Agesilaus by Xenophon
He crossed the Hellespont and made his way through the very tribes traversed by the Persian with his multitudinous equipment in former days, and the march which cost the barbarian a year was accomplished by Agesilaus in less than a single month. He did not want to arrive a day too late to serve his fatherland. And so passing through Macedonia he arrived in Thessaly, and here the men of Larissa, Crannon, Scotussa, and Pharsalus, who were allies of the Boeotians, and indeed all the Thessalians, with the exception of those who were in exile at the time, combined to dog his steps and do him damage. For a while he led his troops in a hollow square, posting one half of his cavalry in the van and the other half on his rear, but finding his march hindered by frequent attacks of the Thessalians on his hindmost divisions, he sent round the mass of his cavalry from the vanguard to support his rear, reserving only his personal escort. And now in battle order the rival squadrons faced each other; when the Thessalians, not liking a cavalry engagement in face of heavy infantry, wheeled and step by step retreated; their opponents with much demureness following. Then Agesilaus, detecting the common error under which both parties laboured, sent round his own bodyguard of stalwart troopers with orders to their predecessors (an order they would act upon themselves) to charge the enemy at full gallop and not give him a chance to rally. The Thessalians, in face of this unexpected charge, either could not so much as rally, or in the attempt to do so were caught with their horses' flanks exposed to the enemy's attack. Polycharmus, the Pharsalian, a commandant of cavalry, did indeed succeed in wheeling, but was cut down with those about him sword in hand. This was the signal for a flight so extraordinary that dead and dying lined the road, and the living were captured wholesale, nor was a halt made until the pursuers reached Mount Narthacius. Here, midway between Pras and Narthacius, Agesilaus erected a trophy, and here for the moment he halted in unfeigned satisfaction at his exploit, since it was from an antagonist boasting the finest cavalry in the world that he had wrested victory with a body of cavalry organised by himself.
Next day, crossing the mountain barrier of Achaea Phthiotis, his march lay through friendly territory for the rest of the way as far as the frontiers of Boeotia. Here he found the confederates drawn up in battle line. They consisted of the Thebans, the Athenians, the Argives, the Corinthians, the Aenianians, the Euboeans, and both divisions of the Locrians. He did not hesitate, but openly before their eyes drew out his lines to give them battle. He had with him a division and a half of Lacedaemonians, and from the seat of war itself the allied troops of the Phocians and the men of Orchomenus only, besides the armament which he had brought with him from Asia.
I am not going to maintain that he ventured on the engagement in spite of having far fewer and inferior forces. Such an assertion would only reveal the senselessness of the general and the folly of the writer who should select as praiseworthy the reckless imperilling of mighty interests. On the contrary, what I admire is the fact that he had taken care to provide himself with an army not inferior to that of his enemy, and had so equipped them that his cohorts literally gleamed with purple and bronze. He had taken pains to enable his soldiers to undergo the fatigue of war, he had filled their breasts with a proud consciousness that they were equal to do battle with any combatants in the world, and what was more, he had infused a wholesome rivalry in those about him to prove themselves each better than the rest. He had filled all hearts with sanguine expectation of great blessings to descend on all, if they proved themselves good men. Such incentives, he thought, were best calculated to arouse enthusiasm in men's souls to engage in battle with the enemy. And in this expectation he was not deceived.
I proceed to describe the battle, for in certain distinctive features it differed from all the battles of our day. The contending forces met on the plain of Coronea, Agesilaus and his troops approaching from the Cephisus, the Thebans and their allies from the slopes of the Helicon. These masses of infantry, as any eye might see, were of duly balanced strength, while as near as could be the cavalry on either side was numerically the same. Agesilaus held the right of his own army, and on his extreme left lay the men of Orchomenus. On the opposite side the Thebans themselves formed their own right and the Argives held their left. While the two armies approached a deep silence prevailed on either side, but when they were now a single furlong's space apart the Thebans quickened to a run, and, with a loud hurrah, dashed forward to close quarters. And now there was barely a hundred yards between them, when Herippidas, with his foreign brigade, rushed forward from the Spartan's battle lines to meet them. This brigade consisted partly of troops which had served with Agesilaus ever since he left home, with a portion of the Cyreians, besides Ionians, Aeolians, and their neighbours on the Hellespont. All these took part in the foward rush of the attack just mentioned, and coming within spear-thrust they routed that portion of the enemy in front of them. The Argives did not even wait for Agesilaus and his division, but fled towards Helicon, and at that moment some of his foreign friends were on the point of crowning Agesilaus with the wreath of victory, when some one brought him word that the Thebans had cut through the division from Orchomenus and were busy with the baggage-train. Accordingly he at once deployed his division and advanced by counter-march against them. The Thebans on their side, seeing that their allies had scattered on Helicon, and eager to make their way back to join their friends, began advancing sturdily.
To assert that Agesilaus at this crisis displayed real valour is to assert a thing indisputable, but for all that the course he adopted was not the safest. It was open to him to let the enemy pass in their effort to rejoin their friends, and that done to have hung upon their heels and overmastered their rear ranks, but he did nothing of the sort: what he did was, to crash front to front against the Thebans. And so with shields interlocked they shoved and fought and fought and shoved, dealing death and yielding life. There was no shouting, nor yet was there even silence, but a strange and smothered utterance, such as rage and battle vent. At last a portion of the Thebans forced their way through towards Helicon, but many were slain in that departure.
Victory remained with Agesilaus. Wounded himself, they bore him back to his own lines, when some of his troopers came galloping up to tell him that eighty of the enemy had taken refuge with their arms under cover of the Temple, and they asked what they ought to do. He, albeit he had received wounds all over him, having been the mark of divers weapons, did not even so forget his duty to God, and gave orders to let them go whithersoever they chose, nor suffered them to be ill-treated, but ordered his bodyguard of cavalry to escort them out of reach of danger.
And now that the battle had ceased, it was a sight to see where the encounter took place, the earth bedabbled with gore, the dead lying cheek by jowl, friend and foe together, and the great shields hacked and broken to pieces, and the spears snapped asunder, the daggers lying bare of sheaths, some on the ground, some buried in the bodies, some still clutched in the dead men's hands. For the moment then, seeing that it was already late in the day, they dragged together the corpses of their slain apart from those of the enemy and laid them within the lines, and took their evening meal and slept; but early next morning Agesilaus ordered Gylis, the polemarch, to marshal the troops in battle order and to set up a trophy, while each man donned a wreath in honour of the god, and the pipers piped. So they busied themselves, but the Thebans sent a herald asking leave to bury their dead under cover of a truce. And so it came to pass that a truce was made, and Agesilaus departed homewards, having chosen, in lieu of supreme greatness in Asia, to rule, and to be ruled, in obedience to the laws at home.
It was after this that his attention was drawn to the men of Argos. They had appropriated Corinth, and were reaping the fruits of their fields at home. The war to them was a merry jest. Accordingly he marched against them; and having ravaged their territory throughout, he crossed over by the pass down upon Corinth and captured the long walls leading to Lechaeum. And so having thrown open the gates of Peloponnese he returned home in time for the Hyacinthia, where, in the post assigned to him by the master of the chorus, he shared in the performance of the paean in honour of the god.
Later on, it being brought to his notice that the Corinthians were keeping all their cattle safely housed in the Peiraeum, sowing the whole of that district, and gathering in their crops; and, which was a matter of the greatest moment, that the Boeotians, with Creusis as their base of operations, could pour their succours into Corinth by this route--he marched against Peiraeum. Finding it strongly guarded, he made as if the city of Corinth were about to capitulate, and immediately after the morning meal shifted his ground and encamped against the capital. Under cover of night there was a rush from Peiraeum to protect the city, which he was well aware of, and with break of day he turned right about and took Peiraeum, defenceless as it lay, capturing all that it contained, with the various fortresses within; and having so done retired homewards.
After these exploits the Achaeans were urgent for an alliance, and begged him to join them in an expedition against Acarnania. In the course of this the Acarnanians attacked him in a defile. Storming the heights above his head with his light troops, he gave them battle, and slew many of them, and set up a trophy, nor stayed his hand until he had united the Acarnanians, the Aetolians, and the Argives,] in friendship with the Achaeans and alliance with himself.
When the enemy, being desirous of peace, sent an embassy, it was Agesilaus who spoke against the peace, until he had forced the states of Corinth and of Thebes to welcome back those of them who, for Lacedaemon's sake, had suffered banishment.
And still later, again, he restored the exiles of the Phliasians, who had suffered in the same cause, and with that object marched in person against Phlius, a proceeding which, however liable to censure on other grounds, showed unmistakable attachment to his party.
Thus, when the adverse faction had put to death those of the Lacedaemonians then in Thebes, he brought succour to his friends, and marched upon Thebes. Finding the entire country fenced with ditch and palisading, he crossed Cynoscephalae and ravaged the district right up to the city itself, giving the Thebans an opportunity of engaging him in the plain or upon the hills, as they preferred. And once more, in the ensuing year, he marched against Thebes, and now surmounting these palisades and entrenchments at Scolus, he ravaged the remainder of Boeotia.
Hitherto fortune had smiled in common upon the king himself and upon his city. And as for the disasters which presently befell, no one can maintain that they were brought about under the leadership of Agesilaus. But the day came when, after the disaster which had occurred at Leuctra, the rival powers in conjunction with the Mantineans fell to massacring his friends and adherents in Tegea (the confederacy between all the states of Boeotia, the Arcadians, and the Eleians being already an accomplished fact). Thereupon, with the forces of Lacedaemon alone, he took the field, and thus belied the current opinion that it would be a long while before the Lacedaemonians ventured to leave their own territory again. Having ravaged the country of those who had done his friends to death, he was content, and returned home.
After this Lacedaemon was invaded by the united Arcadians, Argives, Eleians, and Boeotians, who were assisted by the Phocians, both sections of the Locrians, the Thessalians, Aenianians, Acarnanians, and Euboeans; moreover, the slaves had revolted and several of the provincial cities; while of the Spartans themselves as many had fallen on the field of Leuctra as survived. But in spite of all, he safely guarded the city, and that too a city without walls and bulwarks. Forbearing to engage in the open field, where the gain would lie wholly with the enemy, he lay stoutly embattled on ground where the citizens must reap advantage; since, as he doggedly persisted, to march out meant to be surrounded on every side; whereas to stand at bay where every defile gave a coign of vantage, would give him mastery complete.
After the invading army had retired, no one will gainsay the sound sense of his behaviour. Old age debarred him from active service on foot or horse, and what the city chiefly needed now, he saw, was money, if she looked to gain allies. To the task therefore of providing that he set himself. Everything that could be done by stopping at home he deftly turned his hand to; or when the call arose and he could better help his country by departure he had no false pride; he set off on foreign service, not as general, but as ambassador. Yet on such embassy he achieved acts worthy of the greatest general. Autophradates was besieging Ariobarzanes, who was an ally of Sparta, in Assos; but before the face of Agesilaus he fled in terror and was gone. Cotys, besieging Sestos, which still adhered to Ariobarzanes, broke up the siege and departed crestfallen. Well might the ambassador have set up a trophy in commemoration of the two bloodless victories. Once more, Mausolus was besieging both the above-named places with a squadron of one hundred sail. He too, like, and yet unlike, the former two, yielded not to terror but to persuasion, and withdrew his fleet. These, then, were surely admirable achievements, since those who looked upon him as a benefactor and those who fled from before him both alike made him the richer by their gifts.
Tachos, indeed, and Mausolus gave him a magnificent escort; and, for the sake of his former friendship with Agesilaus, the latter contributed also money for the state of Lacedaemon; and so they sped him home.
And now the weight of, may be, fourscore years was laid upon him, when it came under his observation that the king of Egypt, with his hosts of foot and horse and stores of wealth, had set his heart on a war with Persia. Joyfully he learned that he himself was summoned by King Tachos, and that the command-in-chief of all the forces was promised to him. By this one venture he would achieve three objects, which were to requite the Egyptian for the benefits conferred on Lacedaemon; to liberate the Hellenes in Asia once again; and to inflict on the Persian a just recompense, not only for the old offences, but for this which was of to-day; seeing that, while boasting alliance with Sparta, he had dictatorially enjoined the emancipation of Messene. But when the man who had summoned him refused to confer the proffered generalship, Agesilaus, like one on whom a flagrant deception has been practised, began to consider the part he had to play. Meanwhile a separate division of the Egyptian armies held aloof from their king. Then, the disaffection spreading, all the rest of his troops deserted him; whereat the monarch took flight and retired in exile to Sidon in Phoenicia, leaving the Egyptians, split in faction, to choose to themselves a pair of kings. Thereupon Agesilaus took his decision. If he helped neither, it meant that neither would pay the service-money due to his Hellenes, that neither would provide a market, and that, whichever of the two conquered in the end, Sparta would be equally detested. But if he threw in his lot with one of them, that one would in all likelihood in return for the kindness prove a friend. Accordingly he chose between the two that one who seemed to be the truer partisan of Hellas, and with him marched against the enemy of Hellas and conquered him in a battle, crushing him. His rival he helped to establish on the throne, and having made him a friend to Lacedaemon, and having acquired vast sums besides, he turned and set sail homewards, even in mid-winter, hastening so that Sparta might not lie inactive, but against the coming summer be alert to confront the foe.