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Now Epameinondas, whose nature it was to aim at great enterprises and to crave everlasting fame, counselled the Arcadians and his other allies to resettle Messene, which for many years had remained stripped of its inhabitants by the Lacedaemonians, for it occupied a position well suited for operations against Sparta. When they all concurred, he sought out the remnants of the Messenians, and registering as citizens any others who so wished he founded Messene again, making it a populous city. Among them he divided the land, and reconstructing its buildings restored a notable Greek city and gained the widespread approbation of all men.1 [2]

Here I think it not unsuitable, since Messene has so often been captured and razed, to recapitulate its history2 from the beginning. In ancient times the line of Neleus and Nestor3 held it down to Trojan times; then Orestes, Agamemnon's son, and his descendants down to the return of the Heracleidae4; following which Cresphontes5 received Messene as his portion and his line ruled it for a time; but later when Cresphontes' descendants had lost the kingship, the Lacedaemonians became masters of it. [3] After this, at the death of the Lacedaemonian king Teleclus,6 the Messenians were defeated in a war by the Lacedaemonians. This war is said to have lasted twenty years, for the Lacedaemonians had taken an oath not to return to Sparta unless they should have captured Messene. Then it was that the children called partheniae7 were born and founded the city of Tarentum. Later, however, while the Messenians were in slavery to the Lacedaemonians, Aristomenes8 persuaded the Messenians to revolt from the Spartans, and he inflicted many defeats upon the Spartans at the time when the poet Tyrtaeus9 was given by the Athenians as a leader to Sparta. [4] Some say that Aristomenes lived during the twenty-year war. The last war10 between them was on the occasion of a great earthquake; practically all Sparta was destroyed and left bare of men, and the remnants of the Messenians settled Ithome with the aid of the Helots who joined the revolt, after Messene had for a long time been desolate. [5] But when they were unsuccessful in all their wars and were finally driven from their homes, they settled in Naupactus,11 a city which the Athenians had given them for an abode. Furthermore some of their number were exiled to Cephallenia, while others settled in Messana12 in Sicily, which was named after them. [6] Finally at the time under discussion the Thebans, at the instigation of Epameinondas, who gathered together the Messenians from all quarters, settled Messene and restored their ancient land to them.

Such then were the many important vicissitudes of Messenian history.

1 See Plut. Pelopidas 24.5, Plut. Agesilaus 34.1; Paus. 4.26-27; Paus. 9.14.5; Isoc. 6.28. Apparently Xenophon, the Spartophile, could not bring himself to mention the refounding of Messene.

2 A brief account of the early history of Messene and Sparta is to be found in Holm, The History of Greece, 1.193-201. See also Wade-Gery, Cambridge Ancient History, 3.537-539, 548, 557-560.

3 Chieftains of Pylos on the coast. Cp. Book 4.68.6; and Pausanias, 4.3.1.

4 The so-called children of Heracles who formed the second wave of Dorian invasion in the Peloponnese (cp. Book 4.57 f).

5 A Heraclid who favoured the early inhabitants of Messene and was slain by the Dorians. He was introduced with his son Aepytus as a hero by Epameinondas according to Paus. 4.27.6. See Strabo 8.4.7.

6 A king of the Agid line. First Messenian War, 743-723 B.C. See Paus. 3.2.6; Paus. 4.4.2, 31.3 and Strabo 6.3.3.

7 From the union of Spartan "maidens" (hence παρθένιαι) with men left behind at Sparta while the bulk of the Spartiatae were fighting in Messene. They settled Tarentum 708 B.C. See Strabo 6.3-4.

8 Messenian hero of the Second Messenian War, 685-668 B.C.

9 Fragments of his marching songs and his poem on good government (Εὐνομία) are collected in Edmunds, Elegy and Iambus, 1.58 ff., L.C.L. See Book 8.27.2. Schmid-Stählin, Gr. Litt.-Gesch. 1.1.358 ff., doubt if a poet came out of Athens or Sparta at this period but think it quite possible that Tyrtaeus came from Miletus (cp. Suidas, Lexicon, s.v. Λάκων Μιλήσιος) along with other poets that came to Sparta from the more forward regions of Asia Minor and the islands. For other notices of his life see Edmunds, ibid. 50-58.

10 464-455 B.C. See Book 11.63.

11 Situated on a promontory on the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth; an important ally of Athens in the Peloponnesian War.

12 Formerly Zancle, settled by Siculians probably, later colonized by Chalcidians.

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    • Isocrates, Archidamus, 28
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.4.2
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.2.6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.26
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 4.27.6
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    • Strabo, Geography, 6.3
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