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THE ACHÆAN LEAGUE
 WHILE the generals and successors of Alexander were
busy trying to crush one another, most of the Greek
towns, left to their own devices, had become small
republics. But instead of forming a union, they became
so jealous, that they began to quarrel and even to
fight among themselves.
As the quarrels became more bitter, two parties or
leagues were formed, which, from the two most important
provinces at that time, received the names of Achæan
The Achæan League was made up of twelve small towns in
the Peloponnesus, and was under the leadership of
Aratus, a native of Sicyon. When a child, Aratus
had seen his native city in the hands of a tyrant. His
father, who was a patriot, had made a bold attempt to
free the city, but had failed, and lost his life.
Aratus, who was but seven years of age, heard that his
father and all his family had been slain, and knew that
the tyrant would try to kill him too. As he was too
weak to defend himself, he sought refuge in the house
of the tyrant's sister, where no one would be likely to
seek for him.
This woman, touched by the child's trust, hid him
cleverly, and, when all danger was over, sent him to
some friends, where she paid for his board, and had him
carefully brought up.
As Aratus was patriotic, he was anxious to finish the
work which his father had begun. At the age of
therefore, he assembled a few comrades, entered Sicyon,
called all the lovers of liberty to his aid, and drove
away the tyrant without shedding any blood.
The town, thus freed, joined the Achæan League, of
which Aratus soon became the leader. This office was
elective, and no one was expected to fill it for more
than a year; but Aratus was so much loved that he was
chosen leader thirty-five years in succession.
At this time, Greece and Macedon were under the rule of
Antigonus Gonatas, son of Demetrius; for this man had
conquered for himself the second kingdom which his
father had lost. But now Aratus and the Achæan League
refused to obey him, so he marched down from Macedon to
To prevent his advance, and to hinder his getting even
as much as a foothold in the peninsula, Aratus wanted
to capture the fortress of Acrocorinthus, which
barred the Isthmus of Corinth.
This undertaking was very difficult, because the
fortress was perched upon a rock so high and steep that
it was almost impossible to climb it.
A traitor, Diocles, however, offered to show Aratus a
way to climb this rock, provided that he should receive
a certain reward. Although general of the Achæan
League, and one of the greatest men of his day, Aratus
was far from being rich; and, in order to obtain the
required sum, he had to sell all he had, and even pawn
his wife's few jewels.
Then, in the midst of the darkness, one rainy night,
Diocles led the Achæan soldiers along a steep path,
which they had to climb in Indian file.
 He brought them safely and unseen into the fortress,
where they killed most of the Macedonian sentinels, and
put the guards to flight. As soon as the key of the
Peloponnesus had been thus daringly won, most of the
other towns in the peninsula joined the league, and the
Achæans gained such victories, that Antigonus
fell ill, and died of grief.
The Achæan League became stronger and stronger; and,
although Sparta and a few other cities remained
neutral, most of the small towns were freed from their
tyrants. Such was the importance of the league, that
the Roman ambassadors once came to ask for its aid to
suppress the pirates who infested the neighboring seas.
This help was cheerfully given, and the Achæans
entered into a treaty with the Romans. They little
suspected, however, that the city whose name was then
almost unknown would in less than a hundred years
become strong enough to subdue them, and be mistress
over all Greece.