Austrian Artillery at Sadowa 1866


Austrian Troops


“The last stand.” Artillery units sacrifice themselves to cover the retreat of the Austrian army on July 3, 1866 at Königgätz/Sadowa, the battle that established Prussian/German hegemony in Central Europe.

The Austro-Hungarian artillery was a lot better there than the Prussian. Without the bravery of the Austrian artillery the battle would have ended as a bigger disaster than it already was. The Austrian guns were more efficient and shot “at the point”. Archduke Wilhelm as Inspector General of the Artillery did best work in the days before the battle. Most of the 700 guns were dug in and had pre-measured shooting-plans. The breechloading rifles were a cause for the high rate of dead and wounded but they were not the reason for losing the battle by the Austrians.

In contemporary military opinion, the Austrians were greatly superior in all arms to their adversary. Their rifle, though a muzzle-loader, was in every other respect superior to the Prussian needle-gun, and their M.L. rifled guns with shrapnel shell were considered more than sufficient to make good the slight advantage then conceded to the breech-loader. The cavalry was far better trained in individual and real horsemanship and manoeuvre, and was expected to sweep the field in the splendid cavalry terrain of Moravia. All three arms trained their men for seven years, and almost all officers and non-commissioned officers had considerable war experience. But the Prussians having studied their allies in the war of 1864 knew the weakness of the Austrian staff and the untrustworthiness of the contingents of some of the Austrian nationalities, and felt fairly confident that against equal numbers they could hold their own.

The Austrian Army was maintained by a conscription system which allowed the buying of substitutes. The Army as a whole was not as homogeneous as the Prussian, taking in units from across the empire and it was not as well organized, having no Divisional level of command. The peacetime organization consisted of seven Army Corps, each of 4 brigades, plus cavalry and artillery. For the Austro Prussian war this was expanded to 10 Corps, resulting in considerable disorganization.

Infantry were armed with a muzzle¬-loading rifle. This out ranged the Prussian needle gun but was much slower to load. Moreover, since a soldier was only allowed 20 practice rounds per year, the standard of accuracy was appalling.

Artillery was strong. All guns were rifled and had an effective range of about 2000 paces, again out ranging the Prussians.

The Austrian plan in 1866 was to use interior lines of communication to concentrate and destroy the Prussian forces piecemeal, in classic Napoleonic form. Benedek, the Austrian commander, decided to make his stand at Sadowa, approximately 10 miles west of the Elbe River, which constituted a major obstacle. The Elbe had one permanent bridge and one pontoon bridge, which was anchored on the fortress city of Koniggratz (from which the battle takes its name). This latter bridge could provide a withdrawal route for the Austrians should it be required. In order to hold this defensive position, Benedek deployed 215 000 infantry and 750 guns.

The Prussian 1st Army made contact with the Austrian position at 0400 hrs on 3 July. The commander of 1st Army had decided to commence his attack at 1000 hrs after his troops had been rested and fed. This was over-ruled by von Moltke. A delay in attacking and fixing the Austrians might allow them to slip away before 2nd Army could encircle them. Von Moltke instead ordered 1st Army to attack immediately. Unfortunately, von Moltke had no way of knowing that the Austrians had no intention of withdrawing; this unprepared attack would play right into their hands. The battle ebbed and flowed and degenerated into a confusing morass as commanders lost control of their troops. For a time, the Prussians thought that the battle was lost, but von Moltke was unshaken. By noon, 2nd Army threatened the Austrian right; the Austrians were forced to mount costly counterattacks against massed rifle fire in order to delay the Prussians long enough to enable a withdrawal across the River Elbe. Shortly after the battle, the Austrians conceded defeat and sued for peace. Von Moltke’s doctrine had been a success.

After the war, the Prussians went back to study their own effectiveness to see if there were any lessons to be learned. As a result, they moved their artillery from the rear of its columns to the front and deployed their cavalry well forward to conduct reconnaissance. Within four years, the Prussians would be at war again. This time, with the French.


Austrian Army Spanish War of Succession





The Habsburg Empire dominated Germanic central Europe at the start of the eighteenth century, dwarfing its rivals in size, population, and military might. Prussia numbered only 1.6 million persons and Bavaria 2.0 million; the Habsburg lands held 11.0 million. In the first decades of the century, Habsburg armies under the skilful command of Prince Eugene of Savoy had fought well in the War of the Spanish Succession, and the peace treaties of 1714 gave the Habsburgs the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) and Lombardy. Wars with the Ottoman Empire at the end of the seventeenth century had acquired the Kingdom of Hungary, including vast territories in Eastern Europe. Thus, in 1714 Vienna controlled lands from Brussels in the west to Milan in the south, Belgrade in the east, and Prague in the north—plus the crown of the Holy Roman Empire. This gave the Habsburg emperor Charles VI, who reigned from 1711 to 1740, daunting political problems. The heterogeneous, polyglot realm was united only by the person of the Habsburg monarch.

The forces maintained by the Austrian Habsburgs often operated in an Imperial Army, but on an organizational level it’s better to describe the Austrian Habsburg element separately. One can say that the Austrian army was founded when after the thirty years war the emperor decided to hang on to 24,500 men even though he was at peace. This new ‘standing’ army then first came into action in the war between Sweden and Poland (1655-1660). In 1663 and 1664 it fought the Turks, and after that it took part in the ‘Guerre de Hollande’ to 1679. Together with the Poles it then got the great victory over the Turks at the siege of Vienna in 1683. The subsequent campaign against the Turks led to conquest of Hungary by which Austria became a great power. The fact that the simultaneous campaign in the west ended less well was deplorable but not as significant as the annexation of Hungary. The support for the Austrian Army

The emperor could not follow the French example in reorganising his army. Unlike the French the emperor was not able to levy taxes at will, and he was therefore highly dependent on the Stände to grant him taxes. The recent success against the Turks had been gained by the support of allies like Bavaria and Prussia, the financial support of some Stände that were afraid of the Turks, and even the financial support of rich feudal lords that commanded in the emperor’s armies. The shortages had been paid by loans and subsidies (a. o. from the church). Apart from this the Habsburg state was not a model of efficient governance. The apparatus of Hofkammer, Hofkriegsrat, Stände and even local authorities each having their say about the army did not function smoothly at all, and led to a significant loss in the already small means that were allotted to the army. Prinz Eugen would personally oversee the reform of the army’s administration during the Spanish Succession War.

The Habsburg army would thus enter the war while at a serious disadvantage in matters like provisions, equipment and above all numbers. As regards innovation it was probably not more or less modern than other armies. In command however it probably ranks first. It had the incomparable Prinz Eugen, but also men like Starhemberg and Daun, and these again had an emperor and soldiers that trusted their judgement.

The transformation and rapid growth of the Austrian monarchy’s capacity for war as judged from its army transport services in the period between the mid-1750s and 1780 was certainly impressive when compared to the situation during the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13). Then, the Habsburg Empire’s supply system had a well-deserved reputation as `probably the worst in western Europe’.2 During the Austro-Ottoman conflict of 1714-18, Eugene of Savoy, despite his brilliance on the battlefield, struggled largely unsuccessfully against the weight of custom and long-established practice to introduce an element of cohesion and rationality into the Austrian military system. In spite of his thirty-three-year term as president of the Hofkriegsrat (Aulic War Council) between 1703 and his death in 1736, the general left a chequered legacy characterised overall by institutional stagnation or even regression, and it is generally agreed that he was a much better fighter than he was an administrator. Real progress was made only after 1749, as part of broader centralising reforms.

Eugene of Savoy, Belgrade’s temporary liberator in 1717, also acquired legendary and later mythical status in traditional European historiography. Yet if the personal qualities of an exceptional commander were on occasions crucial to success in individual campaigns and battles, more important than these exceptional individuals – who were not reproducible and unlikely to emerge more than once a century – was the strength of the underlying military systems. After Eugene’s brilliant successes against the Ottomans in back-to-back campaigns, one defensive (at Petrovaradin in 1716) and the other offensive (against Belgrade in 1717), his successors’ failure twenty years later in the anti-Ottoman wars of 1737-9 to match his record can be attributed only in part to poor leadership. The problems besetting the early-eighteenth-century Austrian army were above all organisational, linked to the inadequacy of their military planning process and the ad hoc and unreliable systems for delivery of basic supplies to the army. The failures in Austria’s military systems were cruelly exposed in the first and second Silesian wars of 1740-2 and 1744-5 respectively, which revealed unresolved problems arising from the related issues of institutional fragmentation, poor communications, and a lack of centralised planning. These resulted in serious military inefficiencies that undermined battlefield performance.

The Russian Campaign 1812: Ultimate Chance for Peace?


French Fusiliers in Bardin Regulation. This is how these men would have looked in the 1812 Russian campaign.


Russian Army. Flügel-Adjutant of Infantry, campaign dress (1812), Field officer, Infantry, summer dress (1812), Capt., Izmailovski Lifeguard, summer dress (1812)


Charles Joseph Minard’s famous graph showing the decreasing size of the Grande Armée as it marches to Moscow (brown line, from left to right) and back (black line, from right to left) with the size of the army equal to the width of the line. Temperature is plotted on the lower graph for the return journey (multiply Réaumur temperatures by 1¼ to get Celsius, e.g. −30 °R = −37.5 °C).

War having been declared on him, in fact if not in law, could Napoleon have avoided the invasion of Russia? Briefly, he considered waiting in Poland for Alexander to attack him. He quickly perceived that the tsar had no such intention. Alexander feared a new Friedland that would not, this time, lead to a new Tilsit. Time was on Alexander’s side. He had a sufficient period to complete the mobilization of the most powerful army ever possessed by Russia. He had all the time he needed.

From Napoleon’s perspective, the situation was completely different. It was obviously not in his interest to await the completion of Russian military preparations. He could only maintain for a short time the enforced allied mobilization that provided his new Grand Armeé. Above all, he needed to act prior to the opening of a British front in Western Europe. The war in Spain gave him enough concerns by itself! He regretted even having waited until summer. A spring offensive would probably have permitted him to avoid the coming catastrophe.

Napoleon issued his traditional order of the day to the Grand Armeé on June 21:

Soldiers: The second Polish war has begun. The first ended at Friedland and Tilsit. At Tilsit, Russia swore eternal alliance with France and war against England. Today Russia violates its oaths. Does it believe that we are degenerate? Are we not still the soldiers of Austerlitz? Russia has placed us between war and dishonor. There can be no doubt as to which we will choose.

Beginning on June 24 with a spectacular yet unopposed crossing of the Niemen in the Kovno area, the war with Russia ended in tragedy in December. This war consisted of two very distinct phases: first, a diabolic pursuit of the Russian army to Moscow, marked by the indecisive victory of Borodino or the Moskva; next, a catastrophic retreat back to Poland from October to December.

The Diabolical Pursuit

Once again, no desire for territorial conquest underpinned the Russian campaign. The goal of Napoleon’s campaign was to destroy the enemy army, thereby forcing Russia to make peace.

The army operating in Russia approached a total of 600,000 men. Half were assigned to hold occupied territories and provide logistical support, while the other half were first-line combat troops.

The invading force consisted only of the attack echelon of the Grand Armeé, whose unprecedented strength of more than half-a-million men stretched from the Rhine to the Niemen. Its international composition was one of the more original aspects of this gigantic military amalgam. Frenchmen represented only a third of the total force and half of the attack echelon. It was a true European army, an army of “twenty nations” as it was labeled at the time.

The largest foreign contingent, 100,000 men, came from the Confederation of the Rhine (Bavaria, Westphalia, Württemberg, Baden, Saxony, and several duchies and principalities). Next in descending order were Poland (50,000), Austria (32,000), Italy (30,000), Prussia (20,000), and Switzerland (10,000). The Netherlands, Denmark, Naples, Spain, and Croatia also provided contingents of several thousand soldiers each.

Such a disparate and uneven ensemble could not go far without experiencing problems of cohesion and logistics. It was a long way from the minuscule and uncouth Army of Italy of 1796!

Barclay de Tolly, Peter Bagration, and Alexander Tormasov commanded the Russian armies, more than 300,000 men with some 900 guns. The Russians deployed thusly: (1) Barclay de Tolly’s main body of 140,000 blocked the axis from Vilna to Saint Petersburg; (2) a secondary body of 60,000 men, commanded by Bagration, operated on Barclay de Tolly’s left on the axis of Moscow; and (3) and Tormasov’s reserve army was being formed south of the Pripiat Marshes.

Napoleon operated on four axes: (1) in the north, Macdonald with the Prussian and Bavarian contingents; (2) in the center with the emperor were Prince Eugene, Oudinot, and the Imperial Guard; (3) in the south, Davout and Jerome; (4) in the extreme south, Charles-Philippe Schwartzenberg’s Austrian corps as flank guard against Tormasov along the Pripiat Marshes.

Eugene’s slowness of movement permitted Barclay de Tolly to escape encirclement in the area of Vilna, which fell without fighting on June 26. The tsar sent his police minister, Balashov, to Napoleon with a message offering negotiations if the Grand Armeé returned to Poland. In full retreat, the vanquished dared to dictate unacceptable conditions to the victor. The purpose was obvious. Alexander sought only to gain precious time to permit Barclay de Tolly to recover and to complete the concentration of Tormasov’s army. If he genuinely wanted peace, why did he not ask to open negotiations without preconditions? Why, at Vilna before hostilities began, did he refuse to receive Ambassador Lauriston, who was carrying a final attempt at peace?

Continuing its advance under weather conditions so extreme that they slowed its progress, the Grand Armeé occupied Vitebsk without opposition on July 27.

The heat, dust, thirst, mud, and mosquitoes inflicted an inhuman trial on the men. Unit strengths visibly declined under the effects of illness.

Barclay de Tolly and Bagration linked up at Smolensk. The city resisted an initial attack on August 16-17. Napoleon believed that he finally had found an opportunity for a great, decisive battle. Once more, however, Barclay de Tolly retreated after setting the city on fire.

The scorched earth policy of the Russian army owed more to the force of circumstances than to a deliberate choice. The Russian army’s leadership was divided into two groups: those who wished at all costs to prevent the Grand Armeé from reaching Moscow, the historic and religious heart of Russia, and those who sought at any price to preserve the army from disaster by evading a great battle against the invincible Napoleon. Up until Smolensk, Russia was fortunate to have in Barclay de Tolly a partisan of the second group; otherwise, the Russian campaign would have reached its conclusion before Vilna or Vitebsk.

Barclay de Tolly’s refusal to defend Smolensk set off a crisis in the Russian high command, a crisis that had been brewing from the start of the campaign. The aristocracy rebelled against a retreat that was without end and that damaged its dignity. Without doubt, the aristocrats also feared that the presence of the Grand Armeé in the heart of Russia might encourage an uprising among the serfs. Alexander eventually yielded to his aristocracy by replacing Barclay de Tolly with Kutusov, the brave vanquished of Austerlitz.

The new commander-in-chief decided to stop Napoleon at a position between Borodino and the River Moskva.

The Hanoverian Army at Waterloo

The Hanoverian contingent in Wellington’s army was integrated fully into the British divisional structure; it comprised five infantry brigades, a cavalry brigade, two artillery batteries and a ‘reserve corps’ that was not committed to the battle.

Hanover had had a close connection with Britain since the accession of the Elector of Hanover to the British throne as King George I in 1714, but although this connection had exerted some influence upon British foreign policy, and despite sharing a ruler, the states and their armies had remained separate entities. Hanoverian troops had fought alongside the British in the eighteenth century, as they had under Marlborough’s command even before the accession of George I, but the separation of the states was demonstrated by the exit of Hanover from the war against France following the withdrawal of Prussia in 1795, by which Hanover’s position became militarily untenable. Upon the renewal of the war between France and Britain after the brief Peace of Amiens, Hanover was occupied by Napoleon and part incorporated into his satellite Kingdom of Westphalia. The state of Hanover was only restored after the defeat of Napoleon.

Hanover’s military contribution to the Napoleonic Wars was displayed most prominently in the King’s German Legion, the excellent Hanoverian formation in the British army. The Hanoverian army, which in organization and uniform had closely resembled the British, had been disbanded in 1803 and was only resurrected during the ‘War of Liberation’ against Napoleon. Its infantry comprised both regular battalions (Feld-Bataillone) and militia (Landwehr), and from February 1815 each ‘Field Battalion’ was linked to three Landwehr battalions in a regimental structure, but for field service each battalion remained an independent entity. Organization was on basically British lines, though with trained skirmisher sections (every twelfth man) rather than flank companies of British style; two of the regular battalions at Waterloo (Lüneburg and Grubenhagen) were ‘Light Battalions’ with all personnel thus trained. The Landwehr battalions each had four companies. Uniforms were largely of British style, in red (except for the green-clad light battalions and the Feldjäger corps), although the initial shortages in equipment evident when the army was first organized in 1813 may not have been overcome entirely, with continuing use of older uniforms and ‘stovepipe’ shakos. An example of the initial shortage of equipment concerned Battn. Bennigsen, renamed Verden in early 1815, which at first received white shakos manufactured as tropical headdress for the British army in India. Although the Hanoverians used the British black cockade, officers wore yellow sashes in place of the British crimson, and some Hanoverian troops had British knapsacks painted yellow.

A Hanoverian contingent, sometimes termed the ‘Hanoverian Subsidiary Corps’, had been stationed in the Netherlands since the end of hostilities in 1814; but the reserve corps of Landwehr had been formed in Hanover shortly before the beginning of the 1815 campaign by General von der Decken. The Hanoverian forces were initially under the superintendence of Sir Charles Alten, who suggested to the Hanoverian government that due to the inexperience of the newly formed units, the recruits should be permitted to volunteer into the King’s German Legion, to bring their battalions up to strength; but this suggestion was declined. Instead, the KGL battalions were reorganized into six companies each, and the supernumerary cadres of officers and NCOs were transferred temporarily into the Landwehr to provide experienced leadership for the young soldiers. KGL captains stepped up to field rank as part of this process, and two of the Hanoverian brigade commanders were also drawn from the Legion. The connection between British and Hanoverian formations was emphasized by the fact that Wellington reported Hanoverian casualties alongside the British losses, published together in the London Gazette, including officers’ names, just as Portuguese losses had been reported during the Peninsular War when they, too, were part of a joint army.

The Hanoverian brigades were distributed as follows.

I Corps: 3rd Division: 1st Hanoverian Brigade

Commanded by Major General Count (Graf) Kielmansegge, a member of a distinguished Hanoverian family who took command of the division after Alten was wounded, this was the strongest Hanoverian brigade, comprising five Field Battalions (York or 1st Duke of York’s, Bremen, Verden and the light battalions Lüneburg and Grubenhagen), and two companies of the Field Jäger Corps, a unit of sharpshooters. The brigade was involved heavily during the campaign: at Quatre Bras it held the extreme left of the position, and in the initial dispositions at Waterloo was posted to the west of the Charleroi-Brussels highway, between the brigades of Ompteda and Colin Halkett. Two battalions lost their commanding officers at Waterloo: Grubenhagen (Lieutenant Colonel von Wurmb, killed) and Bremen (Lieutenant Colonel Langrehr, mortally wounded).

II Corps: 2nd Division: 3rd Hanoverian Brigade

This Landwehr formation comprised Battns. Osnabrück, Quackenbrück (these sometimes referred to as the 2nd and 3rd Duke of York’s respectively), Bremervörde and Salzgitter, and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hugh (or Hew) Halkett of the 7th Line Battn., King’s German Legion. Brother of Colin Halkett, commander of the 5th British Brigade, he was an experienced Peninsula officer who had also served in north Germany and the Netherlands in 1813–14. Initially at Waterloo the brigade occupied a position in reserve on the extreme right of Wellington’s line, north of Hougoumont. In the final advance one battalion was supporting Hougoumont, and Halkett ordered the others forward, but his brigade major was killed before the order could be delivered, so Halkett and the Osnabrück Battn. advanced alone. Halkett observed a French general, ‘trying to animate his men to stand’ – it was actually Cambronne – so he dashed at the Frenchman, who surrendered, but Halkett’s horse fell and when he got up he discovered that Cambronne ‘had taken French leave in the direction from where he came. I instantly overtook him, laid hold of him by the aiguillette, and brought him in safety and gave him in charge to a sergeant of the Osnabrückers to deliver to the Duke; I could not spare an Officer for the purpose, many being wounded.’

4th Division: 6th Hanoverian Brigade

This brigade was with Colville at Hal and so was not involved in the Battle of Waterloo; it comprised Field Battalions Lauenberg and Calenburg, and Landwehr Battns. Bentheim, Hoya and Nienburg. Its commander, Major General Sir James Lyon, was the senior British officer with the Hanoverian contingent; he had commanded Hanoverians in the 1813 campaign, notably at Goehrde. He came from an ancient family and had been born aboard ship, in mid-Atlantic, when his mother was returning home after his father, Captain James Lyon of the 35th, had been mortally wounded at Bunker’s Hill. Sir James had the unusual distinction of having served at the Battle of the Glorious First of June (1794) when a detachment of his regiment (25th) was serving as marines aboard the British fleet; he had also commanded the 97th in the Peninsula.

Reserve: 5th Division: 5th Hanoverian Brigade

Commanded by Colonel von Vincke, this brigade of four Landwehr battalions (Gifhorn, Hameln, Hildesheim, Peine) was posted at the extreme left of Wellington’s line at Waterloo, and was not heavily engaged.

6th Division: 4th Hanoverian Brigade

Another brigade of Landwehr (Battns. Lüneburg, Münden, Osterode and Verden), it was engaged at Quatre Bras, initially deployed behind the main British line; at Waterloo it was on the left wing and not heavily engaged. Its commander was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Best of the 8th KGL Line Battn.

Hanoverian Reserve Corps

Used as garrisons in various locations in the rear of the area of the campaign, this formation was led by Lieutenant General Count (Graf) F von der Decken and comprised four brigades: 1st (Lieutenant Colonel von Bennigsen): Field-Battn. Hoya, Landwehr Battns. Bremerlehe and Mölln; 2nd (Colonel von Beaulieu): Landwehr Battns. Ahlefeldt, Nordheim and Springe; 3rd (Lieutenant Colonel von Bodecken): Landwehr Battns. Celle, Ottendorf and Ratzeburg; 4th (Lieutenant Colonel von Wissel): Landwehr Battns. Diepholz, Hanover, Neustadt and Uelzen.


The Hanoverian cavalry brigade, commanded by Colonel H S G F von Estorff, comprised the hussar regiments of Prince Regent’s or Lüneburg; Bremen and Verden; and the Duke of Cumberland’s. Their uniform was of British hussar style, the former blue with scarlet facings and pelisse, the other two green with scarlet facings and scarlet and green pelisses respectively; the Duke of Cumberland’s wore shakos and the others busbies. Estorff was not present at Waterloo, and two regiments were with the force detached at Hal; only the Duke of Cumberland’s was at Waterloo, a volunteer regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Adolphus von Hacke (or ‘Hake’) and named after the fifth son of King George III, who was to become King of Hanover in 1837. The regiment was in reserve at Waterloo when Uxbridge noticed them beginning to move to the rear without orders. He sent his ADC Sir Horace Seymour to stop them; Seymour recalled how von Hacke ‘told me that he had no confidence in his men, that they were Volunteers, and their horses their own property’. Seymour described how ‘in the exigence of the moment I laid hold of the bridle of the Colonel’s horse, and remarked what I thought of his conduct; but all to no purpose’ and the regiment trotted away from the battlefield. Hacke was court-martialled subsequently and the regiment split up among various Allied corps to perform escort duties for the commissariat; Mercer of the Royal Horse Artillery recorded that ‘Being all gentlemen in Hanover, it is easy to imagine they are rather irate at this degradation … They are all amazingly sulky and snappish with every one …’.


Two Hanoverian foot artillery companies served with the army, those of Captains von Rettberg (attached to the 4th Division) and Braun (5th Division); they were constituted in British style, the former with five 9-pounders and a 5½-inch howitzer, the latter with five 6-pounders and a howitzer. Braun’s company served at Quatre Bras, and both at Waterloo. The Hanoverian artillery wore a uniform like that of the British Royal Artillery, in the same colouring, but with the usual Hanoverian distinction of yellow sashes for officers.

Agesilaus and the Spartan Army I

When the Eurypontid Agesilaus II became king in 400 B.C.E., thanks to Lysander’s machinations, he could not have foreseen the complete ruin of Spartan power that would occur during his lifetime. In the space of some thirty years, his city went from being the undisputed power in the Aegean to lacking even the ability to control the most prized part of its own territory. Agesilaus’ role in the process has been debated since antiquity. The subject of a hagiographical biography by his friend and supporter Xenophon and a more nuanced one by the Boeotian Plutarch, Agesilaus has few advocates among historians today. But it is doubtful whether any single individual would have been able to keep Sparta in the position it held in 400, and certainly not one lacking all Lysander’s dark talents. Agesilaus was far from a second Lysander, though not since Cleomenes had a king been so in control of the domestic political scene as Agesilaus was throughout his reign. Agesilaus, however, lacked his Agiad predecessor’s ability to translate dominance at home into coherent foreign policy and flexibility in realizing its goals.

Agesilaus was about forty years old when he succeeded Agis (Xen. Hell. 5.4.13) and, because he was not the heir apparent, had gone through the state-run citizen training (Plut. Ages. 1.2–4). This experience was supposed to have given him a feeling for the common man, but it also might have fixed in him a rigid conception of what was proper for Sparta. He was also congenitally lame in one leg; the disability did not bar him from the training, in which he did rather well (Plut. Ages. 2.2–3). The first recorded event of Agesilaus’ reign was the discovery of Cinadon’s conspiracy, foreshadowed by an omen while the new king was sacrificing (Xen. Hell. 3.3.4). The ephors’ swift and ruthless suppression of it may have influenced his own actions when faced with other serious conspiracies in 369 (Plut. Ages. 32.6–11). But the most important event of his early reign was his crossing over to Asia Minor at the head of an army of 10,000, a surge of troops intended to bring Sparta’s war against the Persians to a successful conclusion.

Agesilaus’ two years in Asia Minor (396–394 B.C.E.) hinted at the shape of things to come. Efficiently showing Lysander who was now in charge, Agesilaus sidelined him. But, despite vague plans to march into the heart of the Persian Empire (Xen. Ages. 1.36; Hell. 4.1.41; Plut. Ages. 15.1), he made no lasting gains. Certainly, he defeated Persian forces several times, once penetrating as far east as Paphlagonia (Xen. Hell. 4.1.3). He achieved enough against Tissaphernes, Sparta’s old (and undependable) ally, for the Great King to have his underling executed and replaced (Xen. Hell. 3.4.25), but captured no significant enemy strongholds and adapted little to new methods of warfare, contenting himself with ravaging the countryside. Agesilaus’ traditional Spartan disdain for the sea moreover proved fatal, resulting in the defection of the strategic island of Rhodes in 396 to Conon at the head of a Phoenician fleet (Diod. Sic. 14.79.4–8), while his neglect of the threat the Thebans posed to his rear eventually resulted in his recall well before he had accomplished his mission. Relations between Thebes and Sparta had been steadily worsening for several years. The Thebans’ open support for Thrasybulus and his insurgents during the rule of the Thirty in Athens had not helped. In the Aulis incident, the Thebans showed their disdain for Agesilaus’ panhellenic pretensions, and their defeat of Lysander’s army by Haliartus in 395 brought their split with Sparta out into the open, gaining them eager allies. The situation in Greece was rapidly deteriorating.

Laden with booty, Agesilaus returned via the northern land route (Xen. Ages. 2.1; Hell. 4.3.1). At Amphipolis, he received good news of a Spartan victory at the Battle of the Nemea River (Xen. Hell. 3.1) and later battled his way through a now-hostile Thessaly, where he inflicted a defeat on its renowned cavalry (Xen. Ages. 2.2–4; Hell. 4.3–8), to the borders of Boeotia. Agesilaus’ next battle, at Coronea in August 394, was another welcome victory, especially since news of Conon’s destruction of the fleet off Cnidus arrived just before the battle (Xen. Hell. 4.3.10, 15–21). Leaving a huge tithe to Apollo at Delphi, Agesilaus, though wounded, crossed over the Corinthian Gulf with his haul from Asia Minor but left insufficient forces behind to re-establish Spartan control over central Greece. He spent the next years campaigning in the Corinthia. Spartan successes such as the capture of Lechaeum harbor, Piraeum on the Perachora peninsula, and the destruction of Corinth’s Long Walls (Xen. Hell. 4.4.7–13, 5.1–6) were tempered by the shredding of a regiment (mora) of Lacedaemonian hoplites by Athenian light-armed troops near Lechaeum in 390 (Xen. Hell. 4.5.11–17). The next year saw Agesilaus in western Greece, supporting the Achaean stronghold of Calydon against the local Acarnanians. The results were similar to those of his Asia Minor campaign, and his withdrawal after several months of fighting left the Achaeans dissatisfied. Still, the mere threat of his return in 388 was enough to induce the Acarnanians to join the Peloponnesian League (Xen. Hell. 4.6–7.1).

When the Corinthian War sputtered to an end in 387/6 on the heels of an Athenian defeat at the Hellespont (Xen. Hell. 5.1.25–9), the Spartans held the whip hand at the conference to ratify the peace deal dictated by the Persian King Artaxerxes. The King decided that all Greek cities in Asia Minor should belong to him and that all other cities, except only the Athenian possessions of Lemnos, Imbros, and Scyros, should be autonomous (Xen. Hell. 5.1.31). The King’s Peace, as it is called, suited the interests of Sparta and of Agesilaus, who perhaps saw an opportunity to recover Sparta’s old supremacy in the Peloponnese and to re-establish what he saw as its traditional hegemony in mainland Greece. With Persian support, Sparta now acted as the Peace’s self-appointed policeman, broadly interpreting the autonomy clause to justify intervention in any state on nearly any pretext. Agesilaus enforced the provisions of the Peace by using the threat of armed force to break up the Boeotian League (Xen. Hell. 5.1.33). This action was, on the surface, justifiable, but not the destruction of Mantinea in Arcadia, for which Agesilaus was morally, if not materially, responsible.

Relations between Sparta and Mantinea were rocky at the time: although a member of the Peloponnesian League, Mantinea was a democracy in 385 and was cozying up to Argos. Mantineans had been reluctant to send troops during the recent war (Xen. Hell. 5.1.1–2). Indicative of the tension was that Agesilaus preferred to bring his army home through Mantinean territory at night after the Lechaeum disaster rather than risk the locals’ ridicule by marching in daylight (Xen. Hell. 4.5.18). The new Peace now afforded Sparta the chance to settle this score, so envoys were sent to demand that the Mantineans pull down their walls. They refused; Sparta declared war (Xen. Hell. 5.2.3). Despite his personal involvement, Agesilaus begged off the command with the flimsy excuse that the Mantineans had provided signal service to his father Archidamus during the helot revolt of 465/4 B.C.E. Instead, his co-king Agesipolis did the unwelcome job well and with little loss of Spartan life. Realizing that he could not take the city by traditional methods like circumvallation and ravaging of the land, since the Mantineans possessed a large store of grain, he made the river Ophis flood so that the city’s mudbrick walls began to dissolve, which quickly motivated the Mantineans to surrender. The Spartans then wiped the city from the map, demolishing its walls and breaking it up into its constituent villages in a sort of reverse synoecism. Leading pro-Argive politicians were allowed to go into exile, the government was turned over to aristocratic landowners, and Sparta was rid of a nuisance (Xen. Hell. 5.2.4–7).

Watching Mantinea’s fate with interest was a group of exiles from Phlius, who now decided to use the Spartans’ policy of scrutinizing their allies’ past behavior to their advantage. In 384, they pleaded their case before the Spartans, who pressured the Phlians to restore them and their property (Xen. Hell. 5.2.8–10). After three years, however, settling the returned exiles’ property claims caused so much friction that they again approached the Spartans for help. This unauthorized request for foreign intervention prompted a large fine from the Phlians. Agesilaus had all the excuse he needed. The ephors duly mobilized the troops and, despite opposition at home to antagonizing groundlessly a city with several times the population of Sparta, Agesilaus invaded Phlian territory and settled down for a siege (Xen. Hell. 5.3.10–16). By strictly rationing their food supply, the Phleians held out for much longer than expected. In fact, with Agesilaus devising no creative solutions to resolve it, the siege dragged on for twenty months, until the Phlians sued for peace directly to the authorities at Sparta. Petulant at this disregard for his powers as a king in the field, Agesilaus used his domestic supporters to block any deal and ensured that all decisions about Phlius’ fate should be his alone. Armed with the ephors’ authorization, he imposed a settlement eerily reminiscent of Lysander’s for Athens – a commission of one hundred Spartan sympathizers empowered to draw up a new constitution and to execute anyone it wanted (Xen. Hell. 5.3.21–5).

Agesilaus’ disdain for legality and public opinion is still better illustrated in a episode that has remained notorious since the fourth century. Two Spartan armies had been sent out in 382 in response to a request by northern Greek cities for protection against the expansionist designs of the city of Olynthus on the Chalcidic peninsula. The smaller advance force arrived quickly and began operations in Thrace, but one Phoebidas, who commanded the main body of troops that set out later, had other ideas. He diverged from the route through Boeotia and encamped outside Thebes, which was split, as were many cities, into rival pro- and anti-Spartan factions. The dominant anti-Spartans had just passed a provocative law forbidding Thebans from fighting with the Spartans against Olynthus. Aided by a leading member of the pro- Spartan faction, Phoebidas seized the Cadmea, the city’s acropolis, when all the Theban women were congregated there to celebrate a religious festival. With their women held hostage, the Thebans surrendered, hundreds of anti-Spartans fled, and a Spartan garrison was imposed on the city (Xen. Hell. 5.2.25–31; Diod. Sic. 15.20.2). But when Leontiades, the Theban quisling who had betrayed his city to the Spartans, arrived in Lacedaemon to bring the good news, he was met with an unexpected storm of criticism from the ephors and most of the populace, who roundly condemned Phoebidas for his unauthorized action. The exception was, unsurprisingly, Agesilaus, who publicly articulated his policy: expediency was the only factor that counted in foreign relations (Xen. Hell. 5.2.32). The king’s words had an effect, for though they imposed a huge fine on Phoebidas (perhaps paid by Agesilaus himself), the Spartans did not withdraw the garrison (Xen. Hell. 5.2.35; Diod. Sic. 15.20.2). Greek public opinion was shocked (Diod. Sic. 15.20.2), while the reception of Leontiades shows how ambivalent many Spartans were becoming about Agesilaus’ aggressive “Sparta first” policy. Agesilaus had again allowed his simmering resentment of Thebes to shape his judgement. His hostility was so well known that it was thought, not without reason, that Phoebidas had acted under secret instructions from the king himself (Plut. Ages. 24.1; Diod. Sic. 15.20.2).

On the northern front, the massive defeat of a Spartan army in 381 under Teleutias, Agesilaus’ half-brother, had been followed by successful campaigns under Agesipolis and, after his death of fever, his successor Polybiades, who brought the Olynthians to heel in 379 and enrolled them as subordinate allies in the Peloponnesian League (Xen. Hell. 5.2.37–3.12, 18–20, 26–7). With the north pacified, trouble broke out in 378 in the most expected of places, Thebes. In a daring, well-planned plot, democratic conspirators assassinated the ruling three-man junta and, supported by Athenian troops, expelled the Spartan garrison. A bloodbath ensued as the Theban people vented their anger against their oppressors, killing any of the pro-Spartans they could find and murdering their children (Xen. Hell. 5.4.2–14). The ephors’ response upon learning the news was to call out the guard, though it was midwinter (Xen. Hell. 5.4.13–14). Agesilaus, whose ham-fisted approach to Thebes had been largely responsible for the dire situation, begged off on grounds of age: being over sixty, he was no longer eligible for conscription. Even Xenophon, normally careful to skate around overt criticism of his hero, found this specious, preferring instead to believe that Agesilaus did not want to be seen showing support for tyrants (Xen. Hell. 5.4.13). Instead, Cleombrotus, who had just succeeded his brother as Agiad king, dutifully led an army into Boeotia, his first field command. The campaign was perfunctory, to say the least, with little fighting and no attempt at all to capture Thebes. After about a fortnight outside Thebes, perhaps awaiting a diplomatic response, Cleombrotus withdrew his forces, leaving Sphodrias as harmost at Thespiae along with some of the allied troops. Because of the two kings’ starkly different approaches, Spartan war policy was in such disarray that ordinary soldiers were unsure whether or not they were actually at war with Thebes (Xen. Hell. 5.4.14–18).

The harvest of Agesilaus’ misbegotten Theban policy was beginning to ripen. The Thebans declared themselves a democracy, rapidly revived the Boeotian League along democratic lines, and prepared for the expected Spartan reaction (Diod. Sic. 15.28.1). They could expect no help from the Athenians, who were officially horrified at the revolution and so frightened of Sparta’s reaction that they punished the two generals involved (Xen. Hell. 5.4.19). However, Athenians continued exploratory negotiations with states around the Aegean to form a new system of maritime alliances (Diod. Sic. 15.28.2–4). A series of Spartan missteps – this time not the fault of Agesilaus alone – would soon provide the impetus for the foundation of the Second Athenian Naval Confederacy as a counterweight to Sparta’s hegemony in Greece.

Soon after Cleombrotus left him behind in Thespiae, Sphodrias launched a sneak attack on the Piraeus. Unable to get anywhere near his target overnight, he turned back after causing some damage in the Thriasian Plain (Xen. Hell. 5.4.20–1). His reasons for flagrantly violating the territory of a state with which Sparta was at peace were unclear – stories of bribery naturally abounded – but the effects of Sphodrias’ abortive raid were dramatic. Livid at his duplicity, the Athenians immediately arrested the Spartan ambassadors who happened to be in town and dispatched envoys to Lacedaemon to make their displeasure absolutely clear. For their part, the Spartans, aghast at Sphodrias’ actions, had already put him on trial in absentia and assured the angry Athenians that the death penalty was inevitable (Xen. Hell. 5.4.21–4). Agesilaus now showed that his consummate mastery of internal Spartan politics contrasted with an almost wilful ignorance of the consequences his decisions would have on the international scene.

Agesilaus’ unexpected decision to vote for Sphodrias’ acquittal on the grounds that Sparta could not afford to lose soldiers whose previous behavior had been so exemplary (Xen. Hell. 5.4.25–33) may have been acceptable at home but gave the Athenians justification for creating their own multilateral alliance to provide them with security against Spartan aggression. Domestically, Agesilaus had reasserted his dominance, deftly neutralizing what may have been an attempt to weaken his standing, but he had cynically revealed to all that Sparta’s immediate advantage was his sole guiding principle in interstate relations.

In the same year, 378, hostilities between Sparta and Thebes developed into a full-scale war. A major reform in how the Peloponnesian army was levied now meant that the burden of supplying manpower was more evenly distributed among ten geographical areas, with allies being permitted to hire mercenaries to fulfill their obligations (Xen. Hell. 5.2.20–1; Diod. Sic. 15.31.1–2). Thus, it was at the head of a large army conscripted under the new system that Agesilaus, despite his earlier protestations about his age, marched into Boeotia, the younger Cleombrotus having lost the authorities’ trust. Over several months of fighting, Agesilaus accomplished nothing of consequence, wasting most of his time in attempts to breach defensive works erected around the city. Unable to lure the Theban forces out into a pitched battle, he went home with his army at the end of the campaigning season (Xen. Hell. 5.4.38–41; Diod. Sic. 15.32–33.1). Agesilaus returned in 377 with similar results, although his ravaging did cause a food shortage at Thebes (Xen. Hell. 5.4.47–57). This was Agesilaus’ last active command for seven years. On the return journey he suffered an attack of acute thrombophlebitis at Megara; its treatment resulted in a significant loss of blood. Carried back to Sparta, he spent the next several months on his sickbed (Xen. Hell. 5.4.58).

With Agesilaus still incapacitated in spring 376, Cleombrotus led the invasion force. He only half-heartedly attempted to force passage into Theban territory, thus signaling a significant shift in policy. For the next two years, Boeotia would be left in peace (Xen. Hell. 5.4.59, 63) while Sparta dealt with the threat posed by the Athenians’ growing naval power, which that same year brought them victory over the

Peloponnesian fleet off Naxos, Athens’ first autnomous naval triumph since the Peloponnesian War (Diod. Sic. 15.35). The change in focus was partly due to severe disaffection among Sparta’s allies, who were tired of Agesilaus’ obsession with Thebes and inability to prosecute his campaigns successfully (Plut. Ages. 26.6). There were also signs that Agesilaus no longer wielded overwhelming influence over Spartan foreign policy. Some realism had entered into their calculations, best exemplified by Sparta’s refusal to send military aid to Pharsalus in Thessaly in 375 due to lack of manpower (Xen. Hell. 6.1.4–17). Gone were the days when Sparta could project its power anywhere in the Aegean.

Threats were multiplying on every side. Thebes was successfully consolidating its power over Boeotia and developing a formidable military machine (Xen. Hell. 5.4.46, 63, 6.1.1; Plut. Pel. 15). Against all odds, Athens was attracting new allies for its Naval Confederacy, including Thebes (IG II2 43). In Thessaly, a newcomer to Greek power politics, Jason of Pherae, had exploited Sparta’s incapacity to help Pharsalus to establish himself as the supreme leader (Xen. Hell. 6.1.18–19). In spring 375, the Thebans inflicted a morale-crushing defeat at Tegyra on a Spartan mora returning from Locris to its quarters in Orchomenus, killing two of their commanding officers (Diod. Sic. 15.37; Plut. Pel. 16–17). They also threatened Sparta’s old ally Phocis, prompting the Spartans to dispatch a force under Cleombrotus to protect it (Xen. Hell. 6.1). A short respite in the crisis was afforded by the King’s Peace, renewed at the demand of the Great King in 375, though in allowing the Athenians to retain their new Naval Confederacy, it simply recognized the facts on the ground (Diod. Sic. 15.38.1–3). Whether the Thebans were included in the Peace or not, they retained control over most of Boeotia.

Agesilaus and the Spartan Army II

When the Peace broke down in a matter of months, Spartans found themselves confronting an unstable alliance of Athens, Thebes, and Thessaly. Thebes’ capture of Plataea and Thespiae in 373 put Theban relations with Athens under great strain, but the alliance held, for the moment (Diod. Sic. 15.46.4–6). By 371, however, Athenians were so nervous about the intentions of their ambitious ally that they joined in sending ambassadors to Sparta to hammer out another general peace agreement (Diod. Sic. 6.3.1–2). All went well until a dispute broke out at the signing ceremony between the Theban representative Epaminondas and Agesilaus, now back on the scene, over the touchy matter of autonomy. Epaminondas refused to sign for Thebes alone rather than for the Boeotians as a whole unless Agesilaus did the same as Sparta’s representative. To Agesilaus’ angry question whether he would allow Boeotian cities to be independent, Epaminondas asked the same question of Sparta and the Laconian cities. An intelligent politician, Epaminondas must have been prepared for Agesilaus’ reaction: he struck Thebes off the treaty and soon declared war (Xen. Hell. 6.3.2–20; Plut. Ages. 28; Diod. Sic. 15.50.4). For the moment Thebes stood alone, as the rest of Greece implemented the terms of the new Peace. In the debate over what to do with Cleombrotus and the army, still in Phocis, Spartans rejected the advice of one Prothoos, perhaps an ephor, that they disband the army and forge a coalition specifically to deal with Thebes, in favor of immediate action (Xen. Hell. 6.4.2–3). Reluctantly, Cleombrotus marched his allied army of some 11,000 into Boeotia, where he encamped in sight of the Thebans and Boeotians in the territory of Thespiae, near a place called Leuctra (Xen. Hell. 6.4.4).

Cleombrotus was an unwilling battle commander; only by threats of dire punishment awaiting him should he not engage the enemy, did his “friends” persuade him to join battle with Epaminondas (Xen. Hell. 6.4.5). He was not alone in his ambivalence, for it was rumored that the Spartans drank until noon on the day of the battle to sharpen their courage (Xen. Hell. 6.4.8). When the battle lines were drawn, Cleombrotus chose a standard arrangement of Spartan hoplites in columns twelve deep on the right, with allied troops to the left. He unwisely positioned his badly trained cavalry in front of his hoplite phalanxes, to protect them and screen their movements. He took the usual commanding position on the right wing surrounded by his bodyguard of three hundred elite young troops. Epaminondas, on the other hand, threw the rule book away. Opposite the Spartans and their king he massed his 4,000 Theban troops on the left at an astonishing depth of fifty men, led by Pelopidas and the newly instituted Sacred Band. The Boeotians he lined up eight or twelve deep on the right facing the Spartans’ allies. He countered the placement of the Spartan cavalry by putting the battle-hardened Theban horse in front of his own lines (Xen. Hell. 6.4.10–12; Diod. Sic. 15.55.1).

Cleombrotus sent his cavalry forward to engage the enemy while units from his left wing redeployed to his right to meet the Theban danger opposite. This maneuver was never completed. The Theban cavalry quickly repulsed the Spartan and pushed it back into the hoplite lines. Confusion broke out. Meanwhile, Cleombrotus’ attempt to stretch his line to the right to outflank his enemy had opened up a gap between the Spartan and allied ranks that no one could now fill. The Thebans and Boeotians advanced, but not in the expected way. Epaminondas had got his troops to move forward as if they were a massive hammer, the head of which comprised the Theban columns. As the fifty-deep Theban phalanxes readied themselves to strike against Cleombrotus and his Spartans, the Boeotian troops advanced in a diagonal line with those on the right hanging back somewhat from those on the left. Pelopidas and the Sacred Band rushed forward from the Theban columns. Cleombrotus ordered the Spartans to counterattack, but many did not receive the order because of the confusion caused by the cavalry. Pelopidas’ onslaught broke the Spartan front ranks, allowing Epaminondas to apply the full force of the Theban left in smashing through those behind. When the dust cleared, the Thebans were in control of the field and 1,000 Lacedaemonians lay dead, including Cleombrotus. Casualties among the Peloponnesian allies were relatively light since the Boeotians in their diagonal advance had scarcely engaged them. The disaffection of Sparta’s allies was well known – some were even said to have been not displeased with the outcome – and Epaminondas clearly hoped to win them over by showing that Thebes’ quarrel was with Sparta alone (Xen. Hell. 6.4.13–15; Diod. Sic. 15.55–6).

The news reached Sparta on the last day of the Gymnopaediae, while the men’s chorus was performing. The ephors allowed it to finish before they announced the defeat and the names of the fallen. Xenophon tells us that the relatives of the dead walked about with smiles on their faces while those of the considerable number of survivors were dejected (Xen. Hell. 6.4.16). A politically convenient recurrence of Agesilaus’ infirmity meant that the relief force was dispatched to Leuctra under his son Archidamus. That army never engaged the Thebans, as a truce was negotiated through the agency of Jason of Pherae (Xen. Hell. 6.4.17–19, 22–6). At Sparta, the survivors of Leuctra precipitated a constitutional crisis. Sparta had sent 700 citizens to the battle, where 400 had been killed, among them the 300-strong royal bodyguard of the best soldiers aged twenty to thirty (Xen. Hell. 6.4.15). Of the 300 survivors, many had fled the battle and so were guilty of cowardice. As “tremblers” (tresantes) they would normally have been subject to a range of social and economic sanctions, but Sparta could hardly afford to alienate so sizeable a chunk of its Spartiate population now that the total citizen body numbered only slightly over a thousand. Agesilaus, restored to health, was vested with supreme constitutional authority and announced that on this occasion alone, “the laws must sleep for a day” (Plut. Ages. 30.5–6).

But there were bigger problems than a few hundred less than enthusiastic hoplites. Leuctra shattered the illusion of Spartan invincibility. In 371/0 Mantinea dared to re-amalgamate under a democratic constitution, the Tegean oligarchy was forced out, and a federal league was founded to embrace all Arcadians (Xen. Hell. 6.5.3–9). To meet this new threat and to punish the Tegeans, Agesilaus led troops into Arcadia. True to form, he captured a minor city, laid waste some land, and returned to Laconia without any major engagement (Xen. Hell. 6.5.10–21). The Arcadians, however, were no longer willing to allow their land to be used as the Spartan army’s dancing floor, and so approached the Thebans for help. This appeared in the form of a massive army of Thebans and their new Peloponnesian allies. As the Theban army marched south, perioecic communities began to defect (Xen. Hell. 6.5.25, 32). Epaminondas then struck straight down into the Eurotas valley, destroying fields and houses as he went. The unimaginable had happened. An invading army was in the Laconian land. So alarmed were the Spartans that they offered freedom to any helot who would take up arms against the invader. Six thousand answered the call, to the considerable unease of the remaining Spartiates. Two separate conspiracies were uncovered: one among the perioeci and inferiors, and another, more worrying, among full Spartiates. Agesilaus successfully repressed both, resorting to extra-judicial killing in the case of the Spartiate conspiracy (Plut. Ages. 32.6–11).

Despite the Spartans’ fears, however, Epaminondas had no intention of destroying their city, just their military and political power. So, after ravaging the land around Sparta and down to the port of Gytheum, he took his army north and west into Messenia, where he inflicted a more damaging blow than burning Sparta’s temples and dwellings could ever have been (Xen. Hell. 5.6.31–2). He liberated Messenia from Spartan rule and recalled the exiles to found their city anew (Diod. Sic. 15.66). Stripped of their most productive land and a large part of their helot workforce, Spartans would be forever reduced to the status of a second-rate power. In a second invasion of the Peloponnese later in 369 (Xen. Hell. 7.1.14–25; Diod. Sic. 15.69–70.1), Epaminondas managed to detach several more states from their alliance with Sparta. Even the Spartan victory in 368 over an allied army of Arcadians, Argires, and Messenians in the Tearless Battle, so named because supposedly no Spartan died, resulted simply in the Arcadians founding the city of Megalopolis to be yet another obstacle to a resurgence of Spartan power (Xen. Hell. 7.1.28–32; Diod. Sic. 15.72.4).

Needless to say, Agesilaus and the Spartans never accepted the loss of Messenia. Spartans refused to be party to any agreement that recognized Messenian independence, explicitly or implicitly. Their intransigence alienated the Great King, whose 367 decree calling for the renewal of the Peace guaranteed Messenia’s independence and effectively repudiated his alliance with the Spartans (Xen. Hell. 7.1.33–7). When Spartans allowed the Corinthians and any remaining allies who wished to make peace with Thebes in 365, they refused to renounce their claims on Messenia (Xen. Hell. 4.7–11), causing the final dissolution of the Peloponnesian League. For his part, Agesilaus spent many of his final years trying to gather funds to hire the now-necessary mercenaries that would enable Sparta to regain its lost possession. Mercenaries sent by Dionysius of Syracuse had comprised the overwhelming bulk of Archidamus’ army in the Tearless Battle, which for the time being had revived Spartan confidence (Plut. Ages. 33.3–5). But Sparta could not rely simply on the generosity of strong men like Dionysius; money was needed, and so Agesilaus’ own career as a mercenary began, with a discreet mission to the Hellespont sometime between 366 and 364; he returned richly rewarded for services rendered to the rebellious satrap Ariobarzanes and the dynast Maussolus of Caria (Xen. Ages. 2.26–7).

Agesilaus commanded a citizen army one last time, in 362. The Arcadian League had split into democratic and oligarchic camps, and each called on the appropriate outside power for support. On the side of democratic Tegea, Epaminondas led an expeditionary force into the Peloponnese and, when he learned that the Spartan army had left the city undefended as it marched to meet him, launched a lightning raid into Laconia. Splitting his forces, Agesilaus hastened back and was just able to deploy his men as Epaminondas attacked the city. After some street fighting, the Thebans withdrew to Arcadia. The two sides met near Mantinea. There, Epaminondas and his vast allied army won a resounding victory over oligarchic Mantinea, Sparta, Athens, and Elis, but his death in battle robbed Thebes of the ability to capitalize on his success (Xen. Hell. 7.5.27; Diod. Sic. 15.85–7). Wearied by war, the combatants drew up a Common Peace, the first without Persian involvement, to end the pointless interstate conflicts that had exhausted Greek resources for decades (Diod. Sic. 15.89.1–2). Like other recent treaties, it recognized Messenia, making it unacceptable to Agesilaus and his still (inexplicably) powerful supporters, who effected yet another Spartan refusal to participate and kept the city in a state of war with its western neighbor (Plut. Ages. 35.3–5).

By 360, Agesilaus was in Egypt selling his services to one rebel against the Persian Empire before deserting him for another more likely prospect, all the time representing himself and the other mercenaries as an officially sanctioned Spartan military expedition (Plut. Ages. 36–9). He died on the coast of Libya on his way back to Sparta with his fee of 230 talents, a tiny fraction of his booty from Asia Minor in 394. His body encased in wax, Sparta’s twenty-sixth Eurypontid king was brought home for burial in the family plot in Limnae (Xen. Ages. 2.30–31; Plut. Ages. 40.2–4). A competent but not brilliant general, he had spent his talents over the years in a single-minded effort to promote Sparta’s interests, unfailingly choosing short-term benefits over long-term gain. His obsession with Thebes brought his city to disaster and ensured its continuing isolation. Domestically, Agesilaus built a reputation for liberality and loyalty, helping his friends profit whenever he could and sheltering them at all costs and in the face of clear evidence of their wrongdoing (Xen. Ages. 5.1–3). His political techniques at home were sophisticated, but Spartans paid dearly for Agesilaus’ management of international relations, limited throughout his reign only to confronting Thebes.

At this point, with Sparta’s dream of reconquering Messenia fading and the city’s proud military tradition in tatters, we have an opportunity to trace the development of the Spartan army over time and to see what sort of military forces were available to Agesilaus during his reign. There are three traditional “fixed points” around which discussions of the army have centered – Herodotus’ account of the battle of Plataea in 479, Thucydides’ description of the battle lines drawn up at Mantinea in 418, and the data that can be gleaned from Xenophon’s Hellenica and Constitution of the Lacedaemonians on the army of his own time, the first decades of the fourth century down to the battle of Leuctra in 371. No two authors use precisely the same terminology nor, in fact, do they seem at first sight to be describing exactly the same military structure.

Before the Persian Wars, matters are very hazy indeed. From the few surviving scraps of Tyrtaeus, we can infer that the Archaic army was organized in sections according to the three Dorian tribes, Hylleis, Dymanes, and Pamphyloi (F19 West2, lines 8–9). It may have fought in hoplite phalanx formation, though this is far from clear, and certainly included light-armed soldiers (P Oxy. 3316, line 14). In the Battle of the Champions (c. 545) the first inconclusive phase involved the selection of 300 warriors from each side to fight it out in Homeric style. Although victory in the end had to be determined by a normal, full-scale battle, the Battle of the Champions shows how fluid combat formations could be, even at such a relatively late date (Hdt. 1.82).

Only with the battle of Plataea do we finally have some real troop numbers, as well as names for units and officers, though naturally none are beyond dispute. The Spartan force at Thermopylae the previous year – 300 Spartiates out of 3,100 Peloponnesians plus 1,100 Boeotians and maybe a total of 2,000 from Locris and Phocis – was anomalous for its size and unique in the (possible) absence of any perioecic troops (Hdt. 7.202–203.1). To meet the Persians in Boeotia, on the other hand, Herodotus writes that the ephors dispatched 5,000 Spartiate warriors, each accompanied by seven helots, for a total of 40,000 men. Next day, the astonished Athenian envoys were sent to meet them with an additional 5,000 elite perioecic troops (9.10.1, 11.3). When combined with warriors, both hoplite and lightly armed, from the other members of the Hellenic Coalition, the Greek army at Plataea totaled 110,000, according to Herodotus, including an oddly unarmed contingent of 1,800 Thespians (9.26.2–9.30). As often with ancient calculations of military strength, however, even this apparently straightforward set of numbers holds problems. Herodotus seems here to have forgotten about the 5,000 perioecic hoplites sent out after the Spartiates. Not just that – when they do reappear implicitly in his numbers for the Lacedaemonian and Tegean troops isolated later in the battle, they are joined by a hitherto completely unmentioned contingent of 5,000 light-armed troops (9.29.2, 31.2). Sparta thus fielded an army of 50,000 men at Plataea, of which only 5,000 – one in ten – were full citizens. The small (and declining) proportion of Spartiates in the Spartan army was a constant throughout the fifth and fourth centuries, symptomatic of an increasingly serious demographic problem as Sparta literally began to run out of Spartan citizens. The Spartiates at Plataea were organized into lochoi (9.53.2, 57.2), apparently under officers Spartans called lochagoi (9.53.2; cf. Thuc. 5.66.3–4; Xen. Lac. 11.4). Most historians believe that there were five Spartan lochoi at Plataea, each recruited from one of the five constituent communities (ôbai) of the city, because Herodotus identifies one of the lochoi as “the lochos of Pitane” (9.53.2).

In contrast to Herodotus’ sketchy allusions, Thucydides offers a detailed analysis of the Spartan-led army at the Battle of Mantinea in 418 (5.66.2–67.1, 68.1–3). The Spartans had raised a full levy of their available troops (pandêmei) which they dispatched post-haste under King Agis’ command into Arcadia to prevent Tegea and the rest of Sparta’s still loyal allies from defecting to the Argives. Upon reaching Orestheion to wait for his allies, Agis ordered home one-sixth of the army, comprising the oldest and youngest, to provide homefront security (5.64). The army at Mantinea represented five-sixths of Sparta’s total military assets. On the left wing were the Sciritae, a unit of perioeci who held this as a traditional privilege; next were the Brasideioi, the helot hoplites freed after their service in Thrace, and with them the Neodamodeis, the other newly liberated helot warriors. In the center were the Lacedaemonians arranged in lochoi, then Arcadians from nearby regions (Thuc. 5.67.1). On the right wing were the Tegeans and “a few” (oligoi) Lacedaemonians. Cavalry was stationed on both wings. Opposite these forces stood the Argives, Athenians, and their various allies in an army whose total manpower has been calculated at approximately 8,500 to 10,000.

The problem lies in Thucydides’ numbers. Thucydides admits his inability to obtain accurate figures for the Spartans at Mantinea because the size of the Spartan army was concealed “as a matter of state secrecy” (dia tês politeias to krupton), an often quoted phrase (5.68.2). Yet he claims to have been able to reach an estimated total by calculating from the disposition of the Spartan forces that were present. He then proceeds to describe the organization of the army on that day: apart from the 600 Sciritae, seven lochoi fought, in each of which there were four pentakostyes (“fiftieths”?), each of them comprising four enômotiai (“sworn bands”). Four men fought in the front rank of each enômotia, and the enômotiai were, on average, eight ranks deep. Thus, concludes Thucydides, the front rank of the Lacedaemonian part of the army was 448 men strong, excepting the Sciritae on the left wing (5.68.3). From this, historians have deduced that the lochoi held about 3,584 men. With the Sciritae added, along with Agis and his 300-strong bodyguard of hippeis, forgotten here but mentioned later (Thuc. 5.72.4), the Spartan portion of the army totaled 4,485. Since Sparta’s Arcadian allies probably could have contributed no more than 3,500 troops at the very most, the whole army would have been about 8,000 men strong. But Thucydides twice states that the Spartan army appeared to be and was actually larger than the enemy’s (5.68.1, 71.2). The only way for this to be true is if the cavalry stationed on both wings and the “few” Lacedaemonians on the right numbered anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 troops. Scholars therefore reject his numbers as being too small.

The most commonly accepted solution is that Thucydides made an error in military terminology. Instead of lochoi, he should have called the largest units morai, which are known to have existed at least from 403 B.C.E. onwards (Xen. Hell. 2.4.31). Each mora comprised two lochoi, one of Spartiates and one of perioeci. Not only does this expedient effectively double the number of Lacedaemonian soldiers at Mantinea, it also accounts for the curious absence of perioeci in Thucydides’ narrative. A further benefit relates to the Spartan officers: in his account of how orders pass quickly down from the king, Thucydides mentions four ranks – polemarchoi, lochagoi, pentekonteres, and enômotarchai – but only three levels of unit (Thuc. 5.66.3–4), leaving the polemarchs with no troops to command. Although they might have been the equivalent of general staff officers, it seems better to consider them as commanders of morai in 418, as they were in the fourth century (Xen. Lac. 11.4). A simple textual emendation removes the objection that Xenophon in the Constitution of the Lacedaemonians (Lac. 11.4) states that there were four lochagoi for every mora.

The Brasideioi and Neodamodeis almost certainly fought in a single combined unit (Thuc. 5.67.1), which may have been called a lochos, but actually had a strength equivalent to a mora. This unit would not have been affected by Agis’ orders that one-sixth of the army return home, because it would not have been structured along year-class lines, as were the other units. No Brasideioi were recruited after the Thracian campaigns, and Neodamodeis could hardly have been recruited from the helots strictly according to age-cohort. The Spartan troop-strength can then be calculated as follows: 600 Sciritae + c. 1,200 Brasideioi and Neodamodeis + c. 6,144 Spartiates and perioeci in 6 morai comprising 12 lochoi of c. 512 men each + 300 hippeis, for a total of c. 8,544, not including cavalry and the few Lacedaemonians on the wings. With the Arcadian troops added, Agis would have led an army of over 12,000, easily justifying Thucydides’ claim that it was the larger.

Agesilaus and the Spartan Army III

If this solution is correct, then Spartans reorganized their army at some point after the battle of Plataea and before 418. A solid if not absolutely conclusive argument can be made that this reform took place before 425 B.C.E. because of certain features in Thucydides’ account of the Spartans’ reaction to the threat posed by Demosthenes’ capture of Pylos. Thucydides tells us that the Spartans sent contingents of 420 hoplites in rotation onto the island of Sphacteria drawn by lot from all the lochoi (4.8.9), by which he is understood to mean that the lots were drawn among each enômotia in the lochoi rather than among individual soldiers. If, as is very probable, the Spartans at this time mobilized 35 out of the 40 available age classes from 20 to 59 years of age, the number 420 is best explained as the result of one enômotia of 35 men being drawn from each of 12 lochoi, implying an army of 6 morai, each made up of 2 lochoi. That perioeci were already brigaded with Spartiates in the same morai can be deduced from Thucydides’ statement that of the 292 survivors from the last detatchment only 120 were full Spartan citizens (4.38.5).

After Thucydides, various references in Xenophon’s Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, Anabasis, and Hellenica give us a relatively detailed idea of the shape of the army. Despite some difficulties, the picture that emerges is sufficiently clear. The largest unit was the mora, of which there were six (Hell. 6.1.1), each commanded by a pole-marchos (Hell. 4.4.7). Each mora contained two lochoi (Hell. 7.4.20), each under a lochagos (Lac. 11.4, see above), which in turn comprised four pentekostyes (Anab. 3.4.22), whose officers were called either pentekostêres (Hell. 3.5.22, 4.5.7) or pentekonterês (Anab. 3.4.21). In each pentakostys were four enômotiai (Hell. 6.4.12) under the direction of four enômotiarchai (Anab. 3.4.21). This last calculation involves preferring Thucydides’ clear statement that there were four enômotiai in each pentekostys (5.68.3) over Xenophon’s equally bald assertion that there were sixteen enômotiai in each mora, implying only two per pentekostys (Lac. 11.4).

The Spartans had acquired military capabilities of other kinds as well. Their first true cavalry force came into being in 425 as a response to the threat posed by Athenian raiding after their capture of Cythera and the promontory near Pylos (Thuc. 4.55.2). Apparently organized in parallel with the hoplites into six morai (Xen. Lac. 11.4) under hip-parmostai (Xen. Hell. 4.5.12), the total number of cavalry troopers is unknown but was probably somewhat more than 600, the approximate number present in five cavalry morai at the Nemea River in 394 (Xen. Hell. 4.2.16). The cavalry was the junior service, as the commander of a cavalry mora was subordinate to his infantry equivalent, the polemarch (Xen. Hell. 6.5.12). Surprisingly, the pro-Spartan Xenophon, though a horseman himself, had little time for the Spartan cavalry (Hell. 6.4.11).

The Spartan navy that is attested as early as the sixth century (Hdt. 3.54.1) and essentially won the long war against Athens was just barely part of the military establishment. The city’s concentration on infantry, with all the social and institutional biases attending that choice, meant that the maritime service was undervalued. Moreover, apart from captains and marines, the crews were all helots or mercenaries and thus unlikely to have gained much credit in the eyes of Spartiates, despite their evident success (Xen. Hell. 7.1.12). We know of only two Spartan naval ranks, and those only because Lysander held them – nauarchos or navarch, the supreme naval commander, and epistoleus or secretary (Xen. Hell. 2.1.7; Plut. Lys. 7.2–3). The annual post of navarch could only be held once in a lifetime, which may have been intended to thwart the overly ambitious but, as we have seen, potentially deprived Sparta of much-needed military expertise. That only a small handful of Spartan royals ever deigned to command the fleet is a sign of the low esteem in which naval operations were held.

Sparta’s reputation depended upon the hoplites, renowned for their discipline in formation combined with the ability to execute flawlessly what seemed to other Greeks to be complicated maneuvers. The orderliness of the Spartan ranks was result of two factors – the inculcation of obedience that began with entry into the system of citizen training and never really ended, and the depth of rank in the army itself. The Spartan army hierarchy was quite remarkable. The Athenian army, for instance, after the reforms following Marathon, had only three officer ranks: the generals, taxiarchs, and the commanders of lochoi within each taxis. An Athenian lochos may have consisted of 100 men, it has been estimated, over double the size of the enômotia at its maximum capacity. And the Spartan enomotarch was not actually the most junior officer, for under him the file leaders themselves were in charge of the men lined up behind them (Xen. Lac. 11.5), numbering from five to fourteen. Thucydides had a point when he wrote that almost all the Spartan army consisted of officers commanding officers (5.66.4). Orders passed swiftly down this chain of command, enabling the army to shift from marching to battle formation with impressive speed – a maneuver Xenophon assures us the professional arms trainers claimed was extremely difficult – and to face attacks from the sides and rear (Lac. 11.8–10).

Marching in step, while perhaps known to other Greeks, was particularly associated with the Spartan army. Famously, their troops at Mantinea advanced towards the Argive army with a slow rhythmic pace to the sound of many flutes, not for a religious reason, as Thucydides explains to his readers, but in order to maintain a steady pace and to prevent the ranks from breaking up, which tended to occur in large armies (5.70). Plutarch also referred to the awe inspired by a Spartan advance (Lyc. 22.4–5). Greeks had long regarded dancing, either solo or in a choral group, as an eminently effective way of learning both evasive movements to escape from harm on the battlefield and coordinated motion as a unit (Pl. Leg. 796c, 803e, 813e; Athen. 14.25 [628F]). Spartan dances, such as the Pyrrhiche – a lively dance with shield and spear – and the choruses of the Gymnopaediae, Hyacinthia, and others were widely known.

Xenophon thought the choruses and gymnastic competitions of the young men at Sparta worth hearing and seeing (Lac. 4.1–7); they were manifestly an important part of the city’s training of its future citizens. The military advantages gained from a practical knowledge of music and dance are apparent in incidents such as at Amphipolis in 422, when Brasidas’ practiced eye noticed, from the uncoordinated movement of their heads and spears, that the Athenians outside the walls could not withstand a direct assault (Thuc. 5.10.5).

During the fifth century, the Spartan army appears to have become more and more standardized in dress and armament. Like all other Greek armies of the time, Spartan weaponry would have included at a minimum a sword and a short thrusting spear. From early on, all Spartan warriors were famous for growing their hair long – the mark of a free man, as Aristotle (Rhet. 1367a) would have it. But evidence for the other elements in the ancient, and modern, image of the Spartan soldier as an almost faceless unit in a massive killing machine comes from later in the century. The large circular shield that gave the hoplite his name was the characteristic armament of the Greek heavy infantry in the Classical period. Like their counterparts in other cities, Spartans in the later sixth and early fifth centuries most likely carried individual emblems on their shields as a means of personal display. The famous lambda insignia is first mentioned only at the time of the Peloponnesian War (Eupolis Fr. 359 Kock). Spartans were not alone in branding their army in this way; they lulled the Argives into complacency before the Long Walls of Corinth in 392 by carrying shields emblazoned with sigmas taken from a Sicyonian unit they had just defeated (Xen. Hell. 4.4.10).

The earliest mention of the phoinikis, the crimson garment that served as the Spartan military uniform, is in Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (1136–40), produced in 411, though referring to the aftermath of the earthquake of 465/4 B.C.E. That it was actually a cloak, as some ancient and most modern authors have thought is confirmed by archaeological evidence, namely the remains of prominent Spartiates buried in the Kerameikos after the clash between King Pausanias and the democratic insurgents in 403 B.C.E. (Xen. Hell. 2.4.33).

The skeletons show signs of having been wrapped tightly from head to toe in a long garment which was fastened by pins at the shoulders. This, combined with the near-total absence of grave goods (one body was buried with a single alabastron), fits so nicely with Plutarch’s statement (Lyc. 27.2) that Spartan war dead were customarily buried without any grave goods, crowned with olive, and wrapped in the phoinikis that it seems almost certain that a cloak formed at least part of the military dress known as “the crimson.”

Head coverings were also standardized. Artifacts from the early fifth century, small lead figurines found in the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia, and the so-called “Bust of Leonidas” depict hoplites wearing helmets of different shapes and designs. By the end of the century, these had been replaced by conical felt hats (piloi) that were indistinguishably uniform. In addition, Spartan hoplites wore light chest protection of quilted linen or leather instead of bronze cuirasses. The evidence for standardization raises the question of procurement. How did individual Spartans acquire their weapons and armor? Historians incline towards a central distribution agency, especially since we know that the state replaced and repaired the equipment of soldiers on campaign (Xen. Lac. 11.2). In such a system, the perioeci would logically have provided the craftsmen to manufacture the articles to Spartan specifications.

Spartan military efficiency was also evident in the swift mobiliztion of troops. The overnight call-up of 5,000 Spartiates along with 35,000 helots before Plataea may strain credulity (Hdt. 9.10.1), but the Spartans clearly had a streamlined system of conscription that made the Athenian practice of the general and taxiarchs selecting troops individually for each campaign look very clumsy indeed. Rather, the Spartans called up hoplites by age in eight blocks of five years each from twenty to fifty-nine. When the ephors “showed the guard,” they designated which units were to be sent out and which age groups would man them (Xen. Lac. 11.2; Hell. 6.4.17). Each Spartiate would have been permanently assigned to a lochos, making mustering simple. Theoretically, each Spartan hoplite would have been the only representative of his year class in every enômotia, so that the number of men in each would have corresponded exactly to the number of year classes mobilized. Such a system would have been unworkably rigid, however, so historians have concluded that each group of five men did not necessarily contain one man from each of the block’s five year classes. Only in the first two blocks, representing the year classes from twenty to twenty-nine, can there have been a realistic chance of filling the one-man, one-year-class requirement, because of the high mortality rate among Spartiate warriors. And, as the first ten year classes (ta deka aph’ hêbês) were commonly sent out as shock troops at the beginning of a battle (Xen. Hell. 2.4.32, 3.4.23, 4.5.14, 5.4.40; Ages. 1.31.6), they were not immune from heavy losses themselves.

These young men were also eligible for distinction as members of the 300-strong crack unit called the hippeis or “knights,” who actually fought as hoplites, not on horseback. Their most prestigious duty was to act as bodyguards for each king while he was on campaign, with the task usually assigned to one-third of their number (Hdt. 6.56). While the rest of the hêbontes were brigaded throughout the lochoi, the hippeis had the extraordinary privilege of forming a separate corps outside the military chain of command. At Mantinea, Leuctra, and other occasions when the Spartan state ordered full mobilization, the entire corps would have been present, with catastrophic results at Leuctra (Xen. Hell. 6.4.15). The hippeis also acted as the domestic security service, as in the Cinadon crisis (Xen. Hell. 3.3.9). The hippeis’ loyalty and discretion in carrying out such sensitive assignments was due to their special status in the Spartan military hierarchy. On campaign the hippeis and hippagretai answered directly to the kings, at home to the ephors. The ephors chose their three commanders, called hippagretai, directly every year from among men over thirty. Each hippagretes then chose one hundred of the best hêbontes to form a contingent of hippeis, publicly announcing his reasons for accepting some and rejecting most (Xen. Lac. 4.3–4). Sparta’s culture of praise and blame would have been on full display on these occasions. The story of Pedaritus (Plut. Lyc. 25.4), who went away smiling after being rejected for the hippeis because, as he said, it meant that the city had three hundred men better than he, is the exception proving the rule. The rejected were encouraged to keep a close watch over the behavior of the chosen in hopes of catching them acting improperly, and the two sets of hêbontes frequently came to blows whenever they happened to meet (Xen. Lac. 4.6).

The army was the Spartans’ pride and joy. Unsurprisingly, they credited Lycurgus with its foundation. Herodotus (1.65.5) reports that Lycurgus was responsible for the military institutions of his own time, in particular, the enômotiai, the sussitia (the common messes, which had some as yet unclear connection with the army), and the mysterious triakades (“thirds”). Curiously, over a hundred years later and after at least one major structural reform, Xenophon also considers Lycurgus the founder of the military institutions of his day (Lac. 11.1–4), including the morai, which most historians regard as the cornerstone of the later fifth century new-style army.

Unlike the Athenians, Spartans buried their warrior dead in the lands where they fell. It was a matter of pride, for Spartiate graves served as tangible signs of their city’s ability to project its power. At Sparta, families commemorated their dead relatives with simple memorials bearing their names followed by the famous, suitably laconic, inscription “in war.” As a consequence, one of the most familiar apophthegms, that attributed to a Spartan mother saying, as she bids her warrior son farewell, “(Come back) with it or on it,” meaning his hoplite shield, cannot have been from a Spartan source, since dead warriors were not brought home (Plut. Mor. 241f).

Throwing away one’s shield was an offense commonly punished throughout Greece, but Sparta has always been notorious for severely penalizing soldiers considered to be cowards, or “tremblers” (tresantes). Writers ancient and modern have catalogued the punishments inflicted upon any Spartiate falling short of the city’s demanding code of honor. However, many of the penalties listed in our earliest source, Xenophon’s Constitution of the Lacedaemonians (Lac. 9.4–6), were socially, not legally rooted. For example, people were ashamed to eat or exercise in the company of a coward; cowards were left out of the ball teams and assigned the most demeaning positions in dances; young men did not give way to them in the streets nor accord them seats at public events. Moreover, the term “trembler” itself was applied only to one man, Aristodemus, the sole survivor of Thermopylae (Hdt. 7.231–2), who redeemed himself by dying bravely at Plataea (Hdt. 9.71.2). The legal penalty imposed was evidently a form of atimia (loss of citizen rights) that varied according to circumstances and was of a specific duration, as in the case of the 120 ex-POWs from Sphacteria, who were stripped of the right to hold office and carry out financial transactions for a period of time until being restored to full Spartiate status (Thuc. 5.34.2). In the other notable instance of Spartan atimia, Plutarch reports that king Agesilaus called for the laws to sleep for a day during the crisis over how to treat the survivors of the Leuctra disaster (Plut. Ages. 30.5–6). Taking all the evidence together, the harsh treatment of “tremblers” could well have been more notorious to outsiders as a concept than to Spartans as a commonly inflicted punishment.