Smarting under this insult, he resolved to give up his seal at once, and resign the office of general, but upon reflection he held on for the present, and after leading the Achaeans forth to Orchomenus, fought a battle there with Megistonoüs, the stepfather of Cleomenes, in which he got the upper hand, killing three hundred of the enemy and taking Megistonoüs prisoner.
But when, accustomed as he was to be general every other year, his turn came round again and he was invited to take the office, he formally declined,1
and Timoxenus was chosen general.2
Now the grounds usually given for this refusal of Aratus, namely, his anger at the people, were not thought to be convincing, and the real reason for it was the situation of the Achaeans. For the invasions of Cleomenes were no longer quiet and restrained, as formerly, nor was he fettered by the civil authorities,
but after he had killed the ephors, divided up the land, advanced many resident aliens to the citizenship, and thus got an irresponsible power,3
he immediately pressed the Achaeans hard, and demanded the supreme leadership for himself. And therefore men blame Aratus, because, when the ship of state was driving in a great surge and storm, he forsook the pilot's helm and left it to another, although it had been well, even if the people were unwilling, to remain at their head and save them;
and if he despaired of the government and power of the Achaeans, he ought to have yielded to Cleomenes, and not to have made Peloponnesus quite barbarous again under Macedonian garrisons, nor to have filled Acrocorinthus with Illyrian and Gallic arms, nor, in the case of men whom he was always defeating in the fields of war and statesmanship and abusing in the pages of his Commentaries, to have made these men lords over the cities under the endearing name of allies.
And if Cleomenes was, as must be granted, lawless and arbitrary, still, Heracleidae were his ancestors, and Sparta was his native land, the meanest citizen of which was more worthy than the foremost Macedonian to be made their leader by those who had any regard for Greek nobility of birth. And yet Cleomenes asked the Achaeans for the office, with the promise that he would confer many benefits upon their cities in return for that honour and its title,
whereas Antigonus, although he was proclaimed leader with full powers by land and sea, would not accept the office until Acrocorinthus had been promised him as the pay for his leadership. In this he acted just like Aesop's hunter. For he would not mount the Achaeans, although they prayed him to do so and presented their backs to him by way of embassies and decrees, until they consented to wear the bit and bridle of the garrison they received and the hostages they gave.
And yet Aratus says everything that he can say in explaining the necessity that was upon him. Polybius, however, says4
that for a long time, and before the necessity arose, Aratus mistrusted the daring temper of Cleomenes and made secret overtures to Antigonus, besides putting the Megalopolitans forward to beg the Achaeans to call in Antigonus. For the Megalopolitans were most oppressed by the war, since Cleomenes was continually plundering their territory.
A similar account of these matters is given by Phylarchus also, in whom, but for the testimony of Polybius, one should not put entire credence. For goodwill makes his every mention of Cleomenes ecstatic, and as if he were pleading in a court of law, he is for ever accusing Aratus in his history, and defending Cleomenes.