In their civic activities, however, Agis would seem to have taken hold of things with too little spirit; he was baffled by Agesilaüs, and broke his promise to the citizens about the redistribution of lands, and in a word abandoned and left unfinished the designs which he had deliberately formed and announced, owing to a lack of courage due to his youth. Cleomenes, on the contrary, undertook his change of the constitution with too much rashness and violence, killing the ephors in unlawful fashion, when it would have been easier to win them over to his views or remove them by superiority in arms, just as he removed many others from the city.
For a resort to the knife, except under extremest necessity, is not the mark either of a good physician or statesman, but in both cases shows a lack of skill, and in the case of the statesman there is added both injustice and cruelty. Neither of the Gracchi, however, initiated civil slaughter, and Caius, we are told, would not resort to self-defence even when his life was threatened, but though he was a most brilliant soldier in the field, he showed himself most inactive in civil strife.
For he went forth from his house unarmed and withdrew when the battle began, and in a word was seen to be more intent upon not doing any harm to others than upon not suffering harm himself. Therefore we must hold that the flight of the brothers was not a mark of cowardice, but of caution. For they were obliged either to yield to their assailants, or, in case they held their ground, to defend themselves actively against harm.