Upon this, the ephors began operations by sending Cleomenes to occupy the precinct of Athena at Belbina. This commands an entrance into Laconia, and was at that time a subject of litigation with the Megalopolitans. After Cleomenes had occupied and fortified this place, Aratus made no public protest, but led out his forces one night and tried to surprise Tegea and Orchomenus.
Those who were to betray the places to him, however, played the coward, and Aratus withdrew, thinking that his attempt had escaped notice. But Cleomenes wrote him an ironical letter, inquiring, as from a friend, whither he had marched out in the night. Aratus wrote back that hearing of Cleomenes' intention to fortify Belbina he had gone down there to prevent it. Whereupon Cleomenes sent back word again that he believed this story to be true;
‘but those torches and ladders,’ said he,
‘if it is all one to thee, tell me for what purpose thou hadst them with thee.’
Aratus burst out laughing at the jest, and inquired what manner of youth this was. Whereupon Damocrates, the Lacedaemonian exile, replied:
‘If thou hast designs upon the Lacedaemonians, see that thou hastenest, before this young cock grows his spurs.’
After this, when Cleomenes with a few horsemen and three hundred foot-soldiers was making an expedition in Arcadia, the ephors, fearing the issue of the war, ordered him to come back home.
After he had returned, however, Aratus seized Caphyae, and the ephors sent Cleomenes forth again. He seized Methydrium and overran the territory of Argolis, whereupon the Achaeans marched out with twenty thousand foot-soldiers and a thousand horsemen under Aristomachus as general. Cleomenes met them at Pallantium and offered battle,
but Aratus, in fear of this boldness, would not suffer his general to hazard the issue, and retired. For this he was reproached by the Achaeans, and jeered at and despised by the Lacedaemonians, who were less than five thousand strong. Cleomenes was therefore greatly lifted up in spirit and began to show a hold front to the citizens; and he would often remind them of one of their ancient kings1
who said, and not idly either,
‘The Lacedaemonians are wont to ask, not how many, but where, their enemies are.’