And now to resume; Cleomenes, when day came, published a list of eighty citizens who must go into exile, and removed all the ephoral chairs except one; in this he purposed to sit himself for the transaction of public business. Then he called a general assembly and made a defence of his proceedings. He said that Lycurgus had blended the powers of senate and kings, and that for a long time the state was administered in this way and had no need of other officials.
But later, when the Messenian war proved to be long, the kings, since their campaigns abroad left them no time to administer justice themselves, chose out some of their friends and left them behind to serve the citizens in their stead. These were called ephors, or guardians, and as a matter of fact they continued at first to be assistants of the kings, but then gradually diverted the power into their own hands, and so, ere men were aware, established a magistracy of their own.
As proof of this, Cleomenes cited the fact that down to that day, when the ephors summoned a king to appear before them, he refused to go at the first summons, and at the second, but at the third rose up and went to them; and he said that the one who first added weight to the office, and extended its powers, Asteropus, was ephor many generations later. As long, then, he said, as the ephors kept within bounds, it had been better to bear with them; but when with their assumed power they subverted the ancient form of government to such an extent as to drive away some kings, put others to death without trial, and threaten such as desired to behold again in Sparta her fairest and most divinely appointed constitution, it was not to be endured.
If, then, it had been possible without bloodshed to rid Sparta of her imported curses, namely luxury and extravagance, and debts and usury, and those elder evils than these, namely, poverty and wealth, he would have thought himself the most fortunate king in the world to have cured the disease of his country like a wise physician, without pain; but as it was, he said, in support of the necessity that had been laid upon him, he could cite Lycurgus, who, though he was neither king nor magistrate, but a private person attempting to act as king, proceeded with an armed retinue into the market-place, so that Charillus the king took fright and fled for refuge to an altar.
That king, however, Cleomenes said, since he was an excellent man and a lover of his country, speedily concurred in the measures of Lycurgus and accepted the change of constitution; still, as a matter of fact Lycurgus by his own acts bore witness to the difficulty of changing a constitution without violence and fear. To these, Cleomenes said, he had himself resorted with the greatest moderation, for he had but put out of the way the men who were opposed to the salvation of Sparta.
For all the rest, he said, the whole land should be common property, debtors should be set free from their debts, and foreigners should be examined and rated, in order that the strongest of them might be made Spartan citizens and help to preserve the state by their arms.
‘In this way,’ he said,
‘we shall cease to behold Sparta the booty of Aetolians and Illyrians through lack of men to defend her.’