), a Spartan, whom Cleombrotus, on his return from the invasion of the Theban territory, in B. C. 378, left behind him as harmost at Thespiae, placing the third part of the allies (their regular contingent) under his command, and entrusting him with all the money he had brought from home, with which he desired him to hire mercenaries. Not long after this, and at a time when his country was at peace with Athens, Sphodrias was induced to take the foolish and unjustifiable step of invading the Athenian territory.
According to Diodorus, he was instigated to it by private orders from Cleombrotus, acting without the authority of the Ephors; while from Xenophon and Plutarch we gather that he was tampered with by Pelopidas and Gorgidas, who wished to embroil Athens with Sparta, and whose mingled bribes and flattery Sphodrias, venal at once and vain and weak, was unable to resist.
He accordingly led forth his troops from Thespiae, with the professed intention of surprising the Peiraeeus. When the day broke, however, he had advanced no further than the Thriasian plain, where, according to one statement preserved by Plutarch, his soldiers were terrified by a light, which appeared to flash from some temples at Eleusis. Sphodrias of course was obliged to abandon his enterprise; but instead of retreating quietly, he wantonly added to the exasperation of the Athenians, by driving off cattle and plundering houses. The Ephors brought him to trial for his life, and his guilt was so clear, not to speak of the policy of conciliating Athens by his condemnation, that he did not dare to return home and meet the charge in person.
He was therefore tried in his absence, and, contrary to all expectation, was acquitted through the influence of Agesilaus, who had weakly yielded to the entreaties of his son Archidamus, an intimate friend of Cleonymus, the son of Sphodrias. At Leuctra Sphodrias was one of the immediate escort of king Cleombrotus, and perished in the battle, B. C. 371. (Xen. Hell. 5.4
. §§ 15, 20, &c.. 6.4.14; Plut. Ages. 24
, Pelop. 14 ; Diod. 15.29