In all these matters Cleomenes was himself a teacher. His own manner of life was simple, plain, and no more pretentious than that of the common man, and it was a pattern of self-restraint for all. This gave him a great advantage in his dealings with the other Greeks. For when men had to do with the other kings, they were not so much awed by their wealth and extravagance as they were filled with loathing for their haughtiness and pomp as they gave offensive and harsh answers to their auditors;
but when men came to Cleomenes, who was a real as well as a titled king, and then saw no profusion of purple robes or shawls about him, and no array of couches and litters; when they saw, too, that he did not make the work of his petitioners grievous and slow by employing a throng of messengers and door-keepers or by requiring written memorials, but came in person, just as he happened to be dressed, to answer the salutations of his visitors, conversing at length with those who needed his services and devoting time cheerfully and kindly to them, they were charmed and completely won over, and declared that he alone was a descendant of Heracles.
His usual supper was held in a room which had only three couches, and was very circumscribed and Spartan; but if he was entertaining ambassadors or guest-friends, two more couches would be brought in, and the servants would make the table a trifle more brilliant, not with sauces or sweetmeats, but with more generous dishes and a kindlier wine. And indeed he censured one of his friends, when he heard that in entertaining guest-friends he had set before them the black soup and barley-bread of the public mess-tables;
‘for,’ said he,
‘in these matters and before foreigners we must not be too strictly Spartan.’
After the table had been removed, a tripod would be brought in on which were a bronze mixer full of wine, two silver bowels holding a pint apiece, and drinking cups of silver, few all told, from which he who wished might drink; but no one had a cup forced upon him. Music there was none, nor was any such addition desired; for Cleomenes entertained the company himself by his conversation, now asking questions, now telling stories, and his discourse was not unpleasantly serious, but had a sportiveness that charmed and was free from rudeness.
For the hunt which all the other kings made for men, ensnaring them with gifts and bribes and corrupting them, Cleomenes considered unskillful and unjust. In his eyes it was the noblest method, and one most fit for a king, to win over his visitors and attach them to himself by an intercourse and conversation which awakened pleasure and confidence. For he felt that a hireling differed from a friend in nothing except that the one was captured by a man's character and conversation, the other by a man's money.