Again, among all the pleasures that prove too strong for many men, who can mention one to which Agesilaus yielded? Drunkenness, he thought, should be avoided like madness, overeating like idleness.[*](μανίας and ἀργίας are adopted from the text of Athenaeus, who refers to this passage (p. 613 c). The MSS. of the Agesilaus have λαιμαργίας, gluttony, and ἁμαρτίας, error.) Moreover, he received a double ration at the public meals, but instead of consuming both portions himself, he distributed both and left neither for himself, holding that the purpose of this double allowance to the king was not to provide him with a heavy meal, but to give him the opportunity of honouring whomsoever he would.
As for sleep,[*](Xen. Const. Lac. 15.4; Xen. Cyrop. 8.2.4) it was not his master, but the servant of his activities; and unless he occupied the humblest bed among his comrades, he could not conceal his shame: for he thought that a ruler’s superiority over ordinary men should be shown not by weakness but by endurance.
There were things, to be sure, of which he was not ashamed to take more than his share — for instance, the summer’s heat and the winter’s cold:[*](Xen. Cyrop. 1.4.25) and whenever his army was faced with a hard task, he toiled willingly beyond all others, believing that all such actions were an encouragement to the men. Not to labour the point, Agesilaus gloried in hard work, and showed a strong distaste for indolence.
His habitual control of his affections surely deserves a tribute of admiration, if worthy of mention on no other ground. That he should keep at arms’ length those whose intimacy he did not desire may be thought only human. But he loved Megabates, the handsome son of Spithridates, with all the intensity of an ardent nature. Now it is the custom[*](Xen. Cyrop. 1.4.27) among the Persians to bestow a kiss on those whom they honour. Yet when Megabates attempted to kiss him, Agesilaus resisted his advances with all his might — an act of punctilious moderation surely!
Megabates, feeling himself slighted, tried no more to kiss him, and Agesilaus approached one of his companions with a request that he would persuade Megabates to show him honour once again. Will you kiss him, asked his companion, if Megabates yields? After a deep silence, Agesilaus gave his reply: By the twin gods, no, not if I were straightway to be the fairest and strongest and fleetest man on earth! By all the gods I swear that I would rather fight that same battle over again than that everything I see should turn into gold.
What opinion some hold in regard to these matters I know well enough; but for my part I am persuaded that many more men can gain the mastery over their enemies than over impulses such as these.[*](Xen. Anab. 2.6.28) No doubt when these things are known to few, many have a right to be sceptical: but we all know this, that the greater a man’s fame, the fiercer is the light that beats on all his actions;[*](Xen. Mem. 1.1.11) we know too that no one ever reported that he had seen Agesilaus do any such thing, and that no scandal based on conjecture would have gained credence; for it was not his
habit, when abroad, to lodge apart in a private house, but he was always either in a temple, where conduct of this sort is, of course, impossible, or else in a public place where all men’s eyes became witnesses of his rectitude. If I speak this falsely against the knowledge of the Greek world, I am in no way praising my hero; but I am censuring myself.