With this purpose, he set sail, and came first to Crete. Here he studied the Various forms of government and made the acquaintance of their most distinguished men. Of some things he heartily approved, and adopted some of their laws, that he might carry them home with him and put them in use; for some things he had only contempt. One of the men regarded there as wise statesmen was Thales, whom Lycurgus persuaded, out of favour and friendship, to go on a mission to Sparta. Now Thales passed as a lyric poet, and screened himself behind this art, but in reality he did the work of one of the mightiest lawgivers.
For his odes were so many exhortations to obedience and harmony, and their measured rhythms were permeated with ordered tranquillity, so that those who listened to them were insensibly softened in their dispositions, insomuch that they renounced the mutual hatreds which were so rife at that time, and dwelt together in a common pursuit of what was high and noble. Thales, therefore, after a fashion, was a forerunner in Sparta of Lycurgus and his discipline.
From Crete, Lycurgus sailed to Asia, with the desire, as we are told, of comparing with the Cretan civilization, which was simple and severe, that of the Ionians, which was extravagant and luxurious, just as a physician compares with healthy bodies those which are unsound and sickly; he could then study the difference in their modes of life and forms of government.
There too, as it would appear, he made his first acquaintance with the poems of Homer, which were preserved among the posterity of Creophylus; and when he saw that the political and disciplinary lessons contained in them were worthy of no less serious attention than the incentives to pleasure and license which they supplied, he eagerly copied and compiled them in order to take them home with him. For these epics already had a certain faint reputation among the Greeks, and a few were in possession of certain portions of them, as the poems were carried here and there by chance; but Lycurgus was the very first to make them really known.
The Aegyptians think that Lycurgus visited them also, and so ardently admired their separation of the military from the other classes of society that he transferred it to Sparta, and by removing mechanics and artisans from participation in the government, made his civil polity really refined and pure. At any rate, this assertion of the Aegyptians is confirmed by some Greek historians.
But that Lycurgus visited Libya and Iberia also, and that he wandered over India and had conferences with the Gymnosophists, no one has stated, so far as I know, except Aristocrates the son of Hipparchus, the Spartan.