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

(Κλεομένης), the 16th king of Sparta in the Agid line, was born to Anaxandrides by his second wife, previous to the birth by his first of Dorieus, Leonidas, and Cleombrotus. [ANAXANDRIDES.] He accordingly, on his father's death, succeeded, not later it would seem than 519 B. C., and reigned for a period of 29 years. (Clinton, F. H. ii. p. 208.)

In B. C. 519 we are told it was to Cleomenes that the Plataeans applied when Sparta, declining to assist them, recommended alliance with Athens. (Hdt. 6.108.) And not much later, the visit of Maeandrius occurred, who had been left in possession of Samos by the death of Polycrates, but had afterwards been driven out by the Persians with Syloson. Maeandrius twice or thrice in conversation with Cleomenes led the way to his house, where he took care to have displayed certain splendid goblets, and, on Cleomenes expressing his admiration, begged he would accept them. Cleomenes refused; and at last, in fear for his own or his citizens' weakness, went to the ephors and got an order for the stranger's departure. (Hdt. 3.148.)

In 510 Cleomenes commanded the forces by whose assistance Hippias was driven from Athens, and not long after he took part in the struggle between Cleisthenes and the aristocratical party of Isagoras by sending a herald with orders, pointed against Cleisthenes, for the expulsion of all who were stained with the pollution of Cylon. He followed this step by coming and driving out, in person, 700 households, substituting also for the new Council of 500 a body of 300 partisans of Isagoras. But his force was small, and having occupied the acropolis with his friends, he was here besieged, and at last forced to depart on conditions, leaving his allies to their fate. In shame and anger he hurried to collect Spartan and allied forces, and set forth for his revenge. At Eleusis, however, when the Athenians were in sight, the Corinthians refused to proceed; their example was followed by his brother-king Demaratus; and on this the other allies also, and with them Cleomenes, withdrew. When in the acropolis at Athens, he is related to have attempted, as an Achaean, to enter the temple, from which Dorians were excluded, and to have hence brought back with him to Sparta a variety of oracles predictive of his country's future relations with Athens; and their contents, says Herodotus, induced the abortive attempt which the Spartans made soon after to restore the tyranny of Hippias. (Hdt. 5.64, 65, 69_76, 89-91.)

In 500, Sparta was visited by Aristagoras, a petitioner for aid to the revolted Ionians. His brazen map and his accompanying representations

appear to have had considerable effect on Cleomenes. He demanded three days to consider; then enquired "how far was Susa from the sea." Aristagoras forgot his diplomacy and said, "three months' journey." His Spartan listener was thoroughly alarmed, and ordered him to depart before sunset. Aristagoras however in suppliant's attire hurried to meet him at home, and made him offers, beginning with ten, and mounting at last to fifty talents. It chanced that Cleomenes had his daughter Gorgo, a child eight or nine years old, standing by; and at this point she broke in, and said "Father, go away, or he will do you harm." And Cleomenes on this recovered his resolution, and left the room. (Hdt. 6.49_51.) This daughter Gorgo, his only child, was afterwards the wife of his halfbrother Leonidas: and she, it is said, first found the key to the message which, by scraping the wax from a wooden writing-tablet, graving the wood, and then covering it with wax again, Demaratus conveyed to Sparta from the Persian court in announcement of the intended invasion. (Hdt. 7.239.)

In 491 the heralds of Dareius came demanding earth and water from the Greeks; and Athens denounced to Sparta the submission of the Aeginetans. Cleomenes went off in consequence to Aegina, and tried to seize certain parties as hostages. Meantime Demaratus, with whom he had probably been on bad terms ever since the retreat from Eleusis, sent private encouragements to the Aeginetans to resist him, and took further advantage of his absence to intrigue against him at home. Cleomenes returned unsuccessful, and now leagued himself with Leotychides, and effected his colleague's deposition. [DEMARATUS.] (Hdt. 6.49_66.) He then took Leotychides with him back to Aegina, seized his hostages, and placed them in the hands of the Athenians. But on his return to Sparta, he found it detected that he had tampered with the priestess at Delphi to obtain the oracle which deposed Demaratus, and, in apprehension of the consequences, he went out of the way into Thessaly. Shortly after, however, he ventured into Arcadia, and his machinations there to excite the Arcadians against his country were sufficient to frighten the Spartans into offering him leave to return with impunity. He did not however long survive his recall. He was seized with raving madness, and dashed his staff in every one's face whom he met; and at last when confined as a maniac in a sort of stocks, he prevailed on the Helot who watched him to give him a knife, and died by slashing (καταχορδεύων) his whole body over with it. (Hdt. 6.73-75.)

His madness and death, says Herodotus, were ascribed by the Spartans to the habit he acquired from some Scythian visitors at Sparta of excessive drinking. Others found a reason in his acts of sacrilege at Delphi or Eleusis, where he laid waste a piece of sacred land (the Orgas), or again at Argos, the case of which was as follows. Cleomenes invaded Argolis, conveying his forces by sea to the neighbourhood of Tiryns; defeated by a simple stratagem the whole Argive forces, and pursued a large number of fugitives into the wood of the hero Argus. Some of them he drew from their refuge on false pretences, the rest he burnt among the sacred trees. He however made no attempt on the city, but after sacrificing to the Argive Juno, and whipping her priestess for opposing his will, returned home and excused himself, and indeed was acquitted after investigation, on the ground that the oracle predicting that he should capture Argos had been fulfilled by the destruction of the grove of Argus. Such is the strange account given by Herodotus (6.76-84) of the great battle of the Seventh (ἐν τῇ Ἑβδόμῃ), the greatest exploit of Cleomenes, which deprived Argos of 6000 citizens (Hdt. 7.148), and left her in a state of debility from which, notwithstanding the enlargement of her franchise, she did not recover till the middle of the Peloponnesian war. To this however we may add in explanation the story given by later writers of the defence of Argos by its women, headed by the poet-heroine Telesilla. (Paus. 2.20.7; Plut. Mor. p. 245; Polyaen. 8.33; Suidas. s.v. Τελέσιλλα.) [TELESILLA.] Herodotus appears ignorant of it, though he gives an oracle seeming to refer to it. It is perfectly probable that Cleomenes thus received some check, and we must remember the Spartan incapacity for sieges. The date again is doubtful. Pausanias, (3.4. §§ 1-5), who follows Herodotus in his account of Cleomenes, says, it was at the beginning of his reign; Clinton, however, whom Thirlwall follows, fixes it, on the ground of Hdt. 7.148_9, towards the end of his reign, about 510 B. C.

The life of Cleomenes, as graphically given by Herodotus is very curious; we may perhaps, without much imputation on the father of history, suspect that his love for personal story has here a little coloured his narrative. Possibly he may have somewhat mistaken his character; certainly the freedom of action allowed to a king whom the Spartans were at first half inclined to put aside for the younger brother Dorieus, and who was always accounted half-mad (ὑπομργότερος), seems at variance with the received views of their kingly office. Yet it is possible that a wild character of this kind might find favour in Spartan eyes. (Comp. Müller, Dor. 1.8.6; Clinton, B. C. 510, and p. 425, note x.) The occupation of the acropolis of Athens is mentioned by Aristophanes. (Lysistr. 272.)