CLEOMENES (Κλεομένης), the name of three Spartan kings of the Agiad line.
Cleomenes I. was the son of Anaxandridas, whom he succeeded about 520 B.C. His chief exploit was his crushing victory near Tiryns over the Argives, some 6000 of whom he burned to death in a sacred grove to which they had fled for refuge (Herodotus vi. 76-82). This secured for Sparta the undisputed hegemony of the Peloponnese. Cleomenes’ interposition in the politics of central Greece was less successful. In 510 he marched to Athens with a Spartan force to aid in expelling the Peisistratidae, and subsequently returned to support the oligarchical party, led by Isagoras, against Cleisthenes (q.v.). He expelled seven hundred families and transferred the government from the council to three hundred of the oligarchs, but being blockaded in the Acropolis he was forced to capitulate. On his return home he collected a large force with the intention of making Isagoras despot of Athens, but the opposition of the Corinthian allies and of his colleague Demaratus caused the expedition to break up after reaching Eleusis (Herod. v. 64-76; Aristotle, Ath. Pol. 19, 20). In 491 he went to Aegina to punish the island for its submission to Darius, but the intrigues of his colleague once again rendered his mission abortive. In revenge Cleomenes accused Demaratus of illegitimacy and secured his deposition in favour of Leotychides (Herod. vi. 50-73). But when it was discovered that he had bribed the Delphian priestess to substantiate his charge he was himself obliged to flee; he went first to Thessaly and then to Arcadia, where he attempted to foment an anti-Spartan rising. About 488 B.C. he was recalled, but shortly afterwards, in a fit of madness, he committed suicide (Herod. vi. 74, 75). Cleomenes seems to have received scant justice at the hands of Herodotus or his informants, and Pausanias (iii. 3, 4) does little more than condense Herodotus’s narrative. In spite of some failures, largely due to Demaratus’s jealousy, Cleomenes strengthened Sparta in the position, won during his father’s reign, of champion and leader of the Hellenic race; it was to him, for example, that the Ionian cities of Asia Minor first applied for aid in their revolt against Persia (Herod. v. 49-51).
For the chronology see J. Wells, Journal of Hellenic Studies (1905), p. 193 ff., who assigns the Argive expedition to the outset of the reign, whereas nearly all historians have dated it in or about 495 B.C.
Cleomenes II. was the son of Cleombrotus I., brother and successor of Agesipolis II. Nothing is recorded of his reign save the fact that it lasted for nearly sixty-one years (370–309 B.C.).
Cleomenes III., the son and successor of Leonidas II., reigned about 235–219 B.C. He made a determined attempt to reform the social condition of Sparta along the lines laid down by Agis IV., whose widow Agiatis he married; at the same time he aimed at restoring Sparta’s hegemony in the Peloponnese. After twice defeating the forces of the Achaean League in Arcadia, near Mount Lycaeum and at Leuctra, he strengthened his position by assassinating four of the ephors, abolishing the ephorate, which had usurped the supreme power, and banishing some eighty of the leading oligarchs. The authority of the council was also curtailed, and a new board of magistrates, the patronomi, became the chief officers of state. He appointed his own brother Eucleidas as his colleague in succession to the Eurypontid Archidamus, who had been murdered. His social reforms included a redistribution of land, the remission of debts, the restoration of the old system of training (ἀγωγή) and the admission of picked perioeci into the citizen body. As a general Cleomenes did much to revive Sparta’s old prestige. He defeated the Achaeans at Dyme, made himself master of Argos, and was eventually joined by Corinth, Phlius, Epidaurus and other cities. But Aratus, whose jealousy could not brook to see a Spartan at the head of the Achaean league called in Antigonus Doson of Macedonia, and Cleomenes, after conducting successful expeditions to Megalopolis and Argos, was finally defeated at Sellasia, to the north of Sparta, in 222 or 221 B.C. He took refuge at Alexandria with Ptolemy Euergetes, but was arrested by his successor, Ptolemy Philopator, on a charge of conspiracy. Escaping from prison he tried to raise a revolt, but the attempt failed and to avoid capture he put an end to his life. Both as general and as politician Cleomenes was one of Sparta’s greatest men, and with him perished her last hope of recovering her ancient supremacy in Greece.
See Polybius ii. 45-70, v. 35-39, viii. 1; Plutarch, Cleomenes; Aratus, 35-46; Philopoemen, 5, 6; Pausanias ii. 9; Gehlert, De Cleomene (Leipzig, 1883); Holm, History of Greece, iv. cc. 10, 15. (M. N. T.)