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Sect. V, The celebrated battle of Selasia, wherein
Antigonus defeats Cleomenes, who retires into Egypt. Antigonus makes himself master of Sparta, and treats that city with great humanity. The death of that prince, who is succeeded by Philip, the son of Demetrius. The death of Ptolemy Evergetes, to whose throne Ptolemy Philopater succeeds. A great earthquake at Rhodes. The noble generosity of those princes and cities who contributed to the reparation of the losses the Rhodians had sustained by that calamity. The fate of the famous Colossus.
A.M THE Macedonians and Achæans having quitted
3781. Ant. J.C.
their quarters in the summer season, Antigonus put 223
himself at the head of them, and advanced into Laconia. His army was composed of twenty-eight thousand foot, and twelve hundred horse; but that of Cleomenes did not amount to more than twenty thousand men. As the latter of these two princes expected an irruption from the enemy, he had fortified all the passes, by posting detachments of his troops in them, and by throwing up intrenchments, and cutting down trees, after which he formed his camp at Selasia. He imagined, and with good reason too, that the enemies would endeavour to force a passage into that country through this avenue, in which he was not deceived. This defile was formed by two mountains, one of which had the name of Eva, and the other that of Olympus. The river Deneus ran between them, on the banks of which was the road to Sparta. Cleomenes, having thrown up a good intrenchment at the foot of these mountains, posted his brother Euclidas on the eminence of Eva, at the head of the allies, and planted himself
Polyb. I. ii. p. 150-154. Plut. in Cleom. p. 818, 819. Ibid. in Philop. P. 358.
on Olympus, with the Lacedæmonians, and a party of the foreign troops, placing, at the same time, along each bank of the river, a detachment of the cavalry, and foreign auxiliaries.
Antigonus, when he arrived there, saw all the passes fortified, and was sensible, by the manner in which Cleomenes had posted his troops, that he had neglected no precaution for defending himself and attacking his enemies, and that he had formed his camp into such an advantageous disposition, as rendered all approaches to it extremely difficult. All this abated his ardour for a battle, and caused him to encamp at a small distance, where he had an opportunity of covering his troops with a rivulet. He continued there for several days, in order to view the situation of the different posts, and sound the disposition of the people who composed the enemy's army. Sometimes he seemed to be forming designs, which kept the enemy in suspence how to act. They however were always upon their guard, and the situation of each army equally secured them from insults. At last both sides resolved upon a decisive battle.
It is not easy to comprehend why Cleomenes, who was posted so advantageously at that time, and whose troops were inferior to those of the enemy by one third, but were secure of a free communication in their rear, with Sparta, from whence they might easily be supplied with provisions, should resolve, without the least apparent necessity, to bazard a battle, the event of which was to decide the fate of Lacedæmon.
Polybius indeed seems to intimate the cause of this proceeding, when he observes, that Ptolemy caused Cleoinenes to be acquainted, that he no longer would supply him with money, and exhorted him at the same time to come to an accommodation with Antigonus. As Cleomenes therefore was incapable of defraying the expence of this war, and was not only in arrear with his foreign troops to the
amount of a very considerable sum, but found it extremely difficult to maintain his Spartan forces, we may consequently suppose that this situation of his affairs was his inducement to venture a battle.
When the signals were given on each side, Antigonus detached a body of troops, consisting of Macedonian and Illyrian battalions, alternately disposed, against those of the enemy posted on mount Eva. His second line consisted of Acarnanians and Cretans, and in the rear of these, two thousand Achæans were drawn up as a body of reserve. He drew up his cavalry along the bank of the river, in order to confront those of the enemy, and caused them to be supported by a thousand of the Achæan foot, and the same number of Megalopolitans. He then placed himself at the head of the Macedonians, and the light armed foreign troops, and advanced to mount
Olympus to attack Cleomenes. The foreigners were disposed into the first line, and marched immediately before the Macedonian phalanx, which was divided into two bodies, the one in the rear of the other, because the ground would not admit their forming a larger front,
· The action began at Mount Eva, when the light armed troops, who had been posted with an intention to cover and support the cavalry of Cleomenes, observing that the remotest cohorts of the Achæan forces were uncovered, immediately wheeled about and attacked them in the rear. Those who endeavouredi to gain the summit of the mountain, found themselves vigorously pressed by the enemy, and in great danger, being threatened in front by Euclidas, who was in a higher situation, at the same time that they were charged in their rear by the foreign troops, *hó assaulted them with the utmost impetuosity. Philopæmen and his citizens were posted among the cavalry of Antigonus, who were supported by the Illyrians, and had orders not to move from that post till a particular signal should be given. Philopoemen observing that it would not be difficult to
fall upon this light infantry of Euclidas, and rout them entirely, and that this was the critical moment for the charge, immediately communicated his opinion to such of the king's officers as commanded the cavalry. They, however, would not so much as hear him, merely because he had never commanded, and was then very young; and even treated what he said as a chimæra. Philopoemen was not diverted from his purpose by that usage, but at the head of his own citizens, whom he prevailed upon to follow him, he attacked and repulsed that body of infantry with great slaughter.
The Macedonians and Illyrians, being disengaged by this operation from what before had retarded their motions, boldly marched up the hill to their enemies. Euclidas was then to engage with a phalanx, whose whole force consisted in the strict union of its parts, the closeness of its ranks, the steady and equal force of its numerous and pointed spears, and the uniform impetuosity of that heavy body, that by its weight overthrew and bore down all before it.
In order to prevent this inconvenience, an able officer would have marched down the mountain with such of his troops as were lightest armed and most, active to have met the phalanx. He might easily have attacked those troops as soon as they began to ascend, and would then have harassed them on every side. The inequalities of the mountain, with the difficulty of ascending it entirely uncovered, would have enabled him to have opened a passage through this body of men, and to have interrupted their march, by putting their ranks into confusion, and breaking their order of battle; he might also have fallen back by degrees, in order to regain the summit of the mountain, as the enemy advanced upon him, and after he had deprived them of the only advantage they could expect from the quality of their arms, and the disposition of their troops, he might have improved the advantage of his post in such a manner, as to have easily put them to flight.
Euclidas, instead of acting in this manner, cortinued on the top of the mountain, flattering himself, that victory would infallibly attend his arms: he imagined, in all probability, that the higher he permitted the enemy to advance, the easier it would he for him to precipitate their troops down the steep declivity: but as he had not reserved for his own forces a sufficient extent of ground for any retreat that might happen to be necessary for avoiding the formidable charge of the phalanx, which advanced upon him in good order, his troops were crowded together in such a manner, as obliged them to fight on the summit of the mountain, where they could not long sustain the weight of the Illyrian arms, and the order of. battle into which that infantry formed themselves on the eminence; and as his men could neither retreat nor change their ground, they were soon defeated by their enemies.
During this action, the cavalry of each army had also engaged. That of the Achæans behaved themselves with great bravery, and Philopæmen in particular; because they were sensible that the liberties of their republic would be decided by this battle. Philopoemen, in the heat of the action, had his horse killed under him, and while he fought on foot, his armour was pierced through with a javelin; the wound, however, was not mortal, nor attended with any ill consequences.
The two kings began the engagement on mount Olympus, with their light-armed troops and foreign soldiers, of whom each of them had about five thousand. As this action was performed in the sight of each sovereign and his army, the troops emulated each other in signalizing themselves, as well in parties, as when the battle became general
. Man and inan, and rank to rank, all fought with the utmost vigour and obstinacy. Cleomenes, when he saw his brother defeated, and his cavalry losing ground in the plain, was apprehensive that the enemy would pour upon him from all quarters: and