Chilon's Fruitless Attempts In Sparta
While Philip was thus engaged in Triphylia, Chilon
Chilon tries to seize the crown of Sparta, B. C. 218.
the Lacedaemonian, holding that the kingship
belonged to him in virtue of birth, and annoyed at the neglect of his claims by the Ephors
in selecting Lycurgus, determined to stir up a revolution: and believing that if he took
the same course as Cleomenes had done, and gave the common people hopes of land
allotments and redivision of property, the masses would quickly
follow him, he addressed himself to carrying out this policy.
Having therefore agreed with his friends on this subject, and
got as many as two hundred people to join his conspiracy,
he entered upon the execution of his project. But perceiving
that the chief obstacles in the way of the accomplishment
of his design were Lycurgus, and those Ephors who had invested
him with the crown, he directed his first efforts against them.
The Ephors he seized while at dinner, and put them all to
death on the spot,—chance thus inflicting upon them the
punishment they deserved: for whether we regard the person
at whose hands, or the person for whose sake they were thus
destroyed, we cannot but say that they richly merited their fate.
After the successful accomplishment of this deed, Chilon
went to the-house of Lycurgus, whom he found at home, but
failed to seize. Assisted by slaves and neighbours Lycurgus
was smuggled out of the house, and effected a secret escape;
and thence got away by a cross-country route to the town of
. Thus baffled in the most important point
of his enterprise, Chilon was greatly discouraged; but was
forced all the same to go on with what he had begun.
Accordingly he made a descent upon the market-place, and laid
violent hands upon those opposed to him; tried to rouse his
relations and friends; and declared to the rest of the people
there what hopes of success he had. But when nobody seemed
inclined to join him, but on the contrary a mob began to
collect with threatening looks, he saw how it was, and found a
secret way of leaving the town; and, making his way across
, arrived in Achaia
alone and an exile. But the
Lacedaemonians who were in the territory of Megalopolis
terrified by the arrival of Philip, stowed away all the goods
they had got from the country, and first demolished and
then abandoned the Athenaeum.
The fact is that the Lacedaemonians enjoyed a most
excellent constitution, and had a most extensive power, from the time of the legislation
of Lycurgus to that of the battle of Leuctra.
But after that event their fortune took an unfavourable turn;
and their political state continued ever growing worse and worse, until they finally suffered from a long succession of internal
struggles and partisan warfare; were repeatedly agitated
by schemes for the redivision of lands and the banishment of one party or another; and were subjected to the
severest possible slavery, culminating in the tyrannical government of Nabis: though the word "tyrant" was one which
they had in old times scarcely endured to hear mentioned.
However, the ancient history of Sparta
as well as the great
part of it since, has been recorded by many in terms of eulogy
or the reverse; but the part of that history
which admits of the least controversy is that
which followed the entire destruction of the ancient constitution by Cleomenes;1
and that shall be narrated by me
in the order of events as they occur.