Spartan soldiers

History of Sparta 


Of the early history of Sparta we rely on very few legends. It is said to have been founded by Lacedaemon, the son of Zeus and Taygete, who married Sparta, the daughter of Eurotas.
From Homer we also know that the "koili Lacedaemon" (hollow Lacedaemon), the territory between the mount Taygetos and Menelaos and Helen, 520 BC, attic red figure amphoraParnon, had as king Menelaos, the younger brother of Agamemnon and husband of Helen, which was abducted by Paris to Troy and thus starting the long and painful famous war.
Around 1200 BC, by the marriage of the daughter of Menelaos Ermione with the son of Agamemnon Orestes, the kingdoms of Argos and Sparta were united. The findings from excavations testify that at this time, unlike the later Sparta, a rich culture had developed here.
Around 1100 BC, the Dorians came and conquered the territory (Archaeology favors a date for Dorian settling around 950 BC).
Tradition has it, that the Heraclidae brothers, descendants of the hero Hercules, Kresphontes, Temenos and Aristodemos tried to conquer Peloponnese. Aristodemos was hit by lighting and died at Naupactos, leaving behind his twin sons Eyresthenes and Prokles. His brothers crossed the gulf and landed at Achaia. There was a battle with the forces of the monarch of Peloponnese, Tisamenes, and they were victorious. When the Dorian phalanx came in the territory of Lakonia and Messene, it was guided by Kresphontes, who inhabited the rich plain of Pamesos. There was a constant quarrel between the Dorian chiefs, Kresphontes and Theras, to share the territory.
, the brother of Aristodemos wife, who was guardian to her twin children after the death of her husband, wanted to take the rich Messene, but Kresphontes and his brother Temenos, who was ruling Argos, played a trick on him. They arranged to throw in the water two small tiles, with the names of Kresphontes and Theras written on them and the one which would surface in the water, would win Messene, the other the less rich Laconia.
Kresphontes tile was baked in the fire, while Theras was left in the sun and when both were thrown into the water, Theras tile went to the bottom and Kresphontes tile floated and thus he took Messene.
During Sparta's history, the habitation center in the Eurotas valley had changed many times, but the Dorian city which was comprised from five villages, occupied the territory of today's city of Sparta. We know only the names of the four, Pitane, Limnai, Mesoa, Kinosoura. The fifth was probably the conglomeration of the villages, which Spartans conquered later, Pilane, Selacia, Aigitida, Phari, Amikles.
Sparta in the 8th and 7th century BC was open to foreigners. She had good relations with Samos, which helped her in the war with Messenia, and also with Cyprus, Rhodes, Cyrene, etc.  She was a highly cultured city, with her own architects, who build the famous temple, the brazen house of Athena. The arts were highly developed with celebrated sculptors in wood, potters, metal workers, weavers, leather workers, many of them foreigners. Spartan musicians, dancers and singers were renowned. Sparta was also famous for the purple dyed clothes. From 720 BC to 576 BC, she had 46 Olympic winners out of 81 total victors. But during the 6th century the arts progressively started to decline. Lykurgos laws eventually strained Sparta.

776 BC

Lykurgos, king of SpartaLykurgos was the son of the king Eumenos. After the death of his father, his older brother Polydektes took the throne. Not much later, he also died and Lykurgos became king. The widow of his brother, an ambitious and unhesitating woman, offered him to marry her and kill her unborn child. Lykurgos, knowing her character and being afraid for the life of the child, pretended to accept her offer. He said to her to bear the child and he would disappear it, as soon as the child was born. But when the time came, he took the infant boy at the Agora,  proclaimed him king of the Spartans and gave him the name Charilaos (Joy of the people). When the widow learned what happened, she started plotting against Lykurgos, who left Sparta in order to avoid bloodshed.
He first went to Crete and then to Asia and Egypt and later to Libya, Spain and India. In every country that he visited, he studied their civilization, history and constitutions.
After many years Lykurgos returned to Greece and visited Delphi to question the oracle, if the constitution he had prepared to apply in Sparta was good and received approval with the answer that "he was more God than man".  He then returned home and found his nephew Charilaos, a grown man and king of Sparta.
In order to persuade the Spartans to accept his laws, which demanded a lot of sacrifices, he bred two small puppies, the one indoors with a variety of foods and the other he trained it for hunting. He then gathered the people and showed them that the untrained dog was completely useless.
But if Lykurgos succeeded to persuade the poor people, he did little for the rich, who tried everything to oppose him.  One of them, a youth named Alkander, in the Agora tried to hit him with his stuff and when Lykurgos turned his head, he was hit in the eye and lost it. Lykurgos did not prosecute him, but took him as his servant, giving him the opportunity to discover his character. Indeed Alkander became later a devoted disciple.
When his laws were accepted, he made Spartans swear that they would not be changed until he returns and left again.
He never came back, making sure that his laws would not change. He died at Delphi and according to some in Crete and it is said that before his death, he asked his body to be burned and the remains to be scattered in the wind. Lykurgos thus did not permit even his dead body to return.

The Constitution

The hard fought Messenian wars would not have been won, without the legislation of Lykurgos, which most of all targeted the discipline and inuring to hardships of the citizens.
According to the rettra or combact, which Lykurgos brought from Delphi, the Spartan Senate (Gerousia) was consisted from twenty eight men, at least 60 years old, elected for life and the two kings. A hundred years later, when the Gerousia became tyrannical, was dismantled and they were replaced by five Ephors (overseers).
He also arranged for periodical assemblies of the Spartan people (Apella), for people over 30 years old, in the area between the river Knakion and the bridge Babyka, though they did not vote, nor were permitted to discuss the issues, but only accept or reject them loudly.
Lykurgos, in order to avoid strife in the city, he managed to persuade the people to give their land property and then he divided it in equal shares. He also assigned equal lots of land to the Perioikoi.
In other laws, he forbade the use of money in gold and silver and in their place issued iron money, too heavy and of very little value. Also Spartans were not permitted to build their houses with other tools, except the axe and the saw. 
The unwritten laws of Lykurgos most of all targeted eunomia (good application of the laws), but at the same time they had the seeds of aggressiveness. In a period of few years after they came in use, Sparta conquered almost all of Laconia. The important city of Amyklai, after a long desperate siege was captured around 750 BC, but its people were treated well.

First Messenian War
743 - 724 BC

The causes of the Messenian wars were two incidents, as Pausanias tells us, although there is no doubt that  the real reason was the rich and fertile plains of Messenia, that Spartans wanted to conquer.
The first incident occurred in the borders of Laconia and Messene, where there was a temple of Artemis Limnatis, in which both Spartans and Messenians were celebrating. In the midst of the dance of Spartan virgins, Messenians rushed and took the women. King Teleklos of Sparta, who tried to hinder them, was killed. It was said later that all the Spartan women committed suicide.
But according to the Messenian version, king Teleklos had dressed up young men as virgins, with concealed daggers. When their plot was discovered, Messenians after a fight killed Teleklos. Anyway the war did not start immediately after this event. 
The second incident happened with the Spartan Euphaenos and the Messenian Polychares, a distinguished citizen and an Olympic victor in Stadium, 764 BC. Euphaenos, who had been trusted with the care of Polychares cows, sold them and later killed his son who came to inquire.  Polychares, who was unable to find justice in Sparta, started to kill every Lacedaemonian who passed the borders. 
After these incidents, Spartans demanded from Messenians to deliver Polychares, but in vain and so the war started.
Alkamenes, the son of the king Teleklos of Sparta, in a dark night surprised the Messenians and entered the city of Ampheia, killing everybody. From Ampheia, the Spartans were making constants raids, but they did not succeed to conquer any other cities.
The king of Messenia, Euphaes, fought them with vigor, but for four years no progress had been made, by either side. During the fifth year, a big battle took place, which ended indecisive, but after this the Messenians retired to the fortified mountain of Ithome. In the meantime an epidemic fell in Messene, killing many people and Messenians in their distress sent a citizen named Tese at Delphi, to ask about the outcome of the war. The oracle told them to sacrifice a maiden chosen by lot, from the house of Apetidae. The lot fell to the daughter of Lyciskos, who refused to obey and went to Sparta. A leading citizen then named Aristodemos, offered his own daughter, but the youth who was in love with her, declared that she was carrying his child. Aristodemos killed his daughter, opened her body and showed to everyone that this was a lie.  After the sacrifice Messenians took courage and attacked the disheartened by the event Spartans, who for six years postponed any invasion. 
During the thirteen year of the war, the Spartan king Theopompos marched against Ithome and another battle took place, but again without a victor. When king Euphaes was killed in action, Aristodemos took his place.
Five years later another battle took place, in which Corinth took the side of Spartans and Arcadians and Sikyonians the side of Messenians. King Aristodemos won a decisive victory over the Lacedaemonians, who were driven back in their territories. Later things turned against Messenians. Aristodemos after a dream, in which his daughter appeared showing to him her wounds, slew himself at her tomb. Shortly afterwards and during the twentieth year of the war, Messenians abandoned Ithome, which was raised to the ground by the Spartans. The defeated Messenians were punished severely and took an oath, that they would never revolt and they would deliver to Sparta every year half of their agricultural products. Many families fled to Arcadia and the priestly to Eleusis. Those who stayed in the country became helots. This was the end of the first Messenian war.
Not long after the annexation of Messenia (708 BC), Sparta founded a colony at Tarentum in South Italy and it seems that the motive was political. A group called themselves Partheniai (children of unmarried mothers), who were not recognized as citizens, attempted revolution and Sparta deemed necessary that the best solution was to send them away. 

Second Messenian War
685 - 668 BC

Some years later Messenians revolted and their leader Aristomenes in a daring move entered Sparta at night and offered a shield in the temple of Athena. Spartans after this event went to the oracle of Delphi, which gave them the answer "to take an Athenian adviser".
Spartans asked from the Athenians a general and they sent them Tyrtaeos, who was poet and lame from the one leg. Tyrtaeos with his poems encouraged Spartans and helped them to win the war.
During the war the leader of  Messenians, Aristomenes, was made a great hero and many stories talk about him.
According to the legend three times Aristomenes sacrificed to Zeus Ithomatis, the so-called Hecatophonia, reserved only to the warrior who had killed with his own hands one hundred enemies. Three times he was captured by the Spartans but he managed to escape. His last capture  occurred in a battle between him and many Spartans, in which he was wounded all over his body, but he was still fighting, until a stone found him on the head and fell. He was captured along with fifty others and for punishment were thrown into the deep pit Kaeadas, of the mount Taygetos. All the others were killed, but Aristomenes fell upon the wings of an eagle and survived. When he realized, that there was no way to get out from this abyss, he laid down and covered himself with his cloak, waiting to die. Three days later, during the night he heard a soft sound and in the darkness show a fox eating the corpses. He managed to catch the fox from the tail and he was guided by her to a small hole, which he opened further and passed through.
Immediately he went to the city of Eira, which was besieged by Spartans. Passing from their camp, he killed many of them in their sleep and plundered the tents of the generals. 
Some time later, in a stormy night and with the help of an informer, the Spartans entered Eira. There was a hard battle, Messenians fought desperately, the women too, throwing tiles to Spartan soldiers, but at the end they were defeated.
Aristomenes with many others managed to  brake the Spartan lines and took the women and children in Arcadia. Immediately he chose five hundred men from Messenian volunteers and with the help of three hundred Arcadians decided to take Sparta by surprise, now that most of its army was away. They were ready to move, when they discovered that the king of Arcadia, Aristocrates, had sent a messenger to the Ephors, informing them about their plan. The treacherous king was killed in the square of the city by the Arcadian people with stones and his corpse was thrown out of Arcadia.
The Messenians moved then to Kyllene and from there to lower Italy, where they founded the new city of Messene. Aristomenes did not follow them and went to his brother in Rhodes, where he died from bitterness. The Messenians who did not leave, became Helots and thus ended the second Messenian war.

The war of six hundred

Around 720 BC the Spartan army under the king Nikadros with the help of township Asine, ravaged Argolis. Argives did not forget this and not much later took revenge destroying totally Asine.
In their turn the Spartans annexed Kynouria, which formed part of the dominion of Argos.
In 547 BC, the Argives attempted to recover the territory, but instead of a full combat they agreed with the Lacedaemonians, to decide the outcome of the war and the annexation of Kynouria, with three hundred men each. The conflict of the six hundred chosen soldiers was so fierce, that only two Argives   survived and one wounded Spartan. The two Argive hoplites, Alcenor and Chromios, left to give the news of their victory, but the Spartan Othryades managed to spoil the dead bodies of the enemy and then killed himself, being ashamed to return to Sparta. Both sides claimed the victory and a full battle took place not much later, in which the Argives were defeated.

Wars with Tegea

Spartans attempted various expeditions against Arcadia and after a long struggle managed to occupy the southern part of her. But they were totally unsuccessful in the wars, with the city of Tegea. They were losing battle after battle and in the reign of the Spartan kings Leon and Agesikles (580 BC), they carried pompously chains in order to enslave the Tegeans. They met though with disaster, losing totally the battle and their soldiers were putted in the very chains, they had brought.
Spartans in their distress asked the help of the Delphi oracle, which advised them to obtain the bones of Orestes (son of Agamemnon). The oracle even directed them to find the remains of the hero at Tegea and Spartans with a skillful stratagem succeeded to carry the holy remains home. When that happened the tide of the war turned. The proud Tegeans lost every battle and finally acknowledged the supremacy of Sparta, but they were never reduced to subjection and continued to be masters of their city, becoming only dependant allies.

Kleomenes I

Kleomenes came to the throne of Sparta around 520 BC. In a  rivalry between Kleisthenes of Athens and Isagoras, he was called by Isagoras to help. Indeed Kleomenes forced Kleisthenes and his family to leave the country, but when he expelled five hundred more families and tried to revive the constitution, the Athenians revolted and besieged Kleomenes in the Acropolis, who immediately surrendered and left from Attica. He then assembled an army from Sparta and with allies  marched toward Athens, without telling them that he wanted to install Isagoras as tyrant in Athens. But when the army came to Attica, the Corinthians learned the purpose of the expedition and abandoned the enterprise. The second king of Sparta, king Demaratos, who had joined the expedition refused also to go further and returned home and thus the expedition collapsed.
This gave the opportunity to Athens to attack the Thebans and Chalkidaeans, who were ravaging Attica and defeated them both.
In Sparta, after the kings quarrel, a new law was passed that in the future only one king would command an expedition. They also summoned the League and proposed to restore Hippias in Athens, who had been a friend of Sparta and had come from Asia for the meeting. Again Corinthians and other allies rejected the plan.
Around 505 BC, a war between Sparta and Argos took place, but the reasons are unknown.
In 499 BC, the Ionian leader Aristagoras came to Sparta to ask help in their revolt against Persia. Kleomenes refused and ordered him out of the city.
Kleomenes advanced into Argolis, but he failed to take Argos. He then asked ships from Sikyon and Aigina which unwillingly gave them and landed near Tyrinth. There he found, at a place called Sepea, which was between Argos and the sea, the Argive army. By gross carelessness of the Argives, he surprised them and defeated them. The Argives then tried to find refuge in the sacred grove of the Hero Argos. Kleomenes surrounded them and in a unthinkable for the Greek customs action, he set fire to the grove. Six thousand Argives lost their lives at that day, almost two thirds of the whole army (494 BC).    
Kleomenes instigated Leotychides, the next heir in the Prokleid line of kings, to question the legitimacy of king Demaratos. To resolve the problem the Spartans went to the Delphi oracle, which declared Demaratos as an illegitimate king.
When later was known, that Kleomenes had bribed the oracle, they ordered him home, but he fled first to Thessaly and later to Arcadia, where he worked for a Pan-Arcadian alliance.
The Spartans called him again with promises, but when he arrived, he was attacked by the people, who following their old habit, they were hitting him in his head. The Ephors pronounced him insane. He committed suicide, having mutilated himself with a knife (488 BC).

The Persian Wars

After the suppression of the Ionic revolt, king Darius started preparing an army to attack Greece.
The Persian expedition that followed under Mardonios ended in disaster, losing his fleet in a terrible storm in the promontory of mount Athos. Darius was not disheartened and having in his court the tyrant Hippias, keeping alive his resentment against Athens, he started preparing a second expedition and on a larger scale. He first sent heralds to ask earth and water from the various Greek cities. The Athenians threw them in the barathron pit and the Spartans in a well, to find there their "earth and water".
For the first time the Greek cities, in the face of the imminent danger were all united, recognizing Sparta as the leader of Greece. Sparta refused to send an army to help Athens in Marathon and only arrived after the battle to find in their amazement that the Athenians had won a complete victory (490 BC). Greece was fortunate that the next invasion was led by the son of Darius, Xerxes, a much inferior man than his father.

Battle of Thermopylae
480 BC

Leonidas, king of SpartaOn the arrival of Xerxes at Thermopylae, he found that the place was defended by a body of three hundred Spartans and about seven thousand hoplites from other states, commanded by the Spartan king Leonidas.
Xerxes learning about the small number of Greek forces and that several Spartans outside the walls were exercising and combing their hairs, in his perplexity, immediately called Demaratos to explain him the meaning of all these. Demaratos told him that the Spartans will defend the place to the death and it was custom to wash and dress their hairs with special care when they intended to put their lives in great danger. Xerxes who did not believe Demaratos, delayed his attack for four days, thinking that the Greeks as soon as they would realize his great forces will disperse. 
He sent also heralds asking to deliver up their arms. The answer from Leonidas was "come and take them" (Μολών λαβέ).
A Spartan, who was told about the great number of Persian soldiers, who with their arrows will conceal the sun, he answered:  "so much the better, we will fight in the shade".
At the fifth day Xerxes attacked but without any results and with heavy losses, though the Medes fought bravely. He then ordered his personal guard  the "Immortals" under Hyrdanes, a body of ten thousand consisting from the best Persian soldiers, to advance. They also failed and Xerxes was observed to jump from his throne three times in anger and agony. The following day they attacked, but again made no progress. Xerxes was desperate but his luck changed when a Malian named Ephialtes told him about a secret path across the mountain. Immediately a strong Persian force was sent with Hyrdanes, guided by the traitor. At day's break they reached the summit, where the Phokian army was stationed and who upon seeing the Persians fled.
When Leonidas learned all these incidents, he ordered the council of war to be summoned. Many were of the opinion that they should retire and find a better defendable place, but Leonidas, who was bound by the laws of Sparta and from an oracle, which had declared that either Sparta or a Spartan king must perish, refused. Three hundred Spartans and seven hundred Thespians took the decision to stay and fight. The rest were permitted to leave, with the exception of four hundred Boeotians, which were retained as hostages.

The battle at Thermopylae, 490 BC.

Leonidas did not wait the Persian attack, which had being delayed by Xerxes and advanced in the path, he fell upon the Persians. Thousands of them were slain, the rest were driven near the sea, but when the Spartan spears broke, they started having losses and one of the first that fell was king Leonidas. Around his body one of the fiercest battles took place. Four times the Persians attacked to obtain it and four times they were repulsed. At the end, the Spartans exhausted and wounded, carrying the body of Leonidas, retired behind the wall, but they were surrounded by the enemy, who killed them with arrows.
On the spot, a marble lion was set by the Greeks in honor of Leonidas and his men, together with two other monuments near by. On one of them, the memorable words were written:
           "Ω ξείν αγγέλλειν Λακεδαιμονίοις, ότι τήδε κείμεθα,
           τοις κείνων ρήμασι πειθόμενοι

           "Oh stranger tell the Lacedaemonians, that we lie here,
            obedient to their laws

Battle of Plataea
479 BC

The reluctance, which Sparta showed after the battle of Thermopylae until a little before the battle of Plataea, did not help the Greek cause. But when finally she took the decision to engage seriously herself in the war, it did it in a great manner.
Five thousand citizens, each one attended by seven Helots, together with five thousand Lacedaemonian Perioikoi (each one attended by one light armed Helot) marched toward the Isthmos. This was a very large army and never in the past Sparta had sent such a big force in the field. At Isthmos, she was joined with the Peloponnesian allies and marched towards Megara. The army was joined there by three thousand Megarians and finally at Plataea with eight thousand Athenian hoplites. The city of Plataea also contributed six hundred hoplites, who came from Salamis, under the command of Aristeides. The number of Greek army were now thirty eight thousand hoplites, who with light armed troops and the Helots reached one hundred and ten thousand men. This number includes the eighteen hundred badly armed Thespians. There was no cavalry and the bow men were very few.
When Mardonios learned the approach of Lacedaemonians, he left Attica and by way of Dekeleia crossed the mount Parnes and entered Boeotia. Marching two days along the Asopos river, he encamped near the town of Plataea.
Greek Warrior The Greeks after consulting the Gods with sacrifices at Eleusis marched over the ridge of Kithairon mountain and descending from the northern side they saw the encamped Persian army in the valley of Asopos. King Pausanias who was waiting good omens from sacrifices held his troops from the attacks of the Persian cavalry, near Erythrae, where the ground is ragged and uneven, but even this did not prevent the commander Masistios to attack the Greeks. When the Megarians were in great danger suffering many losses, three hundred Athenian hoplites succeeded in repulsing the Persians, killing the tall and brave Masistios. His body was paraded in triumph, in a cart. This event encouraged Pausanias, who positioned the army on the plain, in a line at the right bank of Asopos.
When Mardonios learned the change in the position of the Greeks he ordered his army to be placed opposite to them on the other side of Asopos. Himself took the post in the left wing, facing the Lacedaemonians. The rest of his army consisting from Medized Greeks, fifty thousand strong, were opposite to Athenians. The center of Mardonios composed from Bactrians Sacae and Indians. The whole army was numbering three hundred thousand men.
For eight days the attack was delayed from both sides by unfavorable sacrifices. On the eight day Mardonios by the advice of the Theban leader Timagenidas cut off the supplies of the Greeks and captured a big supply in one of the passes of Kithaeron. Artabazos too, advised him to continue this line of harassing and wearing but Mardonios was impatient and ordered his cavalry to attack, which obtained possession of the fountain of Gargapheia.
Pausanias summoned the council of war and took the decision to retreat, to a place called the Island, which was two kilometers further and halfway between it and the town of Plataea.  When Pausanias at night gave the order of retreat, some Spartans refused to move. Threats did nothing to persuade the Spartan captain Amomferatus, who took a huge rock and threw it at the feet of Pausanias, with the words: "with this pebble I give my vote not to fly".
Pausanias who had no time to lose since daybreak was near, he left Amompheratus and his lochos behind and hurried to the island. Mardonios ordered attack when he learned that the Greeks had retreated. His army passing the waters of Asopos started to throw arrows to the Greeks, who did not engage, even in this moment, in battle until they received a good omen from the sacrifices. Mardonios at the head of his one thousand bodyguards was in the front line fighting bravely, until he was struck down by the Spartan Aimnestos. When Mardonios fell the Persian army fled to their fortified camp. But this did not save them, the Greeks managed to enter and a great massacre took place. Only three thousand Persians who escaped, from the three hundred thousand, survived. The Greeks lost only one thousand and three hundred men.    
In 464 BC, during the night, a powerful earthquake shook Sparta and the rest of Lacedaemon. The earth opened and the summits of mount Taygetos were torn. All the houses of Sparta fell down except five. This catastrophe continued for five days. At least twenty thousand Lacedaemonians lost their lives.

The Peloponnesian war I
431 - 421 BC

The unavoidable clash between Sparta and Athens came with an incident at the friendly to Athens city of Plataea. Archidamos invaded Attica in the spring of 431 BC without opposition, since Athens had taken the decision not to engage to a land battle with Sparta and thus started the Peloponnesian war, that lasted for 28 years. The first ten years of the war (431 - 421 BC) were named "Archidamios war" from the name of the able king of Sparta Archidamos.
On the side of Lacedaemonians were all the Peloponnesian states with the exception of Argos and Achaea which entered the war joining Sparta later. They were also the Boeotians, Megarians, Lokrians, Phokaeans, Leukadians, Ambrakiotes and Anaktorians. The coast states supplied ships, the Boeotians, Locrians and Phokians with cavarly.
On the side of Athens were the Plataeans, Chians, Lesbians, Messenians, Corkyraeans, Zakynthians, Akarnanians as well as the towns of the coast of Asia and Thrace and all the isles of Aegean, except Melos and Thera. The Athenian troops were 29,000 hoplites, 1200 horsemen and 1600 archers and her navy was 300 triremes without counting those of her allies. The Chians, Corkyraeans and Lesbians supplied shipping.
Archidamos forces which entered Attica consisted from about 60,000 to 100,000 men and at the beginning he tried unsuccessful attacks upon the fortress of Oenoe, on mount Kithairon, failing to take it. He then marched towards Eleusis, where he arrived at the middle of June 431 BC.  After ravaging the Thracian plain he encamped at Acharnae, seven miles from Athens. In the meantime the Athenians had collected the population within the walls and had sent all the animals to Euboea. Archidamos evacuated Attica at the end of July and his army was dismantled immediately. Upon his departure the Athenians at the end of September, attacked Megara which they ravaged totally.
At the spring of 430 BC, Archidamos again invaded Attica, but in the meantime the plague had broken out in Athens. The Lacedaemonians with greater force ravaged all the neighborhood  of Athens marching as far as the mines of Laurium. In their turn Athenians, with 100 triremes under the command of Knemos devastated the island of Zakynthos.
At the third year of the war (429 BC) Archidamos marched towards the city of Plataea and demanded to hand him over the city and their land properties, promising that after the war everything would be restored to them. The majority of Plataeans were in favor of the proposal, but Athenians exhorted them to hold out promising them assistance. After their refusal, Archidamos surrounded the small city of Plataea and the famous siege started. For three months Spartans tried everything to conquer the city but without success. They then decided to blockade and starve the population. The double walls of Plataea build by the SpartansFor this they surrounded Plataea with a double wall, but even this measure had no success. After two years, when the provisions  of Plataea started to run short, 212 men escaped in a stormy December night. The rest of the population surrendered in 427 BC. They were put in trial before five Spartan judges and executed. The town of Plataea was transferred to Thebes, who after a few months destroyed all the private houses to the ground.  
In the fourth and  fifth year of the war Spartans again invaded Attica. In the sixth year of the war (426 BC) the Spartans did not invade Attica. A series of severe earthquakes and floods occurred in various parts of Greece. At Athens the plaque reappeared.
During the seventh year of the war the Lacedaemonian army under the command of Agis invaded Attica, but only for the sort time of fifteen days. Agis was recalled and marched towards Pylos, because the Athenians had  established  a military post at Pylos in Messenia. The Peloponnesian fleet that was in Corkyra  under the command of Thrasymelidas, was also ordered to sail to Pylos. Thrasymelidas on arriving at Pylos with his fleet, he occupied the small but densely wooded island of Sfacteria with four hundred and twenty hoplites and their helots. Part of these men, two hundred and ninety-two, among them many belonging to chief families, were later captured by the Athenian Kleon and brought to Athens in chains, the rest had been killed after a severe conflict on the islet. The event surprised the Hellenic world who knew that Spartans never surrendered. Sparta was now in a bad position. The Messenians from Pylos together with the runaway helots were able to plunder the country, also Sparta could not invade Attica, knowing that the captured men would put immediately to death.
The eighth year of the war (424 BC) was disastrous for Athens. They defeated at the battle of Delium, by the Thebans. They also lost Thrace. After all these Athenians seriously considered the proposals for peace by Sparta.
At the same year one of the biggest crimes, committed in ancient Greece, occurred. Sparta pretending to give liberty to the most worthy Helots, who had fought bravely, selected two thousand of the best men and after honoring them and crowning them with garlands at a ceremony, slain them by secret orders from the Ephors. The reason being, that Sparta felt threatened from their increased power.
In the ninth year of the war (423 BC) a truce was signed for a year, on which a permanent peace would be prepared. But the negotiations were interrupted two days after the signing of the truce, when Athenians learned that Scione had revolted and was under the command of Brasidas. In August, an Athenian force by the command of Kleon was sent to Scione. At the battle that followed, both Kleon and Brasidas were killed and thus the obstacles for permanent peace seized to exist.
The Spartan king Pleistoanax and general Nikias of Athens, in the spring of 421 BC, signed a peace treaty for fifty years, the so-called peace of Nikias. The Spartan prisoners were returned and Athens was allowed to keep the cities of Anactorium, Sollium and Nisae. Not everybody was satisfied by the peace and the allies of Sparta, Corinth, Thebes, Megara and Eleans refused to ratify it.
During the peace between Sparta and Athens matters were far from being satisfactory. Her allies, Boeotians and Corinthians never accepted the peace and Athens refused to evacuate Pylos. Alkibiades of Athens persuaded both Achaea and Patrae to ally with Athens and helped Argos in the attack upon Epidauros, which they ravaged. Spartans could not accept all these and assembling a large army in which her allies were participating, invaded Argos and surrounded the Argive army. A battle was ready to start when two Argive oligarch leaders came to king Agis of Sparta and persuaded him to sign a truce for four months. A little later Alkibiades leading a force of one thousand hoplites and four hundred cavalry came to assist Argives and persuaded them to attack the city of Orchomenos in Arcadia. After they conquered Orchomenos they marched against Tegea. In the meantime king Agis, who had being blamed for the truce with the Argives, marched with a large force in the territory of Mantinea and positioned himself near the temple of Hercules. The Argives and their allies left the city of Mantinea  and in a well chosen ground offered battle. King Agis was ready to attack them at this advantageous for the Argives ground, but when the Spartans came close, an old Spartan warrior told him, that with his act was trying "to heal one mischief by another". These words made him to withdraw his men. After this, the  Argives took position in the plain and tried to attack them by surprise. The right section of the Argive army, which was consisted from the flower of aristocracy, a permanent body of one thousand chosen soldiers drilled and maintained by the city of Argos, were successful to route the Lacedaemonians, but Agis with the rest of his army which was more successful, he managed to win the battle (June 418 BC). Athenians lost two hundred hoplites included the generals Laches and Nikostratos, the Argives and their allies lost another nine hundred men. From the Lacedaemonian army only three hundred men lost. Even after all these, the peace of Nikias typically was still in existence.   

Preparations before the battle

The Peloponnesian war II
415 - 404 BC

In 415 BC, in the expedition of Athenians in Syracuse, the Spartan general Gylippos with four ships came to the assistance of Syracuse. Though his force was small, he helped greatly Syracuse to win the war. He firstly captured the Athenian fort at Labdalum, that made him master of Epipolae and build fortifications. He then constructed a counter wall to intersect the Athenian lines at the north side. A little later he was reinforced by the arrival of thirty triremes. This small participation of Sparta in the war was of the outmost importance.
After the Athenian disaster in Syracuse, the war between Athens and  Sparta  became maritime. Lacedaemonians gave a better  attention on their naval power. A new office, that of Navarchia, was risen. The Navarchos (Admiral) was even superior to the Ephors. In the beginning though Sparta had not much success.
In August of 411 BC, the Peloponnesian fleet commanded by Mindaros lost the naval battle at Kynossema. The Athenian fleet though smaller in force, in the straits of Sestos and Abydos, gained a complete victory.
In 410 BC, Alkibiades managed to capture the whole Peloponnesian fleet at Kyzicos. Mindaros was killed and the second in command Spartan sent a letter to the Ephors in Laconic form:  "Ships gone; Mindaros dead; men starving; no idea what to do."
Spartans were so discouraged, that they sent the Ephor Endius to Athens for a peace agreement but the Athenians, who were influenced by the demagogue Kleophon, rejected the offer.
Spartans now appointed a new navarchos, the able man Lysander. When his turn of command expired, he was succeeded by Kallicratidas, who increased the number of ships of the Spartan fleet. There was a naval battle at the harbor of Mytelene with the Athenian fleet under Konon. The Athenians, who were outnumbered, lost the battle and thirty ships. Another forty ships were saved by bringing them ashore, near the walls of the town.
Kallicratidas then blockade the island. When the news arrived at Athens they sent a fleet of one hundred and ten triremes and they were reinforced with another forty later. The number of ships of Kallicratidas were one hundred and twenty. At the small island of Arginusae, the Athenian fleet met the Spartan and after a hard struggle defeated them (406 BC). The Lacedaemonians lost seventy seven ships and the rest were retreated at Chios and Phocaea. Kallicratidas was thrown overboard, when his ship was hit by another and perished. The Athenians lost only twenty five ships.
Though it was illegal for an admiral to have a second term, Lysander, with the title of Epistoleus (bearer of letters), took the command of the Spartan fleet. He immediately obtained large sums of money from Kyros, king of Persia, to rebuild the fleet and made siege on Lampsacus.
The Athenians, who came to help, arrived too late to save the city and took post at Aegospotamoi (Goat's river) close to the city of Lampsacus. Lysander who systematically avoided a naval battle, since his ships were outnumbered, he managed to capture the enemy fleet after treachery or negligence of the Athenians. All 4000 Athenian prisoners were put to death. This event substantially marked the end of Athens. 

Expedition in Asia

After the fall of Athens, Sparta became the undisputed leader of  Greece for 34 years. Her first move was to punish the Eleans, who along with Argos and Mantinea had taken the arms against them, during the war with Athens and also for the insults they had received when they excluded them from the games of Olympia. They demanded from Eleans to pay for the expenses of the war and resign their authority over the dependent townships in Trifylia. Eleans of course did not accept these demands and in 402 BC king Agis entered in their territory but unfavorable omens and an earthquake forced the Spartans to return home. 
In the following year they invaded Elean again. After ravaging and plundering the territory, they forced them to a humiliating peace.
At 400 BC, king Agis died and he was succeeded by Agesilaos, who led an army into Asia.
It was the first time, that a Greek army had entered Asia, from the times of Agamemnon.
In 396 BC, he arrived and took command of the city of Ephesos. When the satrap Tissaphernes ordered him to quit Asia, Agesilaos fooled him and instead of attacking Caria, as was expected, he moved towards Phrygia, the satrapy of Arnavazos and reached Daskylium, where he was repulsed by the Persian cavalry. He then returned to Ephesos, where he prepared a cavalry.
Shortly later he again fooled Tissaphernes, making known that he would march  toward Sardis. Tissaphernes who thought that this was another trick, dispersed his cavalry elsewhere and Agesilaos unopposed, he arrived at the river Pactolos, where a battle took place and the Persians were defeated.
In the meantime, Tissaphernes was assassinated and Tithrastes took his place, who persuaded Agesilaos to quit his satrapy for the sum of thirty talents. Agesilaos then moved to the satrapy of Artavazos now, whose magnanimity he appreciated and left his territory also and entered the plains of Thebes, close to the gulf of Eleus.
In 394 BC, during his preparations for a big expedition in the interior of Asia Minor, he was recalled home, because Sparta felt threatened.
Agesilaos during his expedition in Asia had been appointed Navarchos (admiral). He was the first man in Sparta to acquire so much power. He immediately started to prepare a new fleet of 120 triremes and put to the command his brother in law Pisander. In the beginning of August of the same year, half of Sparta's fleet was captured or destroyed by the Athenian fleet under Konon, in the peninsula of Knidos in Caria. Pisander  who fought gallantry perished in the battle.
About the same time with the naval battle at Knidos there was another battle of Sparta against the joining forces of Thebes, Athens, Corinth and Argos fought in the territory of Corinth which Sparta won (battle of Corinth 394 BC).

Battle of Koronea

In August of 394 BC, king Agesilaos returned from the expedition in Asia and brought his army in the valley Koronea of Boeotia. From the other side Thebans, Athenians and their allies were ready for battle.
The two armies came silently close to each other. When they reached a distance of two hundred meters, the Thebans raised their usual paeans and started to run towards the Spartan army, who moved only when the Thebans came about one hundred meters close. Thebans quickly overpowered the opposite of them soldiers of Orchomenos, in the left wing, but Agesilaos, who had also success on the other side cut the Thebans from the rest of the army. Now Thebans were forced to attack the Spartans, in order to join with their allies. It was such the force of the impact of the two armies, that the spears broke. Pushing with shields each other, they only could use their daggers. Both armies fought desperately but Thebans made their way through braking the Spartan lines. King Agesilaos, though many times wounded was at the front ranks and fought with valor. The outcome of the battle though indecisive ended with victory of Sparta.
A few years later, the disgraceful peace of Antalkidas (387 BC) took place, in which Sparta was permitting the Persians to interfere in the affairs of Hellas. In the remark of someone, who said that Spartans were Medizing, Agesilaos replied "say rather that the Medes are Laconizing".

Occupation of Thebes

The city of Thebes, which had not taken any serious part in the Peloponnesian war, was prospering but as was usual with all the Greek cities, was torn inside from the fights of oligarchs and democrats.
That was the case, when Leontiades a prominent oligarch, asked for help from the near Thebes encamped Spartan army, under general Phoebidas (382 BC). Leontiades, in order to expel the democrats from Thebes, proposed to the general to take over Kadmeia, something which was accepted eagerly.
All these were happening during the celebration of Thesmophoria, when women alone were performing ceremonies to honor the founder of the city, Kadmos, and they were no males on the citadel. Phoebidas and his army entered Kadmeia, without any difficulties.
Ismenias, the leader of the democratic party was tried and executed. The oligarchs, with the help of the Spartan garrison, started confiscating and executing the democrats. Many of them found refuge at Athens. From there they started thinking how to free their city.
At first, they tried to get help especially from Athens, but soon they despaired and started designing various plots to liberate Thebes by themselves. Among the exiles they were many belonging to wealthy and noble families, such as Pelopidas, Damokleidas, Melon and others. They were in constant communication with other members which were still in Thebes, the most prominent of them being Phyllidas the secretary of the polemarch Archias and Charon.  
Upon arrival of Phyllidas in Athens for official business it was arranged to provide the opportunity for the exiles to struck. Charon would provide shelter in his home. Phyllidas arranged a banquet for Archias and Philippus and promised them beautiful women for company.
In December of 379 BC, Pelopidas, Melon and five companions left Athens and disguised as rustics and hunters, entered the city of Thebes at night fall and hid in Charon's house. Together with other conspirators from Thebes, they totaled 48 persons. A spy of Archias, reported to him that they were rumors that some of the exiles were in town. Archias called Charon to give some answers. Charon though worried, went quickly to him and from his questions understood that he had no facts but only suspicions. He promised to look upon the matter and left.
Soon after a messenger from Athens came with a letter in which the full conspiracy was revealed.  Archias, who by now was drunk, threw it aside, saying the famous words "Urgent business for tomorrow". Immediately after, the conspirators disguised as women entered the room and killed Archias and Philippus and everyone else who was there.
Phyllidas then sent Pelopidas, Kephisodorus and Damokleidas to Leontiades house. There was a hard fight in which Leontiades, a strong man, mortally wounded in the throat Kephisodorus. Pelopidas, after a long struggle in the narrow hall of his house, killed Leontiades. With the death of the two tyrants, the exiles from Athens returned.
Epameinondas with some of the young men broke open  the armorer's shops and called the citizens to fight for their freedom. After all these, the Spartan garrison of 1500 men, left Thebes for Sparta (378 BC). 
In 375 BC, near Tegyra, Pelopidas with the Theban Sacred Band defeated the Spartan army, though his troops were half in number. Being informed that the Spartan garrison in Orchomenos were visiting Lokris, he marched with the Sacred Band in order to give battle. He met them at Tegyra and thanks to his encouragement in a narrow pass he defeated them, killing both of the Lacedaemonian commanders. The rest of the Spartan army dispersed and fled. This was a heroic achievement by Pelopidas, taking in consideration the smaller number of his troops and the Spartan valor. It was this battle that gave confidence to Thebans to meet Spartans four years later in Leuctra.
In 372 BC, Antalkidas dispatched again in Persia asking them to intervene, when Thebes violated the peace by re-establishing the Boeotian confederation. Athens too was dissatisfied with Thebes, who recently had destroyed the city of Plataea. Negotiations for peace between Athens and Sparta started and in the congress which took place in 371 BC, in the city of Sparta, Thebes was invited too.
The Thebans, who wanted to take the oath for the treaty as head of the confederacy, refused to take it for their city alone and only the threat of war persuade them to consent. After that incident Sparta's first priority was to weaken Thebes, by breaking the Theban confederacy.
In the dissatisfied from the confederacy cities of Orchomenos and Thespiae, they installed a garrison.
To the city of Mantinea, who had helped Argos in the war with Sparta, they sent a messenger demanding to raze their walls. In their hesitation, Agesipolis did not wait and bringing an army he took Mantinea. Spartans demolished their fortification and reduced the city in the five villages, as it was in the past.

The battle of Leuctra
371 BC

In 371 BC, on the plain of Leuctra, Spartans were defeated again from the Theban Sacred Band, this time under the leadership of General Epameinondas, though the Theban forces were outnumbered by the Lacedaemonians, Epameinondas with a series of ingenious tactics and with the help of his supreme trained men of the Sacred Band defeated the invincible Spartan army. He arrayed the best men of his troops, fifty shields deep, opposite to the opponent right wing occupied by the Spartans, which were twelve shields deep, leaving his center and left wing weak and ordering them to stay momentarily out of action. The battle started with the engagement of Spartan and Theban cavalries, which ended quickly with the defeat of Spartans. Pelopidas leading the Sacred Band fell upon the Spartans with irresistible force but the Spartans fought bravely and at first were victorious. It was only when leading Spartans fell that the Spartan lines pushed and broke carrying away the rest of the army and driving them to the camp. King Kleombrotos of Sparta and many of his officers were killed. The rest of the army hardly had any serious fighting. From the 700 Spartans who took part in the battle, only 300 survived. The whole Hellas was in sock from the event, understanding that a new power had risen. At Argos, there was a revolution and the people put to death many of the upper class pro-spartan.
After the battle they sent heralds to Athens proclaiming their victory over the Spartans, but Athenians were not satisfied with the turn of events. Now they had a new superpower a few miles from Athens. They also sent a herald to Jason of Pherae in Thessaly. Jason upon hearing the news said he would come quickly in Thebes with triremes, but instead with great speed and passing through enemy territory he arrived in Boeotia. There the Theban leaders proposed him to attack the encamped Spartans and her allies. Jason and Epameinondas refused and managed to persuade them to let them go and thus saving Spartans from a bigger catastrophe. Spartans indeed soon left and at Aigosthena they met with Archidamos who was marching to help them. From there they returned home.
With the battle of Leuctra, the Hegemony of Greece passed from Sparta to Thebes, but for the short time of ten years. It did no good and as that of Sparta it hurt Greece greatly. Thebes had no experienced and knowledgeable men, nor her economy could withstand this. It failed as Sparta did, to unite the Greek cities and stop the blood bath of Greece. There was turmoil all over Peloponnese. The inhabitants of Mantinea in Arcadia, which had been broken in several villages, took back their capital and build new walls. In Tegea of Arcadia, the people formed an Arcadian federation. In two years time a powerful confederation was born that was including except the old alliances, Phokis, Locris, Aitolia and Euboea. After the battle of Leuctra, Thebes made again peace with Athens and wanted to destroy Orchomenos for being in alliance with the Spartans. The city was saved thanks to the great efforts of Epameinondas, but not for long. A few years later when Epameinondas was at an expedition in Byzantium, the city was razed, its male citizens were killed and the rest were sold in slavery. That, it was another big blunder by the Thebans.

Thebes invades Laconia

In Arcadia, an ally of Thebes, king Agesilaos of Sparta was ravaging its territories. In reply to this, Thebes sent an army under Epameinondas. When Agesilaos heard the news, he evacuated Arcadia and returned to Sparta, to protect her.
Upon Epameinondas arrival in Arcadia, he joined forces with members of the confederation from Arcadia, Argos and Elis. The total number of the army force was amounted to about fifty thousand men. The confederation pressed strongly Epameinondas, to invade Laconia, explaining to him that there was a general discontent and by this time many Perioikoi had revolted.
He was finally persuaded and in the autumn of 370 BC, invaded Laconia from four different routes, marching towards Sparta.
Only the Arcadians encountered serious resistance, by the Spartan Ischolaos at Ium, in the district Skiritis. Ischolaos and his divisions fell to the last man. 
Finally, they all met at Sellasia, which they destroyed and burned and from there, they marched towards Sparta, which was saved from king Agesilaos, who had taken a series of defenses to protect the unwalled city.
Epameinondas who understood the danger of an attack towards the city in human loss, abandoned any further attempts to conquer the city. From there, burning and plundering villages, he marched towards the port and arsenal of Sparta, Gythium, which he attempted to conquer for three days, without success.
Epameinondas then returned to Arcadia and under his supervision a new city was built at the banks of the river Helisson, as the capital of the Arcadian confederation and it was named Megalopolis (the big city). In Megalopolis, a synod of deputies from all the towns of the confederation, was to meet periodically, to manage their affairs.
After this Epameinondas entered Messenia, in order to liberate her from the Spartans. In the mean time defection among the Perioikoi and Helots had already started. Epameinondas re founded Messene and in the hills of mount Ithome built excellent fortifications stretched for four miles, which are still preserved today. All of these had a devastating effect in the economy of Sparta, which lost half of its territory for ever and had no more the people to provide for its military.
In the meantime, Sparta had asked help from Athens. Iphicrates with an Athenian army of twenty thousand men, marched to Arcadia. Epameinondas hearing the news evacuated Laconia quickly and headed to Arcadia. The two armies, though close, did not engage in full battle. Iphicrates, who decided that his mission had been accomplished, returned to Athens.
Epameinondas too, returned to Thebes and he was put to a trial, because he extended the time of his expedition and also for being pacific and inactive. He defended himself successfully, increasing even more his popularity.  
The accomplishments of his expedition were great. He weakened and humiliated Sparta and at the same time he increased the reputation of his army.
Because it was essential to communicate with her allies, in the spring of 369 BC, Epameinondas again tried to invade Peloponnese, but this time Athenians, Spartans and their allies were occupying the line of mount Onean and Kenchreae, in order to prevent him to enter Peloponnese. Epameinondas arrived and tried without success to make them fight in battle, even though his army was smaller. He encamped and a few hours before day break surprised them, by attacking and defeating the Spartan and Pellenian line. He was thus enabled to enter Peloponnese and join with his allies Arcadians, Elians and Argians. Sikyon deserted Sparta, after a vote taken by its people and admitted an harmost and a Theban garrison into its Acropolis. The same did Pellene. After the army ravaged the territories of Epidauros and Phleious, he tried by surprise to take the town of Corinth, but they defeated by the Athenian general Gavrias, who resisted with great skill. After this unsuccessful attempt, the Theban army returned home.
During the year of 368 BC, Epameinondas did not undertake any expedition into Peloponnese, instead Pelopidas with an army Theban force entered Thessaly, to protect Larissa from king Alexander of Macedonia. Pelopidas forced him to solicit peace, taking among the fifty hostages the future king of Macedonia, the son of Amyntas, Philip, who stayed for some years at the city of Thebes.
In 366 BC, Thebes enlarged the confederation by including cities of the Corinthian gulf and Achaia, but lost them again, when demanded that their oligarchic government ought to be deposed. That was a great mistake, showing the luck of experienced men.
In 364 BC, after insistence of Epameinondas, a large number of war ships were constructed and sailing them towards Hellispond. Epameinondas succeeded to win over Byzantium. Financial difficulties as well as luck of experience in maritime, put an end in the ambitions of Thebes.

The battle of Mantinea
362 BC

In 363 BC, in a surprising move Arcadians seized Olympia and stole their treasury. War broke with Elis but with the intervention of Thebes, Olympia was returned and peace followed. During the negotiations the Theban representative tried to arrest certain anti-Thebans. That had as result Mantinea and the rest of northern Arcadians, except Tegea, to turn over to Sparta. Athens which was monitoring the situation joined together with Elis. Thebes had no option but to send quickly Epameinondas with a big army against Mantinea. At Tegea about ten miles distance from Mantinea, he joined army with them but in unexpected move instead of Mantinea he marched towards Sparta. Unlike the first time this move would have taken by surprise Agesilaos who by this time was marching in a circular root to support Mantinea. But a Kretan spy in the Theban camp, trained in long distance running, informed Agesilaos who turned back. When Epameinondas reached Sparta and found out what had happened he moved quickly towards Mantinea before her allies arrival. It was probably really this his object and not of course to attack Sparta ,but not everything went according to his plan. By this time the Athenian army had just arrived. Now Epameinondas had no option but to engage himself in a pitched battle. 
The two armies met before Mantinea in 362 BC. The Theban army, comprising from Thebans and Boeotians moved forward. The rest of the army was left behind in echelon formation with the exception of troops that kept a high ground in order to prevent out flagging from the right. As the army moved, Epameinondas turned quickly leftwards and near the slopes of the mountain and then he gave order to the soldiers to leave the arms down and rest. The Spartans and Mantineans thinking that Epameinondas had no intention to fight a battle, they broke lines.
Epameinondas, who was awaiting for this, ordered a quick attack. The massive Theban body fell upon Spartans and Mantineans with irresistible force breaking their lines and bringing confusion and chaos to the rest of the army.
The battle had been almost won when Epameinondas fell pierced by a spear in the breast. They lied him on a hill, waiting for the final outcome of the battle. Though the battle was won by Thebans, on Epameinondas order they made peace, when he learned that all his favorite generals had been perished in the battle.

The end of Sparta

After the battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) Phillip of Macedon marched through the Peloponnese, welcomed by all the cities but when he reached Sparta they refused him to enter. Phillip did not try to take by force the city and left.  Sparta was the only Greek city that did not take part in the League of Corinth, which was formed in 337 BC, under Macedonian control.
In 331 BC, king Agis, the grandson of Agesilaos, raised a revolt against Macedonia, but he was defeated and killed.
In the end of the 4th century BC, Sparta build a wall for the first time in her history, which was enclosing its four central villages and Acropolis.
When in 280 BC, the Celts invaded from the north overrunning Macedon, king Areus of Sparta, who had tried to unite the cities of Peloponnese, led an army into central Greece. During his reign the first coins of Sparta was issued, three hundred years later from the rest of Greece.
In 272 BC, king Pyrros of Epeiros could easily have taken the city after defeating the Spartans. Sparta became a dependency of Macedon, regained independence under the tyrants Machanidas (207 BC) and Nabis (195 - 192 BC).
In 265 BC again, having formed an alliance with Athens, Achaea and Elis and some Arcadian cities, gave battle against Macedon but lost it and in his retreat was killed (Chremonidean war).
The son of Areus, Akrotatos, in 260 BC leading the Spartan army against Megalopolitans, he was defeated and himself killed.
In 244 BC, Agis IV came to the throne and starting a series of changes. He proposed all debts to be cancelled, and to redistribute all land, in parts of 4500 citizens and 15000 Perioikoi. He also insisted on strict Lykurgian training in the citizens for the remained 700 equals (omioi) and 2000 hypomeiones and selected perioikoi. He found in his proposals strong resistance and Agis was put in trial and executed in 241 BC.
The next king of Sparta Kleomenes III, began to reign in 236 BC. He married the widow of king Agis and also tried to impose his ideas. In 227 BC, in a revolt he killed four ephors and exiled eighty of his opponents. That it was the first time the ephorate was abolished in Sparta. He then redistributed the land into 4000 lots and perioikoi as well as hypomeiones occupied them. He also started to enforce the Lykurgos training and habits, under the guidance of his friend philosopher Sphairos. All these changes brought results and Kleomenes had many military successes. Argos and most of Argolid and eastern Arcadia was conquered.
The Achaean league under Aratos of Sikyon, with the promise of giving him back Corinth, allied with king Antigonos of Macedon and recovered Argos and several Arcadian cities. In his turn Kleomenes captured and destroyed Megalopolis (223 BC).
In 222 BC, at Sellacia, between Sparta and Tegea, a battle took place. The Spartan army was numbering 10,000 and that of Antigonos and his allies 30,000. At this long and horrid battle, Spartans fought bravely. The whole Spartan army fell, except 200 men. King Kleomenes fled to Egypt.
The following years, a series of revolts started at Sparta, king's ephors were killed or exiled.
In 206 BC, the tyrant  Nabis, a descendant of Demaratos, who had fled in Persia in 490 BC, took the throne. An able but ruthless man, he confiscated the properties of the wealthy and gave them to the poor. By setting free slaves, he managed to acquire an army of 10,000 men and he also extended his social reforms to Argos. It was  Nabis who foreseeing the incoming dangers fortified  Sparta for the first time in her history.
When the Roman commander Flamininus invaded Laconia and laid siege to Sparta, after a few days of fighting a non honorable truce was accepted by Sparta, in which was losing all the Perioikic cities on the coasts and her fleet.
Later with the pretence of helping Sparta, the Aitolians sent a thousand soldiers to kill   Nabis and secure Sparta. They managed to kill him but they all were massacred from the Spartans. After Nabis assassination, Sparta was forced by Philopoemen to become a member of the Achaean league. Her walls were razed and the laws of Lykurgos repealed.
Under the Romans in the 2nd century AD, Laconia as a province of Achaea was allowed to revert to a Lykurgian regime.
In 396 AD, the city was destroyed by Alaric.
In the 9th century AD, the Slavs invaded and the population was forced to migrate to Mani.
The Byzantines refound a town and named her Lacedaemonia but her importance had been lost by 1248 AD and disappeared from history totally, by 1834 AD.
Today the city of modern Sparta occupies the very same territory of the ancient city.


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