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Post  dundek on Tue Feb 23, 2010 6:23 am

First Messenian War
743 - 724 BC

The causes of the Messenian wars were two incidents, as Pausanias tells us, although there is no doubt that the real reason was the rich and fertile plains of Messenia, that Spartans wanted to conquer.
The first incident occurred in the borders of Laconia and Messene, where there was a temple of Artemis Limnatis, in which both Spartans and Messenians were celebrating. In the midst of the dance of Spartan virgins, Messenians rushed and took the women. King Teleklos of Sparta, who tried to hinder them, was killed. It was said later that all the Spartan women committed suicide.
But according to the Messenian version, king Teleklos had dressed up young men as virgins, with concealed daggers. When their plot was discovered, Messenians after a fight killed Teleklos. Anyway the war did not start immediately after this event.
The second incident happened with the Spartan Euphaenos and the Messenian Polychares, a distinguished citizen and an Olympic victor in Stadium, 764 BC. Euphaenos, who had been trusted with the care of Polychares cows, sold them and later killed his son who came to inquire. Polychares, who was unable to find justice in Sparta, started to kill every Lacedaemonian who passed the borders.
After these incidents, Spartans demanded from Messenians to deliver Polychares, but in vain and so the war started.
Alkamenes, the son of the king Teleklos of Sparta, in a dark night surprised the Messenians and entered the city of Ampheia, killing everybody. From Ampheia, the Spartans were making constants raids, but they did not succeed to conquer any other cities.
The king of Messenia, Euphaes, fought them with vigor, but for four years no progress had been made, by either side. During the fifth year, a big battle took place, which ended indecisive, but after this the Messenians retired to the fortified mountain of Ithome. In the meantime an epidemic fell in Messene, killing many people and Messenians in their distress sent a citizen named Tese at Delphi, to ask about the outcome of the war. The oracle told them to sacrifice a maiden chosen by lot, from the house of Apetidae. The lot fell to the daughter of Lyciskos, who refused to obey and went to Sparta. A leading citizen then named Aristodemos, offered his own daughter, but the youth who was in love with her, declared that she was carrying his child. Aristodemos killed his daughter, opened her body and showed to everyone that this was a lie. After the sacrifice Messenians took courage and attacked the disheartened by the event Spartans, who for six years postponed any invasion.
During the thirteen year of the war, the Spartan king Theopompos marched against Ithome and another battle took place, but again without a victor. When king Euphaes was killed in action, Aristodemos took his place.
Five years later another battle took place, in which Corinth took the side of Spartans and Arcadians and Sikyonians the side of Messenians. King Aristodemos won a decisive victory over the Lacedaemonians, who were driven back in their territories. Later things turned against Messenians. Aristodemos after a dream, in which his daughter appeared showing to him her wounds, slew himself at her tomb. Shortly afterwards and during the twentieth year of the war, Messenians abandoned Ithome, which was raised to the ground by the Spartans. The defeated Messenians were punished severely and took an oath, that they would never revolt and they would deliver to Sparta every year half of their agricultural products. Many families fled to Arcadia and the priestly to Eleusis. Those who stayed in the country became helots. This was the end of the first Messenian war.
Not long after the annexation of Messenia (708 BC), Sparta founded a colony at Tarentum in South Italy and it seems that the motive was political. A group called themselves Partheniai (children of unmarried mothers), who were not recognized as citizens, attempted revolution and Sparta deemed necessary that the best solution was to send them away.

Second Messenian War
685 - 668 BC

Some years later Messenians revolted and their leader Aristomenes in a daring move entered Sparta at night and offered a shield in the temple of Athena. Spartans after this event went to the oracle of Delphi, which gave them the answer "to take an Athenian adviser".
Spartans asked from the Athenians a general and they sent them Tyrtaeos, who was poet and lame from the one leg. Tyrtaeos with his poems encouraged Spartans and helped them to win the war.
During the war the leader of Messenians, Aristomenes, was made a great hero and many stories talk about him.
According to the legend three times Aristomenes sacrificed to Zeus Ithomatis, the so-called Hecatophonia, reserved only to the warrior who had killed with his own hands one hundred enemies. Three times he was captured by the Spartans but he managed to escape. His last capture occurred in a battle between him and many Spartans, in which he was wounded all over his body, but he was still fighting, until a stone found him on the head and fell. He was captured along with fifty others and for punishment were thrown into the deep pit Kaeadas, of the mount Taygetos. All the others were killed, but Aristomenes fell upon the wings of an eagle and survived. When he realized, that there was no way to get out from this abyss, he laid down and covered himself with his cloak, waiting to die. Three days later, during the night he heard a soft sound and in the darkness show a fox eating the corpses. He managed to catch the fox from the tail and he was guided by her to a small hole, which he opened further and passed through.
Immediately he went to the city of Eira, which was besieged by Spartans. Passing from their camp, he killed many of them in their sleep and plundered the tents of the generals.
Some time later, in a stormy night and with the help of an informer, the Spartans entered Eira. There was a hard battle, Messenians fought desperately, the women too, throwing tiles to Spartan soldiers, but at the end they were defeated.
Aristomenes with many others managed to brake the Spartan lines and took the women and children in Arcadia. Immediately he chose five hundred men from Messenian volunteers and with the help of three hundred Arcadians decided to take Sparta by surprise, now that most of its army was away. They were ready to move, when they discovered that the king of Arcadia, Aristocrates, had sent a messenger to the Ephors, informing them about their plan. The treacherous king was killed in the square of the city by the Arcadian people with stones and his corpse was thrown out of Arcadia.
The Messenians moved then to Kyllene and from there to lower Italy, where they founded the new city of Messene. Aristomenes did not follow them and went to his brother in Rhodes, where he died from bitterness. The Messenians who did not leave, became Helots and thus ended the second Messenian war.

The war of six hundred

Around 720 BC the Spartan army under the king Nikadros with the help of township Asine, ravaged Argolis. Argives did not forget this and not much later took revenge destroying totally Asine.
In their turn the Spartans annexed Kynouria, which formed part of the dominion of Argos.
In 547 BC, the Argives attempted to recover the territory, but instead of a full combat they agreed with the Lacedaemonians, to decide the outcome of the war and the annexation of Kynouria, with three hundred men each. The conflict of the six hundred chosen soldiers was so fierce, that only two Argives survived and one wounded Spartan. The two Argive hoplites, Alcenor and Chromios, left to give the news of their victory, but the Spartan Othryades managed to spoil the dead bodies of the enemy and then killed himself, being ashamed to return to Sparta. Both sides claimed the victory and a full battle took place not much later, in which the Argives were defeated.

Wars with Tegea

Spartans attempted various expeditions against Arcadia and after a long struggle managed to occupy the southern part of her. But they were totally unsuccessful in the wars, with the city of Tegea. They were losing battle after battle and in the reign of the Spartan kings Leon and Agesikles (580 BC), they carried pompously chains in order to enslave the Tegeans. They met though with disaster, losing totally the battle and their soldiers were putted in the very chains, they had brought.
Spartans in their distress asked the help of the Delphi oracle, which advised them to obtain the bones of Orestes (son of Agamemnon). The oracle even directed them to find the remains of the hero at Tegea and Spartans with a skillful stratagem succeeded to carry the holy remains home. When that happened the tide of the war turned. The proud Tegeans lost every battle and finally acknowledged the supremacy of Sparta, but they were never reduced to subjection and continued to be masters of their city, becoming only dependant allies.

Kleomenes I

Kleomenes came to the throne of Sparta around 520 BC. In a rivalry between Kleisthenes of Athens and Isagoras, he was called by Isagoras to help. Indeed Kleomenes forced Kleisthenes and his family to leave the country, but when he expelled five hundred more families and tried to revive the constitution, the Athenians revolted and besieged Kleomenes in the Acropolis, who immediately surrendered and left from Attica. He then assembled an army from Sparta and with allies marched toward Athens, without telling them that he wanted to install Isagoras as tyrant in Athens. But when the army came to Attica, the Corinthians learned the purpose of the expedition and abandoned the enterprise. The second king of Sparta, king Demaratos, who had joined the expedition refused also to go further and returned home and thus the expedition collapsed.
This gave the opportunity to Athens to attack the Thebans and Chalkidaeans, who were ravaging Attica and defeated them both.
In Sparta, after the kings quarrel, a new law was passed that in the future only one king would command an expedition. They also summoned the League and proposed to restore Hippias in Athens, who had been a friend of Sparta and had come from Asia for the meeting. Again Corinthians and other allies rejected the plan.
Around 505 BC, a war between Sparta and Argos took place, but the reasons are unknown.
In 499 BC, the Ionian leader Aristagoras came to Sparta to ask help in their revolt against Persia. Kleomenes refused and ordered him out of the city.
Kleomenes advanced into Argolis, but he failed to take Argos. He then asked ships from Sikyon and Aigina which unwillingly gave them and landed near Tyrinth. There he found, at a place called Sepea, which was between Argos and the sea, the Argive army. By gross carelessness of the Argives, he surprised them and defeated them. The Argives then tried to find refuge in the sacred grove of the Hero Argos. Kleomenes surrounded them and in a unthinkable for the Greek customs action, he set fire to the grove. Six thousand Argives lost their lives at that day, almost two thirds of the whole army (494 BC).
Kleomenes instigated Leotychides, the next heir in the Prokleid line of kings, to question the legitimacy of king Demaratos. To resolve the problem the Spartans went to the Delphi oracle, which declared Demaratos as an illegitimate king.
When later was known, that Kleomenes had bribed the oracle, they ordered him home, but he fled first to Thessaly and later to Arcadia, where he worked for a Pan-Arcadian alliance.
The Spartans called him again with promises, but when he arrived, he was attacked by the people, who following their old habit, they were hitting him in his head. The Ephors pronounced him insane. He committed suicide, having mutilated himself with a knife (488 BC).

The Persian Wars

After the suppression of the Ionic revolt, king Darius started preparing an army to attack Greece.
The Persian expedition that followed under Mardonios ended in disaster, losing his fleet in a terrible storm in the promontory of mount Athos. Darius was not disheartened and having in his court the tyrant Hippias, keeping alive his resentment against Athens, he started preparing a second expedition and on a larger scale. He first sent heralds to ask earth and water from the various Greek cities. The Athenians threw them in the barathron pit and the Spartans in a well, to find there their "earth and water".
For the first time the Greek cities, in the face of the imminent danger were all united, recognizing Sparta as the leader of Greece. Sparta refused to send an army to help Athens in Marathon and only arrived after the battle to find in their amazement that the Athenians had won a complete victory (490 BC). Greece was fortunate that the next invasion was led by the son of Darius, Xerxes, a much inferior man than his father.


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