back

Plutarch: Life of Cleomenes

Chapters 23 - 39

Translated by John & William Langhorne (1770). A few words and spellings have been changed.
The chapter numbers are shown in red.



← Previous chapters (1 - 22)

[23] After Antigonus had taken Tegea, and plundered Orchomenus and Mantineia, Cleomenes, now shut up within the bounds of Laconia, enfranchised such of the helots as could pay five Attic minae for their liberty. By this expedient he raised 50 talents; and having, moreover, armed and trained in the Macedonian manner 2000 of those helots, whom he designed to oppose to the Leucaspides of Antigonus, he engaged in a great and unexpected enterprise. 2 Megalopolis was at that time as great and powerful a city as Sparta. It was supported, besides, by the Achaeans and Antigonus, whose troops lay on each side of it. Indeed, the Megalopolitans were the foremost and most eager of all the Achaeans in their application to Antigonus. 3 This city, however, Cleomenes resolved to surprise; for which purpose he ordered his men to take five days' provisions, and led them to Sellasia, as if he designed an inroad into the territories of Argos. 4 But he turned short, and entered those of Megalopolis; and, after having refreshed his troops at (?) Rhoeteium, he marched by Helissus, directly to the object he had in view. 5 When he was near it, he sent Panteus before with two companies of Lacedaemonians, to seize that part of the wall which was between the two towers, and which he understood to be the least guarded. He followed with the rest of his army at the common pace. 6 Panteus, finding not only that quarter but great part of the wall without defence, pulled it down in some places, undermined it in others, and put all the sentinels to the sword. While he was thus employed, Cleomenes came up and entered the city with his forces, before the Megalopolitans knew of his approach.

[24] They were no sooner apprised of the misfortune which had befallen them, than the greatest part left the city, taking their money and most valuable effects with them. The rest made a stand, and though they could not dislodge the enemy, yet their resistance gave their fellow-citizens opportunity to escape. There remained not above 1000 men in the town, all the rest having retired to Messene with their wives and children, before there was any possibility of pursuing them. 2 A considerable part even of those who had armed and fought in defence of the city got oft; and very few were taken prisoners. Of this number were Lysandridas and Thearidas, two persons of great name and authority in Megalopolis. As they were such respectable men, the soldiers carried them before Cleomenes. 3 Lysandridas no sooner saw Cleomenes, than he thus addressed him: " Now," said he in a loud voice, because it was at a distance - " now, king of Sparta, you have an opportunity to do an action, much more glorious and princely than the late one, and to acquire immortal honour." 4 Cleomenes, guessing at his aim, made answer, " You would not have me restore you the town ?" 5 " That is the very thing," said Lysandridas, " I would propose. I advise you, by all means, not to destroy so fine a city, but to fill it with firm friends and faithful allies, by restoring the Megalopolitans to their country, and becoming the saviour of so considerable a people." 6 Cleomenes paused awhile, and then replied, " This is hard to believe; but be it as it will, let glory with us have always greater weight than interest." 7 In consequence of this determination, he sent the two men to Messene, with a herald in his own name, to make the Megalopolitans an offer of their town, on condition that they would renounce the Achaeans, and declare themselves his friends and allies.

8 Though Cleomenes made so gracious and humane a proposal, Philopoemen would not suffer the Megalopolitans to accept it, or to quit the Achaean league, but assuring them that the king of Sparta, instead of inclining to restore them their city, wanted to get the citizens too into his power, he forced Thearidas and Lysandridas to leave Messene. 9 This is that Philopoemen who afterwards was the leading man among the Achaeans, and one of the most illustrious personages among the Greeks, as is related in the life of Philopoemen.

[25] Upon this news, Cleomenes, who hitherto had kept the houses and goods of the Megalopolitans with such care that not the least thing was embezzled, was enraged to such a degree that he plundered the whole, sent the statues and pictures to Sparta, and levelled the greatest and best parts of the city with the ground. After this he marched home again, being under some apprehensions that Antigonus and the Achaeans would come upon him. 2 They, however, made no motion towards it, for they were then holding a council at Aegium. Aratus mounted the rostrum on that occasion, where he wept a long time, with his robe before his face. They were all greatly surprised, and desired him to speak. At last he said, "Megalopolis is destroyed by Cleomenes." The Achaeans were astonished at so great and sudden a stroke, and the council immediately broke up. 3 Antigonus made great efforts to go to the relief of the place; but, as his troops assembled slowly from their winter quarters, he ordered them to remain where they were, and marched to Argos with the forces he had with him.

4 This made the second enterprise of Cleomenes appear rash and desperate, but Polybius, on the contrary, informs us that it was conducted with great prudence and foresight. 5 For knowing (as he tells us) that the Macedonians were dispersed in winter quarters, and that Antigonus lay in Argos with only his friends and a few mercenaries about him, he entered the territories of that city, in the persuasion that either the shame of suffering such an inroad would provoke Antigonus to battle, and expose him to a defeat, or that if he declined the combat, it would bring him into disrepute with the Argives. 6 The event justified his expectation. When the people of Argos saw their country laid waste, everything that was valuable destroyed or carried off, they ran in great displeasure to the king's gates, and besieged them with clamour, bidding him either go out and fight or else give place to his superiors. 7 Antigonus, however, like a wise and able general, thought the censures of strangers no disgrace, in comparison of his quitting a place of security and rashly hazarding a battle, and therefore he abode by his first resolutions. 8 Cleomenes, in the meantime, marched up to the very walls, insulted his enemies, and, before he retired, spread desolation at his pleasure.

[26] Soon after his return, he was informed that Antigonus was come to Tegea, with a design to enter Laconia on that side. Upon this emergency he put his troops under march another way, and appeared again before Argos by break of day, ravaging all the adjacent fields. He did not now cut down the corn with scythes and sickles, as people usually do, but beat it down with wooden instruments in the form of scimitars, as if this destruction was only an amusement to his soldiers in their march. 2 Yet when they would have set fire to Cyllarabis, the school of exercise, he prevented it; reflecting that the ruin of Megalopolis was dictated rather by passion than by reason.

3 Antigonus immediately returned to Argos, having taken care to place guards in all the passes of the mountains. But Cleomenes, as if he held him and his operations in the utmost contempt, sent heralds to demand the keys of Hera's temple, that he might sacrifice to the goddess. 4 After he had pleased himself with this insult on his enemy, and offered his sacrifice under the walls of the temple, which was fast shut up, he led his troops off to Phlius. 5 In his march from thence he dislodged the garrison of Olygyrtus, and then proceeded by Orchomenus; by which means he not only inspired this people with fresh courage, but came to be considered by the enemy as a most able general, and a man capable of the greatest undertakings; 6 for, with the strength of the single city to oppose the whole power of the Macedonians and Peloponnesians, and all the treasures of the king, and not only to keep Laconia untouched, but to carry devastation into the enemy's country, were indications of no common genius and spirit.

[27] He who first called money the sinews of business seems principally to have had respect to that of war. 2 And Demades, when the Athenians called upon him to equip their navy and get it out, though their treasury was very low, told them, " They must think of baking bread before they thought of an embarkation." 3 It is also said that the old Archidamus, at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, when the allies desired that the quota of each should be determined, made answer, that " war cannot be kept at a set diet." 4 And in this case we may justly say, that as wrestlers, strengthened by long exercise, do at last tire out those who have equal skill and agility, but not the exercise; so Antigonus coming to the war with vast funds, in process of time tired out and overcame Cleomenes, who could but in a very slender manner pay his mercenaries, and give his Spartans bread.

5 In all other respects the times favoured Cleomenes, Antigonus being drawn home by the bad state of his affairs; 6 for in his absence the barbarians invaded and ravaged all Macedonia. The Illyrians in particular, descending with a great army from the north, harassed the Macedonians so much that they were forced to send for Antigonus. 7 Had the letters been brought a little before the battle, that general would have immediately departed, and bidden the Achaeans a long farewell. 8 But fortune, who loves to make the greatest affairs turn upon some minute circumstance, showed on this occasion of what consequence a moment or time may be. As soon as the battle of Sellasia was fought, and Cleomenes had lost his army and his city, messengers came to call Antigonus home. 9 This was a great aggravation of the Spartan king's misfortunes. 10 Had he held off and avoided an action only a day or two longer, he would have been under no necessity of fighting; and after the Macedonians were gone, he might have made peace with the Achaeans on what conditions he pleased. 11 But such, as we said, was his want of money that he had no resource but the sword; and, therefore, as Polybius informs us, with 20,000 men was forced to challenge 30,000.

[28] He showed himself an excellent general in the whole course of the action; his Spartans behaved with great spirit, and his mercenaries fought well. His defeat was owing to the superior advantage the Macedonians had in their armour, and to the weight and impetuosity of their phalanx.

2 Phylarchus, indeed, assures us, it was the treachery of one of his officers that ruined the affairs of Cleomenes. 3 Antigonus had ordered the Illyrians and Acarnanians secretly to make their way round, and surround that wing which was commanded by Eucleidas, the brother of Cleomenes, while he was marshalling the rest of his army. Cleomenes, taking a view from an eminence of his adversary's disposition, could not perceive where the Illyrians and Acarnanians were posted, and began to fear they were designed for some such manoeuvre. 4 He therefore called Damoteles, whose business it was to guard against any surprise, and ordered him to reconnoitre the enemy's rear with particular care, and form the best conjecture he could of the movements they intended. 5 Damoteles, who was said to be bribed by Antigonus, assured him that "he had nothing to fear from that quarter, for all was safe in the rear; nor was there anything more to be done but to bear down upon the front." Cleomenes, satisfied with this report, attacked Antigonus. The Spartans charged with so much vigour, that they made the Macedonian phalanx give ground, and eagerly pursued their advantage for about five stades. 6 The king then seeing Eucleidas in the other wing quite surrounded, stopped, and cried out, "You are lost, my dear brother, you are lost! - in spite of all thy valour; but great is your example to our Spartan youth, and the songs of our women shall for ever record you !"

7 Eucleidas, and the wing he commanded, thus being slain, the victors fell upon Cleomenes, who, seeing his men in great confusion, and unable to maintain the fight, provided as well as he could for his own safety. 8 It is said that great numbers of the mercenaries were killed; and that of 6000 Lacedaemonians no more than 200 were saved.

[29] When he reached Sparta, he advised the citizens to receive Antigonus. " For my part," said he, " I am willing either to live or to die, as the one or the other may be most for the interest of my country." 2 Seeing the women running to meet the few brave men who had escaped with him, help to take off their armour, and present them with wine, he retired into his own house. 3 After the death of his wife, he had taken into his house a young woman who was a native of Megalopolis and freeborn, and had fallen into his hands at the sack of the place. She approached him, according to custom, with a tender of her services on his return from the field. But, though both thirsty and weary, he would neither drink nor sit down - he only leaned his elbow against a pillar, and his head upon it, armed as he was; and having rested a few moments, while he considered what course to take, he repaired to Gytheium with his friends. 4 There they went on board vessels provided for that purpose, and immediately put out to sea.

[30] Upon the arrival of Antigonus, Sparta surrendered. His behaviour to the inhabitants was mild and humane, and not unsuitable to the dignity of their republic; for he offered them no kind of insult, but restored to them their laws and polity; and after having sacrificed to the gods, retired the third day. He was informed, indeed, that Macedonia was involved in a dangerous war, and that the barbarians were ravaging the country. 2 Besides, he was in a deep consumption, and had a continual flux on the lungs. 3 However, he bore up under his affliction, and wrestled with domestic wars, until a great victory over and carnage of the barbarians made him die more glorious. Phylarchus tells us (and it is not at all improbable) that he burst a vessel in his lungs with shouting in the battle ; 4 though it passed in the schools, that in expressing his joy after the victory, and crying out," O glorious day! " he brought up a great quantity of blood, and fell into a fever, of which he died. Such then was the end of Antigonus.

[31] From the isle of Cythera, where Cleomenes first touched, he sailed to another island called Aegialia. 2 There he had formed a design to pass over to Cyrene, when one of his friends, named Therycion, a man of high and intrepid spirit on all occasions, and one who always indulged himself in a lofty and haughty turn of expression, came privately to Cleomenes, 3 and thus addressed him: "We have lost, my prince, the most glorious death, which we might have found in the battle; though the world had heard us boast that Antigonus should never conquer the king of Sparta till he had slain him. 4 Yet there is another exit still offered us by glory and virtue. Whither then are we so absurdly sailing ? Flying a death that is so near, and seeking one that is remote. If it is not dishonourable for the descendants of Heracles to serve the successors of Philippus and Alexander, why do not we save ourselves a long voyage by making our submission to Antigonus, who, in all probability, as much excels Ptolemy as the Macedonians do the Egyptians ? 5 But if we do not choose to be governed by a man who beat us in the field, why do we take one who never conquered us for our master ? Is it that we may show our inferiority to two instead of one by flying before Antigonus, and then going to flatter Ptolemy ? 6 Shall we say that you go into Egypt for the sake of your mother? It will be a glorious and happy thing truly for her to show Ptolemy's wives her son, of a king become a captive and an exile. 7 No! while we are yet masters of our swords, and are yet in sight of Laconia, let us deliver ourselves from this miserable fortune, and make our excuse for our past behaviour to those brave men who fell for Sparta at Sellasia. Or shall we rather sit down in Egypt and inquire whom Antigonus has left governor of Lacedaemon?"

8 Thus Therycion spoke, and Cleomenes made this answer: " Do you think then, wretch that you are! - do thou think, by running into the arms of death, than which nothing is more easy to find, to show your courage and fortitude? And do you not consider that this flight is more dastardly than the former ? 9 Better men than we have given way to their enemies, being either overthrown by fortune or oppressed by numbers. But he who gives out either for fear of labour and pain, or of the opinions and tongues of men, falls a victim to his own cowardice. 10 A voluntary death ought to be an action, not a retreat from action. For it is a dishonourable thing either to live or to die by ourselves. All that your expedient could possibly do would be only the extricating us from our present misfortunes, without answering any purpose either of honour or utility. 11 But I think neither you nor I ought to give up all hopes for our country. If those hopes should desert us, death, when we seek for him, will not be hard to find." 12 Therycion made no reply; but the first opportunity he had to leave Cleomenes, he walked down to the shore and stabbed himself.

[32] Cleomenes left Aegialia and sailed to Africa, where he was received by the king's officers and conducted to Alexandria. 2 When he was first introduced to Ptolemy, that prince behaved to him with sufficient kindness and humanity; 3 but when, upon further trial of him, he found what strength of understanding he had, and that his laconic and simple way of conversing was mixed with a vein of wit and pleasantry: when he saw that he did not, in any instance whatever, dishonour his royal birth, or crouch to fortune, he began to take more pleasure in his discourse than in the mean sacrifices of indulgence and flattery. 4 He greatly repented, too, and blushed at the thought of having neglected such a man, and given him up to Antigonus, who, by conquering him, had acquired so much power and glory. He, therefore, encouraged him now with every mark of attention and respect, and promised to send him back to Greece with a fleet and a supply of money to re-establish him in his kingdom. 5 His present appointments amounted to 24 talents per year. Out of this he maintained himself and his friends in a sober and frugal manner, and bestowed the rest in offices of humanity to such Greeks as had left their country and retired into Egypt.

[33] But old Ptolemy died before he could put his intentions in favour of Cleomenes into execution; and the court soon becoming a scene of debauchery, where women held sway, the business of Cleomenes was neglected. 2 For the king was so much corrupted with wine and women that in his more sober and serious hours he would attend to nothing but the celebration of mysteries, and the beating of a drum with his royal hands about the palace; while the great affairs of state were left to his mistress Agathocleia and her mother Oenanthe, the infamous minister to his pleasures. 3 It appears, however, that at first some use was made of Cleomenes ; for Ptolemy, being afraid of his brother Magas, who, through his mother's interest, stood well with the army, admitted Cleomenes to a secret consultation, the subject of which was, whether he should destroy his brother. 4 All the rest voted for it, but Cleomenes opposed it strongly. He said, " The king, if it were possible, should have more brothers, for the greater security of the crown and the better management of affairs." 5 And when Sosibius, the king's principal favourite, replied, "That the mercenaries could not be depended on while Magas was alive," Cleomenes desired them to give themselves no pain about that; 6 "for," said he, "above 3000 of the mercenaries are Peloponnesians, who, upon a nod from me, will be ready with their arms." 7 Hence, Ptolemy, for the present, looked upon Cleomenes not only as a steady friend, but a man of power; but his weakness afterwards increasing his timidity, as is common with people of little understanding, he began to place his security in jealousy and suspicion. His ministers were of the same stamp, and they considered Cleomenes as an object of fear, on account of his interest with the mercenaries; 8 insomuch that many were heard to say, "That he was a lion among a flock of sheep." Such, indeed, he seemed to be in court, where, with a silent severity of aspect, he observed all that passed.

[34] In these circumstances, he made no more applications for ships or troops. But being informed that Antigonus was dead; that the Achaeans were engaged in war with the Aetolians; and that affairs called strongly for his presence, in the troubles and distraction that then reigned in Peloponnesus, he desired only a conveyance thither for himself and his friends. 2 Yet no man listened to him. The king, who spent his time in all kinds of Bacchanalian revels with women, could not possibly hear him. Sosibius, the prime minister, thought Cleomenes must prove a formidable and dangerous man, if he were kept in Egypt against his will; and that it was not safe to dismiss him because of his bold and enterprising spirit, and because he had been an eye-witness to the unhealthy state of the kingdom ; 3 for it was not in the power of money to mollify him. As the ox Apis, though revelling, to all appearance, in every delight that he can desire, yet longs after the liberty which nature gave him, wants to bound over the fields and pastures at his pleasure, and discovers a manifest uneasiness under the hands of the priest who feeds him; so Cleomenes could not be satisfied with a soft and effeminate life; but like Achilles,
Consuming cares lay heavy on his mind ;
In his black thoughts revenge and slaughter roll,
And scenes of blood rise dreadful in his soul

[35] While his affairs were in this state, Nicagoras the Messenian, a man who concealed the most rancorous hatred of Cleomenes under the pretence of friendship, came to Alexandria. It seems he had formerly sold him a handsome piece of ground; and the king, either through want of money or his continual engagement in war, had neglected to pay him for it. 2 Cleomenes, who happened to be walking upon the quay, saw this Nicagoras just landing from a merchantman, and saluting him with great kindness, asked, " What business had brought him to Egypt?" 3 Nicagoras returned the compliment with equal appearance of friendship, and answered, " I am bringing some fine war-horses for the king." Cleomenes laughed, and said, " I could rather have wished that you had brought him some female musicians and depraved men; for these are the beasts that the king at present likes best." 4 Nicagoras at that time only smiled; but a few days after, he put Cleomenes in mind of the field he had sold him, and desired he might now be paid; pretending that he would not have given him any trouble about it if he had not found considerable loss in the disposal of his merchandise. 5 Cleomenes assured him, " That he had nothing left of what the kings of Egypt had given him;" upon which Nicagoras, in his disappointment, acquainted Sosibius with the joke upon the king. 6 Sosibius received the information with pleasure; but being desirous to have something against Cleomenes that would exasperate Ptolemy still more, he persuaded Nicagoras to leave a letter, asserting that, " If the Spartan prince had received a supply of ships and men from the king of Egypt's bounty, he would have made use of them in seizing Cyrene for himself:" 7 Nicagoras accordingly left the letter and set sail. Four days after, Sosibius carried it to Ptolemy, as if just come to his hands; and having worked up the young prince to revenge, it was resolved that Cleomenes should have a large apartment assigned him, and be served there as formerly. but not suffered to go out.

[36] This was a great affliction to Cleomenes, and the following accident made his prospects still more miserable. 2 Ptolemaeus, the son of Chrysermus, who was an intimate friend of the king's, had all along behaved to Cleomenes with great civility; they seemed to like each other's company, and were upon some terms of confidence. 3 Cleomenes in this distress desired the son of Chrysermus to come and speak to him. He came, and talked to him plausibly enough, endeavouring to dispel his suspicions and to apologise for the king. 4 But as he was going out of the apartment, without observing that Cleomenes followed him to the door, he gave the keepers a severe reprimand, " for looking so carelessly after a wild beast, who, if he escaped, in all probability could be taken no more." 5 Cleomenes having heard this, retired before Ptolemaeus perceived him, and acquainted his friends with it. 6 Upon this they all dismissed their former hopes, and taking the measures which anger dictated, they resolved to revenge themselves of Ptolemy' injurious and insolent behaviour, and then die as became Spartans, instead of waiting long for their doom in confinement, like victims fatted for the altar; 7 for they thought it an insufferable thing that Cleomenes, after he had disdained to come to terms with Antigonus, a brave warrior, and a man of action, should sit expecting his fate from a prince who assumed the character of a priest of Cybele; and who, after he had laid aside his drum, and was tired of his dance, would find another kind of sport in putting him to death.

[37] After they had taken their resolution, Ptolemy happening to go to Canopus, they propagated a report that, by the king's order, Cleomenes was to be released; 2 and as it was the custom of the kings of Egypt to send those to whom they designed to extend such grace a supper, and other tokens of friendship, the friends of Cleomenes made ample provision for the purpose, and sent it to the gate. By this stratagem the keepers were deceived; for they imagined that the whole was sent by the king. 3 Cleomenes then offered sacrifice, with a chaplet of flowers on his head, and afterwards sat down with his friends to the banquet, taking care that the keepers should have large portions to regale them. 4 It is said, that he set about his enterprise sooner than he intended, because he found that one of his servants who was in the secret had been out all night with his mistress. 5 Fearing, therefore, that a discovery might be made, about mid-day while the intoxication of the preceding night still kept the guards fast asleep, he put on his military tunic, having first opened the seam of the left shoulder, and rushed out, sword in hand, accompanied by his friends, who were thirteen in number, and equipped in the same manner.

6 One of them, named Hippitas, though lame, at first was enabled, by the spirit of enterprise, to keep pace with them; but afterwards perceiving that they went slower on his account, he desired them to kill him, and not ruin the whole scheme by waiting for a man who could do them no service. 7 By good fortune they found an Alexandrian leading a horse in the street; they took it, and set Hippitas upon it, and then moved swiftly through the streets, all the way inviting the people to liberty. 8 They had just spirit enough left to praise and admire the bold attempt of Cleomenes, but not a man of them ventured to follow or assist him.

9 Ptolemaeus, the son of Chrysermus, happening to come out of the palace, three of them fell upon him and dispatched him. Another Ptolemaeus, who was governor of the city, advanced to meet them in his chariot; they attacked and dispersed his officers and guards, and, dragging him out of his chariot, put him to the sword. 10 Then they marched to the citadel, with a design to break open the prison and join the prisoners, who were no small number, to their party; 11 but the keepers had prevented them by strongly barricading the gates. Cleomenes, thus disappointed again, roamed up and down the city; and he found that not a single man would join him, but that all avoided him as they would avoid infection.

12 He therefore stopped, and said to his friends, " It is no wonder that women govern a people who flee from liberty ;" adding, "That he hoped they would all die in a manner that would reflect no dishonour upon him, or on their own achievements." 13 Hippitas desired one of the younger men to dispatch him, and was the first that fell. Afterwards each of them, without fear or delay, fell upon his own sword, except Panteus, who was the first man that scaled the walls of Megalopolis, when it was taken by surprise. 14 He was in the flower of his age, remarkable for his beauty, and better suited than the rest of the youth for the Spartan discipline. These perfections had given him a great share in the king's regard, and he now gave him orders not to dispatch himself, till he saw his prince and all the rest breathless on the ground. 15 Panteus tried one after another with his dagger, as they lay, lest some one should happen to be left with life in him. On pricking Cleomenes in the foot, he perceived a contortion in his face. He therefore kissed him, and sat down by him till the breath was out of his body, and then embracing the corpse, slew himself upon it.

[38] Thus fell Cleomenes, after he had been sixteen years king of Sparta, and showed himself in all respects the great man. 2 When the report of his death had spread over the city, Cratesicleia, though a woman of superior fortitude, sank under the weight of the calamity; she embraced the children of Cleomenes, and wept over them. 3 The eldest of them, disengaging himself from her arms, got unsuspected to the top of the house, and threw himself down headlong. The child was not killed, but much hurt; and, when they took him up, he loudly expressed his grief and indignation that they would not suffer him to destroy himself.

4 Ptolemy was no sooner informed of these things than he ordered the body of Cleomenes to be flayed and nailed to a cross, and his children to be put to death, together with his mother and her women companions. 5 Amongst these was the wife of Panteus, a woman of great beauty, and a most majestic presence. They had been but lately married, and their misfortunes overtook them amidst the first transports of love. 6 When her husband went with Cleomenes from Sparta, she was desirous of accompanying him; but was prevented by her parents, who kept her in close custody. But soon after she provided herself a horse and a little money, and, making her escape by night, rode at full speed to Taenarus, and there embarked on board a ship bound for Egypt. 7 She was brought safe to Panteus, and she cheerfully shared with him in all the inconveniences they found in a foreign country. 8 When the soldiers came to take out Cratesicleia to execution, she led her by the hand, assisting in bearing her robe, and desired her to exert all the courage she was capable of; though she was far from being afraid of death, and desired no other favour than that she might die before her children. 9 But when they came to the place of execution, the children suffered before her eyes, and then Cratesicleia was dispatched, who, in this extreme distress, uttered only these words, " O my children! whither are you gone !"

10 The wife of Panteus, who was tall and strong, fastened her robe about her, and, in a silent and composed manner, paid the last offices to each woman that lay dead, winding up the bodies as well as her present circumstances would admit. 11 Last of all, she prepared herself for the dagger, by letting down her robe about her, and adjusting it in such a manner as to need no assistance after death ; then calling the executioner to do his office, and permitting no other person to approach her, she fell like a heroine. 12 In death she retained all the decorum she had preserved in life; and the decency which had been so sacred with this excellent woman still remained about her. [39] Thus, in this bloody tragedy, wherein the women contended to the last for the prize of courage with the men, Lacedaemon showed that it is impossible for fortune to conquer virtue.

2 A few days after, the soldiers who watched the body of Cleomenes on the cross saw a great snake winding about his head, and covering all his face, so that no bird of prey dared to touch it. 3 This struck the king with superstitious terrors, and made way for the women to try a variety of expiations; for Ptolemy was now persuaded that he had caused the death of a person who was a favourite of the gods, and something more than mortal. 4 The Alexandrians crowded to the place, and called Cleomenes a hero, a son of the gods, 5 till the philosophers put a stop to their devotions by assuring them that, as dead oxen breed bees, horses wasps, and beetles rise out of the putrefaction of asses, so human carcases, when some of the moisture of the marrow is evaporated, and it comes to a thicker consistency, produce serpents. 6 The ancients knowing this doctrine, appropriated the serpent rather than any other animal to heroes.


Attalus' home page   |   24.04.14   |   Any comments?