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(5.71) Before they had actually closed a thought occurred to Agis. All armies, when engaging, are apt to thrust outwards their right wing; and either of the opposing forces tends to outflank his enemy's left with his own right, because every soldier individually fears for his exposed side, which he tries to cover with the shield of his comrade on the right, conceiving that the closer he draws in the better he will be protected. The first man in the front rank of the right wing is originally responsible for the deflection, for he always wants to withdraw from the enemy his own exposed side, and the rest of the army, from a like fear, follow his example. In this battle the line of the Mantineans, who were on the Argive right wing, extended far beyond the Sciritae: and still further, in proportion as the army to which they belonged was the larger, did the Lacedaemonians and Tegeans on the Lacedaemonian right wing extend beyond the Athenian left. Agis was afraid that the Lacedaemonian left wing would be surrounded, and, thinking that the Mantineans outflanked them too far, he signalled to the Sciritae and the old soldiers of Brasidas to make a lateral movement away from his own division of the army, and so cover the line of the Mantineans: to fill up the space thus left vacant he ordered Hipponoidas and Aristocles, two of the polemarchs, to bring up their two divisions from the right wing, thinking that he would still have more troops than he wanted there, and that he would thus strengthen that part of his line which was opposed to the Mantineans.

(5.72) He had given the order at the last moment, when the charge had already begun, and Aristocles and Hipponoidas refused to make the movement. (For the cowardice which they were supposed to have shown on this occasion they were afterwards banished from Sparta.) The enemy were upon him before he was ready, and as the two divisions would not advance into the place left by the Sciritae, Agis ordered the Sciritae themselves to close up, but he found that it was too late, and that they also were now unable to fill the vacant space. Then the Lacedaemonians showed in a remarkable manner that, although utterly failing in their tactics, they could win by their courage alone. When they were at close quarters with the enemy, the Mantinean right put to flight the Sciritae and the soldiers of Brasidas. The Mantineans and their allies and the thousand chosen Argives dashed in through the gap in the Lacedaemonian ranks and completed their defeat; they surrounded and routed them, and so drove them to their waggons, where they killed some of the elder men who were appointed to guard them. In this part of the field the Lacedaemonians were beaten, but elsewhere, and especially in the centre of the army, where the king Agis and the three hundred Knights, as they are called, who attend him, were posted, they charged the elder Argives, the Five Divisions as they are termed, the Cleonaeans, Orneatae, and those of the Athenians who were ranged with them, and put them to flight. Most of them never even struck a blow, but gave way at once on the approach of the Lacedaemonians; some were actually trodden under foot, being overtaken by the advancing host.

(5.73) When the allies and the Argives had yielded in this quarter, they became severed from their comrades to the left as well as to the right of the line; meanwhile the extended right wing of the Lacedaemonians and the Tegeans threatened to surround the Athenians. They were in great danger; their men were being hemmed in at one point and were already defeated at another; and but for their cavalry, which did them good service, they would have suffered more than any other part of the army. Just then Agis, observing the distress of the Lacedaemonian left wing, which was opposed to the Mantineans and the thousand select Argives, commanded his whole forces to go and assist their own defeated troops. Whereupon the Athenians, when their opponents turned aside and began to move away from them, quietly made their escape, and along with them the defeated Argives. The Mantineans and their allies and the chosen force of Argives, seeing their army conquered and the Lacedaemonians bearing down upon them, gave up all thoughts of following up their advantage and fled. The loss incurred by the chosen Argives was small, that of the Mantineans more serious. The pursuit was not fierce nor the flight protracted, for the Lacedaemonians fight long and refuse to move until they have put an enemy to flight, but, having once defeated him, they do not follow him far or long.

(5.74) Thus, or nearly thus, went the battle, by far the greatest of Hellenic battles which had taken place for a long time, and fought by the most famous cities. The Lacedaemonians exposed the arms of the enemies' dead, and made a trophy of them; they then plundered the bodies, and taking up their own dead carried them away to Tegea, where they were buried; the enemies' dead they gave back under a flag of truce. Of the Argives, Orneatae, and Cleonaeans there fell seven hundred, of the Mantineans two hundred, and of the Athenians, including their settlers in Aegina,67 two hundred, and both their generals. As to the Lacedaemonians, their allies were not hard pressed and did not incur any considerable loss; how many of themselves fell it was hard to ascertain precisely, but their dead are reported to have numbered about three hundred.

(5.75) Just before the battle, Pleistoanax, the other king, led out of Sparta a reinforcement composed of the elder and younger citizens;68 he had proceeded as far as Tegea when he heard of the victory, and returned. The Lacedaemonians sent and countermanded the reinforcements from Corinth and beyond the Isthmus; they then went home themselves and, dismissing the allies, celebrated the festival of the Carnea, for which this happened to be the season. Thus, by a single action, they wiped out the charge of cowardice, which was due to their misfortune at Sphacteria, and of general stupidity and sluggishness, then current against them in Hellas. They were now thought to have been hardly used by fortune;69 but in character to be the same as ever.

The very day before the battle, the Epidaurians with their whole force invaded the territory of Argos, expecting to find it deserted; they killed many of the men who had been left to protect the country when the main army took the field.70 After the battle three thousand Elean hoplites came to the aid of the Mantineans, and a second detachment of a thousand from Athens. While the Lacedaemonians were still celebrating the Carnea they marched all together against Epidaurus, and began to surround the city with a wall, dividing the task among them. The other allies did not persevere, but the Athenians soon completed their own portion, the fortification of the promontory on which the temple of Herè stood. In this part of the works a garrison was left, to which all furnished a contingent; they then returned to their several cities. So the summer ended.

Special thanks to for permission to use this image adapted from their authentic replica of a Spartan spear.


67.(From 5.74) Cp. ii. 27 med.

68.(From 5.75) Cp. v. 64 med.

69.(From 5.75) Or, 'to have incurred disgrace through a mishap.'

70.(From 5.75) Reading exelthontôn autôn.

From Thucydides, translated into English, to which is prefixed an essay on inscriptions and a note on the geography of Thucydides, by Benjamin Jowett. Second edition. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1900.

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Background mosaic from the Architectural Ornament collection of the Architectural Engineering Graduate Students Association of The Pennsylvania State University.