He lost still more reputation by offering to take a command under Tachos the Egyptian. For it was thought unworthy that a man who had been judged noblest and best in Hellas, and who had filled the world with his fame, should furnish a rebel against the Great King, a mere Barbarian, with his person, his name, and his fame, and take money for him, rendering the service of a hired captain of mercenaries.
For even if, now that he was past eighty years of age and his whole body was disfigured with wounds, he had taken up again his noble and conspicuous leadership in behalf of the freedom of the Hellenes, his ambition would not have been altogether blameless, as men thought. For honourable action has its fitting time and season; nay, rather, it is the observance of due bounds that constitutes an utter difference between honourable and base actions.
Agesilaüs, however, paid no heed to these considerations, nor did he think any public service beneath his dignity; it was more unworthy of him, in his opinion, to live an idle life in the city, and to sit down and wait for death. Therefore he collected mercenaries with the money which Tachos sent him, embarked them on transports, and put to sea, accompanied by thirty Spartan counsellors, as formerly.
As soon as he landed in Egypt,
the chief captains and governors of the king came down to meet him and pay him honour. There was great eagerness and expectation on the part of the other Egyptians also, owing to the name and fame of Agesilaüs, and all ran together to behold him.
But when they saw no brilliant array whatever, but an old man lying in some grass by the sea, his body small and contemptible, covered with a cloak that was coarse and mean, they were moved to laughter and jesting, saying that here was an illustration of the fable,
‘a mountain is in travail, and then a mouse is born.’
They were still more surprised, too, at his eccentricity. When all manner of hospitable gifts were brought to him, he accepted the flour, the calves, and the geese, but rejected the sweetmeats, the pastries, and the perfumes, and when he was urged and besought to take them, ordered them to be carried and given to his Helots. He was pleased, however, as Theophrastus tells us, with the papyrus used in chaplets, because the chaplets were so neat and simple, and when he left Egypt, asked and received some from the king.