june 16, 2005
Topic: Pausanias on the First Messenian War (Read 3791 times)
Cropped from here.
[4.4.1] IV. In the reign of Phintas the son of Sybotas the Messenians for the first time sent an offering and chorus of men to Apollo at Delos. Their processional hymn to the god was composed by Eumelus, this poem being the only one of his that is considered genuine. It was in the reign of Phintas that a quarrel first took place with the Lacedaemonians. The very cause is disputed, but is said to have been as follows:
[4.4.2] There is a sanctuary of Artemis called Limnatis (of the Lake) on the frontier of Messenian, in which the Messenians and the Lacedaemonians alone of the Dorians shared. According to the Lacedaemonians their maidens coming to the festival were violated by Messenian men and their king was killed in trying to prevent it. He was Teleclus the son of Archelaus, son of Agesilaus, son of Doryssus, son of Labotas, son of Echestratus, son of Agis. In addition to this they say that the maidens who were violated killed themselves for shame.
[4.4.3] The Messenians say that a plot was formed by Teleclus against persons of the highest rank in Messene who had come to the sanctuary, his incentive being the excellence of the Messenian land; in furtherance of his design he selected some Spartan youths, all without beards, dressed them in girls' clothes and ornaments, and providing them with daggers introduced them among the Messenians when they were resting; the Messenians, in defending themselves, killed the beardless youths and Teleclus himself; but the Lacedaemonians, they say, whose king did not plan this without the general consent, being conscious that they had begun the wrong, did not demand justice for the murder of Teleclus. These are the accounts given by the two sides; one may believe them according to one's feelings towards either side.
[4.4.4] A generation later in the reign of Alcamenes the son of Teleclus in Lacedaemon -- the king of the other house was Theopompus the son of Nicander, son of Charillus, son of Polydectes, son of Eunomus, son of Prytanis, son of Eurypon in Messenia Antiochus and Androcles, the sons of Phintas were reigning -- the mutual hatred of the Lacedaemonians and Messenians was aroused, and the Lacedaemonians began war, obtaining a pretext which was not only sufficient for them, eager for a quarrel as they were and resolved on war at all costs, but also plausible in the highest degree, although with a more peaceful disposition it could have been settled by the decision of a court. What happened was as follows.
[4.4.5] There was a Messenian Polychares, a man of no small distinction in all respects and an Olympic victor. (The Eleians were holding the fourth Olympiad,8 the only event being the short foot-race, when Polychares won his victory.) This man, possessing cattle without land of his own to provide them with sufficient grazing, gave them to a Spartan Euaephnus to feed on his own land, Euaephnus to have a share of the produce.
[4.4.6] Now Euaephnus was a man who set unjust gain above loyalty, and a trickster besides. He sold the cattle of Polychares to some merchants who put in to Laconia, and went himself to inform Polychares but he said that pirates had landed in the country, had overcome him and carried off the cattle and the herdsmen. While he was trying to deceive him by his lies, one of the herdsmen, escaping in the meantime from the merchants, returned and found Euaephnus there with his master, and convicted him before Polychares.
[4.4.7] Thus caught and unable to deny it, he made many appeals to Polychares himself and to his son to grant him pardon; for among the many inducements to be found in human nature which drive us to wrongdoing the love of gain exercises the greatest power. He stated the price which he had received for the cattle and begged that the son of Polychares should come with him to receive it. When on their way they reached Laconia, Euaephnus dared a deed more impious than the first; he murdered Polychares' son.
[4.4.8] Polychares, when he heard of this new misfortune, went to Lacedaemon and plagued the kings and ephors, loudly lamenting his son and recounting the wrongs that he had suffered from Euaephnus, whom he had made his friend and trusted above all the Lacedaemonians. Obtaining no redress in spite of continual visits to the authorities, Polychares at last was driven out of his mind, gave way to his rage, and, regardless of himself, dared to murder every Lacedaemonian whom he could capture.
[4.5.1] V. The Lacedaemonians say that they went to war because Polychares was not surrendered to them, and on account of the murder of Teleclus; even before this they had been suspicious on account of the wrongdoing of Cresphontes in the matter of the lot. The Messenians make the reply that I have already given with regard to Teleclus, and point to the fact that the sons of Aristodemus helped to restore Aepytus the son of Cresphontes, which they would never have done if they had been at variance with Cresphontes.
[4.5.2] They say that they did not surrender Polychares to the Lacedaemonians for punishment because they also had not surrendered Euaephnus, but that they offered to stand trial at the meeting of the league before the Argives, kinsmen of both parties, and to submit the matter to the court at Athens called the Areopagus, as this court was held to exercise an ancient jurisdiction in cases pertaining to murder.
[4.5.3] They say that these were not the reasons of the Lacedaemonians in going to war, but that they had formed designs on their country through covetousness, as in others of their actions, bringing forward against them their treatment of the Arcadians and of the Argives; for in both cases they have never been satisfied with their continual encroachments. When Croesus sent them presents they were the first to become friends with the barbarian, after he had reduced the other Greeks of Asia Minor and all the Dorians who live on the Carian mainland.
[4.5.4] They point out too that when the Phocian leaders had seized the temple at Delphi, the kings and every Spartan of repute privately, and the board of ephors and senate publicly, had a share of the god's property. As the most convincing proof that the Lacedaemonians would stick at nothing for the sake of gain, they reproach them with their alliance with Apollodorus, who became tyrant in Cassandreia.
[4.5.5] I could not introduce into the present account the reasons why the Messenians have come to regard this as so bitter a reproach. Although the courage of the Messenians and the length of time for which they fought differ from the facts of the tyranny of Apollodorus, in their disastrous character the sufferings of the people of Cassandreia would not fall far short of the Messenian.
[4.5.6] These then are the reasons for the war which the two sides allege. An embassy then came from the Lacedaemonians to demand the surrender of Polychares. The Messenian kings replied to the ambassadors that after deliberation with the people they would send the findings to Sparta and after their departure they themselves summoned the citizens to a meeting. The views put forward differed widely, Androcles urging the surrender of Polychares as guilty of an impious and abominable crime. Antiochus among other arguments urged against him that it would be the most piteous thing that Polychares should suffer before the eyes of Euaephnus, and enumerated in detail all that he would have to undergo.
[4.5.7] Finally the supporters of Androcles and of Antiochus were so carried away that they took up arms. But the battle did not last long, for the party of Antiochus, far outnumbering the other, killed Androcles and his principal supporters, Antiochus, now sole king, sent to Sparta that he was ready to submit the matter to the courts which I have already mentioned. But the Lacedaemonians are said to have made no reply to the bearers of the letter.
[4.5.8] Not many months later Antiochus died and his son Euphaes succeeded to the kingdom. The Lacedaemonians, without sending a herald to declare war on the Messenians or renouncing their friendship beforehand, had made their preparations secretly and with all the concealment possible; they first took an oath that neither the length of the war, should it not be decided soon, nor their disasters, however great they might be, would deter them until they won the land of Messenia by the sword.
[4.5.9] After taking this oath, they attacked Ampheia by night, appointing Alcamenes the son of Teleclus leader of the force. Ampheia is a small town in Messenia near the Laconian border, of no great size, but situated on a high hill and possessing copious springs of water. It seemed generally a suitable base for the whole war. The gates being open and the town not garrisoned, they took it and killed the Messenians captured there, some still in their beds and others who had taken refuge at the sanctuaries and altars of the gods when they realized what had happened. Those who escaped were few.
[4.5.10] This was the first attack which the Lacedaemonians made on the Messenians, in the second year of the ninth Olympiad,9 when Xenodocus of Messenia won the short foot-race. In Athens there were not as yet the archons appointed annually by lot for at first the people deprived the descendants of Melanthus, called Medontidae, of most of their power, transforming the kingship into a constitutional office; afterwards they limited their tenure of office to ten years. At the time of the seizure of Ampheia, Aesimides the son of Aeschylus was holding his fifth year office at Athens.
[4.6.1] VI. Before I wrote the history of the war and all the sufferings and actions that heaven prepared in it for both sides, I wished to reach a decision regarding the age of a certain Messenian. This war was fought between the Lacedaemonians with their allies and the Messenians with their supporters, but received its name not from the invaders like the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, but was called Messenian from their disasters, just as the name Trojan war, rather than Greek, came to be universally applied to the war at Troy. An account of this war of the Messenians has been given by Rhianus of Bene in his epic, and by Myron of Priene.10 Myron's history is in prose.
[4.6.2] Neither writer achieved a complete and continuous account of the whole war from its beginning to the end, but only of the part which each selected: Myron narrated the capture of Ampheia and subsequent events down to the death of Aristodemus; Rhianus did not touch this first war at all. He described the events that in time befell the Messenians after their revolt from the Lacedaemonians, not indeed the whole of them, but those subsequent to the battle which they fought at the Great Trench, as it is called.
[4.6.3] The Messenian, Aristomenes, on whose account I have made my whole mention of Rhianus and Myron, was the man who first and foremost raised the name of Messene to renown. He was introduced by Myron into his history, while to Rhianus in his epic Aristomenes is as great a man as is the Achilles of the Iliad to Homer. As their statements differ so widely, it remained for me to adopt one or other of the accounts, but not both together, and Rhianus appeared to me to have given the more probable account as to the age of Aristomenes.
[4.6.4] One may realize in others of his works that Myron gives no heed to the question of his statements seeming to lack truth and credibility, and particularly in this Messenian history. For he has made Aristomenes kill Theopompus, the king of the Lacedaemonians, shortly before the death of Aristodemus but we know that Theopompus was not killed either in battle or in any other way before the war was concluded.
[4.6.5] It was this Theopompus who put an end to the war, and my evidence is the lines of Tyrtaeus, which say:–
To our king beloved of the gods, Theopompus, through whom we took Messene with wide dancing-grounds. Tyrtaeus, unknown location.
Aristomenes then in my view belongs to the time of the second war, and I will relate his history when I come to this.
[4.6.6] The Messenians, when they heard of the events at Ampheia from the actual survivors from the captured town, mustered in Stenyclerus from their cities. When the people had gathered in the assembly, first the leading men and finally the king exhorted them not to be panic-stricken at the sack of Ampheia, or to suppose that the issue of the whole war had already been decided thereby, or to be afraid of the power of the Lacedaemonians as superior to their own. For the Lacedaemonians had longer practice in warfare, but they themselves had a stronger necessity to show themselves brave men, and greater goodwill would be shown by the gods to men defending their country, who were not the authors of injustice.
[4.7.1] VII. With these words Euphaes dismissed the gathering, and henceforward kept all the Messenians under arms, compelling the untrained to learn the art of war and the trained men to undergo a more rigorous discipline than before. The Lacedaemonians carried out raids into Messenia, but did no harm to the country, regarding it as their own, nor did they cut down trees or demolish buildings, but they drove off any cattle that they met with, and carried off the corn and other produce.
[4.7.2] They made assaults on the towns but captured none, as they were fortified with walls and carefully garrisoned. They withdrew with loss and without effecting anything, and finally gave up attempting the towns. The Messenians also ravaged the Laconian coast and all the cultivated land round Taygetos.
[4.7.3] Three years after the capture of Ampheia, being eager to put to use the spirit of the Messenians, now at the height of their passion against the Lacedaemonians, and considering too that they had undergone sufficient training, Euphaes ordered an advance. He bade the slaves also accompany him, bringing wood and all else that was required for the making of an entrenched camp. The Lacedaemonians heard from their garrison at Ampheia that the Messenians were marching out, so they also came out to battle.
[4.7.4] There was a place in Messenia which was in other ways suitable for an engagement, but had a deep ravine in front of it. Here Euphaes drew up the Messenians and appointed Cleonnis general; the cavalry and light-armed, together amounting to less than 500, were commanded by Pytharatus and Antander.
[4.7.5] As the two forces were about to engage, the ravine which divided them prevented the heavy-armed from coming to close quarters, though they approached one another eagerly and with a recklessness born of hate. The cavalry and light-armed engaged above the ravine, but as they were equally matched in numbers and skill, for this reason the fight was indecisive.
[4.7.6] While they were involved, Euphaes ordered the slaves to fortify with a palisade first the rear of his force and afterwards both flanks, and when the battle had been broken off at nightfall, they fortified his front also on the ravine. So at daybreak the Lacedaemonians realized the forethought of Euphaes. They had no means of fighting the Messenians unless they came out from the stockade, and despaired of forming a siege, for which they were unprepared in all things alike.
[4.7.7] They then returned home; but a year later, when the older men reviled them and taunted them both with cowardice and disregard of their oath, they made a second expedition openly against the Messenians. Both kings were in command, Theopompus the son of Nicander and Polydorus the son of Alcamenes, Alcamenes being no longer alive. The Messenians encamped opposite them, and when the Spartans endeavored to join battle, went out to meet them.
[4.7.8] The Lacedaemonian commander on the left wing was Polydorus, and Theopompus on the right. The center was held by Euryleon, now a Lacedaemonian, but of Theban origin of the house of Cadmus, fourth in descent from Aegeus the son of Oeolycus, son of Theras, son of Autesion. On the side of the Messenians Antander and Euphaes were posted opposite the Lacedaemonian right; the other wing, opposite Polydorus, was held by Pytharatus, with Cleonnis in the center.
[4.7.9] As they were about to engage, the kings came forward to encourage their men. The words of encouragement addressed by Theopompus to the Lacedaemonians were few, according to their native custom. He reminded them of their oath against the Messenians, and said how noble was their ambition, to prove themselves to have done a deed more glorious than their fathers, who subdued the neighboring peoples, and to have won a more fortunate land. Euphaes spoke at greater length than the Spartan, but no more than he saw the occasion admitted.
[4.7.10] He declared that the contest would be not only for land and possessions, but he knew well what would overtake them if defeated. Their wives and children would be carried off as slaves, and death unaccompanied by outrage would be the mildest fate for their grown men their sanctuaries would be despoiled and their ancestral homes burnt. His words were not supposition, the fate of the men captured at Ampheia was evidence that all could see.
[4.7.11] Better a noble death than such evils; it was far easier for them, while still undefeated and equally matched in courage, to outdo their adversaries in zeal than to repair their losses when once they had lost heart.
[4.8.1] VIII. Such were the words of Euphaes. When the leaders on either side gave the signal, the Messenians charged the Lacedaemonians recklessly like men eager for death in their wrath, each one of them eager to be the first to join battle. The Lacedaemonians also advanced to meet them eagerly, but were careful not to break their ranks.
[4.8.2] When they were about to come to close quarters, they threatened one another by brandishing their arms and with fierce looks, and fell to recriminations, these calling the Messenians already their slaves, no freer than the Helots; the others answering that they were impious in their undertaking, who for the sake of gain attacked their kinsmen and outraged all the ancestral gods of the Dorians, and Heracles above all. And now with their taunts they come to deeds, mass thrusting against mass, especially on the Lacedaemonian side, and man attacking man.
[4.8.3] The Lacedaemonians were far superior both in tactics and training, and also in numbers, for they had with them the neighboring peoples already reduced and serving in their ranks, and the Dryopes of Asine, who a generation earlier had been driven out of their own country by the Argives and had come as suppliants to Lacedaemon, were forced to serve in the army. Against the Messenian light-armed they employed Cretan archers as mercenaries.
[4.8.4] The Messenians were inspired alike by desperation and readiness to face death, regarding all their sufferings as necessary rather than terrible to men who honored their country, and exaggerating their achievements and the consequences to the Lacedaemonians. Some of them leapt forth from the ranks, displaying glorious deeds of valor, in others fatally wounded and scarce breathing the frenzy of despair still reigned.
[4.8.5] They encouraged one another, the living and unwounded urging the stricken before their last moment came to sell their lives as dearly as they could and accept their fate with joy. And the wounded, when they felt their strength ebbing and breath failing, urged the unwounded to prove themselves no less valorous than they and not to render their death of no avail to their fatherland.
[4.8.6] The Lacedaemonians refrained from exhorting one another, and were less inclined than the Messenians to engage in striking deeds of valor. As they were versed in warfare from boyhood, they employed a deeper formation and hoped that the Messenians would not endure the contest for so long as they, or sustain the toil of battle or wounds.
[4.8.7] These were the differences in both sets of combatants in action and in feeling; but on both sides alike the conquered made no appeals or promises of ransom, perhaps in their enmity despairing of getting quarter, but mainly because they scorned to disgrace their previous achievements. The victorious refrained alike from boasting and from taunts, neither side having yet sure hopes of victory. The most remarkable was the death of those who tried to strip any of the fallen. For if they exposed any part of their bodies, they were struck with javelins or were struck down while intent on their present occupation, or were killed by those whom they were plundering who still lived.
[4.8.8] The kings fought in a manner that deserves mention. Theopompus rushed wildly forward to slay Euphaes himself. Euphaes, seeing him advancing, said to Antander that the action of Theopompus was no different from the attempt of his ancestor Polyneices; for Polyneices led an army from Argos against his fatherland, and slaying his brother with his own hand was slain by him. Theopompus was ready to involve the race of the Heracleidae in pollution as great as that of the house of Laius and Oedipus, but he would not leave the field unscathed. With these words he too advanced.
[4.8.9] Thereupon the battle, though the combatants had wearied, everywhere broke out again in full force. Their strength was renewed and recklessness of death heightened on both sides, so that it might have been thought that they were engaging for the first time. Finally Euphaes and his men in a frenzy of despair that was near to madness (for picked Messenian troops formed the whole of the king's bodyguard), overpowering the enemy by their valor, drove back Theopompus himself and routed the Lacedaemonian troops opposed to them.
[4.8.10] But the other Messenian wing was in difficulties, for the general Pytharatus had been killed, and the men, without a commander, were fighting in a disorganized and confused manner, though not without heart. Polydorus did not pursue the Messenians when they gave way, nor Euphaes' men the Lacedaemonians. It seemed better to him and his men to support the defeated wing; they did not, however, engage with Polydorus' force, for darkness had already descended on the field;
[4.8.11] moreover, the Lacedaemonians were prevented from following the retiring force further not least by their ignorance of the country. Also it was an ancient practice with them not to carry out a pursuit too quickly, as they were more careful about maintaining their formation than about slaying the flying. In the center, where Euryleon was commanding the Lacedaemonians, and Cleonnis on the Messenian side, the contest was undecided; the coming of night separated them here also.
[4.8.12] This battle was fought principally or entirely by the heavy-armed troops on both sides. The mounted men were few and achieved nothing worth mention; for the Peloponnesians were not good horsemen then. The Messenian light-armed and the Cretans on the Lacedaemonian side did not engage at all; for on both sides according to the ancient practice they were posted in reserve to their own infantry.
[4.8.13] The following day neither side was minded to begin battle or to be the first to set up a trophy, but as the day advanced they made proposals for taking up the dead; when this was agreed on both sides, they proceeded to bury them.
[4.9.1] IX. But after the battle the affairs of the Messenians began to get serious. They were exhausted by the expenditure of money devoted to the garrisoning of the towns, and their slaves were deserting to the Lacedaemonians. They were visited also by disease, which caused alarm, as resembling plague, although it did not attack all. In these circumstances they resolved to desert all their numerous towns inland and to settle on Mount Ithome.
[4.9.2] A small town existed here, which they say Homer mentions in the Catalogue:
Stepped Ithome. Hom. Il. 2.729
To this town they withdrew, extending the old circuit to form a sufficient protection for them all. The place was strong in other respects, for Ithome falls short of none of the mountains within the Isthmus in height and at this point was most difficult to climb.
[4.9.3] They also resolved to send an envoy to Delphi, and despatched Tisis the son of Alcis, a man of the highest reputation, considered to be fully versed in divination. While he was returning from Delphi men from the Lacedaemonian garrison at Ampheia laid an ambush for him. Though trapped, he did not submit to be made a prisoner, but stood his ground to resist in spite of the wounds he received, until a voice was heard from an unseen quarter, “Let the bearer of the oracle go free.”
[4.9.4] Tisis, reaching Ithome with all speed, delivered the oracle to the king, and soon afterwards died of his wounds. Euphaes assembled the Messenians and made known the oracle:
Ye shall sacrifice a pure maiden to the gods below, appointed by lot of the blood of the sons of Aepytus, and slay her by night. But if that ye cannot do, offer a maiden from another house, if the father gives her freely for the slaughter.
[4.9.5] When the god declared this, all the maidens of the house of the Aepytidae forthwith cast lots, and the lot fell on the daughter of Lyciscus. But Epebolus the seer forbade them to offer her, for she was not the daughter of Lyciscus, but the woman who was married to Lyciscus being unable to bear a child had palmed off the girl as hers. While Epebolus was making this declaration, Lyciscus took the girl away and deserted to Sparta.
[4.9.6] The Messenians were in despair when they saw that Lyciscus had fled; thereupon Aristodemus, a son of the house of the Aepytidae, of higher standing than Lyciscus both in reputation and in war, freely offered his daughter for the sacrifice. But human affairs and human purpose above all are obscured by fate, just as the mud of a river hides a pebble; for when Aristodemus was striving his utmost to save Messene, fate set this obstacle in his path.
[4.9.7] A Messenian, whose name is not recorded, was in love with the daughter of' Aristodemus, and was already about to make her his wife. He at first disputed the rights of Aristodemus over the girl for Aristodemus, since he had betrothed her to himself had no further rights over the girl, but he to whom she was betrothed had greater rights than the father. Next, when he saw that this was of no avail, he had recourse to a shameless plea, that the girl was with child by him.
[4.9.8] At last he drove Aristodemus to such a fury of passion that lie killed his daughter; then cutting her open he showed that she was not pregnant. Epebolus, who was present, ordered another man to come forward and offer his daughter, for the daughter of Aristodemus was of no avail to them dead; for the father had murdered her, not offered her to the gods whom the Pythia ordained.
[4.9.9] When the seer said this, the multitude of the Messenians rushed on the girl's lover to kill him, since he had fixed the guilt of bloodshed on Aristodemus to no purpose, and had made their hopes of safety doubtful. But as he was a close friend of Euphaes, Euphaes persuaded the Messenians that the oracle was fulfilled by the death of the girl and that the deed done by Aristodemus sufficed for them.
[4.9.10] When he said this, all the members of the house of the Aepytidae said that he spoke truth, for each was eager to be rid of the terror threatening his daughter. The people took the advice of' the king and broke up the assembly and thereupon turned to sacrifices to the gods and feasting.
[4.10.1] X. But the Lacedaemonians, when they heard the oracle given to the Messenians, were in despair, both they and their kings, and for the future shrank from offering battle.
But five years after the escape of Lyciscus from Ithome, the victims being auspicious, the Lacedaemonians marched against Ithome. The Cretans were no longer with them. The allies of the Messenians also were late, for the Spartans had now incurred the suspicion of others of the Peloponnesians, especially of the Arcadians and Argives. The Argives intended to come without the knowledge of the Lacedaemonians, and by private enterprise rather than by public declaration. The expedition was openly proclaimed among the Arcadians, but they did not arrive either. For the Messenians were induced by the credit placed in the oracle to face the risk without allies.
[4.10.2] This engagement did not differ in most points from the first, as on this occasion too daylight failed the combatants, but they record that on neither side was a wing or division broken, as they did not maintain the formation in which they were originally posted, champions on either side meeting in the middle, and there supporting the whole combat.
[4.10.3] Euphaes, who showed more eagerness than a king should and recklessly attacked Theopompus' bodyguard, received a number of mortal wounds. When he swooned and fell, the Lacedaemonians did their utmost to drag him into their own ranks, as he still breathed. But the Messenians were roused by the affection which they felt for their king and by the reproach which would be theirs. It seemed better to die for their kings and sacrifice their lives than that he should be abandoned while one of them escaped.
[4.10.4] So the fall of Euphaes prolonged the battle and called forth further deeds of daring on both sides. He came to himself later and saw that his men had not had the worst of the fight, but he died in a few days, having reigned thirteen years over the Messenians, and having been at war with the Lacedaemonians for the whole of his reign.
[4.10.6] Euphaes, having no children, left his kingdom to the man chosen by the people. Cleonnis and Damis came forward to dispute it with Aristodemus, as they were considered superior to him in war and all else. Antander had been killed by the enemy, risking his life for Euphaes in the battle. The views of both the seers, Epebolus and Ophioneus, were identical, that they should not give the honors of Aepytus and his descendants to a man who was accursed and polluted by the murder of his daughter. Nevertheless Aristodemus was chosen and became king.
[4.10.6] This Ophioneus, the Messenian seer, was blind from birth and practised the following method of divination. By learning the facts relevant to each case, both private and public, he thus foretold the future. This then was the way he practised his art. Aristodemus, becoming king, constantly was ready to show all reasonable favour to the people, and held all the nobles in honor, especially Cleonnis and Damis. He maintained good relations with the allies, sending gifts to the Arcadian leaders and to Argos and Sicyon.
[4.10.7] They carried on the war during his reign by means of constant forays with small parties, and made incursions into one another's country at harvest time, the Messenians being supported by the Arcadians in their raids into Laconia. The Argives did not think fit to declare their hatred for the Lacedaemonians beforehand, but prepared to take part in the contest when it came.
[4.11.1] XI. In the fifth year of the reign of Aristodemus, being exhausted by the length of the war and by their expenditure, after due notice that a battle would be fought, both sides were joined by their allies, the Lacedaemonians by the Corinthians alone of the Peloponnesians, the Messenians by the full muster of' the Arcadians and by picked troops from Argos and Sicyon. The Lacedaemonians entrusted their center to the Corinthians, Helots and all the neighboring peoples who were serving with them; they themselves and the kings were posted on the wings in a deeper and closer formation than ever before.
[4.11.2] The dispositions of Aristodemus and his men were as follows: he selected the most serviceable of the arms for all the Arcadians and Messenians who were physically strong and stout hearted but did not possess powerful weapons, and as the matter was urgent, posted them with the Argives and Sicyonians, extending the line that they might not be surrounded by the enemy. He also took care that they should be drawn up with Mount Ithome in their rear. Placing Cleonnis in command of these troops,
[4.11.3] he himself and Damis remained in reserve with the light troops consisting of a few slingers or archers, the bulk of the force being physically suited to rapid assaults and retirements and lightly armed. Not all of them possessed a breastplate or shield, but those who lacked them were protected with the skins of goats and sheep, some of them, particularly the Arcadian mountaineers, having the hides of wild beasts, wolves and bears.
[4.11.4] Each carried several javelins, and some of them spears. While these were in ambush in a part of Ithome where they were least likely to be visible, the heavy-armed troops of the Messenians and their allies withstood the first assault of the Lacedaemonians, and continued after this to show courage in every way. They were inferior in numbers to the enemy, but were picked men fighting against levies, not selected troops like themselves, and so, by their bravery and training were more able to maintain a lengthy resistance.
[4.11.5] Then the mobile Messenian force, when the signal was given to them, charged the Lacedaemonians and enveloping them threw javelins on their flanks. All who were of higher courage ran in and struck at close quarters. The Lacedaemonians, faced simultaneously with a second and unforeseen danger, were not demoralized, but turning on the light troops, tried to defend themselves. But, as the enemy with their light equipment drew off without difficulty, the Lacedaemonians were filled with perplexity and, as a consequence, with anger.
[4.11.6] Men are apt to be most annoyed by what they regard as beneath them. So then the Spartans who had already been wounded and all who after the fall of their comrades were the first to meet the attack of the light troops, ran out to meet them when they saw the light troops advancing and hotly extended the pursuit as they retired. The Messenian light troops maintained their original tactics, striking and shooting at them when they stood still, and outstripping them in flight when they pursued, attacking again as they tried to retire.
[4.11.7] They did this in separate parties and at different points of the enemy's line. The Messenian heavy-armed and their allies meantime pressed more boldly on the troops facing them. Finally the Lacedaemonians, worn out by the length of the battle and their wounds, and demoralized contrary to their custom by the light troops, broke their ranks. When they had been routed, the light troops inflicted greater damage on them.
[4.11.8] It was impossible to reckon the Lacedaemonian losses in the battle, but I for my part am convinced that they were heavy. The rest made their retreat homewards without molestation, but for the Corinthians it was likely to be difficult, for whether they tried to retire through the Argolid or by Sicyon, in either case it was through enemy country.
[4.12.1] XII. The Lacedaemonians were distressed by the reverse that had befallen them. Their losses in the battle were great and included important men, and they were inclined to despair of all hope in the war. For this reason they sent envoys to Delphi, who received the following reply from the Pythia:
Phoebus bids thee pursue not only the task of war with the hand, but by guile a people holds the Messenian land, and by the same arts as they first employed shall the people fall.
[4.12.2] At this the kings and ephors were eager to invent stratagems, but failed. They imitated that deed of Odysseus at Troy, and sent a hundred men to Ithome to observe what the enemy were planning, but pretending to be deserters. A sentence of banishment had been openly pronounced on them. On their arrival Aristodemus at once sent them away, saying that the crimes of the Lacedaemonians were new, but their tricks old.
[4.12.3] Failing in their attempt, the Lacedaemonians next attempted to break up the Messenian alliance. But when repulsed by the Arcadians, to whom their ambassadors came first, they put off going to Argos. Aristodemus, hearing of the Lacedaemonian intrigues, also sent men to enquire of the god. And the Pythia replied to them:
The god gives thee glory in war, but beware lest by guile the hated company of Sparta scale the well-built walls, for mightier is their god of war. And harsh shall be the dwellers in the circle of the dancing ground, when the two have started forth by one chance from the hidden ambush. Yet the holy day shall not behold this ending until their doom o'ertake those which have changed their nature.
At the time Aristodemus and the seers were at a loss to interpret the saying, but in a few years the god was like to reveal it and bring it to fulfillment.
[4.12.5] Other things befell the Messenians at that time: while Lyciscus was living abroad in Sparta, death overtook the daughter whom he carried with him on his flight from Messene. As he often visited her tomb, Arcadian horsemen lay in wait and captured him. When carried to Ithome and brought into the assembly he urged that he had not departed a traitor to his country, but because he believed the words of the seer that the girl was not his own.
[4.12.6] His defence did not win credence until the woman who was then holding the priesthood of Hera came into the theater. She confessed that she was the mother of the girl and had given her to Lyciscus' wife to pass off as her own. “And now,” she said, “revealing the secret, I have come to lay down my office.” She said this because it was an established custom in Messene that, if a child of a man or woman holding a priesthood died before its parent, the office should pass to another. Accepting the truth of her statement, they chose another woman to take her place as priestess of the goddess, and said that Lyciscus' deed was pardonable.
[4.12.7] After this, as the twentieth year of the war was approaching, they resolved to send again to Delphi to ask concerning victory. The Pythia made answer to their question:
To those who first around the altar set up tripods ten times ten to Zeus of Ithome, heaven grants glory in war and the Messenian land. For thus hath Zeus ordained. Deceit raised thee up and punishment follows after, nor would'st thou deceive the god. Act as fate wills, destruction comes on this man before that.
[4.12.8] Hearing this they thought that the oracle was in their favour and granted them victory; for as they themselves possessed the sanctuary of Zeus of Ithome within the walls, the Lacedaemonians could not forestall them in making the dedication. They set about making tripods of wood, as they had not money enough to make them of bronze. But one of the Delphians reported the oracle to Sparta. When they heard it, no plan occurred to them in public,
[4.12.9] but Oebalus, a man of no repute in general, but evidently shrewd, made a hundred tripods, as best he might, of clay, and hiding them in a bag, carried nets with them like a hunter. As he was unknown even to most of the Lacedaemonians, he would more easily escape detection by the Messenians. Joining some countrymen, he entered Ithome with them, and as soon as night fell, dedicated these tripods of clay to the god, and returned to Sparta to tell the Lacedaemonians.
[4.12.10] The Messenians, when they saw them, were greatly disturbed, thinking, rightly enough, that they were from the Lacedaemonians. Nevertheless Aristodemus encouraged them, saying what the occasion demanded, and setting up the wooden tripods, which had already been made, round the altar of the god of Ithome. It happened also that Ophioneus, the seer who had been blind from birth, received his sight in the most remarkable way. He was seized with a violent pain in the head, and thereupon received his sight.
[4.13.1] XIII. Next, as fate was already inclining towards the conquest of the Messenians, the god revealed to them the future. For the armed statue of Artemis, which was all of bronze, let its shield fall. And as Aristodemus was about to sacrifice the victims to Zeus of Ithome, the rams of their own accord leapt towards the altar, and dashing their horns violently against it were killed by the force of the blow. A third portent befell them. The dogs assembled together and howled every night, and at last fled together to the camp of the Lacedaemonians.
[4.13.2] Aristodemus was alarmed by this and by the following dream which came to him. He thought that he was about to go forth armed to battle and the victims' entrails were lying before him on a table, when his daughter appeared, wearing a black robe and showing her breast and belly cut open; when she appeared she flung down what was on the table, stripped him of his arms, and instead set a golden crown on his head and put a white robe about him.
[4.13.3] Aristodemus, who was already in despair, thought the dream foretold the end of life for him, because the Messenians used to carry out their chiefs for burial wearing a crown and dressed in white garments. Then he received news that Ophioneus the seer could no longer see but had suddenly become blind, as he was at first. Then they understood the oracle, that by the two starting forth from the ambush and again meeting their doom the Pythia meant the eyes of Ophioneus.
[4.13.4] Then Aristodemus, reckoning up his private sorrows, that to no purpose he had become the slayer of his daughter, and seeing that no hope of safety remained for his country, slew himself upon the tomb of his child. He had done all that human calculation could do to save the Messenians, but fortune brought to naught both his achievements and his plans. He had reigned six years and a few months when he died.
[4.13.5] The Messenians were plunged into despair, and were even ready to send to the Lacedaemonians to ask mercy, so demoralized were they by the death of Aristodemus. Their pride, however, prevented them from doing this. But they met in the assembly and chose not a king, but Damis as general with absolute power. He selected Cleonnis and Phyleus as colleagues, and even with their present resources made ready to join battle. For he was forced to this by the blockade, and above all by famine and by the consequent terror that they would be destroyed by want.
[4.13.6] Even then the Messenians were not inferior in courage and brave deeds, but all their generals were killed and their most notable men. After this they held out for some five months, but as the year was coming to an end deserted Ithome, the war having lasted twenty years in all, as is stated in the poems of Tyrtaeus:
But in the twentieth year they left their rich tilled lands, and fled from out the lofty mountains of Ithome. Tyrtaeus, unknown location.
[4.13.7] This war came to an end in the first year of the fourteenth Olympiad,11 when Dasmon of Corinth won the short footrace. At Athens the Medontidae were still holding the archonship as a ten years' office, Hippomenes having completed his fourth year.
[4.14.1] XIV. All the Messenians who had ties with Sicyon and Argos and among any of the Arcadians retired to these states, but those who belonged to the family of the Priests and performed the mysteries of the Great Goddesses, to Eleusis. The majority of the common people were scattered in their native towns, as before.
[4.14.2] The Lacedaemonians first razed Ithome to the ground, then attacked and captured the remaining towns. Of the spoils they dedicated bronze tripods to the god of Amyclae. A statue of Aphrodite stands under the first tripod, of Artemis under the second, of Kore or Demeter under the third.
[4.14.3] Dedicating these offerings at Amyclae, they gave to the people of Asine, who had been driven out by the Argives, that part of Messenia on the coast which they still occupy; to the descendants of Androcles (he had a daughter, who with her children had fled at his death and come to Sparta) they assigned the part called Hyamia.
[4.14.4] The Messenians themselves were treated in this way: First they exacted an oath that they would never rebel or attempt any kind of revolution. Secondly, though no fixed tribute was imposed on them, they used to bring the half of all the produce of their fields to Sparta. It was also ordained that for the funerals of the kings and other magistrates men should come from Messene with their wives in black garments, and a penalty was laid on those who disobeyed.
[4.14.5] As to the wanton punishments which they inflicted on the Messenians, this is what is said in Tyrtaeus' poems:–
Like asses worn by their great burdens, bringing of dire necessity to their masters the half of all the fruits the corn-land bears. Tyrtaeus, unknown location.
That they were compelled to share their mourning, he shows by the following:–
Wailing for their masters, they and their wives alike, whensoever the baneful doom of death came upon any. Tyrtaeus, unknown location.
[4.14.6] In these straits the Messenians, foreseeing no kindness from the Lacedaemonians, and thinking death in battle or a complete migration from Peloponnese preferable to their present lot, resolved at all costs to revolt. They were incited to this mainly by the younger men, who were still without experience of war but were of high spirit and preferred death in a free country, even though slavery might bring happiness in all else.
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