Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Battle without Tears

In 369 B.C, while Sparta was trying to recover from Leuctra, the rest of Greece came under attack from Thebes, who saw itself as the next great power. Aligned with Athens, the Spartans debated with their ally how to overcome this new aggressor. At the same time, Thebes was aligned with the Arcadians and Argives, giving them assets in the Peloponnese which could threaten Sparta. But that alliance did not survive the ascendancy of Lykomedes of Mantineia who argued that the Arcadians and Argives were great in their own right and did not need an alliance with anyone. He convinced the Arcadians and Argives to break away from Thebes and act on their own.

Meanwhile, Dionysios, King of Syracuse, sent an armed force to the aid of Sparta. The Athenians wanted them to be used against Thessaly, but the Spartans successfully argued they were needed in Laconia to fight the Arcadians.

The King of Sparta, Archidamos, joined the Syracusans with his own force, and began a campaign against the Arcadians. As he was attacking Parrasia, the Arcadians and Argives started to apply pressure and he retreated to the hills above Melea. At this point, the Syracusan commander, Kissides, said that his appointed time had expired and he departed with his army. As he marched south, The Messenians blocked him so he sent to Archidamos for help. Then, while the Spartan Army was marching to join him, they were cut off by the Arcadians and Argives, who had inserted themselves between the two allies.

Archidamos placed the Spartan Army in battle formation and exhorted his troops to fight saying,

“Let us no longer feel shame before our children and wives, elders and
foreigners, those very people in whose eyes we were in past time the
most renowned of all Greeks.”

The subsequent attack was a rout and the Spartans achieved a great victory. Archidamos sent a message to Sparta telling of the great victory and how it was achieved without a single Spartan being killed. All in Sparta wept for joy making the Spartan victory “tearless” from grief even though it brought many tears of joy.

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