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193, 254, 315
21, 82, 141, 201, 263, 323
A SKETCH OF GENERAL HISTORY.
(Continued from Vol. VI, page 311.) SPARTA, FROM B.C. 236,, TO THE CLOSE OF HER HISTORY, B.C. 191.
ARCHIDAMUS and Areus succeeded; but a disputed succession still further shook the sinking power of Sparta. Cleonymus, the other claimant, had recourse to Pyrrhus, and induced him to lead an army against the city, which now for the first time suffered the dangers of a elose and vigourous siege, in which it very narrowly escaped destruction. On this occasion an account is given us of the courage and energy displayed by the Spartan ladies. In the great danger to which the city was exposed, it was proposed to send all the women to the island of Crete for safety. The ladies, hearing of this intention, assembled together in council. Having deputed Archidamia to convey their sentiments to the senate, she entered the room with a sword in her hand, and thus addressed them: “Do not, my lords, entertain so mean an opinion of the Spartan women, as to fancy that they will ever outlive Sparta; instead of considering whither we are to fly, consider what we are to do, and be assured we will undertake any thing for the service of our country.” Yielding to this remonVOL. VII.
strance, it was determined to dig a wide ditch round the city; and the women undertook a third part of it, engaging to finish their task before morning. When the day dawned, and the troops of Pyrrhus were seen in motion, the ladies armed their men for the fight; and as they buckled their armour, and placed the spears in their hands, represented to them the glory of death or victory, met within sight of their wives and mothers. A violent attack was made, and the engagement, beginning with the day, only terminated at its close. On the second day, the assault was no less vigourous than the first; the women remained all day in the entrenchments, supplying the soldiers with arms, ammunition, and food, binding up their wounds, and carrying them off when disabled. On the third day, Sparta would probably have fallen, had not the arrival of Areus, with fresh troops, saved the city and obliged the besiegers to withdraw. Of this king Areus we know no more; except that he is said to have addressed a letter to the high priest of Jerusalem in the following terms: "Areus, king of the Lacedæmonians, to Onias, the high priest, greeting : it is found in writing that the Lacedæmonians and Jews are brethren, and that they are of the stock of Abraham: now, therefore, since this is come to our knowledge, you shall do well to write to us of your peace."
The names of the kings of Sparta now become almost as obscure in the decline of her fortunes, as they had been in their first ascension. We have next Acrotatus and Archidamus IV., Eudamidas and Leonidas, of whom we have little to relate. In the reign of the last, a law was passed, allowing men to dispose of their lands by gift or sale, or by will at their death. This was subversive of the whole character of the Spartan constitution, of which the foundation was the unalienably equality of possessions. In a very short time, not above a hundred of the ancient Spartan families retained any lands, the remainder living idly in the city, without' wealth or employment, their spirits sinking with their fortunes, and with the declining credit or glory of
One prince, Agis, the son of Eudamidas, made an unsuccessful effort to restore the ancient usages of Sparta and the laws of Lycurgus. Though reared in modern effeminacy by his parents, he very early threw off these babits of vanity, and assumed in every thing the old Laconic style of living.
His measures of reform too, were early taken and maturely deliberated. We are told that he first gained over the Spartan ladies to his scheme, who had very considerable influence in publick affairs, and were willing to part from their dress, their trinkets, and finery, all forbidden in the ancient law, so that Sparta might regain her former glories. The mass of the people were not difficult to gain: they ever love change, and could not be losers by this. But those in whose hands wealth had accumulated, were ill content to part from it, as they must have done, to restore the former system of equality. Agis, though opposed by his royal colleague, Leonidas, proceeded so far as to present a decree to the senate, by which all debts should be remitted, and all lands again divided into equal portions. That this proposition should have been made so frequently in the state both of Greece and Rome, and in many others, must have been occasioned by the idea with which some men are possessed, that all have equal rights to the soil, and that it is the interest of society that all men should be equal. We have noticed before the falseness of these opinions, and the injustice of such proceedings; by which that which themselves or their fathers had accumulated, and which the original possessors, if it had ever been in the posses. sion of others, had for some consideration of their own consented to part from, or by some providential circumstance been deprived of, was wrested from the hands of those who had gained it, to be given back again to those who had parted from it. Nothing can be more inequi
table than such a measure, and how little such a state of equality is in the design of providence, or the nature of human affairs, is sufficiently proved by the absolute impossibility of maintaining it for many years together. The senate of Sparta refused to pass the law : but in consequence of tumults and divisions which ensued between the kings, Leonidas was obliged to fly, and Cleombrotus, his successor, being of the same mind with Agis, an attempt was again made to enforce it. In part this was effected, so far as to the remission of all debts-but when they came again to attempt the division of lands, the tide of popular opinion turned against them; Leonidas was recalled, and Agis and Cleombrotus were obliged to fly to the temples for safety. The life of Cleombrotus was saved by his wife Chelonis, the đaughter of Leonidas. The ladies of Sparta seem yet to have preserved their pristine character. When her father was driven into banishment, Chelonis abandoned her husband as an usurper, and fled with him to exile. Now that her father was the triumphant persecutor,
she teturned to her husband, saved his life by her entreaties, and went with him into exile in spite of her father's efforts to retain her.
King Agis still kept the sanctuary, whither his friends came daily to condole with him, conveyed him to the baths, and guarded him in safety back again. But ere long, betrayed by these treacherous guards, whom Leonidas corrupted, he was seized and brought before the Ephori, where Leonidas sate prepared to judge him. As soon as the king came in, he asked him how he durst attempt to change the government, at which he smiled, and made not any answer.
Provoked, they bade him rather weep than smile, for they should make him sensible of his presumption. Another asked him whether he had been constrained to these measures by the influence of others; to which, with composure, Agis answered, “I was constrained by no man, the design was mine, and my intent was to restore the laws of