Agesilaüs had but recently come to the throne, when tidings were brought from Asia that the Persian king was preparing a great armament with which to drive the Lacedaemonians from the sea. Now, Lysander was eager to be sent again into Asia, and to aid his friends there. These he had left governors and masters of the cities, but owing to their unjust and violent conduct of affairs, they were being driven out by the citizens, and even put to death. He therefore persuaded Agesilaüs to undertake the expedition and make war in behalf of Hellas, proceeding to the farthest point across the sea, and thus anticipating the preparations of the Barbarian.
At the same time he wrote to his friends in Asia urging them to send messengers to Sparta and demand Agesilaüs as their commander. Accordingly, Agesilaüs went before the assembly of the people and agreed to undertake the war if they would grant him thirty Spartans as captains and counsellors, a select corps of two thousand enfranchised Helots, and a force of allies amounting to six thousand.
They readily voted everything, owing to the co-operation of Lysander, and sent Agesilaüs forth at once with the thirty Spartans. Of these Lysander was first and foremost, not only because of his own reputation and influence, but also because of the friendship of Agesilaüs, in whose eyes his procuring him this command was a greater boon than his raising him to the throne.
While his forces were assembling at Geraestus,
Agesilaüs himself went to Aulis with his friends and spent the night. As he slept, he thought a voice came to him, saying:
‘King of the Lacedaemonians, thou art surely aware that no one has ever been appointed general of all Hellas together except Agamemnon, in former times, and now thyself, after him. And since thou commandest the same hosts that he did, and wagest war on the same foes, and settest out for the war from the same place, it is meet that thou shouldst sacrifice also to the goddess the sacrifice which he made there before he set sail.’
Almost at once Agesilaüs remembered the sacrifice of his own daughter
which Agamemnon had there made in obedience to the soothsayers. He was not disturbed, however, but after rising up and imparting his vision to his friends, declared that he would honour the goddess with a sacrifice in which she could fitly take pleasure, being a goddess, and would not imitate the cruel insensibility of his predecessor. So he caused a hind to be wreathed with chaplets, and ordered his own seer to perform the sacrifice, instead of the one customarily appointed to this office by the Boeotians.
Accordingly, when the Boeotian magistrates heard of this, they were moved to anger, and sent their officers, forbidding Agesilaüs to sacrifice contrary to the laws and customs of the Boeotians. These officers not only delivered their message, but also snatched the thigh-pieces of the victim from the altar.
Agesilaüs therefore sailed away in great distress of mind; he was not only highly incensed at the Thebans, but also full of ill-boding on account of the omen. He was convinced that his undertakings would be incomplete, and that his expedition would have no fitting issue.