A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 B.C

By George Grote; J. M. Mitchell et al. | Go to book overview

9 [XXXIX]

PROCEEDINGS IN GREECE FROM THE BATTLE OF MARATHON TO THE TIME OF THE BATTLE OF THERMOPYLÆ

OUR information respecting the affairs of Greece immediately after the repulse of the Persians from Marathon is very scanty.

Kleomenês and Leotychidês, the two kings of Sparta (the former belonging to the elder or Eurystheneïd, the latter to the younger or the Prokleïd race), had conspired for the purpose of dethroning the former Prokleïd king Demaratus: and Kleomenês had even gone so far as to tamper with the Delphian priestess for this purpose. His manœuvre being betrayed shortly afterwards, he was so alarmed at the displeasure of the Spartans, that he retired into Thessaly, and from thence into Arcadia, where he employed the powerful influence of his regal character and heroic lineage to arm the Arcadian people against his country. 1 The Spartans, alarmed in their turn, voluntarily invited him back with a promise of amnesty. But his renewed lease did not last long. His habitual violence of character became aggravated into decided insanity, and his relatives were forced to confine him in chains under a Helot sentinel. By severe menaces, he one day constrained this man to give him his sword, with which he mangled himself dreadfully and perished. So shocking a death was certain to receive a religious interpretation: yet which, among the misdeeds of his life, had drawn down upon him the divine wrath, was a point difficult to determine. But what surprises us most is to hear that the Spartans, usually more disposed than other Greeks to refer every striking phænomenon to divine agency, recognised on this occasion nothing but a vulgar physical cause: Kleomenês had gone mad (they affirmed) through habits of intoxication, learnt from some Scythian envoys who had come to Sparta. 2

1 A nucleus for an Arkadian League existed in the common religious cult of Zeus Lykæus, in connexion with which a federal coinage was issued at this period (Head, Historia Numorum, p. 372). - ED.

2 The bitter hostility of Spartan tradition against Kleomenês, which has plainly infected the accounts of Herodotus (especially v. 42; vi. 75) and Pausanias (iii., ch. 4), is no doubt due to his having partly reasserted the ancient royal prerogatives against the encroachments of the board of ephors. The latter magistrates would seem to have acquired virtual control of the

-217-

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