I know how difficult it is to write an appreciation of Agesilaus that shall be worthy of his virtue and glory. Nevertheless the attempt must be made. For it would not be seemly that so good a man, just because of his perfection, should receive no tributes of praise, however inadequate. [2]

Now concerning his high birth what greater and nobler could be said than this, that even to-day the line of his descent from Heracles1 is traced through the roll of his ancestors, and those no simple citizens, but kings and sons of kings? [3] Nor are they open to the reproach that though they were kings, they ruled over a petty state. On the contrary, as their family is honoured above all in their fatherland, so is their state glorious above all in Greece; thus they are not first in the second rank, but leaders in a community of leaders. [4] On one account his fatherland and his family are worthy to be praised together, for never at any time has the state been moved by jealousy of their pre-eminence to attempt the overthrow of their government, and never at any time have the kings striven to obtain greater powers than were conferred on them originally at their succession to the throne. For this reason, while no other government — democracy, oligachy, despotism or kingdom — can can lay claim to an unbroken existence, this kingdom alone stands fast continually. [5]

However, there are not wanting signs that even before his reign began Agesilaus was deemed worthy to be king. For on the death of King Agis there was a struggle for the throne between Leotychidas, as the son of Agis, and Agesilaus, as the son of Archidamus. The state decided in favour of Agesilaus, judging him to be the more eligible in point of birth and character alike. Surely to have been pronounced worthy of the highest privilege by the best men in the mightiest state is proof sufficient of his virtue, at least before he began to reign. [6]

I will now give an account of the achievements of his reign, for I believe that his deeds will throw the clearest light on his qualities.

Now Agesilaus was still a young man2 when he gained the throne. He had been but a short time in power when the news leaked out that the king of the Persians was assembling a great navy and army for an attack on the Greeks. [7] While the Lacedaemonians and their allies were considering the matter, Agesilaus declared, that if they would give him thirty Spartans, two thousand newly enrolled citizens, and a contingent of six thousand allies, he would cross to Asia and try to effect a peace, or, in case the barbarian wanted to fight, would keep him so busy that he would have no time for an attack on the Greeks. [8] His eagerness to pay back the Persian in his own coin for the former invasion of Greece, his determination to wage an offensive rather than a defensive war, and his wish to make the enemy pay for it rather than the Greeks, were enough to arouse an immediate and widespread enthusiasm for his project. But what appealed most to the imagination was the idea of entering on a struggle not to save Greece, but to subdue Asia. [9]

And what of his strategy after he had received the army and had sailed out? A simple narrative of his actions will assuredly convey the clearest impression of it. [10] This, then, was his first act in Asia. Tissaphernes had sworn the following oath to Agesilaus: “If you will arrange an armistice to last until the return of the messengers whom I will send to the King, I will do my utmost to obtain independence for the Greek cities in Asia”; and Agesilaus on his part had sworn to observe the armistice honestly, allowing three months for the transaction. What followed? [11] Tissaphernes forthwith broke his oath, and instead of arranging a peace, applied to the King for a large army in addition to that which he had before. As for Agesilaus, though well aware of this, he none the less continued to keep the armistice. [12] I think, therefore, that here we have his first noble achievement. By showing up Tissaphernes as a perjurer, he made him distrusted everywhere; and, contrariwise, by proving himself to be a man of his word and true to his agreements, he encouraged all, Greeks and barbarians alike, to enter into an agreement with him whenever he wished it. [13]

The arrival of the new army emboldened Tissaphernes to send an ultimatum to Agesilaus, threatening was unless he withdrew from Asia; and the allies and the Lacedaemonians present made no concealment of their chagrin, believing that the strength of Agesilaus was weaker than the Persian king's armament. But Agesilaus with a beaming face bade the envoys of Tissaphernes inform their master that he was profoundly grateful to him for his perjury, by which he had gained the hostility of the gods for himself and had made them allies of the Greeks. [14] Without a moment's delay he gave the word to his troops to pack up in preparation for a campaign, and warned the cities that lay on the lines of march to Caria to have their markets ready stocked. He advised by letter the Greeks of Ionia, the Aeolid and the Hellespont, to send their contingents for the campaign to his headquarters at Ephesus. [15]

Now Tissaphernes reflected that Agesilaus was without cavalry, while Caria was a difficult country for mounted men, and he thought that Agesilaus was wroth with him on account of his deceit. Concluding, therefore, that his estate in Caria was the real object of the coming attack, he sent the whole of his infantry across to that district and took his cavalry round into the plain of the Maeander, confident that he could ride down the Greeks before they reached the country where cavalry could not operate. [16] But instead of marching on Caria, Agesilaus forthwith turned round and made for Phrygia. Picking up the various forces that met him on the route, he proceeded to reduce the cities and captured a vast quantity of booty by sudden attacks. [17]

This achievement also was thought to be a proof of sound generalship, that when war was declared and cozening in consequence became righteous and fair dealing, he showed Tissaphernes to be a child at deception. It was thought, too, that he made shrewd use of this occasion to enrich his friends. [18] For the accumulation of plunder was so great that things were selling for next to nothing. So he gave his friends the word to buy, saying that he was shortly going down to the coast with his army.3 The auctioneers were ordered to have a schedule made of the prices obtained and to give delivery of the goods. Thus without capital outlay, and without any loss to the treasury, all his friends made a prodigious amount of money. [19] Further, whenever deserters offered to give information where plunder might be taken, they naturally went to the king. In such a case he took care that the capture should be effected by his friends, so that they might at one and the same time make money and add to their laurels. The immediate result was that he had many ardent suitors for his friendship. [20]

Recognizing that a country plundered and depopulated could not long support an army, whereas an inhabited and cultivated land would yield inexhaustible supplies, he took pains not only to crush his enemies by force, but also to win them over by gentleness. [21] He would often warn his men not to punish their prisoners as criminals, but to guard them as human beings; and often when shifting camp, if he noticed little children, the property of merchants, left behind — many merchants offered children for sale because they thought they would not be able to carry and feed them4 — he looked after them too, and had them conveyed to some place of refuge. [22] Again, he arranged that prisoners of war who were too old to accompany the army were to be looked after, that they might not fall a prey to dogs or wolves. It thus came about that he won the goodwill not only of those who heard of these facts, but even of the prisoners themselves. In his settlement with the cities that he won over, he invariably excused them from all servile duties and required only such obedience as freemen owe to their rules; and by his clemency he made himself master of fortresses impregnable to assault. [23]

However, since a campaign in the plains was impossible even in Phrygia, owing to Pharnabazus' cavalry, he decided that he must raise a mounted force, if he was to avoid continually running away from the enemy. He therefore enrolled the wealthiest men in all the cities thereabouts as breeders of horses, and issued a proclamation that [24] anyone who supplied a horse and arms and an efficient man should be exempt from personal service. In this way he brought it about that every one of them carried out these requirements with the zeal of a man in quest of someone to die in his stead. He also specified cities that were to furnish contingents of cavalry, feeling sure that from the horsebreeding cities riders proud of their horsemanship would be forthcoming. This again was considered an admirable stroke on his part, that no sooner had he raised his cavalry than it became a powerful body ready for action. [25]

At the first sign of spring5 he collected the whole of his forces at Ephesus. With a view to their training he offered prizes for the cavalry squadron that rode best, and for the company of heavy infantry that reached the highest level of physical fitness. He also offered prizes to the targeteers and the archers who showed the greatest efficiency in their particular duties. Thereupon one might see every gymnasium crowded with the men exercising, the racecourse thronged with cavalrymen riding, and the javelin-men and archers shooting at the mark. [26] Indeed he made the whole city in which he was quartered a sight to see. For the market was full of arms and horses of all sorts on sale, and the coppersmiths, carpenters, workers in iron, cobblers, and painters were all busy making weapons of war, so that you might have thought that the city was really a war factory. [27] And an inspiring sight it would have been to watch Agesilaus and all his soldiers behind him returning garlanded from the gymnasium and dedicating their garlands to Artemis. For where men reverence the gods, train themselves in warfare and practise obedience, there you surely find high hopes abounding. [28] Moreover, believing that contempt for the enemy would kindle the fighting spirit, he gave instructions to his heralds that the barbarians captured in the raids should be exposed for sale naked. So when his soldiers saw them white because they never stripped, and fat and lazy through constant riding in carriages, they believed that the war would be exactly like fighting with women.

He also gave notice to the troops that he would immediately lead them by the shortest route to the most fertile parts of the country, so that he might at once find them preparing themselves in body and mind for the coming struggle. [29] Tissaphernes, however, believed that in saying this he meant to deceive him again, and that now he would really invade Caria. Accordingly he sent his infantry across into Caria as before, and stationed his cavalry in the plain of the Maeander. But Agesilaus did not play false: in accordance with his notice he marched straight to the neighbourhood of Sardis; and for three days his route lay through a country bare of enemies, so that he supplied his army with abundance of provisions. [30] On the fourth day the enemy's cavalry came up. Their leader told the officer in command of the baggage-train to cross the river Pactolus and encamp. The cavalry, meantime, catching sight of the Greek camp-followers plundering in scattered bands, killed a large number of them. On noticing this, Agesilaus ordered his cavalry to go to their help. The Persians in turn, seeing the supports coming, gathered in a mass and confronted them with the full strength of their horse. [31] Then Agesilaus, realising that the enemy's infantry was not yet up, while he had all his resources on the spot, thought the moment was come to join battle if he could. Therefore, after offering sacrifice, he led forward the battle line immediately against the opposing cavalry, the heavy infantrymen of ten years service having orders to run to close quarters with the enemy, while the targeteers were to lead the advance at the double. He also sent word to the cavalry to attack in the knowledge that he himself was following with the whole army. [32] The charge of the cavalry was met by the flower of the Persians: but as soon as the full weight of the attack fell on them, they swayed, and some were cut down immediately in the river, while the rest fled. The Greeks followed up their success and captured their camp. The targeteers naturally fell to pillaging; but Agesilaus drew the lines of his camp round so as to enclose the property of all, friends and foes alike.6 [33]

On hearing that there was confusion among the enemy, because everyone put the blame for what had happened on his neighbour, he advanced forthwith on Sardis. There he began burning and pillaging the suburbs, and meantime issued a proclamation calling on those who wanted freedom to join his standard, and challenging any who claimed a right to Asia to seek a decision between themselves and the liberators by an appeal to arms. [34] As no one came out to oppose him, he prosecuted the campaign henceforward in complete confidence: he beheld the Greeks, compelled erstwhile to cringe, now honoured by their oppressors; caused those who arrogantly claimed for themselves the honours paid to the gods to shrink even from looking the Greeks in the face; rendered the country of his friends inviolate, and stripped the enemy's country so thoroughly that in two years he consecrated to the god at Delphi more than two hundred talents as tithe. [35]

But the Persian king, believing that Tissaphernes was responsible for the bad turn in his affairs, sent down Tithraustes and beheaded Tissaphernes. After this the outlook became still more hopeless for the barbarians, while Agesilaus received large accessions of strength. For all the nations of the empire sent embassies seeking his friendship, and the desire for freedom caused many to revolt to him, so that not Greeks alone, but many barbarians also now acknowledged the leadership of Agesilaus. [36]

His conduct at this juncture also merits unstinted admiration. Though ruler of countless cities on the mainland, and master of islands — for the state had now added the fleet to his command — becoming daily more famous and more powerful; placed in a position to make what use he would of his many opportunities; and designing and expecting to crown his achievements by dissolving the empire that had attacked Greece in the past: he suppressed all thought of these things, and as soon as he received a request from the home government to come to the aid of his fatherland, he obeyed the call of the state, just as though he were standing in the Ephor's palace7 alone before the Five, thus showing clearly that he would not take the whole earth in exchange for his fatherland, nor new-found friends for old, and that he scorned to choose base and secure gains rather than that which was right and honourable, even though it was dangerous. [37]

Throughout the time that he remained in his command, another achievement of his showed beyond question how admirable was his skill in kingcraft. Having found all the cities that he had gone out to govern rent by faction in consequence of the political disturbances that followed on the collapse of the Athenian empire, he brought it about by the influence of his presence that the communities lived in unbroken harmony and prosperity without recourse to banishment or executions. [38] Therefore the Greeks in Asia mourned his departure as though they were bidding farewell not merely to a ruler, but to a father or a comrade. And at the end they showed that their affection was unfeigned. At any rate they went with him voluntarily to aid Sparta, knowing as they did that they must meet an enemy not inferior to themselves. This then was the end of his activities in Asia.

1 Agesilaus was twenty-fifth in line of descent from Heracles (Hdt. 8.131; Plut. Lyc. c. i; Plut. Ages. c. i).

2 He was over forty; but see the Introduction.

3 Where the goods would be re-sold at a profit.

4 The dealers often failed to find a buyer and consequently abandoned these captured children.

5 395 B.C.

6 i.e. he intrenched.

7 In the market at Sparta. The Five Ephors sat there daily, and it was in their power to censure the kings.

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