I've writen two books about Greece and Rome, introducing each civilization with their most famous authors woven into the narrative. Check them out on their own website!


Full Show Notes for Plutarch's Life of Cleomenes

Roman Parallel – Tiberius Gracchus

Important People

Aratus – The same Aratus from the last life, but older and more experienced now. Between Aratus, Cleomenes, and Philopoemen, it becomes clear that the Greeks themselves are the architects of their own undoing. None of these three men cooperates with the other and this dissension makes easy target for Antigonus. 

Megistonoüs – Cleomenes's father-in-law and right-hand man once he takes the throne. 

Antigonus III "Doson"- The king of Macedon who eventually comes down to the Peloponnesus in person to settle the Spartan mischief. His death is reported right after winning his kingdom back from barbaric Illyrian invaders. He was the most powerful person standing in Cleomenes' way, but Cleomenes is unaware of his death until he has already landed in Egypt.  

Ptolemy III – The successor of Alexander and ruler of wealthy Alexandria when Cleomenes arrives. He dies too soon to fulfill his promises to Cleomenes. 

Ptolemy IV – Ptolemy III's son is not fit to rule, interested more in parties and pleasures. As such, he does little to help Cleomenes and eventually grows suspicious of Cleomenes's lack of interest in partying. 

Sphaerus the Stoic (or Sphairus) – This student of the founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Cittium, teaches Cleomenes in his youth and helps him reform the Agōge to what it was. Plutarch has some criticisms for Stoicism in this Life that are worth considering. 

Important Places

Argos – An important polis in north-western Peloponnesus, Cleomenes takes, but does not hold the city. While this is more than Pelopidas could do, it nonetheless marks the beginning of the end for him, and his father-in-law dies trying to take the city back. 

Corinth – The actual gateway to the Peloponnesus, called by Philip of Macedon "the fetters of Greece." Cleomenes has to allow Antigonus to take this fortified position when he falls back to quell the revolt in Argos. 

Sicyon – Aratus's hometown! Just north and east up the road from Corinth, on the opposite end of a bay facing that polis. Sicyon is not a populous or powerful polis, but their hometown hero's talents at forging unity in the Peloponnesus puts them on the map, until Cleomenes's dreams of Spartan hegemony threaten that unity. 

Key Virtues

πειθαρχίας (obedience) – This touches on a Platonic concept of knowing how to lead and be led (also popular with Xenophon). (cf. 18.4)

ἐγκράτεια – self-control – A virtue that overlaps well with Lycurgan laws and Stoic ethics.

ἀφέλεια – simplicity – The ultimate Spartan virtue, particularly when compared to other Greek poleis like Athens or Corinth. 

φιλότιμος – love of honor – This virtue could better be translated ambition, but so could the next one. 

μεγαλόφρων – great-mindedness / ambition – The natures that seek the great things. This is ambition to a T. Not all of us want to be president, but those that do are this type. 

εὐλαβὲς – piety – Another virtue Agis had but Cleomenes lacked. For a Spartan, there's a paucity of Cleomenes consulting the gods or being a religious leader in almost any form throughout this life. 

Key Vices – Undermining Spartan Culture

ἀκολασία – intemperence (opposite of σωφροσύνη)

βωμολοχία – buffoonery

πανηγυρίσμος – display, ostentation

Support the show

Leave a Comment