A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

king of Sparta, 17th of the Eurypontids, son of Zeuxidamus, succeeded to the throne on the banishment of his grandfather Leotychides, B. C. 469. In the 4th or perhaps rather the 5th year of his reign, his kingdom was

visited by the tremendous calamity of the great earthquake, by which all Laconia was shaken, and Sparta made a heap of ruins. On this occasion his presence of mind is said to have saved his people. Foreseeing the danger from the Helots, he summoned, by sounding an alarm, the scattered surviving Spartans, and collected them around him, apparently at a distance from the ruins, in a body sufficient to deter the assailants. To him, too, rather than to Nicomedes, the guardian of his colleague, Pleistöanax, (Pleistarchus was probably dead,) would be committed the conduct of the contest with the revolted Messenians, which occupies this and the following nine years. In the expeditions to Delphi and to Doris, and the hostilities with Athens down to the 30 years' truce, his name is not mentioned; though in the discussion at Sparta before the final dissolution of that truce he comes forward as one who has had experience of many wars. Of the Peloponnesian war itself we find the first 10 years sometimes styled the Archidamian war; the share, however, taken in it by Archidamus was no more than the command of the first two expeditions into Attica; in the 3rd year, of the investment of Plataea; and again of the third expedition in the 4th year, 428 B. C. In 427 Cleomenes commanded; in 426 Agis, son and now successor of Archidamus. His death must therefore be placed before the beginning of this, though probably after the beginning of that under Cleomenes; for had Agis already succeeded, he, most likely, and not Cleomenes, would have commanded; in the 42nd year, therefore, of his reign, B. C. 427. His views of this momentous struggle, as represented by Thucydides, seem to justify the character that historian gives him of intelligence and temperance. His just estimate of the comparative strength of the parties, and his reluctance to enter without preparation on a contest involving so much, deserve our admiration ; though in his actual conduct of it he may seem to have somewhat wasted Lacedaemon's moral superiority. The opening of the siege of Plataea displays something of the same deliberate character; the proposal to take the town and territory in trust, however we may question the probable result, seems to breathe his just and temperate spirit. He may at any rate be safely excluded from all responsibility for the cruel treatment of the besieged, on their surrender in the year of his death. We may regard him as the happiest instance of an accommodation of the Spartan character to altered circumstances, and his death as a misfortune to Sparta, the same in kind though not in degree as that of Pericles was to Athens, with whom he was connected by ties of hospitality and whom in some points he seems to have resembled. He left two sons and one daughter, Agis by his first wife, Lampito or Lampido, his father's half-sister; Agesilaus by a second, named Eupolia (apparently the woman of small stature whom the Ephors fined him for marrying), and Cynisca, the only woman, we are told, who carried off an Olympic victory. (Thuc. i. ii. iii.; Diod. 11.63; Paus. 3.7. §§ 9, 10; Plut. Cimon, 16, Ages. 1; Hdt. 6.71.)