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*Lu/sandros), of Sparta, was the son of Aristocleitus or Aristocritus, and, according to Plutarch, of an Heracleid family. Aelian and Athenaeus tell us that he rose to the privileges of citizenship from the condition of a slave (μόθων), and Müller thinks that he was of a servile origin, as well as Callicratidas and Gylippus; while Thirlwall supposes them to have been the offspring of marriages contracted by fieemen with women of inferior condition, and to have been originally in legal estimation on a level with the μόθωνες, or favoured helot children, who were educated in their master's family together with his sons. (Plut. Lys. 2; Paus. 6.3; Ael. VH 12.43; Athen. 6.271f; Müller, Dor. 3.3.5; Thirlwall's Greece, vol. iv. p. 374; Mitford's Greece, ch. xx. sect. 2, note 4.)

In B. C. 407, Lysander was sent out to succeed Cratesippidas in the command of the fleet, the Spartans, as it would appear, having been induced to appoint him, partly because his ability marked him as fit to cope with Alcibiades, partly that they might have the advantage of his peculiar talents of supple diplomacy at the court of Cyrus the Younger. (Comp. Cic. De Off. 1.30, De Senect. 17.) Having increased his fleet to seventy ships by reinforcements gathered at Rhodes, Cos, and Miletus, he sailed to Ephesus; and, when Cyrus arrived at Sardis, he proceeded thither, and so won upon the prince as to obtain from him an increase in the pay of the sailors; nor could Tissaphernes, acting doubtless under the instructions of Alcibiades, succeed in his efforts to induce Cyrus even to receive an Athenian embassy. Lysander fixed his head-quarters at Ephesus, of the later prosperity and magnificence of which he is said by Plutarch to have laid the foundation, by the numbers he attracted thither as to a focus of trade. After his victory at Notium over Antiochus [see Vol. I. pp. 100, b, 193, b], he proceeded to organise a number of oligarchical clubs and factions in the several states, by means of the men who seemed fittest for the purpose in each; and the jealousy with which he regarded CALLICRATIDAS, his successor in B. C. 406, and the attempts he made to thwart and hamper him, may justify the suspicion that his object, in the establishment of these associations, was rather the extension of his own personal influence than the advancement of his country's cause. His power and reputation among the Spartan allies in Asia were certainly great, for, in a congress at Ephesus, they determined to send ambassadors to Lacedaemon requesting that Lysander might be appointed to the command of the fleet, an application which was supported also by Cyrus. The Lacedaemonian law, however, did not allow the office of admiral to be held twice by the same person; and, accordingly, in order to comply with the wish of the allies, without contravening the established custom, Aracus was sent out, in B. C. 405, as the nominal commander-in-chief, while Lysander, virtually invested with the supreme direction of affairs, had the title of viceadmiral. Having arrived at Ephesus with 35 ships, he assembled from different quarters all the available navy of Lacedaemon, and proceeded to build fresh gallies besides. For this purpose, as well as for the pay of the men, he was again furnished with money by Cyrus, who, being soon after summoned to court by his father Dareius, even intrusted Lysander with authority over his province, and assigned to him the tribute from its several cities. Thus amply provided with the means of prosecuting the war, Lysander commenced offensive operations. Sailing to Miletus, where he had excited the oligarchical faction to attack their opponents in defiance of a truce between them, he pretended to act as mediator, and, by his treacherous professions, induced the majority of the popular party to abandon their intention of fleeing from the city. Having thus placed themselves in the power of their enemies, they were massacred, and Lysander's faction held undisputed ascendancy in Miletus. Thence he proceeded to Cedreae, on the Ceramic gulf, which he took by storm, and sold the inhabitants for slaves. He then directed his course to the Saronic gulf, over-ran Aegina and Salamis, and even made a descent on the coast of Attica, where he was visited by Agis, then in command at Deceleia, and had an opportunity of exhibiting to the Spartan army an appearance of supremacy by sea. But, when he heard that the Athenian fleet from Samos was in chace of him, he sailed away to the Hellespont. Here he took Lampsacus by storm, and soon after the Athenian navy, of 180 ships, arrived, and stationed itself opposite Lampsacus at Aegos-potami. Within a few days from this time the unaccountable rashness and negligence of the Athenian commanders, with the single exception of Conon, enabled Lysander to capture all their fleet, saving eight ships, which escaped with Conon to Cyprus, and the Paralus, which conveyed to Athens the tidings of the virtual conclusion of the war and the utter ruin of her fortunes. Lysander then sailed successively to Byzantium and Chalcedon, both of which opened their gates to him. The Athenian garrisons he permitted to depart, on condition of their going to Athens; and the same course he adopted with all the Athenians whom lie found elsewhere; his object being to increase the number of mouths in the city, and so to shorten the siege. Sailing from the Hellespont with 200 ships, he proceeded to the south, establishing in the several states on his way oligarchical governments, composed of his own partisans--members of the political clubs he had already taken so much care to form--and thus everywhere, except for a time at Samos, the friends of Athens and democracy were overborne. He settled also in their ancient homes a remnant of the Aeginetans, Scionaeans, and Melians who had been driven out by the Athenians (comp. Thuc. 2.27, 5.32, 116), and he then sailed to the mouth of the Peiraecus, and blockaded it with 150 allies. He had previously sent notice of his approach to Agis and to the Spartan government, and the land-forces of the Peloponnesian confederacy had entered Athens under Pausanias, and encamped in the Academy (comp. Schneider, ad Xen. Hell. 2.2.8). In the spring of 404 Athens capitulated, and Lysander, sailing into the Peiraeeus, began to destroy the long walls and the fortifications of the harbour to the sound of joyful music, and (according to Plutarch) on the 16th of Munychion, the very day of the Greek victory over the fleet of Xerxes at Salamis.

The several accounts of the events immediately ensuing are not very consistent with each other. From Xenophon, it would appear (Hell. 2.3.3; comp. Thirlwall's Greece, vol. iv. p. 174, note 2), that Lysander did not quit Athens for Samos before the establishment of the thirty tyrants; but it seems more probable that, as we gather from Lysias and Diodorus, he sailed forthwith to Samos, to reduce it, before the complete demolition of the Athenian walls, but soon returned to Athens to support the oligarchical party in the contemplated revolution (Lys. c. Eratosth. p. 126; Diod. 14.4). Accordingly, we find him sternly quelling the ex pression of popular discontent at the proposal to subvert democracy, by declaring that the Athenians could no longer appeal to the treaty of capitulation, since they had themselves infringed it by omitting to throw down their walls within the appointed time. All opposition was thus overborne, and the creatures of Sparta were put in possession of the government. Plutarch tells us that Lysander, having thus settled matters in Athens, went to Thrace; but this, perhaps, is only a mis-placed reference to his expedition to Byzantium before-men-tioned. It seems nearly certain that he returned immediately to Samos. The island capitulated after a short siege, and the conqueror sailed home in triumph with the spoils and trophies of the war. The introduction of so much wealth into Sparta called forth the censure of many, as tending to foster corruption and cupidity--an opinion which the recent case of GYLIPPUS might be thought to support,--and it required all the efforts of Lysander and his party to defeat a proposal for dedicating the whole of the spoil to the Delphic god, instead of retaining it in the public treasury. As it was, a number of statues were erected at Delphi, and other offerings made there, as well as at Sparta and Amyclae, in commemoration of Lysander's victories and the close of the struggle with Athens. (See Paus. 3.17, 18, 10.9; Athen. 6.233f.)

Lysander was now by far the most powerful man in Greece, and he displayed more than the usual pride and haughtiness which distinguished the Spartan commanders in foreign countries. He was passionately fond of praise, and took care that his exploits should be celebrated by the most illustrious poets of his time. He always kept the poet Choerilus in his retinue; and his praises were also sung by Antilochus, Antimachus of Colophon, and Niceratus of Heracleia. He was the first of the Greeks to whom Greek cities erected altars as to a god, offered sacrifices, and celebrated festivals. (Plut. Lys. 18; Paus. 6.3. §§ 14, 15; Athen. 15.696; Hesych. s. v. Λυσάνδρια.) Possessing such unlimited power, and receiving such extraordinary marks of honour from the rest of Greece, A residence at Sparta, where he must have been under restraint, could not be agreeable to him. We accordingly find that he did not remain long at Sparta, but again repaired to Asia Minor, where he was almost adored by the oligarchical clubs he had established in the Greek cities. But his excessive power, and the homage that was paid to him everywhere, awakened the envy and jealousy even of the kings and ephors in Sparta. When, therefore, Pharnabazus sent ambassadors to Sparta to complain of Lysander having plundered his territory, the ephors recalled him to Sparta, and at the same time, to make him feel their power, they put to death his friend and colleague Thorax, for having money in his private possession. Alarmed at these indications of hostility, Lysander hastened to Pharnabazus and prayed him to give him an exculpatory letter for the Spartan government; but the Persian satrap, while he promised compliance with his request, craftily substituted another letter in place of the one he had promised, in which he repeated his former complaints. This letter, which Lysander carried himself to Sparta, placed him in no small difficulty and danger. (Plut. Lys. 20; Polyaen. 7.19.) Fearing to be brought to trial, and anxious to escape from Sparta, he obtained, with great trouble, permission from the ephors to visit the temple of Zeus Ammon, in Libya, in order to fulfil a vow which he pretended to have made before his battles. But the attempts of Thrasybulus and of the democratical party to overthrow the oligarchical government which had been established at Athens, soon recalled him to Sparta, where he seems to have again acquired his wonted influence; for, although the government refused to send an army to the support of the oligarchs, they appointed Lysander harmost, allowed him to raise troops, advanced a hundred talents from the treasury, and nominated his brother Libys admiral, with a fleet of forty ships. As soon, however, as Lysander had left Sparta, the party opposed to him again obtained the upper hand; and the king, Pausanias, who was his bitterest enemy, concerted measures, in conjunction with three of the ephors, to thwart his enterprise, and deprive him of the glory which he would acquire from a second conquest of Athens. Under pretence of raising an army to co-operate with Lysander, Pausanias marched into Attica; but soon after his arrival at the Peiraeces the Spartan king made terms with Thrasybutlus and his party, and thus prevented Lysander from again establishing the oligarchical government. (Plut. Lys. 21; Xen. Hell. 2.4.28, &c.; Lys. c. Eratosth. p. 106.)

From this time Lysander continued in obscurity for some years. He is again mentioned on the death of Agis II. in B. C. 398, when he exerted himself to secure the succession for Agesilaus, the brother of Agis, in opposition to Leotychides, the reputed son of the latter. [LEOTYCHIDES, No. 3.] In these efforts he was successful, but he did not receive from Agesilaus the gratitude he had expected. He was one of the members of the council, thirty in number, which was appointed to accompany the new king in his expedition into Asia in B. C. 396. Lysander had fondly hoped to renew his intrigues among the Asiatic Greeks, and to regain his former power and consequence in that country; but he was bitterly disappointed: Agesilaus purposely thwarted all his designs, and refused all the favours which he asked; and Lysander was so deeply mortified that he begged for an appointment to some other place. Agesilaus sent him to the Hellespont, where he did the Greek cause some service, by inducing Spithridates, a Persian of high rank, to revolt from Pharnabazus, and join the Spartans. (Plut. Lys. 23, 24, Agesil. 7, 8; Xen. Hell 3.4.7, &c.)

Lysander soon afterwards returned to Sparta, highly incensed against Agesilaus and the kingly form of government in general, and firmly resolved to bring about the change he had long meditated in the Spartan constitution, by abolishing hereditary royalty, and throwing the throne open to all the Heracleidae, or, according to some accounts, to all the Spartans without exception. He is said to have got Cleon of Halicarnassus, to compose an oration in recommendation of the measure, which he intended to deliver himself; and lie is further stated to have attempted to obtain the sanction of the gods in favour of his scheme, and to have tried in succession the oracles of Delphi, Dodona, and Zeus Ammon, but without success. Plutarch indeed relates, on the authority of Ephorus, a still more extraordinary expedient to which he had recourse, but which also failed. (Plut. Lys. 24, &c., Ages. 8; Diod. 14.13; Cic. de Divin. 1.43.) Of the history of these events, however, we know but little. (Comp. Thirlwall's Greece, vol. iv. Appendix 4, "On Lysander's Revolutionary Projects.") He does not seem to have ventured upon any overt act, and his enterprise was cut short by his death in the following year. On the breaking out of the Boeotian war in B. C. 395, Lysander was placed at the head of one army, and the king Pausanias at the head of another. The two armies were to meet in the neighbourhood of Haliartus ; but as Pausanias did not arrive there at the time that had been agreed upon, Lysander marched against the town, and perished in battle under the walls, B. C. 395. His body was delivered up to Pausanias, who arrived there a few hours after his death, and was buried in the territory of Panopeus in Phocis, on the road from Delphi to Chaeroneia, where his monument was still to be seen in the time of Plutarch. Lysander died poor, which proves that his ambition was not disgraced by the love of money, which sullied the character of Gylippus and so many of his contemporaries. It is related that after his death Agesilaus discovered in the house of Lysander the speech of Cleon, which has been mentioned above, and would have published it, had he not been persuaded to suppress such a dangerous document.

Further Information

Plut. Lys. 27, &c.; Xen. Hell. 3.5.6, &c.; Diod. 14.81; Paus. 3.5.3, 9.32.5.

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  • Cross-references from this page (22):
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.13
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.4
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 14.81
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.9
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.17
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.5.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.3
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 9.32.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.18
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.32
    • Thucydides, Histories, 2.27
    • Thucydides, Histories, 5.116
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 2.4.28
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 3.5.6
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 2
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 23
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 18
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 20
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 21
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 24
    • Plutarch, Lysander, 27
    • Aelian, Varia Historia, 12.43
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