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'When the love of wealth had crept into the city of Sparta, and had afterwards introduced luxury, avarice, sloth, effeminacy, profusion, and all those pleasures which are generally the inseparable attendants of riches; and when these had broken down all the barriers which the wisdom of Lycurgus had formed, with the view of excluding them for ever; Sparta beheld herself fallen from her ancient glory and power, and was reduced to an abject and humble state, which continued to the reign of Agis and Leonidas, of whom we are now to treat.
Agis, the son of Eudamidas, was of the house of the Eurytionidæ, and the sixteenth descendant from Agesilaus, who made an expedition into Asia. Leonidas, the son of Cleonymus, was of the family of the Agidæ, and the eighth prince that reigned in Sparta, after Pausanias, who defeated Mardonius in the battle of Platea.
I have already related the divisions which arose in Sparta, between Cleonymus" and Areus, in regard to the sovereignty, which was obtained by the latter ; and he afterwards caused Pyrrhus to raise the siege of Lacedemon. He was succeeded by his son Acrotates, who reigned seven or eight years, and left a young son,
Plut, in Agid. p. 796--801. Josephus relates, that Areus, king of Lacedemon, sent letters ta Onias, the high priest of the Jews, in which he acknowledged an affinity between that people and the Lacedemonians. The original of this relation is not easily to be distinguished, nor is it less difficult to reconcile The gime of Areus with that of Onias.
named Areus, from his grandfather. This prince was under the tuition of Leonidas, but died in a short time ; upon which Leonidas rose from the regency to the throne.
Though all the Spartans had been depraved and perverted by the general corruption into which the government was fallen, this depravity and remoteness from the ancient manners of that people was most conspicuous in the conduct of Leonidas; who had resided for several years in the palaces of the satrapæ, and had for many years made his court to Seleucus ; he had even espoused a wife in Asia, contrary to the laws of his country; and had afterwards employed his utmost endeavours to introduce all the pomp and pride of princes into a free country, and a government founded on moderation and justice.
Agis was the reverse of this character. He was then in the twentieth year of his age; and though he had been educated amidst riches, and the luxury of a house remarkable for being equally voluptuous and haughty, he, from the first, renounced all those ensnaring pleasures; and, instead of testifying the least regard for the splendid vanities of dress, he made it his glory to appear in a plain habit, and to reestablish the ancient form of public meals, baths, and all the ancient discipline of Sparta. He even declared openly, “ that he should not value being king, if it were not for the hopes of reviving the ancient laws and discipline of Sparta." These noble sentiments were a demonstration, that Agis
" Plutarch informs us, that his mother Agesistrate, and his grand. mother Archidainia, possessed more gold and silver than all the other Lacedemonians together,
had formed a solid judgment of regal power ; the most essential duty and true glory of which are derived from the establishment of good order in all the branches of a state, by giving due force to customs established by wise laws.
This discipline began to be disregarded, the moment Sparta had ruined the Athenian government, and began to abound in gold. The same partition, however, of lands, which had been made by Lycurgus, and the number of hereditary possessions established by him, having been preserved through all successions of descent, and each father transmitting his part in the same manner as he had received it himself; this order and equality, which had been preserved without interruption, suspended, in some measure, the ill effects of those abuses which then prevailed. But as soon as this prudent institution began to be struck at, by a law which permitted every man to dispose of his house and patrimony, in his own life time, or to make a testamentary donation of them to whom he pleased ; this new law effectually sapped the best foundation of the Spartan polity. Epitades, one of the Ephori, introduced this law, to avenge himself on one of his sons, whose conduct had displeased him.
It is indeed surprising, that a whole state should so easily be induced to change such an ancient and fundamental custom as this, merely to gratify the passion of
The pretext for this change was undoubtcdly the augmentation of paternal authority, in their several families ; since it was not then possessed of any motives for filial respect ; the children of that community having nothing to hope or fear, as they received alike all the fortune they could expect, immediately from the state, and with an absolute independency on their parents. This domestic inconvenience, in which every father thought himself concerned, and which seemed to regard all good order in families, created strong impressions in those who had the greatest share in the administration, and rendered them incapable of considering the much greater inconveniencies which would inevitably result from this change, and whose pernicious effects would be soon felt by the state.
This proceeding is sufficient to convince us how dangerous it is to change the ancient laws," on which basis a state, or community, has long subsisted ; and what precautions ought to be taken against bad impressions which may arise through particular inconveniencies, from which the wisest institutions cannot be exempted. What a depth of prudence, penetration into future events, and experience, are necessary to those who take upon them to balance and compare the advantages and defects of ancient customs, with any new regulations which are proposed to be substituted in their stead.
It may be justly affirmed, that the ruin of Sparta was occasioned by the new law, which authorized the alienation of hereditary estates. The great men were daily enlarging their fortunes, by dispossessing the heirs to whom they belonged ; in consequence of which, all patrimonial possessions were soon engrossed by a very inconsiderable number of persons; the poverty whiclı
Adeo nibil motum ex antiquo probabile est ; veteribus, nisi que usus evidentur arguil, stari malunt. Liv: 1. xxxiv. n. 54.
then prevailed through the whole city, sunk the people into a mean indolence of mind, by extinguishing those ardours for virtue and glory, which, till then, had rendered the Spartans superior to all the other states of Greece, and by infusing into the hearts of the people an implacable envy and aversion for those who had unjustly divested them of all their possessions.
The number of native Spartans in that city was reduced to about seven hundred ; and not many more than one hundred of these had preserved their family estates. All the rest were a starving populace, destitute of revenues, and excluded from a participation in honours and dignities ; these acted with reluctance and indifference in wars against a foreign enemy, because they were sensible, the rich would be the only gainers by their victories. In a word, they were constantly waiting for an opportunity to change the present situation of affairs, and withdraw themselves from the oppressions they sustained.
* Such was the state of Sparta, when Agis entertained the design of redressing the abuses which then prevailed ; at the same time that Aratus was employing his endeavours for the deliverance of his country. The enterprise was noble, but extremely hazardous. He observed, contrary to his expectation, that all the young men were disposed to enter into his views, while the generality of those in years, in whose minds corruption had taken the deepest root, trembled at the very name of Lycurgus, and reformation. He began by conciliating his uncle Agesilaus, a man of great
* A. M. 3756. Ant. J. C. 248.