Worthy Reads for April 11, 2019

Weekend Reading: Plutarch: Life of Cleomenes

Plutarch: Life of Cleomenes http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Lives/Cleomenes*.html: 'As long, then, he said, as the ephors kept within bounds, it had been better to bear with them; but when with their assumed power they subverted the ancient form of government to such an extent as to drive away some kings, put others to death without a trial, and threaten such as desired to behold again in Sparta her fairest and most divinely appointed constitution, it was not to be endured...

...If, then, it had been possible without bloodshed to rid Sparta of her imported curses, namely luxury and extravagance, and debts and usury, and those elder evils than these, namely, poverty and wealth, he would have thought himself the most fortunate king in the world to have cured the disease of his country like a wise physician, without pain; but as it was, he said, in support of the necessity that had been laid upon him, he could cite Lycurgus, who, though he was neither king nor magistrate, but a private person attempting to act as king, proceeded with an armed retinue into the market-place, so that Charillus the king took fright and fled for refuge to an altar.

That king, however, Cleomenes said, since he was an excellent man and a lover of his country, speedily concurred in the measures of Lycurgus and accepted the change of constitution; still, as a matter of fact Lycurgus by his own acts bore witness to the difficulty of changing a constitution without violence and fear. To these, Cleomenes said, he had himself resorted with the greatest moderation, for he had but put out of the way the men who were opposed to the salvation of Sparta. For all the rest, he said, the whole land should be common property, debtors should be set free from their debts, and foreigners should be examined and rated, in order that the strongest of them might be made Spartan citizens and help to preserve the state by their arms. "In this way," he said, "we shall cease to behold Sparta the booty of Aetolians and Illyrians through lack of men to defend her."

After this, to begin with, Cleomenes himself placed his property in the common stock, as did Megistonoüs his step-father and every one of his friends besides; next, all the rest of the citizens did the same, and the land was parcelled out. Cleomenes also assigned a portion of land to each man who had been exiled by him, and promised to bring them all home after matters had become quiet. Then he filled up the body of citizens with the most promising of the free provincials, and thus raised a body of four thousand men-at‑arms, whom he taught to use a long pike, held in both hands, instead of a short spear, and to carry their shields by a strap instead of by a fixed handle.

Next he devoted himself to the training of the young men and to the "agoge," or ancient discipline, most of the details of which Sphaerus, who was then in Sparta, helped him in arranging. And quickly was the proper system of bodily training and public messes resumed, a few out of necessity, but most with a willing spirit, subjecting themselves to the old Spartan regime with all its simplicity. And yet, desiring to give the name of absolute power a less offensive sound, he associated with himself in royal power his brother Eucleidas. And this was the only time when the Spartans had two kings from the same house...