« PreviousContinue »
prevail on themselves to accept it, but rather chose to be deprived of their estates, as well as of the monuments of their ancestors, and the temples of their gods; in a word, to see themselves divested of all that was most dear and valuable to them, than to violate the faith they had sworn to their allies. The famous Philopemen, whom we shall frequently have occasion to mention in the sequel of this history, and who was then at Messene, contributed not a little to this generous resolution. Who could ever expect to discover so much greatness of soul, and such a noble cast of thought, from the very dregs of Greece, for by that name the times of which we now treat may justly be described, when we compare them with the glorious ages of Greece united and triumphant, when even the lustre of its victories was lost in the splendor of its virtues !
This refusal of the Megalopolitans highly enraged Cleomenes, who, till the moment he received their answer, had not only spared the city, but had even been careful to prevent the soldiers from committing the least disorder; but his anger was then inflamed to such a degree, that he abandoned the place to pillage, and sent all the statues and pictures to his own city. He also deinolished the greatest part of the walls, with the strongest quarters, and then marched his troops back to Sparta. The desolation of the city extremely afflicted the Achæans, who considered their inability to assist such faithful allies, as a crime for which they ought to reproach themselves.
This people wás soon sensible, that by imploring the aid of Antigonus, they had subjected themselves to an imperious master, who made their liberties the price of his aid. He compelled them to pass a decree, which prohibited them from writing to any king, or sending an embassy without his permission; and he obliged them to furnish provisions and pay for the garrison he had put into the citadel of Cosinth, which, in reality, was making them pay for
their own chains, for this citadel was the very place which kept them in subjection. They had abandoned themselves to slavery in so abject a manner, as even to offer sacrifices and libations, and exhibit public games in honour of Antigonus; and Aratus was no longer regarded by them. Antigonus set up in Argos all the statues of those tyrants which Aratus had thrown down, and destroyed all those which had been erected in honour of the persons who surprised the citadel of Corinth, except one, which was that of Aratus himself; and all the intreaties of this general could not prevail upon the king to desist from such a proceeding. The sight of these transactions gave him the utmost anxiety; but he was no longer master of affairs, and suffered a just punishment for subjecting himself and his country to a foreign yoke. Antigonus also took the city of Mantinea, and when he had most inhumanly murdered a great number of the citizens, and sold the sest into captivity, he abandoned the place to the Argives, in order to its being repeopled by them, and even charged Aratus with that commission, who had the meanness to call this new inhabited city* by the name of him who had shewn himself its most cruel enemy. A sad, and, at the same time, a salutary example, which shows that when once a person has consented to stoop to a state of servitude, he sees himself daily compelled to descend lower, without knowing where or how to stop.
Aratus, by employing his own endeavours to load his republic with shackles, was guilty of an unpardonable crime, the enormity of which no great qua. lity, nor any shịning action, can ever extenuate. He acted thus merely through jealousy of his rival Cleomenes, whose glory, and the superiority that young prince had obtained over him by the success of his arms, were insupportable to him. What, says Plutarch, did Cleomenes deinand of the Achæ,
ans, as the sole preliminary to the peace he offered them? Was it not their election of him for their general? And did he not demand that with a view to complete the welfare of their cities, and secure to them the enjoyment of their liberties, as a testimony of his gratitude for so signal an honour, and so glorious a title? If, therefore, continues Plutarch, it had been absolutely necessary for them to have chosen either Cleomenes or Antigonus, or in other words, a Greek or a Barbarian, for the Macedonians were considered as such; in a word, if they were obliged to have a master, would not the meanest citizen of Sparta have been preferable to the greatest of the Macedonians; at least, in the opinion of those who had any regard to the honour and reputation of Greece?' Jealousy, however, extinguished all those sentiments in the mind of Aratus ; so difficult is it to belield superior merit with an eye of satisfaction and tranquillity.
Aratus, therefore, that he might not seem to submit to Cleomenes, nor consent that a King of Sparta descended from Hercules, and a king who had lately re-established the ancient discipline of that city, should add to his other titles, that of captain-general of the Achæans, called in a stranger, to whom he had formerly professed himself a mortal enemy; in consequence of which he filled Peloponnesus with those very Macedonians whom he had made it his glory to expel from thence in his youth. He even threw himself at their feet, and all Achaia, by his example, fell prostrate before them, as an indication of their promptitude to accomplish the commands of their imperious masters. In a word, from a man accustomed to liberty, he became an abject and servile flatterer; he had the baseness to offer sacrifices to Antigonus, and placed himself at the head of a procession crowned with chaplets of flowers, joining at the same time in hymns to the honour of that prince, and rendering by these low
adulations that hoinage to a mortal man, which none but the Divinity can claim, and even to a man who then carried death in his bosom, and was ready to sink into putrefaction; for he at that time was rez duced to the last extremity by a slow consumption. Aratus was, however, a man of great merit in other respects, and had shewn himself to be an extraordinary person, altogether worthy of Greece. In him, says Plutarch, we see a deplorable instance of human frailty; which amidst the lustre of so many rare and excellent qualities could not form the plan of a virtue exempt from blame.
We have already observed, that Antigonus had sent his troops into winter quarters in Macedonia, Cleomenes, at the return of spring, formed an enterprise, which in the opinion of the vulgar, was the result of temerity and folly; but, according to Polybius, a competent judge in affairs of that nature, it was concerted with all imaginable prudence and sagacity. As he was sensible that the Macedo, nians were dispersed in their quarters, and that Antigonus passed the winter season with his friends at Argos, without any other guard than an inconsiderable number of foreign troops; he made an irruption into the territories of Argos in order to lay them waste. He conceived at the same time, that if Antigonus should be so much affected with the apprehensions of ignominy as to hazard a battle, he would certainly be defeated; and that, on the other hand, if he should decline fighting, he would lose all his reputation with the Achæans, while the Spartans, on the contrary, would be rendered more daring and intrepid. The event succeeded according to his expectations; for as the whole country was ruined by the devastations of his troops, the people of Argos, in their rage and impatience, assembled in a tumultuous manner at the palace gate, and with a murmuring tone pressed the king either to
Plut. ip Cleom. p. 816,817. Polyb. L ii. p. 149.
give their enemies battle, or resign the command of his troops to those who were less timorous than himself. Antigonus, on the other hand, who had sa much of the prudence and presence of mind essential to a great general, as to be sensible that the dishonourable part of one in his station, did not consist in hearing himself reproached, but in exposing himself rashly, and without reason, and in quitting certainties for chance, refused to take the field, and persisted in his resolution not to fight. Cleomenes therefore led up his troops to the walls of Argos, and when he had laid the flat country waste, marched his army back to Sparta.
This expedition redounded very much to his honour, and even obliged his enemies to confess that he was an excellent general, and a person of the highest merit and capacity in the conduct of the most arduous affairs. In a word, they could never sufficiently admire his manner of opposing the forces of a single city to the whole power of the Macedonians, united with that of Peloponnesus, notwithstanding the immense supplies which had been furnished by the king; and especially when they considered that he had not only preserved Laconia free from all insults, but had even penetrated into the territories of his enemies, where he ravaged the country, and made himself master of several great cities. This they were persuaded could not be the effect of any ordinary abilities in the art of war, nor of any common magnanimity of soul. A misfortune however unhappily prevented him from re-instating Sparta in. her ancient power, as will be evident in the sequel.