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The Tearless Battle

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okamido View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 May 2012 at 18:19
In 368 bce, soldiers of the Arcadian league, consisting of cities formerly in the thrall of Sparta, and urged on by the Mantinean statesman, Lycomedes, decided to flex their collective muscle in raids across the Peloponnese. This was Lycomedes way of breaking from Thebes who, as he put it, was "Sparta in all but Name." Meeting with initial success by terrorizing communities that were still loyal to Sparta after her hegemony was shattered by Epaminondos at Luectra in 371 bce, the Arcadians decided to move in closer to Sparta, and confrontation.

More bolder the Arcadians had become, capturing and killing Spartan garrisons at Pellene and Asine. Xenophon tells us of their progress,"Neither night, nor winter, nor distance, nor inaccessible mountains could stop their march, so that at a time, they thought themselves by far the most valiant soldiers in the world." These audacious attacks were met however, by Spartan wavering. Since the shameful defeat at Leuctra, it is said that the surviving Spartiates could not look their women in the eye, and Agesilaos himself had to rescind the Lykurgan punishment for "tremblers", the men who retreated from battle, due to the affect it might have on Spartan morale. It was for this reason, fear of another defeat, that the Spartans looked blindly in the opposite direction as the Arcadians marched through their territory.

Into this mass of indecision walked Archidamos, son of Agesilaos. At Leuctra, Archidamos brought up reinforcements in an attempt to engage the Theban army, but was convinced by Jason of Pharae to turn back and support the retreat of Sparta and her allies. Nothing now however would stay his hand. Filled with rage, Archidamos convinced all that this was an insult that must, and would be met with force. His mission approved, Archidamos took the young men of Sparta, eager for their first taste of combat, as well as the survivors of Leuctra, eager only to clear the stain of their names on a mission deep into the heart of Arcadian lands. Backed by 2,000 Celtic mercenaries sent By Dionysios I of Syracuse to aid them in the event of Theban invasion, Archidamos sought out the Arcadians.

Archidamos successfully marched into Arcadian lands meeting little to no resistance. At Karyai, the Spartans put all males to the sword, a vengeful bloodlust overcoming them, but with the decision to mover further in, Archidamos was suprised to be told by the leader of his Celtic mercenaries that the terms of their service was up and that they would be leaving Arcadian lands for Sparta, and home. The Celts however, were intercepted by Messenians on their return march and not knowing what to expect, anticipated the worst.

Archidamos, deciding he could not push further in with the amount of troops at his disposal, decided to turn back, and head for Sparta. Shocked to find his former mercenaries being held back by a Messenian force, Archidamos retook control of the Celts and pushed towards the Messenians who, not being foolish, gave way. This however was for a specific reason as the Messenians soon linked up with a much larger army of Arcadian troops, reinforced by men of Argos.

Archidamos realizing that any chance of retreat had been utterly cut off, and seeing in his Spartan's eyes, the fear of another Leuctra, roused their spirits with divine omens and a fiery speech, since lost to antiquity. Moved by their commander's words, the Spartans did not form phalanx and calmly march towards their foes, but broke into epidrome, or a suprise charge, which scattered the Arcadians and Argives, with few that had the mettle to meet them head to head. As the Arcadians and Argives retreated the Celts pursued with destructive force, with they and the Spartans killing 10,000 men without a single loss to either of their forces. The Arcadians would one day have their revenge, but on this day, for the Spartans, it truly was a Tearless Battle.           
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