Hellenica (Xenophon)/Book 4/Chapter 7

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B.C. 389-388.[1] 1On the expiration of winter, and in fulfilment of his promise to the Achaeans, Agesilaus called out the ban once more with early spring to invade the Acarnanians. The latter were apprised of his intention, and, being persuaded that owing to the midland situation of their cities they would just as truly be blockaded by an enemy who chose to destroy their corn as they would be if besieged with entrenchments in regular form, they sent ambassadors to Lacedaemon, and made peace with the Achaeans and alliance with the Lacedaemonians. Thus closes this page of history concerning the affairs of Arcarnania.

2To turn to the next. There was a feeling on the part of the Lacedaemonians[2] that no expedition against Athens or Boeotia would be safe so long as a state so important and so close to their own frontier as Argos remained in open hostility behind them. Accordingly they called out the ban against Argos. Now when Agesipolis learnt that the duty of leadership devolved on him, and, moreover, that the sacrifices before crossing the frontier were favourable, he went to Olympia and consulted the will of the god. "Would it be lawful to him," he inquired, "not to accept the holy truce, on the ground that the Argives made the season for it[3] depend not on a fixed date, but on the prospect of a Lacedaemonian invasion?" The god indicated to the inquirer that he might lawfully repudiate any holy truce which was fraudulently antedated.[4] Not content with this, the young king, on leaving Olympia, went at once to Delphi, and at that shrine put the same question to Apollo: "Were his views in accordance with his Father's as touching the holy truce?"--to which the son of Zeus made answer: "Yea, altogether in accordance."[5]

3Then without further hesitation, picking up his army at Phlius (where, during his absence to visit the temples, the troops had been collecting), he advanced by Nemea into the enemy's territory. The Argives, on their side, perceiving that they would be unable to hinder his advance, in accordance with their custom sent a couple of heralds, garlanded, and presented their usual plea of a holy truce. Agesipolis answered them curtly that the gods were not satisfied with the justice of their plea, and, refusing to accept the truce, pushed forward, causing thereby great perplexity and consternation throughout the rural districts and the capital itself.

4But while he was getting his evening meal that first evening in the Argive territory--just at the moment when the after-dinner libation had been poured out--the god sent an earthquake; and with one consent the Lacedaemonians, beginning with the officers of the royal quarters, sang the sacred hymn of Poseidon. The soldiers, in general, expected to retreat, arguing that, on the occurrence of an earthquake once before, Agis had retired from Elis. But Agesipolis held another view: if the god had sent his earthquake at the moment when he was meditating invasion, he should have understood that the god forbade his entrance; but now, when the invasion was a thing effected, he must needs take it as a signal of his approval.[6] 5Accordingly next morning he sacrificed to Poseidon, and advanced a short distance further into the country.

The late expedition of Agesilaus into Argos[7] was still fresh in men's minds, and Agesipolis was eager to ascertain from the soldiers how close his predecessor had advanced to the fortification walls; or again, how far he had gone in ravaging the open country--not unlike a competitor in the pentathlon,[8] eager to cap the performance of his rival in each event. 6On one occasion it was only the discharge of missiles from the towers which forced him to recross the trenches round the walls; on another, profiting by the absence of the majority of the Argives in Laconian territory, he came so close to the gates that their officers actually shut out their own Boeotian cavalry on the point of entering, in terror lest the Lacedaemonians might pour into the town in company, and these Boeotian troopers were forced to cling, like bats to a wall, under each coign of vantage beneath the battlements. Had it not been for the accidental absence of the Cretans,[9] who had gone off on a raid to Nauplia, without a doubt numbers of men and horses would have been shot down. 7At a later date, while encamping in the neighbourhood of the Enclosures,[10] a thunder- bolt fell into his camp. One or two men were struck, while others died from the effect of the concussion on their brains. At a still later period he was anxious to fortify some sort of garrison outpost in the pass of Celusa,[11] but upon offering sacrifice the victims proved lobeless,[12] and he was constrained to lead back and disband his army --not without serious injury inflicted on the Argives, as the result of an invasion which had taken them wholly by surprise.

  1. According to others, B.C. 390.
  2. Or, "It was agreed by the Lacedaemonians."
  3. I.e. "the season of the Carneia."
  4. Or, "wrongfully put forward." See below, V. i. 29; iii. 28; Paus. III. v. 8; Jebb. "Att. Or." i. p. 131; Grote, "H. G." ix. 494 foll.; Jowett, "Thuc." ii. 315; note to Thuc. V. liv. 3.
  5. Grote; cf. Aristot. "Rhet." ii. 33.
  6. Or, "interpret the signal as a summons to advance."
  7. See above, "Hell." IV. iv. 19.
  8. The pentathlon of Olympia and the other great games consisted of five contests, in the following order--(1) leaping, (2) discus- throwing, (3) javelin-throwing, (4) running, (5) wrestling. Cf. Simonides, {alma podokeien diskon akonta palen}, where, "metri gratia," the order is inverted. The competitors were drawn in pairs. The odd man who drew a bye in any particular round or heat was called the "ephedros." The successful athletes of the pairs, that is, those who had won any three events out of five, would then again be drawn against each other, and so on until only two were left, between whom the final heat took place. See, for an exhaustive discussion of the subject, Prof. Percy Gardner, "The Pentathlon of the Greeks" ("Journal of Hellenic Studies," vol. i. 9, p. 210 foll. pl. viii.), from whom this note is taken.
  9. See Thuc. vii. 57.
  10. {peri tas eirktas}--what these were no one knows, possibly a stone quarry used as a prison. Cf. "Cyrop." III. i. 19; "Mem." II. i. 5; see Grote, "H. G." ix. 497; Paus. III. v.. 8.
  11. Or Celossa. See Strabo, viii. 382.
  12. I.e. "hopeless." See above, III. iv. 15.