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Jewish History From The Babylonian Captivity To The Birth Of Christ

The Antediluvian World

The Hebrew Race From Abraham To The Sale Of Joseph

The Civil Wars Between Caesar And Pompey

Grecian Civilization Before The Persian Wars

Rome In Its Infancy Under Kings

The Conquest Of Canaan To The Establishment Of The Kingdom Of David





The Lacedaemonian Empire








I have already shown that Sparta, after a battle with the Argives,
B.C. 547, obtained the ascendency in the southern part of the
Peloponnesus, and became the leading military State of Greece. This
prestige and power were not lost. The severe simplicity of Spartan life,
the rigor of political and social institutions, the aristocratic form of
government, and above all the military spirit and ambition, gave
permanence to all conquests, so that in the Persian wars Sparta took the
load of the land forces. The great rival power of Sparta was Athens, but
this was founded on maritime skill and enterprise. It was to the navy of
Athens, next after the hoplites of Sparta, that the successful resistance
to the empire of Persia may be attributed.

After the Persian wars the rivalship between Athens and Sparta is
the most prominent feature in Grecian history. The confederacy of Delos
gave to Athens supremacy over the sea, and the great commercial prosperity
of Athens under Pericles, and the empire gained over the Ionian colonies
and the islands of the AEgaean, made Athens, perhaps, the leading State. It
was the richest, the most cultivated, and the most influential of the
Grecian States, and threatened to absorb gradually all the other States of
Greece in her empire.

This ascendency and rapid growth in wealth and power were beheld
with jealous eyes, not only by Sparta, but other States which she
controlled, or with which she was in alliance. The consequence was, the
Peloponnesian war, which lasted half a generation, and which, after
various vicissitudes and fortunes, terminated auspiciously for Sparta, but
disastrously to Greece as a united nation. The Persian wars bound all the
States together by a powerful Hellenic sentiment of patriotism. The
Peloponnesian war dissevered this Panhellenic tie. The disaster at
Syracuse was fatal to Athenian supremacy, and even independence. But for
this Athens might have remained the great power of Greece. The democratic
organization of the government gave great vigor and enterprise to all the
ambitious projects of Athens. If Alcibiades had lent his vast talents to
the building up of his native State, even then the fortunes of Athens
might have been different. But he was a traitor, and threw all his
energies on the side of Sparta, until it was too late for Athens to
recover the prestige she had won. He partially redeemed his honor, but had
he been animated by the spirit of Pericles or Nicias, to say nothing of
the self-devotion of Miltiades, he might have raised the power of Athens
to a height which nothing could have resisted.

Lysander completed the war which Brasidas had so nobly carried on,
and took possession of Athens, abolished the democratic constitution,
demolished the walls, and set up, as his creatures, a set of tyrants, and
also a Spartan governor in Athens. Under Lysander, the Lacedaemonian rule
was paramount in Greece. At one time, he had more power than any man in
Greece ever enjoyed. He undertook to change the government of the allied
cities, and there was scarcely a city in Greece where the Spartans had not
the ascendency. In most of the Ionian cities, and in all the cities which
had taken the side of Athens, there was a Spartan governor, so that when
Xenophon returned with his Ten Thousand to Asia Minor, he found he could
do nothing without the consent of the Spartan governors. Moreover, the
rule of Sparta was hostile to all democratic governments. She sought to
establish oligarchal institutions everywhere. Perhaps this difference
between Athens and Sparta respecting government was one great cause of tho
Peloponnesian war.

But the same envy which had once existed among the Grecian States
of the prosperity of Athens, was now turned upon Sparta. Her rule was
arrogant and hard and she in turn had to experience the humiliation of
revolt from her domination. "The allies of Sparta," says Grote,
"especially Corinth and Thebes, not only relented in their hatred of
Athens, now she had lost her power, but even sympathized with her
suffering exiles, and became disgusted with the self-willed encroachments
of Sparta; while the Spartan king, Pausanias, together with some of the
ephors, were also jealous of the arbitrary and oppressive conduct of
Lysander. He refused to prevent the revival of the democracy. It was in
this manner that Athens, rescued from that sanguinary and rapacious
regime of the Thirty Tyrants, was enabled to reappear as a humble and
dependent member of the Spartan alliance--with nothing but the recollection
of her former power, yet with her democracy again in vigorous action for
internal government."

The victory of AEgospotami, which annihilated the Athenian navy,
ushered in the supremacy of Sparta, both on the land and sea, and all
Greece made submission to the ascendant power. Lysander established in
most of the cities an oligarchy of ten citizens, as well as a Spartan
harmost, or governor. Everywhere the Lysandrian dekarchy superseded the
previous governments, and ruled oppressively, like the Thirty at Athens,
with Critias at their head. And no justice could be obtained at Sparta
against the bad conduct of the harmosts who now domineered in every city.
Sparta had embroiled Greece in war to put down the ascendency of Athens,
but exercised a more tyrannical usurpation than Athens ever meditated. The
language of Brasidas, who promised every thing, was in striking contrast
to the conduct of Lysander, who put his foot on the neck of Greece.

The rule of the Thirty at Athens came to an end by the noble
efforts of Thrasybulus and the Athenian democracy, and the old
constitution was restored because the Spartan king was disgusted with the
usurpations and arrogance of Lysander, and forbore to interfere. Had
Sparta been wise, with this vast accession of power gained by the
victories of Lysander, she would have ruled moderately, and reorganized
the Grecian world on sound principles, and restored a Panhellenic
stability and harmony. She might not have restored, as Brasidas had
promised, a universal autonomy, or the complete independence of all the
cities, but would have bound together all the States under her presidency,
by a just and moderate rule. But Sparta had not this wisdom. She was
narrow, hard, and extortionate. She loved her own, as selfish people
generally do, but nothing outside her territory with any true magnanimity.
And she thus provoked her allies into rebellion, so that her chance was
lost, and her dominion short-lived. Athens would have been more
enlightened, but she never had the power, as Sparta had, of organizing a
general Panhellenic combination. The nearest approach which Athens ever
made was the confederacy of Delos, which did not work well, from the
jealousy of the cities. But Sparta soon made herself more unpopular than
Athens ever was, and her dream of empire was short.

The first great movement of Sparta, after the establishment of
oligarchy in all the cities which yielded to her, was a renewal of the war
with Persia. The Asiatic Greek cities had been surrendered to Persia
according to treaty, as the price for the assistance which Persia rendered
to Sparta in the war with Athens. But the Persian rule, under the satraps,
especially of Tissaphernes, who had been rewarded by Artaxerxes with more
power than before, became oppressive and intolerable. Nothing but
aggravated slavery impended over them. They therefore sent to Sparta for
aid to throw off the Persian yoke. The ephors, with nothing more to gain
from Persia, and inspired with contempt for the Persian armies--contempt
created by the expedition of the Ten Thousand--readily listened to the
overtures, and sent a considerable force into Asia, under Thimbron. He had
poor success, and was recalled, and Dereyllidas was sent in his stead. He
made a truce with Tissaphernes, in order to attack Pharnabazus, against
whom he had an old grudge, and with whom Tissaphernes himself happened for
the time to be on ill terms. Dereyllidas overrun the satrapy of
Pharnabazus, took immense spoil, and took up winter-quarters in Bythinia.
Making a truce with Pharnabazus, he crossed over into Europe and fortified
the Chersonesus against the Thracians. He then renewed the war both
against Pharnabazus and Tissaphernes upon the Maeander, the result of which
was an agreement, on the part of the satraps, to exempt the Grecian cities
from tribute and political interference, while the Spartan general
promised to withdraw from Asia his army, and the Spartan governors from
the Grecian cities.

At this point, B.C. 397, Dercyllidas was recalled to Sparta, and
King Agesilaus, who had recently arrived with large re-enforcements,
superseded him in command of the Lacedaemonian army. Agesilaus was the son
of king Archidamus, and half-brother to King Agis. He was about forty when
he became king, through the influence of Lysamler, in preference to his
nephew, and having been brought up without prospects of the throne, had
passed through the unmitigated rigor of the Spartan drill and training. He
was distinguished for all the Spartan virtues--obedience to authority,
extraordinary courage and energy, simplicity and frugality.

Agesilaus was assisted by large contingents from the allied Greek
cities for his war in Asia; but Athens, Corinth, and Thebes stood aloof.
Lysander accompanied him as one of the generals, but gave so great offense
by his overweening arrogance, that he was sent to command at the
Hellespont. The truce between the Spartans and Persians being broken,
Agesilaus prosecuted the war vigorously against both Tissaphernes and
Pharnabazus. He gained a considerable victory over the Persians near
Sardis, invaded Phrygia, and laid waste the satrapy of Pharnabazus. He
even surprised the camp of the satrap, and gained immense booty. But in
the midst of his victories he was recalled by Sparta, which had need of
his services at home. A rebellion of the allies had broken out, which
seriously threatened the stability of the Spartan empire.

"The prostration of the power of Athens had removed that common
bond of hatred and alarm which attached the allied cities to the headship
of Sparta; while her subsequent conduct had given positive offense, and
had excited against herself the same fear of unmeasured imperial ambition
which had before run so powerfully against Athens. She had appropriated to
herself nearly the whole of the Athenian maritime empire, with a tribute
of one thousand talents. But while Sparta had gained so much by the war,
not one of her allies had received the smallest remuneration. Even the
four hundred and seventy talents which Lysander brought home out of the
advances made by Cyrus, together with the booty acquired at Decelea, was
all detained by the Lacedaemonians. Hence there arose among the allies not
only a fear of the grasping dominion, but a hatred of the monopolizing
rapacity of Sparta. This was manifested by the Thebans and Corinthians
when they refused to join Pausanias in his march against Thrasybulus and
the Athenian exiles in Piraeus. But the Lacedaemonians were strong enough to
despise this alienation of the allies, and even to take revenge on such as
incurred their displeasure. Among these were the Elians, whose territory
they invaded, but which they retreated from, on the appearance of an
earthquake."

The following year the Spartans, under King Agis, again invaded the
territory of Elis, enriched by the offerings made to the temple of
Olympeia. Immense booty in slaves, cattle, and provisions was the result
of this invasion, provoked by the refusal of the Elians to furnish aid in
the war against Athens. The Elians were obliged to submit to hard terms of
peace, and all the enemies of Sparta were rooted out of the Peloponnesus.

Such was the triumphant position of Sparta at the close of the
Peloponnesian war. And a great change had also taken place in her internal
affairs. The people had become enriched by successful war, and gold and
silver were admitted against the old institution of Lycurgus, which
recognized only iron money. The public men were enriched by bribes. The
strictness of the old rule of Spartan discipline was gradually relaxed.

It was then, shortly after the accession of Agesilaus to the
throne, on the death of Agis, that a dangerous conspiracy broke out in
Sparta itself, headed by Cinadon, a man of strength and courage, who saw
that men of his class were excluded from the honors and distinctions of
the State by the oligarchy--the ephors and the senate. But the rebellion,
though put down by the energy of Agesilaus, still produced a dangerous
discontent which weakened the power of the State.

The Lacedaemonian naval power, at this crisis, was seriously
threatened by the union of the Persian and Athenian fleet under Conon.
That remarkable man had escaped from the disaster of AEgospotami with eight
triremes, and sought the shelter of Cyprus, governed by his friend
Evagoras, where he remained until the war between Sparta and the Persians
gave a new direction to his enterprising genius. He joined Pharnabazus,
enraged with the Spartans on account of the invasion of his satrapy by
Lysander and Agesilaus, and by him was intrusted with the command of the
Persian fleet. He succeeded in detaching Rhodes from the Spartan alliance,
and gained, some time after, a decisive victory over Pisander--the Spartan
admiral, off Cnidus, which weakened the power of Sparta on the sea, B.C.
394. More than half of the Spartan ships were captured and destroyed.

This great success emboldened Thebes and other States to throw off
the Spartan yoke. Lysander was detached from his command at the Hellespont
to act against Boeotia, while Pausanias conducted an army from the
Peloponnesus. The Thebans, threatened by the whole power of Sparta,
applied to Athens, and Athens responded, no longer under the control of
the Thirty Tyrants. Lysander was killed before Haliartus, an irreparable
blow to Sparta, since he was her ablest general. Pausanias was compelled
to evacuate Boeotia, and the enemies of Sparta took courage. An alliance
between Athens, Corinth, Thebes, and Argos was now made to carry on war
against Sparta.

Thebes at this time steps from the rank of a secondary power, and
gradually rises to the rank of an ascendant city. Her leading citizen was
Ismenias, one of the great organizers of the anti-Spartan movement--the
precursor of Pelopidas and Epaminondas. He conducted successful operations
in the northern part of Boeotia, and captured Heracleia.

Such successes induced the Lacedaemonians to recall Agesilaus from
Asia, and to concentrate all their forces against this new alliance, of
which Thebes and Corinth were then the most powerful cities. The allied
forces were also considerable--some twenty-four thousand hoplites, besides
light troops and cavalry, and these were mustered at Corinth, where they
took up a defensive position. The Lacedaemonians advanced to attack them,
and gained an indecisive victory, B.C. 394, which secured their ascendency
within the Peloponnesus, but no further. Agesilaus advanced from Asia
through Thrace to co-operate, but learned, on the confines of Boeotia, the
news of the great battle of Cnidus. At Coronaea another battle was fought
between the Spartan and anti-Spartan forces, which was also indecisive,
but in which the Thebans displayed great heroism. This battle compelled
Agesilaus, with the Spartan forces, which he commanded, to retire from
Boeotia.

This battle was a moral defeat to Sparta. Nearly all her maritime
allies deserted her--all but Abydos, which was held by the celebrated
Dercyllidas. Pharnabazus and Conon now sailed with their fleet to Corinth,
but the Persian satrap soon left and Conon remained sole admiral, assisted
with Persian money. With this aid he rebuilt the long walls of Athens,
with the hearty co-operation of those allies which had once been opposed
to Athens.

Conon had large plans for the restoration of the Athenian power. He
organized a large mercenary force at Corinth, which had now become the
seat of war. But as many evils resulted from the presence of so many
soldiers in the city, a conspiracy headed by the oligarchal party took
place, with a view of restoring the Lacedaemonian power. Pasimelus, the
head of the conspirators, admitted the enemy within the long walls of the
city, which, as in Athens, secured a communication between the city and
the port. And between these walls a battle took place, in which the
Lacedaemonians were victorious with a severe loss. They pulled down a
portion of the walls between Corinth and the port of Lechaeum, sallied
forth, and captured two Corinthian dependencies, but the city of Corinth
remained in the hands of their gallant defenders, under the Athenian
Iphicrates. The long walls were soon restored, by aid of the Athenians,
but were again retaken by Agesilaus and the Spartans, together with
Lechaeum. This success alarmed Thebes, which unsuccessfully sued for peace.
The war continued, with the loss, to the Corinthians, of Piraeum, an
important island port, which induced the Thebans again to open
negotiations for peace, which were contemptuously rejected.

In the midst of these successes, tidings came to Agesilaus of a
disaster which was attended with important consequences, and which spoiled
his triumph. This was the destruction of a detachment of six hundred
Lacedaemonian hoplites by the light troops of Iphicrates--an unprecedented
victory--for the hoplites, in their heavy defensive armor, held in contempt
the peltarts with their darts and arrows, even as the knights of mediaeval
Europe despised an encounter with the peasantry. This event revived the
courage of the anti-Spartan allies, and intensely humiliated the
Lacedaemonians. It was not only the loss of the aristocratic hoplites, but
the disgrace of being beaten by peltarts. Iphicrates recovered the places
which Agesilaus had taken, and Corinth remained undisturbed.

Sparta, in view of these great disasters, now sought to detach
Persia from Athens. She sent Antalcidas to Ionia, offering to surrender
the Asiatic Greeks, and promising a universal autonomy throughout the
Grecian world. These overtures were disliked by the allies, who sent Conon
to counteract them. But Antalcidas gained the favor of the Persian satrap
Tiribasus, who had succeeded Tissaphernes, and he privately espoused the
cause of Sparta, and seized Conon and caused his death. Tiribasus,
however, was not sustained by the Persian court, which remained hostile to
Sparta. Struthas, a Persian general, was sent into Ionia, to act more
vigorously against the Lacedaemonians. He gained a victory, B.C. 390, over
the Spartan forces, commanded by Thimbron, who was slain.

The Lacedaemonians succeeded, after the death of Conon, in
concentrating a considerable fleet near Rhodes. Against this, Thrasybulus
was sent from Athens with a still larger one, and was gaining advantages,
when he was slain near Aspendus, in Pamphylia, in a mutiny, and Athens
lost the restorer of her renovated democracy, and an able general and
honest citizen, without the vindictive animosities which characterized the
great men of his day.

Rhodes still held out against the Lacedaemonians, who were now
commanded by Anaxibius, in the place of Dercyllidas. He was surprised by
Iphicrates, and was slain, and the Athenians, under this gallant leader,
again became masters of the Hellespont. But this success was balanced by
the defection of AEgina, which island was constrained by the Lacedaemonians
into war with Athens. I need not detail the various enterprises on both
sides, until Antalcidas returned from Susa with the treaty confirmed
between the Spartans and the court of Persia, which closed the war between
the various contending parties, B.C. 387. This treaty was of great
importance, but it indicates the loss of all Hellenic dignity when Sparta,
too, descends so far as to comply with the demands of a Persian satrap.
Athens and Sparta, both, at different times, invoked the aid of Persia
against each other--the most mournful fact in the whole history of Greece,
showing how much more powerful were the rivalries of States than the
sentiment of patriotism, which should have united them against their
common enemy. The sacrifice of Ionia was the price which was paid by
Sparta, in order to retain her supremacy over the rest of Greece, and
Persia ruled over all the Greeks on the Asiatic coast. Sparta became
mistress of Corinth and of the Corinthian Isthmus. She organized
anti-Theban oligarchies in the Boeotian cities, with a Spartan harmost. She
decomposed the Grecian world into small fragments. She crushed Olythus,
and formed a confederacy between the Persian king and the Dionysius of
Syracuse. In short, she ruled with despotic sway over all the different
States.

We have now to show how Sparta lost the ascendency she had gained, and
became involved in a war with Thebes, and how Thebes became, under
Pelopidas and Epaminondas, for a time the dominant State of Greece.





Next: The Republic Of Thebes

Previous: March Of Cyrus And Retreat Of The Ten Thousand Greeks



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