CVIII. THE BATTLE OF IPSUS.
Demetrius, having failed to take Rhodes, now passed over into Greece, hoping to overthrow Cassander; but the other kings, growing afraid of him, agreed to help the ruler of Macedon. They therefore collected a large army, and forced Demetrius to stop and fight them all at Ip´sus, in Asia Minor.
Here, just twenty years after Alexander’s death, his generals met in a great battle. Seleucus, it is said, brought a number of fighting elephants, such as Porus had used, which added much to the confusion and fierceness of the struggle.
Antigonus, the father of Demetrius, was slain, and Demetrius himself was defeated, and driven to Ephesus. The Athenians, who had been his friends and allies as long as he was prosperous, now basely deserted him. They declared themselves his enemies, and made a law whereby any one who spoke well of him, or tried to make peace with him, should be put to death.
The battle of Ipsus decided the fate of Alexander’s kingdom. It was now divided into four principal parts. Ptolemy remained master of Egypt, and his family reigned there many years, until under Cle-o-pa´tra, the last of his race, the country fell into the hands of the Romans.
Seleucus and his descendants, the Se-leu´ci-dæ, had the Persian Empire, or Syria and the land between the Indus and the Euphrates. The capital of this empire was first Se-leu´cia, near Babylon, and later An´ti-och, which became a rich and well-known city.
Lysimachus was given the kingdom of Thrace, which, however, soon passed into other hands; and Cassander remained master of Macedon. As for Demetrius, although he had lost a kingdom at the battle of Ipsus, he soon managed to conquer another.
In his anger at the Athenians, he first marched against them, and besieged them in their own city. The Athenians were frightened, for they knew how well they deserved punishment; but they resisted as well as they could, and the siege dragged on for several months.
At the end of this time there was no food left in the city, and the people suffered greatly from hunger. Finally they were obliged to yield; and Demetrius rode into Athens in triumph.
CIX. DEMETRIUS AND THE ATHENIANS.
The Athenians trembled with fear when they saw the stern expression on Demetrius’ face as he entered their city. This terror became still greater when he ordered all the principal citizens to assemble in the public square. None of the Athenians dared to disobey, and they were in no wise reassured when the conquering army surrounded them, each soldier holding an unsheathed sword in his hand.
Demetrius now sternly addressed the citizens, who fancied that every moment would be their last. He reproved them harshly for their ingratitude and desertion, and told them that they deserved death at his hands; but he ended his speech by saying that he preferred to show his power by granting them forgiveness rather than by killing them.
Then he went on to tell them, that, knowing how much they had suffered, he had sent supplies of grain to every house, so that when they went home they should not find their wives and children starving.
The sudden reaction from their great terror proved almost fatal to the Athenian citizens. But when they recovered their breath, the air was rent by a mighty shout of joy in honor of the kind conqueror.
Although Demetrius was as generous as he was brave, his end was very sad. After a long life of continual warfare, and after conquering and losing Macedon, he fell into the hands of his rival and enemy, Seleucus, who kept him in prison as long as he lived.
About this time a new trouble befell Macedon and Greece. This was an invasion of the Gauls, who came sweeping down from the mountains into Greece, in order to rob the temple at Delphi.
A second time, however, the temple escaped, thanks to a terrible thunderstorm, which filled the superstitious minds of the robbers with dread. In the sudden darkness the Gauls fell upon each other, as the Persians had done in the days of Xerxes, and fought so desperately that many were killed.
The Greeks, remembering former victories, now made up their minds to strike a blow in their own defense. They collected an army, and defeated the invaders so severely that Bren´nus, the leader of the Gauls, killed himself in despair, while his followers withdrew to a province in Asia Minor, which from the Gauls was called Ga-la´tia.
CX. THE ACHÆAN LEAGUE.
While the generals and successors of Alexander were busy trying to crush one another, most of the Greek towns, left to their own devices, had become small republics. But instead of forming a union, they became so jealous, that they began to quarrel and even to fight among themselves.
As the quarrels became more bitter, two parties or leagues were formed, which, from the two most important provinces at that time, received the names of Achæan and Æ-to´li-an.
The Achæan League was made up of twelve small towns in the Peloponnesus, and was under the leadership of A-ra´tus, a native of Sic´y-on. When a child, Aratus had seen his native city in the hands of a tyrant. His father, who was a patriot, had made a bold attempt to free the city, but had failed, and lost his life. Aratus, who was but seven years of age, heard that his father and all his family had been slain, and knew that the tyrant would try to kill him too. As he was too weak to defend himself, he sought refuge in the house of the tyrant’s sister, where no one would be likely to seek for him.
This woman, touched by the child’s trust, hid him cleverly, and, when all danger was over, sent him to some friends, where she paid for his board, and had him carefully brought up.
As Aratus was patriotic, he was anxious to finish the work which his father had begun. At the age of twenty, therefore, he assembled a few comrades, entered Sicyon, called all the lovers of liberty to his aid, and drove away the tyrant without shedding any blood.
The town, thus freed, joined the Achæan League, of which Aratus soon became the leader. This office was elective, and no one was expected to fill it for more than a year; but Aratus was so much loved that he was chosen leader thirty-five years in succession.
At this time, Greece and Macedon were under the rule of Antigonus Go-na´tas, son of Demetrius; for this man had conquered for himself the second kingdom which his father had lost. But now Aratus and the Achæan League refused to obey him, so he marched down from Macedon to restore order.
To prevent his advance, and to hinder his getting even as much as a foothold in the peninsula, Aratus wanted to capture the fortress of Ac-ro-co-rin´thus, which barred the Isthmus of Corinth.
This undertaking was very difficult, because the fortress was perched upon a rock so high and steep that it was almost impossible to climb it.
A traitor, Di´o-cles, however, offered to show Aratus a way to climb this rock, provided that he should receive a certain reward. Although general of the Achæan League, and one of the greatest men of his day, Aratus was far from being rich; and, in order to obtain the required sum, he had to sell all he had, and even pawn his wife’s few jewels.
Then, in the midst of the darkness, one rainy night, Diocles led the Achæan soldiers along a steep path, which they had to climb in Indian file.
He brought them safely and unseen into the fortress, where they killed most of the Macedonian sentinels, and put the guards to flight. As soon as the key of the Peloponnesus had been thus daringly won, most of the other towns in the peninsula joined the league, and the Achæans gained such victories, that Antigonus Gonatus fell ill, and died of grief.
The Achæan League became stronger and stronger; and, although Sparta and a few other cities remained neutral, most of the small towns were freed from their tyrants. Such was the importance of the league, that the Roman ambassadors once came to ask for its aid to suppress the pirates who infested the neighboring seas.
This help was cheerfully given, and the Achæans entered into a treaty with the Romans. They little suspected, however, that the city whose name was then almost unknown would in less than a hundred years become strong enough to subdue them, and be mistress over all Greece.
CXI. DIVISION IN SPARTA.
While the Achæan League was doing its best to restore Greece to its former power, Sparta had remained inactive. The Spartans had changed greatly since the days of Lycurgus. They no longer obeyed his wise laws, and, instead of being brave and frugal, they were greedy, lazy, and wicked.
One of their kings was named Leonidas; but he was in no way like his great namesake, the king who had fallen at Thermopylæ. Indeed, he married an Eastern wife, and to please her assumed all the pomp and led the idle life of an Eastern king.
His fellow-king, on the other hand, was such a miser that he heaped up great treasures. When he died, his wife and mother were said to have more gold than the city and people together. The miser king was succeeded by his son, but this young man’s sole ambition was to restore Sparta to its former condition.
His name was A´gis. He lived like the Spartans of old, practiced all the virtues of his ancestors, and was frugal and brave in the extreme. To restore Sparta, real Spartans were needed, but, in counting them over, Agis found that there were only about seven hundred of the old stock left. The first move was to restore equality. For that purpose, all the money and land would have to be equally divided, so Agis began by persuading his own mother and grandmother to give up their wealth. Leonidas did not like the plan of equality, and soon openly opposed it, although his son-in-law Cleombrotus sided with Agis, and upheld it.
But the people were eager for the new division which would make them all equal as of old; and they were so angry with Leonidas for his resistance, that they rose up against him, and proposed to depose him by reviving an old law which forbade the ruling of a king who married a foreign wife.
Leonidas had time to flee to the Temple of Athene; and when the ephors called him to appear before them, he refused to do so, because he feared for his life. As such a refusal was a crime, the ephors said he should not reign any longer, and named Cleombrotus king in his stead.
Leonidas, who had led a selfish, pleasure-loving life, was now forsaken by every one except his daughter, Chi-lo´nis, who gave up her husband and the throne in order to console her unfortunate father. She kept him company in the temple, cared for him and amused him, and, when her husband begged her to come back, she answered that her place was rather with her unhappy father than with her prosperous husband.
When it became known that the Spartans were plotting to kill the unhappy Leonidas, Agis helped him to escape, and Chilonis followed him into exile.
The Ætolian League, which just then was very strong, now sent an army across the isthmus to attack the Spartans. The latter sallied forth under the leadership of Agis, who proved such a skillful general, that he not only won a great victory, but also drove the Ætolians out of the peninsula.
During the absence of Agis, many of the richest Spartans who had not yet given up their property refused to do so, and when urged by Cleombrotus to obey, they revolted against him, and recalled Leonidas.
Cleombrotus had only time to take refuge in the same temple where his father-in-law had once found shelter. Here he was soon joined by his wife, Chilonis, who, ever faithful to the most unhappy, came thither to comfort him.
Leonidas was so angry that he would probably have treated Cleombrotus with the utmost severity, had not Chilonis fallen at his feet and begged him to spare her husband’s life. Her tears touched her father, and he granted the favor she asked, declaring, however, that Cleombrotus should go into exile.
In spite of her father’s entreaties to remain with him, Chilonis insisted upon accompanying her husband. She gave Cleombrotus one of their two children, clasped the other to her breast, and left the city, proudly walking at her husband’s side.