37 Facts About Agesilaus II


Agesilaus II was probably born around 442, as he was said to have been aged 84 at his death in 358.

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The name Agesilaus II was rare and harks back to Agesilaus II I, one of the earliest kings of Sparta.

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Agesilaus II was born lame, which some scholars have argued should have cost him his life because, according to Plutarch who was writing several hundred years later, deformed Spartan babies were thrown into a chasm.

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At the age of 7, Agesilaus II had to go through the rigorous education system of Sparta, called the agoge.

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Between 433 and 428, Agesilaus II became the younger lover of Lysander, an aristocrat from the circle of Archidamos, whose family had some influence in Libya.

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Once he turned 20 and became a full citizen, Agesilaus II was elected to a common mess, presumably that of his elder half-brother Agis II, who had become king in 427, of which Lysander was perhaps a member.

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Agesilaus II probably served during the Peloponnesian War against Athens, likely at the Battle of Mantinea in 418.

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Agesilaus II's father was Aristomenidas, an influential noble with connections in Thebes.

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The role of Lysander in the accession of Agesilaus II has been debated among historians, principally because Plutarch makes him the main instigator of the plot, while Xenophon downplays Lysander's influence.

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The failure of Agesilaus II to acknowledge the critical problem suffered by Sparta at the time has been criticised by modern historians.

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Lysander and Agesilaus II had intended the expedition to be a Panhellenic enterprise, but Athens, Corinth, and especially Thebes, refused to participate.

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In Spring 396, Agesilaus II came to Aulis to sacrifice on the place where Agamemnon had done so just before his departure to Troy at the head of the Greek army in the Iliad, thus giving a grandiose aspect to the expedition.

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Agesilaus II then left to Asia, but Thebes remained hateful to him for the rest of his life.

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Once Agesilaus II landed in Ephesus, the Spartan main base, he concluded a three months' truce with Tissaphernes, likely to settle the affairs among the Greek allies.

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Agesilaus II integrated some of the Greek mercenaries formerly hired by Cyrus the Younger in his army.

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In Ephesus, Agesilaus II' authority was nevertheless overshadowed by Lysander, who was reacquainted with many of his supporters, men he had placed in control of the Greek cities at the end of the Peloponnesian War.

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Agesilaus II then wintered at Ephesus, where he trained a cavalry force, perhaps on the advice of Xenophon, who had commanded the cavalry of the Ten Thousand.

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Agesilaus II delegated the naval command to his brother-in-law Peisander, whom he appointed navarch despite his inexperience; perhaps Agesilaus wanted to avoid the rise of a new Lysander, who owed his prominence to his time as navarch.

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Xenophon tells that Agesilaus II then wanted to campaign further east in Asia and sow discontent among the subjects of the Achaemenid empire, or even to conquer Asia.

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Plutarch went further and wrote that Agesilaus II had prepared an expedition to the heart of Persia, up to her capital of Susa, thus making him a forerunner of Alexander the Great.

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The Asian Greeks fighting for him said they wanted to continue serving with him, while Agesilaus II promised he would return to Asia as soon as he could.

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Agesilaus II returned to Greece by land, crossing the Hellespont and from there along the coast of the Aegean Sea.

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Agesilaus II then entered Boeotia by the Thermopylae, where he received reinforcements from Sparta.

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Agesilaus II lied to his men about the outcome of the battle of Knidos to avoid demoralising them as they were about to fight a large engagement against the combined armies of Thebes, Athens, Argos and Corinth.

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Agesilaus II appears to have tried to win an honourable victory, by risking his life and being merciful with some Thebans who had sought shelter in the nearby Temple of Athena Itonia.

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Agesilaus II then moved to Delphi, where he offered one tenth of the booty he had amassed since his landing at Ephesos, and returned to Sparta.

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In 389 BC he conducted a campaign in Acarnania, but two years later the Peace of Antalcidas, warmly supported by Agesilaus II, put an end to the war, maintaining Spartan hegemony over Greece and returning the Greek cities of Asia Minor to the Achaemenid Empire.

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When war broke out afresh with Thebes, Agesilaus II twice invaded Boeotia, although he spent the next five years largely out of action due to an unspecified but apparently grave illness.

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In 370 Agesilaus II was engaged in an embassy to Mantineia, and reassured the Spartans with an invasion of Arcadia.

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Agesilaus II preserved an unwalled Sparta against the revolts and conspiracies of helots, perioeci and even other Spartans; and against external enemies, with four different armies led by Epaminondas penetrating Laconia that same year.

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The Battle of Mantinea, in which Agesilaus II took no part, was followed by a general peace: Sparta stood aloof, hoping even yet to recover her supremacy.

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Sometime after the Battle of Mantineia, Agesilaus II went to Egypt at the head of a mercenary force to aid the king Nectanebo I and his regent Teos against Persia.

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On his way home Agesilaus II died in Cyrenaica, around the age of 84, after a reign of some 41 years.

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Agesilaus II was of small stature and unimpressive appearance, and was lame from birth.

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Agesilaus II was most successful in the opening and closing periods of his reign: commencing but then surrendering a glorious career in Asia; and in extreme age, maintaining his prostrate country.

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Agesilaus II lived in the most frugal style alike at home and in the field, and though his campaigns were undertaken largely to secure booty, he was content to enrich the state and his friends and to return as poor as he had set forth.

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On noticing a house in Asia roofed with square beams, Agesilaus II asked the owner whether timber grew square in that area.

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