The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

On this page: Leonidas Ii

751'

LEONIDAS.

died [DoRiBUs]. When Greece was invaded by Xerxes, the Greek congress, which was held at the Isthmus of Corinth, determined that a stand should be made against the enemy at the pass of Thermopylae, and Leonidas had the command of the force destined for this service. The number of his army is varionsly stated: according to Hero­dotus, it amounted to somewhat more than 5000 men, of whom 300 were Spartans ; in all proba­bility, the regular band of (so called) mireis, selected by the Hippagretae, rods KarcoTcwTas Tpi7j/co(riovs,as Herodotus calls them(comp. Muller, Dor. book iii. 12. § 5). The remainder of the Lacedaemonian force was to follow after, the cele­bration of the festival of the Carneia. Plutarch affirms that funeral games were celebrated in honour of Leonidas and his comrades, before their depar­ture from Sparta; according also to him and Diodorus, it was said at the same time by the self-devoting hero, that the men he took with him were indeed few to fight, but enough to die ; and, when his wife, Gorgo, asked him what his last wishes were, he answered, " Marry a brave husband and bear brave sons." All this, however, has very much the air of a late and rhetorical addition to the story ; nor is it certain that Leonidas and his band looked forward to their own death as the in-evitajble result of their expedition, though Herodotus tells us that he selected for it such only as had sons to leave behind them, and mentions an oracle besides, which declared that Sparta could not be saved from ruin but by the death of her king. When the Greek army was assembled at Thermopylae, there was a prevalent desire on the part of the Pelo-ponnesians to fall back on the Isthmus, and make their stand against the Persians there ; and it was mainly through the influence of Leonidas that the scheme, selfish at once and impolitic, was abandoned. The sayings ascribed to him before the battle by Plutarch are well-known and characteristic enough of a Spartan, but are probably the rhetorical in­ventions of a later age. When it was known that the treachery of the Malian Ephialtes had be­trayed the mountain path of the Anopaea to the Persians, after their vain attempts to force their way through the pass of Thermopylae, Leonidas, declaring that he and the Spartans under his com­mand must needs remain in the post they had been sent to guard, dismissed all the other Greeks, ex­cept the Thespian and Theban forces. Then, be­fore the body of Persians, who were crossing the mountain under Hydarnes, could arrive to attack him in the rear, he advanced from the narrow pass and charged the myriads of the enemy with his handful of troops, hopeless now of preserving their lives, and anxious only to sell them dearly. In the desperate battle which ensued, Leonidas himself fell soon. His body was rescued by the Greeks, after a violent .struggle. On the hillock in the pass, where the remnant of the Greeks made their last stand, a lion of stone (so Herodotus tells us) was set up in his honour ; and Pausanias says that his bones were brought to Sparta forty years after, by one named Pausanias ; but if he was the same who commanded at the battle of Plataea, " forty" must be an erroneous reading for " four" (see Larcher, ad Herod, vii. 225). The later story of Leonidas and his followers perishing in a night-attack on the Persian camp is unworthy of credit. (Herod, vii. 175, 202—225; Pans. iii. 4, 14, vii. 15; Diod. xi. 4—11 ; Plut. de Herod. MaL329 Apoph. Lac.;

REONIDAS;

St'rab. i:p. 10, ix. p. 429; Ael. F. 77. iii. 25 * Just. ii. 11 ; C. Nep. TJtem. 3 ; Val. Max. iii. 2, Ext 3 ; Cic. de Fin. ii. 19, 30, Tusc. Disp. i. 42, 49 ; Simon, xv. Antliol. Grace, vol. i. p. 61, ed. Jacobs.) In the reign of Leonidas we arrive at an exact chronology (says Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 209), which we have gradually approached in the two preceding reigns of Anaxandrides and Cleo- menes I. [E. E.J

LEONIDAS II. (Aeow'Sas), king of Sparta, was son of the traitor, Cleonymus, and 28th of the Agids. He acted as guardian to his infant rela­tive, Areus II., on whose death, at the age of eight years, he ascended the throne, about B. c. 256, being by this time considerably advanced in life. A great part of his* earlier years he had spent in the courts of Seleucus Nicator and his satraps, and had even married an Asiatic wife, by whom he had two children. From this it is reasonable to suppose that he reversed the policy of his predeces­sors, who had cultivated a connection with Egypt: and it is at least an ingenious conjecture of Droy-sen's, that the adventurer, Xanthippus, who en­tered at this period into the Carthaginian service, and whom he identifies with the general of Ptolemy Euergetes in his war with Seleucus Callinicus, may have been one of those who, as favourers of the Egyptian alliance, were driven from Sparta by the party of Leonidas. (Droysen, Plellenismus^ vol. ii. pp. 296, 347; comp. Arnold's Rome, vol. ii. p. 589.) The habits which Leonidas had contracted abroad, very different from the old Spartan sim­plicity, caused him to regard with strong dislike the projected reforms of Agis IV., and he laboured at first to counteract them by secret intrigues, and by the slanderous insinuation that the object of Agis was to bribe the poor with the property of the rich, and thus to make himself tyrant of Sparta. When the measure of his colleague was actually brought forward, Leonidas opposed it with argu­ments ludicrously weak, but succeeded, neverthe­less, in obtaining its rejection in the senate by a majority of one. It thus became necessary for the reformers to get rid of him, and accordingly the ephor Lysander revived an old law, which forbade a Heracleid to marry a foreigner, and affixed the penalty of death to a sojourn in a foreign land. There was also an ancient custom at Sparta, of which he took advantage to excite the stronger prejudice against Leonidas. Every ninth year the ephors sat in silence to observe the heavens on a clear and moonless night ; and if a star was seen to shoot in a particular direction, it was interpreted as a sign of some offence against the gods on the part of the kings, who were therefore to be sus-pended from their office till an oracle from Delphi or Olympia should declare in their favour. Ly­sander professed to have seen the sign, and referred it to the displeasure of heaven at the illegal conduct of Leonidas. He also accused him, according to Pausanias, of having bound himself by an oath, while yet a boy, to his father Cleonymus, to work the downfall of Sparta. Leonidas, not venturing to abide his trial, took refuge in the temple of Athena Chalcioecus, where his daughter Cheilonis joined him. Sentence of deposition having been passed against him in his absence, the throne was transferred to his son-in-law, Cleombrotus ; and the ephors of the succeeding year having failed in their attempt to crush Lysander and his colleague^ Mandrocleidas, by a prosecution [see Vol. I. p. 73],

Pages
About | First

750

751

752
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.