ancient greece

King Cleomenes I of Sparta 519-490 BC

cleomenes the first king of spartaCleomenes the first was king of Sparta in the period 519-490 BC. He was the son of King Anaxandridas and half-brother of Leonidas I of Thermopylae. Cleomenes strengthened Sparta by establishing the Peloponnesian Alliance and crushing the most predictable enemy of Sparta, Argos. Regardless of his motives, he overthrew the tyrant of Athens, Hippias, while later he helped establish Isagoras’ nobles against Cleisthenes, the son of a tyrant of Sikyon who in Athens pretended to be a democrat, exiling 700 families close to Cleisthenes.

When he went to abolish the Senate, the Athenians revolted and he took refuge and closed himself with Isagoras at the Acropolis. Eventually the Athenians let him go with his army while the death sentence of all his Athenian followers followed. In addition to the above, he neutralized the justified pro-Athenian part of Aegina, whose possible support to the Persians a little later, in the naval battle of Salamis, could be decisive, since they would not know where the Athenians would take refuge then. the only ones who left their city, in the Persian wars.

At the same time that Cleomenes noticed that the Persians were consolidating in Ionia and were advancing in the Aegean and Macedonia, many cities showed the tendency to leaning towards the Persians. Things in Athens were quite complicated. The tyrant dominated, with its representative Peisistratidis Hippias, who had good relations with Argos, the great enemy of Sparta, and at the same time was politically isolated and therefore afraid to mourn. Relations with Sparta were superficially undisturbed but the Peisistratides considered it a threat – either to the city of Athens or to their dynasty – but probably both. In fact, they had in a crypt of the acropolis a series of oracles that referred to future conflicts with Sparta.

These oracles must have been politically due to the fact that the Peisistratides had bad relations with the Oracle of Delphi, while on the contrary their great enemies, the Alcmeonides, had the best. In particular, this rich and powerful family had been exiled from Athens once again and had invested politically in the lavish reconstruction of the oracle of Delphi as well as in the direct bribery of its executives in order for Pythia to constantly urge the Spartans to liberate Athens. from her tyrant.

Cleomenes did not know then the oracles that the Peisistratides had in their crypt, he was informed later, and it is very doubtful whether he would be influenced by them, since he himself bribed the oracle of Delphi along the way and therefore he knew very well how submissive the oracles were. However, he used the oracles that had been officially announced, those that urged all the Spartans to liberate Athens and so he decided to intervene in Athens militarily. The reasons were probably that he was afraid of any Athenian leaning towards the Persians and what this eventuality would entail for Sparta.

At the same time, he may have wanted to establish a regime more friendly to Sparta, probably oligarchic, and it was an opportunity to do so now that the Peisistratides had been weakened after the civil war of 413 BC. in Lipsidrio. Although the overthrow of the tyrant would bring the Alcmeonides back from exile, Cleomenes bet mainly on Isagoras, a representative of the oligarchs and not on them. Isagoras was a balancing oligarch with considerable influence, who during the Peisistratids had not come into open conflict with them.

Cleomenes initially sent a military force against Athens under Aghimolos, but he was defeated because his strategic plan was betrayed. Then Cleomenes decided to campaign himself against Athens. His forces did indeed quickly isolate Hippias on the Acropolis of Athens, and while the situation was stagnant, the latter made the mistake of trying to flee his relatives from the citadel fortress. Cleomenes found out, took them hostage, blackmailed Hippias with his life and he left the Acropolis, in exchange for letting him and his family leave Attica alive. He then took refuge with his brother Hegesistratus, in Sigio, who was now a vassal of the Persians.

Eventually,Cleomenes was considered paranoid, exiled and imprisoned. He was specifically accused of dethroning, bribing the oracle of Delphi, the emperor of Dimaratos of Euripontida, that he had gathered an army of Arcadians with the aim of overthrowing the government of Sparta, and that in the end he was insane and dangerous.

When he was found dead in prison, the official version was that he “committed suicide in his madness”, but modern historians do not rule out the possibility that he was killed.