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Chilon's Fruitless Attempts In Sparta

While Philip was thus engaged in Triphylia, Chilon
Chilon tries to seize the crown of Sparta, B. C. 218.
the Lacedaemonian, holding that the kingship belonged to him in virtue of birth, and annoyed at the neglect of his claims by the Ephors in selecting Lycurgus, determined to stir up a revolution: and believing that if he took the same course as Cleomenes had done, and gave the common people hopes of land allotments and redivision of property, the masses would quickly follow him, he addressed himself to carrying out this policy. Having therefore agreed with his friends on this subject, and got as many as two hundred people to join his conspiracy, he entered upon the execution of his project. But perceiving that the chief obstacles in the way of the accomplishment of his design were Lycurgus, and those Ephors who had invested him with the crown, he directed his first efforts against them. The Ephors he seized while at dinner, and put them all to death on the spot,—chance thus inflicting upon them the punishment they deserved: for whether we regard the person at whose hands, or the person for whose sake they were thus destroyed, we cannot but say that they richly merited their fate.

After the successful accomplishment of this deed, Chilon went to the-house of Lycurgus, whom he found at home, but failed to seize. Assisted by slaves and neighbours Lycurgus was smuggled out of the house, and effected a secret escape; and thence got away by a cross-country route to the town of Pellene in Tripolis. Thus baffled in the most important point of his enterprise, Chilon was greatly discouraged; but was forced all the same to go on with what he had begun. Accordingly he made a descent upon the market-place, and laid violent hands upon those opposed to him; tried to rouse his relations and friends; and declared to the rest of the people there what hopes of success he had. But when nobody seemed inclined to join him, but on the contrary a mob began to collect with threatening looks, he saw how it was, and found a secret way of leaving the town; and, making his way across Laconia, arrived in Achaia alone and an exile. But the Lacedaemonians who were in the territory of Megalopolis, terrified by the arrival of Philip, stowed away all the goods they had got from the country, and first demolished and then abandoned the Athenaeum.

The fact is that the Lacedaemonians enjoyed a most

Decline of Sparta.
excellent constitution, and had a most extensive power, from the time of the legislation of Lycurgus to that of the battle of Leuctra.
B. C. 800 (?)-B. C. 371.
But after that event their fortune took an unfavourable turn; and their political state continued ever growing worse and worse, until they finally suffered from a long succession of internal struggles and partisan warfare; were repeatedly agitated by schemes for the redivision of lands and the banishment of one party or another; and were subjected to the severest possible slavery, culminating in the tyrannical government of Nabis: though the word "tyrant" was one which they had in old times scarcely endured to hear mentioned. However, the ancient history of Sparta as well as the great part of it since, has been recorded by many in terms of eulogy or the reverse; but the part of that history which admits of the least controversy is that which followed the entire destruction of the ancient constitution by Cleomenes;1 and that shall be narrated by me in the order of events as they occur.
B. C. 236-222.

1 Yet the avowed project of Cleomenes was the restoration of the ancient constitution. Plutarch, Cleom. c. 10.

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  • Cross-references to this page (3):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), LACO´NIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), PELLA´NA
    • Smith's Bio, Cheilon
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Plutarch, Cleomenes, 10
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