1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lysander
LYSANDER (Gr. Λύσανδρος), son of Aristocritus, Spartan admiral and diplomatist. Aelian (Var. Hist. xii. 43) and Phylarchus (ap. Athen. vi. 271 e) say that he was a mothax, i.e. the son of a helot mother (see Helots), but this tradition is at least doubtful; according to Plutarch he was a Heraclid, though not of either royal family. We do not know how he rose to eminence: he first appears as admiral of the Spartan navy in 407 B.C. The story of his influence with Cyrus the Younger, his naval victory off Notium, his quarrel with his successor Callicratidas in 406, his appointment as ἐπιστολεύς in 405, his decisive victory at Aegospotami, and his share in the siege and capitulation of Athens belong to the history of the Peloponnesian War (q.v.). By 404 he was the most powerful man in the Greek world and set about completing the task of building up a Spartan empire in which he should be supreme in fact if not in name. Everywhere democracies were replaced by oligarchies directed by bodies of ten men (decarchies, δεκαρχίαι) under the control of Spartan governors (harmosts, ἁρμοσταί). But Lysander’s boundless influence and ambition, and the superhuman honours paid him, roused the jealousy of the kings and the ephors, and, on being accused by the Persian satrap Pharnabazus, he was recalled to Sparta. Soon afterwards he was sent to Athens with an army to aid the oligarchs, but Pausanias, one of the kings, followed him and brought about a restoration of democracy. On the death of Agis II., Lysander secured the succession of Agesilaus (q.v.), whom he hoped to find amenable to his influence. But in this he was disappointed. Though chosen to accompany the king to Asia as one of his thirty advisers (σύμβουλοι), he was kept inactive and his influence was broken by studied affronts, and finally he was sent at his own request as envoy to the Hellespont. He soon returned to Sparta to mature plans for overthrowing the hereditary kingship and substituting an elective monarchy open to all Heraclids, or even, according to another version, to all Spartiates. But his alleged attempts to bribe the oracles were fruitless, and his schemes were cut short by the outbreak of war with Thebes in 395. Lysander invaded Boeotia from the west, receiving the submission of Orchomenus and sacking Lebadea, but the enemy intercepted his despatch to Pausanias, who had meanwhile entered Boeotia from the south, containing plans for a joint attack upon Haliartus. The town was at once strongly garrisoned, and when Lysander marched against it he was defeated and slain. He was buried in the territory of Panopeus, the nearest Phocian city. An able commander and an adroit diplomatist, Lysander was fired by the ambition to make Sparta supreme in Greece and himself in Sparta. To this end he shrank from no treachery or cruelty; yet, like Agesilaus, he was totally free from the characteristic Spartan vice of avarice, and died, as he had lived, a poor man.
See the biographies by Plutarch and Nepos; Xen. Hellenica, i. 5-iii. 5; Diod. Sic. xiii. 70 sqq., 104 sqq., xiv. 3, 10, 13, 81; Lysias xii. 60 sqq.; Justin v. 5-7; Polyaenus i. 45, vii. 19; Pausanias iii., ix. 32, 5-10, x. 9, 7-11; C. A. Gehlert, Vita Lysandri (Bautzen, 1874); W. Vischer, Alkibiades und Lysandros (Basel, 1845); O. H. J. Nitzsch, De Lysandro (Bonn, 1847); and the Greek histories in general. (M. N. T.)