Make your own free website on

Sparta in the Hellenistic age

The Lamian War

With the death of Alexander, Athens took the lead in the general revolt supported by the Aetolians and Thessalians. The core of the rebels army, consisted of Greek mercenaries that had participated in Alexander’s expedition to Asia and found themselves suddenly unemployed. The leaders of the revolt, all Athenians, were Leosthenes, the mercenaries’ strategist and Hyperides the Orator. Demosthenes took advantage of the situation to come back from the exile. Leosthenes gathered a great number of mercenaries near Cape Tenar, in Laconia, a well known mercenary recruitment area and Athens built a fleet of 240 ships. The league of Corinth, a Macedonian confederacy created to exert control over Greece, quickly dissolved. The rebellion was faced by the old general Antipater who could count on about 13,000 infantrymen and 600 cavalrymen. This initial contingent was then reinforced by troops from Asia under Leonatus' command, roughly 20,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry, few of them were Macedonians. Leosthenes occupied the Thermopylae Pass and easily outmaneuvered Antipater, forcing him inside the Thessalian fortress of Lamia (hence the name of the war), in the autumn 323 BC. Two critical events reversed the situation. The first of them was the naval battle of Amorgus in the summer of 322 BC) where the Macedonian Cleitus destroyed the Athenian fleet; the second was the arrival from Asia of Craterus, with a rescuing army consisting of 6000 Macedonian veterans, 4,000 recruits, 1,000 Persian archers and slingers, and 1,500 cavalry. Leosthenes died during a cavalry skirmishing, depriving the Greeks of their best General and Craterus was finally able to set relieve the siege. The final clash took place at Crannon, north of Thessalian plains, where the Macedonian army under Antipaters' command (48,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry) smashed the Greek army led by Hyperides (25,000 infantry and 3,500 cavalry).

The Athenian democratic regime was overthrown and an oligarchy and Macedonian garrison enforced on it, also Antipater enforced a wealth requirement for citizenship which may have disenfranchised 12,000. Hyperides was captured and executed and Demosthenes committed suicide in Calauria Island before Antipater's assassins got to him. The Thessalians, already doubtful during the last phase of the Lamian War, went back under the Macedonian hegemony.

The Diadochi

Within a few years of Alexander's death, the most important figures to emerge in the struggle for power (and survive the opening moves) are: Perdiccas, Alexander's top officer at the time of his death Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals and related to the royal house Seleucus, commander of the hypaspists Antipater, the regent in Macedonia, and a member of Philip's generation Craterus, who had been sent to replace Antipater, Cassander, Antipater's son Lysimachus, one of Alexander's bodyguard Antigonus Monophthalmus ('the One-eyed'), satrap of Phrygia, also a member of the older generation, Eumenes of Cardia, Alexander's secretary and the only non-Macedonian among the group From 323-320, Perdiccas attempts to produce a compromise settlement that would leave power in his hands original settlement basically gave Perdiccas the top position, with Ptolemy receiving Egypt, Antigonus western Asia Minor, Lysimachus Thrace, Seleucus Babylon, and Eumenes central Asia Minor but his attempts alienated the other figures'. A coalition began to form against him, and war was averted only by his murder in 320, within a year or so, Cassander, in the wake of Antipater's death, had managed to consolidate control over Macedonia and Greece. The next twenty years, down to 301, are dominated by Antigonus, who appears to be trying to acquire power over the entire empire. The first few years of this period were marked by Antigonus' struggle with Eumenes. Eumenes' defeat at the battles of Paraitacene and Gabiene enabled Antigonus to extend his power westward. In 315 he expelled Seleucus from Babylon. Antigonus' growing power led Ptolemy, Cassander, and Lysimachus, at the instigation of Seleucus (who had taken refuge with Ptolemy) to deliver an ultimatum to Antigonus to restore Selecus and share his other gains with the rest of them but Antigonus continued his conquests, seizing Syria, Bithynia, and Caria. The next few years marked by struggles between Antigonus and Cassander, meanwhile, Antigonus' son Demetrius, who had been left in charge of Palestine, was attacked by Ptolemy and routed at Gaza in 312, enabling Seleucus to recover Babylon and establish a Seleucid empire in Asia. Forced to retire to Tripolis in Phoenicia gave Ptolemy free reign as far north at Sidon and Tyre and gave Seleucus the opportunity to recover Babylon.  In 311 Antigonus came to terms with Cassander, Ptolemy, and Lysimachus established Cassander in charge of Europe, Lysimachus of Thrace, Ptolemy of Egypt, and Antigonus all of Asia Arrangements didn't stay stable for very long Ptolemy soon afterward seized Cyprus, and in 306 Antigonus sent Demetrius against him, where he won decisive naval victories first over Ptolemy's governor and then over Ptolemy himself.

Upshot was that Ptolemy surrendered Cyprus, and Demetrios took over the island in 306 and 305. Antigonus, Ptolemy, and Seleucus begin to call themselves kings, making it clear that even if all the various leaders were supposed to be governing parts of the unified Macedonian kingdom, there was no chance of the Empire remaining intact, around 303 Seleucus ceded some of his far eastern possessions to the Indian king Chandragupta in exchange for 500 elephants. In 301 at the battle of Ipsus a coalition of Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus (with his elephants) dealt a decisive defeat to Antigonus and Demtrios. Lysimachus took most of Asia Minor and Ptolemy took most of Syria and Palestine Demetrius still had some holdings in Greece, however, and makes an attempt to increase his fortunes there, he had liberated Athens in 307 from another Demetrius, Demetrius of Phaleron, who had been installed by Cassander ten years earlier and manages to get hold of Macedonia after Cassander's death in 294 but from 289  his position deteriorated. Lysimachus is in Thrace and Pyrrhus, king of neighbouring Epirus and increasingly powerful, combine to defeat him in 285. He was is prisoner by Seleucus, and he died of the effects of heavy alcoholism two years later. After Demetrius' capture, Lysimachus and Pyrrhus struggled over Macedonia. Seleucus got involved in 282, invaded Asia Minor and defeated and killed Lysimachus in 281. Seleucus himself was assassinated shortly afterward  In 279 there is Gallic invasion of Macedonia, Greece, Thrace and Asia Minor. Groups moving into Greece reached Delphi, but were destroyed by the Aetolians, other groups moved into Asia Minor and settled in Galatia. In the wake of this, Demetrius' son Antigonus Gonatas manages to regain control of Macedonia, he had held on to the 'fetters of Greece', Corinth, Chalcis, and Demetrias, all of which had been seen as strategic points by his father. Meanwhile Demetrius's son, Antigonus Gonatas, recovered Macedon from the Celts and established the Antigonid dynasty which lasted until 168.

Sparta played little part in the wars of the Diadochi, it was during this struggle that the Spartans for the first time surrounded their settlements with some kind of defensive fortifications made up of ditches and stockade as a response to Cassanders intervention in Messenia in 315. In 302 Sparta again defied Macedonia by refusing to join the reformed league of Corinth in 302 BC set up by Antigonus and his son Demetrius nicknamed 'the Besieger' (Poloiocretes). Areus succeeded his father Acrotatus with his uncle Cleonymus as regent. In 303 Sparta's colony Tarentum appealed to the mother city for aid against its hostile Greek neighbours in Italy. Cleonymus bought 5000 mercenaries with Tarantine gold. Although compelling the Lucanians to come to terms Cleonymus antagonised the Tarentines by seizing Corcyra for his own ends. In 294 in preference to Cleonymus,  Archidamus IV was chosen to lead Sparta against Demetrius who had invaded the Peloponnese. At Mantinea Archidamus was soundly beaten with 700 Spartan dead. Demetrius pushed on into Laconia only to be diverted by business in the north. Cleonymus was again active in 292 as an ally of Boeotia and the Aetolian league against Macedonia.

Areus I

Areus (309-265), was probably the last king of Sparta with pretensions to interfere outside of the Peloponnese. Litle is known of him until the 280's.  In 281 Areus was at the head of an army of a Peloponnesian alliance seeking to exploit Macedonian weaknesses after Antigonus Gonatas' defeat by Ptolemy by attacking Aetolia which was now in alliance with Macedonia. Despite the support of the fledgling Achaean League, most of Arcadia, some towns of the Argolid and Boeotia, Areus suffered a humiliating disaster at the hands of the Aetolians and probably only the Gallic incursions into Macedonia saved another invasion of Laconia. Pyrrhus was now invited by Cleonymus of Sparta to intervene in his struggle with the Areus in 272. Pyrrhus led an army of 25,000 infantry and 2,000 cavalry plus 24 elephants into the Peloponnese but was unable to take the city of Sparta after a heroic defence played by the Spartan women, when Areus returned from Crete with 2,000 men and Gonatas' mercenary garrison from Corinth deterred Phyrrus from further action moving south down the Eurotas valley. Aristippus of Argos was reputed to be friendly with Antigonus, so his rival Aristeas invited Pyrrhus to come to Argos. His army was attacked en route by the forces of Areus and the Macedonian mercenaries and Pyrrhus' son Ptolemy was killed in the battle. Aristeas let Pyrrhus' forces into Argos, but in the street fighting Pyrrhus was stunned by a tile hurled from a roof by an Argive woman. While he was only partly conscious, one of Antigonus' men recognised him and killed him. Areus at this time sponsored Sparta's first silver coinage by replacing the iron bar currency, which had been used to discourage trade.

Why had Sparta not issued coins previously?

  1. In 404 to maintain its position as the dominant power in the Aegean the Lycurgan law against private possession of money was upheld but the Spartans compromised in the case of the state. However the machinery to enforce this was inadequate to police the vast sums now entering Sparta from its new empire. This led to instances of corruption, notably by Gyllipus, Thorax and others appointed to the post of harmost (governor).
  2. The metal used for coins, silver, needed to be imported
  3. Sparta's foreign trade was relatively unimportant and not in Spartan hands but the Perioicic towns.

Why was Areus issuing coinage now?

  1. Areus was seeking to publicize himself to the rest of Greece as a powerful ruler, hence his image on the coins
  2. To convince other states he was a suitable partner in an anti-Macedonian alliance

The Chremonidean War (267-261)

In the past the Persians had paid Greeks to fight Greeks; now Egypt's King Ptolemy did. Ptolemy II used both money and grain to form an anti-Macedonian coalition in Greece. Besides Egypt, the main members of the alliance were Athens, Sparta and Epirus. The Athenian Chremonides gave his name to the war whose motion to form a general league of liberation from Macedonia was made in 267. The general call to arms met with limited success, the Boeotians were too comfortable in their independence to renew the fellowship with Athens, however Sparta was more than willing and with Sparta came the Achaeans, the Eleians and most of Arcadia save Megalopolis. But Antigonus II (Gonatas) was up to dealing with this challenge; he struck first in 266 by invading Attica and cutting off Athenian supplies. The Egyptian fleet under Patroclus organized a blockade running service but failed in the most important task in bringing Areus' Peloponnesian forces around Corinth and bring Gonatas to battle in Attica. For most of the Chremonidean War  Antigonus had his way on the battlefield. Areus' Peloponnesian and Cretan alliance three times failed to break through the isthmus guarded by the Macedonian Acrocorinth garrison and link up with the Athenians. The last attempt proved fatal to Areus and Sparta made no further attempt to relieve Athens. In 264 to make up for the loss of Sparta Ptolemy using Egyptian subsidies brought Epirus into the ring. Repudiating his recent treaty Alexander II invaded Macedon and drew Gonatas away fro Attica but in the next year Alexander was defeated By Gonatas' son Demetrius aboy of 13 years. Alexander was disredited and dethroned by his own people only to be reinstated with help from the Acarnanians and so he made a lasting peace with Macedon in 261. In the winter of 262/261 the continuous blockade brought Athens to terms unwilling to challenge Egyptian supremacy at sea Gonatas made peace with Ptolomy and his allies.When the conflict ended with the surrender of Athens in 261, the opposing alliance was broken and for ten years' following Antigonus' control of Greece was secure.

Effects of the Chremonidean war

After that Antigonus retaliated by supporting the Syrian-based Seleucids in the wars between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies for control of the Middle East. He defeated the fleets of Ptolemy in both the Second (260-255) and Third (246-241) Syrian Wars, but he could not dislodge them from the Aegean. The rise of the Achaean League under Aratus and the capture of Corinth and the Macedonian garrison on Acrocorinth in 243 dealt a severe blow to Macedonian control in southern Greece for the next 20 years. In the following years Aratus concentrated many of the Peloponnesian states in the Achaean league. Spartan power reached its nadir between 262 and 244, Acrotatus Areus' son was killed in an attempt on Megalopolis in 260 and a decade later Spartan arms failed again this time against Mantinea with the help of Megalopolis and the newly formed Achaean League (see Mantinea 251 BC). The army was undermanned demoralised and Sparta's parlous finances meant she lacked funds for mercenaries. The agoge had fallen into a state of disuse.

The main reason for the decadence was the accelerating shortage of citizen military manpower brought on by the unequal distribution of land and aggravated by the increased circulation of coined money due in part to the lucrative mercenary service that its citizens were attracted to.

The rise of the Achaean League

In 251 Aratus had induced his native Dorian state of Sicyon to join the culturally and politically different Achaean federation refounded in 280. In a surprise move in 243 Aratus displaced the Macedonian garrison from the Acrocorinth, one of 'the fetters of greece'. This was followed up with an unrewarding alliance with Ptolemy III except for an annual subsidy of 6 talents. With the fall of Corinth came the adherence of Megara and several minor towns of the Argolid and an alliance with Sparta. But he failed to detach Athens from Antigonos Gonatas and in 241 the Aetolians prepared for an invasion of the Peloponnesus as allies of Macedonia. Loss of nerve or distrust of Agis made Aratus abandon the defence of the isthmus and dismiss Agis' substantial contingent. TheAetolians stayed only to plunder Pellene. A surprise attempt on the Piraeus miscarried in 240 as did an assault on Argos. In 239 Antigonus Gonatas died leaving Greece with no lasting form of government but provided Greece with a strong shield against barbarian invasions from the north.

The expansion of the Aetolian League

The expansion of the Aetolian League started in the 290's when it took possession of Delphi. From 278 to 260 its strength can be gaged by the number of votes it had on the Amphictionic Council. In 254 it also absorbed Phocis and in commemeration of its expulsion of the Galatian invasions of 279 it instituted a new Pa-Hellenic festival, the Soteria at Delphi in 243. In 245 the Aetolians defeated the Boeotians reducing it to the rank of a subordinate ally. By 245 they controlled all of central Greece outside Attica. In 243 they intervened as ally to Elis in a border dispute with Arcadia acquiring Elis, Mantinea and Tegea as clients. About the same time the Messenians accepted Aetolian protection fearing Spartan reprisals. By the death of Antigonas Gonatas the Aetolian League was the 2nd strongest power in Greece behind Macedonia but their influence on Greece was mainly disruptive.

The war of Demitrius

Antigonus Gonatas was succeeded by his son Demetrius II and was immediately involved in a war with the Aetolian League whose growing appetite for plunder was becoming indiscriminate. The cause was the Aetolian disavowal of the treaty made between Alexander of Epirus in 260. On his death the Aetolians demanded northern Arcania from Epirus. The Epirots appealed to Demetrius who accepted both the appeal and the hand of Alexander's daughter. A new alignment was created when the Aetolians allied themselves with the Achaeans. On the northern front Demetrius blunted the Aetolian attacks and detached Boeotia and Phocis from the Aetolian League in 236. In the south the Aetolians allies , the Achaeans under Aratus invaded Attic territory and ravaged the crops hoping to force Athens away from Demetrius but these tactics proved no more successful than when tried by Archidamnus in the Peloponnesian war. The Achaeans were eventually beaten off by the Athenians under Eurycleides. After a chequered campaign in the Peloponnese Aratus routed the Argives at Cleonae. The upshot was that Lydiadas came to terms with Aratus and Megalopolis joined the Achaean league. In 233 Demetrius sent an army to invade Arcadia from Argos which won a pitched battle near Tegea. But before ths success could be exploited the army was recalled due to a new war with the Dardanians in the Balkans. Demetrius was beaten by the Dardanians from which time he concentrated on this area. His remaining ally in the Peloponnese Argos now isolated  went the way of Megalopolis. Another consequence of the Daedanian war was that Aetolia recovered Boeotia and overran Achaea Phthiotis and Thessaly reducing Macedonian authority to eastern Thessaly, Euboea and the Cyclades. In 229 after Demetrius's death the Athenians finally succeeded in expelling the Macedonian garrison in Piraeus. Aratus this time tried more diplomatic approaches including a bribe to induce Athens to join the Achaean league but with no more success than the sword.

The Spartan revolution

Agis IV

The eclipse of Macedonian power had removed a check on Sparta's ambitions. By the mid 3rd century the old austerity of Lycurgus had disappeared: the ancient rigorous training and the syssitia had been abandoned, and the Spartans switched from speaking Doric to the common Greek dialect (Koine). One hundred men and women were very rich and owned all the land, meaning that everyone else was in debt to them. Agis IV became king in 244 and wanted to solve this crisis by bringing back as many of the old ways as possible influenced probably by the new schools of philosophy in vogue. To do this, he proposed cancelling the mortgages, promoting the hypomeiones and some of the second-class perioeci to full-citizen status, and dividing the land into 4,500 equal parts for citizens and 15,000 perioecic lots, to redistribute the wealth. The debt proposals won warm support as did the redistribution but to most of the rich  including his co-ruler Leonidas II were bitterly hostile. The ephorate's hesitations were overcome and Leonidas was deposed and the proposals became law. In 242 Agis fatally compromised with the hostile incoming ephors before replacing them with more amenable ones, delaying the distribution but cancelling debts on the advice of his uncle Agesilaus (debt ridden but land rich) and losing credit among his supporters. He lost still more with an abortive expedition to the Isthmus in support of the Achaeans to expel the Macedonians from the Peloponnese and was recalled tried and executed in 241. Agis's supporters fled to the Aetolians who on the pretext of restoring them plundered Laconia of perioicic and helot slaves. Their was no heir for Agis and thus the dual monarchy of Sparta was interrupted. The son of Leonidas, Cleomenes III under orders from his father, married the widow of Agis, who brought him not only rich estates but Agis' ideas.

Cleomenes III

In 235 Leonidas II died and Cleomenes became king and restored the dual monarchy with his brother Eucleides as the 2nd king. In that year Megalopolis under Lydiadas allied with the Achaean league whose foreign policy now turned hostile towards Sparta. In 229 Argos had joined Megalopolis in the Achaean League followed by Phlius, Hermione and Aegina, the situation was resembling the post Leuctra position. On a brighter note the Aetolians gave up their lukewarm support of Achaea against Macedonia and allowed Sparta to take over Mantinea and three other Arcadian towns. and Messenia a friend of Aetolia was not now actively hostile. Cleomenes, with a few horse and 3,000 foot, was now posted in Arcadia. The Ephors, afraid of a war, ordered him home; but finding that, in consequence of this retreat, Aratus had taken Caphyae, they ordered him to take the field again. Cleomenes made himself master of Methydrium, and ravaged the territories of Argos. The Achaeans marched against him with 20,000 foot and 1000 horse, under the command of Aristomachus. Cleomenes met him at Pallantium, and offered him battle but Aristomachus deferred to Aratus who did not desire others victories when out of office and dissuaded the general from engaging, and retreated. This retreat exposed Aratus to reproach among the Achaeans, and to scorn and contempt among the Spartans, whose army consisted not more than 5000 men.

     Ptolemy switches horses

In 227 Ptolemy now switched his sponsorship from the Achaean league and began to give financial support to Cleomenes with a view of setting him on to attack Antigonus, as he hoped to be able to keep in check more effectively the projects of the Macedonian kings with the support of the Lacedaemonians than with that of the Achaeans. With this support Cleomenes was now able to eke out his citizen levies with mercenaries. Shortly afterwards Cleomenes boldly began to fortify against them the so-called Athenaeum in the territory of Megalopolis, Aratus having resumed office called the Council of the League together and decided on open war with Sparta. In 227 the Achaeans were worsted by Cleomenes while on the march near the Lycaeum and again in a pitched battle at a place in the territory of Megalopolis called Ladoceia.

    Coup at Sparta

However Cleomenes was having difficulty in overcoming the caution of the ephors at home and so Cleomenes hastened back to Sparta with a picked force of mercenaries and in a coup in the autumn of 227 Cleomenes seized effective power at Sparta. He now proceeded to implement his socio-political programme started by Agis but not entirely for the same reasons but to ultimately to attempt to restore Spartan greatness in the Peloponnese. To achieve such a goal he executed four ephors and abolished their office, then he carried out Agis' ideas for debt cancellation, land reform, and citizenship for non-Spartiates. Civic land was pooled and redistributed in 4,000 equal lots, 2,500 went to existing citizens including exiles and reinstated inferiors and the rest to deserving Perioeci and mercenaries.  For the first time the amount of produce the helot surrendered to the kleros holder was set as an absolute anmount rather than as a proportion of the annual yield. The citizens children were required to pass through the agoge  and adult citizens were to practice anew the old austere diatia. Finally he gave the helots the right to buy their freedom, a move which alarmed slave owners all over Greece. His military reform was equally revolutionary in that Cleomenes decreed that his new army should be equipped in the Macedonian manner with sarissa not hoplite spear and shield. Cleomenes also created a 6th obal district, Neopolitae, possibly with a view to equating the number of residential units with the number of Mora. In 226 this new model army inflicted on the Achaeans utter defeat at the Hecatombaeum in the territory of Dyme in 226. Such was the defeat that the Achaeans sued for peace. Cleomenes offered them easy terms which the Achaeans readily accepted but Cleomenes suddenly fell ill and the treaty was delayed and not ratified. Aratus having regained his ascendancy in the Achaean councils put off negotiations. Most of eastern Arcadia including Mantinea which slaughtered the Achaean garrison, Argos and much of the Argolid fell to Cleomenes as did Corinth in 224. Again Cleomenes offererd easy terms but rather than treat Aratus resented the offer and was so concerned that he ended his lifelong anti-Macedonian policy, calling on Antigonus III for help , the price being Corinth and the freedom of the Peloponnese he had won in 243 BC.

    Antigonos intervenes

Cleomenes had come close to upsetting the delicate balance of power in the Aegean, Antigonos intervened. In the spring of 224 Antigonos Doson renewed the alliance with Boeotia and brought an army of 20,000 to the Isthmus. While Cleomenes was defending the isthmus Argos defected, abandoning Corinth to recover he succeeded only in losing both and the rest of the Argolid followed soon after. The towns of Arcadia then fell to the Macedonians including Mantinea which was razed to the ground and its population sold into slavery by by Aratus. In 223 with the Macedonian army withdrawn from the Peloponnese Cleomenes, now shut up within the bounds of Laconia, enfranchised any of the helots who could pay five Attic minae for their liberty. By this expedient he raised 50 talents; and having, moreover, armed and trained in the Macedonian manner 2,000 of the 3,000 of those helots. After replenishing his forces with the liberated helots and mercenaries Cleomenes made a brilliant feint march destroying Megalopolis and capturing much needed finance in the form of  300 talents.

In 222 Antigonos Doson calling out his full field strength and with the Achaeans mustered a force of 28,000 and entered Laconia. Scrambling together 20,000 but with the loss of Ptolemy's subsidy he had difficulty paying for them. Thus Cleomenes staked all on a pitched battle at Sellasia (222). The Spartan army was almost completely destroyed, Sparta fell to the invaders, and Cleomenes fled to Egypt, where he later committed suicide after abortively summoning the population of Alexandria to rise up against Ptolemy. Had Cleomenes delayed a few days until the Illyrian invasion which forced Antigonos to return home he could have made peace with the Achaeans on favourable terms but fortune on this occasion did not avour the brave.

Antigonos achieved what Philip II did not, and entered Sparta. Sparta was enrolled in a new Hellenic League, Elis and Messene remained outside and Athens and the Aetolians refused to join A Macedonian governor, a Theban of all people, was installed, the monarchy abolished and Sparta lost the land on the far side of the Taygetos to Messenia and Belminatis and Denthiliatis to Megalopolis.

Lycourgos and Machinadas

Within two years the pro-Macedonian ephors and their supporters were murdered and the monarchy was revived.Antigonos Doson had died from an injury fighting the Illyrians in 221 and had been succeeded by Philip V. In 219 Lycurgos succeeded to the Spartan throne, rid himself of his co-ruler Agesipolis and went to war with Argos in an episode of the Social War, using what was left of Cleomenes' army, four new year classes of citizens plus mercenaries. He succeeded in re-taking some perioecic towns lost to Argos, and the Achaean League, re-capturing a vital fort in Belminatis and later against Tegea provoking Philip to invade and ravage Laconia despite a skilful rearguard defence in 218 BC. Lycurgus was temporarily ousted in a coup and forced into exile, returning in 217 he once more invaded Messenia inconclusively and  expelled his co-ruler Agesipolis. Lycurgus died in 211 and was succeeded by his infant son Pelops but real power lay with the regent Machinadas. In 210 on the principle that 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' Sparta re-activated the Aetolian alliance and joined with Rome against their principal enemy Achaea. In 208 Machinadas recovered Belminatis, captured Tegea and attacked Elis and in 207 threatened Argos. The Achaean army that confronted Machinadas in 207 at Mantinea was not the same that Cleomenes had repeatedly bested. Under Philopoemen it had underdone a long overdue reform and its 20,000, Achaeans re-equipped in the Macedonian style and Cretan mercenaries, soundly beat a reckless Machinadas, who literally lost his head.

Mantinea brought home to Sparta the necessity of further radical experiments.


One more Spartan attempted to save the city through reform. This was Nabis (207-192) son of Demaratus, who seized the crown for himself after the death of Pelops, the youthful king he had acted as guardian for. Like Cleomenes, he formed a new army  10,000 strong (this time from mercenaries, Cretan pirates and ex-slaves), confiscated the land of his wealthy opponents and redistributed it and used his popularity among the poor to spread these ideas abroad. After Sellasia Sparta reverted to a more natural anti-Achaean policy, and by 206 found herself allied with Rome against Macedon and Achaea. By 200 BC the Achaeans had abandoned Macedonia for Rome. Nabis was drawn by hatred of Achaea and ideology to the Macedonian camp and accepted Argos from Philip V of Macedon when he could no longer hold it. After the defeat of Philip at  Cynoscephalae in 197 BC  the Roman army under Flamininus came to settle accounts and invaded Laconia and laid siege to Sparta. After a few days, Nabis and the ephors saw the futility of taking on Rome and a truce was arranged by which Sparta lost Argos, her perioecic cities on the coast , her fleet and paid an indemnity of 500 talents. Encouraged by the Aetolians, who had backing from Antiochos of Syria, the last great Hellenistic power,  Nabis was to attempt to recover some of the coastal towns lost in 195 BC. He stormed Gytheion and fought a successful naval action against the Achaean fleet. but changed sides to support the Romans when they attacked Macedonia. The Romans, however, considered Nabis an unreliable ally, and did not object when an Aetolian officer struck him down in 192. The 1000 Aetolians had been sent to aid Nabis against the Achaeans, the enraged Spartans turned on the Aetolians and massacred them. With his death died also the Spartan revolution.

The end of  Spartan independence

Sparta was forced by Philopoemen to enrol itself as a member of the Achaean League under an Achaean aristocracy. But this gave rise to chronic disorders and disputes, which led to armed intervention by the Achaeans, who in 188 BC compelled the Spartans to submit to the overthrow of their city walls, the dismissal of their mercenary troops, the recall of all exiles, the abandonment of the old Lycurgan constitution and the adoption of the Achaean laws and institutions. Again and again the relations between the Spartans and the Achaean League formed the occasion of discussions in the Roman senate or of the despatch of Roman embassies to Greece, but no decisive intervention took place until a fresh dispute about the position of Sparta in the league led to a decision of the Romans that Sparta, Corinth, Argos, Arcadian Orchomenus and Heraclea on Oeta should be severed from it. This resulted in an open breach between the league and Rome, and eventually, in 146 BC, after the sack of Corinth, in the dissolution of the league and the annexation of Greece to the Roman province of Macedonia. For Sparta the long era of war and intestine struggle had ceased and one of peace and a revived prosperity took its place, as is witnessed by the numerous extant inscriptions belonging to this period. As an allied city it was exempt from direct taxation, though compelled on occasions to make "voluntary" presents to Roman generals. Political ambition was restricted to the tenure of the municipal magistracies.

The Coming of Rome

All of the struggles among the Hellenistic kingdoms is eventually put to an end by the arrival of a new power from the west, that of Rome. Rome had had contact with Greek civilization from its earliest days remember that Southern Italy and Sicily had been largely Greek from early on But only in the last century or so has Rome's power become such that the Greek world has to take much notice of it 280-275

Pyrrhus of Epirus brought an army to Italy, on the pretext of helping some Greek colonies there resist Rome, but probably in the expectation of easy conquest Pyrrhus did win a number of victories, but they were very costly (hence 'Pyrrhic' victories) and as he became aware of the apparently inexhaustible supply of troops at Rome's disposal, he withdrew Romans allied with the Carthaginians against him when he moved into Sicily, and after a serious defeat at the hands of the Romans in 275, he returned to Greece, and was killed a few years later 264-241: First Punic War between Rome and Carthage left Rome a naval power and in possession of most of Sicily Rome first crossed the Adriatic in 229, to deal with Illyrian piracy the result was strong Roman influence in Ilyria and some Greek states in the area (including Corcyra and Epidamnus) in 219, another Roman force came to Illyria to deal with disruptions there, and left with Illyria even more firmly under their control.

The First Macedonian War

This war grew from the alliance made by Philip V of Macedonia with Hannibal the Carthaginian during Rome's Second Punic War, when, in 215, Hannibal seemed sure to prevail the Romans in response allied with the Aetolian league, which had been in conflict with Philip for some time ended in 205 after the Aetolians and Romans each made a separate peace with Philip, who had managed to maintain the upper hand 200-197. Philip opposed Roman expansion at every opportunity; when the Romans moved into Illyria he tried to occupy it too However, he could not get the Greeks to cooperate with him, and present a united front against the Romans when it was needed the most. His attack against the Aetolians (214-205), commonly called the First Macedonian War resulted in the League calling for Roman intervention to save it. Not long after this Philip formed an anti-Egyptian alliance with the Seleucid king, Antiochus III. Together they cleared the Ptolemies out of the Aegean and the Levant (Philip took Samos and Miletus, Antiochus took Israel, Lebanon and southern Syria), but they also made enemies of Pergamun and Rhodes, the two remaining independent states in the war zone. The Pergamenes and Rhodians joined the Aetolians in petitioning the Roman Senate for action. The Senate felt it couldn't act while it was fighting Hannibal in Italy, but shortly after the Second Punic War ended, Rome declared a new war against Macedonia in 200 BC.

The Second Macedonian War

The Roman senate did not forgive or forget Philip’s actions during their struggle with Hannibal. In 201BC, the 2nd Punic war concluded, they decided to avenge them. Philip’s adventures in the Aegean against Attalos and siege of Athens provided a ready excuse. Much to the senate’s surprise and chagrin, the Comitia (the ‘people’) initially rejected the war and had to be persuaded by deceiving them that Philip intended to invade Italy. By spring 200BC the Romans sent an ultimatum to Philip to reimburse Attalos and desist from war against Greeks. Philip responded with savage attacks on Attica, the territory of Athens, and Abydos. As in the first war, Rome’s main allies were the Aetolian League and Attalos of Pergamon. This time she was assisted also by King Amynander of Athamania and King Pleuratos of Illyria and also signed a cynical pact with the savage Dardanian tribes under King Bato to attack Philip’s rear. Prior to Flamininus’ arrival, Philip had parried successive Roman attempts to invade from Illyria and driven back both the Aetolians and Dardanians. He had also had slightly the worst of some skirmishes if Livy can be believed. Flamininus was able to force the Aous passes and get into Thessaly and central Greece in 198BC, but had little success against the towns there. In 197 BC Philip re-entered Thessaly with his field army. Carefully avoiding encounters in unfavourable terrain, but prepared to fight if it was favourable, his mere presence prevented Flaminius from achieving much. The armies probably faced off for much of the summer. At some point Philip decided to move towards Skotussa for fresh supplies. Flamininus marched after him. However, neither army knew exactly where the other was, and conditions were abysmal with thick mist and thunderstorms.  The legions Philip faced now were far more sophisticated than the ones Pyrrhus had defeated in the previous century. The decisive battle was fought at Cynoscephalae, in 197 BC. The Romans had 8,400 of their own infantry and 10,000 Italian allies; 4,000 phalangites and 2,000 peltasts from the Aetolian league, a total of some 2,600 cavalry (including 400 Aetolian); and around 20 elephants. Philip had 16,000 phalangists, 1,500 mercenaries, 4,000 peltasts, 2,000 light armed Thracians and 2,000 Illyrians, and about 2,000 cavalry. The decisive moment was when an unknown tribune won the day for the Romans by taking 10 maniples from the rear of the Roman right and marching them across the battlefield to attack the rear of the advancing Macedonian right wing. The phalanx was unable to take this attack and broke. Soon Philip’s entire army was in flight. His losses were 8,000 killed and 5,000 captured. Almost simultaneously with Cynoscephalae, two of Philip’s generals lost smaller battles, Androsthenes against the Achaeans near Corinth and Deinocrates against the Rhodians in Caria. Philip surrendered his possessions in Greece and became a Roman ally, even sending forces to the Roman army which fought Antiochos III. This was invited in by the Aetolians who were aggrieved by what they saw as unfair treatment by the Romans following the victory over Philip. Roman suspicions of Philip persisted and following some very shabby treatment, he was again preparing for a war against Rome at his death. His preparations were continued by his son Perseus who finally faced the Romans at Pydna in 168BC. This has a better claim to being the definitive phalanx vs. legion battle. The Romans were victorious and broke up the kingdom of Macedonia, Perseus ending his days as a prisoner in Italy.