ABOUT a hundred years after the death of Alexander the Great lived
a young prince named Cleomenes. His father was one of
the kings of Sparta and bore the name of one of the greatest
of Greek heroes, Leonidas, the famous defender of
Thermopylae. One day, when the prince was about eighteen
years old, he started from home to go hunting. He had not
gone far from the city gate when one of his father's slaves
overtook him and handed to him a writing tablet. On its
waxed surface Cleomenes read the words, "Leonidas the king
to Cleomenes: Come back to the palace the moment you have
read this note." Cleomemes turned and went back toward the
Late in the afternoon he reached the palace. The gateway was
hung with a garland of flowers, and entering he found the
women busily arranging roses and lilies in every room.
As soon as he saw his father, he asked, "Is anyone going to
 "You are," replied his father. "This evening I wish you to
marry Agiatis, the widow of King Agis. I am having the
palace decorated for the wedding. She is beautiful and good
and the heiress of one of the richest men in Sparta."
"But," said Cleomenes, "how can she ever be willing to marry
"I am the king," replied Leonidas, "and she is bound to obey
"Since you wish it, I will marry her," said Cleomenes, "but
I never can hope that she will love me."
Cleomenes had good reason for saying this; for Leonidas had
caused his fellow-king, Agis, the husband of Agiatis, to be
Agis had been one of the best and greatest of Sparta's
kings. He had been distressed at the state of his country
when he came to the throne. The old customs of Lycurgus had
been set aside. Since the close of the Peloponnesian War,
when Sparta had proved more than a match for Athens, a great
change had come over the kingdom. Her men were no longer
warriors. The hope of Agis was that he might persuade the
people to live according to the old laws which no one now
But Leonidas, his fellow-king, did not wish to return to the
old ways of living, and the five ephors, or magistrates of
Sparta, were friends of his. They
 determined to put Agis to death. The ephors seized him upon
the street and carried him to prison, and—for no other
reason than that he had tried to carry out the laws of
Lycurgus and restore the glory of Sparta—he was put to
THE RACE-COURSE OF SPARTA
This had been done at the order of Leonidas. Cleomenes
therefore had reason to think that Agiatis never would marry
him. However, the marriage took place as Leonidas wished,
and although Agiatis hated Leonidas, who had
murdered her husband, she soon learned to love Cleomenes,
who was manly and true, and who devoted his life to making
She talked to him of Agis and what he had wished to do for
Sparta. As Cleomenes listened he made up his mind to do
just what Agis had wished to do. He saw that luxurious ways
of living had weakened Sparta and destroyed her influence.
And he saw also that his father's friends were not the few
good and brave men still left in Sparta, but rich men who
cared for nothing but money and pleasure.
LEONIDAS died a few years after the murder of Agis, and then
Cleomenes became king.
At this time a great general named Aratus was
 at the head of a league of Greek cities called the
Achæan League. It seemed likely that it would soon
control all the Peloponnesus. Cleomenes therefore persuaded
the Spartans to go to war against the Achæans.
In several battles he defeated Aratus and won for himself
great fame as a soldier. This made the Spartans very fond
of him, and he thought that the time had arrived when he
might persuade them to obey once more the old laws and
But the ephors were opposed to the changes which he wished
to make, and so he boldly put them to death.
Next day he banished eighty citizens who were opposed to
his plans. He then explained to the people why he had done this
and why he had put the ephors to death.
"If without bloodshed," he said, "I could have driven from
Sparta luxury and extravagance, debts and usury—the riches
of the few and the poverty of the many—I should have thought
myself the happiest of kings."
He declared that the laws of Lycurgus must be enforced and
the land be again divided among the citizens.
The people were delighted when they heard all this, and much
more were they pleased when
Cleom-  enes and his father-in-law were the first to give up their lands
for division. The rest of the citizens did the same, and
so, six hundred years after Lycurgus, there was a new
division of property, and once more every Spartan had land
enough to raise wheat and oil and wine for his family for a
Again the citizens dined at public tables on simple Spartan
fare, and the youths were trained and drilled as Lycurgus
had ordered. The Pyrrhic Dance, which trained soldiers in
quick movements, was revived. Again the army was well
disciplined, and the soldiers of Sparta became, as long ago,
the best among the Greeks. The king himself set his people
an example of simple living.
Some of the Greeks had laughed when Cleomenes said he would
tread in the steps of Lycurgus and
 Solon; but when they saw Sparta victorious on the
battlefield and the city prosperous and happy once more they
could not help admiring the man who had brought the change
But in time a dreadful disaster befell Cleomenes and Sparta.
The Achæan League invited the Macedonian king
Antigonus to bring an army to help them against Cleomenes,
and in a single battle the Spartans lost almost everything
that they had gained.
The other king, who was Cleomenes' own brother, was killed,
and out of six thousand men whom he commanded only two
Cleomenes made his way to Sparta and advised the citizens to
submit to the Macedonians, which they did, and the
independence of Sparta was gone forever.
Cleomenes had hopes of getting help from Ptolemy, king of
Egypt. So he sailed to that country, and he was promised
assistance. But, unfortunately, Ptolemy died, and the next
king made Cleomenes a prisoner because an enemy of the great
Spartan had said that he was plotting against the Egyptian
king. Cleomenes saw no way of escape and so put an end to
He was one of the greatest men of the last days of Greece.