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Cleomenes I

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Agiad king of Sparta (reigned c.520–490 bc), son of Anaxandridas II by a second, bigamous union. His long, activist reign was one of the half‐dozen most influential on record. He pursued an adventurous and at times unscrupulous foreign policy aimed at crushing Argos and extending Sparta's influence both inside and outside the Peloponnese. It was during his reign, but not entirely according to his design, that the Peloponnesian League came formally into existence. He embroiled Thebes with Athens and frustrated Thebes' plans for a united Boeotian federation by referring Plataea to Athens for alliance (probably in 519). He intervened twice successfully in Athenian affairs, overthrowing the tyranny of Hippias (1) in 510 and expelling Cleisthenes (2) in favour of Isagoras in 508. But his attempt to restore Isagoras by a concerted expedition of Sparta's Peloponnesian and central Greek allies in c.506 was frustrated by the opposition of the Corinthians and of his Eurypontid fellow king Demaratus. In 494 Cleomenes defeated Argos at Sepeia near Tiryns and unscrupulously exploited his victory by burning several thousand Argive survivors to death in a sacred grove, for which impiety he was tried at Sparta and acquitted.

But he disliked overseas commitments, refusing to interfere in the affairs of Samos (c.515), or to support the Ionian Revolt (499); and he showed no certain awareness of the Persian danger before 491 when his attempt to punish Aegina for Medism was thwarted by Demaratus. He thereupon bribed the Delphic oracle to declare Demaratus illegitimate and had him deposed, but the intrigue came to light and he fled Sparta, possibly to stir up revolt among the Arcadians. Recalled to Sparta, he met a violent end, perhaps at his own hands.

Subjects: Classical studies

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