It was during the reign of Agis that Alcibiades came from Sicily as an exile to Sparta, and he had not been long in the city when he incurred the charge of illicit intercourse with Timaea, the wife of the king. The child, too, that was born of her, Agis refused to recognize as his own, declaring that Alcibiades was its father. Duris says that Timaea was not very much disturbed at this, but in whispers to her Helot maids at home actually called the child Alcibiades, not Leotychides;
moreover that Alcibiades himself also declared that he had not approached Timaea out of wanton passion, but because he was ambitious to have the Spartans reigned over by his descendants.
On this account Alcibiades withdrew from Sparta, being in fear of Agis; and the boy was always an object of suspicion to Agis, and was not honoured by him as legitimate. But when the king lay sick, the supplications and tears of Leotychides prevailed upon him to declare him his son in the presence of many witnesses.
Notwithstanding this, after the death of Agis
, Lysander, who by this time had subdued the Athenians at sea and was a man of the greatest influence in Sparta, tried to advance Agesilaüs to the throne, on the plea that Leotychides was a bastard and had no claim upon it. Many of the other citizens also, owing to the excellence of Agesilaüs and the fact that he had been reared with them under the common restraints of the public training, warmly espoused the plan of Lysander and co-operated with him. But there was a diviner in Sparta, named Diopeithes, who was well supplied with ancient prophecies, and was thought to be eminently wise in religious matters.
This man declared it contrary to the will of Heaven that a lame man should be king of Sparta, and cited at the trial of the case the following oracle:—
Bethink thee now, O Sparta, though thou art very glorious, lest from thee, sound of foot, there spring a maimed royalty; for long will unexpected toils oppress thee, and onward-rolling billows of man-destroying war.
To this Lysander answered that, in case the Spartans stood in great fear of the oracle, they must be on their guard against Leotychides; for it mattered not to the god that one who halted in his gait should be king, but if one who was not lawfully begotten, nor even a descendant of Heracles, should be king, this was what the god meant by the
‘maimed royalty.’ And Agesilaüs declared that Poseidon also had borne witness to the bastardy of Leotychides, for he had cast Agis forth from his bed-chamber by an earthquake, and after this more than ten months elapsed before Leotychides was born.