The Story of the Greeks
Page: 123It happened, however, that two of these friends were false. They basely took the bribes offered by the ephors for information about the king, and told them that he left the temple every night, and for what purpose.[Pg 275]
Thus advised, the ephors surprised the little party the next night, and thrust Agis into prison. He was tried and condemned to death by order of Leonidas, and thus died when only twenty-two years of age, after having vainly tried for three years to bring the Spartans back to their former simplicity and virtue.
Leonidas, not content with killing Agis, gave the widow Agiatis in marriage to his son, Cle-om´e-nes, who was a mere boy, several years younger than she. Agiatis soon won great influence over the young prince, and told him so much about her dead husband, that he tried to follow the example of Agis in everything.
When Leonidas died, Cleomenes succeeded him, and, thanks to the teachings of his wife, was both great and virtuous. He drove away the ephors, who were rich and corrupt, and then distributed all the property equally among the people, as Agis had planned.
When Aratus heard of the reforms made by Cleomenes, he began to fear that Sparta would win back her former power, and again try to lord it over the rest of Greece. To prevent such a misfortune, he decided to attack the Spartan king while he was too young to excel in the art of war.
He therefore advanced with a good army; but, to his surprise and dismay, he was completely defeated by the young king. Several of the smaller towns now showed a desire to leave the Achæan League and join Sparta, so Aratus became more eager than ever to suppress her rising power.
In his eagerness he forgot all caution, and even asked help of Antigonus Do´son, King of Macedon, the suc[Pg 276]cessor of Antigonus Gonatas. This ruler owed his surname of Doson ("who will give") to a bad habit of promising all kinds of gifts to his followers,—promises which were never kept.
Antigonus Doson was only too glad to send a Macedonian army into Greece, and not only garrisoned the fortress on the Isthmus of Corinth, but also sent troops on into the Peloponnesus.
The Achæan and Macedonian armies now met the Spartans at Sel-la´sia, in Laconia, where the latter were badly defeated, and Sparta fell into the enemy's hands. Antigonus was so proud of his victory that he burst a blood vessel upon hearing the news, and died shortly after.
Before he closed his eyes, however, he had the satisfaction of driving Cleomenes away from Greece into Egypt. There the young king fell upon his sword, after killing his children, rather than become a slave. Tyrants were now allowed again in many of the Greek cities, in spite of the remonstrances of Aratus, who learned only too late that the Macedonians had come into the Peloponnesus merely for the purpose of making themselves masters of the country.