But when Messene was built by Epaminondas, and its former citizens flocked into it from all quarters,
the Spartans had not the courage to contest the issue nor the ability to hinder it, but cherished the deepest resentment against Agesilaüs, because a country which was not of less extent than their own, which stood first among Hellenic lands for its fertility, the possession and fruits of which they had enjoyed for so long a time, had been lost by them during his reign.
For this reason, too, Agesilaüs would not accept the peace which was proffered by the Thebans. He was not willing to give up to them formally the country which was actually in their power, and persisted in his opposition. As a consequence, he not only did not recover Messenia, but almost lost Sparta besides, after being outgeneralled.
For when the Mantineans changed their allegiance,
revolted from Thebes, and called in the Lacedaemonians to help them, Epaminondas, learning that Agesilaüs had marched out from Sparta with his forces and was approaching, set out by night from Tegea, without the knowledge of the Mantineans, and led his army against Sparta itself. He passed by Agesilaüs, and came within a little of suddenly seizing the city in a defenceless state.
But Euthynus, a Thespian, as Callisthenes says, or, according to Xenophon,
a certain Cretan, brought word to Agesilaüs, who quickly sent on a horseman to warn the people in Sparta, and not long after his arrival the Thebans were crossing the Eurotas and attacking the city, while Agesilaüs defended it right vigorously and in a manner not to be expected of his years.
For he did not think, as on a former occasion, that the crisis demanded safe and cautious measures, but rather deeds of desperate daring. In these he had never put confidence before, nor had he employed them, but then it was only by their aid that he repelled the danger, snatching the city out of the grasp of Epaminondas, erecting a trophy of victory, and showing their wives and children that the Lacedaemonians were making the fairest of all returns to their country for its rearing of them.
Archidamus, too, fought among the foremost, conspicuous for his impetuous courage and for his agility, running swiftly through the narrow streets to the endangered points in the battle, and everywhere pressing hard upon the enemy with his few followers.
But I think that Isidas, the son of Phoebidas, must have been a strange and marvellous sight, not only to his fellow-citizens, but also to his enemies.
He was of conspicuous beauty and stature, and at an age when the human flower has the greatest charm, as the boy merges into the man. Naked as he was, without either defensive armour or clothing,—for he had just anointed his body with oil,—he took a spear in one hand, and a sword in the other, leaped forth from his house, and after pushing his way through the midst of the combatants, ranged up and down among the enemy, smiting and laying low all who encountered him.
And no man gave him a wound, whether it was that a god shielded him on account of his valour, or that the enemy thought him taller and mightier than a mere man could be. For this exploit it is said that the ephors put a garland on his head, and then fined him a thousand drachmas, because he had dared to hazard his life in battle without armour.