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 Ephorus gives the following account of the foundation. The Lacedæmonians waged war against the Messenians, who had murdered their king, Teleclus,1 when he visited Messene to offer sacrifice. They took an oath that they would not return home before they had destroyed Messene, or should be all slain. They left only the youngest and oldest of the citi- zens to keep their own country. After this, in the tenth [year] of the war, the Lacedæmonian matrons assembled and deputed certain women to remonstrate with the citizens, and show them that they were carrying on the war with the Messenians on very disadvantageous terms, for they, abiding in their own country, procreated children, while the Lacedæmonians, leaving their wives in a state like widowhood, remained away in the war; and to expose the great peril there was of the depopulation of their country. The Lacedæmonians, being both desirous of observing their oath, and taking into consideration the representations of their wives, sent a deputation of the most vigorous, and, at the same time, most juvenile of the army, whom they considered, in a manner, not to have participated in the oath, because they had been but children when they accompanied their elders to the war, and charged them all to company with all the maidens, reckoning that by that means they would bear the more children; which having been accordingly obeyed, the children who were born were denominated Partheniæ. Messene was taken after a war of nineteen years, as Tyrtæus says, “ The fathers of our fathers, armed for war,
Possessing ever patient courage, fought at Messene
For nineteen years with unremitting toil.
Till on the twentieth, leaving their rich soil,
The enemy forsook the towering heights of Ithome.2
” Thus then did they destroy Messenia, but returning home, they neglected to honour the Partheniæ like other youths, and treated them as though they had been born out of wedlock. The Partheniæ, leaguing with the Helots, conspired against the Lacedæmonians, and agreed to raise a Laconic felt hat3 in the market-place as a signal for the commencement of hostilities. Some of the Helots betrayed the plot, but the government found it difficult to resist them by force, for they were many, and all unanimous, and looked upon each other as brothers; those in authority therefore commanded such as were appointed to raise the signal, to depart out of the market-place; when they therefore perceived that their plot was disclosed they desisted, and the Lacedæmonians persuaded them, through the instrumentality of their fathers, to leave the country and colonize: and advised them, if they should get possession of a convenient place, to abide in it, but if not, they promised that a fifth part of Messenia should be divided amongst them on their return. So they departed and found the Greeks carrying on hostilities against the barbarians, and taking part in the perils of the war, they obtained possession of Tarentum, which they colonized.
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