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Aratus (c. 315—240 bc)


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(271—213 bc)

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statesman from Sicyon west of Corinth. He fled to Argos after the murder of his father Cleinias in 264 and was educated there. In 251 he expelled the tyrant Nicocles from Sicyon and joined the city to the Achaean Confederacy. From 245 on he occupied a dominant position amongst the Achaeans, normally holding the generalship of the confederacy in alternate years. His policy was for long based upon opposition to Macedon, especially Macedonian influence in the Peloponnese, and co-operation with Egypt, where he visited Ptolemy II Philadelphus and whence he obtained substantial subsidies. He seized the Acrocorinth from a Macedonian garrison in 243 and united Corinth to the Achaean Confederacy. In 241 he defeated Antigonus Gonatas' Aetolian allies at Pellene and thereafter, in alliance with Aetolia against Macedon (239–229), frequently attacked Athens and Argos; in 229 Argos was brought into the Achaean Confederacy and Athens, with Aratus' help, was freed from Macedonian control. These years also saw the addition of Megalopolis (235) and Orchomenus to the confederacy. The growth of Spartan power under Cleomenes III changed much, especially against the backdrop of Aratus’ failure to organize a strong Achaean army. After defeats by Cleomenes in 227, Aratus opened negotiations with Antigonus Doson of Macedon. The arrival of Doson in the Peloponnese in 224 and victory over Cleomenes at Sellasia (222) preserved the Achaean Confederacy from disruption but at the price of a Macedonian garrison on the Acrocorinth and the re-establishment of Macedonian influence in the Peloponnese. On the accession of Philip V, Aratus called in Doson's Hellenic League against Aetolian aggression (220). In the ensuing Social War he exposed the treachery of the Macedonian court cabal under Apelles, and after the Peace of Naupactus (217) resisted Philip's anti-Roman policy and proposed seizure of Ithome in Messenia. His death (213), probably from consumption, was widely blamed upon Philip. His ability as a guerrilla leader early on and his success at diplomacy (both within and without the Peloponnese) establish his reputation as the real architect of the Achaean Confederacy. He wrote Memoirs (Hypomnēmatismoi: Polyb. 2. 40), pro-Achaean and apologetic in tone, and less reliable than Polybius claims (cf. Plut. Arat. 3).

Peter Sidney Derow

Subjects: Classical studies

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