Page images
PDF
EPUB

195

him to permit her aged mother to attend her in that mournful visit. “ Your request,” said he," is reasonable; and he immediately conducted them into the prison, but ordered the door to be shut the moment they entered it. He then commanded the executioner to seize Archidamia, the grandmother of Agis, who had lived to a venerable old age among her citizens, with as much dignity and reputation as any lady of her time. When the executioner had performed his fatal office, the inhuman Amphares ordered the mother of Agis to enter the dungeon. This unhappy princess was obliged to obey him, and the moment she came into that dismal place, she beheld her son lying dead on the ground, and, at a little distance from him, her dead mother, with the fatal cord still twisted about her neck. She assisted the executioners in disengaging her parent from that instrument of cruelty, after which she laid the corpse by her son, and decently covered it with linen. When this pious office was completed, she cast herself upon the body of Agis, and after she had tenderly kissed his cold lips, my son,” said she, “ the excess of thy humanity and sweet disposition, and thy too great circumspection and lenity, have undone thee, and been fatal to us!

Amphares, who from the door had beheld and heard all that passed, entered that moment, and addressing himself with a savage air to the mother of Agis, “Since you knew,” said he, “and ap. proved the designs of your son, you shall share in his punishment.” Agesistrata arose at those words, and running to the fatal cord, “ May this,” cried she, “ at least be useful to Sparta.

When the report of these executions was dispersed through the city, and the inhabitants beheld the bodies brought out of the prison, the indignation occasioned by this barbarity was universal, and every one declared, that from the time the Dorians had first established themselves in Peloponnesus, so

[ocr errors]

у

horrible an action had never been committed. It must indeed be acknowledged, that all the black. est crimes in nature united in the circumstances which aggravated this; and we may even add too, that the murder of the King included and surpassed them all: so barbarous an execution, in opposition to that respect with which nature inspires the most savage people for the sacred person of their sovereign, is such a blemish on a nation, as all succeed. ing ages can never obliterate.

Agis having been destroyed in this manner, Leonidas was not expeditious enough in seizing his brother Archidamus, who saved himself by flight; but he secured Agiatis, the consort of that unhappy king, forcing her to reside in his own house, with the young child she had by him, and then compelled her to espouse his son Cleomenes, who was not marriageable at that time; but Leonidas was determined that the widow of Agis should not be disposed of to any other person, as she inherited a large estate from her father Gylippus, and likewise excelled all the Grecian ladies in beauty, as well as wisdom and virtue. She endeavoured to avoid this marriage by all the means in her power, but to no effect. And when she at last was obliged to consent to her nuptials with Cleomenes, she always retained a mortal aversion for Leonidas, but behaved with the utmost complaceney and softness to her young spouse, who, from the first day of his marriage, conceived a most sincere and passionate esteem and affection for her ; and even sympathised with her in the tenderness she preserved for Agis, and the regard she expressed for his memory, and that too in such a degree, that he would frequently listen to her with the greatest attention, while she related to him the great designs he had formed for the regulation of the government.

y Plut. in Cleom. p. 805.

Sect. IV. Cleomenes ascends the throne of Sparta,

and engages in a war against the Achæans, over whom he obtains several advantages. He reforms the government of Sparta, and re-establishes the ancient discipline. Acquires new advantages over dratus and the Achæans. Aratus applies for succour to Antigonus king of Macedania, by those aid the Achaans obtain repeated victories, and take several places from the

enemy. CLEOMENES had a noble soul, and an ardent passion for glory, joined with the same inclination for temperance and simplicity of manners as Agis had always expressed; but had not that excessive sweetness of disposition, attended with the timidity and precaution of that prince. Nature, on the contrary, had infused into him a vigour and vivacity of mind, which ardently prompted him on to whatever appeared great and noble. Nothing seemed so amiable to him, as the government of his citizens agreeably to their own inclinations; but, at the same time, he did not think it inconsistent with the glory of a wise administration, to employ some violence in reducing to the public utility an inconsiderable number of obstinate and unjust persons, who opposed it merely from a view of private interest.

He was far from being satisfied with the state of affairs which then prevailed in Sparta. All the citizens had long been softened by indolence and a voluptuous life; and the King himself, who was fond of tranquillity, had entirely neglected public affairs. No person whatever had testified any regard for the public good, every individual being solely intent upon his particular interest, and the aggrandizement of his family at the public expence. Instead of any

z Plut. in Cleom. p. 805–811,

care in disciplining the young people, and forming their temperance, patience, and the equality of freemen, it was even dangerous to mention any thing of that nature, as Agis himself had perished by attempting to introduce it anong them.

It is also said, that Cleomenes, who was still very young, had heard some philosophical lectures at the time when Spherus, who came from the banks of the Boristhenes, settled in Lacedæmon, and applied himself in a very successful manner, to the instruction of youth. This person was one of the principal disciples of Zeno, the Citian*. The stoic philosophy, which he then professed, was exceedingly proper to infuse courage and noble sentiments in the mind; but, at the same time, was capable of dangerous effects in a disposition naturally warm and impetuous

; and, on the other hand, might be rendered very beneficial by being grafted on a mild and moderate

character. A.M.

After the death of Leonidas, who did not long 3762. survive the condemnation and murder of Agis, his

son Cleomenes succeeded him in the throne; and 242 though he was then very young, it gave him pain to

consider that he had only the empty title of king, while the whole authority was engrossed by the Ephori, who shamefully abused their power. He then

grew solicitous to change the form of ment; and as he was sensible that few persons were disposed to concur with him in that view, he imagined the accomplishment of it would be facilitated by a war, and therefore endeavoured to embroil his city with the Achæans, who, very fortunately for his purpose, had given Sparta some occasions of complaint against them.

Aratus, from the first moments of his administration, had been industrious to negociate a league between all the states of Peloponnesus, through a persuasion, that if he succeeded in that attempt

,

Ant. J.C.

goveșn

So called from Citium, a city of Cyprus

they would have nothing to fear for the future from a foreign enemy; and this was the only point to which all his measures tended. All the other states, except the Lacedæmonians, the people of Elis, and those of Arcadia, who had espoused the party of the Lacedæmonians,' had acceded to this league. Aratus, soon after the death of Leonidas, began to harass the Arcadians, in order to make an experiment of the Spartan courage, and at the same time to make it evident, that he despised Cleomenes, as a young man without the least experience.

When the Ephori received intelligence of this act of hostility, they caused their troops to take the field under the command of Cleomenes; they indeed were not numerous, but the consideration of the general by whom they were commanded, inspired them with all imaginable ardour for the war. The Achæans marched against him with twenty thousand foot, and a thousand borse, under the command of Aristomachus. Cleomenes came up with them near Pallantium, a city of Arcadia, and offered them battle; but Aratus was so intimidated with the bravery of this proceeding, that he prevailed upon the general not to hazard an engagement, and then made a retreat; which drew upon him very severe reproaches from his own troops, and sharp raillery from the enemy, whose numbers did not amount to five thousand men in the whole. The courage of Cleomenes was so much raised by this retreat, that he assumed a loftier air amongst his citizens, and reminded them of an expression used by one of their ancient kings, who said, “ That the Lacedæmonians never inquired after the numbers of their enemies, but where they were." He afterwards defeated the Achæans in a second encounter; but Aratus taking the advantage even of his defeat, like an experienced general, turned his arms immediately against Mantinæa, and before the enemy could have any suspicion of his design, made himself master of that city and put a garrison into it,

« PreviousContinue »