At once, then, Lysander tried to rouse and incite him to make an expedition into Asia, suggesting hopes that he would put down the Persians and become a very great man. He also wrote letters to his friends in Asia, bidding them ask Agesilaus of the Lacedaemonians as general for their war against the Barbarians.1
They obeyed, and sent ambassadors to Lacedaemon with the request, and thus an honor not inferior to that of being made king was obtained for Agesilaus through the efforts of Lysander. But with ambitious natures, which are otherwise not ill qualified for command, jealousy of their equals in reputation is no slight obstacle to the performance of noble deeds; for they make those their rivals in the path of virtue, whom they might have as helpers.
Agesilaus did indeed take Lysander with him among his thirty counsellors, intending to treat him with special favour as his chief friend; but when they were come into Asia, the people there, who were not acquainted with him, conferred with him but rarely and briefly, whereas Lysander, in consequence of their large intercourse with him in former times, had them always at his door and in his train, those who were his friends coming out of deference, and those whom he suspected, out of fear.
And just as in tragedies it naturally happens that an actor who takes the part of some messenger or servant is in high repute and plays leading roles, while the one who bears the crown and scepter is not even listened to when he speaks, so in this case the whole honor of the government was associated with the counsellor, and there was left for the king only the empty name of power.
It is true, perhaps, that there should have been some gentle handling of this excessive ambition, and that Lysander should have been reduced to the second place; but entirely to cast off and insult, for fame's sake, a benefactor and a friend, was not worthy of the character of Agesilaus.
In the first place, then, he did not give him opportunities for achievement, nor even assign him to a command; and secondly, those in whose behalf he perceived that Lysander was earnestly exerting himself, these he always sent away with less reward than an ordinary suitor, or wholly unsuccessful, thus quietly undoing and chilling his influence.
So when Lysander missed all his aims, and saw that his interested efforts for his friends were an obstacle to their success,he not only ceased to give them his own aid, but begged them not to wait upon him nor pay him their court, but to confer with the king, and with such as had more power to benefit those who showed them honor than was his at present.
Most of those who heard this refrained from troubling him about their affairs, but did not cease paying him their court, nay rather, by waiting upon him in the public walks and places of exercise, they gave Agesilaus even more annoyance than before, because he envied him the honor. Therefore, though he offered most of the Spartans2
commands in the field and governments of cities, he appointed Lysander his carver of meats. And presently, as if by way of insult to the Ionians, he said
‘Let them be off, and pay their court now to my carver of meats.’
Accordingly, Lysander determined to have a conference with him, at which a brief and laconic dialogue passed between them.
‘Verily, thou knowest well, Agesilaus, how to abase friends.’ To which Agesilaus:
‘Yes, if they would be greater than I but those who increase my power should also share in it.’
‘Well, perhaps thy words, Agesilaus, are fairer than my deeds; but I beg thee, even because of the strangers who have their eyes upon us, to give me a post under thy command where thou believest that I shall be least annoying to thyself, and more serviceable than now.’