. In 390, when Argos on the strength of its union with Corinth was about to hold the Isthmian games, Agesilaus enabled the Corinthian exiles to hold the games, but afterwards the Argives returned and held the games again. Iphicrates and his mercenary force, backed up by Callias with Athenian hoplites, caught a division of the Spartan army outside Lechaeum and annihilated it. It was perhaps after this that Iphicrates tried to get control of Corinth but failed and was dismissed, and then the union between Corinth and Argos may have been intensified (Xen. Hell. IV. iv. 14-v. 17, viii. 34, Diod. Sic. XIV. 86. iv-vi, 91. ii-92. ii). North of the Gulf of Corinth, in 389–388 Agesilaus enabled the Achaeans to retain Calydon, which they had acquired some time before (Xen.Hell. IV vi-viii. 1, Plut. Ages. 22. ix-xi). In 388 or 387 Agesipolis attacked Argos, and when Argos tried to prevent him by changing its calendar to bring on the festival of the Carnea he gained permission from Olympia and Delphi to ignore that, and also refused to be put off by an earthquake (Xen. Hell. IV. vii. 2–7, Arist. Rh. II. 1398 B 33–1399 A 1; cf. Diod. Sic. XIV. 97. v [Agesilaus]). From Aegina the Spartans made trouble for Athens, and in 387 raided the Piraeus (Xen. Hell. V i. 1–24).

The war was not over in the east. In 391 Sparta sent the earlier unsuccessful Thibron to fight against Struthas, the current satrap of Sardis, but he was defeated and killed (Xen. Hell. IV. viii. 17–19, Diod. Sic. XIV 99. i-iii). He was succeeded by the more successful Diphridas (who managed to capture and obtain a ransom for Struthas’ daughter and son-in-law), and Ecdicus was sent to Rhodes (where there was renewed conflict between oligarchs and democrats). In 390 Teleutias succeeded Ecdicus, and on his way out captured an Athenian squadron sailing to support Evagoras of Salamis (Xen. Hell. IV viii. 20–4, Diod. Sic. XrV. 97. i-iv). The Athenian Thrasybulus was sent to help the Rhodian democrats, but went first to the Hellespont and had a highly successful campaign as he made his way from there to Rhodes; but in 389, when fund-raising took him to Aspendus, on the south coast of Asia Minor, he was killed (Xen. Hell. IV. viii. 25–31, Diod. Sic. XIV 94, 99. iv-v). Sparta sent Anaxibius to the Hellespont; Athens sent Iphicrates with those of the mercenaries who had left Corinth with him; and Anaxibius was defeated and killed (Xen. Hell. IV viii. 31–9). While Struthas was satrap of Sardis, c.391-388, Miletus and Myus referred a territorial dispute to him and he referred it to a jury from the other cities of the Ionian koinon (Milet I. ii 9 = R&O 16 ~ Harding 24).

Antalcidas was made Spartan navarch for 388/7: he went to Ephesus and sent Nicolochus to the Hellespont; with Tiribazus, reinstated as satrap of Sardis, he went to talk to the King. When he returned, in 387, Nicolochus was being blockaded in Abydus by the Athenians; by pretending to head for the Bosporus, Antalcidas ended the blockade; he then captured a relief squadron and regained control of the Hellespont for Sparta (Xen. Hell. V. i. 6–7, 25–8, cf. IG ii2 29 = R&O 19). The anti-Spartan Pharnabazus had been removed from Dascylium to marry the King’s daughter (Xen. Hell.V. i. 28); and from its position of comparative strength Sparta was able to obtain and impose on the Greeks the King’s Peace: Persia received the Asiatic Greeks; elsewhere, apart from Athens’ three north Aegean islands, there were no exceptions to the principle of autonomy for all, and Agesilaus by threatening to invade insisted on the dismantling of the Boeotian federation and of the union of Corinth and Argos. The anti-Persian Agesilaus could see the advantage for Sparta, and declared that the Persians were laconising (cf. p. 230). Corinth rejoined the Peloponnesian League, and some opponents of Sparta were exiled and went to Athens (Xen. Hell. V. i. 36, iii. 27, Dem. XX. Leptines 54). There may subsequently have been approaches to Sparta by Evagoras of Salamis (Theopompus FGrH 115 F 103. x) and the Persian rebel Glos (Diod. Sic. XV. 9. iii-v, 18. i-ii, 19. i), but it is unlikely that they obtained anything.

From the Peace of Antalcidas to Leuctra: Agesilaus, Agesipolis, Cleombrotus

After the Peloponnesian War Sparta had taken revenge on Elis; after the Peace of Antalcidas it took revenge on Mantinea, as an ally which had not been sufficiently loyal. Because of his father’s connections with Mantinea, Agesilaus had the command given to Agesipolis, though Agesipolis’ father had connections with the Mantinean democrats. In 385 Mantinea refused to demolish its walls, and appealed to Athens, which was cowed by the Peace of Antalcidas and would not help; Agesipolis invaded, and summoned a contingent from Thebes. When he diverted a river to undermine the wall, Mantinea capitulated: the polls was split into the separate villages which had united perhaps c.470, and these became oligarchic and pro-Spartan; the democratic leaders were allowed to leave, and some went to Athens (Xen. Hell. V. ii. 1–7, Diod. Sic. XV. 5. iii-v, 12;Thebans Plut. Pel.4. v-viii, Paus. IX. 13. i; exiles to Athens IG ii2 33. 7–8). Probably Sparta announced its intention of dismantling the polls from the beginning, and was abusing the autonomy principle by applying it to the villages.

Appeals came to Sparta to act against the expanding Chalcidian federation of Olynthus: from Acanthus and Apollonia according to Xenophon, from Amyntas of Macedon according to Diodorus. If cities threatened with absorption did appeal, Sparta in responding may have invoked the autonomy principle once more. Olynthus was in touch with Athens and ‘Boeotia’: there is no secure evidence for Athenian support, but there is some for Theban (Xen. Hell. V ii. 15,27,34, FGrH 153 F 1). Sparta’s campaign was approved by the Peloponnesian League, but for the first time League members were allowed to contribute cash instead of soldiers, as the members of the Delian League had been allowed to pay tribute instead of contributing ships (Xen. Hell. V ii. 11–22, Diod. Sic. XV 19. iii;Hell. VI. ii. 16 reports that nearly all paid cash for Sparta’s expedition to Corcyra in 373). The contributions would be spent on the mercenaries who were increasingly being used by all states: by the time of the battle of Mantinea, in 362, the presence of mercenaries even in a Spartan army fighting in the Peloponnese did not call for comment (Xen. Hell. VII. v. 10).

Agesilaus did not go to Olynthus, but the commanders sent in 382 were men connected with him. Thebes refused to join the campaign, but Leontiades, leader of the pro-Spartan party, invited Phoebidas to enter the city as he was marching north with part of Sparta’s advance force; he did, and occupied the acropolis, the Cadmea. The anti-Spartan leader Ismenias was arrested, and (despite Sparta’s current alignment) condemned as a mediser for accepting Timocrates’ money in the 390’s; many of his supporters fled to Athens. The ephors and other Spartans were angry at Phoebidas’ unauthorised action; Agesilaus, who may have been privy to the plan, talked them round (he had hated the Thebans since the incident at Aulis in 396), though according to most of the sources Phoebidas was still fined (Xen. Hell. V. ii. 23–36, Diod. Sic. XV. 20, Plut. Ages. 23. vi-24. i, Pel. 5–6). Pro-Spartan regimes were set up in the other Boeotian cities too (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 46).

Phoebidas’ brother Eudamidas continued north with his part of the force, and the main army from the Peloponnesian League followed under Teleutias. In 381 Teleutias was killed and Agesipolis went with reinforcements (not another League army, but it included volunteers from the perioikoi,and there were thirty Spartiate advisers). He captured Torone in 380 but was taken ill and died; the throne passed to his brother Cleombrotus; his command was taken over by Polybiadas, who in 379 starved Olynthus into submission. It was mildly treated, and made a subordinate ally of Sparta; its Chalcidian federation was presumably dismantled or at least reduced, but Olynthus and whatever remained continued to use the title ‘the Chalcidians’ (Xen. Hell. V. ii. 24, 37-iii. 9, 18–20, 26, Diod. Sic. XV 22. ii, 23. ii-iii; title coins [ill. 19] and IG ii2 43 = R&O 22 ~ Harding 35. 101–2). Perhaps during this northern war, Sparta became involved inThessaly again and in Histiaea in Euboea (cf. p. 286).

Agesilaus meanwhile had been dealing with Phlius, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Sparta had not insisted on the return of pro-Spartan exiles in 391 (Xen. Hell. IV. iv. 5), but did insist c.384-383 (Hell. V. ii. 8–10); in 381 Phlius supported Agesipolis’ expedition to Olynthus, but was grudging in its treatment of the returned exiles, who included friends of Agesilaus. In spite of doubts among the Spartans, Agesilaus campaigned enthusiastically against Phlius, besieging it for twenty months until it surrendered in 379. It tried to surrender to the authorities in Sparta, but Agesilaus arranged for the decision to be referred to himself: the offenders were executed, a new constitution was introduced and he installed a garrison (Hell. V. iii. 10–17, 21–5).

At this point both Xenophon and Diodorus remark on the extent of Sparta’s power: Olynthus and Phlius had been subdued, Thebes was occupied, Corinth and Argos had been weakened, and the Persian King in the east and Dionysius of Syracuse in the west were friendly (Xen. Hell. V. iii. 27, Diod. Sic. XV 23. iii-iv). From now onwards, however, Sparta was going to encounter problems; and the friction between the two royal houses, which can already be detected in the reign of Agesipolis, was to increase in the reign of Cleombrotus. Agesilaus favoured hard-line policies, and tended to have links with oligarchs in other cities; he may still have hankered after a war against Persia; in Greece his main enemy was Thebes. The Agid kings were more willing to conform to treaty obligations and the wishes of Sparta’s allies, and tended to have links with democratic leaders; and Cleombrotus preferred fighting against the traditional enemy, Athens; the ephors when mentioned were on their side.

Sparta’s troubles began in winter 379/8, when Theban exiles returned and assassinated the ruling clique (cf. pp. 264, 283). The Spartan garrison commander withdrew under a truce, for which he was executed. While it was still winter, Sparta sent an army, under Cleombrotus since Agesilaus pleaded that (in his mid sixties) he was too old. Cleombrotus entered Boeotia, but did very little apart from leaving Sphodrias with a garrison inThespiae. Athens had given Thebes some help; while Spartan envoys were in Athens to complain, Sphodrias raided the Thriasian plain, in the west of Attica, allegedly intending to go on to the Piraeus. Athens protested, and Sphodrias was put on trial. Cleombrotus backed him from the beginning; at first he was opposed by Agesilaus and ‘those in the middle’ (probably those uncommitted, rather than a ‘middle party’); but Agesilaus’ son was the lover of Sphodrias’ son, and Agesilaus was won over. Sphodrias was acquitted, and Athens came out openly against Sparta (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 1–34, Diod. Sic. XV. 25–7, 29. v-vii, Plut. Ages. 24. iv-26. i, Pel. 14–15. i; for the foundation of the Second Athenian League see pp. 264–5). According to Diodorus, Sphodrias acted on the orders of Cleombrotus, and that seems likely enough, since in the years that followed Cleombrotus was happier fighting against Athens than against Thebes; but, according to Xenophon and Plutarch, Sphodrias was bribed by the Thebans, who wanted to create an incident that would commit Athens to their side.

In summer 378 Agesilaus invaded Boeotia. He was perhaps a better commander than Cleombrotus (Xenophon), but he also had more enthusiasm for fighting against Thebes (Plut. Ages.). But he too made little headway: he left Phoebidas as harmost inThespiae, and Phoebidas was killed in a cavalry battle. In 377 he invaded again: there was skirmishing near Thebes, with Athenians on the Theban side and Olynthians on the Spartan. Because of the invasions, Thebes had to import corn from Thessaly: the ships were intercepted by the Spartan harmost at Histiaea, in the north of Euboea (where Sparta had earlier expelled a supporter of Jason of Pherae: Diod. Sic. XV. 30. iii-iv), but the Thebans managed to detach Oreus from Sparta (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 35–57, Diod. Sic. XV 31. iii-34. ii, Plut. Ages. 26, Pel. 15). On his return journey Agesilaus burst a blood vessel (cf. Plut.Ages. 27. i-iii), as a result of which he was out of action for several years. In 376 Cleombrotus tried to invade, but the Thebans and Athenians held the mountain passes against him. Since the allies were eager for a naval campaign against Athens, Pollis was sent out with sixty ships, and prevented the corn ships from continuing to Athens beyond the south of Euboea; but an Athenian fleet under Chabrias convoyed the ships, and then besieged Naxos and defeated Pollis (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 58–61, Diod. Sic. XV. 34. iii-35. ii).

After the Athenian League’s campaign of 377 but in connection with Agesilaus’ campaign of 378, Diodorus reports a change in Sparta’s military organisation: fear of the League was making Sparta more anxious to conciliate its allies, so to spread the burden fairly the army was organised in ten divisions on a regional basis, Sparta providing one and the Peloponnesian League, allies in northern Greece and ‘Olynthus and the Thraceward region’ providing the others; as in the war against Olynthus, cash equivalents of soldiers were allowed. Different scholars have guessed at different contexts. Agesilaus is not normally associated with consideration for the allies, but that may not have been the motive for a system in which members of the Peloponnesian League were on the same level as Olynthus; and, whatever the date, this is best seen as a sequel to the defeat of Olynthus.

There were further setbacks for Sparta in 375. In Boeotia two of the six moral of the Spartan army, guarding Orchomenus, were defeated at Tegyra by the Theban cavalry and ‘sacred band’ (the professional nucleus of their hoplite force: cf. p. 284) under Pelopidas (Plut. Pel. 16–19, cf. Ages. 27. iv, Diod. Sic. XV. 37. i-ii; omitted by Xenophon). Prompted by Thebes, Athens began a war in the west to distract Sparta: Timotheus won the support of Cephallenia, Acarnania and Corcyra, and when Sparta sent a fleet under Nicolochus Timotheus defeated him off Alyzia, opposite Leucas (Xen. Hell. V. iv. 62–6, Diod. Sic. XV 36. v-vi, cf. IGii2 96 = R&O 24 ~ Harding 41). InThessaly Jason, tyrant of Pherae, was building up his power (cf. pp. 285–6): Polydamas of Pharsalus appealed to Sparta, and Xenophon gives him a speech claiming that, if Sparta sent a large army, the cities would desert Jason, but, if it thought liberated helots and a harmost would be enough, it need not bother - and Sparta could not support on a large scale so advised Pharsalus to submit (Xen. Hell. VI. i. 2–19). Another appeal came from Phocis, under attack by aThebes which now dominated Boeotia: here Sparta did respond on a large scale, sending Cleombrotus with four moral, and theThebans withdrew (Xen. Hell. VI. i. 1, ii. 1).

In 375/4, at Persia’s prompting, the King’s Peace was renewed: probably the first moves were made early in 375 and the year’s events only increased Sparta’s willingness to make peace (cf. pp. 231–2). But the peace was broken almost at once. Late in 375 Timotheus, on his way back to Athens, restored exiles in Zacynthus, and Sparta protested. In 374 Sparta sent expeditions to Zacynthus and to Corcyra; in 373 it sent a further sixty ships under Mnasippus to Corcyra, and he ravaged the countryside and blockaded the city, but kept his own mercenaries short of pay and provisions. Timotheus delayed in coming from Athens, because of difficulties in raising men and money. He was dismissed; Ctesicles went over land in winter 373/2 and enabled the Corcyraeans to defeat and kill Mnasippus; Iphicrates arrived by sea in 372, in time to defeat a Syracusan squadron sent to support Sparta (Xen. Hell. VI. ii. 2–39, Diod. Sic. XV 45–46. iii, 47. i-vii). On land Thebes was becoming increasingly strong, to the discomfiture of Athens (cf. pp. 271, 285); in 372/1 it again moved against Phocis and Sparta again sent Cleombrotus (Xen. Hell. VI. iii. 1, iv. 2).

Athens’ worries about Thebes led to the conference in Sparta in summer 371 (perhaps mid July), where the common peace was renewed and Agesilaus, making his first appearance in the record since his illness, excluded theThebans when they claimed to swear for Boeotia (cf. pp. 231–2). The terms included the withdrawal of forces, so Cleombrotus asked what he should do. One Spartan, Prothous, wanted to recall him and invite contributions to rebuilding the temple of Apollo at Delphi, recently destroyed by fire and/or earthquake (cf. p. 290), but this was dismissed as nonsense (by Agesilaus, according to Plutarch) and he was told to attack Thebes if it would not respect the autonomy of the Boeotian cities. Cleombrotus avoided the route guarded by the Thebans, and reached Leuctra in the territory of Thespiae, but Sparta’s weakness was exposed when he was outgeneralled, defeated and killed, by an army using novel tactics which he could not cope with; despite his best attempts, Cleombrotus died implementing Agesilaus’ policy (for the battle, perhaps mid August, cf. p. 287). The surviving officers made a truce to withdraw, and returned to Sparta with the reserve force brought by Agesilaus’ son Archidamus (Xen. Hell. VI. iv. 1–26, Plut. Pel. 20–3, Ages. 28. vii-viii, Paus. IX. 13. iii-xii; Diod. Sic. XV. 51–6 is badly muddled). Athens organised a peace treaty, from which Thebes was excluded (cf. pp. 232–3). Cleombrotus’ throne passed first to his elder son Agesipolis II, who died in 370; then to his younger son Cleomenes II, who reigned until 309 but about whom hardly anything is recorded.

After Leuctra: Sparta in Decline

The defeat of a Spartan army in a major battle was a great shock. After this Sparta was on the defensive; within the next ten years it was to lose Messenia, lose the Peloponnesian League, and see Agesilaus serving as a mercenary commander in Egypt.

Sparta’s shortage of citizen manpower (cf. p. 241) was now all too evident. Stories about the distribution of kleroi in the archaic period assume 9,000 citizens (e.g. Plut. Lye. 8. v-vi); for the early fifth century Herodotus estimates 8,000 adult males, of whom 5,000 fought at Plataea (Hdt. VII. 234. ii; IX. 10. i, 28. ii). But the earthquake of c.464 caused heavy losses (cf. pp. 31–2), and the Peloponnesian War will have hampered recovery. Perioikoi seem to have formed half of’the Lacedaemonians’ at Plataea, 60 per cent in the Peloponnesian War (cf. the prisoners from Sphacteria, Thuc. rV. 38. v with 40).Thucydides’ details of the Spartan army at Mantinea in 418, a five-sixths levy (Thuc. V 68 with 64. iii), allow us to estimate 2,100-2,500 adult Spartiates if the text is right, 3,600-4,300 if there were not six lochoi but six moral each of two lochoi in the main army. Heavy casualties continued after the Peloponnesian War: for instance, about 250 out of perhaps c.600 Lacedaemonians were killed at Lechaeum in 390 (Xen. Hell. IV. v. 17). At Leuctra Cleombrotus had a two-thirds levy of men up to 55, which included 700 Spartiates, of whom 400 were killed (Xen.Hell. VI. iv. 15 with 17): in the main army Spartiates may now have been only 10 per cent, and in all there were perhaps c. 1,300 adult Spartiates before the battle and c.900 after. Aristotle remarked that the land would support 1,500 cavalry and 30,000 hoplites, but in fact there were not even 1,000 (Arist. Pol. II. 1270 A 29–31). The decline continued: Plutarch claims that in the 240’s there were not more than 700, of whom perhaps 100 ‘possessed land and an allotment’, but probably his 100 were the very rich, there were 700 ‘equals’ and the ‘inferiors’ were his ‘destitute and disfranchised mass’ (Plut. Agis 5. vi).

The Spartiates were better trained than other Greek hoplites, but as army numbers were maintained by increasing the proportion of non-Spartiates the Spartiates’ skill will not have counted for much. Leuctra showed suddenly that Sparta had been ‘punching above its weight’ and was no longer to be feared; its conduct since the Peloponnesian War had won it enemies rather than friends; a determined revolt by the lower orders could not have been suppressed, but, fortunately for the Spartiates, the lower orders did not immediately lose the habit of obedience. Other Greeks adjusted to the new reality more easily: Sparta’s allies in northern Greece transferred their allegiance to Thebes; we should transpose to this context what Diodorus says of the aftermath of the peace of 375, that the cities fell into confusion, especially in the Peloponnese, and there were moves towards democracy and the exile of pro-Spartan oligarchs (Diod. Sic. XV. 40). He reports separately under 370/69 a particularly violent episode in Argos, the skytalismos, ‘clubbing’: the people were first incited against the rich but then turned against the demagogues who had incited them (Diod. Sic. XV. 57. iii-58, cf. Plut. Praec. Ger. Reip. 814 B). Neither Corinth nor Argos was capable of filling the gap created by Sparta’s weakness.

But the most serious threat to Sparta came from Arcadia. In 370 the Mantineans voted to recreate and fortify their single city, dismantled in 385. Agesilaus unsuccessfully tried to dissuade them, but was not prepared to break the peace by attacking; they were supported by other Arcadians and Elis. They then supported a party inTegea which wanted an Arcadian federation. Oligarchic anti-federalists fled to Sparta; in the skirmishing which followed Sparta under Agesilaus did support the anti-federalists, while Elis and Argos supported the federalists, who emerged successful when Agesilaus withdrew (Xen. Hell. VI. v. 3–21, Diod. Sic. XV 59, 62. i-ii, Plut. Ages. 30. vii). The federation was based on an assembly of ten thousand (perhaps all who satisfied a low property qualification), a council and a body oidamiorgoi (in an inscription, fifty appointed in proportion from participating communities). ‘Lepreum’, i.e. Triphylia, the southern part of the territory liberated from Elis c.400, at first supported Sparta but was induced to join (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 33–4, IG v. ii 1 = R&O 32 ~ Harding 51). Xenophon mentions a professional nucleus for the army, the eparitoi(cf. the Theban sacred band: p. 284); Diodorus’ five thousand epilektoi, ‘chosen’, may be the same body but given too high a figure (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 33, cf. 22, v. 3; Diod. Sic. XV 62. ii, 67. ii). The man who emerged as leader of the federation was Lycomedes of Mantinea (e.g. Diod. Sic. XV 62. ii: in ‘Lycomedes of Tegea’ in 59. i either the man’s name or the city is wrong).

Arcadia and its allies appealed first to Athens, which was not now interested in opposing Sparta, and then to Thebes (Diod. Sic. XV. 62. iii, cf. Xen. Hell. VI. v. 19). In winter 370/69 the Arcadians attacked Heraea and forced it to join the federation (Xen. Hell. VI. v. 22, cf. IG v. ii 1). When theThebans and their central Greek allies arrived, under Epaminondas and Pelopidas, they invaded Laconia: some of the perioikoi supported them, but when Sparta offered freedom to loyal helots over 6,000 responded; Sparta itself escaped but the port of Gytheum was attacked. Then - omitted by Xenophon - the invaders moved west into Messenia, which Sparta had possessed since the eighth/seventh centuries, and liberated that: a polls of Messene was founded on Mount Ithome, and some other independent poleis came into existence. Wintry conditions and shortage of supplies led to the break-up of the expedition; Sparta and its allies had persuaded Athens to send a force under Iphicrates, but he was singularly ineffective in trying to prevent the Thebans from returning home (Xen. Hell. VI. v. 22–52, Diod. Sic. XV 62–67. i, Plut. Ages. 31–33. iv, Pel. 24, Paus. IX. 14. iv-vii; on Iphicrates cf. p. 271). Sparta was never willing to accept the loss of Messenia; and the loss was a blow to Sparta’s economic base as well as to its pride. The Arcadians dedicated a statue group at Delphi, at the beginning of the Sacred Way, directly opposite Sparta’s navarchs dedication.

Another important development omitted by Xenophon is the creation from a number of small communities of the new ‘great city’ of Megalopolis, in the south-west of Arcadia near Laconia and Messenia (cf. ill. 17). This was part of Arcadia’s assertion of itself against Sparta: eventually, if not immediately, Megalopolis incorporated some communities which had previously been under Spartan control. Different texts point to different dates for the foundation, but the decision, building and formal inauguration will have taken some time; the ascription of credit to Thebes suggests that the process was not completed until after 370/69, but there are Megalopolitan damiorgoi in IG v. ii 1 = R&O 32 ~ Harding 51, probably of369-367 (Parian Marble FGrH 239 A 73, 370/69 or 369/8; Diod. Sic. XV. 72. iv, 368/7; Paus. VIII. 27. i-viii, cf. JX. 14. vi, 15. vi, 371/0 butTheban involvement).

Ill. 17 Megalopolis: theatre. © Ruggero Vanni/CORBIS


In 369 envoys from Sparta and the Peloponnesian League went to Athens to make a firm alliance (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 1–14, Diod. Sic. XV 67. i: cf. p. 271).This year (probably) saw the first of a series of campaigns in the northeast Peloponnese: Epaminondas came south with the Thebans once more; Dionysius of Syracuse sent light cavalry to support Sparta (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 15–25, Diod. Sic. XV 68–70. i). Phlius, where friends of Sparta had been in control since Agesilaus’ intervention in 381–379, resisted attacks this year and again later (Xen. Hell. VII. ii). In 369/8 Philiscus came to Greece from Ariobarzanes; a conference at Delphi failed to agree on a new treaty, since Sparta would not abandon its claim to Messenia, so his money was spent on mercenaries for Sparta (cf. p. 234). In 368 another force from Syracuse arrived and, though Athens would have liked to use it against Thebes in Thessaly, this was again used by Sparta. In southern Arcadia Agesilaus’ son Archidamus won the ‘tearless victory’ in a battle in which no Spartans were killed (but hardly more than ten thousand of the enemy, as claimed by Diodorus) against a combination of Arcadia, Messene and Argos (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 28–32, Diod. Sic. XV 72. iii, Plut. Ages. 33. v-vi).

In 367 the states were preoccupied with the talks in Susa from which Thebes brought a draft treaty through which it hoped to add the weakening of Athens to the weakening of Sparta, thus ending the link between Sparta and Persia (cf. p. 234), and there was no major campaign in the Peloponnese. In 366 Epaminondas with Argive support attacked hitherto neutral Achaea, originally bringing it into a subordinate alliance but not interfering internally. When the Arcadians objected that the oligarchic regimes were likely to go over to Sparta, Thebes sent harmosts, exiled the oligarchs and set up democracies. But this policy backfired: the oligarchs returned and regained control, and did then align Achaea with Sparta (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 41–3, Diod. Sic. XV 75, ii). In Sicyon, between Achaea and Corinth, a leader called Euphron had originally supported Sparta, but in 368 (Diodorus: better than Xenophon’s later context) with support from Arcadia and Argos he had set up an anti-Spartan democracy and then ‘made himself tyrant’ and liberated a body of serfs. In 366 the Arcadians under Aeneas of Stymphalus (probably the Aeneas Tacticus whose manual On Withstanding a Siege survives) occupied the city of Sicyon and restored the oligarchic exiles; Euphron fled to the harbour and handed that over to Sparta. Later a Theban harmost was installed on the acropolis; Euphron returned with mercenaries from Athens and with the support of the democrats got possession of the city but not the acropolis. He went to Thebes to try to buy a settlement, but was followed there and assassinated by his opponents; despite the label ‘tyrant’ his supporters secured a public funeral for him (Xen. Hell. VII. i. 44–6, iii, Diod. Sic. XV. 70. iii).

A breach between Arcadia and Thebes began with the inclusion in the draft treaty of a clause returning to Elis the territory which it claimed, and Lycomedes and the other Arcadians walked out of the conference in Thebes (cf. p. 234). In 366, without breaking off the Theban alliance, Lycomedes persuaded the Arcadians to make a new alliance with Athens, which was thus allied both to Arcadia and to Sparta. He was killed on his way home, but the alliance held, and Athens sent cavalry with instructions to defend Arcadia but not to attack Sparta (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 2–3, 6).

Corinth was in an unstable state. The Athenians when making their alliance with Arcadia decided to ensure that Corinth ‘should be kept safe for the Athenian people’, but the Corinthians expelled Athenian forces from their territory and refused admission to an Athenian fleet under Chares, and then hired mercenaries to fight against their neighbours (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 4–6). It was perhaps at this point that Timophanes tried to make himself tyrant, and was assassinated by opponents including his own brother, Timoleon (Plut. Tim. 4–5, cf. 7. i; contr. Diod. Sic. XVI. 65, 340’s; for the later career of Timoleon see pp. 327–30). In 365, feeling isolated, Corinth made an approach to Thebes for a peace treaty, and at the same time consulted Sparta: Sparta was willing to let its allies make peace, though it lamented that they would not fight for it now when it had fought for them in the past, and that Thebes was allowing Persia’s claim to Asia Minor but not Sparta’s much older claim to Messenia; and Sparta would not itself participate in a treaty which guaranteed the independence of Messenia. Corinth refused the Thebans’ request for an alliance as well as a peace treaty. The upshot was probably a treaty which was represented as another renewal of the King’s Peace but which covered only Thebes and its allies, and the cities of the north-east Peloponnese; and it marked the end of the Peloponnesian League (cf. pp. 234–5). Isocrates’ pamphlet (VI) expressing Sparta’s reaction was written in the name of Archidamus: Agesilaus, who might have tried harder not to let the League go, was out of Sparta assisting in the Satraps’ Revolt (cf. p. 258), and the other king, Cleomenes, was a nonentity.

War between Elis and Arcadia followed Thebes’ proposal to restore territory to Elis, when in 365 Elis captured Lasion (one of the more northerly of the communities which it lost c.400, which must have joined the Arcadian federation). The Arcadians fought back vigorously, getting possession of Olympia and at one point entering the city of Elis and fighting in the agora there; Elis was supported by Achaea. In 364 the Arcadians invaded Elis again. Sparta, like Achaea, was now allied to Elis, and a force under Archidamus occupied Cromnus, south of Megalopolis, but the Arcadians, supported by Messene, Argos and Thebes, captured almost all of the Spartan garrison. The Arcadians had encouraged those living around Olympia to form a Pisatan state (cf. SIG3 171, and the adventurously restored SEG xxix 405; gold coins Kraay, Archaic and Classical Greek Coins, no. 333 = CAH2 plates v-vi no. 260), and with support from Arcadia, Argos and Athens the Pisatans celebrated that year’s Olympic festival; Elis and Achaea tried to dislodge them, fighting in the sanctuary but without success (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 12–32, Diod. Sic. XV. 77. i-iv, 78. ii-iii, 82. i). One result of this episode was that the Arcadians started using sacred funds from Olympia to pay their eparitoi; but upper-class leaders in Mantinea headed a faction which disapproved of this, and despite the opposition of the federal officials (probably the damiorgoi) obtained a majority vote in the Arcadian assembly; the officials appealed to Thebes for support but the assembly countermanded the appeal. In winter 363/2 the Mantinean faction remained dominant, and negotiated peace between Arcadia and Elis. During the peace celebrations in Tegea a Theban harmost was persuaded to arrest members of that faction; Mantinea persuaded him to release them, and protested to Thebes, but in 362 Epaminondas came south with an army from Thebes and its allies. The Mantinean faction, with Elis and Achaea, appealed to Sparta and Athens (Xen. Hell. VII. iv. 33-v 3; Diod. Sic. XV 82. i-iv makes the Mantineans those who favoured using the sacred funds).

Epaminondas went to Tegea, and was joined by Argos and Messene, and Tegea’s Arcadian supporters. While Agesilaus (back from the Satraps’ Revolt, now aged 80 or over) was marching north, Epaminondas headed south to attack Sparta. Agesilaus was warned and returned in time; Epaminondas reached the outskirts of the city but was driven back. He then returned to Arcadia; Agesilaus followed him; and in a battle outside Mantinea the Theban army was getting the upper hand when Epaminondas was killed. The result was a stalemate, with both sides claiming victory and (as Xenophon lamented) the power struggle unresolved (Xen. Hell. VII. v. 4–27, Diod. Sic. XV 82. v-88, Plut. Ages. 34. iii-35, Polyb. IX. 8). Afterwards another common peace treaty was made, with Sparta again excluded on account of Messenia (cf. p. 235).

In 361 some of the men who had been drafted into Megalopolis tried to return to their old homes, with the support of the Mantinean faction and its allies; but the Megalopolitans appealed to Thebes, Thebes sent an army under Pammenes, and he forced the dissidents to return (Diod. Sic. XV 94. i-iii). After that the division in Arcadia persisted, with each side claiming to be ‘the Arcadians’; it was the Mantinean faction which joined with Achaea, Elis and Phlius in making an alliance with Athens in 362/1 (IG ii2 112 = R&O 41 ~ Harding 56).


Artaxerxes II (Mnemon) succeeded Darius II in 405/4, and reigned until 359/8; but he was challenged by his younger brother Cyrus (born in 423, just after Darius’ accession, whereas Artaxerxes may have been born as early as 453). Cyrus collected forces in 402, including a body often thousand Greek mercenaries; in 401 he marched east, but in a battle at Cunaxa, by the Euphrates upstream from Babylon, he was defeated and killed, though his Greeks were undefeated (Xen. An. I, Diod. Sic. XIV. 19–24). Tissaphernes, whom Cyrus had supplanted in Sardis in 407 (cf. p. 156), fought on Artaxerxes’ side, and after the battle he treacherously killed the Greek commanders (Xen. An. II. iii, v, Diod. Sic. XIV. 26). He returned to Sardis in 400 (Xen. Hell. III. i. 2, Diod. Sic. XIV 35. ii), while the Greeks made their way through Armenia to the Black Sea (Xen. An. II-VII, Diod. Sic. XIV 25–31).

In Egypt a revolt against Persia began under Amyrtaeus c. 404/3; despite several attempts the Persians were not to recover Egypt until 343/2, and then only for a short time. Tamos, an Egyptian who had served in Ionia under both Tissaphernes and Cyrus, on Tissaphernes’ return fled to Egypt but was put to death (Diod. Sic. XIV 35. iii-v). In 396 the Spartans tried to make an alliance with Egypt, and were granted supplies but not an alliance (Diod. Sic. XIV 79. iv).

Cyprus was another problem area. The city of Salamis had long been ruled by kings of a Greek dynasty, as vassals of Persia; a Tyrian had seized power by the 430’s, and c.415 he was killed and succeeded by another Phoenician; Evagoras, of the old ruling family, expelled him in 411 and set about increasing the power of Salamis within Cyprus (Diod. Sic. XIV 98. i, Isoc. IX. Evagoras 18–20, 26–32, Theopompus FGrH 115 F 103. ii). There was also contact between him and Athens, as a result of which he was made an Athenian citizen some time between 411 and 407 (IG i3 113, cf. Isoc. IX. Evagoras 54, [Dem.] XII. Letter of Philip 10). Conon took refuge with him after Aegospotami (Xen. Hell. II. i. 29, Diod. Sic. XIII. 106. vi), and it was with his support that Conon was appointed to command a fleet for Pharnabazus in 398 (Isoc. IX. Evagoras 55–6, cf. Diod. Sic. XIV 39. i-ii). After the battle of Cnidus, in 394, Athens honoured Evagoras as well as Conon, describing him as a Greek fighting on behalf of the Greeks (R&O 11).

Diodorus mentions a ten-year war (cf. Isoc. IX. Evagoras 64) between Evagoras and the King, beginning it under 391/0 when the Cypriot cities not yet in Evagoras’ power appealed to the King (Diod. Sic. XIV 98. i-iv) but ending it under 386/5 and 385/4 (Diod. Sic. XV 2—4, 8–11): an astronomical diary allows us to conclude that the war began in 391, the fighting recorded in Diodorus XV was in 386 and 385, but Evagoras did not capitulate until 381. In 391 the Kng gave the command against Evagoras to Autophradates and to ‘Hecatomnos the dynast of Caria’ (Diod. Sic. XIV 98. iii-iv, where Autophradates’ name has probably been lost at the beginning of §iv,Theopompus FGrH 115 F 103. iv): Hecatomnos’ family is attested at the beginning of the fifth century (Hdt. V 118. ii), and it is most likely that c.392/1 Caria had been detached from the satrapy of Sardis and, in a departure from the fifth-century policy of appointing Persian satraps (though vassal rulers had been tolerated in some areas, e.g. Cyprus), had been given to the head of this leading family. About 390 there was an embarrassing episode when Athens, currently on the Persians’ side, sent ships to Evagoras, and these were captured by Sparta, currently opposed to Persia (Xen. Hell. IV. viii. 24); c.388 a second Athenian force, under Chabrias, did reach Evagoras (Xen. Hell. V. i. 10–12).

The Peace of Antalcidas, in 387/6, allowed Persia to concentrate on its rebels. The treaty stated that Cyprus was to belong to the King (Xen. Hell. V. i. 31); but it did not mention Egypt, so Chabrias moved there (Dem. XX. Leptines 76). Evagoras made an alliance with Acoris in Egypt, and Hecatomnos supported him; and he captured Tyre and other places in Phoenicia. Against him Artaxerxes sent Tiribazus, now satrap of Sardis, and Orontes, previously satrap of Armenia, with Glos, son of Tamos and son-in-law of Tiribazus, commanding the ships. Evagoras was defeated in a naval battle off Citium, and the Persians began to besiege Salamis (Diod. Sic. XV. 2–4, Isoc. IX. Evagoras 62,Theopompus FGrH 115 F 103. vi). When it seemed unlikely that he could hold out, Evagoras approached Tiribazus, whose terms were that his power should be limited to Salamis, he should pay tribute, and he should be obedient ‘as a slave to his master’. Evagoras refused to accept the last clause, and made contact with Orontes, who denounced Tiribazus for disloyalty and had him sent to Artaxerxes as a prisoner, and made a treaty by which Evagoras was to obey ‘as a king to a king’ (Diod. Sic. XV. 8–9. ii, Theopompus FGrH 115 F 103. ix). Eventually Tiribazus vindicated himself and Orontes was in trouble (Diod. Sic. XV 10–11). Evagoras survived until he was assassinated in 374/3 (Diod. Sic. XV 47. viii), and the dynasty lasted until 310.

In Egypt Acoris and Chabrias fought successfully against Persia for three years, probably 385–383 (Isoc. IV Paneg. 140). When Tiribazus was arrested Glos defected to Egypt and made an alliance with Acoris; he may have approached Sparta but it is unlikely that he obtained an alliance; before long he was murdered (Diod. Sic. XV 9. iii-v, 18. i). Once Evagoras had been dealt with, Persia concentrated on Egypt. The command was given to Pharnabazus (one of three commanders in 385–383; transferred from Dascylium, where he was succeeded by his son Ariobarzanes). In 380/79 he protested to Athens against Chabrias’ fighting for the Egyptians, and the Athenians recalled him and sent Iphicrates to fight for the Persians (Diod. Sic. XV 29. i-iv). Substantial preparations were made over several years; the need for Greek mercenaries underlay Persia’s interest in renewing the King’s Peace in 375 (Diod. Sic. XV 38. i: cf. pp. 231–2); and the invasion finally took place in 374. Large forces were mustered at Ace, in Palestine, and sailed to Egypt. With one contingent they gained a foothold in the Nile delta, but when Iphicrates wanted to advance inland and attack Memphis, Pharnabazus insisted on waiting for the rest of his force. The Egyptians fought back, and when the Nile flooded the Persians had to withdraw. Iphicrates returned to Athens in time to take over Timotheus’ command in 373/2 (Diod. Sic. XV 41–3: cf. pp. 270, 307), while Timotheus took over Iphicrates’ position ([Dem.] XLIX. Timotheus 25–8, 59–60). Pharnabazus was replaced by Datames, satrap in the east of Asia Minor (perhaps originally Cilicia, to which he had added Cappadocia), but he seems not to have acted against Egypt (Nep. XIV Dat. 3. v).

Instead Datames became involved in what is seen as the beginning of the Satraps’ Revolt. Our only continuous account is by Diodorus, all under the year 362/1 (XV 90–3), but our other, scattered, evidence shows that his account is badly confused. About 370/69 Datames returned to Cappadocia, dealt with a rebel but then rebelled himself, and got in touch with Ariobarzanes at Dascylium; but Autophradates was sent from Sardis, besieged him and induced him to return to apparent loyalty (Nep. XIV Dat. 4–8). Ariobarzanes became vulnerable, as a supporter of Persia’s pro-Spartan policy left behind when in 367 Artaxerxes was won over by Thebes (cf. p. 234), and because the satrapy was claimed by his half-brother Artabazus. In 366 Ariobarzanes was in revolt, and Athens sent Timotheus to support him yet not to break the King’s Peace. Persia at some point had broken the peace by occupying Samos, and from autumn 366 to autumn 365 Timotheus besieged it, capturing it for Athens (Isoc. XV Antid. Ill, Dem. XV Lib. Rhod. 9). Ariobarzanes was besieged by Autophradates in Assus or Adramyttium, and Timotheus and the Spartan Agesilaus went to relieve him, whereupon Autophradates and Mausolus (who had succeeded his father Hecatomnos: cf. p. 362) withdrew, and even gave Agesilaus money (Xen. Ages. ii. 26, Polyaenus Strat. VII. 26, Nep. XIII. Timoth. 1. iii, Isoc. XV Antid. 112). Autophradates and Mausolus came out on the side of the rebels, and so did Orontes (restored to favour and given a command in Mysia, in north-western Asia Minor), who became the leader of the revolt; and the rebels made an alliance with Tachos, the current ruler in Egypt. In 362/1 the rebels approached the Greeks: the participants in the latest common peace refused to back them (IG iv 556 = R&O 42 ~ Harding 57: cf. pp. 235–6), though the Athenian Chabrias went back as a freelance to command the fleet (Nep. XII Chab. 2. i, iii); but Sparta was not a participant and sent Agesilaus officially, with thirty Spartiate advisers, to command the Greek mercenaries - so that at last he found himself fighting against Persia once more (Xen. Ages. ii. 28–30, Plut. Ages. 36–37. i).

But the revolt then collapsed, with treachery all round. In 361, while Tachos advanced into Syria against Agesilaus’ advice, in Egypt his nephew Nectanebo was proclaimed king: Chabrias wanted to support Tachos, Agesilaus after consulting Sparta backed Nectanebo, and Tachos, deserted, surrendered to the Persians. Agesilaus supported Nectanebo against another claimant, and in winter 360/59 died in Cyrene on his way home, to be succeeded by his son Archidamus III (Plut. Ages. 37. ii—40, cf. Xen. Ages. ii. 29–31, Nep. XVII. Ages. 8). He had been a strong king, and an exponent of active policies for Sparta, but he had not been successful, partly because of Sparta’s inherent weakness and partly because he was not interested in making Sparta popular.

Meanwhile Rheomithres, used by the satraps to communicate with Tachos, had gone over to the King. In 360 Orontes took an army to Syria, heading for Mesopotamia, and Datames, once more on the rebels’ side, crossed the Euphrates (Polyaenus Strat. VII. 21. iii), but Orontes then changed sides - after which he disappears from history. Autophradates, who had captured Artabazus, the claimant to Dascylium, released him and made peace, and Artabazus took possession of Dascylium (Dem. XXIII. Aristocrates 154–8). Ariobarzanes was betrayed by his son Mithridates (Xen. Cyr.VIII. viii. 4, Arist. Pol. V. 1312 A 16). Datames returned to Cappadocia: in 359 he beat off an attack by Artabazus, but in winter 359/8 he was murdered by Mithridates (Nep. XIV Dat. 9–11). Artaxerxes himself died, at an advanced age, in 359/8, and, since his other sons had already been eliminated by plots, was succeeded by Artaxerxes III (Ochus) (Plut. Artax. 26–30). He began his reign by ordering the disbanding of the satraps’ mercenary armies, but the main danger had passed.


For general studies of Sparta see the note at the end of chapter 3. Books devoted to Sparta in this period include Cartledge, Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta; David, Sparta Between Empire and Revolution; Hamilton, Sparta’s Bitter Victories (on the Corinthian War), and his Agesilaus and the Failure of Spartan Hegemony.

On the EYN coinage the view which now seems likely to be correct (earlier interpretations had attributed the coins to one side or the other in the 390’s) is that of S. Karwiese, ‘Lysander as Herakliskos Drakonopnigon,’ NC cxl = 7xx 1980, 1–27. On Sparta and Elis see J. Roy, ‘The Spartan-Elean War of c.400’, Ath.2 xcvii 2009, 69–86 (accepting Pausanias’ campaign from Diodorus in addition to Agis’ campaigns from Xenophon). On Spartan imperialism after the Peloponnesian War see H. W Parke, ‘The Development of the Second Spartan Empire’, JHS 1 1930, 37–79. On Sparta’s dealings with Persia see Lewis, Sparta and Persia, ch. 6. On Agesilaus and his opponents see R E. Smith, ‘The Opposition to Agesilaus’ Foreign Policy, 394–371 BC‘, Hist, ii

1953-4, 274–88; G. L. Cawkwell, ‘Agesilaus and Sparta’, CQ2 xxvi 1976, 62–84. On the Locrians whose quarrel with the Phocians led to the outbreak of the Corinthian War see J. Buckler, ‘The Incident at Mount Parnassus, 395 bc’, in Tuplin (ed.), Xenophon and His World… 1999, 397–411 ch. 8. 2 = Buckler and Beck, Central Greece and the Politics of Power in the Fourth Century BC, ch. 2.

On Sparta’s social problems see Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta, and his earlier article, ‘Warfare, Wealth and the Crisis of Spartiate Society’, in Rich and Shipley (eds.), War and Society in the Greek World, 146–76. For the suggestion that the‘rhetra of Epitadeus’ is a fiction influenced by Plato see E. Schutrumpf, ‘The Pvhetra of Epitadeus; A Platonist’s Fiction’, GRBS xxviii 1987, 441–57. On the size of the citizen population see Gomme et al., Historical Commentary on Thucydides, iv. 110–17 (by Andrewes, believing in an error in Thuc. V. 68. iii, but starting from the material of Gomme, who did not believe in an error); de Ste. Croix, The Origins of the Peloponnesian War, app. 16.

On the chronology of the 360’s I follow J. Roy, ‘Arcadia and Boeotia in Peloponnesian Affairs, 370–362 BC‘, Hist, xx 1971, 569–99, in preference to the lower chronology of J. Wiseman, ‘Epaminondas and the Theban Invasions’, Klio li 1969, 177–99. On Megalopolis and Arcadia see S. Hornblower, ‘When was Megalopolis Founded?’, BSA lxxxv 1990, 71–7 (foundation begun 371/0, as in Pausanias, but took some time); Nielsen, Arkadia and Its Poleis, 229–69 (Triphylia), 414–55 (Megalopolis).

The chronology of Persia’s war against Evagoras was settled by R J. van der Spek, ‘The Chronology of the Wars of Artaxerxes II in the Babylonian Astronomical Diaries’, Achaemenid History xi 1998, 239–54 at 240–51.

On Glos see T T B. Ryder, ‘Spartan Relations with Persia After the King’s Peace: A Strange Story in Diodorus 15. 9’, CQ2 xiii 1963, 105–9 (believing a deal with Sparta was made); G. L. Cawkwell, ‘Agesilaus and Sparta’ (above), 70–1 (not believing); S. Ruzicka, ‘Glos, Son of Tamos, and the End of the Cyprian War’, Hist, xlviii 1999, 23–43.

On the Satraps’ Revolt see M. J. Osborne, ‘Orontes’, Hist, xxii 1973, 515–51, and his Naturalization in Athens, ii. 61–80; Hornblower, Mausolus, 170–82; Weiskopf, The So-Called ‘Great Satraps’ Revolt’; J. D. Bing, ‘The Iconography of Revolt and Restoration in Cilicia’, Hist, xlvii 1998, 41–76.

You can support our site by clicking on this link and watching the advertisement.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at Thank you!