At Lacedaemon the city was not to be treated with violence but the tyrant taken by craft;
he had been stripped of the coast towns by the Romans and shut up within the walls of Lacedaemon itself by the Achaeans, and whoever took the initiative in killing him would win the complete gratitude of the Lacedaemonians.
As a pretext for sending men to him they had the fact that he was wearying them with petitions that reinforcements be sent to him, since it was at their instance that he had rebelled.
A thousand infantry were given [p. 105]
Alexamenus and thirty troopers picked from the1
were given instructions by the praetor Damocritus in the secret council of the people which was mentioned above,3
that they should not believe themselves sent for the Achaean war or for any other purpose that anyone could arrive at by his own conjecture; whatever sudden plan circumstances should prompt Alexamenus to form, they should be prepared to follow obediently, no matter how unexpected, rash and bold it might be, and they should receive it as if they knew that they had been sent from home to do that one thing.
With them, thus prepared, Alexamenus came to the tyrant and by his coming immediately filled him with hope: Antiochus, he said, had already crossed into Europe, would soon be in Greece, and would fill the lands and seas with arms and soldiers;
the Romans would realize that they were not dealing with Philip; the number of infantry and cavalry and ships could not be calculated; the line of elephants by their very appearance would end the war.
The Aetolians with their entire army were ready, he said, to come to Sparta when the situation required, but that they had wished to display their full strength to the king when he arrived.
Nabis himself should also take such steps as not to permit what troops he had to grow soft in idleness under roofs, but should lead them out, force them to march under arms and at the same time stimulate their courage and train their bodies; as a result of drill labour would be lighter, and through the courtesy and consideration of their commander could even become not unpleasant.
From that time on Nabis began to lead the troops out frequently into [p. 107]
the plain before the city along the Eurotas river4
The bodyguard of the tyrant was generally posted in the centre of the line;
the tyrant, with at most three cavalrymen, of whom Alexamenus was usually one, would ride in front of the standards, inspecting the flanks to the end;
the Aetolians were on the right of the line, both those who had formerly been with the tyrant and the thousand who had come with Alexamenus.
Alexamenus had established the habit for himself now of riding around with the tyrant with only a few attendants and of advising him what seemed to be advantageous, now of riding off to
the right flank to his own men and then returning to the tyrant as if he had given some order which the situation demanded.
But on the day which he had chosen for the perpetration of the crime, when, after riding for a while with the tyrant, he had returned to his own men, he then addressed the thirty troopers who had been sent from home with him:
“We must, young men, do and dare the deed which you were ordered to perform strenuously under my command; prepare your minds and hands that no one may fail in what he sees me do;
whoever shall hesitate and substitute his own plan for mine shall know that he has no return to his own home.” Horror seized them all, and they remembered with what orders they had left home.
The tyrant was coming from the left wing; Alexamenus ordered the cavalry to put their spears in rest and to watch him; he himself also collected his thoughts, disordered by his pondering over so great a deed. When Nabis approached, he charged and piercing his horse overthrew the tyrant; the troopers ran him through as he lay on the ground;
after many blows [p. 109]
had fallen vainly upon his armour the wounds at5
last reached his unprotected body, and before aid could reach him from the centre of the line the tyrant was dead.