PHILOPOEMEN (253–184 B.C.), Greek general, was born at Megalopolis, and educated by the academic philosophers Ecdemus and Demophanes or Megalophanes, who had distinguished themselves as champions of freedom. Avoiding the fashionable and luxurious gymnasia, he devoted himself to military studies, hunting and border forays. In 233–2 Philopoemen skilfully evacuated Megalopolis before the attack of Cleomenes III., and distinguished himself at Sellasia (222). The next eleven years he spent as a condottiere in Crete. Elected commander of the League's cavalry on his return, he reorganized that force and defeated the Aetolians on the Elean frontier (210). Appointed to the chief command two years later, he introduced heavy armour and close formation for the infantry, and with a well-trained army beat Machanidas of Sparta, near Mantinea. The new “ liberator ” was now so famous that Philip V. of Macedon attempted to poison him. In 202–1 Philopoemen drove Nabis, the Spartan tyrant, from Messene and routed him off Tegea. After another long sojourn in Crete he again received the command against Nabis. Though unsuccessful at sea, he almost annihilated Nabis's land force near Gythium, but was prevented by the Roman Flamininus from taking Sparta. In 190 Philopoemen protected Sparta, which meanwhile had joined the League and thereupon seceded, but punished a renewed defection so cruelly as to draw the censure of Rome upon his country. At Messene he likewise checked a revolt (189), but when that city again rebelled, in 184, he was captured in a skirmish and promptly executed. His body was recovered by the Achaeans and buried with great solemnity.
Philopoemen's great merit lies in his having restored to his compatriots that military efficiency without which the Achaean League for all its skilful diplomacy could never stand. Towards Rome he advocated a courteous but independent attitude. In politics he was a democrat, and introduced reforms of a popular character (see Achaean League).
Polybius’ Histories (x.–xxiii.) are our chief authority. These and a special treatise on Philopoemen (now lost) were used by Plutarch (Philopoemen), Pausanias (viii. 49–51), Livy (xxxi.–xxxviii.), and indirectly by Justin (xxx.–xxxiv.).