Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 3/Chapter 3

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1After this Agis came to Delphi and offered as a sacrifice a tenth of the spoil. On his return journey he fell ill at Heraea--being by this time an old man--and was carried back to Lacedaemon. He survived the journey, but being there arrived, death speedily overtook him. He was buried with a sepulchre transcending in solemnity the lot of ordinary mortality.[1]

When the holy days of mourning were accomplished, and it was necessary to choose another king, there were rival claimants to the throne. Leotychides claimed it as the son, Agesilaus as the brother, of Agis.2Then Leotychides protested: "Yet consider, Agesilaus, the law bids not 'the king's brother,' but 'the king's son' to be king; only if there chance to be no son, in that case shall the brother of the king be king." Agesilaus: "Then must I needs be king." Leotychides: "How so, seeing that I am not dead?" Agesilaus: "Because he whom you call your father denied you, saying, 'Leotychides is no son of mine.'" Leotychides: "Nay, but my mother, who would know far better than he, said, and still to-day says, I am." Agesilaus: "Nay, but the god himself, Poteidan, laid his finger on thy falsity when by his earthquake he drove forth thy father from the bridal chamber into the light of day; and time, 'that tells no lies,' as the proverb has it, bare witness to the witness of the god; for just ten months from the moment at which he fled and was no more seen within that chamber, you were born."[2] So they reasoned together.

3Diopethes,[3] a great authority upon oracles, supported Leotychides. There was an oracle of Apollo, he urged, which said "Beware of the lame reign." But Diopethes was met by Lysander, who in behalf of Agesilaus demurred to this interpretation put upon the language of the god. If they were to beware of a lame reign, it meant not, beware lest a man stumble and halt, but rather, beware of him in whose veins flows not the blood of Heracles; most assuredly the kingdom would halt, and that would be a lame reign in very deed, whensoever the descendants of Heracles should cease to lead the state.4Such were the arguments on either side, after hearing which the city chose Agesilaus to be king.

Now Agesilaus had not been seated on the throne one year when, as he sacrificed one of the appointed sacrifices in behalf of the city,[4] the soothsayer warned him, saying: "The gods reveal a conspiracy of the most fearful character"; and when the king sacrificed a second time, he said: "The aspect of the victims is now even yet more terrible"; but when he had sacrificed for the third time, the soothsayer exclaimed: "O Agesilaus, the sign is given to me, even as though we were in the very midst of the enemy." Thereupon they sacrificed to the deities who avert evil and work salvation, and so barely obtained good omens and ceased sacrificing. Nor had five days elapsed after the sacrifices were ended, ere one came bringing information to the ephors of a conspiracy,5and named Cinadon as the ringleader; a young man robust of body as of soul, but not one of the peers.[5] Accordingly the ephors questioned their informant: "How say you the occurrence is to take place?" and he who gave the information answered: "Cinadon took me to the limit of the market-place, and bade me count how many Spartans there were in the market-place; and I counted--'king, ephors, and elders, and others--maybe forty. But tell me, Cinadon,' I said to him, 'why have you bidden me count them?' and he answered me: 'Those men, I would have you know, are your sworn foes; and all those others, more than four thousand, congregated there are your natural allies.' Then he took and showed me in the streets, here one and there two of 'our enemies,' as we chanced to come across them, and all the rest 'our natural allies'; and so again running through the list of Spartans to be found in the country districts, he still kept harping on that string: 'Look you, on each estate one foeman--the master--and all the rest allies.'"6The ephors asked: "How many do you reckon are in the secret of this matter?" The informant answered: "On that point also he gave me to understand that there were by no means many in their secret who were prime movers of the affair, but those few to be depended on; 'and to make up,' said he, 'we ourselves are in their secret, all the rest of them--helots, enfranchised, inferiors, provincials, one and all.[6] Note their demeanour when Spartans chance to be the topic of their talk. Not one of them can conceal the delight it would give him if he might eat up every Spartan raw.'"[7]7Then, as the inquiry went on, the question came: "And where did they propose to find arms?" The answer followed: "He explained that those of us, of course, who are enrolled in regiments have arms of our own already, and as for the mass--he led the way to the war foundry, and showed me scores and scores of knives, of swords, of spits, hatchets, and axes, and reaping-hooks. 'Anything or everything,' he told me, 'which men use to delve in earth, cut timber, or quarry stone, would serve our purpose; nay, the instruments used for other arts would in nine cases out of ten furnish weapons enough and to spare, especially when dealing with unarmed antagonists.'" Once more being asked what time the affair was to come off, he replied his orders were "not to leave the city."

8As the result of their inquiry the ephors were persuaded that the man's statements were based upon things he had really seen,[8] and they were so alarmed that they did not even venture to summon the Little Assembly,[9] as it was named; but holding informal meetings among themselves--a few senators here and a few there--they determined to send Cinadon and others of the young men to Aulon, with instructions to apprehend certain of the inhabitants and helots, whose names were written on the scytale (or scroll).[10] He had further instructions to capture another resident in Aulon; this was a woman, the fashionable beauty of the place--supposed to be the arch- corruptress of all Lacedaemonians, young and old, who visited Aulon.9It was not the first mission of the sort on which Cinadon had been employed by the ephors. It was natural, therefore, that the ephors should entrust him with the scytale on which the names of the suspects were inscribed; and in answer to his inquiry which of the young men he was to take with him, they said: "Go and order the eldest of the Hippagretae[11] (or commanders of horse) to let you have six or seven who chance to be there." But they had taken care to let the commander know whom he was to send, and that those sent should also know that their business was to capture Cinadon. Further, the authorities instructed Cinadon that they would send three waggons to save bringing back his captives on foot--concealing as deeply as possible the fact that he, and he alone, was the object of the mission.10Their reason for not securing him in the city was that they did not really know the extent of the mischief; and they wished, in the first instance, to learn from Cinadon who his accomplices were before these latter could discover they were informed against and effect their escape. His captors were to secure him first, and having learnt from him the names of his confederates, to write them down and send them as quickly as possible to the ephors. The ephors, indeed, were so much concerned about the whole occurrence that they further sent a company of horse to assist their agents at Aulon.[12]11As soon as the capture was effected, and one of the horsemen was back with the list of names taken down on the information of Cinadon, they lost no time in apprehending the soothsayer Tisamenus and the rest who were the principals in the conspiracy. When Cinadon[13] himself was brought back and cross-examined, and had made a full confession of the whole plot, his plans, and his accomplices, they put to him one final question: "What was your object in undertaking this business?" He answered: "I wished to be inferior to no man in Lacedaemon." Let that be as it might, his fate was to be taken out forthwith in irons, just as he was, and to be placed with his two hands and his neck in the collar, and so under scourge and goad to be driven, himself and his accomplices, round the city. Thus upon the heads of those was visited the penalty of their offences.

  1. See "Ages." xi. 16; "Pol. Lac." xv. 9.
  2. I have followed Sauppe as usual, but see Hartman ("Anal. Xen." p. 327) for a discussion of the whole passage. He thinks Xenophon wrote {ex ou gar toi ephugen} ({o sos pater}, i.e. adulterer) {ek to thalamo dekato meni tu ephus}. The Doric {ek to thalamo} was corrupted into {en to thalamo} and {kai ephane} inserted. This corrupt reading Plutarch had before him, and hence his distorted version of the story.
  3. See Plut. "Ages." ii. 4; "Lys." xxii. (Clough, iv. 3; iii. 129); Paus. III. viii. 5.
  4. "Pol. Lac." xv. 2.
  5. For the {omoioi}, see Muller, "Dorians," iii. 5, 7 (vol. ii. p. 84); Grote, "H. G." ix. 345, note 2.
  6. For the neodamodes, hypomeiones, perioeci, see Arnold, "Thuc." v. 34; Muller, "Dorians," ii. 43, 84, 18; Busolt, op. cit. p 16.
  7. See "Anab." IV. viii. 14; and Hom. "Il." iv. 34.
  8. "And pointed to a well-concerted plan."
  9. See Grote, "H. G." ix. 348.
  10. See Thuc. i. 131; Plut. "Lys." 19 (Clough, iii. p. 125).
  11. "The Hippagretes (or commander of the three hundred guards called horsemen, though they were not really mounted)." Grote, "H. G." vol. ix. p. 349; see "Pol. Lac." iv. 3.
  12. Or, "to those on the way to Aulon."
  13. See for Cinadon's case, Arist. "Pol." v. 7, 3.