Agesilaus II

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Agesilaus II, or Agesilaos II (Greek Ἀγησίλαος) (444 BC – 360 BC) was a king of Sparta, of the Eurypontid dynasty, ruling from approximately 400 BC to 360 BC, during most of which time he was, in Plutarch's words, "as good as thought commander and king of all Greece," and was for the whole of it greatly identified with his country's deeds and fortunes.[1]



Early life

Agesilaus was the son of Archidamus II and his second wife, Eupolia, [2] brother to Cynisca (the first woman in ancient history to achieve an Olympic victory), and younger half-brother of Agis II.[3]

Of the youth of Agesilaus we have little detail. We do know that he was not expected to succeed to the throne after his brother, king Agis II, since the latter had a son, named Leotychidas, and so Agesilaus was trained in the traditional curriculum of Sparta, the agoge. But Leotychidas was ultimately set aside as illegitimate, contemporary rumors representing him as the son of Alcibiades, and Agesilaus became king around 401 BC, at the age of about forty. In addition to questions of his nephew's paternity, Agesilaus' succession was largely due to the intervention of his Spartan general, Lysander, who hoped to find in him a willing tool for the furtherance of his political designs.[3]

Early reign

We first hear of him as king in the suppression of the conspiracy of Cinadon.[1] Then, in 396 BC, Agesilaus crossed into Asia with a force of 2,000 neodamodes (freed helots) and 6,000 allies to liberate Greek cities from Persian dominion. On the eve of sailing from Aulis he attempted to offer a sacrifice, as Agamemnon had done before the Trojan expedition, but the Thebans intervened to prevent it, an insult for which he never forgave them. On his arrival at Ephesus a three months' truce was concluded with Tissaphernes, the satrap of Lydia and Caria, but negotiations conducted during that time proved fruitless, and on its termination Agesilaus raided Phrygia, where he easily won immense booty from the satrap Pharnabazus; Tissaphernes could offer no assistance, as he had concentrated his troops in Caria. After spending the winter in organizing a cavalry force (hippeis), he made a successful incursion into Lydia in the spring of 395 BC. Tithraustes was thereupon sent to replace Tissaphernes, who paid with his life for his continued failure. An armistice was concluded between Tithraustes and Agesilaus, who left the southern satrapy and again invaded Phrygia, which he ravaged until the following spring. He then came to an agreement with Pharnabazus and once more turned southward.[1]

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