Agesilaus in Asia (396-394 BCE)
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Agesilaus was the second son of King Zeuxidamus of Sparta. Although born with one leg shorter than the other, Agesilaus the Lame was popular among the Spartans for his good nature, unquestioning obediance to authority, and his martial virtues. After the death of his older brother Agis, Agesilaus was declared king thanks in part to the machinations of his friend Lysander, who helped to discredit the claim of Agis' son Leotychides.
Shortly after Agesilaus took the mantle of Spartan kingship, news came from Asia that the Persian King was raising a navy to challenge Spartan supremacy on the seas. Urged on by Lysander, Agesilaus resolved to lead an army into Asia to suppress the Persians and secure the independence of the Ionian Greek city-states, which also happened to be Lysander's clients. Agesilaus asked the Spartan assembly for 30 Spartans as an officer cadre, two thousand chosen men (enfranchised helots) and six thousand allied troops. The army landed at Ephesus on the Ionian coast in 396 BC. Thereafter Agesilaus had a falling out with Lysander, who was warmly received by the locals, who largely ignored the lame king with his plain, threadbare robes. In an effort to make amends, Lysander was sent on a mission to make alliance with the rebellious Persian prince Spithridates, who joined the Greeks with a force of 200 spirited horsemen.
Meanwhile, the Persian Satrap Tisaphernes cautiously mustered his forces, buying time by negotiating with Agesilaus over the status of the Ionian cities. The negotiations ceased when Tisaphernes had completed his preparations for war, but Agesilaus moved first, feinting toward Caria to draw Tisaphernes into the field and then turning back to ravage Phrygia, the realm of Pharnabazus. He then retired to Ephesus, where he sold his Phrygian captives and their clothing separately. Preparing for his next campaign, he mustered the Ephesians for war. Rich Ephesians reluctant to don the panoply were offered the option of substituting an armed horseman, which they did so quite willingly, giving Agesilaus a body of 2000 cavalry.
Agesilaus let it be known that his next campaign would be against Lydia. Having fallen for Agesilaus' previous strategem and unaware of the Spartan's success in raising cavalry, Tisaphernes guessed that Agesilaus would march through Caria, whose rough country would help protect the Greek hoplites from the Persian horse. But Agesilaus invaded Lydia by way of Sardis as announced. Tisaphernes moved rapidly to cut off the Greek force, leaving the Persian foot behind in his haste. Agesilaus, with his army intact, gave battle, advancing his light-armed peltasts and cavalry against the Persian horse, with his hoplites bringing up the rear. The Persians gave way into rout, losing heavily in the pursuit, including the spoils of their camp.
Tisaphernes reward for two failures was to have his head removed by the King of Persia and presented by Tithraustes to Agesilaus as a peace-offering. Tithraustes then promised a large tribute to the Spartan King if he would withdraw from Asia, which Agesilaus declined on the grounds that only the Lacedaemonians could authorize such a treaty. As a gesture of good will, however, he accepted thirty talents as expenses to withdraw his army into Phyrgia, where he made his encampment to the discomfort of Pharnabazus. In a position of power, Agesilaus made alliances with various Greek and Persian cities and received gifts from numerous sources. The most significant alliance with was Cotys, King of Paphlagonia. After arranging the marriage of Spithridates' daughter to King Cotys, Agesilaus was able to secure the services of1000 Paphlagonian horse and 2000 light-armed Paphlagonian foot for his next campaign.
Setting forth with his allies, Agesilaus again invaded Phrygia, whose ruler Pharnabazus was unwilling to face him in the field with his smaller force. Finally, Pharnabazus was brought to bay and decisively defeated by a flying army commanded by Spithridates and the Spartan Herippidas, who fell out in a quarrel over the unrestrained pillaging. Forced by the Spartan officer to turn over their loot, Spithridates and the Paphlagonians departed. Despite the set-back, Agesilaus parlayed with Pharnabazus, trying unsuccessfully to win him over to the Greek side.
Meanwhile, the King of Persia, vexed by reports of Agesilaus' Spartan virtues and confronted with rebellions throughout his Asian domains, sought to solve his problem by sending embassies to Athens and Thebes with large bribes to reopen hostilities againt the Spartans in Greece. In 394 BC, as Agesilaus marshalled his forces for a campaign against Susa and Ecbatana, the Spartan Epicydidas arrived with a summons for Agesilaus to return home. Thus ended the campaigns of Agesilaus in Asia. In subsequent years, Agesilaus jested that he had been driven from Asia by 10,000 Persian archers, an allusion to the fact that Persian coinage was stamped with the figure of an archer.
DBA Variant List
This variant list is derived from two sources, principally Plutarch's life of Agesilaus, which is the source of the numbers cited above, and the Later Hoplite Greek (II/5) DBM list, which provides the following options for Agesilaus from 396-394 BCE: C-in-C Reg. Cv (O) (Agesilaus), 0-8 elements of Paphlagonian cavalry (Irr LH(O)), 0-1 elements of Spithridates' Persian deserters (Irr Cv(S)) and 0-6 elements of Paphlagonian foot (Irr Ax (O)). Although not available to this author, another potentially useful source is Paul Cartledge's Agesilaos and the Crisis of Sparta (Duckworth & Co, 2000).
|1 x 3Cv (Gen)
||Agesilaus with his Ephesian cavalry
|5 x 4Sp
||Spartan, Allied and Ionian Hoplites
|1 x 4Ax
||Spartan and Ionian skirmishers
|(1x 3Cv, 2LH and 3Ax) or (2x 4Sp and 1x 4Ax)
||The mounted option includes the Persian prince Spithridates (3Cv) and Paphlagonians allies (2LH and 3Ax). The foot option includes Allied and Ionian hoplites and peltasts and represents the army of Agesilaus prior to the arrival of, and following the departure of Spithdridates.
Agesilaus is represented as a Cav/Gen option in accordance with the DBM list, but it is this author's opinion that Agesilaus was just as likely to fight on foot with his hoplites. If you concur, then field Agesilaus as a 4Sp(Gen) and reclass one element of the regular 4Sp hoplites as Ephesian horse (3Cv).
The army is classed as arable with an aggression of 3. Agesilaus' only enemy is the Later Achaemenid Persians (II/7), representing the satrapal army of Tisaphernes and the Persian client-kings of Caria, Lykia, and Phrygia (Pharnabazus). For Big Battles, the army list is tripled and Agesilaus's Persian and Paphlagonian troops are aggregated into a separate command under the allied general Spithridates.
As a "legal" alternative to this list for tournament play, players may elect to field the army of Agesilaus as Later Hoplite Greeks-Other (II/5i) with the cavalry option.
Comments, questions or suggested additions to this page
can be sent to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.
Last Updated: 5 Oct. 2004