Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

the lover's slander: at the grave of which daughter of his, afterwards falling by other superstitions into despair of prevailing against the Lacedæmonians, he slew himself, to the great hurt of his country, which he loved most dearly. For after his death the Messenians lost their courage, and finding themselves distressed by many wants, especially of victuals, they craved peace; which they obtained under most rigorous conditions. Half the yearly fruits of their land they were bound to send unto Sparta; and they, with their wives, to make solemn lamentations, at the death of every Spartan king: they were also sworn to live in true subjection to the Lacedæmonians; and part of their territory was taken from them, which was given to the Asmæi, and such as had followed the Spartans in this war.

This peace being made upon so uneven terms, was not like to hold long. Yet nine and thirty years it continued, (the Messenians not finding how to help themselves,) and then brake out into a new and more furious war than the former. The able young men, that were grown up in the room of those Messenians whom the former war had consumed, began to consider their own strength and multitude, thinking themselves equal to the Lacedæmonians, and therefore scorning to serve such masters as had against all right oppressed their fathers. The chief of these was Aristomenes, a noble gentleman, of the house of Ægyptus, who perceiving the uniform desires of his countrymen, adventured to become their leader. He therefore sounding the affections of the Argives and Arcadians, which he found throughly answerable to his purpose, began open war upon the state of Lacedæmon. This was in the fourth year of the three and twentieth Olympiad ; when the Lacedæmonians hasted to quench the fire, before it should grow too hot, with such forces as they could raise of their own, without troubling their friends, meaning to deal with their enemies ere any succour were lent them. So a strong battle was fought between them, and a doubtful; save that the Messenians were pleased with the issue, forasmuch as they had thereby taught their late proud lords to think them their equals.

RALEGH, HIST. WORLD. VOL. II. 3D

Particularly, the valour of Aristomenes appeared such in this fight, that his people would have made him their king; but he, refusing the honour of that name, accepted of the burden, and became their general. Within one year another battle was fought, whereunto each party came better provided. The Lacedæmonians brought with them the Corinthians, and some other friends to help; the Messenians had the Argives, Arcadians, and Sicyonians. This also was a long and bloody fight: but Aristomenes did so behave himself, that finally he made the enemies run for their lives. Of such importance was this victory, that the Lacedæmonians began to bethink themselves of making some good agreement. But one Tyrtæus, an Athenian poet, whom by appointment of an oracle they had gotten to direct them, reinforced their spirits with his verses. After this, Aristomenes took by surprise a town in Laconia, and vanquished in fight Anaxander king of Sparta, who did set upon him in hopes to have recovered the booty.

But all these victories of Aristomenes perished in the loss of one battle, whereof the honour, (if it were honour,) or surely the profit, fell unto the Lacedæmonians, through the treason of Aristocrates, king of Arcadia, who being corrupted by the enemies with money, fled away, and left the Messenians exposed to a cruel butchery. The loss was so great, that together with Andania, their principal city, all the towns in Messene, standing too far from the sea, were abandoned, for lack of men to defend them, and the mount Era fortified, whither the multitude, that could not be safe abroad, was conveyed as into a place of safety. Here the Lacedæmonians found a tedious work that held them eleven years. For besides that Era itself was a strong piece, Aristomenes with three hundred stout soldiers did many incredible exploits that wearied them, and hindered their attendance on the siege. He wasted all the fields of Messene that were in the enemies' power, and brake into Laconia, taking away corn, wine, cattle, and all provisions necessary for his own people; the slaves and householdstuff he changed into money, suffering the owners to redeem them. To remedy

. XXVII

.

this mischief, the Lacedæmonians made an edict, that neither Messene nor the adjoining parts of their own country should be tilled or husbanded; which bred a great tumult among private men, that were almost undone by it. Yet the poet Tyrtæus appeased this uproar with pleasing songs. But Aristomenes grew so bold, that he not only ranged over all the fields, but adventured upon the towns, surprised and sacked Amyclæ, and finally caused the enemies to increase and strengthen their companies ; which done, there yet appeared no likelihood of taking Era.

In performing these and other services, thrice Aristomenes was taken prisoner ; yet still he escaped. One escape of his deserves to be remembered, as a thing very strange and marvellous. He had with too much courage adventured to set upon both the kings of Sparta ; and being in that fight wounded, and felled to the ground, was taken up senseless, and carried away prisoner, with fifty of his companions. There was a deep natural cave into which the Spartans used to cast headlong such as were condemned to die for the greatest offences. To this punishment were Aristomenes and his companions adjudged. All the rest of these poor men died with their falls ; Aristomenes (howsoever it came to pass) took no harm. Yet was it harm enough to be imprisoned in a deep dungeon, among dead carcasses, where he was like to perish through hunger and stench. But after a while he perceived by some small glimmering of light (which perhaps came in at the top) a fox that was gnawing upon a dead body. Hereupon he bethought himself, that this beast must needs know some way to enter the place, and get out. For which cause he made shift to lay hold upon it, and catching it by the tail with one hand, saved himself from biting with the other hand, by thrusting his coat into the mouth of it. So letting it creep whither it would, he followed, holding it as his guide, until the way was too strait for him, and then dismissed it. The fox being loose ran through a hole, at which came in a little light; and there did Aristomenes delve so long with his nails, that at last he clawed out his passage. When some fugitives of

; 3 0 2

Messene brought word to Sparta that Aristomenes was returned home, their tale sounded alike, as if they had said, that a dead man was revived. But when the Corinthian forces, that came to help the Lacedæmonians in the siege of Era, were cut in pieces, their captains slain, and their camp taken; then was it easily believed that Aristomenes was alive indeed.

Thus eleven years passed, whilst the enemies hovering about Era saw no likelihood of getting it; and Aristomenes with small forces did them greater hurt than they knew how to requite. But at the last, a slave, that had fled from Sparta, betrayed the place. This fellow had enticed to lewdness the wife of a Messenian, and was entertained by her when her husband went forth to watch. It happened in a rainy winter night, that the husband came home unlooked for, whilst the adulterer was within. The woman hid her paramour, and made good countenance to her husband, asking him by what good fortune he was returned so soon. He told her, that the storm of foul weather was such, as had made all his fellows leave their stations, and that himself had done as the rest did; as for Aristomenes, he was wounded of late in fight, and could not look abroad; neither was it to be feared that the enemies would stir in such a dark rainy night as this was. The slave that heard these tidings rose up secretly out of his lurking-hole, and got him to the Lacedæmonian camp with the news. There he found Emperamus his master, commanding in the king's absence. To him he uttered all; and obtaining pardon for his running away, guided the army into the town. Little or nothing was done that night. For the alarm was presently taken ; and the extreme darkness, together with the noise of wind and rain, hindered all directions. All the next day was spent in most cruel fight; one part being incited by near hope of ending a long work, the other enraged by mere desperation. The great advantage that the Spartans had in numbers was recompensed partly by the assistance which women and children (to whom the hatred of servitude had taught contempt of death) gave to their

husbands and fathers; partly by the narrowness of the streets and other passages, which admitted not many hands to fight at once. But the Messenians were in continual toil; their enemies fought in course, refreshing themselves with meat and sleep, and then returning, supplied the places of their weary fellows with fresh companions. Aristomenes therefore, perceiving that his men, for want of relief, were no longer able to hold out, (as having been three days and three nights vexed with all miseries, of labour, watching, fighting, hunger, and thirst, besides continual rain and cold,) gathered together all the weaker sort, whom he compassed round with armed men, and so attempted to break out through the midst of the enemies. · Emperamus, general of the Lacedæmonians, was glad of this; and to further their departure, caused his soldiers to give an open way, leaving a fair passage to these desperate madmen. So they issued forth, and arrived safe in Arcadia, where they were most lovingly entertained.

Upon the first bruit of the taking of Era, the Arcadians had prepared themselves to the rescue; but Aristocrates, their false-hearted king, said it was too late, for that all was already lost. When Aristomenes had placed his followers in safety, he chose out five hundred the lustiest of his men, with whom he resolved to march in all secret haste unto Sparta, hoping to find the town secure, and ill manned, the people being run forth to the spoil of Messene. In this enterprise, if he sped well, it was not doubted that the Lacedæmonians would be glad to recover their own, by restitution of that which they had taken from others; if all failed, an honourable death was the worst that could happen. There were three hundred Arcadians that offered to join with him ; but Aristocrates marred all, by sending speedy advertisement thereof to Anaxander king of Sparta. The epistle which Anaxander sent back to Aristocrates was intercepted by some that mistrusted him to whom it was directed. Therein was found all his falsehood, which being published in open assembly, the Arcadians stoned him to death, and casting forth his body unburied, erected a monu

« ZurückWeiter »