Polydectes also died soon afterwards, and then, as was generally thought, the kingdom devolved upon Lycurgus; and until his brother's wife was known to be with child, he was king. But as soon as he learned of this, he declared that the kingdom belonged to her offspring, if it should be male, and himself administered the government only as guardian. Now the guardians of fatherless kings are called
‘prodikoi’ by the Lacedaemonians.
Presently, however, the woman made secret overtures to him, proposing to destroy her unborn babe on condition that he would marry her when he was a king of Sparta; and although he detested her character, he did not reject her proposition, but pretended to approve and accept it. He told her, however, that she need not use drugs to produce a miscarriage, thereby injuring her health and endangering her life, for he would see to it himself that as soon as her child was born it should be put out of the way.
In this manner he managed to bring the woman to her full time, and when he learned that she was in labour, he sent attendants and watchers for her delivery, with orders, if a girl should be born, to hand it over to the women, but if a boy, to bring it to him, no matter what he was doing. And it came to pass that as he was at supper with the chief magistrates, a male child was born, and his servants brought the little boy to him.
He took it in his arms, as we are told, and said to those who were at table with him,
‘A king is born unto you, O men of Sparta;’ then he laid it down in the royal seat and named it Charilaüs, or People's Joy
, because all present were filled with joy, admiring as they did his lofty spirit and his righteousness. And so he was king only eight months in all. But on other accounts also he was revered by his fellow-citizens, and more than those who obeyed him because he was guardian of the king and had royal power in his hands, were those who clave to him for his virtues and were ready and willing to do his bidding.
There was a party, however, which envied him and sought to impede the growing power of so young a man, especially the kinsmen and friends of the queen-mother, who thought she had been treated with insolence. Her brother, Leonidas, actually railed at Lycurgus once quite boldly, assuring him that he knew well that Lycurgus would one day be king, thereby promoting suspicion and paving the way for the accusation, in case any thing happened to the king, that he had plotted against his life. Some such talk was set in circulation by the queen-mother also, in consequence of which Lycurgus was sorely troubled and fearful of what might be in store for him. He therefore determined to avoid suspicion by travelling abroad, and to continue his wanderings until his nephew should come of age and beget a son to succeed him on the throne.